Allyson Marnoch: Childrens Author

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If you have kids then the chances are you've read the wonderful tale of Hoglet the Spineless Hedgehog.  He may be small, but he has a big attitude and with no prickles to defend himself, he has to find a safe place to hibernate.

Allyson Marnoch's funny and heartwarming story about overcoming adversity was an instant hit, and has given this Perthshire based author her first outing into the world of published books. 

"I worked in a girls’ private school in the office.  It was pretty full-on and the reception was buzzing from 8am onwards, but being busy it a good thing and the days flew by.

"Nowadays, I don’t really regard any of my days as ‘work’ days because I love what I do; my head’s always full of ideas for my next piece of writing.  I don’t know how I’d have time to fit in a ‘proper job’ at this stage in my life and I take my hat off to those people who work full-time. 

Nothing can begin each day until I’ve had a cup of tea, one sugar and milk, plus a M&S digestive biscuit."Nothing (and I mean nothing!) can begin each day until I’ve had a cup of tea, one sugar (it used to be two I have to confess) and milk, plus a M&S digestive biscuit.  Once I’ve drunk that I start behaving almost like a normal human being.  

"By the time I’ve let the cats in, let the dogs out, fed the cats, fed the dogs, walked the dogs and checked up on my lovely 90 year old father who’s fantastic for his age and still completely independent, I’m ready for my second cup of tea and a huge chunk of the day seems to have disappeared!"

Allyson was born in London, but moved to Perth in 1970 when she was 10. She tells us she has fond childhood memories of London, but with most of her life spent in Perth and St. Andrews where she went to school, she regards our small city very much as home. 

When she's not out walking her Sheepadoodles, Mabel and Wooster, in the woods, you may well find her in George Street, browsing through the fat quarters at Peacock and Tortoise - "I’m like a kid in a sweetshop!".

Outside of that, she is a bit of a homebird, and loves a make-up free day, something comfortable to wear and a potter around the garden.  A perfect way to work up an appetite for her husband's wonderful meals -  "he is a fantastic cook!"

Both of Allyson's children are now grown up and live away from home, but she and her husband have three cats, as well as the aforementioned dogs; and in the past they've also had resident hedgehogs that she's nursed over the winter.


Tell us the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at work?   

Not sure that’s a good idea in case my old boss is reading this article, but here goes… In the girls’ school mentioned above, we had a cupboard in the reception area which housed a kettle, sachets of coffee and biscuits (of course). 

We weren’t really supposed to make coffee outwith certain times and even then, we were told to hide the mug under our desks. My colleague went into the cupboard one day to put the kettle on and our boss briefly entered the room. In an effort to hide her unscrupulous behaviour, I quickly slammed the cupboard door shut and hoped the kettle wouldn’t make a noise when it boiled. 

Fortunately, our boss didn’t stay in the reception for long, but he was quickly replaced by a mother of one of our pupils who was Spanish. For some reason this lady seemed to think that I should be fluent in Basque and she spent a good 20 minutes shouting at me whilst becoming increasingly irritated that I had no idea what she was talking about! As luck would have it, one of our language teachers happened to hear the commotion and guided the mother upstairs to deal with whatever was troubling her; it was a relief to hear her voice becoming fainter and eventually fading all together as they climbed the stairs.

Could that be the school ghost everyone kept telling me about, who was renowned for haunting the reception? I sat at my desk with my head in my hands, savouring the peace for a couple of minutes, but my thoughts were interrupted by a quiet knocking.  Could that be the school ghost everyone kept telling me about, who was renowned for haunting the reception?  I don’t really believe in ghosts, but it’s a different matter when you’re on your own in a room with one; I sat absolutely still, hardly daring to move.

There followed what I can only describe as the muffled call of a distressed wood pigeon.

Suddenly realising I’d completely forgotten about my colleague, I leapt from my desk and opened the cupboard door to find her sitting on a make-shift chair she’d created using piles of Rank Xerox paper, holding a cup of cold coffee which she’d had to stir with a pencil because she didn’t have a teaspoon.  Horrified, I looked at her and asked why she hadn’t opened the door. 

It would appear that whilst everyone had told me about the so-called resident ghost, they’d forgotten to mention that for some reason the cupboard didn’t have handles on the inside and once in it, there was no escape.  Fortunately, my colleague didn’t get lead poisoning from stirring her coffee with a pencil and I think she’s forgiven me because we stay in touch.  When we arrange to have a coffee we meet in a café rather than a cupboard as we find it’s more comfortable and there’s usually an abundance of teaspoons!  

What signals the start of your days off?

Because I don’t have a 9-5 job I don’t really need days off, but we always try to do something different at the weekend.  Nothing exciting, perhaps a drive somewhere nice and a coffee, just to change the routine.

What might people be surprised to know about you?

I can’t resist the temptation of cake mix!  I’ll often head into the kitchen having promised the family a nice Victoria Sponge, but by the time the mix is ready for the oven there’s so little of it left that the finished treat is rarely much larger than your average cupcake!  Is it any wonder all my clothes seem to be shrinking!

What is at the top of your bucket list?

I’m not sure why this question always makes me feel slightly inadequate, but it does!  Other people have high aspirations of travelling to far-off lands on the other side of the world, but I think I must be a bit of a ‘home-bird’; perhaps that’s good though because it means I’m happy where I am. 

By the time the mix is ready for the oven there’s so little of it left that the finished treat is rarely much larger than your average cupcake! There are still plenty of places in this country that I’d like to see. I enjoy visiting Europe now and again but not so keen on the travelling side of things.  Last time I went abroad I was told to remove my boots whilst going through security.  I don’t know what happened to them once I’d put them in the plastic tray, but when they came out the other end, one of the heels was broken and it was impossible to wear them; fortunately I had a pair of open toed sandals in my carry bag, but let’s be honest, it’s not a good look when paired with ankle socks! 

I’m always impressed by people who add things like ‘bungee jumping’ to their list, or ‘scaling the Forth Road Bridge’ etc.  However, it’s not for me – knowing my luck the elastic would snap or at best I’d end up with detached retinas!

What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

My worst job was working as a temp in a retail store during the recession.  I turned up for work one Saturday morning and was told to head to ‘Menswear’. I felt like an extra in an episode of ‘Are You Being Served’ and spent most of the day fearful that I’d be asked to take inside leg measurements, but I needn’t have worried – we had absolutely no customers that day. 

I paced the shop floor endlessly, bored out of my mind.  The only source of entertainment came from a male colleague who insisted on telling me his so-called ‘secret ingredient’ for the ultimate macaroni cheese which was apparently mustard!  By the time 5pm eventually arrived I had the ambitions of a spent salmon and I truly had lost the will to live.

Who or what inspires you?  

I can’t say that any one thing or any one person inspires me.  I take inspiration from everything around me really and that includes not just people but wildlife and animals too.  I’m not inspired so much by success, but in the pride some people take in their work.  I believe that anyone who does their job well, however mundane that job may be, deserves to be a source of inspiration to others.

Tell us about the day you’d love to live again?   

I can’t think of any one particular day I’d love to live again.  My wedding day and the birth of my son and daughter would of course top the list. However, if I were to be given a chance to go back in time, I’d choose my 30’s; sadly that was a long time ago,  before my bones started creaking and my face developed the appearance of a well-loved handbag!

Allyson Marnoch - Portrait at WindowWhat’s the best part about your job?

That’s an easy one.  There’s nothing more rewarding than carrying out a hedgehog talk/book reading and seeing a group of children enthused not just about hedgehogs, but wildlife in general.  I don’t claim to be an expert on hedgehogs, but it’s always good to pass on basic information about these lovely little creatures so that people know what to do if they find one in need of help.

Complete this sentence; the best things in life are….

Your health, making people smile and opposable thumbs so that you have the ability to switch off the TV when there’s a politician being interviewed!

Hoglet the Spineless Hedgehog by Allyson Marnoch, illustrated by Lorraine Ward, is published and available now on Floris Books.

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