About Me

Author portrait photoHello.
This is me on the left.

A Little Background:

My parents were from Dundee and my father worked in the Jute industry. I was born in Calcutta and grew up on a jute mill compound on the edge of the River Hooghly, a tributary of the Ganges. I had an older brother at boarding school and my mother rescued baby parrots that fell out of nests and raised them. We left India to live in England when I was fifteen.

The view I had as I grew up

The view I had as I grew up

How I Started Writing:

I began my autobiography when I was eight and managed to fill almost a whole sheet of A4 paper on my dad’s typewriter. My dad said I could only be a writer if I had done something worthwhile.

I started reading and writing poetry between the years of ten and  seventeen and then suddenly stopped. I went on reading fiction, had good marks for stories at school and a few prose pieces in the school magazine. My mother used to complain that I read my library books too quickly.

When I left school I was delighted to get a job at Longman, the publishers in Harlow. Later, I also worked at Cambridge University Press (the printers,) and briefly at Good Housekeeping Magazine in London. I then qualified as an English teacher . While my children were babies, I edited the Wokingham Branch National Childbirth Trust Newsletter for a year, before going  to live in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Abroad Again:

We went abroad for two years and stayed for ten. It was in Singapore that I began writing full time. I started as a volunteer staff writer for the Singapore American Newspaper where a group of experienced and generous writers, and the wonderful camaraderie, taught me so much about writing and gave me the confidence to write for publication. Over the next eight years I wrote over forty articles for local magazines and newspapers: feature articles, restaurant reviews, book reviews, travel articles and a brochure.

Brochure for the opening of the Songbird Terrace at the Jurong Bird Park

Brochure for the opening of the Songbird Terrace at the Jurong Bird Park

I interviewed writers and scholars and gave lectures on local culture at the Singapore National Museum. I was also a volunteer study group supporter at the museum and a volunteer guide at the Jurong Bird Park.

Becoming a Non-Fiction Author:

In 1989 I stopped writing articles and began writing books. When my first book on parrots was launched at the Jurong Bird Park, I hoped my father would think I had finally done “something worthwhile”. I wrote two more books in Singapore before moving to Hong Kong in 1990.

Bookmarks made especially for the launch of my parrot book

Bookmarks made especially for the launch of my parrot book

In Hong Kong I began a fourth book. It was to be called “Skeleton At the Table” and was to be a much larger book on the history of the opium trade. I found some wonderful illustrations and made it to the penultimate chapter before we had to leave Hong Kong. Sadly, it had to be put aside for more pressing things and the manuscript now languishes in one of my desk drawers.

Working and Studying Back in the UK:

When our family returned to England in 1992, I worked at a garden centre and qualified as an adult education tutor.  After teaching creative writing at various venues in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, I applied to several Universities to do an MA in Creative Writing Classes, including St Andrews in Scotland. I got a place at all of them but I chose Sheffield for the city’s warm and friendly atmosphere. At the time, Scotland seemed to far away.

Towards the end of my MA I had two short stories published and one broadcast on Radio 4. I was also invited to read at the Oxford and Hay literary festivals.

Reading at the Oxford Festival in March 2007

Reading at the Oxford Festival in March 2007

After I completed my MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam I worked part time at ‘Sheffield Environmental Training’, embedding literacy and key skill programmes into NVQ’s in Environmental Conservation and Horticulture. I also ran day time and evening classes in creative writing for the WEA (Workers Educational Authority)

The Rutherford McCowan building, Dumfries Campus

The Rutherford McCowan building, Dumfries Campus

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End of my Travels:

I remarried in 2004, and, several years later, moved from Sheffield to Scotland. I began a M.Phil at Glasgow University (Dumfries Campus) but gave it up to buy my dream house and garden in the far west of Dumfries and Galloway. Since I settled here I have returned to writing poetry and have had a series of poems published. I work part-time at a small theatre while I write fiction and poetry and work on new ideas for book. I fit in blog posts when I can.

Geese crossing our garden in early January, 2013

Geese crossing our garden in early January, 2013

Some Things I Love:

– Geese flying overhead
– Hot baths
– The smell of earth after rain
– Tidy rooms
– New shoes
– Laughing with old friends
– Meringues
– Black and white cows on the hillside
– Hills
– Islands
– Reggae Music
– Patchwork quilts
– The crunch of scissors cutting through fabric
– Robins
– When something that I’m writing turns out well

Something for Room 101 (pet hate):

Cooking. Why cook when you could be doing something much more exciting, like writing a poem? It won’t disappear ten minutes after you have spent time and effort creating it, either.

Have a look at my page called the ‘Writing Room’. It will tell you a bit more about the ‘writing side’ of me.
See you there –

If you want to contact me:

11 Responses to About Me

  1. mavisgulliver says:

    I found these details of your rich and varied life really interesting and am sorry I didn’t get round to reading them ages ago. It’s good to know that, after all your travels, you are settled in your dream house and writing poetry instead of slaving over a hot stove. I’ll be doing a brief reading at Castle Douglas on Saturday 21st November along with four other Cinnamon poets including Mark Williams. I’m hoping that you’ll be able to come. It would be lovely to meet you at last.

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  2. Lesley: I have seen your page on pinterest re India Tribal Art-Gond and am blown away by your collection. I am trying to assist some of the emerging painters from the Gond and Bhil tribes by putting their beautiful art on the web to get them greater visibility and access. I wonder if you could help me in doing this….all our profits will go back to the community [in health and education]. our website is http://folkpaintingsindia.com/
    regards-andrew

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    • Hello Andrew, it’s great to hear from you! I love Gond Art so much, its colour and vitality. What do you think I might be able to do to help? I am going to take a look at your website now. Perhaps I can get in touch with you there. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.

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    • Lesley: thank you for such a rapid response and my own apologies for the tardy reply [excuse: twin grand daughters to look after on the weekend!]. I wonder if you got a chance to look at our website. I am new to this but am trying to generate traffic via the social media [Instagram-FB-Twitter] but its a slow buildup. Any criticisms and suggestions from you would be most welcome. Some thoughts: a. could you ‘pin’ some of our artwork on your relevant page b. do you know anyone who would ‘back link’ from their art website to ours? thank you taking an interest. Andrew

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  3. Not at all! Love to hear from you, anytime. Lesley x

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  4. Hilary Tobin says:

    Hi Lesley
    I was tardy in response to you having made contact in 2011. Would like to reconnect but having read your blog understand if my timing rubbish! Very best wishes, Hilary (nee Robbins)

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  5. Hi Donna,
    Yes, I noticed that we liked a lot of the same things. Even the movies! Thanks for stopping by. I will email you, shortly. All best, Lesley

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  6. Donna conklin says:

    We seem to really like alot of the same things. Although you don’t seem to like cooking, I love it…used to be a professional chef. Now back to my roots…artist, mostly fiber art but I dabble in it all. If you want to correspond email me donnacooks@yahoo.com we seem to visit each others pinterst pages so I thought I would see if you want a pen pal in florida.
    Donna

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  7. nina milton says:

    Hi Lesley, thank for your comment on my blogpost; I’ve left a comment below it in grateful response

    Like

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