‘Paris Street: Rainy Day’ by Gustave Caillebotte
In our new series we set out to disprove the theory that people working in housing are dull and boring by asking some of the sector's leading lights to tell us about their passions. First up is Abigail Davies, Assistant Director of Policy and Practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing.
Favourite item of clothing?
My Harley Davidson leather jacket. I fell in love with it when I was at high school and lived like Scrooge until I’d saved up enough to buy it. I still feel great wearing it even though it’s really scruffy now. I’ll let you into a secret though – the closest I’ve come to riding a motorbike is going pillion on my ex-housemate’s scooter. I was scared stiff. My first job came with the great perk of a company bicycle so I’d go to and from work in my leather jacket and cycle helmet. The young people who lived in the hostel used to call the bike ‘Abi’s Harley’.
The Muppet Show Cast Album - a friend’s dad played it to us on the first day of a holiday sometime in the 1980s and by the end of the week we could perform it word for word. I think with a bit of prompting I could probably still do it now.
The book you always wanted to read?
‘Perdido Street Station’. I am in awe of China Mieville - his politics, intellect and creativity. Quite randomly I ended up sharing a curry with him one night a few years ago. We had a long conversation which went from the detail of Marxist philosophy (which I couldn’t really keep up with despite the politics degree) to Defend Council Housing (which I managed somewhat better). I have no real excuse for not having read it yet - we own 4,000 books and this is one of them.
Favourite TV show?
I don’t really watch much TV. Instead I usually have Radio 4 playing in several different rooms, all slightly out of sync. I do like a good drama on DVD though. A friend just bought me Game of Thrones and I had to make a huge effort not to sit and watch all 10 hours back to back.
Last cinema trip?
The cinema’s made a big contribution to my adult life; my husband and I met in a projection box (under a sign saying ‘can you perform in the dark?’). We saw ‘Cabin in the Woods’ a few weeks ago - I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon so it was a real treat.
Most treasured possession?
We have a print of ‘Paris Street: Rainy Day’ by Gustave Caillebotte hanging over our fireplace. I saw the original in the Art Institute of Chicago years ago and it blew me away. I love its depth, the way the light falls, the sense of action and the way it captures the zeitgeist. It’s one to sit and stare at whilst waiting for inspiration to strike.
I’m almost incapable of switching off, so my ideal holiday is somewhere that my Blackberry won’t work and where there’s plenty of architecture, social history, countryside and good food/drink to keep me busy. This makes most of Italy near-perfect.
Recommend a current book
Jon Klassen’s ‘I want my hat back’. A short story about a bear who encounters a larcenous and dissembling rabbit. This book is great on its own but definitely improves with the addition of a small child to read it with. Abigail: "There, the bear’s happy now he has his hat back. Do you know where the rabbit goes?" Timothy: "No. (pointing to the sleeve illustrations) He’s not here." Abigail: "Do you think maybe the bear eats the rabbit?" Timothy: (horrified and somewhat shrill) "No Aunty Abi! The bear wouldn’t do that!"