I can see from your profile that you live in Coffs Harbour (in Australia). What can you tell me about it?
Itís not madly stimulating for the mind here, Pam, but very much so for the senses. This is a beautiful area. We have the rainforests and the ranges to our west, the ocean and beaches to our east, and farmland and small villages both north and south. It has many schools, both private and public, a university, several hospitals, one of which is a training centre for medical personnel, too many shops, library, various clubs Ė but no culture as such. It somehow lacks a soul in spite of all its attractions, a little like a beautiful woman, or an Adonis - with really rusty brain cells.
You are from a wonderful area on the northern New South Wales coast. If you were writing a tourist brochure for your area, what would be the first three items featured? What, if anything, would you want to change and why? (And no, your winters are not too cold!)
Mike, Iíd be cold in an oven, so ignore me when I complain about the winter up here. Everyone else thinks itís lovely.
The first three items Iíd mention if trying to sell Coffs Harbour to tourists would be (1) the beaches and oceans (2) the rainforests and ranges (3) the lovely little surrounding villages.
The thing Iíd like to change, but realise itíll never happen, is the rapid rate of development this area is experiencing. Itís destroying too much of the rural surrounds that were so very much a part of the soul of Coffs. Tourists are fine because they go back home, but developers, who arenít remotely interested in beauty, fresh air and serenity, come with bulldozers and destruction and dollars in mind. They slash the landscape, destroy the bush and rainforests, and wreck the habitat of the native birds and animals.
Would you ever leave Australia?
No. I'd love to visit other countries, Kathie, but would die I think without the smell of gum trees in the air after rain, and the scent of our soil. My genes are all 100 percent Irish descent, but my heart is Australian.
What is your favorite place you have ever visited?
The hills and countryside around Bangalow, a tiny village in the far north of New South Wales. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, the little village hasnít altered for years, the air is sweet and clean, and life just ambles along at a comfortable, chewing-on-a-piece-of-grass pace. The rat race hasnít discovered it Ė yet Ė but the faint sound of its rapacious bulldozers can be heard in the distance.
Where would you go on vacation if you had unlimited resources, and who would you take with you?
England and Boston Ė for all the history those two places contain. England in particular to visit the places where all the great English writers lived and loved. Iíd take either of my daughters with me or my lovely sister.
How many children do you have? Are you close to them?
I have two beautiful daughters, and am most definitely close to them, and very, very proud they chose me to accompany them through life's journey. Both are currently at university, after initially spending some time as army regulars. My eldest girl is on her third degree - nursing - which I wanted her to do all along. She'll make an excellent nurse. The youngest one is doing psychology. I can't make up my mind whether to laugh or be concerned about that. She can be a bit ruthless and I have visions of patients running out of her office sobbing.
Would you ever get married again?
Only if hell freezes over. Marriage is hard work. It's a little like a vintage car that works beautifully if well looked after and treated with love and care - but I prefer the bus. Besides I hate cooking. In fact I think kitchens should be banned. My marriage was happy enough as marriages goes, but I've done it once. That's enough. Sometimes I miss the companionship of it, but then I look at the kitchen and quickly come to my senses.
What do you love the most and least about the villain grand kids? (Crayons don't count.)
Lol, the walls were finally cleaned, Kathie. I have four little grandies and those small pirates know they have me exactly where they want me. I love most the soft pink curve of their cheeks when they're sleeping, their eyes filled with wonder when they're listening to a fairy story, the absolute trust they put in me, their warm scent like small puppies, and observing their minds growing, developing and learning. There is nothing I like least, except perhaps sometimes I wish they'd tone their exceptional vocal abilities down a little. It's like having a house filled with parakeets.
I know you are a classically trained singer and have performed publicly many times. How did your love of music arise? There's obviously an enormous amount of hard work involved too, but are you born with the ability to sing well or can anyone be taught?
I can't remember ever not singing, Mike, or wanting to sing. It's as much a part of me as breathing. Probably that love developed from my father. He was always singing around the house. One of the loveliest memories I have of him is a time when I was very sick as a child. He used to wrap me up under his big warm coat and carry me outside at night to see the stars in the sky. And sing softly to me. He sang life, warmth and love.
Sadly, not everyone can be taught to sing. If a person is completely tone deaf, for example, or has absolutely no sense of timing, then no - and that's a really sad thing if that person has always longed to sing. However if a person does have tonal abilities and can hold a rhythm, then yes, anyone can be taught to sing. The most important ingredients though are wanting to learn, loving the process, a commitment to endless hours - years - of practice, and that special joy within them that only singing can give.
What type of music do you sing and how would you describe your voice?
Anything, Pete, and I'm a lyric soprano. Give me a song and I'll sing it. Middle of the road, golden oldies, right up to operatic arias. I do have a fondness for German Lieder. They can break a person's heart they're so beautiful. German and Italian are exquisite languages to sing. French is reasonable, Danish is really difficult, and English is dreadful. Our vowel sounds are too harsh.
You mention gardening as a hobby on your profile, and you have seen my garden. How would you describe yours?
A place that says ďCome on it. Rest in my shade. Watch the breezes coaxing my leaves to dance in the sunlight. Relax. Listen to the song of my birds. BreatheĒ.
Your quizzes have a distinct style - I know it's a 'Creedy quiz' without having to look. Did you write that way from the start, or did it develop?
I didnít know they had a style, Pam! Thank you so much. Thatís a really nice thing to say. I do like to make people laugh though Ė and learn as they laugh Ė so if thatís a style, itís not a deliberate cultivation. Itís just how I write, and always have. I started scribbling as a child, and even way back then, I either liked to make people laugh, or sometimes make them cry. The wanting to learn and pass that learning on grew along with me. Iím a teacher by trade and have always found that if you make students laugh, you then (a) have their attention and (b) they learn as a result and (c) most importantly, they actually enjoy learning.
I love playing your quizzes for many reasons: interesting and quirky topics, wonderful I.I. and a rare ability to portray the absurd with a brilliant sense of humour. Does this ability (and humour) come naturally or is it something you have to work at?
Itís amazing how all your questions run along similar lines. I must have excellent tastes in friends. But no, I wouldnít enjoy making people laugh if it was deliberately cultivated. It has to be spontaneous. One of the reasons I really dislike stand-up comedy is that I detest regurgitated humour. Also, unless the topic has been set, I only write quizzes on topics that have initially intrigued or fascinated me.
You have written nearly 400 quizzes for Fun Trivia (at the time of this interview). Where do you get the inspiration to delve into so many different subjects?
Itís because of a habit I have of getting side-tracked when reading. If something interesting crops up, it simply must be looked up as well, and, before you know it, Iíve wandered across to the other side of the world, and probably several hundred years into the past as well. I also love reading the encyclopedia, any encyclopedia. Itís simply amazing all the things that can be learned in them. I know I have a habit in my quizzes of saying ďHow amazing is that!Ē but truly, it all is.
What is your favorite subject in trivia?
History, Humanities, Religion and Brainteasers
Do you have a role model or hero/heroine? If so, what do you admire about them most and why?
Probably American actor James Stewart. He was kind, gentle, a gentleman, war hero, devoted family man, artist and humanitarian. When once asked how heíd liked to be remembered, he answered ďAs someone who believed in hard work and love of country, love of family and love of community.Ē How wonderful the world would be if filled with people like that.
I know you like a good joke. Why do you think humour is important?
Laughter releases happy chemicals in the brain, it makes people feel good both physically and emotionally, itís conducive to learning, it creates bonds between all strands of society, and who knows, perhaps one day, it could even help us link hands all around this sad old world of ours.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Laziness, lies and unfairness.
Do you think there will ever be peace on Earth? Why or why not?
Oh sadly, not yet, not yet, and thatís heartbreaking. Even up to ten years ago I would have answered differently, but now I canít. Not given the present climate of the world. The horror happening in the Middle East will just continue to spread until it has engulfed us all. Mankind will once again have to know bloodshed of unimaginable proportions, before its remnants will have try once more to establish some sort of world wide organisation dedicated to peace and equality for all.
If you could meet anyone from the past or present, who would you choose to meet and why?
The English writer Jane Austen. I love her books, the settings, the story lines, the language, the human interest, and the humour. Of course, if he existed in the flesh, Iíd also very much like to meet Mr Darcy. SighÖ
You and I have often mentioned our mutual dislike of cooking. Do you have a favourite dish, which always turns out right despite your best efforts to ruin it?
Oh dear, let me think. I've only burned my tasty chicken stew once I think, so that's pretty safe. Or toast and baked beans. Unless of course the toast gets stuck in the toaster.
What meal would you serve someone you did not like?
ROFL, Linda - anything I cooked!
Tell us one thing about yourself that your Scrambled Egghead teammates and other friends would be surprised to learn about you.
I dated over 200 men before finally settling down with Plod. Life is a smorgasbord. I enjoyed the smorsking.
If you could spend one day as another animal, what animal would you choose to be and why?
A cat. They fascinate me. Their movements are so graceful and flowing. It's like watching liquid poetry in motion. And their obsession with cleaning makes me laugh. I like watching them play as well, and they're hilarious when they get an attack of the gallops and suddenly tear up and down the room, or all over the garden - then stop with embarrassed looks on their faces. I also like the way they can insult you with just one glance. That purr, too, is a thing of joy. Pussycat symphony.
Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. For what accomplishment would you like to be remembered?
Strangely enough, not for singing or writing, but for laughter.
Speaking of lasting fame, what would you like to be written on your tombstone?
Oh that's easy. "Once I sang".
Thanks to those who participated.
FT Editor and Moderator