I was born on a chicken farm in Kent, surrounded by cherry orchards and hop gardens, in a four-poster bed cobbled together by my father from lamp stands. I ran wild in the countryside with my brothers until I was seven, out of sight and mind of any adult as far as I remember.
Things then changed abruptly for the family, and we were swept away onto the top of a windy hill in Surrey. No friends for miles, and my mother weeping into the AGA. It was lonely and bleak. My father bought me an evil black donkey called Gus as a companion. I was frightened of him more than anything else as he had a sharp kick and wouldn’t let me ride him.
My father founded a tutorial college there, to wrangle the results of the Sixties hitting the public school ethos in the eye. They say if you remember the Sixties you weren’t there. Well one idyllic summer stays in my memory of beautiful youths in striped blazes, and lovely girls in floating dresses, and the sun always shining. I was a small clever child, absorbing everything without emotion so many details remain in my imagination.
The decision was made to send me to boarding school so my mother could work 24 hours a day keeping the domestic side of the business going. I was seven years and three months old. I didn’t question it, I was too small. But when my daughter reached that age, it hit me quite hard. My mother had died by then, so didn’t have to reap that irrational whirlwind.
I don’t believe it did me any harm and certainly took me away from the difficulties at home. It also made me fiercely independent – something that has supported me through an eventful life. Two of my closest and dearest friends date from that time. Plus, I learned to read at last and books became the place I went to get away. The advantage was that I was a year ahead so I escaped school at 17. The disadvantage was that I had learned everything I knew from books rather than real life. A habit that still gets me into trouble today.
Cambridge followed. I read English Literature, with a bit of Latin and French. I had no idea what I was doing, had a lot of fun, danced and sang on the Edinburgh Fringe, and somehow managed to emerge with a degree. I had also done the Vogue Talent Contest, so was able to get my first job at Vogue magazine. My career since then has been varied and interesting, sometimes horrible, sometimes hilarious. I have been features editor of Vogue, Country Living and Tatler. I was a commissioning editor at the Times – one of my happiest jobs.
Then I discovered the INTERNET in a locked cupboard at work in 1994. That was it. I was in love with an infinite library/art gallery and I never wanted to leave. The first thing I did was download and print out a Cezanne from Paris. After that there was no stopping me. My journalistic colleagues thought I had gone mad, but I gradually moved aside from print and into digital. I spent a bit of time trying to persuade magazines to be multiplatform brands – that didn’t end well and I gave up. High point? Being told by my ‘boss’ to ‘take those coloured spots off the articles because no one is interested’. (They were social media sharing buttons in 2007).
I now work with big brands, producing content for their websites. I also do smaller digital projects too, if I have time and feel like it. But my first love is fiction (with a bit of poetry thrown in). Two novels to date: One Apple Tasted, a multigenerational romantic comedy, published by Elliot & Thompson in 2009. And Sail Upon the Land, which is about motherhood through several generations, I published myself under my little imprint Keyes Ink in 2014. Long-listed for the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Award 2016, it’s done pretty well and people do seem to like it a lot. Hundreds of positive reviews can’t be wrong….
Including this comment, one of my favourites: ‘It is Damson’s journey more than that of any other character that holds the novel together. I really don’t want to give too much away, but her story is full of drama, pain, suffering, steadfastness and ultimately redemption….’
The ebook is only 99p across all platforms including Amazon and Nook. If you like it, let me know….