I love stories – especially those you can weave into further stories and daydream about. My mother told us about her happy childhood and about a naughty little fox who disobeyed his mum and became lost. We begged her to tell us that story again and again, and each time we sighed with relief when the naughty little fox was safely back in his mother’s arms.
But it was my father who read to us during the long, dark winter evenings. Stories from the Arabian Nights with its 1001 tales of Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp. These were stories to make you shiver and dream, as were Grimm’s Fairy Tales with their wicked stepmothers and brave children, and Hans Christian Andersen’s often sad, but always triumphant, stories and songs. They stimulated my already fertile imagination and made me long to become a writer myself.
I was born and brought up in Hans Christian Andersen’s Denmark, and my name, Ragnhild (Roundhill), is an old Viking name meaning something like: counsellor of battle. Strange name for a little girl and rarely used these days, but maybe it has brought me closer to my ancestors, the Vikings? I’ve certainly followed them across the sea to England.
Denmark is a beautiful small country, full of happy people but, like the Vikings, I was restless to see what lay beyond. As soon as I had finished my education, I travelled across to England and have loved this country ever since. I now live here permanently with my lovely extended family, and my husband, my son and my grandson.
For years, we lived in the depth of the Kentish countryside, where I worked as a freelance translator, and it was here that I started writing picture books about the animals I saw all around me. These stories have been beautifully illustrated by some very talented artists.
We now live on the East coast of England, and the sea is right outside my window. On a clear day, I can see across to the Goodwin Sands, where seals bask at low tide. And on a dark, overcast day, I sit inside my cosy study and watch the angry waves fling themselves against an old castle ruin. Over the centuries, hundreds of ships have run aground along this treacherous coastline and, sometimes, after a storm, you can find heavy oak planks, twisted iron fittings and coins that have been washed up on the beach.
When I walk my dog at low tide, I daydream about what it would have been like to see a Viking ship appearing on the horizon. Maybe, after a night of howling gales, I shall find the wreck of one washed up on the beach? One morning, I found a bit of amber – Viking gold. Millions of years ago, that bit of amber would have been just a soft mound of resin. And now it’s hard and clear and warm to the touch. When I hold it in my hand, I daydream about it dropping into the sea, maybe in Denmark, and rolling around for millions of years, until I found it on a beach in England. http://www.wonderful-denmark.com/danish-vikings.html
I am writing about it all now.