News, People

The Last Word: Helen Balkwill, Author, Boy from the Moor

How long have you lived in the area?

In August of this year I celebrated 10 years of living in Dulwich Village.

What brought you here?

As a family, we did things backwards to the traditional way: we relocated into London from the countryside. Wanting a good co-educational school for our teenage daughter and son where they could also both indulge their love of sport, we felt lucky that both were accepted at that time at Alleyn’s, and so we moved to Dulwich to be close to their new school.

Do you know your neighbours?

My street is very friendly and I got to know many of my near neighbours very quickly, it didn’t take long to meet people from throughout the area either.

The most famous person you’ve seen or met?

Because I worked in the hospitality industry for a time in my younger days I have met quite a few famous people. Perhaps the most famous being Frank Zappa, who I once had to evacuate a hotel fire with!

Do you belong to any groups?

I have a strong interest in Yemen, and much of my book Boy from the Moor is set in Aden in former South Yemen. I am a long time member of the British-Yemeni Society. I am also, by a strange quirk of fate, a social member of a yacht club in the Caribbean.

What is your favourite place to eat?

I enjoy everything about eating at Llewellyn’s in Railton Road. I can walk there from home, and it is especially helpful for meeting people there that Herne Hill Station is right beside it and there are various bus connections nearby.

Coffee or tea? Where?

Definitely coffee. A family run Italian coffee bar at St James’ Park tube station called La Grana if I am in town. Romeo Jones when in Dulwich  Village. Or Christopher’s if I am headed Herne Hill way.

The best kept secret?

The best kept secret I know of in the area is Green Dale Fields as it is such an unusually wild little corner of its urban surroundings of the Camberwell/East Dulwich border. I love to join my friend when she walks her dogs there.

Where’s your favourite place to walk?

Aside from Green Dale, and because I love to be around

dogs, I am happy walking in any of the dog-friendly parks of the area: from Peckham Rye to Brockwell, to Dulwich Park to Belair. They are all great.

Best bargain you’ve ever landed?

The best bargain I ever landed was a snazzy Versace dress that I managed to snap up for not many pounds in Croydon TK Maxx. It attracts all the best comments when I wear it, and I would never have been able to afford such a garment at normal prices.

The book I’m reading at the moment ..

At the moment I am reading Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, a book set in Jamaica and inspired by  Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I am very interested in the West Indies.

My secret ambition ..

My secret ambition?  To master Blondie’s Atomic at karaoke. My all-time heroine, Debbie Harry, is such a hard act to try to follow!

Boy from the Moor is available from www.boyfromthemoor.com, via elsiepublish@gmail.com or at Village Books.