Jilly Beattie: ‘There was no plan, it just kept happening until one day I got paid for it.’

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Daily Mirror’s Feature Editor on working in newspapers since she was 14/15, who inspires her the most and how at first she wanted to be a vet until she realised they deal with more than the living.

The boss is buying you a drink, what are you having?
I’ll start, middle and end with a large G&T, Bombay Sapphire, two ice cubes, lots of fresh lemon slices and Schweppes slimline tonic. No straw, no frippery, no poncey tonics and no delay.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a vet until I realised they deal with more than the living. I started working in newspapers when I was 14/15 when my brother got his first reporting job at the Bangor Spectator. He allowed me to be his wingman during school holidays when Bangor was the place for regular evening riots and the odd bomb. So I’ve hung around public discord and action and watched it materialise into print from an early age. There was no plan, it just kept happening until one day I got paid for it.
Social media platform of choice?
Good old Facebook. I like the control it offers and it’s good craic for a wide age range and a good hunting ground for all sorts.

Favourite writer?
Anita Shreve and Jodi Picoult fiction keep me ticking over.
And Niall Williams' ‘Four Letters of Love’ is a repeat read, along with Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Currently reading?
‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Win - a brilliant memoir to get lost in.

Someone you might be starstruck to meet?
I’m not a star gazer. And once you’ve met big Pat Jennings, well, there’s really nowhere else to go, although I’d pencil in a day with David Attenborough.

What do you consider your greatest achievements to date?
Staying alive and relatively uninjured amid the hurlyburly of life, love, work and travel, being able to get up when I fall down, helping others when they’re ready to give up, surviving and living with the grief of child loss.

Hidden talent?
Watercolor painting.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Cabot Cove with Angela Lansbury - the most dangerous village on planet earth. In fact I’m a member of the Dame Angela Lansbury Appreciation Group. Not one bit guilty about any of that.

Name the film (or in Jilly’s case - films!) you’d watch again tonight?
The Green Mile, Schindler’s List, Gladiator and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Biggest life lesson to date?
Take a moment, work it out. Also it's OK to accept now and again that some things cannot be fixed.

What would your superpower be?
Teleportation with friends and family - basic queue hopping and no borders to worry about.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I'd go back to my childhood and spend more of it with my dad, Alan, whose sense of fun was the just the best.

What is the worst job you’ve done?
Auxiliary nursing an elderly patient at Mullaghboy Nursing Home, Donaghadee, who had horrendous phlegm. We spent a night shift gagging and crying in unison.

What is top of your bucket list?
A long stay at Fogo Island Inn. Check it out: fogoislandinn.ca

Who or what inspires you the most?
My Godmother and aunt, Maud Bonnier, who at 98 is still as sharp, engaged and determined as she ever was, living independently with incredible stories of her childhood in an Irish/Canadian pioneer family after she left Cavan aged just 5. She changed the world in her own way, she made mine feel safer. Also my suffragette great aunts who rallied through London, fought for the vote for women and led from the front without fear of judgement - a great heritage, a fine example. My dad, whose instincts were never wrong and who always found the light in dark times. And the people who stay the mile whether the going is rough or smooth, my friends. 

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