This Much I Know: Journalist and Writer, Valerie Cox

In conversation with Hilary Fennell.

This Much I Know: Journalist and Writer, Valerie Cox

I’m the nosiest person in the world.

I always wanted to write. I was editor of the school newsletter.

I was a very serious child. But my mother used to say that anything I tried would work. She’d say if I was dropped off Nelson’s Pillar, I’d land on my feet.

My father was an engineer in the ESB. My mother was a book keeper who also did some writing.

I failed my Leaving Cert first time round, despite getting four As,because you had to pass five subjects. I’m an impetuous sort of person and went on to study horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens although I never worked in that field. Instead I became the PR for Gorta and then got into journalism. First in print, then in radio.

I first met my husband Brian when I was in school, playing hockey against Notre Dame, where he was teaching. I’m eight years younger than him. I met him again when I was 22 and he came into Gorta. I saw him every day after that and we got engaged after six weeks and married one year later. Nobody approved. They were still plotting to stop it happening on the morning of the wedding. We’re 45 years married now.

From age 23, I had five children in quick succession.

I learnt to write anywhere. I was once found in the middle of the playpen, surrounded by the kids, bashing away on my typewriter.

My latest book is Growing Up With Ireland, about people in their 90s who are still thriving. I fell into writing books by chance. The first one, about Ireland’s missing people, came about after I did a radio series on thesubject which a publisher asked me to turn into a book. Then I did one on the family law courts, the history of Irish ploughing, and history of the charity Alone.

Fiction is the next step.

If I could be someone else for a day I’d be Maud Gonne MacBride. I admire her for being so active in such amale-dominated environment. She did her own thing and wasn’t afraid to draw attention to herself.

I don’t get enough exercise. I eat well but I’m overweight.

The trait I most admire in others is openness. People who make you feel comfortable.

I’ve taken up painting. I started in 2007 when my parents died within a few weeks of each other. I’m going to be on Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year. I got in as the wild card!

My biggest fault is that I am notpatient. Especially not with whingers.

If I could change one thing incontemporary society, I’d change our attitude towards anyone who is down on their luck. Especially the way we treat homeless people and refugees.

My biggest challenge was when Brian became ill three years ago while we were working with migrants on a Greek island. He had a brain seizure. The recovery he has made is unprecedented. The good news is that we have got our lives back.

One thing I’ve learnt from the experience is never to go beyond Bray without travel insurance.

I am religious. I believe in a God and an afterlife although I don’t think its all clouds and harps. I don’t think it’s the end of us when we die. Some of our energy must continue to exist as part of the cosmos.

My idea of misery is having a real job.

My idea of bliss is being with Brian in one of our favourite spots. Like Renvyle in Connemara or at the Christmas markets in Vienna.

I’ve always been concerned aboutsociety’s attitude towards older women. It has to change, that’s why I took a case against RTÉ .[The Workplace RelationsCommission ruled the broadcaster discriminated against her on age grounds].I work with Sage Advocacy, asupport service for vulnerable adults.

The best advice I got was from my grandfather, my mother’s father. I remember him talking to me about death and saying it’s not a question of how long you live, it’s a question of what you do with your life.

Valerie Cox’s new book Growing Up With Ireland is out now. It tells the stories of 26 of the babies, born between 1921 and 1929 around the time when the Irish Free State was born.

More in this section

In the Kitchen with

ieFoodLogo   Video Series

Join Darina Allen for Stir It Up Sunday and cook along with her as she makes her mother’s plum pudding recipe. She also makes Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce - a recipe that is so delicious that Darina says people ask for more plum pudding just so they can have more sauce!

Join Darina Allen as she makes her mother's plum pudding with Mrs Hanrahan's sauce.

Watch Here
Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up