This week I’m delighted to feature author Jennie Ensor. Jennie, a Londoner with Irish heritage, began her writing career as a journalist, obtaining a Masters in Journalism (winning two awards) and covering topics from forced marriage to accidents in the mining industry. She isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues in her novels, either: Islamic terrorism, Russian gangsters and war crimes in her debut Blind Side, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation in her second, The Girl in his Eyes. Her third novel Not Having it All was recently updated and relaunched.
Jennie’s poetry has appeared in many publications including Poetry Salzburg Review, Ink Sweat and Tears. Her poem ‘Lost Connection’ placed second in the Breakout Prose category of the Fish Lockdown Prize in 2020.
In her spare time (?) she reads, walks and attempts twice-weekly yoga. She regularly cycles the punishing hills of north London and at the end of the day enjoys collapsing with a bar of chocolate/glass of strong alcohol in front of a TV crime drama.
Over to Jenny:
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Swan Lake Waltz by Tchaikovsky. This always brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it. My mother was mad about ballet and Swan Lake was her favourite. I love this waltz too.
At Last (written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren) sung by Etta James. This is one of my all-time favourite songs. Stuart, now my husband who also loves jazz and blues, gave me a CD of Etta James’ greatest hits soon after we met. I was learning jazz singing at the time and listening to loads of jazz standards.
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps sung by Doris Day and on the Strictly Ballroom soundtrack. The film and this song in particular reminds me of the years in my 20s and 30s when I was a ballroom dance fanatic – the rumba and waltz were my favourites – and dancing ballroom, Argentine tango and salsa several times a week. (I may have inherited my mother’s love of dance!).
It Had To Be You (written by Gus Khan & Isham Jones) This version is sung by Rod Stewart, the title track from his album The Great American Songbook. I sang IHTBY with Stuart in mind (especially the lines ‘some other I’ve seen might never be mean, Might never be cross or try to be boss’!) at our wedding reception in 2004.
Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. This has to be one of the most beautiful and stirring pieces of music ever written (my favourite part starts 29 minutes in after the Libera Me solo when the choir come in). I didn’t appreciate it properly until I had to rehearse the music a couple of years ago for a performance with the Hampstead Chamber Choir and orchestra – singing the piece to a packed church was an unforgettable experience.
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Tea – Earl Grey in afternoon and PG Tips first thing in the morning!
Singing with others. Since the Covid restrictions last March I’ve had to live without singing with my local choir, and I miss it so much! Apart from a couple of rehearsals in church, distanced and singing in masks (unfortunately I wore my glasses which kept misting up so I couldn’t read the music) we’ve had to ‘rehearse’ on Zoom without anyone hearing anyone else. I can still sing in the shower, thank goodness.
The local woods and parks near our house in north London where I walk most days – also the river Thames. I used to love long walks beside the river when I lived in Teddington, getting lost in plotting a novel while watching the changing light and feeling restored by that body of water. Though I haven’t been for ages… I hope it’s still there waiting when we can leave our homes again 🙂
My Kindle. The one I read on is about 10 years old, but does the job – (I can’t get the hang of it). I mostly read novels, from crime to historical and so-called ‘women’s’ fiction, and love dark humour. Also I listen to audiobooks on my phone while walking/doing housework (which I’ll sneak in here, as I would be really lost without it!).
Netflix – I envy people who are bored with lockdown life – I’ve found not seeing family, friends and others in person difficult, but during our enforced isolation me and Mr E have been discovering many new series on Netflix. (Joy when we actually find a series we enjoy watching together!) Some of my favourites: The Queen’s Gambit, The Fall, The Killing and Ozark.
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
Things will get better.
Do what you need to do not what others expect.
Find someone to share your troubles with.
Don’t waste time being with people who don’t make you happy, or doing things that make you unhappy (my excuse for giving up ironing).
The best things in life cost nothing.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I ran a marathon (in three and a half hours) after my then-boyfriend bet me I’d never do one.
I’ve stopped wearing most of my bras since lockdown (anything with wires or hooks, basically) and doubt I’ll be going back to them. I can’t believe how I didn’t realise how uncomfortable they were for so long!
I taught myself to play the piano at forty and have since attempted to play some of the easier pieces by Chopin, my favourite composer.
Two years ago I was skiing at the top of a red slope, didn’t make the turn and fell head first for fifty metres (at least!).
I nearly became a scientist but changed my mind at uni.
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
As someone affected by violence and abuse as a child, I’d like to do something – through writing perhaps – that helps in some small way to change our dysfunctional society for the better.
Cycle from Land’s End to the Scottish highlands – that would an adventure, possibly not the most realistic one! Once travelling is allowed again I want to explore more of Ireland, go camping among kangaroos in Australia, go sailing and hiking… (sigh).
Live in Paris for a year – I’d hang out in cafés, scribble in notebooks and learn to speak French properly.
I’d like to write ten novels, at least. (I’m about to get into the ‘final’ edits of book 4, a psychological crime thriller, my first ‘proper’ crime novel. It’s from the viewpoint of both a detective and the young criminal he’s after, set in the world of London drug gangs.) I’d also like to publish a book of my poems, and for one of my poems to be placed again in a big competition, as happened last year, would be really special.
Go to a glamorous party in my glitziest gear and dance all night.
Thanks so much for joining me today Jennie, it was lovely to discover more about you. Had a chuckle when I saw your Doris Day choice, not for any musical reason, but because that song is how I remember the Spanish word for perhaps (quizás, in case your interested). As you’d like to spend a year in Paris and improve your French, I’d love to do the same in Seville – for my Spanish. Pleased that Netflix has helped with lockdown. Over Christmas we signed up to an Amazon Prime – for films to watch (Christmas TV was pretty dire for us). We decided to keep it and have now a designated ‘film night’ during the week, we’ve really enjoyed watching films that had passed us by. Definitely agree about not doing things that make you unhappy, I can concur that ironing for me is one of them, I have become an expert at drying things to require as little human intervention afterwards to make them wearable! I really hope you get to achieve some of your dreams – I’m sure that glamourous party can’t be far off, we’ll all be dressing to kill once lockdown is over!
Not Having it All
This is the story of four middle-aged people who are definitely NOT having
it all. Meet Bea, Kurt, Maddie and Colin.
Senior lecturer Bea Hudson juggles her job at the ‘Psycho Lab’ with looking
after her demanding five-year-old daughter, badly-behaved dog and next-to-
useless au pair. When her chief exec husband is sent overseas and she’s left
without childcare, Bea turns to best friend Maddie for help.
Kurt, downing whiskies in his hotel room as he imagines what his wife is up to,
is convinced that Bea is becoming a little too friendly with Maddie. With
characteristic obsession he enlists his neighbour’s help in a secret surveillance
Found-object artist Maddie longs for a child of her own with a man she can trust
– and he must love cats.
Divorced, risk-averse Colin is a senior manager at ‘the nation’s number one
pussy insurer’. When he meets Maddie in a lift he’s smitten, and resolves to
displace Maddie’s feline companions on her sofa. But he starts to fear that
Maddie sees him only as ‘a handy stud with a fat wallet’.
Can Bea and Kurt find happiness again? Can Maddie and Colin overcome
their fears and risk falling in love?
The Girl in His Eyes
Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…
Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.
Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.
Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?
Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?
London, 2005. Georgie is attracted to Nikolai, a volatile ex-soldier she meets in a pub. Despite her friend Julian’s warnings, she’s tempted to risk everything. Then she begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her…
BLIND SIDE explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and sexual obsession. A shiver-inducing psychological mystery for fans of quality psychological suspense such as Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard.