Quick & Quirky Questions with Hilary Hawker

Hilary Hawker is 78 years old. She has lived in Galloway for nearly 40 years now, and it has been wonderful. Her family are Scottish on her mother’s side – her Great Aunt Bessie had one of the first bicycles in Scotland and cycled downhill showing her ankles and upsetting the good folks of Edinburgh.  

Hilary’s mother went south during WWII, so she was raised and had an excellent education in Dover. In those days, girls were nurses, teachers or secretaries, and her stepfather believed that girls didn’t need an education, so she did various jobs in central London, meeting the Beatles and having lunch with the Kinks while at Rediffusion Television. A couple of years later, Hilary went to Uganda and discovered she wanted to be a teacher after all, so she qualified in Birmingham and went to work for the King Edward’s Foundation. 

There, she met her husband, who eventually proposed (it only took him four years!). As they both yearned for dogs, chickens and country life, they bought a burnt-out house on the side of a hill in Galloway with a fantastic view and lived there happily for 38 years with their two boys, chickens, ducks, great Danes, a peahen called Sheba (who outlived three Solomons) and a guinea fowl called the Mad Major. Both sons are now happily married to lovely wives. One is now officially French and lives in Paris with his family and the other lectures and does research at Strathclyde University.  

Hilary and her husband have recently downsized into a tiny house with a huge garden. She does a spot of volunteering here and there. That’s her future sorted!


Tell us 4 important facts about yourself

  1. I don’t think there is anything important about me, I’m just the usual mixture of moods and thoughts and desires.
  2. I read very quickly;
  3. I can cook up a storm in a tin can with whatever’s in the cupboard;
  4. I like languages, and have a few words in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Tibetan, Latin and German.

What is your favourite age that you’ve been so far in life, and why?

Right now: I’ve enough to live on, a huge garden to recover, time to do what I want to do, and time to do a few things that I’ve volunteered to do before I realise that I’ve forgotten to duck again. Oh, and lovely friends.

Who is your favourite fictional character or famous person over 60?

Charles Dance for reasons I am too polite to discuss in public. Fictional? Ratty in Wind in the Willows. Now, there is an animal who knows how to enjoy life.

You are alone in your house (no pets). You have three minutes to get out before the house collapses and burns to the ground. What one possession would you grab and take with you?

In three minutes in this tiny house, I could probably chuck most of my belongings out of the window into the garden without being picky. Having downsized recently there isn’t a lot left, so:

  1. The book I am currently reading
  2. My iPad, which is my clip-on memory and my library
  3. My mother-in-law’s beautiful Lalique bowl with goldfish all round it
  4. A coat, especially if the fire is in wintertime

Still got fifteen seconds left … a sandwich in case of hypoglycaemia, which is one of my ‘hobbies’.

What’s your favourite creative pastime?

Mosaicking: making something out of bits and pieces of something else. Four of us spent a week in the hills above Ravenna and learned how to do it the Italian mediaeval way. Been dabbling ever since. But mostly my new garden.  Flowers are now my passion after nearly 40 years on a windswept hillside, trampled intermittently by cattle … the garden, not me, though it was close a couple of times.

Tell us something about yourself that’s surprising or unexpected.

I was once mistaken for the Pope by hundreds of people.


Read Hilary’s blog on volunteering!

Our monthly flash theme for June consists of four themes!

This month, we’re celebrating Volunteer Week, Garden Wildlife Week and Adult Learner’s Week, as well as National Writing Day on June 23rd. Four themes, we hear you cry? Why yes! June is a month with lovely long days leading up to and after the solstice, so think of all those extra daylight hours you’ll have to write a flash submission (or two) for us:

  • Tell us about the creatures you find in your garden or your efforts to turn your outdoor space into a haven for wildlife.
  • Write something about your experience of being a volunteer and the joy you’ve found in volunteer projects.
  • Are you taking a course, doing a degree or training in something new? Tell us what it’s like to be an older adult learner.
  • Or, tell us something about your writing process, if you write regularly.

Entries will be accepted until midnight on June 30th and flash submissions can take the form of a poem, short story or flash memoir. The winning entry will be chosen by the Autumn Voices staff team and the winner will receive a copy of Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence which has been kindly donated by the Little Brown Book Group.

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