Star Q&A: Timmy Mallett

Liz Nicholls

Oxford

Broadcaster, artist & dad Timmy Mallett, who turns 66 this month, tells Liz Nicholls about family, football, art and his new book Utterly Brilliant – My Life’s Journey

Q. Hello Timmy. It’s wonderful to speak to you & I’ve really enjoyed your book, in fact I cried reading it! Are you pleased with it? “That’s very kind of you, I’m pleased it resonates. I’m proud of it, yes. You don’t know when you write a book how it’s going to go down. I wanted to combine the story of an adventure, a big personal challenge, with memoirs of Wacaday and my radio days and career and things I’ve done over the years, and my love of history and art. How do you do that? And I remember my editor saying: ‘you start at the beginning and crack on and see how it goes’. Haha!”

Q. I loved your drawings at the start of each chapter. “Part of that is to stop and look at where you’ve stopped. I say it in the book: work on the assumption you’re only going to do this once, you’re not going to come back and do it again with more time. It’s not every day can you devote masses of time to drawing so give it all you can in the moment. Sitting down and drawing or sketching or painting is a way of thinking about at the place you’re at and absorbing it. And that’s the nice thing about taking the bike, because you have to think about what you’re going to take. In a car you chuck everything in, but on the bike, you have to be quite precise. It seemed to work.”

Q. Your late brother Martin sounds so inspirational. Do you still talk to him, as you do in the book, and feel he’s still with you? “Thank you. Yes I do, it happens every day, Liz. Every day I have those little conversations with him. He pops up in what we’re doing. I remember when I was planning the adventure I was thinking about Martin and how he reached his potential. It takes the pressure off, in some ways. You haven’t got to be the best or the fastest… you’ve just got to be the best you can be. And Martin, with his language and learning difficulties, showed me how to do that, just by being absorbed and interested in everything he was doing. As brothers sometimes it was a little bit annoying that it wasn’t at the same speed, but he was always in the moment, he lived his life in the moment and his time scale was different. We often judge things as ‘life will be good when… lockdown’s over or when I get the new job, when I move house, when I go on holiday, get the new outfit…’ Well, what’s wrong with now? Now’s the moment. Everything’s got a time limit hasn’t it? We think everything’s going to carry on forever, like this lovely warm hot sunny day. Tomorrow we will need a jumper on!”

Q. What do you love about living here? “I moved into this house 30 years ago this Christmas and my son Billy, who’s grown up here, and was born here, is a gardener in the neighbourhood; he speaks with a Berkshire burr. The thing I love about it is the people; it’s great for families. It’s a lovely place to live. I’m passionate about my cycling and there’s some great cycle routes, either out southwards to Windsor or north into the Chilterns. I’ve got good friends here, I play five-a-side football, tennis. There’s good pubs and restaurants. I ring the bells at Holy Trinity church; I like the involvement. The fact I’ve put down roots, haha! This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere and it’s got something special about it. Then seeing the way Billy has taken to being a gardener. He knows the Latin names, the nicknames and the proper names of every plant in the garden as well as every football team in the country. I like the fact that when I’m out and about people say ‘hello Timmy!’”

Q. And Oxford United? “I love Oxford I’ve been a passionate fan of them since the 1990s when I worked at Radio Oxford when they soared. I watched how when the football went well, the town did well, there was a bounce in the air and people were inspired. I have two teams now – I have Oxford and also Maidenhead Utd who have the oldest football ground in the world. With both my teams, I like the ambition at the start of the season. Pre-season in these friendlies, new players are coming in you’re thinking ‘are they any good? Are they going to be better than the last lot? Are they going to set us alight and entertain us?’ Then, 45 minutes in, they’re 3-0 down and you’re like ‘arrrgh where are my hopes and dreams?!’ It’s about enjoying the ride. I don’t judge the season by whether they get promoted. No: it might be a great season if they stay up! If they stay in the midst of it all with great games or a great run. All those things are to be celebrated and you’re seeing players giving their best and trying their hardest. All these ups & downs are to be celebrated.”

Q. What are your favourite songs? “Anything by the Beatles. I often have Band On The Run by Paul McCartney & Wings playing loudly in the house, and The Stranger by Billy Joel. Lovely haunting melodies in there. And The Bluebells’ Young At Heart. Pop music is your personal diary isn’t it?”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “My mum playing the piano. Pop music was always really important, too. Listening to Alan Freeman on Pick Of The Charts each week. The charts mattered – whether they went up or down. How they did in the league. We used to love that. When I was at boarding school my brother used to send me lists of the charts and what he thought they should be. We had a little pop group, me and my brothers. Paul couldn’t remember the words, Martin couldn’t say the words so I made them up. We were called the Kettleholders. Singing and pretending to be pop stars!”

Q. Which artists inspire you? “I really like the impressionists – I like Dutch 17th century artists like Vermeer and modern artists like David Hockney who rejoices in painting the seasons.”

Q. Do you have any favourite local galleries? “Nova in Marlow, Lemongrove in Henley and Whitewall galleries have all supported my art. I like going to visit some of the weird and wonderful museums we have in the Thames Valley – the chair museum in Wycombe! Wow! Bizarre! Reading Museum in the old town hall which has a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry. I like the Ashmolean museum in Oxford. I like the Bodgers exhibit in the Turvill Church, in the vestry. The Bodgers lived and worked making chair spindles in the 19th century. I like the Heritage Centre in Maidenhead. And if you want to see more of my art look at Mallettspallette.co.uk

Q. Who would be your dream party guests? “Eleanor of Aquitaine, an impressive woman in a man’s world. Tom Hanks, particularly because I love his character’s line in Castaway; ‘all we have to do is keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise & you never know what the tide will bring in’. I’d have Gareth Southgate. Also, I’ve been watching The Kominsky Method on Netflix and Michael Douglas seems like good value. And my mate Michaela Strachan who makes me laugh.”

Q. Do you get any weird fan mail or attention? “Fan mail is interesting because I get it just as regularly now as in the Wacaday days. It doesn’t surprise me when a message comes via social media or actual letters. Everyone has their memory of Wacaday, like you Liz, when you said you and your sister used to watch it. I was in the British Museum and someone shouted ‘Tony! You’re Tony Robinson, wow!’ I reminded him of Baldrick, obviously. Some people want a pinky-punky mallet, so I brought out a 30th anniversary edition which people can buy.”

Q.  If you had a magic wand, as well as your mallet, what would you wish for the world? “I feel as though climate change is fixable, all we have to do is put our minds to it. I’ve done this in a small way in my own house. If I could have a domestic wind turbine on the roof, I would do. I’d find a way to make where I live work harder. I reckon it’s doable in the bigger picture. I’m optimistic.”

Q. You’ve done so much in your varied career! Anything in the pipeline? “These are the golden years to make the most of what you’ve got and make it happen. One of the things I was surprised about, researching the Camino, was how much connection there was with the Thames Valley. Santiago de Compostela is where you go to see the tomb of St James the Apostle, where all of him is buried except for his left hand, which is in Marlow, at St Peter’s. Then when I was planning my trip, I contacted my MP who said I want to hear more about this, so the PM came to my house to hear about the camino. Then there’s the Bishop of Oxford who didn’t know about any of it. All these little connections putting people together. Your story is part of the thousands of ‘Camino’ journeys that happen every year. There’s probably another adventure to do on my bike. And there’s another big idea which I’m trying to persuade Mrs Mallett about, so I don’t feel it’s fair to tell you first, Liz, until she’s on board! At the moment she’s like; ‘you’re going to do what?!’  I want to do more cycling and painting – that suits me. Meeting people, hearing their stories, sharing some tales would be a good thing to do. Always take that inspiration of brother Martin, with the smile on his face and a warm embrace.”

Please visit Timmymallett.co.uk & mallettspallette.co.uk

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Instil Design runs for award

Round & About

Oxford

Martina Landhed, from Oxford business InStil Design Ltd, has been nominated as a finalist for the prestigious kbbreview Retail & Design Awards for the third time.

This time in the category; Bathroom Designer of the Year, projects costing over £25,000 category. The kbbreview Retail & Design Awards are a celebration of the very best retailers, designers and manufacturers in the kitchen and bathroom industry nationwide, celebrating their 27th year in 2021.

InStil Design Ltd Managing Director Martina said: “Being announced as a finalist among several hundreds of national designers is fantastic news, and I am delighted to be down to the final four.

“My desire is to always inspire and help my clients to realise the potential in their bathrooms. I aim to take their dreams and turn them into reality, whilst offering as personal service as possible.”

Martina has previously won the kbbreview Award Bathroom Designer of the year 2013, project costing up to £10k, and in 2017 Bathroom Designer of the year project cost £10 to £25k. She’s been running InStil Design with her knowledgeable and service-minded team from a boutique style showroom just outside Oxford since 2013.

The next stage of the 2021 competition sees the finalists present their designs via video presentation to the KBB panel of judges who will then determine who has best met the competition brief. The criteria include aesthetics, problem solving, product and material choice, uniqueness of idea, design initiative, and value for money.

The winner will be announced at the kbbreview Retail & Design Awards 2021 event that this year will take place on September 15th at Liverpool’s St Georges Hall, and promises to be the biggest industry post-lockdown party of the year.


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Town and Gown

Round & About

Oxford

Muscular Dystrophy UK is inviting the 6,000 plus runners who annually sign up to Oxford Town and Gown to safely run, jog or walk at home in this year’s virtual event for the famous race now in its 39th year. 

Inspired by people running marathons in their gardens and driveways, registrations are open for this year’s race – taking place from now until 6th May.

People like Adam Smith who had signed up to do an amazing four laps of this year’s Town and Gown 10k are leading the way by registering their own version of a ‘Lockdown Run.’

Race Director at Muscular Dystrophy UK Jessie Keighley said: “The beauty of a ‘virtual’ race is that we’re no longer tied to one location. So, if you know of friends and family up and down the country who would like to join in then get them to register here

“We need your help now even more than ever. Coronavirus has left us battling to fill a £2.8m gap in our funding from lost events just at the moment when the people we help are in real need of our support.”

Anyone who has already registered to run the Oxford Town and Gown will receive a link inviting them to register free for the virtual event and this will explain the process of taking part.

Once people have completed the event, they can log back into their race nation account and upload the date and time they took part as a ‘proof’. As soon as our offices re-open they’ll be sent a well-deserved medal.

How to take part

For more information and to register to take part online

A golden example of dining

Liz Nicholls

Oxford

Liz Nicholls reviews the newly opened Ivy Oxford Brasserie.

In these strange, straitened times, luxury feels like it’s in short supply. In fact, “luxury” has become so rare a concept that it feels a retro, almost naughty. Luckily, the energetic team behind The Ivy Oxford Brasserie haven’t received this particular memo.

From the moment we were ushered inside, off the bleak wintry high street into the velvet-coccoon of the cloakroom we were (to quote Beyoncé) living lavish.

The Ivy Oxford Brasserie’s arrival in this often austere city of broken dreams has caused a big fat buzz for good reason. Because we’re all hungry for some luxury, and a place to celebrate rather than commiserate.

As with its celebrity honeypot mother branch in London, and the successful brasserie outposts in Winchester and Marlow, the Ivy brand is all about the best of the best. That’s most thrilling, on first entry, with the service. The staff offer the level of old-fashioned courtesy and enthusiasm that makes you feel like you’re winning at life. I go weak at the knees for a good banquette (especially a curvy orange one) and the effervescent Karim’s recommendation – truffle arancini – were balls of richly flavoured sexy joy; the perfect accompaniment for Magdalen Manhattan.

You can’t visit this Ivy branch without being wowed by its interior. Instagram has helped to gild the Ivy Oxford’s golden age because it really is a maximalist wonderland that feels designed to be snapped. For Pinterest fans like myself, the general vibe could be defined as “1920s Flapper Luxe”, with huge botanical motifs (toucans, butterflies, rainbow trout) and shiny surfaces at every turn. The old bank’s stately dimensions make it the perfect stomping ground for anyone in need of a bit of glam – even strutting up the copper-hued illuminated staircase to the ladies makes you feel special. The toilets themselves (which you might have seen on Insta) are worth special mention: rose quartz sinks, brass taps, gothic-gold floral wallpaper and jewel-hued pouffes… No wonder, then, that the smallest rooms have apparently been papped even more than the chocolate bombe (which comes a close second). And the enamel-ceilinged private hire party room is a golden example of how to create a setting where you can and should celebrate in debauched yet elegant style, a la the Ivy alma mater.

Hype can really detract from a good meal, and I had thought this Ivy outpost might be more style over substance but happily I was proved wrong. Tempura prawns and salt & pepper squid, in their conical silver salver, were crisp and gorgeous dunked in their wasabi and miso dressing and – a greedy choice – the lobster risotto was a divine creation of sweet meaty flesh doused in a seafoamy bisque dressing with a perfect partner of tender samphire.

Another greedy winter choice (and Karim’s recommendation), chicken Milanese was peak pleasure, coated in brioche crumb but kept savoury by a shiny tureen of truffle cream sauce that I kept trying to steal and topped with a rudely perfect fried egg. Then, as if to prove more definitely is more, the blackened cod fillet. This has almost become a cliché dish, which footballers plump for at Nobu and other top-tier celeb haunts, but technically the Ivy version is very hard to fault: pearly succulent fish, baked in a banana leaf beautifully fragrant with sesame and helped to sing with its citrus-pickled fennel (genius) broccoli and yuzu mayonnaise. Top marks too for a sublime sweet potato side and creamed spinach with pine nuts. All of it looked beautiful but tasted even better.

That much-Instagrammed chocolate bombe is also worth its 15 minutes: a grenade of golden flavour whose honeycomb centre oozed out to mingle with the vanilla ice cream once the hot sauce was poured on top to make a big sticky mess.

With all this glitz & glam, you’d expect the Ivy to be expensive but it’s reasonable: a la carte starters hover about the £10 mark, mains around £20 and there’s a three-course set menu for £21 which is stunning value, all things considered.

Hats off to the Ivy team. They’ve managed to live up to the not-inconsiderable hype. From my grandmother – who toasted her 94th birthday here earlier this month – to youngsters in athleisure chinking drinks at the bar, being made to feel like royalty is surely the best measure of success.

See their menu and book here

IF Oxford

Round & About

Oxford

From Friday 18th to Monday 28th October, the funky IF Oxford invites you to enjoy activities at more than 30 venues including the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, City of Oxford College’s Technology Campus and some great pubs, too!

October is your chance to explore cutting-edge research from world-leading academics, uncover big ideas and ask even bigger questions about science, humanity, the world at large and beyond.

There’s hands-on science for all ages at the Westgate Wonderlab on Saturday 19th and, at the Explorazone in Oxford Town Hall on Sunday 20th, find out how identical twins differ, discover the secret powers of super-hero worms and consider what the avatar you choose says about you while evil cyborg sea monsters take to the stage.

Build a robot to compete in a Robochallenge or enjoy Science at the Shops (Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th Oct; Templars Square); explore particle physics with Minecraft or use a smart phone to investigate human anatomy. The body is an extraordinary system – watch a powerful duet between Joel Brown of Candoco Dance Company and Eve Mutso, former Principal Dancer of Scottish Ballet in a beautiful performance called 111 (one hundred and eleven). 111 is the imaginary number of vertebrae that Joel and Eve have between them: Eve “moves like she has a hundred” while Joel’s spine is fused and he jokes he only has 11.

See the earliest animals on earth in an art exhibition (First Imprints, from 19th Oct), go “speed-dating for ideas” at Waterstones (24th Oct), or perform life-saving operations (in a board game) at the Old Fire Station (Mon 28th Oct).

With massive fossils being unearthed even now, hear the latest research on whether dinosaurs had colourful feathers and learn about fossilised dung (The Dinosaurs Rediscovered; 23rd Oct); explore time in an immersive multi-sensory performance (The relentless approach of better times; 24th Oct); experience an audio tour as Oxford’s “sonic landscape” reflects an environmental crisis (Only Expansion; 25th Oct); or save penguins (The Crowd and The Cosmos; 25th Oct) as you head to the edges of the universe with BBC astronomer and presenter of The Sky and Night Professor Chris Lintott.

Hold meteorites and moon rock (; 26th & 27th Oct); watch researchers battle for the Iron Crown (Fe Fi Fo Fum; 25th Oct), hear about new elements (Superheavy; 25th Oct) or enjoy escape rooms, comedy, poetry, music and more. The majority of events are free to enter. (Donations using a Pay What You Decide model.)

More info

For the full IF Oxford programme

Sunday races

Round & About

Oxford

Today is clearly a good day to run with events taking place in both Oxford and Guildford, the half marathon and 10k, respectively.

The fast and flat 13.1mile course through the streets of the university city of Oxford takes in the colleges, museums and parks that mark out the route.

Runners will cross over the River Cherwell, out into the village of Old Marston and then back past the spectacular colleges. Live music, bands and DJs will be helping to keep their spirits up and if you’re not taking part go along and line the route and cheer them on.

Across in Surrey, Guildford’s first closed-road town centre run, the Guildford 10k, takes place.

Starting from the cobbled high street, run 5km or 10km towards Clandon and back before receiving a huge finisher’s medal.

Some 2,000 runners are expected to take part in the Guildford 10k, which raises money for local charity Harrison’s Fund raising money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

The event starts with a warm-up led by Field of Fitness training studio. The Mayor and Town Crier will then officially start the historic town’s first closed-road running race.

Porsche Centre Guildford will lead runners along the gently undulating “out-and-back” routes – which will be lined with local bands, a live DJ and spectators.

An experienced team of race pacers will encourage runners across the finish line where they can then enjoy a post-race massage.

Whether you’re in Oxford or Guildford get out on the streets and support the runners and help some great causes.

Westgate archaeology

Karen Neville

Oxford

Archaeology and history trail unveiled at Westgate Oxford

A brand new interactive archaeological and history trail has been unveiled to the public at Westgate Oxford, showcasing artefacts uncovered during the excavation of the centre site – the largest exposure of medieval buildings yet seen in the city.

Items uncovered relate to the Franciscan Friary that previously existed on the site – founded in 1224 and dissolved in the 1530s.
The trail which has been created in partnership with Oxford Archaeology, comprises of several illustrated totems in and around Westgate Oxford.

Each details information and items of national historic significance uncovered during the 2015/16 archaeological excavation, including:
– The vanished suburb of St Ebbe’s
– Original pavement from the Franciscan Friary
– Art inspired by Franciscan friar Roger Bacon

Locals and tourists alike can interact with the trail and find out more information about the dig by scanning the QR codes on the totems in the centre, or by visiting the Westgate Oxford website from their smartphone. For those wishing to take part in the trail, printed maps are available at the Guest Experience Desk.

The trail also signposts history buffs to other locations of importance within the city including the Weston Library, the Bates Collection at St Aldates Church, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford Castle Quarter, and more.

We never could’ve imagined so many treasures would be unearthed from beneath our feet.

General manager at Westgate Oxford, Brendan Hattam said they were excited to see the opening of the trail. He added: “It’s the culmination of many years’ work alongside Oxford Archaeology, starting with the ground-breaking in 2015. We never could’ve imagined so many treasures would be unearthed from beneath our feet.

“We’ve found medieval handbags and shoes, and now our shopping centre sits on the same site – it’s incredible to think about what existed here before.

“The trail will be an incredible educational resource for both Oxford locals and visitors alike, and its interactive nature appeals to all ages. We’re very proud to be a part of the rich history of Oxford.”

The Westgate Oxford archaeology and history trail is running now.

Find out more information

Line & light: Art show

Round & About

Oxford

From Saturday 9th to Sunday 24th March, enjoy an exhibition of photographs, ceramics and life drawings presented by Gaby Guz and Rob Farrands.

Line and Light is the product of a wintertime collaboration between two artists using three media. It is their first joint exhibition. Rob is a photographer who lives in Oxford and Gaby, an alumna of St John’s, is a ceramicist and artist.

Gaby uses line and light to capture the fleeting poses she likes to draw. Her concerns are to convey the essence and emotion of a subject in the brief time that a dynamic pose allows. Her ceramic vessels are largely monochromatic, with bold black and grey lines spreading across egg-shell like pale surfaces.

Rob’s photographs honour the soft, reduced light of the winter solstice. He has shot directly into the light (often including the sun) and dealt with the resulting technical challenges to produce work with strong monochrome tones. His compositions are intended to arouse both a memory of winter’s darkness and the promise of the coming spring.

Rob’s photographs are all taken in Oxford mostly along the banks of the Thames between Iffley and Sandford. He has previously exhibited at the John Radcliffe Hospital in 2016/17 and also in Art Weeks. Gaby’s raku ceramics are monochrome and provide a perfect complement to Rob’s black and white photographs.

The exhibition is at The Barn Gallery, Kendrew Quad, St John’s College, St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JP. Opening times are 12-5pm weekdays and 11am-6pm Saturdays and Sundays.

Visit gabyguzart.com and  rfarrands.com to see more about Gaby and Rod!

Shop of Secrets

Round & About

Oxford

The Shop of Secrets is set to cast its spell over Harry Potter fans

Harry Potter fans will be familiar with many of Oxford’s famous sights featuring in the blockbuster films and now there’s a new sight set to cast its spell.

Souvenirs and sweet treats galore will be just some of the charms for visitors at the new Shop of Secrets in historic Broad Street.

And you only have a few days to wait – the shop devoted to the boy wizard and the Fantastic Beasts opens for the first time on Saturday, 9th March.

Magical treasures galore will be on sale with staff dressed as some of the characters from the films.

The Shop of Secrets will be selling a wide range of collectibles including adult and children’s costumes, wands, hats, scarves, some of the original books as well as memorabilia books, and replica props including the famous sorting hat and Lucius Malfoy’s walking stick.

Visitors will also be able to discover some of the weird and wonderful sweets from the Harry Potter films including jelly slugs, chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts every flavour beans.

Co-owner of The Shop of Secrets, Sally Moss, who has run Oxford Campus Stores on Broad Street since 1996, says: “After the huge popularity of Harry Potter and its well-known filming locations in the city, we introduced a range of Harry Potter collectibles which were a hit with tourists and local customers alike.

“With another popular JK Rowling series, the Fantastic Beasts, our range has grown to a point where we needed a space devoted to it all. We had previously been running The Buttery Cafe next door but sadly due to rents more than doubling in the last 10 years, it was no longer a viable business, but has now become home to our exciting new gift shop.

“We can’t wait to welcome our old and new customers to our very own chamber of secrets!”

The first 100 people through the door will receive a bottle of Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer and there will also be a Harry Potter quiz to test your knowledge. The lucky winner will get to fly off with a replica Hogwarts gown and wand from their favourite house at Hogwarts.

Why not take a tour of the locations featured in the films and visit Bodleian Library which featured in The Philosopher’s Stone; New College whose cloisters appeared in The Goblet of Fire and Christ Church which starred in both The Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets.

True Colours

Liz Nicholls

Oxford

Liz Nicholls chats to world-famous decorative painting expert and queen of chalk paint products, Annie Sloan, 69, who lives in Oxford.

Q. Lovely to chat to you, Annie! Is your house, like mine, a work in progress?
“Yes! I’m so busy it will never be finished. It looks good in parts – so long as I look in the right direction! Of course, it’s very colourful! I don’t have a favourite shade – for me, it’s all about combinations.”

Q. Which artist made a big impression on you as a child?
“Gauguin made a real impression; my father was a fan and we had a lot of prints around the house. I identified with him. His use of colour is pretty strong and he made me want to paint.”

Q. I’ve got to ask you about your music – your pre-punk proto-girl band The Moodies!
“Ah yes – that part of my life still follows me around! We’re talking 1971-74 and yet the band really resonated with people, still does. We had some great fans – Mick Jagger, David Bowie… I think back to those times and think ‘how weird!”

Q. Did you meet Bowie?
“Yes, amazingly. He came to see us play – it was at a cool bar in London called The Last Resort. I was keen to talk to him but it was difficult, I’m afraid, because that night he was looking for cocaine and quite out of it. This was in his gaunt, pale, skinny phase. But we did chat about art school and south London, where he was born and I used to live.”

Q. You’re a citizen of the world – born in Australia to a Scottish father and Fijian mother – do you still find inspiration on your travels?
“Yes; absolutely. I’ve just got back from Oregon and San Francisco. Portland is the coolest place ever! San Francisco used to be the place of flower power but now it’s one of the most expensive places in the world because Yahoo and Google are there; you’ve got these young girls and guys earning mega-bucks and lots of ‘normal’ people who can’t afford to live there, so the city’s a bit schizophrenic. It actually made Oxford look affordable! I always love travelling and seeing what the hipsters are up to. In Portland, there are lots of wooden Victorian painted houses painted in a gorgeous array of colours. I absorb inspiration from everywhere.”

Q. Do you visit a lot of galleries?
“We are so, so lucky to have two amazing galleries in Oxford – Modern Art Oxford and the Ashmolean. I don’t go to London as much as I used to; I used to go to them all. But whenever I travel I always try to see an exhibition; that feeds my soul hugely. I went to an amazing exhibition in America last week – celebrating 50 years since the summer of love – 1967. Haight-Ashbury, flowers in your hair, all that. It was superb.”

Q. Do you listen to much music?
“Yes, I listen to a lot; anything that relaxes me, any genre. I love Iggy Pop’s show [on BBC R6, Fridays]. He makes me laugh and I love his taste in music and that gravelly voice! My big love is also podcasts. This American Life and Radio Lab are my current faves.”

Q. You started your network of Annie Sloan shops and range of products has expanded hugely from humble beginnings – how does that make you feel?
“Having success in my business is nice – not just financially but I love to support the shops, the network of independent businesses – that’s very rewarding. We all work together. It’s hard in retail at the moment, particularly with the world the way it is.”

Q. Are you at the happiest point in your life, do you think?
“Really, I’ve always been quite happy and grounded. That’s why I moved away from the art scene proper early on – some of it really has a tendency to disappearing up its own bottom. People often tell me I’ve had an impact on their life and inspired them to paint or upcycle, which is fantastic as that’s what it’s all about. Life’s pleasures are often momentary – a good cup of tea, a great exhibition that makes you think ‘I want to create, I want to paint!” I’m happiest with a paintbrush in my hand. I have to find time to make sure I paint, paint, paint as that’s what makes me tick.”

Visit www.anniesloan.co.uk for details of Annie’s local shops and products, including the new stencil range.