It is said – don’t tell anybody your dreams (or wishes come to that) because then, they won’t come true. But most of us tell somebody some time. The dreams (I’m using this term as a catchall for wishes too, because your dreams often give shape to your wishes – or your wishes against) vary wildly. I was always interested in the interpretation of dreams. I do not dismiss Sigmund though I see him in context. I haven’t read Carlos Castenada either. I get pictures, I interpret them. And the last thing I would do is take any kind of stimulant or depressant before trying to read the signs. I listen. Indeed my mother remarked, I listen remarkably well for somebody who talks as much as I do.
I’m not big on maxims and I accept the power of the subconscious – oh boy do I ! – but consciously I’d advise you to dream the possible dream. The impossible can break your heart. I wanted to be a model, long before so-called supermodels and the rise of the brand. And I was so thrilled to meet one of the two or three models I really admired. But this did not help me to acquire the basic equipment to be a model.
Nowadays the emphasis is so much more on the photographic and the technology able to tinker with the same, I might get a bit further – but nowhere near enough. I am a very average five feet four, there is a bump in my nose, a bosom a bit further down and I had a waist twice in my life, once when I fell in love and once when he left me. Not a hope. Both parents taught me to think about how I carried myself and my mother kindled a lifelong enthusiasm for how clothes are made and what they can and cannot do, literally and transfiguratively, ie the codes of clothes.
I dreamt of being an actress and I failed. I liked acting, rehearsing, theatres and sets, never aspired to camera but the periphery – agents, auditions, presentation, photographs and other actors – was less like dreams than nightmare. I told my father I had wasted my life (I was 19) and he said kindly “No darling, you’ve just begun.”
Did I dream of being a secretary ? No, nor of being “discovered” and rescued except in the soppy way we all do when things get tough. I didn’t know where I was going, I only knew I was – travelling towards something, not away from it. The most modest form of journalism was the first time I escaped from crippling self consciousness. And on from that, once you put me in front of a microphone, I realised I was free from image, only to spend the next 40 years being fascinated by image and reality, where they meet, divide, and cohabit. Because of course, a voice paints an image too.
Nowadays I respond like an animal to voice(s). Six minutes into something, I can’t hack the sound even if the style or the content interests me. I have all kinds of appreciation for this one, that one and the other but I don’t want to listen to them. I can’t stand the squawk – or the baying of the evangelical channels – the unctuousness of anybody’s extreme Right, the proprietorial cant of the extreme Left. I had read my first Anne Applebaum and I was (shock horror, dusting) when I hear a low pretty educated American voice and leapt across the room and it was she.
A friend once went through my records and asked why there were so many women ? A good woman’s voice is a wonderful thing. Mahalia Jackson, Phoebe Snow, Barbara and Francoise, Etta and Odetta, Marion Williams – and then Aretha.
I asked for Amazing Grace as an acknowledgement for typing a script and I played the title track whenever I was low, or on Sundays. Aretha’s voice was a way to express consummate musicality, the kind of wonder that comes out of doing it again and again and again, till it takes off and becomes its own thing. Aretha’s voice was my church, a dream come true.