My guest today is author Sheila Williams who lives in France, but in the past has enjoyed several careers, including that of sheep farmer (more about that later!). Sheila shares a mortifying experience in a restaurant, her fashion sense, the contents of her handbag and a tussle with a persistent romeo ram (of the sheep variety!)
First the official word from the author.
About Sheila Williams
Sheila Williams, author, slipped into this world on Guy Fawkes night, under cover of fireworks and bonfires. Outraged to find other nurslings in the nest, she attempted to return to her own world but found the portal closed.
Adopting a ‘make the best of it’ attitude she endured a period of indoctrination to equip her for her place in society. This included learning a language that no-one ever speaks and making complex calculations of no perceivable value.
Freeing herself as soon as possible from such torture, she embarked on a series of adventures – or to use the vernacular – careers; hospital manager, business consultant, life coach, sheep farmer. She attempted to integrate into society by means first of marriage and then partnered before setting out alone to discover another world, known as France, where she now resides.
Always fascinated by these humans amongst whom she dwells, she has developed an interest in psychology, magic, the supernatural, ghosts, Ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. Dark thoughts and black humour lurk within her.
In her quest to understand this world she pursues knowledge of its history; not of kings and queens but of its ordinary people and how they lived and worked. To this end, she haunts events such as boot fairs, vide-greniers and sales rooms where many ancient artefacts can be uncovered.
She lives without the box of sound and pictures known locally as television and hence her already limited social skills are further curtailed not having a clue who came dancing with whom or who had talent…or not. She does however have access to something called DVDs and hibernates over winter with a large stack of them. When spring arrives she may be found cherishing the plants in her garden, whistling with the birds and holding deep meaningful conversations with the resident toad who, one day, she hopes may turn into her prince and keep her in the manner to which she would like to become accustomed
Her outlets from this unfathomable world include nature, animals (especially funny videos of), books and writing stories. This latter occupation enables her to create her own worlds, populate them and dispose of the residents as she thinks fit. She finds holding the fate of these poor souls in her hands immensely satisfying.
Time to find out which of the intrusive and personal questions Sheila has been brave enough to answer…..
Welcome back Sheila and can you describe one of the most embarrassing moment of your life?
I met some friends at a local restaurant. Much wine was consumed, as happens, and I needed to visit the loo. I pushed the door open; great, no waiting, no-one there. I did what I needed to do and was about to leave when I heard voices, men’s voices, lots of men’s voices. I waited, mortified until I thought it was all quiet and then crept out of the stall only to notice what I had not seen before – a row of urinals against the wall, each one occupied. As one, the guys turned their heads and began hissing and booing at me.
How they stayed on target I’ll never know, nor want to. I fled, my face tomato red. I made it back to the table where my friends (nearly wrote fiends there) were falling about laughing and pointing to the ‘gents’ sign on the door.
To compound my embarrassment, as we left the restaurant I could hear the sniggers of other diners. I stopped for a moment at the door and a little old lady walked up behind me. She pulled down the back of my skirt and said severely: ‘You’re not a little girl any more so don’t tuck your skirt into your knickers.’ In my embarrassment in the loo I had left without making sure my clothes were arranged in a seemly fashion. I never went back and these days you’re more likely to find me in trousers or jeans than a skirt.
Tell us about your craziest experience.
In another life I had a sheep farm in the Yorkshire Dales. At ‘tupping time’ – the time when the tups (rams) are turned out with the ewes to mate, I had one of my tups going back and forth; in and out of my neighbour’s fields. The problem was that this great numb creature just didn’t fancy my curly-horned Swaledale ewes. No, this mating season he’d taken a fancy to my neighbour’s, admittedly younger and more stylish, ewes. This was the fifth and definitely the final time that I was going to fetch him away from forbidden fruit. I grabbed the dog collar I’d put around his thick neck and rummaged through my pockets for a length of thick twine. As I began to fasten the twine to the collar. He shifted uneasily; to be led from the only source of nookie for a twelvemonth, it was too much for him to bear. He threw back his great head and propelled himself down the fields at the double.
Somehow, the length of twine wrapped itself tightly around my left wellie and as the ram took the piece of band to its full length, it tautened and upended me, all 140 lbs of too, too solid flesh. I crashed on my back, cracking my head and sending my specs flying whilst a whole galaxy of blue and yellow stars shot across my orbit.
The villain of the piece, now thoroughly frightened by the weight he was towing some ten feet behind him, bolted down the field, heading for the wall at the bottom. It was a frosty morning with the ground iron-hard. I wriggled like a fish on a long-line trying to free myself. I could feel the skin on my back and arms being scraped off. The brute reached the lower boundary wall and took it like a Grand National winner at which point my left wellie detached itself from my foot and I was left a gibbering, sobbing wreck in the wall bottom. The miscreant ram, continued his gallop with a flying green wellie trailing behind him.
It took me some time to collect the remnants of my wits together and even longer to scour the fields groping for my specs, without which I’m the proverbially blind bat. I limped home. In the bathroom I inspected the damage. It was colourful. Face maggot white; back, arms, legs and shoulders a raw red and every shade of purple and blue.
Now I’m not a particularly pretty sight at the best of times, being short, stoutish and sharp-hootered but I would have left Frankenstein’s monster as an also-ran in a ‘most-ugly’contest that morning.
Sally Here: I found this video with a mesmerizing sheep herding sequence that might bring back happier memories of sheep farming for Sheila..
How would you describe your fashion sense?
In a word, I would say ‘eclectic’; some of my very stylish friends would say I didn’t have any fashion sense. However I’ve always replied to their scorn that I dress for the occasion. When I was a business consultant it was all power-dressing – suits, Dallas-style padded shoulders, short skirts, heels that could skewer a wild boar.
When I was farming it was jeans, sweaters, Barbour coats and overalls.
Nowadays, in my writing years, it varies a little. I live in south-west France where the summers are hot and the winters are freezing. Summertime it’s shorts, crops and t-shirts (not the sleeveless ones – too much underarm wobble – and a swimsuit for the mandatory dip in the lake at the end of the day. Occasionally I’ll sport a floaty skirt but mainly on fete days.
In winter it’s a different matter altogether. Up until recently I had no heating in my writing room so a typical wardrobe consisted of vest, long-sleeved t-shirt, sweater no.1, sweater no.2, woolly hat and mittens. The lower half would be fleecy-lined trousers and tights or sometimes padded ski trousers.
All that has changed though because I now have heating in my writer’s room so no doubt a new form of sartorial elegance will evolve but I haven’t quite decided what that might be yet.
What are the five things that you would always find in your handbag or briefcase?
Only five! Firstly my papers (I’ll bundle them together as one) – passport, driving licence and car registration. The French police have this sneaky habit of jumping out of the side of the road, stopping you and asking to see your papers. Without them you face a hefty fine.
Next would be a notebook and pens, several pens in fact. I get wacky ideas at the strangest times and need to write them down. I am, what I call an eariwigger – I can’t help overhearing other folks’ conversations. From time to time I hear a little gem that I can’t resist noting.
Number three is my comb. It is made of boxwood and comes from the village where I now live. A century or so ago it was one of the main industries in the village along with jet working and textiles. The factories are all gone now, save one textile firm. My comb is a very simple one but many of them were intricately carved and quite beautiful.
Next my purse. Although I don’t claim to be stylish really, I am the proud owner of a genuine Chanel purse in black and white leather. It’s a bit battered but it does the job. In truth it doesn’t have much work to do since it’s nearly always empty save for the obligatory carte vitale (health card), my cash card and a credit card that I dare not use.
Finally a relic from my farming days one of those rinky-dinky penknives that are supposed to do everything from cleaning out horses’ hooves to opening a bottle of wine. The only problem with it is that I break a nail trying to ease out each of its component parts.
What is the one ambition that you still have not achieved?
There’s still time yet and I’m a born optimist. I really would like to be traditionally published. I have had articles and short stories published in magazines but not a full length work. My first novel received a number of interested murmurs from agents but alas no takers. I’ve published my three books independently and with a little success.
For all of that I would like to be taken on by a publisher. I’m not sure why it’s so important to me but I believe, deep down it has something to do with validation as a writer. I think many writers probably suffer from self-doubt – some of the time maybe all of the time. I certainly do. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be rid of it – perhaps it’s necessary to the writing process. Even if I were to find a traditional publisher I suspect the self-doubt would still be there?
Do you prefer the big city or country life?
You can probably guess my answer. I’m a country lass at heart. I was brought up in a city in west Yorkshire. I remember as a kid visiting a farm where the farm yard was a glorious mix of hens, ducks, geese and pigs. How I loved the pigs rooting about, wallowing in mud, scoffing windfall apples with happy little grunts. I developed a real passion for pigs but when I suggested keeping one on the tennis court at home the idea was vetoed.
Sally Here: I found some very happy pigs enjoying life in a sanctuary cooling off.
My adult life has always been spent in the country in ever increasing degrees of country-ness. First in the outer fairly rural suburbs, then in the Yorkshire dales, next it was rural Nottinghamshire, then the Holderness coast in east Yorkshire and finally in a small village close to the Pyrenees in south west France. It’s about having space around me to think; it’s about being able to close the door and have solitude and silence when I want or need it. I love nature in all its guises, the change of seasons and even in the bitter winds that are blowing at the moment, there is exhilaration in being outside. I feel alive.
Certainly a life of adventure and daring, and having had my own experience with rams (the sheep kind) I take my hat off to Sheila….time to find out more about her books.
Sheila’s latest release.
About the Weave – a fantasy mystery…
A Romany Witch, a French Count and an English author, all entangled in a lie told centuries ago…
Struggling author Richard Pease joins the Nonesuch Club – a writers’ retreat in France – run by the inscrutable Oskar. At the club he starts to write again and he thinks his problems are over. In fact they are just beginning. As he uncovers the secrets in the Club he finds himself trapped in a web of intrigue and deception and has more to worry about than writer’s block… such as escaping with his life.
One of the recent reviews for the book
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I started to read it aloud to my partner as we were driving overnight, but, after our journeys end, I became intrigued and needed to read it myself. I found myself wanting a character in the book to have revenge, but had no inclination of how it would be achieved, until the latter stages.
There has obviously been a lot of research done, of witches, herbs and potions etc. The imagination of some people, never ceases to amaze me and am always in awe of authors
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07KCMQWMY
And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KCMQWMY
Also by Sheila Williams
Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/sheila-williams/e/B013G9O87C
Connect to Sheila Williams
My thanks to Sheila for her interesting and lively interview and if you would like to share more about your life and work then please check out how to do so: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/getting-to-know-you-sunday-interview-2019/
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