People love a bit
of England to cling on to in uncertain times. The last
book I wrote was called Seaside Resorts - my top 50 of
I'm used to the
solitariness of writing. I like being on my own, as long
as there is company or a good soap to look forward to at the end of
I wrote Nooks and
Corners for Private Eye in the early 1970s, when
half London was being pulled down. [She is a friend of Richard
Ingrams, and collated and stapled the first copies of Private
I help churches
where I can. I served on the churches and cathedrals
committee for nearly ten years when I was a Commissioner of English
Heritage, and now do what I can for the Churches Conservation
Trust, of which I am a vice-president.
built to the glory of God, and their architecture is often
sublime. They have soaked up centuries of prayer. They deserve
being cared for.
be teeming with people. When I last went to York, it was
particularly busy, because you can walk through it as a shortcut
from place to place. It felt like it might have been 500 years ago,
a truly loved place. There were clutches of people gossiping, the
choir practising . . . life!
Churches have to
keep themselves central to the community by whatever
means, within reason. I was involved in the Country
Life "Village Church for Village Life" awards, which meant
going round the country, seeing how local clergy and their
communities were managing to keep their churches alive and vi-
brant, by using them not only for services, but for secular things
as well. I love the idea of churches' being used as village halls,
crèches, local-produce markets, wedding-reception and music venues,
etc. . . There were even sleepovers for children in one church we
They are, after
all, at the heart of things, and are usually such
incredible buildings. I don't see that the buildings mind, do you?
So many churches have such tiny congregations now, anyway.
I didn't enjoy
church-crawling with my father [Sir John Betjeman] as a
child, but I was certainly brought up to look at things.
Church, in Herefordshire, at the age of 12, changed my
mind. It's all white Strawberry Hill Gothic inside, with
crimson pew cushions, like a very glamorous drawing room, not a
gloomy old Gothic job. Nowadays, I find it hard to pass up an
unseen church without looking inside.
fascinated how buildings evolve, who commissions them -
the human aspect, not the academic aspect. I'm writing about a
house for my column "Unwrecked England" in The Oldie as we
speak. What I'm really interested in is who lived in them, who
loved them, who embellished them. Did the architect fall in love
with the client's wife? I think these things interest women,
because they are the nest-makers.
contributing editor for Vogue, and I've just
written on ash trees for them; but I write about the countryside or
artists. I don't write about fashion. One of my maxims is, Stick to
what you know.
The areas I feel
happy in and passionate about are, basically, landscape,
horses, architecture, gardens, art, railways, canals, England.
I'm very moved by
industry, I suppose. I love Stoke. It's a moving place,
not least because of the lost potteries and collieries. I love
those northern towns, like Liverpool and Newcastle, with their
incredible strength, energy, invention, and all that has to do with
their people. You don't get that feeling in London, because it's
all too muddled up now. That singular strength was what moved me so
much about the Chatterley Whitfield colliery, which I was involved
with saving in the '90s.
Eye is vital because it's a leveller. It holds nobody
in awe or reverence, and knocks the pompous stuffing out of people.
It doesn't suffer those who take themselves too seriously, and nor
If I could change
one thing about life in England now, I'd stop the present
Government making a balls-up of the planning system. It doesn't
sound very interesting, but it's astounding what they're about to
do. They're about to sell England down the river for quick
financial gain. Our glory, our green fields, and our tourist
attractions. They can't see that. There's no big vision. We don't
have a say. They are over-riding every recommendation from every
heritage and landscape body. They will be the Government to go down
in history as wrecking England.
Rupert - our gold wedding is coming up in 2013 - was the
most important choice of my life. We have five children and eight
regret? Not asking my parents enough stuff. Oh, and not
going the whole hog with Mick Jagger.
I don't want to
be remembered, except as a good friend and as someone who
made people laugh.
Saul Bellow: I
love him as a writer - he gets to the heart of human
feelings like no one else. The Adventures of Augie March
is easily my favourite book.
I remember Trevor
Huddleston's sermons when I was at school.
I love the
Berkshire Downs - all around the Ridgeway and the
Uffington White Horse. I was brought up among them, and live at the
foot of them, and look on to them.
country, and I feel comfortable in it. There are wonderful
orchids in spring, and small patches of bright blue squill, but
only in certain places now. Agricultural chemical sprays are
killing our wild flowers, bees, beetles, bugs, and consequently
birds. It's terrifying, really terrifying.
I like Daniel in
the lions' den; I'm bored by the Old Testament lists of
I love the sound
of waves on Greenaway, a rocky beach at Trebetherick.
We're now four generations of Trebetherick maniacs.
developers' building on Richard Jeffries's sacred greenfield
landscape outside Swindon is serving to make me
unbelievably cross. They have unused brownfield sites in town. The
short-termism of it!
I'm happiest with
my husband, friends, and family.
I pray most for
I'd like to get
locked in a church with Richard Dawkins. I could so easily
win him round.
Candida Lycett Green
was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.