Author Cyclist Raconteur
I grew up in a French and Spanish speaking home in England. Our house was full of books and words were everywhere, coming from the radio, the television, the newspapers, and the record player.
In the kitchen Kenneth Williams’ Round the Horne and Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America streamed from Radio 4. In the sitting room grandpa watched the cricket and snooker, teaching me the rules, and mum’s record collection had Miriam Makeba, Blood Sweat & Tears, the Beach Boys, West Side Story and Oklahoma! Meanwhile my Spanish father was adding eccentricity to his English vocabulary by reading Ovid and Plato, Virgil and Aristotle. Cultural curiosity was everywhere.
My brother and I listened to the radio constantly. Radio 1 and Capital, GLR and Luxembourg. The stations played eclectic and any era. In this way I collected sounds I loved without knowing who the performers were in music hierarchy. Bob Marley and Dylan, Neil Diamond and Presley, Velvet Underground and the Crystals and Jefferson Airplane rubbed shoulders with contemporary acts.
In a beautiful redwood tree in California
On auto-repeat I read Damon Runyon’s More Than Somewhat, and lived with his magical unlawful characters of Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson. And Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle with its chaotic unconventional family and their hopes and dreams, and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. There was a bit of everything on our bookcase including Alice in Wonderland of course.
I went to live in the French Alps where I learnt to ski, and America where I learnt to windsurf in New Hampshire, and Switzerland where I discovered the Montreux Jazz Festival and was lucky enough to see Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, BB King and Brian May, Dizzie Gillespie and Etta James performing within arms reach on the casino’s smoking stage.
Then I returned to England and waitressed my way through a degree reading French and English at London University.
I discovered medieval social texts, the significance of the Laocoön, the poetry of Baudelaire and Ponge, and the genius of New Wave directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard and their influence on cinema then and now.
A Few Heroines and Heroes
Hilary Mantel for her peerless novels. It all started for me with A Place of Greater Safety about the French Revolution. For her philosophy on life, and for being funny, and her encouragement and practical advice to new authors.
And Kate Bush for being amazing, and Debbie Harry for being on TOTP, and Tove Jansson for living freely and giving us the Moomins, and Esther Williams, goddess of 1950s water movies, keeping integrity and grace. Her autobiography is essential on the Hollywood scene and its opening pages with Cary Grant and an LSD trip are brilliant.
Tavi Gevinson for her captivating TEDTalk, her upbeat outlook, her advice to teenage girls, and homage to Stevie Nicks. And Laurie Anderson for her constant creativity and imagination across the arts.
Robert Altman for directing Nashville and McCabe & Mrs Miller and everything else, and Martin Scorsese for all his films and whose soundtracks are unrivalled. And Billy Bragg and Bob Dylan for their ever fresh and brilliant turns of phrase. And Stipe Berry Buck & Mills aka REM. Tom Robbins for Jitterbug Perfume and his vivacious and playful prose, and David Sedaris for sharing his diary and teaching us how not to pronounce Nicaragua.
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