Everyone has a hero.  Everyone has someone they look up to, someone they wish they could be like, someone they could just meet.

Who are my heroes?

When it comes to me, I’ve had a few…

Back in 1990 I watched the film Mermaids for the first time and within ten minutes I wanted Winona Ryder to be my big sister.  In 1995 Natalie Portman won an award for best performance by a young actress in the film Leon, I not only wanted to wear the clothes she was wearing as she stepped on stage to collect the award, but at the age of fourteen I wanted to be her best friend and be her at the same time.

Winona Ryder – Mermaids

In 1993 I saw Cool Runnings at the cinema and came out wanting to be a bobsledder.  I even went home and asked my mum to hard boil be an egg so I could have a lucky egg just like Sanka!  The minute I clapped my starstruck eyes on old re-runs of the 1982 TV series Fame, my imagination had already enrolled itself in the 7th series that never happened.

I wanted Meat Loaf to be my dad, I wanted to be Enid Blyton’s protégé, be best friends with Zach and Kelly from Saved by the Bell and have my first and second novel published by the time I left high school.  I wanted to be a ballet dancer and convinced myself if I pranced around my bedroom floor on my tip toes enough, I could give Darcey Bussell a run for her money.

Sylvester Stallone – the uncle

My first celebrity crush was Sylvester Stallone when I saw him in Rocky III and I was devastated that it was filmed in 1982 which meant he was far too old for me and would be more suited to the role of favourite uncle, which would have made things even weirder!

When I was picking out careers for myself my maths teacher pointed out that I wasn’t clever enough to be a psychiatrist.  I then turned my attention to becoming a psychologist; but shortly after I changed my mind and settled on becoming a podiatrist because by this point I was fully emersed into the world of Indie music and I had a crush on just about every singer in every band that I was obsessed with. 

I told myself I could be a “foot doctor” to the stars.  Whenever I watched Top of the Pops, Glastonbury, Leeds and Reading Festival, any kind of concert where my favourite bands would play, I always thought…

“Their poor feet, they must really hurt doing all that standing and dancing.”

I was absolutely sure that I could help them and get closer to them by becoming an employee.  If I was their “on the road” foot doctor, I could surely make them fall in love with me.

First it was Crispian Mills, obviously, and I didn’t care that he was ten years older and when anyone said…

“What would a twenty-four-year-old want with a fourteen-year-old?”

I didn’t care, I was convinced he would one day float into my GCSE maths class and say…

“Put your calculator down darlin’, you’re coming with me.”

When I discovered he was married I knew the Crispian Mills ship had sailed and my ears turned their attention to Ocean Colour Scene.  I would religiously watch TFI Friday just so I could hear the first few beats of The River Boat Song.  When one of my school bullies informed me that thirty-one-year-old Simon Fowler would most definitely not be interested in fifteen-year-old me, I said…

“Give me one good reason why not!”

He replied with…

“He’s got a boyfriend, you minger.”

Now mark my words, I was less bothered by the “minger” bit than I was about the boyfriend bit, because now I knew it wasn’t possible and now I had no-where to go. 

Then I saw a music video by The Montrose Avenue and told myself that if couldn’t cut Crispian Mills’s toenails or file the dead skin off Simon Fowler’s heels, then surely Scott James would let me check out his bunions, assuming he had any.

When my friends were fawning over Peter Andre and Deiter Brummer and trying to work out how they could go and see Titanic for the sixth time, I was looking out for the next band who might need their feet fixing.  It turns out I had a list…



The Seahorses




Train – this would have been tricky since they were American.



Gay Dad

Head Swim

I have often said that I live my life through music, because as a teenager music and my writing was all I had as an escape.  I could create any world I wanted and it didn’t have to be accurate because it was fiction.  I could invent good people and turn them bad, I could make my characters swear and it didn’t matter what they said or what they did because they weren’t real and that wasn’t their fault.  I could make them out to be as rude and as nasty as my school bullies because within those pages I could flick off the switch of whatever was happening in my real world and get some peace.

The archive…

Every Sunday I would finish off my homework while I listened to the Top 40 and pray my favourite bands were still hanging in there.  Whenever they released a new song or a new album I had already pre-ordered my copy at my favourite music shop in Bolton and on release day I would dart down to to X-Records to pick up my cassette (Does anybody remember cassettes?).  As soon as I got home I would gently unfold the leaflet to see if the lyrics were written inside.  Regardless of the case’s contents I would sit beside my cassette recorder with my ear as close as I could get it to the speaker and learn every single word my heroes were singing.

I would memorise those words and I would find a way of relating to whatever they were singing.  I looked for meaning in every lyric, every hum and every musical note that came from their instruments.

I wrote my stories, my novels, my plays and my screenplays to my favourite songs and I would pick out music by artists who had the same feeling in their songs that I was trying to convey in my writing.  I even wrote letters to some of those bands explaining that I was a writer and I wanted to use their songs in the films that were going to be made from my stories.  I never got a reply, although Mansun did send me two backstage passes for a concert I didn’t have a ticket to because it was in Coventry.

I think I was about twenty-six when I thought my musical friends were talking to me through their lyrics… and we can thank Bernard the Bipolar brain for that.

Bipolar Disorder has a nasty habit of taking the most innocent and peaceful thing in your life and turn it into wrecking ball.  When you’re in the throws of an episode it’s very difficult to decipher between reality and the fictional world your illness creates.

I have a recurring theme of wanting to make a difference in the world.  I want to improve it, help it, just save it!  In 2011 I thought this was my dream, in reality it was massive Bipolar episode that landed me in a psychiatric ward for nearly two months.

Since then, every episode and every blip has been the same…

Bipolar – musician – lyrics – meaning = save the world.

I write my blogs like I’m an expert and I stand in front of groups of people and I talk the talk about how I manage my condition and how I recognise my symptoms so I can put a stop sign in front of it before it even reaches the traffic lights, but the truth is, sometimes I miss the symptoms.  Sometimes they just show up unannounced and it feels like they’re supposed to be there.  Sometimes something unpleasant makes an appearance that you never expected and despite saying…

“I’m not giving it anymore airtime, it’s done.”

…it doesn’t work. 

I always say the human brain is the most powerful muscle in the body.  It tells everything else what to do, how to work and it tells us how to feel, what to think and how to act on what we think.  I have tried to train my brain using the concept of…

“Mind over matter.”

…but most of the time I feel I am unsuccessful because Bernard is in charge of that department.  I am a pro at burying the things I don’t want to think about, and Bernard is a pro at disguising the things I don’t want to think about by bringing them out through music.

In my teenage years I bought every single and every album my idols ever released and every year my mum would ask me…

“What do you want for your birthday?”

In 1998 I said…

“The Hatful of Rain album by Del Amitri.”

Hatful of Rain 1998

I’d heard one song on the radio, “Always the Last to Know” and saw them perform “Don’t Come Home Too Soon” on TFI Friday and I was already in love with Justin Currie and wanted to run off into the sunset with him. 

Justin Currie and co – when’s the next sunset?!

About ten years ago I went to see Del Amitri play in Manchester, it was on my bucket list!  I remember they hadn’t sold out so we got moved to closer seats, and I remember thinking they sounded just as good live as they did on cassette when I was sixteen.  I also remember Justin Currie said a lot of naughty words that didn’t match up to the love and adoration of the lyrics in his songs.

Twenty-six years later I still have a copy of that album and the other week I was having a little ole’ listen to it when Bernard latched on to “Kiss This Thing Goodbye”.  Before I knew it I had downloaded every album, every single, every EP, music video, collaboration song and live album from Apple Music.  I created four playlists for them on my iPod, a full list, short list, mini list and a list of their music videos.  I also trawled through YouTube and created a playlist of videos from the 90’s because at this point I believed Justin Currie had started talking to me through his songs, but I had to watch the videos and listen to the songs continuously to find out what he was trying to tell me.

It got to a point where I was still awake at 2am talking to a 1990’s Justin through my Amazon tablet saying…

“What are you trying to tell me?  Just say it.  What are you trying to tell me?”

…and even though part of my brain knew this was not healthy, Bernard’s part of my brain convinced me that this was fine.  Every second of the day, where possible, was spent listening to Del Amitri.  It was a comfort, but it was also stressful.  Most people would offer simple advice like…

“Well just don’t listen to it.  Distract yourself, listen to something else.”

But I cannot stress enough the effect Bipolar has on the human brain.  I knew something was wrong, but the more time that passes, the more powerful those warped ways of thinking become.  It becomes dangerous to not be able to listen to something when your brain is telling you it’s keeping you safe. 

When you don’t need to eat and you don’t need to sleep because you haven’t got time, and you just need to focus on what Del Amitri are singing about in a YouTube video from 1990!  It is impossible to rationalise your thought processes when fiction makes more sense than reality… because this fiction is your reality.

When you’re on the phone to your psychiatrist repeatedly saying…

“I’m getting messages from music again, it’s back and it keeps coming back.  It always comes back.  Is there any chance that this is real?  Is it real?”

And he says…

“It’s unlikely.”

…and he prescribes you some temporary medication to help turn that reality back into fiction, it leaves you with the feeling of standing in a gust of wind in the middle of a desert.  You can feel the sand scratching at your face and all you can do is wait for the wind to die down so you can open your eyes to look at the wreckage Bernard has left behind.

A sand storm

My biggest fear was that I would never be able to listen to Del Amitri again.  I was worried my connection to their songs would be tainted by the stress I’ve been putting on their lyrics to find a deeper meaning to this world’s never-ending crisis.

Part of me dreaded the possibility that I might still be getting messages from them, but rest assured, about an hour ago I looked at my YouTube playlist and where I’d initially thought that Justin Currie was talking to me through the song “Surface of the Moon” he turned to the crowd to introduce the song and he said…

“This is a song about Glasgow.”

Well…not even Bernard can argue with that.

When I was younger I would dream of meeting my heroes.  I would imagine the kinds of conversations I would have with Winona Ryder and how she would give me advice about boys and loan me her clothes.  I dreamt of the day Crispian Mills would rescue me from the lessons I hated at school and everyday I waited by my front door for a letter from a band saying…

“Of course you can use our song for your film! We’ll see you on the red carpet.”

Fan mail

This miniature episode will come as a surprise to most people.  I am a pro at looking “normal”.  I am a master of deception and apparently I make it look easy.  But trust me, this is not easy and I don’t enjoy a single part of it.  I view Bipolar Disorder as an equivalent to some kind of devil.  It sits in a corner with a grimace on its face, rubbing it’s grubby little hands together ready to wreak havoc in all directions and senses of the word. 

My obsession with music is my comfort blanket.  It’s anything from Kula Shaker to country music and this time Del Amitri.  It’s impossible to describe the disappointment you feel when you realise something you wanted so badly isn’t real.  When you realise you don’t have a special power and a band singing a song is really just a band singing a song, it empties your world a little. 

I know artists write songs to share their life stories and as listeners we can relate to their words.  We can all take something from a song.  It doesn’t have to be a ground-breaking solution to saving the world because sometimes it’s just simply about the place you grew up in.

I’m not sure I’d ever want Justin Currie to see this… but if he was to stumble across it while randomly searching for a blog to read on a wet weekend with a cup of tea in his hand, then I’d like to say…

“Hello friend,

Thank you for writing songs that became the anthems of my childhood. 

Thank you for making me laugh through the humiliation of talking to a boy I liked only to realise everyone in my year group knew he had a girlfriend and I was “Always the Last to Know”.

When I finished my exams and handed in my assignments I would turn on my heel like little miss sassy pants and sing “Kiss This Thing Goodbye!

Thanks so much for giving me a song to sing to at university.  While everyone was glugging Lambrini I sipped diet coke and whispered the words to “Stone Cold Sober”.

And honestly!  You will never know the difference you have made over the last few weeks.  While I’ve been putting my brave pants on every single day, I have felt about as successful as “Spit in the Rain.

So thank you, for being the hero in the battle between…

…the Devil and Del Amitri…

Reading time: 14 min