Little old ladies with bottles of ink, mounds of writing-paper and firm hands have long been the bane of government officials. There’s even a name for them: ‘Angry of Tunbridge Wells’. My great-grandmother, Lilla, whom I remember living in that venerable Kentish town, was Super-Angry. She was so angry that at the age of 100, after an extraordinary exchange of correspondence lasting 30 years and consuming many sheets of Basildon Bond, she succeeded in extracting a cheque from none other than the communist government of China. And when I was writing Lilla’s Feast, the story of her remarkable life, I discovered how she did it.
Lilla had long been tough. In the 1930s she ran two businesses in a colonial trading port in China called Chefoo.