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Sixty Seconds with Robert Pimm

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Someone did an interview with me the other day using the “60 Seconds” format.  I found the questions searching, and had to invest a little time to answer them.  Here is the result.

Walking the Pennine Way, 2017

Who was your first celebrity crush?

That would be Claudette Colbert in Cecil B de Mille’s Cleopatra which came out in 1934.  I saw it at the King’s College Film Society in 1976 and swooned, especially at the famous seduction scene with Mark Anthony and the slave galley.

Favourite line from a film or book?

My favourite line is “Who’s the U-boat commander?” from the 1983 “Risky Business”, starring a very young Tom Cruise (it’s right at the end of the clip below).

You have to watch the whole movie to understand the scene’s full significance – it’s a great watch, especially if you have teenage children! My favourite film is The Third Man (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog). I’d also recommend Gone with the Wind – a Coronavirus lockdown blockbuster and one of the great on-screen romances.

Five famous people (dead or alive) you would invite to a dinner party?

That’s a toughie.  John Lennon’s death in 1980 moved me more than that of any celebrity before or since.  For a reminder of his influence, check out his “bed-ins” for peace. Novelist Anthony Trollope combines wisdom, productivity and humour and invented the letter-box.  Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote memorable letters about her life as a diplomatic spouse in the Ottoman Empire and is famous for wit, beauty, and publicising the smallpox vaccine; she passed through Vienna in 1716.  Marilyn Monroe is an inspiration for fighting her way up from nothing, training, training, training to sing and act her way to fame, if not fortune.  Finally, amongst contemporary Hollywood glamour, I’d pick Nicole Kidman as potentially most fascinating around this dinner table, although it’s a gamble as I’ve never met her – any more than I’ve met any of the others on the list.

Lesotho is a beautiful country

What inspired you to travel?

I grew up in Africa – three years in Nigeria and six in Lesotho (see final answer) and Swaziland before I was twelve. The idea of working all my life in the UK was less inspiring than the idea of not knowing which country I’d be in in five years’ time.

In Swaziland with my brother, c. 1966.  I’m on the right

What social stigma does society need to get over?

It isn’t other people that upset you; it’s you who allows yourself to be upset. Whatever stigmas
society overcomes, new ones will always develop. The key is to teach people that they are
OK, and do not have to conform or fit in in order to have self-worth.  We should all try to help that happen.

The best life advice you’ve received?

My grandmother told me (in her Manchester accent) “don’t run yourself down, lad, plenty of
others’ll do that for you.”  Excellent advice.  I once heard a cheesy song in my car in Bonn which
included the line “stay close to friends who met you when you were young, because that’s how they’ll always see you”.  Also wise words.

Last song you sang along to?

A confession: it was Every sperm is sacred from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

What’s something you really resent paying for?

Not much.  But I’d be happy to pay more for air travel, which has become amazingly cheap in my lifetime.  Flying around all the time – like social media consumption – feels good while we’re
doing it, but is not necessarily making us, or the planet, happier.

What’s your secret talent?

Not sure about talent, but I write.  My robertpimm.com writing site includes novels, short stories, travel, writing, journalism, PG Wodehouse and existential and gender questions.  I have two new novels coming along as well as – probably – another “Hotel Story” on the way.

If you had the adult equivalent of an ice-cream truck, what would it sell and what song would it play?

When I lived in Roma, Lesotho, aged 6-12, on an isolated university campus, there was one dirt road connecting us to the capital, Maseru and continuing up into the mountains.  When local buses approached from the hills or the plains, trailing a cloud of dust, a big loudspeaker on the roof at the back would blare out thrilling South African music of the kind revived by the African Jazz Pioneers, eg Way Back Fifties or the wonderful Bra N’temi’s Kwela.  That bus, dispensing news of the outside world, bringing people together, would be my ice-cream van.  I like to imagine it on an African night road playing Abdullah Ibrahim’s Bra Timing from Phomolong – one of my favourite pieces of music.

Looking down over Roma, Lesotho (in the valley), c.1965

I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of personal stuff.  For more, see my Robert Who? page.


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