UK: My Other Side - Question time for the gardener.

UK: My Other Side - Question time for the gardener. - Business in the Community CEO Julia Cleverdon discusses passions, pastimes and school projects with Rhymer Rigby.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Business in the Community CEO Julia Cleverdon discusses passions, pastimes and school projects with Rhymer Rigby.

'Most of my passions, on my other side, are actually seen through my children's eyes,' explains Julia Cleverdon. 'So the children say "right, we're going to see Titanic" or "my set book is Great Expectations" and guess what I'm doing?' That means, between bringing up the kids and taking care of Business in the Community, she doesn't really get that much time to read books, watch films, listen to music and the like. 'But,' she continues, 'I do try and make it to the cinema occasionally.

'I saw The Boxer (Daniel Day Lewis' latest offering) the other night, which I thought was tremendously good. Full of things I care about like evil taking place because many good people will do nothing. It illustrated the importance of getting on and changing the world through taking action, making something happen and not just believing that frozen apathy is what the world is about.' As for her all-time favourite film - 'something I would always go back to' - we have something a little less heavy-going: 'Oh ... Doctor Zhivago - endlessly on and on - I was particularly romantic at that moment and I adore Zhivago. So I suppose the big costume stuff.'

Again, with books, Cleverdon suffers from the same time constraints, though she assures me that this will change as the children get older.

That said, she does admit to being particularly fond of Dickens and Nancy Mitford, especially the latter's charming comedy of toffish mannerliness, Love in a Cold Climate.

'Then I have a list of books as long as your arm from my younger brother (he runs the Gatwick branch of Waterstones), who says "Julia, you cannot be in this world unless you've read the following". And gives me marks out of 10 for general poor reaction on things he thinks I ought to love and I just can't cope with.'

As someone who was 'brought up as a Cambridge Victorian social historian', Cleverdon has a tendency to view films and much of her reading with an eye to social impact and comment. 'In The Rogue City, Neville Shute wrote that there was nothing worth more than creating a job for three people.

There's no dignity nor decency nor health today for people that have not got a job: without work, people are ruined. He wrote that in the 1930s and it all rang true and you think: "My God, it's absolutely right".'

And so to music, which she tends to listen to 'as a sort of wallpaper'.

'I love opera duets in the car and I always have a certain amount of Bach - not that I'm that knowledgeable - I just enjoy it. And then, of course, if you're round a 16-year-old or a 12-year-old, you have Virgin Radio on at 180% volume through the entire house - so we live with Chris Evans on a very regular basis.'

For all this, Cleverdon's one overriding love is in fact gardening. 'I'm just passionate about it,' she says, enthusing about her 'tremendous' fuschia hedge, 'great delphinium bed' and the 'lovely things that grow in sea climates' at her holiday cottage. 'Gardening on a Sunday,' she explains, 'clears the mind wonderfully.' But in the day-to-day scheme of things, even this luxuriant foliage has to take a back seat. 'The moment I switch off, I'm usually worrying about a school project on jelly - you know the kind of thing - pouring red, pink and yellow jelly to see what sort melts fastest.'.

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