Elaine Simpson-Long was born in Wiltshire in an army barracks very close to Stonehenge and had an idyllic childhood, spent in Malta, Egypt and Cyprus. This has led to a lifelong love of travelling, though she never ventures anywhere without at least two books to hand. She has worked in the City of London for over 30 years, with breaks to have two children, run her own business and also to act as chairman for an early music festival. Elaine now lives on her own where she can indulge her love of reading and music, especially opera, as far as her income will allow her to do so. She blogs at Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover.
Why do you blog? > Because I love it
What has been your best blogging experience? > The discovery that there are like-minded people all over the world who love books as much as I do. Having spent most of my life being viewed as slightly eccentric because of this tendency, it is such a relief.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Haven't had any so far.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Post regularly. I have visitors who drop by daily and get very disappointed if there isn't something new and interesting for them to read. Enjoy blogging but do not treat it lightly and remember that opinions expressed will be read long after the original post and may come back and haunt you. Be thoughtful.
What are your favourite blogs? > Simon on Stuck in a Book. Simon and I, despite the vast disparity in our ages, have been online friends now for some four to five years and we have a huge amount in common in our choice of reading. He has just embarked on his new life as a librarian at the Bodleian no less, after getting a super degree at Oxford (in Eng Lit of course). Lisa at Bluestalking Reader. Another good friend who I met in Chicago earlier this year. It goes without saying we got on like a house on fire. Karen on Cornflower. A baker of stunning cakes, marvellous knitter and handy person all round; she illustrates her perceptive book reviews with equally stunning photographs. A joy to read. There are so many more including Ann at Patternings. And then at least another 20 that I visit regularly.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Dickens, Eliot, Austen.
What are you reading at the moment? > Mrs Lirriper by Charles Dickens; This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy; The Princess of Mantua by Marie Ferranti; Agatha Christie, The Biography by Laura Thompson; Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I can't choose between Bleak House and Middlemarch.
What is your favourite movie? > Singin' in the Rain – I have lost count of the number of times I've watched it
Who is your favourite composer? > Wagner and Beethoven. Cannot choose one over the other.
Can you name a book which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I read this for the first time when I was about 12, far too young to appreciate all aspects of it, but I have never forgotten the scene in which Jane claims equality with Rochester even though she is 'poor and plain'. This made an indelible impression on me and has influenced my outlook on life regarding a woman's place in the world ever since. The book also started off my lifelong love of Victorian literature.
Who are your political heroes? > I know everyone chooses Nelson Mandela, but how can you not? A wonderfully humane and wise man.
What would you do with the UN? > I would close it down. From a humanitarian point of view it does good work, but as a political institution I think it is devoid of any real influence and power.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The so-called 'War on Terror' which I think is being used as a justification for draconian and intrusive prying into everyone's privacy.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > It isn't fair, it isn't easy, but it can be huge fun so get on with it with the minimum of moaning - if possible.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I was - we are now divorced!
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness and generosity of spirit.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save a life; to protect my children; to avoid hurting someone.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Clubbing. As a teenager I used to go out with a gang of girlfriends to various night spots and then one night realized what a totally boring waste of time it was, dancing round your handbag and pretending you were cool and having a good time. I left, went home and have never been to a club since. Also watching Big Brother and all the ghastly reality TV shows which I abhor.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > As I live on my own, I do sometimes worry about becoming old and ill. A gin and tonic or a bar of chocolate usually stop me from feeling sorry for myself.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Meryl Streep.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Somewhere remote and quiet. Have always rather liked the thought of Skye or Jura. As long as I have a broadband connection and can blog.
What would your ideal holiday be? > I have two. Spend time in cities such as Rome, Venice, Salzburg or Florence and visit galleries, churches and go to the opera. The other is a totally non-intellectual holiday where I vedge out on the beach covered in Factor 30 with I-pod plugged in and a door stop of a beach read to hand.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Spending time with my wonderful daughters, reading, writing, listening to music, going to the opera and the cinema, poking around old second-hand bookshops
What is your most treasured possession? > I have a very battered old travelling clock given to me over 30 years ago by somebody very dear to me. It no longer works and is falling apart but I will never part with it.
What talent would you most like to have? > Would love to be able to play the violin. I wish...
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Writer.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > All of them, with the exception of Ken Dodd, appear to have died. I used to love Dave Allen for his Irish wit and charm, Morecambe and Wise who used to reduce me to helpless laughter, Ronnie Barker who I think is peerless. I can't think of a current comedian who makes me laugh, though I do find the combination of Paul Merton and Ian Hislop on 'Have I got News for You?' very funny.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Ian Botham, who has just been knighted - and well deserved too. I also admire Andrew Flintoff and hope his bad ankle can be sorted and he will be around to give us pleasure for years to come. I admired John McEnroe for his glorious talent, not his behaviour as a player, though he is now a superlative TV commentator, and Bjorn Borg.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Chelsea. Have supported them for over 30 years and it has been a difficult ride with the future uncertain in these post-José days. I also have a sneaking liking for Manchester United. This is totally due to seeing George Best play several times when he was in his pomp. There was nobody to touch him.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would make my children's future secure, pay off my mortgage and that of several struggling friends, buy a lovely house large enough for a library of my very own, work out how much I needed to live on for the rest of my life, and then give the rest away to small, unsung charities who need it.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Charles Dickens, Maria Callas and Queen Victoria.
What animal would you most like to be? > A cat. Every cat I have ever known seems to have a wonderful life.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]