Today I’m delighted to feature Hazel Prior. Hazel is the author of four quirky, heart-warming novels: Ellie And The Harp Maker, Away With The Penguins, Call Of The Penguins and (to be published later this year) Life And Otter Miracles. Away With The Penguins was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and a number one bestseller.
When she is not writing, Hazel is often to be found playing her Celtic harp or waiting on her cat.
Over to Hazel :
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
This might be an indication of my oddness, but Allegri’s Miserere was the first piece of music I absolutely fell in love with, when I was a very little girl. My brother had a record of 20 popular classical pieces and I listened outside his bedroom door. The rich harmonies and soaring voices in this piece made my spine tingle and reached deep inside my heart. I’ve loved ancient choral music ever since and sung it in choirs throughout my life.
What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)
When I get stressed, sad or just fed up with the clutter of life, my way of dealing with it is to get outside and walk, watch and listen to the natural world. I’ve always felt a sense of wonder at the incredible life forms on this planet, from lichens to penguins to the human mind and heart. This simple song just says it all.
Mio Babbino Caro (Puccini)
In my twenties I lived in Italy for a while, in beautiful Verona. It was one of the best times of my life, and this music reminds me of it. The words mean ‘Oh, my beloved father’, so it also reminds me of my Dad, who I adored and still miss so much.
Pompei by Bastille played on the harp with pedal loop by Lara Somogyi
Since I’m a keen player of Celtic harp, I really have to include some harp music! My first thought was something Scottish and lilting, but I couldn’t find anything that seemed quite right. People often think of the harp as very heavenly and a bit highbrow, but in fact it can also be rhythmical and zany. My husband discovered this track and alerted me to it a while back. I’ve listened to it so much. I would love to play harp with pedal loop as well as this fabulous harpist!
Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night (Paul McCartney)
I was ill for many years, incapable of virtually anything, and I questioned during that time whether my life was any use at all. After my surgery I had some very scary episodes when I thought I was a goner, and they tended to happen in the middle of the night. But while it was still dark I often heard the blackbird (always the first bird to sing) and the sound gave me hope, showing me I’d made it through to another morning. So this lovely song has a special significance for me.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
Stop worrying about whether you’re good enough. You’ll do!
Take more risks. It’s better to try and to fail than not to try.
When other people treat you badly, it’s their problem, not yours.
Take up an instrument and make sure you practise every day. It will be worth the struggle.
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
I was once bitten by a baboon (I was up a mountain in China at the time)
If I try and throw a ball in one direction it invariably shoots off in another.
I possess 3 penguins scarves and 7 pairs of penguin socks.
As a less heavy alternative to the harp, I am trying to learn the ukulele. It’s not going well.
Although I lived in Italy for 2 years, I have never mastered the art of eating spaghetti elegantly.
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
Plant a woodland.
Make a good recording of all the songs and harp arrangements I’ve written.
Play a cameo role in the film of one of my books (alongside Maggie Smith, who would naturally be starring as Veronica McCreedy).
Sing in St Mark’s basilica in Venice, preferably with a choir of angelic voices (maybe real angels?)
Write a children’s book – something magical and profound, in the spirit of the Narnia books or Harry Potter books, that will stay with a child for the rest of their lives.
Many thanks for joining me today Hazel, and for bringing me some wonderful music. I love Pompeii by Bastille so it was great to hear this harp version, what a harpist! It’s a long time since I heard Blackbird too, it was the Wings version that I remember from the 70’s, and apologies for aging you by suggesting you remembered the Beatles original that I’ve included. Great advice to your younger self. I dabbled with several instruments when I was younger but never carried through with them. I can just about cope with the recorder now! I wish you well with your ukulele endeavours. Planting a woodland sounds a wonderful idea, I’m a great lover of trees too. Maggie Smith sounds an ideal choice for Veronica – that would make a great film. Here’s hoping you can really tick off those dreams.
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Life and Otter Miracles (due Sept)
Nineteen-year-old Phoebe and her widower father Al have recently moved to Devon, to a small cottage with a river at the end of the garden.
Struggling with her own closely guarded issues, Phoebe doesn’t go out much. Instead, she spends her time at home, watching detective dramas and playing detective herself – trying to deduce from Al’s deliveries as a courier what kind of lives her neighbours lead.
But when they find an abandoned baby otter on the riverbank, it’s just the push Phoebe needs to finally step into her new community. Taking the little one to the local otter sanctuary and witnessing the uncomplicated joy of its fellow creatures, she feels a burgeoning sense of happiness that she has not experienced in a very long time.
However, Phoebe soon starts to suspect that something is amiss at the sanctuary – and she will need to put all her sleuthing skills to good use if she wants to save the otters . . .
Call of the Penguins
Veronica McCreedy can’t resist the promise of adventure . . .
Nine-year-old Daisy and nearly ninety-year-old Veronica make an unlikely pair of friends.
Fiercely independent and impeccably dressed, Veronica has lived an incredible 87 years. Most of them alone, in her huge house by the sea. But with the arrival of brave and resilient Daisy into her life, Veronica finds she has a renewed thirst for adventure – and that they both share a passion for penguins!
So when Veronica and Daisy are invited to travel to the other side of the world together and visit the penguins of the southern hemisphere, they both jump at the chance.
Veronica had thought her days of new friendships, family and love were over, but perhaps it’s never too late for one more adventure?
Away with the Penguins
Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .
Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.
Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.
She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).
Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.
But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.
Ellie and the Harp Maker
Sometimes it takes a chance encounter to discover what happiness really is . . .
Meet Dan: Dan needs peace and order. He likes perfectly triangular sandwiches, the way coffee smells of sunshine and harvest, and the sound of birdsong that drifts into his harp-making workshop on Exmoor. His life is quiet, predictable, and safe from any danger of surprises.
Meet Ellie: Ellie is a dreamer. But recently Ellie has stopped dreaming and her world has become very small. Her days are spent keeping a perfect home for her husband, Clive, and trying to keep him happy.
When Ellie stumbles across Dan’s workshop, they cannot imagine that their lives are about to change forever…
I love these interviews, Jill. This one had me in tears though and when my husband passed, we had Blackbird sung at his funeral. I am now thinking about all our wonderful times together.
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Glad you enjoy them Carla but sorry they can sometimes be bittersweet. Music is very emotive and putting these together will stir up memories for me too. xx
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