By John Forde

1. Her real first name is Franklin. Having a man’s name helped her get into St Andrew’s University, however when the Deans found out she was a woman, they tried to kick her out.

2. Her first memory is of her mother turning cartwheels on the lawn in their home in Christchurch.

3. Fay’s mother was a novelist who hung out with HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw. She wrote a novel on the boat over from New Zealand. This horrified her Kiwi neighbours so much that she became Public Enemy No 1.

4. As a teenager, Fay was thought to be a lesbian and was sent to a “progressive school” in Hampstead where studying was frowned upon.

5. Famed New Zealand artist Rita Angus painted a portrait of Fay and her sister as children. Fay’s mother didn’t like it and hung it in a dark corner of the house, fishing it out only when Angus came for tea.

6. One of Fay’s first jobs was in the espionage unit of the Foreign Office, and used to take a bath in her lunch hour.

7. Of her career in advertising: “The women did the work; the men just went to lunch and drank”.

8. She ran the world’s least successful cake shop out of a home shared with her mother, her sister and the death-watch beetle.

9. She says: “All novels are acts of persuasion”.

10. She wrote the screenplay for the first episode of Upstairs Downstairs but was fired by the producers for “ingratitude”, after sneakily recycling old versions of the script.

Follow John Forde on Twitter @cyberjohnboy or check out his blog

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