P has the gift of working with dedication towards her goals, while never forgetting to enjoy herself along the way. It’s a formula that works well: she’s achieved a lot – getting a First at Oxford, and then having a successful career in media planning.
She admits to being ‘quite competitive’, and is ambitious to achieve more. But she sees that it’s not just the prospect of ‘winning’ that drives her on, but also ‘the satisfaction in doing a brilliant job’. She also appreciates that her work enables to her to be ‘stimulated intellectually and to learn’.
Learning is indeed high up on P’s scheme of things: ‘I get obsessed by particular subjects and want to find out all about them.’ (At the time of writing it’s feminism and Napoleon – not linked!) Her love of travel has a similar source – the joy comes in ‘learning about new cultures’.
Another great passion is food: ‘I love eating it, cooking it, reading about it, even just looking at it.’ Food is also about connection and sharing: ‘I love feeding people – the conviviality of eating, drinking wine and chatting.’ (For the record, she particularly loves vegetables, and Nigella is her food hero.)
The balance that P strikes between the serious and the light-hearted is reflected well in her favourite film, Withnail and I, which she sees as ‘both funny and tragic’. It’s also seen in her fascination with the 1920s: ‘A whole generation was trying to fight back against the horrors of the First World War, but then there were these bright young things who led a frivolous life at wild parties! It must have been so much fun; but in a slightly desperate way.’ I imagine P would have loved the partying, but without getting totally swept up in it – there’d have been other important things claiming her attention.
‘One of the most important things for me in life is to be able to have a laugh while doing serious things.’
How I know P
Our friendship at University was initially formed over a shared love of Latin (I kid you not!). P was studying Latin and French; I was doing Classics. We didn’t exactly spend whole evenings discussing Virgil’s Aeneid or the like – we were more likely to be getting stoned (how we have both changed since …). In all seriousness, though, I was always impressed at P’s ability to balance serious study with having a good time. I’m still impressed by the balance she strikes in life: she really knows how to get stuff done while enjoying herself.