No stranger to classrooms, Barbara was born in Bowdon, in Cheshire, and grew up in Birmingham, where she attended King Edward VI School for Girls, Camp Hill, together with her two elder sisters. She began her career teaching in a secretarial college in Barbados and Grenada, spent several years jetting round the world, and lived in New York before being relocated to Greece, France and the Middle East.
‘It was a fascinating time. I was present at the Black Power Riots in the West Indies, the overthrow of the military junta in Greece and the war in Lebanon. Our hotel in Beirut, the Phoenicia, which was later bombed, was ringed by soldiers tucked behind gun emplacements made from sandbags. With pot shots being aimed at anything that moved, I left Beirut sitting on the floor of a taxi cab. As my daughter is fond of telling me, ‘after that, Mum, teaching swimming and learning to tap dance doesn’t quite cut it.’
A qualified swimming teacher and judge, Barbara gave her time and expertise to Street & District Swimming Club, where she taught children to swim three nights a week and watched her own daughter train or compete the rest of the week.
‘This is where I began to write – while watching my daughter swim up and down the pool for hours on end. I needed something to do and while swimming may be magical if you are taking part, it is not quite so interesting if you are watching. Writing seemed a brilliant way of passing the time. In 2006, after several years writing stories, Scruffy was published
‘Asking schoolchildren to illustrate Scruffy was probably the most sensible thing I have done in years; the result was pure magic.’
'How do I see my role of an author? For me, it’s far more than writing, it’s also about showing the next generation of children exactly how exciting books can be. If, as a result of my visit to a school, one additional child picks up a book and reads it … job done.’