Elizabeth Chats With…Maggy Whitehouse
I met this month’s guest when she was the headline act at last year’s Live At The Chudleigh Apollo. She is a Minister, a stand-up comedian, author of For The Love of Dog and a presenter on BBC Radio Devon. She manages to combine her different roles effortlessly and makes you think even while you are rocking with laughter. Direct from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, I am delighted to be chatting with Maggy Whitehouse.
Hello Maggy, and welcome. We’re going to start by taking you back to your childhood. What is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?I was in my pram so probably two years old or less. I remember being outside what I later learnt was a pavilion in our local park looking at coloured squiggles on the wall. There were black ones and red ones and green ones and I remember poking at them with my fingers, copying the shapes, wondering what they were and what they meant. They were graffiti of course. Perhaps I knew I would be a writer?
What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
I hated every moment at school though my deepest fear was mathematics as I was completely incapable of comprehending the principles behind any maths until I was in my 20s when it all, suddenly, made sense. Maths at school was a terrifying blur with a fierce and uncompromising teacher. Sport was also pretty hairy as I was on the tubby side and no use at any of it so definitely in the last two chosen for any team which never helps your self-esteem. Once – just once – I made the school hockey team because there was a flu epidemic. I knocked myself out, running into a goal post.
I already loved to write so if I had a favourite class it would be English although that became more about form than the joy of writing as we got towards the exams. If we had a composition to do for homework, when I was in junior school, I would often do two, just for the joy of writing and because I thought the first one wasn’t good enough.
If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?
A Lion and two beagles. They are the beloved memory makers; everything else is replaceable. But I’d almost certainly take my laptop too.
Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence: not a lot of people know…
…that I outfaced a 7ft barracuda on the AustraIian Barrier Reef; that I dated Keith Floyd, the flamboyant TV chef; that I was the first person in the world to bring a dog into the UK from the USA (legally) on Passports for Pets; that I’ve ridden on the back of a Bengal Tiger; that I wish I could paint; and that my cousin, Harmon, died in Vietnam.
Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?
Dartmoor, where I live. It used to be Bozeman, Montana, which is a sacred valley surrounded by seven ranges of mountains but Dartmoor is even more wonderful. I love the stone circles and Bronze Age hut circles that no one truly knows anything about; I love the cascades of wildflowers in the hedges, the scarlet rowan trees in autumn, the gales and the joy of wandering for hours over the bones of the land (the moor) for hours on end with our beagles or on horseback.
If you knew you only had 24 hours left, how would you spend them?
Probably eating chocolate and making love with my husband and cuddling the beagles. Possibly all together in the bed.
Describe your ideal menu — and where would you like to eat it?
The day’s speciality in a village restaurant anywhere in France or Italy. Ideally there would be fresh sourdough bread, a well-dressed and interesting salad, local fish or meat and a gloriously fattening pudding.
If you could meet one person from history, who would it be — and why?
Definitely Jesus of Nazareth – with a Babel Fish from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so we could understand each other, of course. I would so love to know what he thought and taught for real. To laugh and eat with such a man must have been wonderful.
What would you have printed on the front of your T-shirt?
I already have it. It says ‘Jesus loves you … but I’m his favourite.’ It makes most folk in church laugh out loud but it’s also useful in letting me know when there are folk around who don’t like faith and humour put together.
Maggy, thank you for finding time in your busy schedule to come and chat. Readers, if you want to find out more about this very funny woman, check out her website . You can find her book by clicking here. And if she’s appearing near you at any time, don’t miss it!