Elizabeth Chats With…Cherry Gilchrist
I met this month’s guest when she joined Exeter Writers a couple of years back. She is an award-winning author whose themes include mythology, alchemy, life stories, esoteric traditions, and Russian culture. A graduate of Cambridge University, she also holds a post-graduate diploma from the University of Bath Spa. I am delighted to be chatting today with Cherry Gilchrist.
Hello, Cherry, and welcome to the blog. You are a very busy woman. How do you relax?
Well, for unwinding and re-centring I practice meditation, something I’ve been doing since I was twenty, long before it became popular. It’s a long-term game – results are not always obvious, but among other things it helps to calm the mind and open up other modes of awareness. For straightforward relaxation and a short snooze, give me a good TV drama! Or Location, Bake-Off, maybe even Gardener’s World.
If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?
It would be Who do you think you are? I’ve put in a lot of research on my family history but there are areas where I can’t go any further – and maybe the experts can. What was it like for my 3x great grandmother who accompanied her husband, a Welsh shoemaker-turned-foot soldier, to the Napoleonic Wars? And my 4x grandmother in Ireland who was abducted and married off at the age of thirteen? There’s so much more I’d like to know. And there’s the scandal of a great uncle who seduced a maid from Hemyock and was tried at Exeter Crown Court on a charge brought by her mother for ‘loss of daughter’s services’. Could they dig a bit deeper into the dirt, please?
If you could meet one person from history, who would it be – and why?
That’s a hard one. But I think it would be Dr John Dee: astrologer, magician, explorer, mathematician, and general genius. He was one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favourites – she used to take the royal barge down the Thames to visit him at Mortlake. He had a fascinating life and travelled widely, but also knew much sadness – his library of books was burnt by a mob, and his chosen spirit medium, Edward Kelly, turned out to be something of a trickster. However, he selected the Queen’s coronation date through astrology, and that worked out pretty well. I’d like to meet the real man who was an extraordinary mix of wisdom, kindness and gullibility, and put the unsolved question to him: ‘Dr Dee – were you really a spy for the Crown?’
Upload a picture or a photo that best represents you, and tell us why.
The photo with Boss the Eagle Owl fills me with pride. It was such an experience, holding this wonderful wild-yet-tame bird on my hand. And I’d like to think I have this mix of wild-tame in my soul. I can always dream, can’t I?
Where is your favourite place on earth?
Kashgar, in Western China. It’s where they hold the biggest Sunday market in the world, and is filled with nomads, traders, donkey sellers, copper beaters, you name it. National borders are ignored as people trek over the mountains from Afghanistan, and up from different areas of Central Asia. I went twice in the 1990s and it may very well have changed since then, but it was a heavenly place for me as a lover of colourful costumes, animals, wonderful crafts and all the merry bedlam of a market.
If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?
This is so hard! Of course, I’d have got the cats out in their baskets so I assume we’re talking about inanimate objects. So in no particular order, I’d pick up the portable hard drive from my pc which I would (hopefully) have backed up very recently, so that I don’t lose all my precious photos and documents. I’d also take one of my most exquisite Russian fairy-tale lacquer boxes – I collected and sold them for 20 years, and they are real works of art. And I’d take whichever of my husband’s oil paintings I could get off the wall in time. I think the one of the Nine Maidens stone circle as it’s an intrinsic part of my new book, The Circle of Nine.
Not a lot of people know…
…that I once wanted to be a bricklayer. It was my first ambition, aged about four. I thought it would be very pleasant to put bricks one on top of another with nice gungy stuff to stick them together. The ambition didn’t last very long. By the age of five I wanted to be a writer – now that one has more or less stuck!
Describe your ideal menu – and where would you like to eat it?
Scallops with bacon for starters, a proper French cassoulet for mains, and maybe an exquisite white chocolate mousse for dessert. I’ll have it somewhere in the magical Languedoc with my husband, please.
Cherry, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. Readers, you can find out more about Cherry, her writing and her books on her website. You can also find her on Facebook and on Twitter. Her latest book, The Circle of Nine: An Archetypal Journey to Awaken the Divine Feminine Within, is published by Weiser Books in USA and UK.