My Mother Tongue and Me: Staying Unapologetically Foreign in the Land I Proudly Call Home

21 February 2017

In celebration of International Mother Language Day, we’re delighted to share this post written by Tommi’s mum, Marjukka, about what her mother language, Finnish, means to her.

The best description I have heard of mother-tongue was made by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, when she described it as being like skin. The second language, by contrast, is like a pair of jeans, which fits well and feels comfortable but will never replace the skin.

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

Marjukka rowing on Enäjärvi

My mother-tongue, Finnish, is the language of my identity, and the language of my deep feelings. Through it I can describe my joys and sorrows, anger and delight much better than I could in any other language. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, nothing releases the pain better than “voi perkele” (devil) and when I get Sudoku numbers wrong, the frustration is vented with “voi paska” (oh shit). Just recently I remembered a word “hämäränhyssy” – the twilight time when my parents would sit silently in semi darkness just relaxing and waiting for the evening to come. Even now, at the age of 67, the word brings to my mind a beautiful sense of peace and harmony.

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

Marjukka with Tommi and Sami

So how could I have ever spoken soft, caressing, loving words of baby talk to my two sons in English, since I hadn’t heard them from my mother and father? My language to my children had to be Finnish! And it still is. The best thing, however, is that it can now be Finnish, English or Finglish – since some things are easier described in the language they occur.

I have a strong Finnish identity, despite having happily lived in beautiful Great Britain for over 45 years. My accent reveals me to be a Finn even if I say just “yes”. Could it be that I want to be noticed as a Finn? My parents raised me with a love of the language: the happy memories of my father reading Moomin adventures, or my mother chatting and laughing with her numerous sisters. As a teenager, the romantic words of the Finnish melancholy tango songs moved me to tears. And there are so many words which just can’t be translated into English. Just like there are words in English which are hard to translate into Finnish.

So my mother tongue is my identity, my soul, and my tool. English is my very useful second tool, and I am very grateful I have learned to use that tool well, but it will never be my soul or my identity.

Marjukka Grover


Paying a visit to our new distributor, NBN International

24 January 2017

Last week we took a day out of the office and made the two hour road trip down to Plymouth to visit our new distributor, NBN International (NBNi). NBNi takes care of the storage and shipping of our books destined for customers in the UK and all over the world (except the Americas, which is handled by their American counterpart, National Book Network). We are in constant contact with the orders and customer services teams and regularly email our contacts, Juliette and Matt, with queries as we settle in to the workings of a new distributor, so I was looking forward to meeting everyone and putting faces to names.

Anna and Flo reaching dizzying heights on the forklift

Anna and Flo reaching dizzying heights on the forklift

The team at NBNi gave us a very warm welcome and while Tommi, Sarah and Laura had a meeting with Juliette and Ian about ASR (Automatic Stock Replenishment), Anna and I were taken on a tour of the warehouse and offices by Matt, our designated contact at NBNi. The tour started by navigating the maze of shelves that house the slower-moving books and then we were taken through to the packing section, where we caught our first glimpse of one of our own titles, The Darker Side of Travel, waiting to be packaged up and sent out. Next, we went through to the bulk store section of the warehouse, filled with boxes of books on shelves that reached 10 metres high. This provided the highlight of the day when Anna and I were allowed to ride one of the forklifts (kindly supervised by its driver) up to the topmost shelves. We were originally blasé when asked if we were afraid of heights, but being 10 metres up felt a lot higher from the air than it looked from the ground!

Anna's spotted our books!

Anna’s spotted our books!

Having set our feet back on firm ground, we made our way back past the packing area, were mesmerised by a plastic wrapping robot described by its operator as ‘poetry in motion’, met the warehouse manager and then went up to the mezzanine level of the warehouse to get a better view of the place. There were bookshelves as far as the eye could see and we spotted somebody dusting the top row, which has to be done every day to ensure the stored books are kept in good, saleable condition. On our way back down, we stumbled across a big chunk of shelving filled with our books, which provided a a perfect opportunity for Anna to have a photo with Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language. We then popped in to see the print on demand service, where some of our books are set up, before it was time to head back upstairs to meet the orders and customer services team, who deal with our requests on a day-to-day basis.

Books as far as the eye can see

Books as far as the eye can see

We all met up again for lunch (there was a lot of jealousy at the news of our forklift ride) and soon it was time to hit the road. There was just enough time to fit in a quick detour to Dawlish to drop in on Sarah’s parents, who greeted us with delicious scones from their local tearooms, before heading back to Bristol.

This trip was a great opportunity to meet our new colleagues at NBNi and get a feel for how everything works there. We’re looking forward to working with them in 2017 and beyond!

Flo


Goodbye (for now) to Elinor!

20 January 2017

Today is a sad but exciting day in the Channel View office as we say goodbye (for now) and good luck to Elinor, who is going on maternity leave. Elinor has been working at Channel View for nearly 12 years and has, amongst many other duties, been responsible for managing this blog since its inception in 2011. In this post, we find out about the work she’s done at Channel View over the past 12 years and what she’s going to miss most about working here.

How has your job changed over time, from when you first started to now?

Elinor's early days at Channel View

Elinor’s early days at Channel View

I started in a 6 month maternity cover position in 2005 and my first role was PA to the sales and marketing department. My main jobs were answering the phone, sending out books and general admin. Over the years I have taken on more responsibilities and I became marketing manager and part of the management team in 2008. Since then Laura and Flo have joined the marketing team and between them will be handling all the marketing while I’m on maternity leave.

What’s your favourite part of your job now?

It’s always lovely to get positive feedback from an author when their book is published and they say how pleased they are with their book and how much they have enjoyed working with us. I also enjoy having personal contact with all of our authors throughout the process and working with them to market their book.

What are you happiest to be handing over?

I find the twice yearly catalogues quite time-consuming, especially if it’s a busy time of year, so I won’t miss working on those. I will also be happy not to be dealing with the daily deluge of emails which come flooding in!

Any top tips for a new marketeer?

It’s always great to encourage authors to get really involved with the marketing of their book. Some of our most successful titles are ones where the authors have had great ideas and utilised their own networks and contacts to market the book as well as using social media to get the word out to their colleagues. However, I’m sure that the marketing will be in capable hands with Laura and Flo while I’m away and that they don’t need any tips!

What will you miss most about the office?

I will miss our Friday lunches and all the gossip from the office! But hopefully I will manage to pop in and catch up with everyone while I’m on maternity leave. Some of us have worked together for over 11 years so it will be very odd not to see everyone every day. I will miss the conversations about The Archers, orienteering, Manchester United, the royal family, cake, netball, Disney films and Dawlish which are all important topics in the Channel View office!

We'll miss you!

We’ll miss you! Good luck and make sure you pop in to visit us soon!

While Elinor is on maternity leave, Laura and Flo will be covering her marketing responsibilities and Sarah will be acting commissioning editor for the Aspects of TourismAspects of Tourism Texts and Tourism Essentials series.


Brexit and its Implications for Channel View Publications & Multilingual Matters

29 September 2016

Since the UK referendum result to leave the European Union, I have often been asked what effect this will have on our business. These questions have come from authors, colleagues, interested friends and my mother. The honest answer to all has been “I really do not know”.

To a very large extent, this is the biggest issue with Brexit for any business. “Brexit means Brexit” is the often-quoted line from government, but the reality is that we are none the wiser now than we were during the campaign.

In the short term, Brexit has provided a very timely and much-needed boost to our income. The fall in the value of sterling has meant that our books now appear cheaper in many currencies, and we have seen a rise in orders from many countries, including Japan and China. Where we price in other currencies like the US Dollar, our sales have been worth more to us. In a time of tight budgets in higher education institutions around the world, this has been welcome.

Tommi celebrating his Finnish nationality

A proud European citizen

On the other hand, any fall in the price of sterling will most likely lead to inflationary pressures in the UK economy at some stage, and whilst we might currently enjoy a small boost in our income, we may ultimately be hit with higher office rents, higher salary bills, higher paper and printing costs, and higher cost of supply. There is no doubt that any reintroduction of customs borders between the UK and the rest of Europe will have something of an administrative cost to us.

We have heard many anecdotal tales about UK researchers and UK institutions having joint projects with European colleagues put on hold until any funding situation has been confirmed. This is of course a concern to us as many of our books arise from such European cross-border projects. Equally if it is harder for overseas students to come to the UK to study, how will this impact our institutions?

On a personal level, I am a Finnish-English dual national. Since Finland joined the EU in the 1990s, I have happily been able to travel between the UK and Finland, my two home countries, without any concern. My friends and family from both countries have had the same rights in either one, and I have thought of myself as much European as Finnish or British. I spend significant amounts of time in both countries, and I will be very interested to see whether any exit from the European Union would complicate this for me.

Ultimately, we just do not know. Until the actual process and terms of Brexit are negotiated, we can only guess as to what the outcomes might be, and for a small business that needs to make staffing and investment decisions, this uncertainty can be very daunting. The current government is not doing anything to help make this situation clearer. With such friends as Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, calling British businesses fat, lazy and more interested in playing golf than exporting, I am not sure we need any enemies. All I can say to Dr Fox is that we have certainly exported more books to the world than he has over-claimed money in parliamentary expenses.

Putting aside all this uncertainty, we are in the fortunate position of not having any external debt or shareholders pressuring us to make decisions, and our market has always been a global market, so we are well-placed to continue to trade globally, and I am certain that we will be able to overcome any obstacles and take advantage of any benefits of Brexit once the process has been decided.

Tommi


Multilingual Matters at the Sociolinguistics Symposium

30 June 2016

Earlier this month Anna and I headed to Spain for the biennial Sociolinguistics Symposium which this year was hosted by the University of Murcia.  The last symposium was such a good conference (you can read about it in our blog post here) that this one had a lot to live up to, but it certainly delivered!

The gathering was very well attended and had a busy timetable of panels and sessions going on throughout the 4 days of the conference.  There were a high number of attendees from all over the world and we were pleased to sell books to delegates who had come from places as far flung as New Zealand, Cape Verde and Aruba!  It’s great to know that our books are reaching many corners of the earth and to meet the people working in such places.

Laura and Anna sporting conference caps and fans at the stand

The equation of Spain plus June certainly equals hot sunshine and we braved the soaring temperatures to set up our bookstand outside in the beautiful university courtyard.  We and the books survived the heat and were grateful to the conference organisers for thinking to include hats and fans in the conference bag! We thoroughly enjoyed tasting all the yummy refreshments provided during the breaks and sampling local tapas and drinks in the many squares of Murcia in the evening.

Book contributor and customer at the stand

The bestsellers at the stand included Jackie Jia Lou’s new monograph The Linguistic Landscape of Chinatown, the enduringly popular Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes by Jan Blommaert and Lid King and Lorna Carson’s new edited collection The Multilingual City.  As ever we enjoyed meeting lots and lots of our authors and contacts, including some whose first ever chapter we have just published.

One of the highlights of the conference was the dinner which was held in a typical Murcian restaurant in the heart of lemon and orange groves.  The local food and drink was delicious and the traditional Spanish dancing displays were great fun to watch.  The next Sociolinguistics Symposium is to be hosted by the University of Auckland in New Zealand and will be the first time that the conference will be held outside Europe.  Needless to say, we’re already looking forward to the next gathering in 2018!

Laura


The Life of a Book – Post-production!

27 May 2016
Laura showing off some newly arrived books

Laura showing off some newly arrived books

Arguably the most exciting days in our office are the days when new books arrive. We love receiving such packages from the printer and having the final product in our hands, and we’re sure that our authors feel a sense of joy and achievement on receiving their copies. To some, this is seen as the end of a journey – the editorial and production work has been successfully completed and the job of publishing the work is done. But as a publisher, we’d be pretty useless if we saw this as the time to stop working with a book. In fact, for us in the marketing department, this is our moment to shine!

Elinor and I will have been busy in the run-up to publication setting things up ready for the book’s publication. This means that we will already have let all our distributors, wholesalers and sales reps know that the book is on its way; we will have ensured that the book has a complete listing on our website; and we will have provided the author with marketing materials, such as information sheets and discount flyers for them to give to any interested potential readers.

The ground has then been properly laid for us to start the immediate marketing of a book on publication. We announce that the work has been published to as many people as possible. We inform all industry members, such as wholesalers and sales reps, that the work is now available for their customers and try and reach as many customers as possible directly. This might be done by posting on listservs, such as Linguist List (Multilingual Matters titles) and Trinet (Channel View Publications titles), sending a newsletter to our email subscribers, sharing the news with our Facebook and Twitter followers and informing journal book reviews editors and authors of related blogs, for example.

All our new books are available simultaneously as print and ebooks, so there is also work to be done to get news of the ebook out. Sarah, our production manager, ensures that the book is available to purchase on a variety of platforms, and we ensure that it is also available on our own website. At this stage we also start to send out inspection/desk copies to those who have requested one from our website and we give the option of an ebook rather than a print copy. This means that course leaders get the text immediately and can start considering it for adoption on a course much quicker than the traditional way.

Anna and Tommi promoting our books at AAAL earlier this year

Anna and Tommi promoting our books at the AAAL conference earlier this year

Once the initial marketing has been completed and the buzz may have quietened down, we continue to publicise the work through other avenues. Common ways of doing so are through our catalogue mailings, and additional flyers and materials we produce for our sales reps, series editors and authors to distribute. We also attend many conferences throughout the year and always have lots of our recent and relevant titles with us on display. On occasions when we can’t attend an event in person we frequently send display copies and discount order forms to continue to make potential readers aware of our books.

When a book reaches 6 months old we review its progress at an editorial meeting. We look at the sales figures and discuss how its early sales are looking. This is a useful stage to review a title as it is still young enough to be of interest to booksellers and so we give a title a marketing boost if we feel that we may have missed an opportunity. This is the time when we start to see the very first reviews of a book appear in journals and these continue to appear over the course of the next few years.

On a book’s first birthday we again review its progress and might even start to think about reprinting copies of the work if it has been particularly successful. We monitor our stock levels each month so we try and ensure that we are on top of demand and that a book is always available, but occasionally we’ll receive an unexpected order, perhaps if it is suddenly adopted for a course and we receive a bulk order from a university bookshop preparing for the start of a semester.

Chinese translations of several books from our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series

Chinese translations of several books from our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series

We continue to monitor sales annually and promote the book when appropriate for as long as there is demand for it – often for many years after publication. Occasionally a book will receive additional attention, such as from a foreign publisher wishing to buy the rights to translate it into a foreign language. This is a really exciting time and such news is always greeted enthusiastically both in our office and by an author who is usually chuffed to hear that their work is to be translated and published for a new audience. We have recently sold our books for publication into languages such as Japanese, Chinese, Bahasa Melayu, Arabic, Korean, Macedonian and Greek. Of course at this point, the book gets a second lease of life and it’s down to the foreign publisher to repeat the life cycle of a book as outlined in this post!

Laura


Getting to know the Channel View team: Elinor

12 May 2016

In this blog post we get to know Elinor. Elinor is our Marketing Manager and celebrated 10 years of working for CVP/MM last summer. She was also a student here at the University of Bristol, where she studied German and Spanish, so she has lived in Bristol for even longer than that. She’s pretty good at knowing about new places to see and things to do in Bristol, so we’ll start by asking her about her favourite hobbies.

Ellie in a tree

Elinor enjoying the great outdoors

You’ve lived in Bristol for quite a few years now, what are your favourite things to do in the city (aside from working for CVP/MM that is!)?

There is always so much going on in Bristol that there is always something to see and do. But I think my favourite things to do are wandering along the harbourside or through Ashton Court stopping off for coffee and cake along the way.

The harbourside area is one of my favourite places too and Ashton Court is such a lovely green space, those sound like good suggestions to me, especially if accompanied by coffee and cake! You must have quite a sweet tooth then, do you do much baking at home?

Yes I love to bake cakes and biscuits and once I even worked my way through a book of 101 cake recipes in a year. It was fun but pretty hard work to bake 2 cakes a week for a year but my friends and colleagues really enjoyed sampling the results! With several keen bakers in the office we quite often have delicious home-baked treats to get us through our long meetings!

Ellie showing off her baking skills

Elinor showing off her baking skills

I remember that year well, I think I had to do double the amount of exercise to burn off the calories from all your delicious cake! I’m guessing your bookshelves are lined with lots of cookery books, but are you also a big reader of fiction, or any other genre?

Ha! Yes fortunately the excess of cake didn’t affect our waistlines too much! As well as the many baking recipe books I pore over on a regular basis, I love to read fiction and get through several books a month. Although I mostly read contemporary fiction, I also appreciate the odd classic and enjoy nothing more than spending a good hour or so in the library picking new books to read. In fact, it’s getting to the point where my shelves at home are overflowing with unread books but I still can’t stop myself acquiring more!

It’s good to be keeping libraries busy too! Do you have any favourite books or authors to recommend?

This is a tricky one, I have so many favourites! One of my all-time favourite books is Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. The best book I have read recently is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

I agree that selecting a favourite book is very difficult!  So, one final question before we do some quick-fire ones to round up the interview, if you could be a character in a (fiction) book, who might you choose to be?

Ooh that’s really difficult! Although I like the idea of being in a Jane Austen novel and going to balls, I think that being a woman in that era would be a bit too restrictive for my liking! Might be fun to try out for a day though.

A day would certainly be fun!  Just a few more questions and then you’re done:

Cakes or biscuits? Too difficult. I refuse to answer. Both play such an important role in my life, it would be like choosing your favourite child!

Rural or urban? Again, a very difficult question. I love living in a city but enjoy escaping to the countryside for walks.

Dancing or singing? Singing

Board games or card games? Board games

Sunrise or sunset? Sunset

Motorbike or pushbike? Cycling on a normal bike is scary enough at times! I wouldn’t dream of getting on a motorbike.

Antique or modern? Modern


TESOL, AAAL and AERA – spring conference round-up from MM

28 April 2016

For the Multilingual Matters/Channel View team, April has been a busy month and there have been just 2 days when we’ve all been in the office together. Those blog readers who also follow our Facebook page will have seen photos from Sarah and Elinor’s trip to the London Book Fair and a selection from our US conference travels, an annual highlight on our travel calendar.

This year’s arrangements involved a lot of juggling and complicated logistics due to the clash of the annual AAAL and AERA conferences but thankfully both we and all our books and display materials made it to all intended destinations!  Mine and Tommi’s first destination was Baltimore, where the TESOL convention was being held.

Laura, Ron Darvin, Bonny Norton and Tommi

One of the highlights of our time in Baltimore was the lunch we hosted to celebrate our author, Bonny Norton, and Ron Darvin being co-awarded the 2016 TESOL Award for Distinguished Research.

For Tommi, it was then onwards to meet Anna in Orlando, where the two of them represented Multilingual Matters at AAAL.  As usual the conference was extremely busy for us and both new and older titles proved to be extremely popular at our stand. Of the older titles, Blommaert’s Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes proved to be enduringly popular and was the best-seller overall.  It was closely followed by the new titles Emotion and Discourse in L2 Narrative Research by Matthew T. Prior, Positive Psychology in SLA edited by Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen and Sarah Mercer and Literacy Theories for the Digital Age by Kathy A. Mills.

Meanwhile, I was at AERA in Washington, where Kathy A. Mills conducted a book signing at our stand for the book, which was by far the most popular title there. It was great to see readers meeting the author and having the opportunity to talk about the work with the author in person.

Laura Longworth at the Longworth House Office Building in Washington

After the conference I enjoyed a morning exploring Washington and found that there is a Longworth House Office there.  A rather surprised worker in the building kindly took a photo of me to mark the discovery!

Tommi then returned to Washington, where he and I had some meetings. A highlight was the visit to the CAL offices where we met with Terry Wiley and his colleagues to discuss the new book series we are working on together with CAL. The series is due to launch later this year when we expect to be publishing the first book, written by Sarah Shin. Watch this space for more information… While there we also enjoyed many conversations with members of the CAL community and finding out more about the work they do.

All in all, April was a very hectic month for us all and we’re still very busy catching up and of course publishing more books – 12 more to come over the next two months! Keep your eye on our blog, Facebook page and Twitter account for further details. Next stop for us on the conference trail will be the Sociolinguistics Symposium in Murcia. We hope to see you there!

Laura


Open Access publishing: A positive step for research?

23 February 2016

The issue of Open Access (OA) has been an important and sometimes contentious subject in academic publishing for at least the past 10 years. Arising from a desire to see research (often publicly funded) made accessible to the widest possible audience, it has very worthy ideals. Although the main concentration of Open Access publications has been in the journals field, where the prices charged for subscriptions by larger publishers has been taking an ever greater part of the library budget, books are increasingly coming under pressure to be Open Access. In light of this, I thought it would be useful to clarify our position on OA and to discuss what I see as the possibilities and constraints of Open Access monograph publication.

OAlogo

Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters is an academic book publisher, and we believe that, traditionally, it is our job to do the full work of the publisher. This includes full copyediting and typesetting of all the manuscripts that come our way, running all of the administrative processes involved in the editorial creation (and where necessary playing a part in the creation of the book), paying our authors and series editors a fair royalty on every dollar that their book earns, and financing a full and proactive global sales and marketing campaign. We also pay reviewers of proposals and manuscripts. We invest somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 dollars in every book that we publish, the exact amount depending on the size and complexity of the book. In some cases the investment is even higher than this. We recoup that investment by selling copies of the book, and in the majority of cases we will not make a profit for at least the first 3 years of the book’s life, when staff and overhead costs are taken into consideration. Many of our books never make a profit, and when they do, those profits are overwhelmingly re-invested in future publications. We also believe in providing a healthy and happy workplace for our staff and paying them a living wage, a cost that is often hidden by some cheaper OA publishers, who rely on volunteers and academics working for free.

Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters has always been committed to publishing important research in often under-researched and under-funded fields. We do our very best to publish books at a price that is accessible, whether that is by producing a paperback immediately on publication, or where that is not possible, producing a lower price ebook so that individuals might buy it. We will gladly collaborate with any author or appropriate funding body (and have done so in the past) to either produce and distribute subsidised versions, or to make books entirely Open Access, where we can reach an agreement on how to cover the costs of publication.

Tommi

Tommi contemplating Open Access!

What we will never do is compromise our editorial integrity. Even where we publish a book Open Access with an agreed publication fee, we will still commit to running the editorial process of peer review and manuscript revision with exactly the same rigour as if we were taking the financial risk of publication ourselves.

The main advantage of publishing Open Access, so long as it is done with a reputable and responsible publisher, is that you immediately remove all barriers of access to that publication, so long as the reader has access to a computer and a reliable internet connection.

The main disadvantage of publishing Open Access is that the author or funding body is taking on the financial cost of that publication which would traditionally be borne by the publisher. If the publication is done properly, this is not (and should not be) an insignificant sum of money.

Open Access publication, when done properly and adequately funded, can be a very positive step for research. We do not believe it is the right answer for all books or all fields of study. I have a fear that there will be babies thrown out with the bathwater, and that if all publications are moved to an Open Access funding model, it will only be a matter of time before university funding bodies faced with the next cash crisis are forced to make a decision between whether they fund the law school publications or the minority language revitalisation publications, and I don’t think any of us need a crystal ball to know which way that decision would go.

That said, we remain committed to working with our community to make all of our publications as accessible as possible, whether that is through Open Access or traditional models of publication where the customer pays. Our ultimate intention is that publication by Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters continues to be a mark of quality, no matter how the publication is funded.

If you would like to discuss the possibility of making your next publication with Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters Open Access, please send me an email at tommi@channelviewpublications.com and we will come back to you with an indication of how much this would cost and what we would offer.

Tommi


Getting to know the Channel View team: Flo

15 January 2016

Flo is the latest member of staff to join the Channel View Publications/Multilingual Matters team.  She joined us as an intern in September 2014 and she fitted in to our office so well that we asked her to become our full time Publishing Assistant from January 2015. In this post we get to know more about our newest member of the team…

Flo What was it that first attracted you to apply to work for CVP/MM, was it the books, the topics of our publications, or something else?!

After teaching English as a foreign language in France for nearly two years post-university, I was ready for a new challenge and decided to pursue a job in the publishing industry. I had assumed there wouldn’t be much in the way of publishing in Bristol, but a quick Google of ‘publishing internships, Bristol’ took me straight to the CVP/MM website. At the time, there weren’t any positions available, but the sorts of books you were publishing instantly piqued my interest: appealing to me as a language learner, EFL teacher and lover of travelling! When an opportunity to join the team came up just a few weeks later, I jumped at the chance and applied straight away.

Sounds like your interests fit with those of the rest of us very closely! I take it that you already speak French, do you speak any other languages, or are there any that you’d like to learn one day?

I studied Russian at university as well as French, and lived there for a semester in the third year of my degree. At that point I could speak Russian fairly well, having been plunged in at the deep end in a homestay with a Russian ‘babushka’ (grandmother) who didn’t speak a word of English. As you can imagine, my Russian improved pretty quickly…although I’m very rusty now! Other than rekindling my Russian, I’d like to learn Spanish one day – I hear it’s not too difficult if you already speak French and English.

Wow, living with a Russian babushka must have been quite an experience! As an office full of foodies, I’m sure we’d love to know if she cooked you any unusual meals or if you tried any exotic dishes during your stay in Russia?

Well, the typical breakfast in Russia is ‘kasha’ (каша), the Russian take on porridge, which is delicious. But the bane of my Saturday morning was the variation on this that my host called ‘molochniy sup’ (молочный суп), literally ‘milk soup’, consisting of a bowl of cooked spaghetti in warm milk – not quite the weekend treat it was meant to be! More importantly, as a result of my constant coughs and colds brought on by the -30 degree Russian winter, she introduced me to the medicinal properties of vodka. Consequently, it was an exciting day when I could reciprocate in the cultural exchange with my discovery of Heinz beans in the supermarket, which I brought home to my host. She put the unopened tin in a pan of boiling water to cook and we ate tepid beans that were pronounced ‘delicious’ for dinner!

Sounds like you had some interesting culinary experiences! If you could invite 6 well-known people to dinner (be it for baked beans or something more appetising!), who would you ask?

That’s such a tricky one… there are so many people I’d want to choose! I think I’ll go for: Louis Theroux for some good stories, Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough (I can’t choose!) ditto and also just to listen to them speak, even if it’s only ‘Please pass the potatoes’, Dawn French for her sense of humour and to create a fun, positive atmosphere, Eddie Izzard for some slightly eccentric and multilingual(!) comedy, Laura Marling for a lovely musical interlude between courses and Nigel Slater to ensure that the ‘dinner’ part of the dinner party is a success!

Quite a diverse selection, I’m sad this isn’t going to actually happen! Thank you for answering all our questions, Flo. To round off the interview, here are a few quick-fire questions:

Sweet or savoury? I’m a self-confessed chocoholic and always have room for pudding – so, sweet!

City stroll or country ramble? If I’m in the UK I’d probably opt for a walk in the countryside, but when I’m abroad I love exploring new cities.

Cats or dogs? Difficult to choose, but I grew up with a hilariously dim cat who I loved, so I’ll stick with cats.

Chat on the phone or handwritten letter? Much as I like a lengthy phone catch-up, there’s nothing quite like a handwritten letter – my friend’s been living in Australia for the past year and I’ve loved sending letters back and forth (even if the news in them is out of date by the time they get there!)

Neon or monochrome? The only neon things I own are highlighters, so I’d have to say monochrome.

Television programmes or films? Although I enjoy a good sitcom or drama (or episode of Bake Off), you can’t beat a great film.  One of my favourites is L’Auberge Espagnole, which inspired me to study abroad.


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