Interview: Caitlin Moran

CAITLIN MORAN spoke to Grace Burton about  the caravan lifestyle, sushi and getting ahead without going to uni.


GB: You’ve written a lot about Aberystwyth, but what exactly is it you find so enduring about the town?

CM: I started coming here when I was ten and we’d been living in a caravan just outside Tregaron, in Pontrhydfendigaid. We’d been there for three weeks. We didn’t have a toilet and they hadn’t even invented tarmac there, we were just walking on gravel, none of us had shoes so we’d basically just turned into primitive monkey children.

Then we came to Aberystwyth and it was like coming to New York, it was just beautiful. Plus, much more beautiful than the only other town we’d ever been to which was Wolverhampton, which god bless it is made of a series of cereal boxes made of cardboard, occasionally sprinkled with murderers. So coming somewhere where there were beautiful gothic gardens, by the sea and dolphins, loads of hippies wandering around, well, it being 50/50 hippies and farmers who were trying to run you over in a tractor just seemed to be the perfect mix, population wise, and just loved it from that second onwards.

Also, to be fair, when we first got here, I’d been needing the toilet for so long that when we used the public toilet it was probably just the relief. 50% of my love for the place is still remembering the exquisite relief of going to the toilet when I’d needed it for three quarters of an hour, but you know, marriages have been built on less.


GB: What are your best and worst Aberystwyth memories?

CM: Best, well today’s been pretty good! Coming here with my kids and seeing that they loved it too, having them going back to London – us heading back in the car and them crying going ‘I miss Aberystwyth’ and me going ‘Yes! And I cry when I leave here too! That’s genetic!’ When they opened the sushi restaurant because that was good because I love sushi – all girls love sushi, it keeps you thin.
First time I discovered the chilli hot chocolate in the Treehouse, my children getting very excited about the quiches in the Treehouse, we’d been watching Great British Bake Off, and it had been the week where they’d been doing quiches as a speciality thing and they knew that you had to lift up a piece of quiche and look underneath it to see if it the pastry was perfectly brown underneath, and my kids just lifting up the quiche in Treehouse and going ‘this is perfect pastry mummy!’ and me going ‘yeeah!’
The worst, when we’d be coming here for about a year when we were kids and realising that the bit of beach that we’d chosen because nobody else went to it was quiet and nobody else was on it because there was a sewage outlet pipe and that the games that we’d been playing where we’d been swallowing quite a lot of seawater, we’d been swallowing quite a lot of poo. That was a bit of a downer.


GB: What does the fellowship that you’ve just been awarded mean to you?

CM: Legitimacy! I can finally make it in the square world. Everybody’s got to respect me. I guess being a fellow is like being one of the guys? I’m taking it that I’m kind of now one of the guys, so I’m good with that. It’s just really lovely, because I have spent 20 years covering the fact that I have absolutely no education at all. So to have got to the point where I can write sufficiently and have academics think that they should give me a red tube, back of the net!

GB: You gave advice to graduates when accepting your fellowship, but do you have advice for students who are yet to graduate?

CM: Sell Berocca to the graduates! You could just be standing out there with a tray now charging four quid a tab and they would be all over that shit. Erm, no, not really, just really enjoy it. My dad is an old hippie and he always used to say just be for the moment. Be in the moment. It will all go really quickly, just be in the moment – enjoy being here. I haven’t got a fucking clue what students do and I’ve got no idea what you do on a degree but try and enjoy whatever the fuck it is that you’re doing.


Caitlin was made a fellow of Aberystwyth University on July 13th 2012, and delivered the following speech to her fellow graduands:

“This has worked out so well, I put this eyeshadow on this morning not knowing what the robes were like. I had no idea that academia could be so matchy-matchy.

When I heard that I was going to get this I was so excited and thrilled and touched, I love Aberystwyth so much; whenever I come here I cry, whenever I leave I cry. The idea that anyone here knew that I loved it so much and would give me a thing was so lovely, and I was so excited that I didn’t realise until four or five days after I got the email that I didn’t really know what a fellowship was, or what a fellow does. I thought about googling it, and researching it, and then I thought no, I’m a journalist, why don’t I just imagine what it is and just make it up. So in my head it’s either A) something to do with Lord of the Rings and I now need to go across many many snowy mountains on very long trekking shots with inspiring music underneath me, or B) it’s like when you get those freedoms of the cities, and this now means that I can herd a flock of geese through Rummers, or go to Stars and have up to three skull-shaped bongs for free.

So yes, thank you very much. They said that I might want to give you some words of advice, and I tried to think what I have learned in my life apart from that yellow shoes go with everything, and you should always have something in your handbag that can absorb a lot of liquid, and more often than not, not to trust a woman called Barbara. But then I thought, can I really give you guys advice? You’re 21 and you just got your degrees. I’m 37 and I don’t even have a GCSE, I just have a red tube [reference to presentation tube she is holding]. You’re all doing fine, carry on as you are. And for about a third of you – take Berocca. You really look like you need some Berocca. You’re looking very pale. Thank you very much!”