20 Questions: Janina Ramirez
The historian and broadcaster Janina Ramirez gives 20 answers
When did you last pray?
I pray all the time, but it’s more like an internal monologue and an inner search for spiritual direction, rather than an appeal for help. For me, prayer is about moving inside yourself to seek strength, and taking time out every day to focus on bigger issues. It is also important for channelling as much positivity back into the world as possible.
Where would you like your mortal remains to go?
I’d like a good, old-fashioned burial, with a beautifully carved sculpture. As a devotee of archaeology I feel I owe it to the future to leave something exciting for them to analyse. I might throw a few curve balls in though, like a 12th-century coin wrapped into my burial shroud.
Who was your first pet?
When I was five my parents got a kitten called Kit-Kat. Even then I was an overenthusiastic bundle of energy, and they got the cat with the idea that they could ‘have a break’.
What is your favourite hymn?
‘Be Not Afraid’. We used to sing it at school, and I always welled up at the crescendo.
Do you dance?
Yes, but only by myself. Sometimes late at night when my family are asleep I’ll put music on loudly in my headphones and dance around the kitchen. It’s euphoric.
Are things getting better or worse?
Always better. Always. A quick look back at history tells us that. In any other era I, as a woman of mixed cultural background, with little money, would never have had any of the opportunities I do today. There will be moments that feel dramatically worse, but temporal patience shows us these will flux and change.
What makes you laugh?
My children. They tell the most amazing jokes – often while I’m driving, and I end up with tears of laughter streaming down my face!
Which Old Testament character would you most like to meet?
Ezra. His ability to record the biblical books from memory is a skill I’d really like to master.
What was your favourite thing in the zoo?
The monkeys. We used to visit a particular pair of monkeys when my husband and I first met. The same pair has now has a large family, and we go to see them with the children regularly.
Where is a ‘thin place’ for you?
A place where I eat less? If it’s a ‘thin place’ in terms of a place where heaven and earth meet, then I would have to say Skellig Michel in Ireland. I visited there as part of a BBC series on monasteries, and I’ve never felt closer to an understanding of deep faith.
What is your favourite bit of the Bible?
Cliched I know, but as a medievalist I have spent a good deal of time trying to understand the book of Revelation.
What is your least favourite bit of the Bible?
I don’t like anything legal – I switch off when I’m reading about where a woman is allowed to go at various times in her cycle.
What is your favourite phrase from another language?
Na zdrowie –Polish version of ‘cheers’, but also used to herald in good news.
Is there life after death?
I don’t know. There is so much energy, so many memories, so much thought, bound up in every person that it’s hard to imagine that all turning off. But who can say with certainty?
What is your most favoured charity?
NSPCA and Cats Protection League. I feel deeply for animals, as they have no way of speaking for
or defending themselves.
Janina Ramirez is a historian, broadcaster and author of Julian of Norwich (SPCK, 2016, £12.99, ISBN 9780281077373)
This article was published in the December 2016/January 2017 edition of Reform.