Catherine Annabel was born in Kent, but earliest childhood memories are of Kumasi, Ghana. A move to Nigeria followed, cut short by that country's descent into civil war. After secondary school in Nottinghamshire, Catherine moved to Sheffield to study English and Biblical Studies, and has never left, believing Sheffield to be the finest city in the UK. She married whilst at University and has two children. She has been working in HE administration, in a variety of roles and for both Sheffield universities, for over 20 years and is a student of French language and cultures. Catherine blogs at Passing Time.
Why do you blog? > I always wanted to write, but never knew what. I know I'm not a novelist or a poet, but I wasn't satisfied with just writing minutes and reports, on the one hand, and academic essays, on the other. Blogging is perfect – I define what I do with that space, it reflects my interests, passions and preoccupations, and, to my delight, it connects with other people who share them. I just wish I'd started so much earlier.
What has been your best blogging experience? > It's all been rather lovely: the first times my blog was liked, or reblogged, or tweeted about, were hugely exciting. But the best was the positive response to my Refugee Week series, from individuals and some refugee organizations.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Kwame Anthony Appiah, Tony Judt, Michel Butor.
What are you reading at the moment? > Proust's Le côté des Guermantes II (nearly half way through A la Recherche...), and Nella Last's War.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Michel Butor and Jimi Hendrix.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Bleak House. (A tussle between that and Middlemarch, but Dickens wins. Just.)
What is your favourite movie? > It's a Wonderful Life. It's not the cosy family film that people think. It's dark, and it deals with despair, disappointment, real grown-up stuff. And, yes, it ends up with Christmas and angels and redemption and all that, but that happy ending has been earned.
What is your favourite song? > 'Surf's Up', from the once lost Beach Boys' Smile album.
Who is your favourite composer? > Vaughan Williams.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I believed in God, in the Christian God specifically, at one time. There's no religious worldview that makes any sense at all to me now.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Cosmopolitanism. What divides us, the ways in which we differ from each other, are far less important than what we share.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > A number of feminist texts in the early 70s helped me to crystallize my growing awareness that there was something awry – hard to say which amongst them was most influential, but I think Betty Friedan was a starting point.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Billy Bragg.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Xenophobia.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I'm an idealist. It's yet to come.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Be excellent to one another, and party on.
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 could not live with a hard-line Tory. I couldn't spend half an hour with a BNP member or sympathizer. I could have a long-term - if turbulent - relationship with someone with broadly similar principles but with whom I differed radically on specific issues.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Integrity.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Meanness.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > I worry about everything!
What would you call your autobiography? > Passing Time.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Olivia Colman.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Paris.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Paris.
What talent would you most like to have? > I'd love to be able to sing. It seems to me the most beautiful thing imaginable.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > If someone would pay me to pootle about doing research into whatever interested me and then write about it, that would be marvellous.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Nottingham Forest. A pedant might argue that they are not currently in the Premiership as such. I would take a longer-term view – they have been, and they will be.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To go home to Ghana.
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