The day Prince Philip left this East Anglian novelist lost for words
PUBLISHED: 14:11 02 February 2019
Iris Button's first novel was published in 2003. After marrying her husband David in 1959, they needed bigger premises for their business, so they moved from Surrey to Bury St Edmunds, which they called home for 50 years. After having two daughters and a son, they are now great grandparents, retired in Barbados. Iris has written 17 books. She talks to Gina Long MBE
What is your connection to East Anglia?
My husband’s grandparents were born in Sudbury. They moved to Surrey years ago and I moved to Suffolk after I married.
What is your East Anglian Heaven ie what do you love most about East Anglia?
The countryside, the history around Bury St. Edmunds, the Cathedral (our eldest daughter was married there) and my husband also did a great deal of fundraising for the extensions to the Cathedral. I love to walk around the Abbey Gardens and I love the town, the hustle and bustle of the market place on Wednesday and Saturday, Moyse’s Hall...There are so many things that I love about the whole area.
What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?
The cold weather, the rain.
What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?
Hintlesham Hall was always a favorite. We have hosted many parties and our son had his wedding reception there. The Angel Hotel in Bury and in more recent times The Swan in Long Melford. Also, the Talbooth near Colchester.
What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?
Dining at home with friends or in a good restaurant.
What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?
The Abbey Gardens and the wall that holds the Magna Carta.
What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
Christmas with the family. Having retired to Barbados, we are always on a videocall around my daughter’s table for Christmas lunch.
What your specialist Mastermind subject?
Tapestry, I do it every day, even Christmas Day.
What is always in your fridge?
Smoked salmon, English cheddar cheese and tomatoes.
What’s your simple philosophy of life?
Keeping my mind active. I never ever just sit without doing something.
What’s your favourite film?
The Sound of Music. I like to hear Julie Andrews sing. And I like The Quiet Man with John Wayne, a bit of Irish fun. Today, I find many films have no story and apparently the young actors don’t need to learn their lines. All they need to know is how to fire a gun and how to fight. Guess I’m old fashioned.
What was your first job?
The Milk Marketing Board. I started in the school summer holidays age 13, in the mailing department and then went on from there. I liked it so much I never went back to school. But in those days you could leave school at aged 14.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wedding ring, I never took it off until I had to go into hospital for the very first time in my life at age 79, for major heart surgery. I also treasure my dogs. I have had many over the years. Now we have a Dachshund age 10 and a Yorkshire Terrier age 3. All have been my babies.
Who do you admire most?
My husband David. He always gets things done and so quickly, I couldn’t live without him.
What is your biggest indulgence?
What do you like about yourself most?
Well! I always do my own nails, my own hair and I always dress for dinner in the evenings, even if we are just in on our own. And I am always on time.
What’s your worst character trait?
I’m not very tidy, I tend to hoard things and my drawers and cupboards are full, then have a good clear out but it goes back to normal again.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Barbados, there is no doubt. I also love to cruise around the British Virgin Islands. And of course I like to be in Suffolk. I have enjoyed spending time in Burnham Market in Norfolk too.
Best day of your life?
The day I married David Button, who had been home about three weeks from two years of National Service in Christmas Island. We had been engaged for two years. And have now been happily married in June 2019 for 60 years.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
Banana and a little fruit, although I am not too keen on breakfast.
What’s your favourite tipple?
What’s your hidden talent?
Mmm, I do a lot of tapestry and embroidery.
When were you most embarrassed?
David got the Queen’s Award for export and we were invited to a cocktail party on the Royal Yacht. I was standing talking to the Queen, who I must say was very pleasant and easy to talk to when a man came and put an arm around my shoulders squeezing me to him and said, “Hello where do you come from then?” I turned casually, “Oh! Bury St. Edmunds”, It was Prince Philip. I was lost for words.
What’s your earliest memory?
Is very clear to me. Three years old, my mother lifting me up to see my grandmother who was lying in a hospital bed and saying, “Look Mum, this is Iris.” I never knew my grandmother as she died two weeks later aged 57. I also never knew my grandfather as he died when my mother was only 10. He was the first man in St. Thomas’ Hospital in London with cancer of the throat. This was in 1914. I have often thought on this. That my grandmother must have had a hard time bringing up four children alone during the First World War 1914 to 1918.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Don’t know, not dead yet!
Tell us something people don’t know about you?
I am terribly claustrophobic. In the last six years I have had two major heart surgeries. In my younger years I used to sing with a band. I almost turned professional but didn’t like the travelling. I also belonged to a small amateur theatre group. We used to do variety shows and pantomime at Christmas. I have played Cinderella, Aladdin and Robin Hood and I still have good legs!
What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
I really don’t know.
Tell us why you moved to Barbados?
We found Barbados years ago on a cruise out of Miami, had lunch at the famous Sandy Lane Hotel and liked it so much, we went back for several years and eventually bought a house on the sea front. This was 36 years ago and we have been retired on the island for 25 years.
What do you want to tell our readers about most?
I have now written 17 novels and two children’s books which are in book shops in U.K. and you can find them on Amazon.
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