ChipLitFest part 3 – India Knight and Gill Hornby

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Wednesday 30th April 2014

India Knight In your Prime How to AgeI’ve read India Knight’s Mutton and Gill Hornby’s The Hive and expected their event at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival to be all about their novels.

How wrong could I be? Chaired by writer Jane Wenham-Jones, the hour-long session was far more entertaining than that. To sum it up, it was all about bees, Botox and bras.

The straight-talking conversation began with bees because they helped to inspire Gill Hornby’s novel about school gate politics – “the metaphor that kept on giving,” as Gill put it. Her school gate mums (a terrifying lot in my view) include queen bee Bea, “mutton dressed as mutton” Heather, chaotic Georgie and single mum Rachel. Gill argued that the PTA is the centre of school gate politics, with mothers vying to outdo each other right, left and centre, while India agreed that “the school gate experience is a deeply peculiar thing.” Jane admitted she used to pick her son up in her pyjamas, to which Gill said dryly: “They will have been talking about you then.”

The conversation then veered on to childcare, with Gill and India both expressing their irritation with celebrities who claim they don’t have nannies. India, who has two sons and a daughter, said: “I couldn’t have done anything without a full-time nanny. I wish people would be more honest, instead of saying ‘I keep so thin because I’m constantly running after the children.’”

Mother-of-four Gill revealed that her next novel will be about the empty nest (that’s a must for me then) and India is writing a book about ageing  – “from the point of view of a proper person.” I’m a big fan of India’s gloriously down-to-earth beauty column in the Sunday Times Style magazine and the book promises to be a must-read for women aged 40 to 70. Out in September, In Your Prime: How to Age will negotiate everything from Botox to children leaving home to caring for elderly parents.

And finally to bras. Jane Wenham-Jones has recently written a book called 100 Ways to Fight the Flab – and still have wine and chocolate, so she offered some invaluable advice she has gleaned. Her top tips? Dark chocolate, eat a chilli a day and wear a Triumph Doreen bra. India nodded sagely at the last gem – “a very solid piece of engineering,” she said.

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