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18 December 2017


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Bitterne Parker: Olivia Barnes
Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:00


Olivia Barnes
Olivia Barnes describes herself as “a real life virtual assistant whose services include admin, marketing, copywriting, social media content plus beta/proofreading first drafts of novels”. She grew up in Chandlers Ford, went to university in London and has lived in Southampton for 16 years. In 2004 she co-founded the Southampton Really Nappy Network which she says is still helping new parents make informed decisions today. She has one husband, three children and a cat.

The Qs & the As

What’s your link with Bitterne Park? 

I’ve lived here with my family since 2006. Love having all the schools on our doorstep and the many passionate and compassionate people here. Love the view across the river.

What’s your earliest memory of the area?

Visiting a new friend who lived on Bond Road and thinking “what a stupid road, why on earth would anyone live here?” I moved there myself two years later.

How could the area be better?

I’d love to go to a fitness class that was as much about the music as the exercise, bit of Northern Soul or funk maybe. Would also be nice to have a big family-friendly pub where you could take the kids for a slap-up meal after school.

Tell us something we probably didn’t know already about Bitterne Park

When you look south-west across the river from up the hill, you can see gigantic mobile cranes on the horizon. They are actually all the way down in Millbrook - you drive past them on the way to Totton.

What’s good – or not so good – about the wider city?

I love city life full stop - humans everywhere, not being too dependent on cars, constant change. However Southampton city centre is becoming more and more generic, isn’t it? I would love to see a permanent covered market like in Oxford or Norwich, or at least somewhere based on the flea market model - small, low-rent lock-up retail units for start-up and independent shops in a communal space to share the overheads.

What’s your passion in life?

Everything! Do everything with passion and style and a determination to wring a funny anecdote out of it one day. If you can’t do that, pretend you can - fake it ‘til you make it.

What has your career taught you?

It’s a challenge to market oneself as a ‘virtual assistant’ without people imagining all the wrong things.

I think a definition of civilisation has to include looking after those less fortunate than ourselves’

How do you relax?

Reading, singing (pretty much constantly), hiding from the kids. Then again I do love a bit of volunteering and my latest cause is the Woodcraft Folk youth clubs, which a lot of Bitterne Park kids are involved with. Have really enjoyed working with 10-12yr old age group ‘Pioneers’.

Which is your favourite pub?

The Butcher’s Hook, and South Western Arms if it’s full.

What are you drinking?

Real ale, red wine and rum. But not all at once. OK, maybe sometimes. Don’t try this at home, kids.

What do you listen to?

I’ve been a Morrissey fan since I was 11 and could not imagine being married to anyone who didn’t love The Smiths! Absolute deal-breaker in my book.

Can you recommend a really good read?

‘Murder Most Welcome’ by local author Nicola Slade. Slightly tongue-in-cheek ‘cozy’ mystery set near Southampton in Victorian times, with a feisty kleptomaniac heroine.

What scares you?

Becoming a parent forces you to get over a lot of phobias or at least learn to fake nonchalance to prevent panic contagion. Someone’s got to be the grown up. I had to deal with any lingering puppet fear fairly smartly when I started working with clients who are professional puppeteers!

What would you most like to change - in the world and in yourself?

I think a definition of civilisation has to include looking after those less fortunate than ourselves and too many people live (or aspire to live) in a protected, out-of-sight-out-of-mind bubble to avoid real life.  

Tell us a joke

Doctor, Doctor, when I make love to my wife her toes curl up.

Have you tried taking her tights off, Sir?

What really gets your goat?

People who park on double yellows outside the primary school - why do they think they’re different from everyone else? You can see them thinking “It’s OK, it’s only me” or “But MY child might get rained on.”

Finally, what would be another great question for other Bitterne Parkers?

Best place to get breakfast in Southampton?

Thanks so much for taking part!

Find Olivia on Twitter

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions. But before then, do you know a Bitterne Parker we really should feature? If so, please nominate them by emailing us using the contact form, and we'll do our best. No promises, mind. 

Read about other Bitterne Parkers

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