Met Chatty Kerry early on and really delighted by her fresh openness on her personal matters. She shares her health issues, voluntary work at the airport, family, travels, thoughts and insecurities .. she is totally herself in a very personable way. She shares great photos of gardens, buildings and scenes both locally and during her exploits into other areas so it’s not surprising that she has published in magazines … must ask her how much they pay? So if you want personal, travel and variety it doesn’t get much better than Kerry!
[Apologies to everyone for my lack of tech skills, Kerry decorated her interview with a delightful collection of photos to illustrate her points but I have no idea how to down load them from PDF or word document … maybe I will work it out and add them later!]
Where were you raised?
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
I was born in San Francisco, July 1960, where I lived until about 18 months old. My mum had to work because my father would or could not and a Jewish neighbour lady looked after me. Then we moved to Formentera, a small Spanish island in the Balearic Islands. My father’s cellmate in prison had been a wealthy criminal and we moved into his family’s villa (in Formentera). That didn’t work out so after my mum asked for money from a friend, we travelled across Europe to Scotland where my Irish Nana now resided. After ‘borrowing’ money from my mum’s family, my Dad flew back to America promising to send tickets. Still waiting…
Kerry’s first passport
I think I am saying “Whaaaaaat, where are we going?”
We planned to go back to the USA when I was 7 years old but my mum was diagnosed with recurrent TB which was followed by a severe mental health breakdown and that American dream was over. We stayed with Nana in fairly decent public housing, in the city of Glasgow, but everyone in the house dreamed of the farm back in Ireland or living in California. Glasgow treated me well with lifelong friends, my husband and an excellent free education. Like many others, however, we planned to move elsewhere as it was a declining industrial city with few job opportunities. My lovely Scottish accent has opened many doors, even if I am a fake Scot!
RIVER CLYDE, GLASGOW
Do you live far from there now?
Thousands of miles from there in sunny Texas! We moved around the British Isles following my husband’s career in the oil industry and in 2002 moved to Egypt for a posting. We intended to move around the Middle East or South America but the second Gulf War started and we chose a safe location in Houston, Texas. We have lived here for 13 years and I didn’t think I would settle. Now it feels more like home than I could have expected and I have unexpected family links to North Texas and Oklahoma. My paternal great grandparents were married in McKinney, just north of Dallas. My grandfather was born on the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma and I am part native.
THE CONTAINMENT POND BESIDE OUR HOUSE IN TEXAS
Please share something about your family?
I think I have alluded to some odd family dynamics. My Dad who died in his 50s likely had an undiagnosed mental illness like many others on his side of the family. He was charming, charismatic, good looking whilst being manipulative, deceptive and probably delusional at times. My mum was a glamorous blonde model/bank teller/private detective who immigrated to the USA when she was 21. She traveled south from New York, to Miami and then across to San Francisco where she fell in love with both the city and my Dad. One of my ancestors was a conquistador who discovered San Francisco Bay on a mission trip when California was still Spanish territory. I imagine that my mum saw stars betwixt my Dad’s charisma and the family history. Both sides of my family have written books about interesting relatives and I have every intention of writing my memoir because there are skeletons and surprises at every branch of the family tree.
MUM AND DAD LEAVING THEIR WEDDING RECEPTION
and something about your education, work and travels?
When I was 12 I went to High School in Glasgow and was streamed for either Medicine or Law based on my IQ and examination results. That is where I met most of my lifelong friends. For 2 years, I continued to excel at school but then suddenly everything fell apart. My beloved Nana died, my mum’s health deteriorated into alcoholism and I started to fail at school. My home life was appalling – living in poverty and neglect. I remember using my dead grandmother’s old diapers to make into sanitary pads and washing my hair with dishwashing liquid. I struggled through school and made it into college, eventually completing the equivalent of an Associate’s Degree in Business. I was as smart as a whip but just couldn’t focus. I had the chance to do a post-graduate course in Human Resources but my mum just wanted me to get a job. On reflection, I wish I had left home and completed my education to a higher level or taken an opportunity to interview at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (drama, music and dance). My mum finally stopped drinking during my final exams (her timing was immaculate) and life got a little better.
For most of my life, my career has taken a back seat to my husband’s. The reasons were practical – as a geologist he would always earn more than I could and I knew I was mentally ill although as yet undiagnosed. I have done every job you could imagine from barmaid to school custodian. I was a fossil picker for 5 years but am most proud of running a mental health project for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship. When the UK started to close the institutional hospitals for the mentally ill, they had to provide money for alternatives in the community. I ran a telephone helpline and drop in center for people with severe mental illnesses and their caregivers. It was challenging and satisfying. I helped organize courses for professionals, talked to student nurses and even worked with my own psychologist whilst keeping my diagnosis secret (OCD, Anxiety and Depression).
From there I went onto work on other non-profits including successful grant writing. That led to my realization that I was a good writer and since then have written for magazines (in the US), created my blog and self-published a book on Kindle. Along the way, I have completed courses in counselling skills and Training for trainers. Travelling is the joy of my life. I have been so fortunate to travel across half the world and live in the Orient. My husband’s job has facilitated much of the foreign travel but I started youth hosteling at age 15. Scotland is fortunate to have many youth hostels; it was inexpensive and safe to go to the most beautiful parts of the country. At first I travelled with friends and then I realized I had just as much fun on my own. I met new friends, most fleeting, and my favourite memory is my seduction of a celibate American Missionary on the banks of Loch Lomond.
My honeymoon was spent visiting new relatives in the north of Scotland. It was fun but not very exciting so we had a belated trip to the south of France a couple of years later. Fantastique! Country by country, and over many years, we travelled North America, Europe and North Africa. Once we moved to Egypt we had the opportunity to visit the Middle East and Far East. Now that we live in the USA, we have visited many states and are exploring Mexico, central and south America. I still travel alone although happily married and this is my favourite photograph from a solo trip to the Belize jungle. A local farmer persuaded a troupe of howler monkeys to come close to me and this Mama stood on my shoulder. She was so soft and gentle, smelling like a freshly washed teddy bear
CAN YOU SEE HER LITTLE BABY ON THE HOWLER’S BACK?
Blogging when, why and how did you start?
I started this blog about 8 years ago but just created one page and lost interest. The only reason I started the blog was to publicise my Kindle book, Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan, and I wrote the first draft about 9 years ago while on an antidepressant that made me as high as a kite. Finally I finished the book and started posting travelogues and other anecdotes on the blog. For years before that I had been creating travelogues of my time overseas to send to relatives and friends and it was an easy transition.
Once I started connecting with other people, I realised the true joy of blogging. WordPress feels like a safe forum to fully express my views about politics, vacations or my mental illness. One of my old colleagues expressed concern that I was being so open but I have nothing to lose. My career is almost over and sharing my experiences can add knowledge or joy or empathy to someone. Curiously, it is the only form of social media that I partake in. Two weeks of Facebook was enough and I am too old to Twitter or Instagram. Would someone please close our President’s twitter account?
What do you most enjoy about blogging and what have you learnt?
I love the connection with like-minded bloggers. We don’t have to agree on every subject but I prefer if people are respectful to each other. I have had a few odd followers but eventually they go away if you ignore them. It still astonishes me that I can communicate instantaneously with you in Australia or use Google Translate to find out what my non English speaking blogging friends are writing.
When I was young we could not afford to have a telephone in the house and important news came via telegrams. We awaited the blue airmail letters from America with great anticipation. I remember having a pen-pal from Germany when I was at school and I still feel that excitement about learning more about the world through its bloggers. Which of my posts appeal to bloggers is still a mystery but I feel happier writing on a selection of topics. To my delight, real photographers seem to enjoy my amateur efforts which are only there to illustrate my story. My attention span is short but I am learning to stay still and take better photographs. Finally, I have learned that I cannot write or read blogs when I am feeling mentally unwell and that is okay. Please share a link to your favourite post and tell us why it’s your favourite?
This post, The Great Salt Lake, Utah, has become my favourite because it is so well liked. There was something about the Great Salt Lake that soothed my soul and I have rarely had a more blissful moment than standing ankle deep in the stinky, salty water. The blue sky went on forever and the mountains peaked in the distance. The photograph illustrates my need to travel and also to be alone. A complete stranger took the shot at my request. I look happy, healthy and contented which is hard for me to attain on a regular basis.
I had never seen a salt lake; this amazing phenomenon makes us realise the miracle of Earth and our universe. Perhaps those early Mormon settlers felt this was the Promised Land. Utah is a beautiful state and it is hard to take a bad photograph. The inhabitants of Utah are definitely different but fascinating.
Please share a link to your most popular post?
Hacienda flowers and butterflies is my most popular post. It is so ironic because I took the photographs whilst full of angst. We had arrived at Puerto Vallarta in Mexico to investigate it as a retirement destination. It was utterly beautiful but the ‘real’ side of the city reminded me of Egypt. Not quite third world but obvious poverty and inequality. This provoked a panic attack and despite creating at least five posts from the visit we were there for just over 24 hours. Nothing could persuade me to stay and I ruined the vacation for me and my long suffering husband. My health has improved and I have since returned to the same hacienda in Puerto Vallarta on a solo trip. I could now reconsider living there.
PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
Please share something funky about yourself or something most people don’t know?
Firstly, I would like to thank you so much, Kate, for allowing me to interview for your blog. I have long been an admirer of yours. Your questions made me think really differently about myself and I think it has provoked me to really work on my memoir. My blog is full of TMI, so it is hard to think of something funky that I haven’t already shared with the world! Perhaps what I don’t reveal is that I am really shy, at heart, and when I go to public events (work or social), I often have to stay in bed the next day because the anxiety has overwhelmed me. I sucked my thumb well into adulthood and after I was married…once in a while I still suck it for comfort but don’t tell anyone!