For 36 years Liz lived in London, then in 2006 she moved to Worthing, West Sussex, following the death of her partner John Sandilands. For many years they had shared a holiday flat there, and for three years after John’s death it became Liz’s main home. However, in September 2009 she left Worthing to live in Central North Oxford.
One major reason for moving was that Worthing had become very bleak, as throughout during 2008 many of her friends, contacts and acquaintances in the area died. The first to go was Helen Franks, a dear friend for many years, a vibrant and talented journalist who succumbed to a rare form of dementia that killed her within four months of its onset. The doctors had never known anything like it. Soon afterwards journalist colleague Diana Austin died of cancer, in her mid-50s.
Then others dropped off the twig, including the lovely comedy actor Hugh Lloyd, aged 85. Hugh was compos mentis and working right till the end, and had seemed reasonably well for his age but he died in Worthing Hospital in July 2008 after being admitted for apparently minor check-ups. Following his demise his widow Shan, 30 years Hugh’s junior and his fourth wife, drank herself to death, expiring just six months after her beloved husband. Liz and Shan, who had been friends and colleagues for many years, had been going to write Ladies of the Street, a celebration of leading and pioneer women journalists, together, but in the event Shan never gained enough sobriety to contribute a single word, and so Liz wrote it by herself. Shan never even knew the book had been published, a month before she died.
Another friend, Gay Richardson, committed suicide after her long-term lover announced he no longer wanted to have a relationship with her. Two other local journalist colleagues, Kit Kenworthy and John Deighton, also died.
Worthing became associated with death and sadness and it seemed time to move on. Liz hit on Oxford after her older son Tom gave a talk at Oxford Town Hall in November 2008, and after the talk, several women came up and asked Liz if she had thought of moving to Oxford. She hadn’t, but a seed was sown and she immediately started looking on websites and making trips to view properties in the city centre.
Nothing seemed exactly right and one day after another fruitless search, an estate agent rang to say he thought he had just the property; a three-bedroom apartment in a Victorian building, in fantastic condition, with wonderful views from every window, and loads of storage. Also, amazingly for this central location, there is offstreet parking. Liz viewed the property, decided it had everything she wanted, made an offer on the spot and is now happily ensconced in this wondrous, lively and always-expanding city which combines the very best of ancient and modern.
Liz always felt sad and somehow slightly cheated at not getting into Oxford at the age of 18 but – well, it’s never too late, and she feels highly privileged to have come ‘up’ at last.
Oxford is also nearer to London than Worthing, which makes it easier to attend conferences, meetings, seminars and also of course, parties.
Liz is a member of the Society of Authors, the Guild of Health Writers and the National Landlords’ Association.
She has two sons and five grandchildren. She has been amicably divorced from science writer Neville Hodgkinson for many years and has lived alone since the death of her partner John Sandilands in 2004.
Tom Hodgkinson is the famous(or notorious) idler, newspaper columnist, author of several best-selling books and a frequent radio broadcaster. He lives in North Devon with his partner Victoria and three children Arthur, Delilah and Henry. In March 2011 he opened the Idler Academy in Notting Hill, which is a laid-back bookshop, coffee shop and events venue. Tom organises many courses and events, mainly taking place in the evenings. Sold-out events are held in the church hall next door. His latest book, Brave Old World, was published by Hamish Hamilton in July 2011. He has a book on the ukulele coming out in 2013, co-authored with his long time friend Gavin Pretor-Pinney.
Will Hodgkinson is a music journalist. He has written a number of popular books about music. He presents the long-running Sky Arts series Songbook. Will is married to fashion lecturer and exhibition curator NJ Stevenson, and they have two children, Otto and Pearl. They live in Peckham, London. Will is the chief rock and pop critic of The Times and NJ’s first book, The Chronology of Fashion, was published by A&C Black in March 2011. Will’s new book, provisionally entitled Our House is Full of Yogis, will be published by Blue Door, a division of HarperCollins, in 2014. It is a candid family memoir of Will’s teenage years and the rest of the family await its publication with interest—and a certain amount of trepidation.
Tom was educated at Westminster School and Jesus College Cambridge and Will was educated at Frensham Heights school and University College London.
Liz was born in the small Cambridgeshire town of St Neots and attended Huntingdon Grammar School and Newcastle University, where she met Neville and embarked on her writing career. In June 2011 she embarked on yet another new career, as part-time shop assistant in her son Tom’s shop in Notting Hill, London. Although she can hardly say it is her most challenging job, it is certainly the most exhausting—dealing with staff, customers, stock control, booking events, clearing and cleaning, watering the garden and trying to persuade people to spend some money in the shop. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Learning new skills at this age is not easy, but in 2011 Liz faced another challenge which was to become an instant expert on modern art, while writing the biography of Alex Williams. So—new challenges never seem to cease and a life of retirement, putting her feet up and watching daytime television while eating chocolates, seems as far away as ever.