Profile
 

Cressida Connolly is a reviewer and journalist, who has written for Vogue, The Telegraph, the Spectator, The Guardian and numerous other publications. She has interviewed many writers, including Alice Munro, Ian McEwan, Maya Angelou, Jeanette Winterson and Michael Ondaatje.  A lifelong lover of poetry, she has been a judge of the Forward Poetry Prizes and has published profiles of John Stammers, Kathleen Jamie and Thomas Lynch, as well as articles about why poetry matters. Cressida has also interviewed artists Antony Gormley and Michael Craig-Martin and written appreciations of Rodrigo Moynihan, Tarka Kings and David Sylvester. Journalistic assignments have included swimming with wild dolphins in the Caribbean, considering the advantages of the harem, the delights of chick peas, blankets versus duvets, why dogs are better than cats and diverse other subjects.

Cressida's debut collection of short stories, The Happiest Days, won the MacMillan/PEN Award.  This was followed by a non-fiction book, The Rare & the Beautiful, about the lives of the bohemian Garman family. My Former Heart is her first novel.

 

 

Cressida collects the work of artist photographers Polly Borland and Stuart Whipps, as well as Ladybird books.  While researching an article for the Telegraph, she was lucky enough to get to know several of the illustrators whose work made Ladybird great, including John Berry, Martin Aitchison and Harry Wingfield.  Her obituaries of Berry and Wingfield, as well as of Ladybird Artistic Director Douglas Keen,  have appeared in The Guardian. In 2000 she organised and curated a touring exhibition, The Art of Ladybird Books, which toured the UK.  She also introduced Ladybird artist Harry Wingfield to the Art Gallery at Walsall, resulting in the 2002 exhibition of Wingfield's work. 

Cressida is the daughter of writer Cyril Connolly.  In 1985 she married Worcestershire farmer Charles Hudson, proprietor and grower of The Real Flower Petal Confetti Company.  They have three children.
     

World of Cressida Connolly, writer

The journalist and author talks to Jessamy Calkin about taps, virgins and her extensive collection of Ladybird books.

Cressida Connolly, 52, is a journalist and the author of The Happiest Days, a book of short stories that won the PEN/Macmillan prize in 2000, and The Rare and the Beautiful, a biography of the Garman sisters, who inspired some of the 20th-centuryís greatest artists. Her first novel, My Former Heart, is published by Fourth Estate in August. Cressida is the daughter of the writer Cyril Connolly, who died in 1974 when she was 14. She lives in Worcestershire with her husband, Charles Hudson, a confetti farmer. They have three children, Violet, 23, Nell, 20, and Gabriel, 17.

Routine I get up at the horribly early hour of 6.45 in order to drive Gabriel to school in Cheltenham and then, if Iím writing, I go and sit in my car in a very nice layby and write on my laptop. I wrote nearly all of my new book in the car because my sister, who was dying of lung cancer, was living with us and didnít like being woken up or having to see people, so I used to go out. I usually do writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon, but if Iím not writing I do vegetable shopping and lots of dog walking. And river swimming, when the season permits.

Virgins Iím not a Roman Catholic but I very much like the trappings of Catholicism, like incense, statues, relics Ė all the things that religious people donít like. I particularly like the Virgin Mary because she was a good mother. When I started to have children I was worried that I wasnít going to be a nice enough mother so I thought that if I put some Virgin Marys around the place it would remind me to be nicer. Then it became a collection. The Spanish ones are good because they have detachable gold halos.

Father The photograph of my dad (below) was taken by Richard Avedon in about 1963. I absolutely love it because we both look so cheerful. My dad had a very good smile; but his face looked grumpy in repose, as mine does too. People who see me in the street say, ĎI didnít dare say hello because you looked so furiousí Ė but thatís just my face.

Taps I love taps as objects. I like their utility and their classic shape; I donít want anything to do with a modern tap. Thereís a lovely Lucian Freud drawing of a tap, and I think he also did a painting. Artists often paint things in their studios and most artists have taps to rinse their brushes. Iím friends with Michael Craig-Martin, who knows about my fondness for taps, so he very kindly gave me two pictures of taps of which this is one.

Knitted food I like food of all kinds, particularly knitted food. Thereís a place in Edinburgh where they sell homemade marmalade and knitted goods, which is where I bought these sandwiches (below). They had clingfilm on them, which was very amusing Ė as if flies might settle on them. Violet gave me the felt boiled egg and soldiers. Iíve also got a knitted custard cream badge. When I was looking round schools for my son I wore the badge and I decided that the school where one of the masters said, ĎOh my goodness, I do like your knitted custard creamí would be the right school. But no one said it so we never sent him to any of them.

Ladybird collection The artist Harry Wingfield painted the pictures in the classic Ladybird books Ė things like boys raking leaves and girls baking with their mums. About 15 years ago I thought it would be interesting to chase him up. I got to know him, and when I wrote my first book I had a bit of money and I would go and see him with a lot of cash in my pocket and Iíd make him sell me his paintings. Sometimes he would sell them and sometimes not, depending on how curmudgeonly he was feeling. I then curated an exhibition that toured all over Britain, and now I blame myself that Ladybird books have become so fashionable again and cost £7.99 in Oxfam. I have lots of books (below) but collecting is so bad for the character, and I deliberately donít know whether Iíve got all of them because that way lies madness. I keep them in a Ladybird room: occasionally I let someone sleep there as a special honour when the house is very full, but mostly I try to keep people out.

Giantís shoe The giantís shoe (below) was in a shoe shop in Worcester, in the gentlemenís section. When my children were little we used to go there to buy their Start-rite sandals and they would say, ĎCan we go and see the giantís shoe?í I gave the shop assistant my number in case they ever wanted to get rid of it. Years later I got a telephone call: ĎThe large gentlemanís shoe is here if you want to come and collect it.í It was claimed that it came from Stratford, and a woman who is a friend of my motherís remembers that there used to be a very, very tall man in Stratford who was about 7ft 4in, so it is possible it was his. We donít know what size it is. I polish it to keep it nice.

Pets I have a long history with dogs. The dog that I loved the most was Sappho, a Staffordshire bull terrier. The dog in my new book is based on her. Our current dogs Ė Cyril and her daughter Beryl Ė are Jack Russells and theyíre perfectly nice but theyíre not very piglike, and what Iím looking for in a dog is piglike-ness.

 Reproduced by kind permission from The Daily Telegraph, July 2011