Written by Sarah Hendrickx


Getting to know you… Sarah Hendrickx

If you’re a regular visitor to Standard Issue, you won’t need telling that we’re lucky enough to have a cracking team of contributors who we love dearly. We thought it was about time we let them introduce themselves properly. Let’s hear it for Sarah Hendrickx.

Sarah-Hendrickx-biog-pic-squareName: Sarah Hendrickx

Age: 48

Location: Split between Algarve and West Sussex coast. It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it.

Official job title: Good question. I earn most of my money through being an autism consultant, speaker, trainer and author.

Aside from that I write about living a simple life, travel, being autistic, food and being a frequent massive idiot. I’ve also driven lorries, done standup and a large number of other things.

What was the first thing you wanted to be? Pam Ayres, an actor or a Harrier Jump Jet pilot.

The Pam Ayres job was taken and the pilot required me to not have asthma, long-sightedness or boobs (the RAF didn’t allow women to be pilots in 1982). I had to make do with a bedroom full of unpainted Airfix models.

My attention span and fine motor skills were not great. Probably a good job about the pilot thing. I’m still working on the acting. It’s still the dream.

When did you know you wanted to be what you are now? I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I did performances of my poetry at family parties and wrote mini novels. On the day that everyone else in junior school had the periods/sex education talk, I was at a poetry competition in the ‘big’ school next door. This may explain my getting pregnant at age 18.

What’s your strongest memory from school/education? The elastic in my knickers breaking at infant school and being given a plastic pair to wear for the rest of the day. They rustled. It was 42 years ago. The fact that I still remember it tells you all you need to know.

When you’re not working, what else do you like to do? I love carrying rocks, which is lucky because my garden is full of the bleeding things. I’m trying to grow vegetables and have 73 broad bean plants, which I am more proud of than is healthy.

There is nothing better than being totally exhausted from outdoor physical labour and then stuffing yourself silly on amazing home-grown, home-cooked grub. Nirvana.

What has been your proudest creative moment to date? Having my first book published. It was a student vegetarian cookery book in 1995. I was a skint, stoned student and thought it might be an easy way to make some money. I had to come up with 150 recipes and I only knew about 10, so I stole, adapted and made up the other 140.

They were mostly terrible, with the odd ‘late night snack’ reference. You can buy it for 1p on Amazon, where it has a review which says: “The ingredients are things that most people will have in their kitchen, but will never have thought of mixing together.” I wonder if they mean the one involving bread, cream cheese, Marmite and cornflakes?

Having published another six books that actually have some words in, the combined joy and fear of publication never diminishes.

What was your favourite day at work? Lots of days where I get to talk to a room full of people, make them laugh and make them think.

What would you like to erase from your past? A pair of burgundy faux leather (plastic) knickerbockers, circa 1984. Fashion has never been my strong point, but these were a new low, even for me.

What brings you the most joy? Being in the countryside with a blue sky and a natural landscape. It’s the closest thing to spiritual that I understand.

What makes you angry? Many, many things, most of them human in origin. The usual: inequality, unfairness, injustice, cruelty, idiots and people who sit in the middle lane of motorways. In short: people. I’m also not keen on aphids who eat my broad beans.

“The other day I was talking to someone who said that her life wouldn’t be complete without having had a child. I was struggling to empathise with that perspective until I realised that I feel exactly the same way about having a goat.”

Professionally, who has been your biggest inspiration? I don’t think there is one person. I am inspired by people who make choices to live according to their own principles, rather than those of society.

Have you ever met someone who made you go weak at the knees? Yes, a few times. Typically this has been a bad sign and resulted in a wedding, significant humiliation or both. I have frequently been a total sucker for a pretty face and troubled soul, but am now in recovery.

I did come across Leonardo DiCaprio in a French village once, but my chances of replacing his latest supermodel girlfriend were dashed when Keith, my beloved, yelled out: “Look, it’s Matt Damon.”

What advice would you give a woman who wants a career like yours? Even if you have had 35 jobs, there are still people who don’t know yet that you are unemployable. Never turn down a gig – you never know who is in the audience. Work hard, but don’t work too hard. Without your health and sanity, success means nothing.

How do you define success? Being as good as I can be at whatever I set out to do. Doing all the jobs on my list. Being able to live the life I choose. Luckily, I choose a cheap one.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had? ‘It only becomes a tug-of-war when the second person picks up the rope’. Successfully applied to ex-husbands and teenage daughters. If they’re looking for a fight, it drives them mad, which just adds to the joy of not playing the game.

What’s your favourite photograph of yourself? This was taken while burning olive tree prunings in Greece in January. I’d pruned 50 trees over the past few days. It’s exactly the life I’d like to lead and am working towards.

Where did you go on your favourite holiday?
Keith and I went on a two-week Mediterranean cruise while I worked as a speaker on the ship. Having spent my entire adult life on soggy, budget camping trips with two kids, the concept of not having to piss in a bucket and cook on a single gas burner in a howling gale and having your bed made with a chocolate on your pillow each night was an absolute epiphany.

Also due to the advanced years of our fellow passengers, it’s the only time I’ve ever had the best bikini body out of 800 people.

Who can’t you live without? No one. Life would be infinitely less interesting and delightful without certain people in it and I’d be devastated by their loss, but I wouldn’t consider any one person necessary for my ultimate survival.

That may have been an autistic literal response there.

What can’t you live without? A list, a schedule and a plan. I have to know what I am doing in enormous detail, all of the time.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Twenty-eight of parenting and seven years of grandparenting. The latter is far easier, but with less credit and guilt. My children’s strength of character and personalities astonish me and I frequently find myself looking at them and thinking: ‘Did I do that?’

Who is your favourite person? Tricky one as I have kids, but if I pick one, the other one will need therapy, so it’s got to be the love of my life, Keith. The concept of soulmates used to make me do a gag until I met him. Relationships should be easy and this one is.

Who’s your favourite animal? Goat. The other day I was talking to someone who said that her life wouldn’t be complete without having had a child. I was struggling to empathise with that perspective until I realised that I feel exactly the same way about having a goat.

Sarah with a goat
Which song could be used to soundtrack your life so far?
First Aid Kit, My Silver Lining. “Gotta keep on, keepin’ on.

What are your favourite three articles at Standard Issue? These are just a few recent ones which entertained my procrastinating self-employed self.

JoJo Smith’s Marvellous Menopause. As a woman on the verge, I found JoJo’s vision of the new assertive me so inspiring that I’ve been practising being cantankerous to get into the spirit of the thing.

Hazel Davis’s Hey! Teachers! home-education articles remind me of my years teaching my daughter at home. Happy days.

Linda Cockshott’s Horoscopes. Never leave home without consulting them. Twelve children, you say?

Which question would you have liked to have answered in this questionnaire, but weren’t asked? How are your broad beans doing?

You can read Sarah’s blog at www.bicyclesandbiscuits.com.


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Written by Sarah Hendrickx

Sarah Hendrickx is a writer, author, autism specialist and occasional standup comedian. She lives part-time in rural Portugal where she tries to make friends with geckos and grows broad beans. Her book about moving overseas, How to Leave the Country is available on Kindle/e-book. She blogs at www.bicyclesandbiscuits.com.