Fast-forwarding from the fusing of the sperm and ovum, my first memory is of a white, yellow-crested cockatoo squawking in a tree. Those early years, running around barefoot in Australia, may have informed everything since.
My later childhood was played out in the London suburbs. At the age of eighteen, I flirted with the feature-film party circuit. A big upside was the visits to the Cannes Film festival, where I once kissed Keanu Reeves (ok, only on the cheek, but still!) I didn’t care quite enough about clothes and cosying up to celebs to make it as a socialite. I was, however, good at writing. I made friends with film producers and screenwriters, who were kind enough to read my work. I learnt a great deal.
Sometimes around then, having finished grammar school, I was taken on by a model agency on Kings Road, but I disliked the people, and set off travelling around South East Asia instead. I was immeasurably happy roaming and writing a journal.
Persuaded by my parents to return to go to University, I successfully, but half-heartedly plodded through an honours degree in English literature and Language in Birmingham, working in an arts cinema, and escaping to London to work in film production whenever possible. Until internal politics, and my own lofty ambitions sunk my ship, I was part of the editing department of the film The Full Monty.
In my twenties I was writer and co-director of a small film production company in London, RubyRed Films. The short film The Rat Trap, which I wrote and directed, was a winner of Sky MovieMax Short Film festival. I also gave creative support to other writers, and read scripts for Sky Television.
Coming from a family with Quaker affiliations, I had found common ground with Buddhism and embraced it from the age of seventeen. My spiritual journey in my twenties took me through Zen and Vipassana, to Vietnamese Buddhism. I was ordained as a lay member of the Order of Interbeing (Tiep Hien), of Thich Nhat Hahn, based in France, and, with others, ran their central London group.
Meanwhile… the soul-destroying task of trying to raise money for feature films in London increasingly felt like banging my head against a brick wall. I wanted to know more about flow, and less about block. I wanted to understand the underpinnings of the creative process better, to understand more of the psychology of what it is to be human.
I went to live in beautiful South Devon. While based there, I undertook a four-year integrative arts-based psychotherapy training. This provided a solid grounding in Gestalt, Transactional Analysis, Psychodynamic Theory and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I became a convert to a body and arts-based approach to psychotherapy (and life in general). Alongside that, I undertook my personal psychotherapeutic journey, with a focus on creativity and embodiment.
As a qualified psychotherapist and member of the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapists, I worked in private practice with clients presenting with, among other things, stress, trauma, and creative block.
I also began working with serious mental issues, for the charity MIND, in care homes, as well as in a secure hospital settings. The utter determination of the human organism to survive emotional and physical horror, which I witnessed there, has stayed with me, and continues to inform my approach to my work. In my fiction writing, it underpins my quirky detective novel Phoenix: Supersensitive.
And in the other strand of my career… I devised, wrote and taught creative writing courses in Writing For Film and Television, Life Writing and Historical Fiction for the University of Exeter’s Continuing Education Department. I also became an Associate Lecturer for the Open University, teaching their degree level course.
And I began to do what I considered some weird stuff… (which now strikes me as the most natural stuff I’ve ever done in my entire life.)
Writing in the controlled conditions of my office, nature started calling to me. So, I unchained myself from the desk and broke out of the office. I lived, for extended periods, in a tent on a beach in South Devon, and then in a cave in the Canaries. I have never been as happy as I was then, waking up to the sound of the waves, and going to sleep by the light of the moon.
After six years in Devon, I upped sticks and moved to a wilder place, the mountains of the Pyrenees in France. To cut a long story short, I’d underestimated the challenge of living on top of a mountain, surrounded by not one, but two languages I didn’t speak, with a new baby. On the plus side, life here has been, and continues to be, a hugely rich immersion into wildness, in nature, in the human being, and in the writer.
Integrating my personal experiential work with body-based psychotherapy principles (Somatic Experiencing, Gestalt, Focusing) as well as evolutionary psychology, and ecopsychotherapy, what came roaring out, was Wild Words. It’s courses for people who love words, through which, according to the London School of Economics I’m revitalising traditional creative writing teaching. I’ve taught a literary festivals throughout the UK, and published articles on the subject. Whenever I can, I welcome wordsmiths to the South of France.
More about Wild Words here.
Things I will never forget: Swimming like as a seal, far out in the wild North Sea. The feeling of carrying a baby inside me. When England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003.
Things I love: My family. My friends. Dolphins. Eating fruit fresh from the stem, whilst naked. Thai food. French village life.
Things I miss: My Grandmother, Margaret, and my father, Simon, who have died. My family and friends who live in the UK. Marmite and crumpets, oh, and carpets in houses, and soft green lawns (don’t get me started!)
Fiction-wise, my novel Phoenix: Supersensitive continues to take shape. My non-fiction work is now focused upon the broader theme of Re-wilding the Self and my work How to Live a Wild Life. I’m exploring in poetry how my words can jump off the page in all their full-blooded aliveness. Simultaneously, I’m somewhat obsessively chasing down a train of thought, in which the following acts as my manifesto and rallying call:
We see the animal part of ourselves as base, aggressive, unpredictable, and dangerous. We fear that, if released, it will destroy our self or another. But what if that weren’t true? What if the opposite were true? What if connection with it were the way to, not only survival, but thriving? The evidence is all around us, but we’re not seeing it. We only have to start listening to know the direction to go. It’s all about reconnection, with ourselves, and our world. It’s about coming alive, and being fully engaged with this beautiful world.
Wish me well. I hope to meet you on the mountain.