In the last few years I’ve had help and support from a number of different people. My younger* brother, Richard, and his girlfriend, Liz, let me live in their attic when I came back from Tanzania. My sister, Alex, and her family let me live with them for a few weeks when I came back from travelling. My poor niece was put out of her room and I don’t think she complained. Well, if she did then they didn’t tell me and she’s so ridiculously cute she’d get away with it. I’m very grateful to them for helping me out when my world was slowly disintegrating and we had all lost a father.
When I was in Fiji, with about £30 left to my name I was really panicking. I think I knew I was a bit depressed again, I was annoyed with myself because I didn’t have enough to get across America and was having to face the fact that I was going to have to go back early. I really couldn’t face going to live back in Northamptonshire.
Now I want to clarify, my home town is lovely place. It’s relatively small, it’s got good schools, it’s a short walk to the countryside. It’s pretty safe to bring up a family in, but for me it’s suffocating. I can’t be there at this stage of my life, and actually, I don’t know if I can ever go back permanently. When I’ve been back to my old school to talk to the 6th form I ask them to put their hands up if they want to stay there for all their lives. I then ask who thinks that their soul would be sapped away, second by second, if they stayed there forever. I’ll let you guess which option is voted for the most often. Obviously it’s a bit of a joke, but I feel trapped there, partially by my own inability to drive.
So sitting by the beach in Fiji last May I was talking to my friend Ruby about how I could manage to move to Sheffield in my self-imposed impoverished state. She suggested contacting musicians to see if they happened to need a house sitter or babysitter over the summer. Which is how I messaged Nancy Kerr and James Fagan and ended up living in their attic for 6 months or so. (Or, as their infinitely wise eldest son said ‘You live in the whole house, not just in the attic!)**