Our Patch July 2015 - Page 9

Our Patch july 2015 to you on a bus and says something. Everyone talks about illnesses, ailments and death. There’s no more interesting subject than death. It becomes less frightening.” Her first Marie Sharp diary, No! I Don’t Want to Join a Bookclub, was closely followed by the delightfully titled Virginia Monologues, listing a string of reasons why growing old was something to be celebrated, not lamented. “I’ve read books for every decade of my life… but in my 60s I could find nothing, so I thought I’d write a jokey book about growing old,” she said. “I was full of intense emotional feelings about my grandson, so I wrote about a woman in the Sixties in Shepherds Bush with a grandson.” MEXICAN RAVE HABANERA BAGS MAJOR FOOD AWARD MIND THE AGE GAP She believes the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren has been criminally ignored in literature, despite intriguing aspects such as the transition from a grandchild rushing to a grandmother’s knee for a cuddle to the more distant, polite relationship of grandparent and teenager. She recalls her interaction with her own grandmother with great fondness. Surprisingly, her groovy granny books, now translated into 15 languages, have struck a particular chord with the Germans, where more than a million copies of No! I Don’t Want to Join a Bookclub sold under a title which translates as No! I Don’t Want a Senior Portion. “The Germans have an odd attitude to old people,” she explained. “They’re very cherished, and treated like delicate bone china.” No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses came next, while readers can look forward to further Marie Sharp observations in future with the provisionally titled No! I’m Quite Happy Standing! The title of her latest book, Yes! I can Manage, Thank You, emerged after her publishers suggested she be a bit more upbeat, and break the negative cycle of book titles beginning ‘No’! “I find it easier to write in little bits,” she said, discussing the diary format of the books. “With the latest book I had an incredibly structured plot, so then I just had to join up the dots. The whole thinking behind it is that growing up is grisly; there’s nothing to recommend it. Lorraine Caie (centre) with her award-winning Habanera team in Uxbridge Road >> Taco about a result! In just a year Habanera, in Uxbridge Road, has won Mexican restaurant of the year after wowing judges at this year’s prestigious Latin UK awards (LUKAS). Owner Lorraine Caie, originally from New Zealand but now living in the area with her young family, said the win was ‘simply amazing’. “I’m still smiling,” she said. “It’s such a big lift when you’ve been working so hard to get open and established and taken so many risks.” Spicy tacos – like Habanera’s authentic conchinita version – and “We can all moan to kingdom come about it… but there are some huge advantages. Bordering on national treasure status, Virginia seems to have done just about everything in her writing career, from being a restaurant critic and Daily Mail pop writer in the Swinging Sixties to an agony aunt on Woman magazine, Today, the Sunday Mirror and The Oldie. She’s part of an elite group that includes Marje Proops, Claire Rayner and the Sun’s Deirdre Sanders who the general public instantly recognise by their first name alone, and who have always taken their role so seriously that, with the help of a fleet of secretaries, no letter went unanswered. creative cocktails impressed the judges so much that the quirky restaurant beat off competition from 200 entries to be among the final 12 winners, each showcasing a different Latin cuisine. For Lorraine, it’s a combination of varying seasonal flavours and a passion for staying local that has helped Habanera to success. “I like to think we are just right for Shepherds Bush: something unexpected, a little delight when you find us,” she added with a smile. Visit: www.habanera.co.uk The root cause of many letters to agony aunts is depression, sadness and loneliness. Virginia confesses that the one ‘dishonest’ aspect of her fiction writing is minimising the plague of lonely depression in later life, while her character Marie Sharp accentuates the joys of being alone. “I feel depressed a lot of the time,” she admitted. “I think most people do. But we want to read something to make us feel that there’s someone else who feels like that.” Virginia Ironside’s latest book, Yes! I Can Manage, Thank You, is published in hardback by Quercus at £16.99