Quick & Quirky Questions with Ingrid Murray

Ingrid Murray, 61

Ingrid’s writing recently has been sporadic. She can write nothing for two years and then write two dozen poems in two months. She has no idea what turns the tap on and off. Her poetry has been published online by Ink Sweat and Tears and Open Mouse, in print in New Writing Scotland and been shortlisted for the Jane Martin Prize (pre age-restriction). In 2015 she collaborated with then Edinburgh Makar, Christine de Luca, on the poem ‘A Month on the Mile’. Ingrid won the 2020 Autumn Voices Poetry Competition with ‘Digitalis Purpurea’.

1. Tell us something significant about yourself:

I spent six months as a toddler recovering from pneumonia. The doctor advised my parents I would not survive. I went to university at sixteen, graduated and married at nineteen. I’ve married twice, have three children, seven grandchildren and counting. I’ve worked as a football-pools collector, an usherette, a secretary, a health-care assistant and for twenty years was a midwife. I’m currently project manager for our cottage renovation.

2. What is your favourite age in life so far and why?

In my twenties I was clueless, in my thirties a nervous wreck, in my forties I was a midwife, bought a cottage, fell in love. The menopause played havoc with my fifties so forties it is. 

3. Who is your favourite fictional character over 60? 

Tricky, this one. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, too sour; Miss Haversham, too self-pitying (and too young it turns out); Old Goriot, too good. If I’m allowed a memoirist, rather than a character then Diana Athill is just right.

4. 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? 

I’d grab my youngest daughter’s pencil portrait of me aged about forty, not because I’m an egoist but because she captured something I recognise still. In the portrait I’m looking sideways out of the corner of my eye, wary, unhappy. She showed me who I was.

5. What’s your favourite creative pastime or place?   

I used to swim, then I ran, now I garden. I’m out in all weathers, planting, weeding, cutting back, tying-in, pruning. My hands are always dirty.

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

In 2020 I wrote a poem that won a prize.

7. Tell us three ways that you are still learning:

I was learning Gaelic. Now in lockdown I’m learning to be content with less. Yesterday I made marmalade for the first time. Tomorrow I may read something and want to know more. I’ll look it up on the internet, then Angus and I will discuss it for hours.

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