This week, we interviewed the delightfully funny writer Ben Hatch, author of The P45 Diaries, The International Gooseberry, Are We Nearly There Yet? and Road to Rouen. Ben Hatch lives in Hove, East Sussex with his wife Dinah and their two children, Charlie and Pheobe.
Road to Rouen is out in paperback 24th October. The P45 Diaries £3.49 are available on Kindle.
You’re an award-winning novelist, at what age did you develop your passion for literature, and who most inspires you?
I read Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger when I was about 18. It was so funny and true it made me want to become a writer, which I never waivered on my commitment to, apart form one year when after a break of 35, I gave everything up to try and make it as a professional snooker player.
You’ve confessed to being ‘Britain’s stingiest dad’ – tell us why, and why you’re so proud of this?
This is what makes me Britain’s stingiest man. I strapped baguette to back of my kids’ legs and mule’d cheese into Disneyland Paris to 30 Euros at Disneyland Paris. I am immensely proud of that. I only wish I’d got more ham in inside their socks. They were hungry towards the end and I had to shell out for chips.
My mum was equally frugal. She once stuck a tooth back into her mouth with superglue rather than pay at the dentist. I have taken after her.
What money-saving tips would you pass on to our readers with young children?
I would suggest giving them a large cardboard box to play in. Ours aged 9 and 7 spent two days inside the one I found for them at half term. They ate every meal in it and even watched telly with it on their head. Also, a stick with an orange on the end of a fork works as an orange lolly. Cheap AND healthy.
What would be your idea of a perfect family weekend?
The perfect weekend would involve a picnic on Brighton seafront. Sunshine, a ball, Marmite sandwiches, throwing pebbles at an empty beer can. And cheese.
What’s your favourite family recipe, and why?
Roast chicken. Because it is awesome.
What’s family life like in Sussex – where are the best places to go for a family day out?
Drusilla’s Zoo is great for young kids. The pier is fantastic. The two penny machines give a pretty could hour’s entertainment for £1. Nearby there are lots of great National Trust properties like Wakehurst Place.
What’s the one children’s product you couldn’t have lived with out?
I thought that was ‘live without’ and I was going to say The Chipmunk DVDs. I hate thosee chipmunks and their squeaky voices. The one product I couldn’t have lived without is baby wipes. How anyone changed a nappy before they were invented is beyond me.
You’ve said that children don’t need expensive things to be kept entertained. Share with us some activities that successfully keep your children amused.
We play a game called ‘Is it True?’
- Is true that there are such things as goblins?
- Is it true that elves run Brighton?
- Are there such things as Irish people?
This game can go on forever and is great fun on all sorts of levels.
‘I Don’t Spy’ is also time consuming. It is the same as ‘I-spy’ except the object in question can be anything in the known universe unobservable from a speeding car. We once spent three hours getting ‘onyx’.
What’s in the pipeline for you?
We are about to go on a road-trip round Italy that will become my next book. There might be a documentary crew following us around which would be weird and quite scary. I would also like to write a follow up The P45 Diaries.
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
I like bumbling and cheese.