Thursday, 10 January 2013


VIRGINIA IRONSIDE is a journalist, agony aunt and author. She has written for The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Woman magazine and now has columns in The Independent and The Oldie. Her first book, Chelsea Bird, was published when she was 20

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m touring with Growing Old Disgracefully, my onewoman show. I’m writing my regular columns for The Independent and The Oldie and trying to think of a new book.

When were you at your happiest?
Not ‘were’ but ‘am’. It’s now. Being with my grandchildren and making things – biscuits, animals out of vegetables, monsters out of boxes… just playing with them.

What is your greatest fear?
That one of my family – son, daughter-in-law or grandchildren – might be unhappy.

What is your earliest memory?
I remember at eight years old looking into the mirror and saying to myself: ‘Now I am grown up.’ Very sad.

Who has been your greatest influence?
My father. He was a brilliant man – extremely clever, funny, attractive and a great draughtsman. He designed the backs of the fi rst decimal coins.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
Being so hypercritical. It stops me enjoying a lot of pretentious crap.

What is your most treasured possession?
My computer, I suppose. It contains half my life.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Terrified old people talking about what they call the ‘underclass’, and that people don’t read any more.

Do you have a fantasy address?
Sounds awful, but I’d love to move back to Kensington – the borough where I was born and lived most of my life. Can’t afford it now, though.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
One thing my mother always impressed on me was that I was nice-looking. Oddly, I believed her. But unfortunately she failed to mention any qualities below the surface, which has meant that for much of my life I’ve been a bit of a self-loather.

What is your favourite book?
My three favourite books are Lolita by Nabokov, Of Love And Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross, and Lady With A Little Dog by Chekhov.

Q A-Jan11-02-590
What is your favourite record or piece of music?
It changes every day. My latest craze is Dr John.

What is your favourite meal?
Vietnamese. There is a strange dish, yukhoe, of sliced raw beef, pear, sesame oil, with the yolk of an egg on top. I could eat it for ever.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
The people I’ve invited next week, of course, who are lovely.

Which historical character do you most admire?
Now he’s so tragically died, could you count Christopher Hitchens? Or PG Wodehouse, who has made me laugh so much.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
I really don’t wish to drag it up now.

Do you believe in aliens?
Complete tosh.

What is your secret vice?
Dancing in the car while driving. And I often watch DVDs on fast forward.

Do you write thank-you notes?
Of course.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
‘Sorry’ – though it can never be used often enough.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
The ability to relax. I am incapable of it. I am writing this at three in the morning.

What would you like your epitaph to be?
I shan’t be there to read it so it can say ‘Lowliest of worms’ for all I care. But I’d really love to be remembered for being a good mum, grandmother and friend. That’s all that matters, after all. Oh dear, a bit sentimental. Sorry.

No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses! by Virginia Ironside is published by Quercus, priced £14.99, and is on sale from 17 January.

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