I’ve always been a storyteller.
While I have had a multitude of paths that brought me to the place I am now, it’s the one thing that has been consistent across all of them. So it’s no surprise the written word has been a medium that has resonated with me — growing up I communicated a lot through writing, later as my vocation, and now, while that has morphed into talking — a lot of freakin’ talking– taking a moment to reflect on what I really want to say, when I get the time to do it, is still appealing.
So, while I get a second to pause between the wild year that has been and the hurricane of a holiday season that, like one of those TV weather people placed on a pier in the middle of a typhoon in the name of “sticky content”, is about to hit — I think it’s time to tell you a little bit about how we came to meet each other.
I was a very shy kid. There is a photo that is imprinted on my brain that perfectly encapsulates how I spent most of my childhood — my sister and I standing with my mum and dad, she proudly holding out the edge of her skirt like a flamenco dancer to match my mother’s pose, me aged six hiding behind my dad’s legs, peering out into the lens, not quite sure how to stand.
Now it wasn’t to say I had nothing to say. What I came to realize as I grew is that when you say little, you observe a LOT, and when you observe, you learn. You take in the nuances, you understand how things — how people– work. You learn a lot just by listening — and you also find out a lot about yourself.
Now some of this of course is spawned on by the flamenco dancer in the picture, who was actually a 4 ft 10” Scottish fireball called Lillian who was also my mother. Talking was something she was certainly not shy of, although we could barely understand some of what she said because her accent was as thick as the pungent cloud of cigarette fumes hanging in the house she grew up in. My mother was born in the Gorbals, an area of Glasgow that was as rough as they come, the buildings as broken and brooding as the slate grey sky hanging over it. The Gorbals probably has three Starbucks now, but at the time, leaving felt like an impossibility. But after being made to quit school age 15 to work, she decided to work on getting the hell out of there. We’re in danger of this taking an entire holiday season to read, so we’ll skip forward to her making it out, becoming a nurse, meeting my dad and having two daughters, one of which was a crushing introvert who later learned to crush in a different sense. The backstory is important, I promise.
I grew up in the countryside in the South West of England, in Somerset, an area surrounded by farmland and famous for spawning Cheddar cheese and alcoholic cider. Not a bad life, one might say, but one that trapped most that were raised there, content with the type of small town you see in movies where the antagonist at some point attempts to escape and make something more of themselves. But figuring out each curve of childhood, at that time at least, leaving felt like an impossibility.
My parents had a modest record collection — The Beatles, Elvis, the usuals. My mum also had a penchant for Scottish heritage music called “pipe band” — basically large troupes of kilted scots playing bagpipes. If you know how bad one bagpipe sounds, multiply that by 40 and you have the cacophony of what sounds like exhaled squeals that we were subjected to on Sunday mornings. As I discovered music for myself, I dove into anything and everything I could get my hands on. I was never happier than when I was lost in my headphones. In time, the posters of the solar system (favorite planet: Saturn. I know, it’s everyone’s favorite) on my bedroom walls were replaced with singers, ones that I didn’t place to idolize, but looked at them as if they were my peers. I’d not gathered the concept that some things and people are out of reach — to me, everything was possible.
Everything except saving my mother. She had the onerous task of telling her two daughters, then 9 and 7, that she was going to die, the telling of which was something that was potentially harder than having to hear it. Shortly after my tenth birthday, cancer put out the spark of the fireball now destined to blaze with the stars. I’d faked sickness that day, something that I never do, and was home when the phone call came in that mum was gone. My grandad, someone I’d never heard emotional, broke into tears. As I lay under a blanket on the sofa, motionless and emotionless, instead of shutting down, something in me hardened, determined to make whatever this life was to bring me something special, emerging stronger and more resilient than is feasibly possible for a girl only just into double digits. It was my mum’s dream to take us to Disney World and when she passed before taking us on the trip, dad went ahead with it, and soon we were on a giant plane to this magical land called F-L-O-R-I-D-A, where everything seemed bigger — the cars, the roads, the food portions… the people. Everything was possible in Disney’s world — if you can dream it you can do it — and at that absurdly impressionable age and state, the mantra wore into my soul, branded on my being.
Leaving no longer felt like an impossibility.
At 18 I took my chance to move to London to get a design and management degree. I majored in photography, entirely useless in the real world but another place where observing became everything. My vocations went as this: Publicity Assistant for Hyatt Hotels, magazine editor, writer for music television, Victory Records and on to Fearless. At every turn, telling the stories of those I work for — be they buildings and the people that frequent them, musicians and the music they create, or quite literal stories designed for the people that read them — has been at the heart, tying everything together.
I’ve come a long way since that photo where I didn’t know how to stand in a photo. I still don’t know how to stand in photos — but at least I stand for something in life. And boy, do I know how to tell a good story…