Thursday, October 09, 2014


Vanora Bennett

There I was minding my own business when, tinkle, an email popped into my inbox. It was from a London-based bank I had been involved with during my working life. "Would you do an interview for our in-house magazine on your involvement with the early days of the bank", wondered the nice lady at the other end.

"Surely" I thought "this could be fun". And fun it was.

We arranged to do it by email and she sent me a few fairly general questions. As I set about answering them, memories flooded back, and before I knew it I was in the throes of regurgitating a full blown memoir.

"How are you doing" she asked after a respectable interval. A bit like a publisher asking a writer how the long awaited manuscript for his next book was coming along. "Maybe you are very busy and I was expecting too much? Should I take some of the material you've already blogged and work it in, to take some of the load off you. Maybe a thousand words or so?"

"No, no. I'm working on it and I'll have something by Monday." I'm sure publishers are used to getting that sort of stalling crap from their writers. So, I'll bet she got a shock when Monday morning came and ten thousand words tinkled into her inbox. An embarrassment of riches I hoped. And it seemed to go down well.

She culled the material to suit the interview, and within days I was in print in the inhouse magazine of this very prestigious bank.

Unfortunately I can't give you a link to it as the inhouse magazine is top secret and is rumoured to carry the code to the vault on it's masthead. Not the nice lady's fault. Policy.

Anyway I did learn something along the way which I can share with you.

When I went to the nice lady's website I found out that she was more than just a nice lady working on a bank's inhouse magazine.

She is a world famous author with a whack of acclaimed fiction and non-fiction titles to her name. She has been a war correspondent in some very troubled areas over the last two decades. And she is a violin maker.

So, brimming over with curiosity, out I went to my local library in case they might have one of her books. They had three, so I took them all and have now read two of them. You can see my reaction to The White Russian here and to Midnight in St. Petersburg here.

And that's the nice lady at the top of this post.

Update (2/11/2014): the violin Vanora made having an outing at the recent Kilburn Literary Festival.

Update (15/10/2017): Last week saw a fascinating series of five short radio programmes where Vanora looked at aspects of Russia, past and present, taking as examples five significant women. The series was presented as five Babushka dolls. These are the Russian dolls with one inside the other and Vanora was quick to mention that they are also called Matryoshka (mother) dolls. Very telling imagery for this series which looked into the female heart of the former Empire.

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