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Renee Duke: Biography

I was born on November 19th, 1952. I'm less than a year old in the first picture. By the next year I could walk and had turned into an escape artist. My parents watched from the window while I worked my way out of that sandbox and made off down the road to visit the neighbours' rabbits. I got all the way there before they caught up with me. The next day my father made the fence higher and put the boards closer together.

I was the youngest in my family, and the only girl, so although I might look like a sweet little lady in this photo, I wasn't. I was a tomboy who HATED wearing frocks and skirts, and preferred games like Cowboys & Indians and Space Explorers. I did play with dolls, though, and if you look closely, you'll see the left back leg of the unfortunate cat I had dressed in doll clothes. I also loved fairies, holding tea parties, and playing school. Maybe that's why I grew up to be a teacher.

My family lived in two countries while I was growing up. I went to school in both England and Canada and have dual nationality, but don't really have the accent of either place. Perhaps I have a mid-Atlantic accent. We crossed the Atlantic several times, usually by ship. In first picture, my mother and second brother and I are in the dining room of the S.S. Homeric. In the other, my mother and I are on deck of the S.S. Ryndam. That was an October crossing, and very rough and windy some days, so I was thankful for my Hudson Bay coat.

In 1966, my family stopped moving between countries and settled in Kelowna, B.C. That's me and my BFF, Linda Rogers at the Kelowna Regatta when were 14.

After high school Linda I spent the summer backpacking around Europe. Later, I travelled on my own as well. I've been to quite a few countries. In this photo I was in Egypt. My camel was nice, but the one the girl ahead of me had kept turning its head and trying to bite her knee.

After I became a teacher, I mostly worked in Canada, but in 1977, I went to Belize in Central America to work with young children taking part in a World Peace & Development programme. In the picture we're doing the 'Bear Hunt', but for them I made it an alligator hunt.

In keeping with my passion for history, I used to belong to a medieval society. That's my oldest nephew in the picture with me. Another nephew had fun, too, slaying giants. They're both grown up now.

In 1991, I got my son, Richard. He doesn't look very happy in this picture because he'd only just come from India and wasn't sure if he liked me. He's grown up now, too.

I never learned how to drive a car. My mode of transportation is a scooter. As my son got bigger, I had to keep getting bigger scooters. At the moment, I have a red 200 cc Yamaha Riva.

I've lived in or visited all of the places in my books. I've made several trips to the Tower of London (one of the setting's for The Disappearing Rose). This photo of me and my son with the Yeoman Warder bear was taken in 2007. Real Yeoman Warders were always very helpful in telling me about the Tower., especially one, G. (Geoffrey) Abbot, who I think has probably retired now, as I met him way back in 1979.

I, too, have now mostly retired, at least in regards to teaching. The writing goes on! I sometimes still do interactive history units with 6-13-year-olds, just for fun. Here I'm operating a market stall, where kids could buy medieval items with gold coins they'd earned participating in various activities. We've also explored Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, and the Victorian era.

My favourite books as a child were The Secret Garden, the Jennings school series, and almost everything by Enid Blyton. My favourite TV shows were after-school historical adventure series like William Tell and Richard the Lionheart, and shows like Thunderbirds, Lost In Space, Voyage To The Bottom Of the Sea, and Dr. Who, which might account for my interest in both the past and the future. My favourite movie was, and still is, the 1957 version of The Kidnappers.