Today, we are excited to share with you the second in our series of posts highlighting members of the Barefoot Books team. Fiona Ross, our Events and Community Outreach Manager, is responsible for scheduling all sorts of interesting events and outreach programmes for our Oxford Studio–from arts and crafts workshops to belly-dancing classes to school visits. Read on to learn more about Fiona and her work at Barefoot Books!

Q: What’s the best part about working at the Oxford Studio?
A: It’s hard to know where to start: sometimes it’s when you get here early in the morning, in the cool spring sunshine and can smell fresh croissants being baked and rich coffee on the brew. Then it’s meeting all the amazing performers who come to the Oxford Studio: I’ve had wonderful meetings with jugglers, belly dancers and bag pipe players. A friend of mine says I’m like Woody Allen in Broadway Danny Rose!

Then there is that sense of working in a building that’s not only a café and a studio and an events space and a bookstore, but also one which houses a publishing house and is a place where the imagination really matters. It’s delightfully hard to concentrate on spreadsheets when Tessa looks up from her computer and says, ‘How would YOU tame a dragon?’

Q: Please describe a ‘typical’ day at the Studio in three words or less.
A: Hilarious. Heart-warming. Colourful.

Q: When you’re not planning the next juggling workshop or yoga class, what are you are doing?
A: I am often found being dragged around the local park here by my three dogs, who are trying to teach me the finer aspects of stick throwing (I’m a slow learner) … or fishing out bunches of bananas from the dog bed of our greediest dog, known as Poops, who steals food and hides it under her bottom.

I also have a parrot in my life, Miss Honey, who it turns out is a boy! Miss Honey is a talking Vasa parrot and can make the sound of a baby crying, a gate creaking and can call the names of the dogs. He is also very interested in ears.

When I’m not being Dr Doolittle, I love travelling, cycling and eating lots of food. I am a freelance food writer with a website at http://diningwithdestiny.co.uk/, where you’ll find lots of useless information like how to recreate dinner with the Beatles, Andy Warhol’s idea of a good cocktail and how John Steinbeck liked his eggs.

Most often I can be found staring into space.

Q: What has been the funniest moment at the Studio thus far?
A: There have been too many! There are some that involve story submissions, as when a pushy salesman contacted Ellie and tried to sell her a paper shredder. In no uncertain terms, she told him that we weren’t looking for a paper shredder. He quickly followed this with, “Actually I’ve written a children’s novel–who should I send it to?”

Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Well, funnily enough, when I was small (and an avid reader) no adult bothered to tell me that children’s stories and novels were fiction. This meant that I thought places like Narnia or Arthur’s Camelot could be travelled to if I just had the right map: they might even be in the next valley! So, that’s sort of what I thought I’d be doing when I grew up, either meet up with and become one of King Arthur’s knights or go exploring in the lands of Narnia and beyond! As you can imagine, adulthood has been a bit dry ever since …

Q: What is the number one thing you have in the UK that we’re missing out on over in the US?
A: Well, I can’t say the weather!

If anything, it’s that sense of history in the UK, an ancient common past here in Britain, that goes back to the Romans and beyond, the Iceni and the Picts, the Norsemen who dragged their boats onto our shores and the ancient peoples who have moved across these lands. And with that comes the kind of mythology that we love at Barefoot Books.

Oh, and you don’t have Scotland over there, do you?

Q: Do you have any secret or unusual talents you’d like to share?
A: I am a good forager and like to collect wild, yellow chanterelle mushrooms in the mossy woods of Scotland – location top secret!; juniper berries (for making gin and for venison stews) in the hills of Spain and rosehips for syrup in England. I think I take after my grandmother in this ability to forage. She liked, by way of distraction, to dig up and eat ‘pigs’ nuts’ on the three-mile walk to her school–pigs’ nuts are otherwise known as truffles …

Q: If you could be any kind of animal, what kind of animal would you be and why?
A: Funnily enough I think I am an animal. A human one. But, if I had to be another sort of animal, I would like to be a horse, as my name in primitive Indo-European means ‘Fiona Horse’ and I take that as a calling! Plus here in Oxfordshire is the Vale of the White Horse, where there is a huge white chalk horse carved in the hillside. It is supposed to be Epona, an ancient horse goddess – just next to her is the mysterious Dragon Hill, where St George supposedly slew his dragon. Archaeologists tested the soil there and found that it had been badly burned there long, long ago, almost as though a dragon had spilled his fire there ….  So it would have to be a horse, but I’d probably be a miniature Shetland pony, like the lovely one Magnus we had here for pony whispering at the Studio last week …

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