Who am I?
“Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same. More than one person, doubtless like me, writes in order to have no face.’ - Michel Foucault.
……But I am, amongst other things, someone who, in the early 1980s, answered an advert from a man looking for a ‘wife’ to spend a year on an uninhabited tropical island.
I never imagined that I would write a book about that year, or that Castaway would attract so much attention. Others, I realised, were interested in the idea of living ‘differently’, too. And it seems they still are.
Looking at life in different ways and putting some of that observation into practice, has now become what I do.
Born near London, 1956.
First ran away from school aged 11, subsequently, many times.
Did not complete conventional education.
Started travelling alone in the UK while still a pre-teen.
Hitch-hiked across Europe to Israel at 16.
Became a member of Mensa at 16.
From 13 – 25 advertised as ‘Young, Strong, Willing and Able’ and worked variously as a
domestic cleaner, child minder, monkey keeper, stone mason’s mate; artist’s model; pastry cook; caretaker in the Auvergne; volunteer in a Home for the disabled; Warden in a Home for disabled students; tax clerk.
1980, answered advert: ‘Writer seeks ‘wife’ for year on tropical island’
1981 – 1982, lived that year.
1983, Castaway published.
1984 Extensive author tours through the US, Australia, Europe and South Africa.
Returned from South Africa pregnant.
Bought first home in Scotland – a Highland cottage.
1985, gave birth to another book – Runaway – and a son, Magnus.
1986, a film based on Castaway came out, directed by Nicolas Roeg.
1987-1996, lectured on the Castaway experience in schools and colleges and as corporate entertainment. Was in demand for interviews on radio and TV and in the Press.
Had 2 more sons while living in the Highlands and working on novels – One Is One and a second, abandoned on becoming a fulltime single parent.
1996, suffered a spinal injury requiring major surgery.
1998 – 1999, took the youngest two children to live on Pigeon Island in the Outer Solomons.
Wrote regular diaries for the Sunday Times magazine from there, called Pigeon Posts
2000, Faraway published.
2001 – 2007 tried to live conventionally while sons completed their education – a disastrous era for me, though hopefully not for them.
2007, moved to rural Bulgaria where I made a home from a mudbrick ruin.
2009, the new home burned down.
Moved into a caravan on my land and wrote about the disastrous era and my subsequent renewal.
2012, still on my own land, still in a caravan and more in love with life than ever before.
This is hardly a distinguished CV. How did I finf myself speaking at the Royal Geographical Society and appearing on The Weakest Link? Why did my experience of remote living, paradoxically, make a ‘celebrity’ out of me?
It must be because so many people dream of a life unlike the one they are living. Why? In some of the blogs I’ll be writing here I’ll be exploring answers to that as well as saying why I am anything but a Utopian dreamer.