Author: Hillary Rohde
Publisher: Jacana, 2013
When this book promised to tell about a woman’s experiences with gypsies, Mick Jagger and a knitwear empire, I stopped in my tracks and asked, “Whut?” Naturally, I had to find out what this one was all about, even though I’m normally wary of reading autobiographical accounts.
From the start what I appreciated about Hillary’s voice was her honesty. She doesn’t shy away from the salient details – warts and all. So, yes, she touches on her youthful psychedelic adventures, as well as her travels – with sometimes unintended hair-raising situations which Hillary scrapes through.
Hillary did what many of us perhaps dream of; instead of remaining on well-trodden paths, she was not afraid to explore her world, often without a back-up plan. A scary thought for most of us, yet the author goes to show that this can work, be it sheer, bloody-minded luck on her part or a charmed existence.
There is one dark moment when Hillary says very little for very good reason, but it’s perhaps the brevity of what she imparts and what she doesn’t say that has more impact. Her words are nevertheless a gut punch at that place in time.
Hillary left South Africa when the 1960s were in full swing, and her journeys took her to an obscure island off the coast of West Africa, to travelling with gypsies around the English countryside.
For a while she lived on one of Mick Jagger’s properties before taking up with an assortment of commune-dwelling folk. During that time she met her husband, Rick, and eventually moved to an isolated peninsula in Scotland.
Not to be outdone, she discovered her passion for creating knitwear, which started with her spinning and dyeing her own yarns to an eventually lucrative business creating cashmere sweaters.
Though impulsive, Hillary rises to the challenges life throws her with boundless energy – hats off to her. Though some might consider her choices reckless, this goes hand in hand with the knowledge that things can and do work out in the end.
Sometimes you should just be inspired, let go and take that first, definitive step into the unknown. Things aren’t always safe, comfortable or convenient, but you’re bound to be in for one hell of a ride.