Monday, 30 November -0001

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Rachel Johnson

…is a journalist, broadcaster, novelist and Mail On Sunday columnist who gained notoriety in 2009 by becoming the ninth editor of this distinguished title. She lives in London with her husband, three children and dog, Coco.

What are working on at the moment?
I am working on my backhand. I’ve got a new novel out as well as my weekly column. I have three kidults at home as well as Coco the dog, so my hands seem fuller than ever.

When were you at your happiest?
Now.

What is your greatest fear?
Anything happening to my children.

What is your earliest memory?
Standing on a chair next to my brother and looking out over the kitchen sink from my grandparents’ house in Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, and seeing my mother and father arrive home with baby Leo in a crib from St John’s and St Elizabeth (where I was born too). When the crib arrived in the kitchen we peered in and my father had substituted the newborn for a cauliflower.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
I dislike my impatience, my social-climbing, my desire to collect famous friends, my name-dropping, my vanity, my selfishness, my inability to put others first all the time, my lack of religious faith… I could go on and on, and others would have plenty to say, I know, if I missed any of my many character flaws out.

Who has been your greatest influence?
My family and other animals.

What is your most treasured possession?
My photograph albums. I am so behind now I feel guilty when I see them but they are the first thing I’d rescue in a blaze.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Laziness. Rudeness. Failure to grab life by the b*lls.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Nose, hockey-player’s calves, lowborn forehead.

What is your favourite book?
I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith.

What is your favourite film?
Withnail & I.

Q A-Jul10-02-590

And your favourite piece of music?

That’s impossible!

What is your favourite meal?
I still dream of my mother’s spaghetti bolognese and miss her cooking.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Off the top of my head, Tom Stoppard, Mick Jagger, Barack Obama, Joanna Lumley, Jilly Cooper, the Duchess of Cornwall, Jemima Khan, Andrew Neil and Edward St Aubyn.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
Once Anthony Howard wrote in The Times, I think, that I only had my work printed because of Boris. It made me determined to prove him wrong, though of course one only ever believes the criticism, never the praise, so I still worry he was right.

Do you believe in aliens?
No.

What is your secret vice?
None of my vices are secret.

Do you write thank-you notes?
Invariably. The editor will get one for commissioning this.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
‘Hold on a sec…’

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A better backhand.

Can you tell us one thing people might not know about you?
My hair goes curly if I don’t blow dry it.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘Daughter, Wife, and Mother’. 

Fresh Hell, by Rachel Johnson, is published by Penguin, priced £7.99.


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