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Changes: Louise Kennedy

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Annie [00:00:07] Hello and welcome to Changes. My guest today is Louise Kennedy. Louise grew up in Belfast, now lives in Sligo in the south of Ireland. She worked as a chef for almost 30 years before signing up for a writing group in 2014, after which the course of her life changed completely. Her debut novel, Trespassers, is a love story between a partisans and a Catholic set in a small town near Belfast in 1975 at the height of the troubles. It came out last year and has been a huge success. It was awarded Novel of the Year for a myriad of publications from the Times to The Guardian. Then it won Debut of the Year at the British Book Awards, Irish Novel of the Year at the An Post Book Awards, as well as being shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction. Louise Kennedy, hello welcome to Changes, it's such a pleasure to have you. 

Louise [00:00:58] Hello Annie, thank you very much for having me. 

Annie [00:01:00] Congratulations on Trespasses. 

Louise [00:01:02] Thank you very much. 

Annie [00:01:03] You are now living the life of an international writer. Does it feel real yet? The fact that the book has travelled so far and moved so many people. 

Louise [00:01:14] I dunno, it sort of does and it doesn't. Maybe, you know, at festivals and stuff like that, or if I go on the internet I think well jeez I wrote a book but the rest of it... *laughs* It doesn't really feel- I don't know sometimes it feels like somebody else wrote it! 

Annie [00:01:27] Would you call yourself an author? I mean, obviously I would call you an author but I don't know what relationship you have with that word yet. 

Louise [00:01:33] I think I seem like a wanker when I call myself a writer so I think I'm much happier with the doing than the being or something. 

Annie [00:01:39] Yeah *laughs*. 

Louise [00:01:40] It's weird *laughs*. I never felt like that. I mean, I didn't say 'I cook' when I used to be a chef and people were saying 'what do you do'. I didn't mind saying I was a chef. I think when I was a child I thought that writers were like magical people or something and maybe I don't want to presume to say that I'm a writer. 

Annie [00:01:53] There's so many things I want to talk about, you just touched on the fact that you were a chef for 30 years. I think a lot of the people who listen to this podcast will be really inspired by how you came to writing and will want to hear that story. But let's start at the start, if that's okay, and touch on the biggest change that you went through in your childhood. So what was that? 

Louise [00:02:16] The biggest change probably happened in 1975 when after a couple of bomb attacks on the pub that my granny owns that my mother worked at and my uncle worked at. It was very much a part of my childhood. I was kind of ---. 

Annie [00:02:29] Can I ask what the family was- so your mum and dad- did you have brothers and sisters and stuff as well? 

Louise [00:02:33] So I'm the eldest- so at the time I was the eldest of three girls and then after we left the north and moved to the the south my mother had the boy she had long been waiting for *Annie laughs*.But May 73, a bomb was planted in the pub and then it was discovered and defused. And then in 74, another attempt was made and this time the bomb detonated. Reasonable warning had been given so the place had been cleared, but the building was damaged. But I think even more than that, there was a message in there that maybe people didn't want us in the town anymore and were putting us out of business. 

Annie [00:03:06] And can you give us a context of that, Louise, Just for those who might not understand. Not expecting you to explain the entire history of sectarian Northern Ireland but in terms of your place and the pubs place, why would they have not wanted you there? 

Louise [00:03:20] So, Trespassers is a work of fiction, my novel is a work of fiction, but it's very much based on, I suppose, my background. So we were part of a small Catholic community in a predominantly Protestant time, you know, kind of we made up about 10%. On the surface things often looked quite polite but there was an undercurrent of sectarianism and that was systemic, but also there was sort of day to day stuff. Yeah, I don't know, I think that the Catholic middle class really seemed to me to be made up of bookies, publicans, a few doctors and a few solicitors. 

Annie [00:03:49] And tell us why that- why you think that is. 

Louise [00:03:51] The reason I think that is is because I think that providing drinking and --ling services, those were businesses that many Protestants didn't want to be associated with because they were considered immoral and yeah, Catholics didn't seem to have any such qualms. Or maybe it's because it was all that was available to them. 

Annie [00:04:07] I should just butt in here and say, and for those who don't know, the history of the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland is that Catholics did not have rights to jobs in the same way- or housing in the same way that Protestants did.

Louise [00:04:17] Yeah, there was erm- 

Annie [00:04:18] There was slim pickings. 

Louise [00:04:20] Very slim pickings, exactly. Yeah so I think as well there did seem to be a pattern. People have maybe been able to figure this out later on that maybe Catholics who were doing well, the businesses tended to be targeted, but it also might be as simple as if you have a pub, your names over the door and people know where to find you. So, you know, I suppose at the time, by the time that our pub was attacked, there'd already been a few years of a campaign of sectarian killing. 

Annie [00:04:47] And what kind of woman was your grandmother? 

Louise [00:04:50] Errr, she was kind of great actually. She herself had been badly injured in a bomb in 1971. 

Annie [00:04:55] Wow. 

Louise [00:04:56] Yeah, really badly injured, actually. So badly that it was initially reported as a fatality. 

Annie [00:05:03] *In disbelief* What?

Louise [00:05:03] Yeah, but I mean, she would never have used the word trauma. She wouldn't have known what it meant and the only time she ever kind of alluded to the bomb was to tell this story to entertain people, which was that erm, she'd had several surgeries and she'd hold up the stitches and, you know, she'd lost a lot of blood and she'd been sedated and when she came around, there was some wee man standing over her that she'd never seen in her life, she said 'who are you?' and he said 'I'm one of the ambulance drivers'. And apparently she had been on her way to the bank with the takings from the pub to make a lodgement when this bomb exploded, a random bomb exploded in the town- 

Annie [00:05:39] Okay, so she wasn't a target. She was just walking past? 

Louise [00:05:42] Yeah, she was just walking past. But he said that they merely had to break her arm to get the handbag off her with the money in it. 

Annie [00:05:50] Oh my Goddd. 

Louise [00:05:50] There was no way *laughs* she was parting with it. 

Annie [00:05:52] So even, like, unconscious or whatever she's like- 

Louise [00:05:54] Unconscious and bleeding to death she wasn't parting with the money. So yeah, I mean, she was pretty a- a brilliant kind of a person and she did all of her life have really overt signs of what we would now call post-traumatic stress. You know, if there was a loud noise, she went to pieces and she probably had struggles with alcohol later on as well, which we probably didn't particularly know, just because everybody seemed to have struggles with alcohol. But yeah, she was kind of great, you know. But anyway, after the- I suppose after the second attempt at bombing our pub, there was a conversation about whether things should keep going and wait around for a third bomb, which you know, people might be killed or else just pack up and leave so that's what they did. And it meant that erm- well the pub was sold in 1975- I went from living in walking distance of all the relatives on my father's side to most of them being gone. I think that was a really significant change for me. 

Annie [00:06:50] Because you had this big extended family, community of people that were available and accessible to you? 

Louise [00:06:55] Yeah and my fathers family, they all get on very well. My father was the eldest of six kids and they were so much fun when they were all together and I think I just really missed them terribly when they were gone. In some ways, maybe they hadn't moved very far away, but it just felt like a world away. They moved I guess 100 odd miles down the road and bought a pub in Kildare and then they were gone. 

Annie [00:07:21] Right. And they say it takes a village to raise a child, you must have been so influenced by so many of them.  

Louise [00:07:29] Yeah I think so! My aunts, you know, my uncles and their wives when they had babies and stuff they'd come meet me weilding nappies, playing with their newborns and things so it was great crack.

Annie [00:07:37] Yeah, so they moved and then yous moved?

Louise [00:07:40] Yeah, so I think around four years later we left and I guess that was partly for reasons to do with the troubles as well, maybe different reasons, my father found himself in a job which, you know, had sort of been a promotion I guess, except he was the only Catholic in a workforce of about 150 people and that was very difficult for him at work. A couple of times he was followed home from the factory to the end of our driveway. Yeah, by 1979 it became pretty intolerable, I think, for them so we left as well. 

Annie [00:08:12] I just can't imagine like living with that level of fear. Or maybe not, I don't want to put fear, I don't want to say that's the word but that level of tension. 

Louise [00:08:20] Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think- I don't know, I think I was always aware of this kind of- not particularly low level anxiety actually, but because it was all the time you're kind of used to it, and I suppose children especially or people are very, very adaptable you know. So like, you know, we'd have bomb scares in school and stuff like that. On the one hand you'd be a bit terrified, but on the other hand it was a way to get out of the classroom *Annie laughs* and you know, I can remember playing, you know, pretending to be Charlie's Angels- we used to be evacuated into the church, so I remember playing Charlie's Angels with some of the girls from my class and getting slapped round the head for it in the church, that kind of thing. So, yeah, so so in some ways it became very normal. I think maybe towards the end, after the bomb and then after that it just became really, really pretty frightening and difficult. 

Annie [00:09:07] And for those, again, who don't understand how things worked, you alluded to the fact that the pub got bombed but yous were warned so you were able to evacuate. What was the process of how those things were done? Was it a phone call? How was one warned? 

Louise [00:09:21] I think- with the first one there hadn't been a warning, actually. But the first one, a customer had passed a van. I think they could see that there was a beer keg in the vehicle which looked unfamiliar, anyway I suppose it was a place that kind of regulars drank in and there were wires sticking out of it, so they went in and said well, that looks like a bomb. So I think there was like £150 of explosives in or something and that was defused. And then  the second time, I'm not sure actually I must ask, I'm not sure exactly about the warning. Very often it was a phone call, sometimes to the premises or it might have been to the police or something. 

[00:09:54] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:10:04] Obviously, you spent a year talking solidly about this book, and I know from experience that the first question people ask is, 'where did this book come from?'. 

Louise [00:10:12] Yeah. 

Annie [00:10:13] So have you learnt about your own motivations for writing the book since talking about it? I mean, there has got to be a reason why you set the book at this time that was so rupturing for you in your life, I suppose. And also in that place that meant so much to you. 

Louise [00:10:28] Yeah, I think so. I think I've been fleeting around the place saying 'ooo I'm writing a novel' but I wasn't actually really doing a lot. I made a couple of playlists and was having many a hilarious hour watching erm-

Annie [00:10:38] I love that you started it with playlists. 

Louise [00:10:42] Yeah, I spent many a kind of --- hour watching videos of like the REC in the seventies and things like that and I'd made some notes, but really I hadn't got anywhere with it. And then about 2019 I got a diagnosis for melanoma and I had some surgery and I knew I was going to be off work for up to three months. I suppose, I have cancer again like for the second time, and I think that really people are saying, 'oh, you're great' but I'm not great at all, I just deal with it by completely avoiding it. And because I'm not on chemo, I'm on a different type of treatment, it means that it's possible for me to- I mean you can't really avoid it if your hairs falling out and you're throwing up and stuff. Anyway, I had surgery and I spent a couple of days- I think three days watching Call My Agent, all 3 series --- and taking opioids that they gave me at the hospital. And then I just thought, you have to get out the chair and do something. I had an agent, but I didn't have a publisher or anything and I didn't think anybody would ever see it so erm, really just to kind of stop myself from cracking up and worrying about whether I might be dying or not erm, that was --- but I try and write 1000 words every day. I also make myself promise, you know, that I wouldn't look back at the absolute dribble I'd written the previous day because if I had, that would have completely put me off just to keep pushing forward. And also that I'd forgive myself if I flake the odd time. You know, --- and feel worried about myself, so I didn't really feel like I was getting a lot done but actually in 11 weeks I appeared to have like 65,000 words of a draft. That was desperate! It was very poor. It took a hell of a lot of work to clear it up. I think maybe part of the reason I chose to write this particular story and set it in that time, I thought that I was plucking 1975 out of the air but that is the year that erm- that was a year of massive change in my childhood and maybe, you know, it's a work of fiction but it is kind of the story of my family or people like us, you know? Yeah, I don't know, I think maybe because I thought I might be dying, that was the story that I wanted to tell or something? It sounds really dramatic that I might be dying, like at the time I didn't know if I was or not, you know, I had to wait for a while to see- 

Annie [00:12:55] So how long did you have to wait? 

Louise [00:12:57] Well, I had to wait until the -- confirmed for me with scans that they figured that they got all the melanoma, and that seemed to be going okay until it became pretty clear then that they hadn't got all the melanoma about a year and a half later. Yeah, so when I came back, yeah, I appeared to be at stage four and then ended up on a completely other course of drugs. 

Annie [00:13:15] And you said you have it again now or are you in remission? 

Louise [00:13:18] I'm still in treatment. Ultimately, you know, the outlook was pretty poor but there are these drugs that if they work, they really work. So after eight months on these mad medicines I was tumour free, so the optimal time to take this course of drugs is two years. I think I'm finished at the end of November. 

Annie [00:13:37] Okay. So not long now. Yeah. I mean, obviously that was a catalyst for deciding to write a novel, but how else has it changed you, I suppose this diagnosis? Your outlook, your perspective, the way you live your life, anything like that? 

Louise [00:13:50] I think that I probably would have considered myself to be a very anxious person before I started writing. Maybe the reason that I started writing erm- I mean, I started writing by accident but maybe the reason that I took to it or something was that myself and my husband, I'd been a chef and we had had a restaurant for around seven years. Really, within about six months of it opening it was kind of doomed, I suppose. We opened it in 2007 and by 2008 we were looking at eachother going, where the hell is everybody? Just because the economy was so bad and somehow we managed to limp along for seven years. And really I was a complete and utter mess by the time that the restaurant closed --- I was on antidepressants again, well this was like a recurring thing from when I was younger. I think maybe when I was about seven or eight I started to have like sleeping goggles, like fairly neurotic sort of behaviour as well. There were things that other kids in my class seemed to be able to do very easily that I just couldn't deal with. And a lot of anxiety but erm, yeah I mean, I get myself in a bit of a state before a scan, like a terrible state.

Annie [00:14:56] *Exhales* Jesus! Fucking understandable. 

Louise [00:14:57] But actually, I don't worry about anything anymore. 

Annie [00:14:59] You don't worry about anything anymore? 

Louise [00:15:00] I just don't worry about anything! I don't care. Anything. Before I had to do readings, when I started writing at the beginning, I would not sleep for about a month if I knew I had a reading coming up. I would be like really shaky and I couldn't control my voice and I would be obviously probably pretty visibly shaky as well. My heart would be beating really fast and everything. I don't know what happened to me. I wish I'd actually got over all this when I was in my twenties or something! *Annie laughs* I wish --- that cancer in my 50s would stop me being a mess! *Annie laughing* but there you go, such is life. 

[00:15:26] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:15:41] Okay, so you talked about meeting your husband, getting this restaurant, and it kind of being a very exhausting process trying to keep the restaurant afloat. Tell us now about your adult change, Louise, which happened around then, if I'm right. 

Louise [00:15:55] Well, so that was in 2014. The restaurant had been- when I say limping along I actually don't even know how we stayed open for that long. I think maybe part of it was that if you have a business that's not going well, at least it's known, you know, at least you dealing with something that you understand but I think there could be a lot of terror around what happens if I stop. 

Annie [00:16:17] Got you. 

Louise [00:16:17] And I think that that's what we were really afraid of was like, okay bad and all as this is, what happens if we stop. So in January 2014, a friend of mine Neve McCabe who was a visual artist had been invited to join a writing group and she said 'oh, you should come along' and I said --- *Annie laughs* and then she kept sending me text messages all day. 

Annie [00:16:39] And why do you think she targeted you for that? 

Louise [00:16:42] I have no idea! I honestly have no idea. Maybe she thought she- I mean, she certainly knew that I was like, goign round the bend and maybe she thought that I just needed to do something completely different. And so I went along with her and it was shcoking actually the first meeting. 

Annie [00:16:58] Describe it. What was it? Was it a group in a circle? 

Louise [00:17:01] Well, it was a group so it was like- I think the first night there were maybe about ten people. They all seemed to be like very cool and very erm- pretty much everybody there seemed to be  involved in some form of creative practice except me. And I honestly didn't think that cooking counted, but I think now that it probably does. So they were saying things like, well, you know, I have like a chapbook of poems that I'd love help with editing it or I'm trying to write a memoir or somebody was halfway through a novel and then it came to me and I was like, you know, I'm here because Neve made me come *Annie laughs*. And I was like, --- in the face, completely mortified. So at the end of the meeting it was agreed that every week someone would submit a short story of at least 2000 words. 

Annie [00:17:45] Wow. 

Louise [00:17:46] And they said 'does anybody want to do that?' and I- rather than like run out crying which is what I felt like doing, I said okay. And I think I started to try to write it as soon as I got home.

Annie [00:17:58] And how did that feel? 

Louise [00:17:59] I can actually distinctly remember --- I didn't even have a computer. I mean, eventually when I did write the story I had to borrow my daughter's laptop that she'd bought with her communion money. I'm a terrible mother, I shouldn't have let her buy a laptop with her communion money but anyway- and it had like Hello Kitty stickers all over it and everything *Annie laughing*. And erm, oh my God, I mean, probably within a- by the end of the first paragraph I just thought, okay, I don't actually give a shite what happens to that business or anything else in this house, as long as I can just keep doing this. 

Annie [00:18:26] Oh my God. What was the story? 

Louise [00:18:28] I mean, I think there might be something to do with my relationship with language. I should probably have apologised at the outset because you introduced me as somebody from the north and I am somebody, you know, that grew up in the north but erm, I was 12 when we left and when I went to my new school, every time I opened my mouth people took the piss out of my accent. And I think that I am a pretty good mimic so it was quite easy for me to ditch my accent, but I did actually go home on a Friday and think I'm not going to be speaking like that when I go back there on Monday because my life's not worth living. So I did actually ditch my northern accent over a weekend. The reason now that when I'm reading from Tresspassers I have to put on a Belfast accent.

Annie [00:19:11] I heard an inflection- when you were talking about trespassers earlier I heard inflect, I heard it coming through, I heard it creeping in and then it creeped out again. 

Louise [00:19:18] Yeah, it might do that a bit yeah. My children say when I'm annoyed, that I sound very Belfast. 

Annie [00:19:24] Yeah am sure you do. 

Louise [00:19:24] With me bouldering up the stairs at them in a Belfast accent.

Annie [00:19:27] Yeah yeah. So was the essay about that? About language, about- 

Louise [00:19:32] Erm, no so it wasn't really that, I think that my spoken voice doesn't really resemble the voice in my head. But when I write, the voice is- It's the voice inside my head and it's a northern. 

Annie [00:19:47] Wow! 

Louise [00:19:48] I think. I think that's it. Which sounds bonkers. 

Annie [00:19:50] Not at all. 

Louise [00:19:51] I feel more like myself when I'm writing than when I'm speaking. 

Annie [00:19:53] So when you read it back, you recognised yourself in a way that you don't when you talk, or more than when you talk?

Louise [00:19:59] I think so, or maybe it's just when I was doing it I just feel more closer to myself, whatever that is or something, when I'm writing than I do when I'm speaking or -- around the world in other ways. 

Annie [00:20:10] Yeah, so it kind of felt like coming home a bit? 

Louise [00:20:12] Yeah, it did. I think it did, and maybe this sums it as well about erm, a friend of mine reckons that it has something to do with the different parts of your brain that you're using or something like that. It's whatever part of the brain we're all running away from lions or something, but I think that part of your brain could be very switched on if you're stressed a lot. 

Annie [00:20:31] Of which you were.  

Louise [00:20:32] Yeah. So I think it may be not needing that. Taking a break from that was probably helping with something.

Annie [00:20:39] What happened next, I suppose. So you weren't in a very good place in your life, you go to this it's this remarkable, familiar feeling of coming home, recognising whatever, your self in a way that you haven't in a while. How did your life change from that moment? 

Louise [00:20:54] We still had the restaurant then anf I think the restaurant closed maybe in August, that was in January and it closed in August, and when it did I hardly even noticed. So I went from this being like this thing that was like consuming me and ruining my life you know, whether we can keep that business going or not, to actually not giving a shit. Also, I think that mainly it gave me community in a way. For years and years I'd worked at night, I'd worked at weekends. When my kids were born I continued to do that and my husband used to mind them at weekends and he'd send me photographs of them like, you know, taking their first steps in the woods or later on, you know, their first surfing lessons and stuff and I was like. And so I was like, working and thinking, ooo is that ---. So I don't know, I mean that's probably common to like lots of people who do kind of weekend work or night work and everything, erm then lock the ---. 

Annie [00:21:46] So you had more time on your hands, I suppose?

Louise [00:21:47] I had more time but also I think that maybe it's just in my personality because I was never the sort of person who erm, you know some people like ---. 

Annie [00:21:56] Yeah. 

Louise [00:21:56] Like when my kids were in school I used to stand as far away from the other mothers as possible. 

Annie [00:22:00] *Laughs* me too! 

Louise [00:22:03] My kids would come out and say you're actually like a delinquent you're not like one of the parents. I was like some horrible teenager who turned up, you know, under duress to pick up their children, I just couldn't do all that. 

Annie [00:22:13] *Laughs* I'm also thinking of you in the writing group going like, 'I just came cause she invited me' *both laugh*. 

Louise [00:22:18] I know, terrible! Oh God.

Annie [00:22:20] I love it. So you went back to the group, I suppose?

Louise [00:22:23] I did go back to the group. I was in the group for maybe around two years or something until-. 

Annie [00:22:27] Amazing. 

Louise [00:22:27] Yeah, then when our restaurant collapsed- When I say collapsed, it just started a very slow death, collapsed is too dramatic for what happened. It just sort of fizzled out and one day it was just gone, you know, but it meant that we both had to go on the dole and I'd never been on the dole in my life. And my husband then figured out that we were entitled to a further education grant, so he went back to school and trained to be an accountant and- I shouldn't be laughing, I went to Queens in Belfast and took creative writing a couple of nights a week in Belfast. I stayed in in my aunty's house in Belfast. 

Annie [00:23:05] So how was it being a mature student at Queens? 

Louise [00:23:07] It was kind of hilarious. I can remember, I was so used to staying at my aunts house and she lives up the road from Queens and I was like hitting 50 and the only other parents in my class, I think his mother was younger than me, you know what I mean. Like, they were all so young compared to me and it was a bit awful. I remember on the first day I walked in and said hello and none of them answered me *Annie gasps* and I did say to them afterwards, 'you fuckers!', all just sitting there.

Annie [00:23:33] What did they think you were?! 

Louise [00:23:34] I think they were all like terrified or something themselves and in their own little world. But it was like, could you not even- you know. 

Annie [00:23:39] Acknowledge my existence?! 

Louise [00:23:41] I know exactly. But then actually, after a while I did get to love it. I think one night I might have been out with all of my classmates and somebody come into my aunt's house and they said 'where's Louise?' and I overheard her saying, 'ahhh she'll not be up for a while. She was out again with all them wee poets' *Annie laughs*. Thats what I was doing like drinking with 30 year old poets in the back of --- bar. I mean, I was writing too, obviously but it was very fun I have to say. And I think as well maybe the fact that I went to Belfast to do that and not to anywhere else probably made a difference as well, because that was like- I mean I guess it's the longest sustained time that I've spent in the place that I come from since I was 12.

Annie [00:24:21] Yeah, yeah and what age would you have been when you did that? 

Louise [00:24:23] I think that was back when I was 48, 49 and then I stayed on and did a PHD as well.

Annie [00:24:30] Wow. How was it to learn? Like, I just know from when I started writing, I could not get over the buzz it was to learn something new. 

Louise [00:24:39] Yes. I felt like that. I didn't know what I was expecting, I think when it gave me meaning was feedback. You know, it gives you some kind of community where, you know, if you write something and one person says, 'oh I didn't really get that' out of like eight or ten, then thats fine you don't have to --- it, but I think if ten of them were going, 'what the hell does that mean?' then there is a problem, you know, and it's something that you should probably fix. So I think from that point of view, it was good. It also gave me deadlines and it meant that I did have to produce a certain amount of work as well. And also it's given me a connection to --- because it was Queens specifically, it gave me a better connection to Belfast as well. It introduced me to lots of kind of- yeahhh, other kind of work that people are doing at the moment. 

Annie [00:25:20] So tell me about Neve now, your friend Neve who made you go to the group, is she laughing now? 

Louise [00:25:24] I think she did a degree in writing in --- she did an MA as well and she's won like every competition you can imagine and is apparently working on a novel as well, so yeah. 

Annie [00:25:34] Wow, okay. 

Louise [00:25:34] In that writing group as well- Una Mannion who set up the writing group has just had her second novel published by Faber so it was kind of unbelievable really. Everybody was very serious from the outset. 

[00:25:44] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:25:52] I suppose you weren't expecting this change, to go to this writing group and for it to completely change the course of your life, but now that it has how do you feel about change in general in terms of how you've changed your life? And do you think you could do it again? 

Louise [00:26:08] Um, I don't know. I mean, I think the thing- mmm, that's interesting so I think that when I joined that writing group, I didn't expect that anybody would ever think I was any good at writing. I didn't do it for that reason. Maybe that's not about the first meeting because I went to that by accident but I think after I went back again, I kept going back. I think I wanted to get better at it for me. I didn't think anybody necessarily had to see it and I just liked how it made me feel better or something. Sounds ridiculous. I don't know but it always makes me feel better in ways like, you know the way it is hard and at various points you just think you're mad and I just think that maybe the changes that it brought, they were like really timely and maybe by agreeing to go there with Neve that night meant that I was probably looking for something else but I wouldn't have known, I didn't know that. I don't know if I could like, have such radical changes again.

Annie [00:26:59] We had Prue Leith on this podcast and she firmly believes in having a revolution in your life every 20 years. Like, changing everything. And I mean, you've done that- well you did the 30 years as a chef, but you kind of have done that. 

Louise [00:27:10] So that would mean then maybe that when I'm 70 or something, there might be another round of change, that's kind of scary. 

Annie [00:27:15] But I kind of think it's exciting too, no?  

Louise [00:27:17] Yeah, maybe --- maybe it is yeah.

Annie [00:27:20] Just the fact that it's possible. 

Louise [00:27:21] ---!

Annie [00:27:22] Just the fact that it's possible, you know? 

Louise [00:27:24] I know, I know, well it is possible that is for sure. 

Annie [00:27:27] Okay, change you'd still like to make or see. Last question. 

Louise [00:27:34] Well I'm getting a bit fucking sick of having cancer now to be honest. I'm not like, really sick or anything but sometimes I am a bit. The first phase of treatment caused my endocrine system to go haywire so I have to take lots of drugs for that for the rest of my life and that's a bit of a pain in the arse. 

Annie [00:27:46] Does that affect your day? Like does it affect your existence? 

Louise [00:27:49] Well it can a bit. I think I'd like to not be in treatment, but then I think once you have cancer, you're just like a cancer person for the rest of your life because it's always a thing. Like you're always going to be scanned. 

Annie [00:27:59] There's an awareness of it even if you are in remission. 

Louise [00:28:01] Yeah, I think there is. In some ways maybe that's okay, because it means that maybe if something comes back you'll know pretty quickly because you will be scanned pretty regularly so maybe that's alright. But yeah, I just sometimes think I'm fucking sick of all this, you know. 

Annie [00:28:14] Yeah, that's very fucking understandable. Very. Well listen, I thank you so much for this. 

Louise [00:28:21] Oh, thank you for having me! God almighty.

Annie [00:28:21] It's been such a pleasure. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a pint, and we'll have to do that in real life. 

Louise [00:28:28] I knowww, we should! *Annie laughs* absolutely I'd love it. I'd love it. Thank you so much.

Annie [00:28:36] Do please rate, review and subscribe to Changes. It is so appreciated and if you fancy sharing it on social media too, that would be amazing. The more people we can get listening to these episodes the better, we want to tell our stories far and wide. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Thanks for listening!