When I was a wee lass in pigtails, I had so many heroes and idols, it would quite possibly take me a day to list them all down. And then I'd forget some. It would read like one of those gaudy, Friday night-filler TV shows '100 Top Hundredy Hundreds of Hundredy Lists - with Anthea Turner & the cast of Hollyoaks'. (Incidentally, I never had pigtails. Too girly)
It would probably be quicker to list the people who WEREN'T my idols. So I guess that leaves Maggie Thatcher and Will Carling.
But I think it's intriguing to see who I worshipped and adored way back then. Mostly actors, comedians and sportsmen and women. My first heroes were from watching copious amounts of television - step forward French & Saunders, Julie Walters, David Jason and Victoria Wood. I wanted to be French & Saunders and Julie Walters AND Victoria Wood. All in one. A giant concoction of comedy genius. I would act out little plays entirely on my own, invent characters, impersonate everyone and collect accents. With just my Roland Rat teddy as an audience.
Athony Hopkins became one of my favourite actors, mostly because he was Welsh and swaning around being famous in Hollywood, conquering them with his acting genius, wooing them with his charm and ability. As a Welsh person. In my eyes, this was the epitome of cool. I snuck downstairs one cold, autumn night at my Nan's house during half term- a house I was already convinced was haunted, such is the way my foolish imagination worked(s) - I turned the TV on and saw Silence of the Lambs. I was about 10, and became instantly terrified. I had nightmares for weeks. And all I saw was the opening credits.
I was also sports obsessed, and adored a whole host of rugby players, tennis players and athletes. They were Gods. Non-human specimens who I looked up to as if they would solve all world ills. When they lost I would be devastated, it felt a sheer injustice, a terrible crime. I cried many a time after a defeat, as if it was a personal insult, a personal wound. I would try to emulate them. I would spend most of my non-TV watching time kicking my rugby ball around the garden and drive of the family home...and onto the roof (we had to get the window cleaner to retrieve it on more than one occasion). The hydranger bush was my scrum machine. The tree was a defender I could side-step. I was Wales and playing the world. And winning.
During the summer months, I would be playing Wimbledon. The wall was always Steffi Graf, and naturally just like Steffi Graf the wall always won. The kitchen back door would be open and I'd be hitting away against the side of the house, with the sound of mum's 1960s black and white TV blaring as she watched the real Wimbledon whilst cooking the tea. "Game, Becker...." boomed the TV set. Then a *rapturous applause* of which I dreamt was really for me, naturally.
I would confess here I used to also love playing football (must to the distain of my father) and I would admit I thought Gary Lineker was the most wonderful man on the planet. For about a week. But we shalt never speak of that.
When I was a teenager I became interested in film, and in particular Alfred Hitchcock. I saw Psycho, quite by chance on television one night, and I was captivated instantly. It was the filmic equivalent of being slapped in the face. Hitch had reached out from his grave, grabbed me with his podgy fingers and had shaken me senseless. Where had it been all my life? Where had this entire world of insane, black humour and suspense been? And a dead, sex obsessed, fat film director, with an outrageous sense of humour and ingenious macabre outlook on life, became my hero. No wonder my parents looked so bemused. I am still not quite sure what it is so specifically that I adore about Hitchcock films. The atmosphere, the sense of threat, a dark underside to life perhaps. Things not quite being what they seem. It's a theme I've always been fascinated with, something that my enjoyment overflowed into other mediums like my own photography. Or the plays of Harold Pinter. If.
I. Could. Cope. With.
But it was a discovery in a particular music artist that has had the biggest impact on my adult life. Step forward, Rufus Wainwright. Words cannot fully describe how much I love Rufus' music. It is textured, layered, gorgeous. Caviar for the ears. Listening to Rufus is often like bathing my head in velvet clouds, his beautiful voice massages my brain as I get swept away on little musical journeys. And his lyrics are poetry. Heart wrenching, intimate at times, there is a beauty so great it often makes me want to melt away with the sadness and exquisiteness of it all. And yet his songs can also be hugely uplifting, they fill you with so much raw joy it makes you glad to be alive. Right at this moment, I cannot imagine the world without this music. And I wouldn't want a world without it either.
Like so many things, you discover one genius and it can often lead to more. Since I found Rufus, it has lead to more beautiful musical discoveries. Like his wonderful sister Martha, a fantastic singer-songwriter in her own right. Charismatic as ever, just like Rufus, that pair should be taking over the world. The talent of the Wainwright family never ceases to amaze me.
But just some of these artists that have touched my life since the Rufus infection include: Jeff Buckley, Ben Folds, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Belle & Sebastian, PJ Harvey, Beck, Air....and possibly my favourite (non Wainwright) artist - Kate Bush. And when I read that Kate likes Hitchcock and films, it all seems so amazingly circular and beautifully RIGHT, which in a world that seems so random and bizarre half the time, is a joy to behold.
But there are many, many more. They have given me a soundtrack to my existence, have lifted me when I am down, have sometimes fed a need in me to hear soulful sadness and internal pain...and most of all, have given me such rich enjoyment that has changed my life.
This is, essentially, no different to my heroes as a kid. It illustrates to me, how much I have grown, and how much in some ways, I haven't actually changed...I still love French & Saunders and Julie Walters, after all. How much have I changed, from that 10 year old who lived for imaginary rugby matches in the garden, or who dreamed of being on the stage dressed as a battleaxe old granny with a northern accent and comedy crooked false teeth. To rapturous applause. The things may be different. But the emotions are not.