Not quite. The only bona fide is Utleya in the middle. That's Stephanie on the left, Canadian-born Singaporean recent graduate of Cambridge (brains to burn) who is a volunteer English teacher for ASRAL, my lama's charity, and that's moi on the right. If you think we are being typical westerners dressing up like this, you're wrong. We were the only two westerners in sight amongst up to 10,000 people, maybe more. Everyone else getting into the costumes to be photographed was Mongolian. This was part of the great craic going on the day Mongolia went for the Guinness Book of Records largest horse race ever held in the world (August 10). There was one more westerner in the vast crowd. The representative from Guinness. (Didn't get her name alas.) And that's a gorgeous live falcon in front of us. Falconry is one of the national sports of Mongolia along with wrestling, archery and horse racing. The amazing thing about the headdress I am wearing is that it not only shows where Star Wars got Queen Amidala's style but also, some of you may remember, Pauline Bayne's illustration of the Queen of the Harfang giants in CS Lewis's The Silver Chair. (Photo credit: Stephanie Ng)
I was born in Ireland and grew up in Toronto, Canada with my seven sisters and two brothers. Left home at seventeen to live in a commune, then headed off across Canada with my pal, Carole, and we hitch-hiked around California for months, then back up to Vancouver(Van as we called it then) and across Canada with two more pals, Linda and Peggy. A year later, headed off to Malaysia and Borneo with Jeunesse Canada Monde/Canada World Youth for a year. Baik-lah! Back home, went to Trinity College at the University of Toronto (posh blokes) while also joining the Canadian Naval Reserve as an Officer Cadet. Trained on the east and west coasts of Canada every summer. Great fun. Then what? Hmm. Started to write books, dodgy personal life (that's personal but let's just say it's been a long time between drinks) started to wander around the world, had a darling daughter, settled down in Ireland, wrote more books.