Anorak | Cailtin Moran and me – The Times interviews its star columnist

Cailtin Moran and me – The Times interviews its star columnist

by | 28th, December 2011

CAITLIN Moran is the British Press Awards Critic of the Year, Columnist of The Year and Interviewer of the Year. But to prove that Moran is the  Times star, the paper gets Valerie Grove to interview the gobby teenager she discovered. The Daily Mirro r waited until its columnist Sue Carroll had died before giving her a front-page story. Calltin Moran is in rude health

Valerie Grove writes:

I am awash with pride. Caitlin Moran is my protégée, my discovery. I presented her with her first award for writing, in October 1988.

She was a podgy little girl of 13, with a clear-eyed and candid gaze, and her name was Catherine, not Caitlin, but everyone called her Tatty. She’d come from Wolverhampton with her rock-musician dad because she’d won £250 of book tokens in a Dillons young readers’ contest, for an essay on Why I Like Books. It was the first time she had been to London, the first time she’d been on a train.

Dillons… Cailtin Moran has been around for a while. Talent does not out overnight:

She already had a distinctive, hectic style. “Basenji! Slartibartfast! Mint Julep, Jolly Super, Hoopy, Necrotelecommunicom, Wonka Vite and Vitawonk,” her essay began, making the judges (I was one) sit up. So unlike the other entries with their pious declarations of “I have always loved reading”. Tatty had retitled her essay: “Starting me reading — who dunnit?” The answer was Mrs Boden at Springdale Junior School. “She was the infant teacher who introduced me to the world of pixies, enchanted princesses and Jip the Big Black Rat. Eureka! I could read!”

Intriguingly, under “name of school” she had written: “I am educated at home by my mum.” It transpired that she had waved secondary school goodbye after just three weeks, and now spent her days with her parents and five siblings — the seventh and eighth Morans were yet to be born — in their three-bedroom council house. One child slept in the dining room, one under the stairs. Mrs Margaret Moran, who deserves some prize herself, expected her children to walk to the library every day; what they read was their choice. Tatty’s was anything from Ballet Shoes to The Naked Lunch.

We’re not told about Caitlin Moran’s siblings and how the home school worked for them. (Perhaps the Daily Mail will dig into that angle.)

But being interviewed for The Sunday Times that day, she tells me, made her realise that there was a human being behind the newsprint, and convinced her that “writing’s for me”.

Who was Cailtin Moran’s inspiration?

Maureen Lipman. Lipman, she says, was her true role model: “She wrote about her lovely, crazy media life in North London, with two children, and interesting people dropping in,” she says now. “Nobody ever dropped into our house. Maureen’s was the life I wanted. And now I’ve got it! And Dr Who walks past my door!” [David Tennant lives near by, as do Peter Capaldi, Simon Pegg and Dan Stevens.]

One other thing: she smokes. You don’t have to smoke to write well, but it can help. Grove then swoons:

She was still a gobby kid with a generally “sod that” attitude, but she had transformed into “Caitlin”, a doe-eyed beauty with tumbling hair twisted into a topknot secured with two pencils.


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Posted: 28th, December 2011 | In: Celebrities Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink