Under the spotlight with Jane Torday
JANE TORDAY was born in London, brought up in Hampshire, and worked in London before her first marriage in 1971 to the late Paul Torday (author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) brought her to Tynedale.
After she and Paul, who had two sons, Piers and Nicholas, separated, she moved to Langley, living with her second husband Tommy Bates, landowner, farmer, chairman of local committees – and legendary letter writer to the Hexham Courant. After 25 years together, he died last year. Their family farmhouse remains Jane’s home.
Writing has always been a part of her life – publishing books and articles on food, gardening and social history – alongside her family life and establishing the Garden Station at Langley, now mature and still thriving.
Jane’s first memoir in 1995 of her father, Roger Mortimer, the highly regarded racing correspondent, was The Coldstreamer and The Canary and last year a second biographical memoir, featuring their correspondence, Dearest Jane – My Father’s Life and Letters, was released to critical acclaim.
Who do you share your life with?
My family, my friends – and lots of memories
What is your favourite walk?
Through the Langley woods to the Garden Station
The Angel at Corbridge – a very convivial and convenient foodie pub to meet up with friends, inside or out.
What was the last book you read?
First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill – Sonia Purnell’s ground-breaking biography of Winston Churchill’s truly remarkable wife, and the crucial role she played in keeping a great but impossible man on the track.
Do you have a signature dish?
Currently it is Brandade de Morue – a delectable dish based on salt cod pounded with loads of garlic, olive oil and potato which I serve with sweet roasted baby tomatoes and croutons.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Very early 60s, Helen Shapiro belting out Walking Back to Happiness. I still love it!
Where do you like to eat out?
Kitty Fisher’s in Shepherd Market, Mayfair. Tiny, supremely stylish grill where fresh, sumptuous dishes are based on highest quality ingredients. Look at the menu online and you will feel very, very hungry!
Your most inspirational person?
Thich nhat Hanh ( pronounced Tik Nat Haan) a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. His compassion is boundless, his wisdom profound – but expressed very simply. He says: ‘Because you are alive, everything is possible.’
Best place in the world?
For me – London. I adore it. And with the Abbey and Sele gardens at its heart, I love Hexham. It is the most attractive country market town I know.
When were you happiest and why?
Most recently, collecting shells with my eldest grand-daughter on a beautiful beach in Pembrokeshire. Grandchildren are one of life’s most incredible and unexpected gifts.
How do you like to relax?
Swimming in sea, lake or pool. It relaxes and energises simultaneously. A great mood changer!
What is your favourite smell?
The scent of an old rose called ‘Albertine’
What was the most important thing you learned from your parents?
I learned so much from both my parents that I could have filled a book with their thoughts – and that is exactly what I have done.
Your proudest achievement?
My sons, Piers and Nick
Tell us a joke
I remember my strait-laced Aunt Pam, the General’s wife, at Christmas in the 1950s in her paper hat, asking a cracker joke: ‘What did the male octopus say to the female octopus?’
A: ‘I want to hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand.’
Very silly and sweet.