Gill Lewis
Interview Words : The World According To ... | 21 May

The World According to Gill Lewis

Former Vet and children's author has a passport stamp from Planet Blaarg. Why haven't you?

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

All of these, but if I had to pick one it would be the ocean. It is the most changeable and the most mysterious. I can watch the ocean all day. I always feel I’ve returned home when I’m by the sea.

First travel experience?

My first travel holiday was a two-week whistle-stop tour of Europe in our small family car when I was about seven. My parents packed the car full of camping gear, and as if that wasn’t enough, brought along an aunt too. I have a vivid memory of seeing the Alps in the distance, thinking they were clouds high in the sky. I couldn’t believe mountains could be so vast.

My father’s memory of the same trip is of accelerating down a winding mountain pass after burning out the disc brakes of the car.

Favourite journey?

Travelling up the west coast of Greenland under the midnight sun watching the icebergs slip past and the occasional plume of a whale spout or the head of a curious seal rise above the water.

Top 5 places worldwide?

Loughor estuary in Gower for the changing tides, the bird life and the dolphins.

Matopas national park, Zimbabwe for the wild rugged landscape and the ancient cave paintings.

Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica for the free-flying scarlet macaws, the howler monkeys, sloths and tapir and the wild Pacific Ocean.

Pirate’s Bay in Tobago for the perfect desert island getaway and coral reefs.

Camping in Chongwe reserve in Zambia surrounded by the night sounds of hippos, lions and hyenas.

Special place to stay?

Lying under the stars in an open boat on the Loughor estuary, listening to the gurgle of the incoming tide and the oystercatchers and curlews.

3 items you always pack?

Wildlife guide book of the country I’m visiting.

New notepad

My Derwent drawing pencils.

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

Planet Blaarg. We once had to cancel a holiday due to sickness, so my daughter took me on an alien trip to her bedroom when she was five. We had to travel there in a cardboard box and eat green jelly. She drew a Blaarg stamp in my passport. Luckily no one ever questioned it.

Passport stamp most like to have?

Antarctica…I’ve always wanted to travel there.

Guilty travel pleasure?

Hot showers…the ultimate luxury. In Zambia we had an old oil drum with heated water rigged up in a tree. It took two to shower. One to wash and one on lion watch.

Window or aisle?

I don’t particularly like flying, but I love aerial landscapes, the patterns of clouds and river deltas and deserts and mountains. I also like being able to sleep against the window without the fear of dribbling on someone or being dribbled on.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

My family. Always. You know you can have a big bust up and have a great holiday as well.

Best meal on the road? Worst?

Best meal…chana potato rotis with chilli pepper sauce in Scarborough, Tobago.

Worst…airline food. My husband once contracted food poisoning from a beef curry and spent eight hours prostrate in the aisle alternating between vomiting and unconsciousness.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

Things are either surprising or disappointing if we have high or low expectations of them. I think the great thing about travel is being open to all the experiences of a new place, whether it is the history, or the landscape or the people and to expect the unexpected. I have my ear out for stories, observations or snippets of conversations from people’s lives. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed.

Where do You NOT want to go?

Dolphinaria or other animal attractions directly or indirectly supporting the trade in wild animals.

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

Too many to mention really. When I was growing up I loved all the wildlife documentaries by David Attenborough and often thought, ‘I really want to go there.’ I also have an old copy of the biography of Edward Wilson, Edward Wilson Nature Lover. He was a true scientist and artist and explorer.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

The summer of 1991;

Bryan Adams; ‘Everything I do, I do it for you’. It was aired for eternity in the summer of 1991 after I had qualified from vet school. I travelled around Ireland with friends and it became our Ireland Road Trip song. We couldn’t get away from it.

What do you read ?

I grab a couple of novels from my huge ‘waiting to read pile’. I tend not to read much fiction when I’m working on the first draft of a new novel, so reading on holiday is a real luxury.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

There are many people who affirm my faith in humanity. Small acts of kindness, a friendly smile, etc. While researching Sky Hawk, I came into contact with people like Anita Smith who founded the Bansang Hospital Appeal in The Gambia, people who through their own actions have changed and improved the lives of others.

I lose my faith in humanity when I see acts of cruelty to animals. As Gandi once said, “We can judge the morality of a nation by the way it treats its animals.” I think this is true for individuals too.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

A smile goes a long, long way.

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Leaving packing until the last minute.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

Invite some penguins to join the party.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

Somewhere wild with my family; biking or hiking or boating on the look out for wildlife.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

Citronella in mozzie spray

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

I think now is pretty good.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

London because it’s London, St David’s in Wales for the scenery and sea life and Port of Spain in Trinidad for the carnival.

White DolphinGill Lewis is a rising star in the world of children's books and has carved niche with her animal and environmental-issue stories.She has travelled extensively for her work as a vet - working on animals and in places as far afield as Africa and the Arctic. Her lastest book, White Dolphin, can be ordered on Amazon now.

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