North London Food & Culture

Life Tips #5 – Maggie Gee, 63, Author

#1. It’s not about the carriage you go round the village in is it? In August 1983 my boyfriend Nick and I, after six months together, decided on a Cambridge registry office. I couldn’t face organizing a wedding – it was about us, after all. I wore a Victorian nightie, Nick wore cheesecloth pajama trousers.

#2) We expect a great deal more self-fulfilment than previous generations. If Dad had not worried about supporting his family, he could have been a professional photographer. But he was a secondary school head teacher. People then just lived their lives; you had to bring the money home. We were the first generation to go to university – they taught us that what mattered was to be creative. But, for him, photography had to be a hobby.

#3) Our understanding of the relationship of the body and emotion is still very partial.We’ve found out that there’s a huge relationship between them in illness so why shouldn’t there be in every aspect of our lives? Ghanaian women, if they want babies, hold the akaba.


#4. Many of my books are in spiral form, returning to their beginnings but from a different viewpoint. It’s a little like the man who stays in a village all his life never understands the village; but the man who lives in the village, goes away and comes back, sees it in a different light.

#5) An optical kaleidoscope shows you a million different angles on the world. Through it everything fragments and repeats and looks beautiful – it’s as if it reveals a secret pattern in everything. I gave my first away on impulse in Libya, and always missed it. Two years later, in 2004, not knowing this, my beloved sister-in-law Trina gave me another one. I was kaleidoscope-less for only a short time.

#6) Eat porridge. Central to our family life. Our daughter Rosa, who is a very imaginative cook, at some point just fell in love with it. It’s a ritual, it’s healthy: honey in winter, berries in the summer.

#7) A lot of writers never get to the end of novels. I am so scared I won’t that I write the endings first. Nine out of ten times I’ve written them first. Then I start at the start and work through. And I do like happy endings.

Maggie Gee was born in 1948 and is the author of eleven novels. She lives in North West London. If you’re new to her work, start with The White Family or My Cleaner. Her memoir, My Animal Life, which I wrote about here, came out in 2010.

Words: Stephen Emms

A different version of this article first appeared in The Guardian.

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