Michael Porter: funeral director

In her latest Face to Face interview KAREN BETHELL talks to Michael Porter, whose job as a funeral director sees him on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Born in 1951 in Ghana, where her father worked as a geologist for the British Colonial Service, Virginia attended a total of 11 schools before the age of 16.

After spells in New Guinea, California and Alaska, she returned to her Norfolk roots when her family settled in Great Yarmouth, where her great-grandfather was a sea captain.

Virginia finished her schooling in Suffolk before gaining a degree in English and American studies at the University of East Anglia, later going on to study for a post-graduate degree at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where she met her future husband Brent.

The couple, who were married in Rockville, Maryland in 1975, stayed on in the US, living in Washington DC. But, after spending a couple of years in Brussels, they decided to return to the UK and in 1984 bought a house at North Walsham.

Virginia, whose first novel, The Rector, was published in 1980, spent the next 10 years teaching communications and writing at the University of Surrey, Guildford. Her second book, Penelope and Adeline, was published in the mid-1990s and, after developing a passion for politics while campaigning for Norman Lamb in the 2001 elections, she was elected to the district council to represent North Walsham West ward in 2003. She joined the council cabinet in 2005, heading the environmental and planning portfolio.

Last year's local elections saw Virginia being elected deputy leader, and at April's full council meeting she officially took over as chairman.

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Virginia, who has been involved in the council's annual environmental awards since 2006, continues to teach creative writing continuing education courses at the UEA.

She is the council's link member for North Walsham Citizens Advice Bureau and in her spare time enjoys reading, going to the cinema and music.