Wednesday Windback with Amanda Berriman @MandyBerriman

Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with Amanda Berriman which was first posted in Aug 2018. I was lucky enough to meet Mandy when she visited my (now sadly defunct) local book group. During the evening I discovered Mandy shares my love for Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams. So that makes it six things most people don’t know about Mandy!

Mandy Berriman was born in Germany and grew up in Edinburgh, reading books, playing music, writing stories and climbing hills. She works as a primary school teacher and lives on the edge of the Peak District with her husband, two children and dogs. 

Over to Amanda:

Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

Mother Goose Suite – Ravel.  My Mum made cassettes for us every Christmas and Birthday: stories interspersed with classical music, or stories told to a background of music. My favourite of these was Ann Rachlin’s Nurse Goose and the Magic Doors, a tale told to the music of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. My love of the late Romantic/early 20th Century French composers started here, and it was the first time I remember being aware that the music can tell the story. It’s now one of my boys’ favourite going-to-sleep CDs but these days I prefer listening to the un-narrated original and allowing the music to tell its own story.

Vocalise – Rachmaninov.  My brother, sister and myself were all lucky enough to benefit from Edinburgh Council’s free music tuition scheme and learned to play ‘cello at primary school – lessons my Mum could never have afforded. This led to all kinds of musical opportunities – quickly swapping from ‘cello to flute, playing in bands and orchestras, studying music at University and, ultimately, landing my current job as a music teacher in a primary school. Although I left the ‘cello behind along the way, I have always loved music written for solo ‘cello and piano, and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise is my favourite. It takes me back to Saturdays sitting up on a church balcony, thinking and dreaming, while below me members of my brother and sister’s String Orchestra rehearsed their solos for upcoming concerts – someone always played the Vocalise. Many years later, my brother played it at my wedding in an unplanned impromptu performance. It raises the hairs on my neck and tugs at my heart – both serenely calm and heartbreakingly sad. I love how music can do that.

Dignity – Deacon Blue.  I was introduced to this song by someone who treated me with anything but dignity – oh, the irony! – however the song has endured where that particular relationship did not. It’s got all the ingredients of a brilliant song: great beat, great instruments (that piano part!), brilliant voice and I love the poetry of the lyrics and the story they tell. Its message is one that I have always tried to live by: set a goal, ignore the doubters, dream big, work hard and Don’t Give Up!

“And I’ll sail her down the West Coast, through villages and towns, I’ll be on my holidays, They’ll be doing the rounds, They’ll ask me how I got her, I’ll say “I saved my money”, Say “Isn’t she pretty, that ship called Dignity.”

Perfect – Lightening Seeds.  I associate this song with freedom. I first heard it in 1995 on a cassette playing in my boyfriend’s car as we drove across the Peak District from Sheffield to Castleton. I was discovering the freedom of living away from home, in my own space, making my own decisions, and I’d just met a man who accepted me for exactly who I was. Fast forward many years, we’ve settled in a village just over the hill from Castleton and that song never fails to take me right back to the Sheffield years and all those Peak District road trips.

Lark Ascending – Vaughan Williams.  I can’t remember when I first heard this but I remember thinking I’d never heard such a divinely beautiful piece of music ever in my life, but even then I didn’t get it until years later when walking over the dunes at Red Point near Gairloch I heard a Skylark singing and I realised what a genius Vaughan Williams actually was. A few years after that, I lived next to a fell in County Durham for a short while and spent many hours walking the fell, listening to the Skylarks and trying to pinpoint them in the sky above. When my children were born and I was trying to write in amongst the chaos of toddler-dom and five years of sleep deprivation, my Vaughan Williams CD playing on my headphones proved to be the perfect soundtrack to switch my writing brain on. Within the first few bars of the Norfolk Rhapsody, I would sink into a blissfully peaceful zone where words made sense and I could string them together into sentences that weren’t half bad. The CD ended with the Lark Ascending and as the last strains of the Skylark faded away, the sounds of the house would creep back in, tugging me away from my imaginings and inviting me back to Real Life.

What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.

Books to read

Notepads (with pens!) to write in

Music to listen to

Hills to climb

Headspace to think and dream

Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?

Don’t allow anyone to trample on your dreams. You’ll figure out for yourself which ones to pursue and which ones to leave behind. It’s not up to anyone but you to make those decisions.

Ignore the haters; one day you’ll recognise that they hate themselves more than they hate you.

Your inner critic is not the boss of you so don’t give it too big a platform. Like all opinions given to you by others, take what it has to say with an open mind and give yourself time to think it over before you accept, adapt or reject.

Anytime your gut instinct has something to say, blooming well LISTEN.

And on that point, if you’re reading this before that time when you thought it would be a good idea to borrow your big brother’s bike, go no hands and then stick your feet up on the handlebars, you’re about the learn the painful way that it really wasn’t. Brace for impact.

Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you

When I was a child, I was given two owl ornaments for Christmas and decided to start a collection. Thirty or so years on, the collection has got a bit out of hand and I now have over two hundred owls of various shapes, sizes and uses… but no real ones!

My teenage crush was Wesley Crusher (aka Will Wheaton) from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The first time I went in a plane, at the age of 18, I jumped out of it with a parachute strapped to my back…

…and the only time I’ve been in a helicopter was being evacuated from a town in Western Australia after sitting through a cyclone.

I dream several dreams every night and remember most of them when I wake. The memory of some dreams can stay with me all day, some linger for weeks, months, years, decades…

Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.

Walk the Pennine Way.  I’ve walked various sections over the years but never the whole route. I grew up not far from the northern end and now live over the hill from the southern end so in a way it feels like it’s the connection between my past and present.

Navigate Britain by narrow boat.  Peaceful, slow-paced, and you get to see parts of the country that can only be accessed by canal or river. What’s not to love? A plan for retirement if not before!

(Re)visit New Zealand.  Is it cheating to have something on my bucket list I’ve already done? I’m fortunate to have been to New Zealand twice before – the second time living there for eight months. But a little bit of my heart still lives there and it’s unreachable at the moment due to work and finances and family so it’s something I dream about for the future. It’s such a beautiful, interesting and all-round awesome country and I would be very sad if I never made it back there at least one more time.

See the Northern Lights.  Iceland, Norway, the north of Scotland – I don’t care where; it would be amazing wherever I saw them.

Travel into Space.  A slightly improbable one.  I’d love to go into space, see Earth from a distance and visit other planets, but only if I can do it Star Trek style on a Starship Enterprise type spaceship. So… yeah… Maybe when I’m ninety?!

Home by Amanda Berriman

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Jesika is four and a half. She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot.

She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she should not draw on the wall where the wallpaper is peeling or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and Toby.

She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Lauren, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.

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