Helen Meller

Helen Meller

Interviewed on 25.11.2011

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[TRACK 1]

 

TONY WRIGHT:

25th of November 2011 and Year 5 pupils from Riverside School are interviewing Mrs Meller.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What do you do after work?

 

HELEN MELLER:

What do I do after work? I like to look out of the window and see what the weather’s doing. If it’s a nice evening I like to go and sit outside and maybe read a book, and if it’s not very nice I’ll perhaps do a little bit of cooking and listen to the radio.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What type of cooking do you like doing?

 

HM:

I like spicy cooking. I’m a vegetarian so I like to use fresh local ingredients if I can.

I don’t grow any vegetables myself, but I like to play around with seasonal and local vegetables in a spicy and interesting way but my children won’t eat that so then I do a different kind of cooking for them, which is a much more straightforward, less spicy menu.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What is your prize possession?

 

HM:

I’m tempted to say my laptop but that’s a really horrid thing to say because that’s a piece of new technology isn’t it?

I think probably my collection of shells and fossils which I don’t know whether that counts as one thing, but they are things I’ve collected from all over the world and all over the country. Each one of them, each time I pick it up, it triggers a different story and a different memory from a place that I’ve been to and had a wonderful time.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Where did you go on holiday as a child?

 

HM:

I went to Cornwall every year, twice a year to the same place, and it’s called Newquay on the north coast. My grandparents went there before me, so although it wasn’t our home, there was a lot of family history there so it felt like a sort of second home.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What did you do there?

 

HM:

We spent a lot of time on the beach and my dad always told me that if I looked really really carefully I might find pirates’ treasure on the sand.

So as a little girl I was convinced I was going to find doubloons on the sand and I think that’s why I love beachcombing now. But I spent such a lot of time looking for treasure when I was a little girl that I’m still looking now!

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you play an instrument?

 

HM:

Unfortunately not. I played the guitar when I was at school and I really really enjoyed it but like a lot of grown-ups you get busy, you forget to practice and then you kind of forget how to play.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

…………where did you grow up and on which street did you grow up?

 

HM:

I lived in half a house. It was a semi-detached house actually which is half of another house and I used to imagine what the family on the other side of the wall would be doing. It was in a little village called Hatfield which was seven miles outside Doncaster, and my address was 10 Cookridge Drive.

It was a new house built in the 1960’s and my mum and dad paid six thousand pounds for the house and it was built on an ancient battle site.

A battle was fought there hundreds and hundreds of years before, and the land was supposed to be quite a magical one.

I spent a lot of time digging at the bottom of my garden, looking to see if I could find any swords or remains of what happened before, but I didn’t.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What is your hobby, if you have one?

 

HM:

I like collecting things, as you might have gathered. Old things, new things……I love reading, but most of all I think probably collecting and sorting things; shells, fossils, bits of plastic, bits of rope – nice shiny things, like a little magpie I am.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Why do you like reading?

 

HM:

Because every time I open a book I don’t know where I’m going to end up, where it’s going to take me, so it’s a bit like armchair travelling.

When you can’t afford to buy a plane ticket and go somewhere, if you open a book you can go in your head and I’ve never been disappointed.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What was your favourite holiday?

 

HM:

Oh my goodness me, my favourite holiday. Well this year we went abroad for the very very first time didn’t we Alf? I took my three boys on holiday to Greece for the first time.

They’d never been on an aeroplane before so that’s got to be one of my all-time most special experiences, watching their little faces as they left the airport and flew off into the sky.

Personally, I loved going to Africa and going on safari. It wasn’t something I ever thought I would like to do, but actually it was absolutely magical being asleep under canvas in the middle of the Masai Mara and hearing the lions roaring.

I was frightened, but I was very excited as well.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

When you were a child what did want to be when you grew up?

 

HM:

I wanted to either be a writer or an archaeologist.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What’s your job now?

 

HM:

I’m a writer. I wouldn’t necessarily say I make a living out of writing but I’m starting to make a living. I still like collecting things but I think my days of being an archaeologist are long gone.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Who was your hero when you were….a little person?

 

HM:

Well my dad obviously was my hero, and still continues to be my hero.

There is no finer man on the planet and in terms of other heroes, well I guess the Bronte sisters, if you’re allowed to have three heroines.

I absolutely love the Bronte sisters and the books they wrote and the idea that they lived on this barren moor and had really hard and difficult lives and yet wrote these beautiful, amazing books. That was a bit of a cheaty answer really wasn’t it?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Did you have a favourite pop star?

 

HM:

Now this is where it gets really embarrassing. I loved The Bay City Rollers. Have you even heard of them?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Yeah I have.

 

HM:

Oh [laughing] Thank goodness! Yes, I had tartan trousers, a tartan scarf on my wrist, a tartan bag, yes it was very embarrassing but I loved The Bay City Rollers.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you like sports?

 

HM:

I don’t like watching sport apart from tennis, and the only sport I play is squash.

I would not describe myself as a sporty person, and I’m always envious of people who are but even from being little I’ve never really enjoyed games, PE or sport. I shouldn’t really say that should I because it’s very important to keep healthy.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Did you have a special place to go as a child?

 

HM:

We had a caravan that we used to go on holiday in and during the winter we kept it at the back of our garage and I had a key. I used to use it as my den and I ran lots of secret societies from the caravan.

I used to have the curtains closed and nobody really knew whether I was in there or not because I was very quiet, so it was my secret place.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Where did you go to calm down if you ever got stressful?

 

HM:

The bath. Fill up the bath, lower myself beneath the water and then once my ears were full of water everything seemed to dissolve, and I felt like I was actually under the sea and everyone else had disappeared. I still do that now actually!

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Were you very popular at school?

 

HM:

I had a lot of friends but very few close friends. I got on with most people but I probably only had one or two what I would consider to be really close friends.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

……do you like art?

 

HM:

I love art. My deep regret is I can’t paint or draw to save my life, but I absolutely love going to exhibitions and museums, probably almost top of my list as Alfie will tell you. I drag him all over the place don’t I Alf?

I just think it’s magical seeing - not necessarily famous – it’s great if they are famous and you know, they’re people I like, but any kind of art is so much more interesting than watching the television. Actually standing in front of a painting or a sculpture, yes I love art.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What was your favourite subject?

 

HM:

At school?

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Yes.

 

HM:

English Literature and Language because I loved books and I love writing and I love story telling.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you like going on long walks or do you just like strolling around?

 

HM:

I do like going on long walks but I hate hills. They usually give you the best view imaginable but I moan a little bit as I’m walking uphill.

I also love going on long walks because you never see the same thing twice and you don’t have to talk a lot. But when you do, you often say things that I don’t think you would say if you were sitting in a chair at home.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What do you do in your free time?

 

HM:

I read I visit friends; I go for walks, bike rides, go to art galleries and museums.

I love markets of any kind; scrabbling around second -hand markets looking for things like photos of old people that you’ve never known - but you can imagine what their lives might have been like. The Wednesday market in Hebden Bridge is very good for that.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Where’s your favourite spot around here to like sight see?

 

HM:

I like Stoodley Pike and I love Hardcastle Crags. We are so very very lucky here. There are so many beautiful places and I’m very jealous of you because you live at Gibson Mill….Stoodley Pike probably I think up there you feel like you’re on top of the world.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you ever go up the tower in Stoodley Pike?

 

HM:

Oh I do; every time I do I feel petrified. I’ve gone up with torches, I’ve gone up with people, I’ve gone up on my own. And even though I know that there are only about six dark steps before I get into the light, I always feel I’m going to end up in another world. I find it very scary [whispering] and very smelly.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you like driving?

 

HM:

I love driving, yes. Not so much on motorways, but small country roads with beautiful views or roads by the sea, with the windows down. No music, nice and quiet.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Did you have a pet as a child?

 

HM:

No I didn’t…well actually I had two goldfish, which I accidentally killed by slamming the door so loudly they jumped out of the bowl and died of fright on the carpet.

I didn’t have any pets after that. Not because of that, but I just didn’t have any and I regret that.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Were you quite sad when they died?

 

HM:

I was very sad because my parents flushed them down the toilet.

I thought maybe we could bury them because I used to bury all the dead birds that fell off the roof of my house.

I don’t know if you ever see the baby birds when they’re learning to fly and they’re kind of bald and you can see through them. They used to sort of flop and land outside my door as a child and I used to bury them using lollipop sticks for a little headstone. There were hundreds of them by the time I grew up, so I was a bit distressed when they flushed the goldfish down the toilet, telling me that they needed a watery burial because they’d be able to swim off to everlasting goldfish heaven, and that was that [laughing]

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you believe that, or did you think it was a bit

 

HM:

Well part of me as a child wanted to believe it. But the other sort of sensible bit of me thought [whispering] ‘I’ve just flushed them down the toilet – they’re gonna go where all the other things go down the toilet’

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What is your favourite place in all the world, if you have one?

 

HM:

Oh my goodness…..that’s so hard. It would have to be by the sea.

I’m at my very, very happiest when I’m by the sea, so I would probably say St Agnes in Cornwall if I had to pick a spot, but it’s very hard.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What were you best at as a child at school?

 

HM:

Probably English…..story writing, analysing books, writing little plays, that sort of thing.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Do you like going to ruined places, like abbeys and castles?

 

HM:

I absolutely love ruins. I almost love ruins more than beautifully kept places.

I love the beautifully kept places, but often they’ve been over-written by each new person that has moved in so there’s a real mish-mash of things whereas there’s something about a ruin that allows you to really imagine what life might be like, that you sort of build in your head.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

What is your favourite book?

 

HM:

Probably the Lord of the Rings – I think you know the answer to that.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Why the Lord of the Rings?

 

HM:

Because it’s like a universe within a book and every time I read it I find something else.

I get lost somewhere else, or meet a new character that I’d forgotten about or had never met before.

It’s a three dimensional world that Tolkien has created, and I think it’s possible to actually walk around inside those books which is why I think the gaming world has taken a lot from that kind of landscape.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Who is your favourite author?

 

HM:

I suppose if that’s my favourite book he ought to be my favourite author, but that changes a lot as I get older.

Again, the Brontes are hard to top, but so is the poet called T S Eliot.

I don’t know if you are allowed to use poets, if you’re allowed to put poets in there

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

……probably.

 

HM:

Thank you.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

……When you were little, like….did you have like something that you tried to…..somebody that you tried to act like all the time?

 

HM:

I was very influenced by what I read and saw in the wider grown-up world and in the imaginary world of the books that I was reading.

I would pick up catchphrases or mannerisms but they were often not from people that I actually knew so no I wouldn’t say so.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

If you like the sea, did you like going in it?

 

HM:

No, that’s a very good question actually. I was quite frightened of the sea.

I liked the sound of it, the smell of it, taste of it, I liked riding in boats on it, but actually swimming in it I’m terrified of it, particularly the Atlantic.

Less so if it’s a Greek island and it’s nice and warm and the sea isn’t choppy.

But actually I prefer it as a backdrop rather than to immerse myself in it.

 

ONE OF PUPILS:

Why the Atlantic?

 

HM:

Because it’s so dramatic, and I imagine that the wave that is crashing onto my toes has come all the way from America, and I imagine what that water has seen and done on the way. There are many other interesting seas but that’s just one I know very well and it’s loud and noisy and colourful.

 

TW:

I’m just conscious that the next interviewee will be here in a few minutes, and I must say these are fantastic questions that you’ve come up with today, and that’s great. There’s just one little quick thing I’d like to say; can you give us your full name and when you were born?

 

HM:

Yes. My name is Helen Claire Meller. I was born on the 8th of April 1965.

 

TW:

And how long have you lived in Hebden?

 

HM:

I’ve lived in Hebden Bridge for ten years.

 

TW:

And what brought you here?

 

HM:

It’s a very beautiful place, equi-distant from the two cities that we hoped we could get employment from. It is also near to family and the magic of the stories of the people that have lived here before, which is very important to me – a sense of history of somewhere I live.

 

TW:

Right. Well I’d just like to say thank you very much for coming in

 

HM:

It’s a pleasure

 

TW:

And thank you to the children for

 

HM:

Yes thank you all, I really enjoyed that; lovely questions, thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[END OF TRACK 1]

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