SELF IMAGE

"Although I do believe in my heart of hearts that anything is possible, I have always been unsure of my ability. Conseqently I am a rather scared person, although I cover it up by appearing very confident.

I try to give myself the courage to realise my own potential. As a child I was very shy and my parents never really pushed me to be an achiever. They had ambitions for themselves but felt it was better to keep children in their place. I was never hurt or damaged by my childhood and my parents definitely wanted the best for me and my younger brother, but they were very nice, ordinary, respectable people and didn't really know how to help us achieve our potential.  

At school a teacher once told me that I may not have been the best singer in the school but I  was certainly the loudest, and that really hurt me. But I knew that I was good and I always had an underlying feeling that I had to make it and that if I didn't I would always regret it. Most of my confidence in my ability is fed into me from other sources - friends and family, although as I've grown older I have got better at relying on myself.

I used to worry about everything and about what people thought of me, but now I think: 'To hell with it, if people don't like me they don't like me, and there's nothing I can do about it.'
I can't believe performers who say they don't suffer from stage fright - I'm witless with nerves before I go on stage. The feeling that you must be good all the time is quite exhausting. It is a conflict within most performers. We're shy and yet we go out there demanding praise and approval. Let's face it, if we were totally well-adjusted, why would we ask for approval from hundreds of people every night?

Last year I turned 50 and was amazed by how little that affected me - nothing dropped off and I didn't look any different from how I normally perceive myself. Sometimes I wish I was still 18 years old but really I think I look better now than ever.

I'm boney and angular and have a fat tummy but I'm quite laid back about the way I look. I'm not a great one for glamour. I can turn it on when I need to but I wouldn't want to have to be eternally glamorous. I salute Joan Collins from the bottom of my slingbacks, but I honestly don't think I have the energy to look as glamorous as she does all the time.


I have a country house, a career, a husband, three children and a life to run, and I just haven't got the time to put on that amount of make-up every day. I like the fact that I don't have to worry about putting my make-up on before I go out to the supemarket.

But the depressing thing is that when I am in the supermarket, looking my very worst with no make-up on and my hair standing on end, someone usually comes up to me and says: 'Aren't you Barbara Dickson?'

I try to look after myself - I eat reasonably well, never smoke and don't drink too much. About ten years ago I started dabbling with food combinations. It's not quite the Hay diet but it's similar, and I find it a marvellous way to eat. I haven't eaten meat or chicken for 26 years. I eat a bit of fish and dairy produce but, generally, I eat very simple food - a lot of fruit, a lot of salads and lots of water.

Health-wise I go through phases of trying things out. I have a dodgy shoulder and my head doesn't turn very well to the left, so occasionally I will go and see a cranial ostepath for treatment. I pulled a ligament in my arm about six months ago and went to see an acupuncturist for the first time. The acupuncture worked at the time, although the problem has come back so I will probably go for another session. Generally, I tend to prefer alternative therapies. I don't like to take drugs of any kind. I hate antibiotics and I'm a firm believer that you take them only when you desperately need them.

Spiritually, I've changed a great deal in the past few years, mostly down to becoming a Catholic. I wanted my family to have a far stronger religious context and so decided to lead from the front. Anyway, I've always been a very spiritual person. Becoming a Catholic hasn't improved or changed my life but it has given my spiritual nature a focus.

From about the age of 17 I think I have been what you would call a closet Catholic. In times of stress and worry, wherever I have been, I have always sought out a Catholic church to sit down and quietly contemplate. I don't feel comforted by Christianity - very often I feel quite sad at the bad things that go on in the name of religion - but it does give you a roundness of personality in things other than the temporal.

So much goes on of a practical and material nature that I don't think it does anybody any harm to pray and think and meditate and do something that isn't involved with making the dinner or money.

Committing yourself to something like Catholicism is very difficult. It is a fundamental commitment that you musn't renege on. A lot of people don't want to make those commitments nowadays and it can be very scary, such as getting married, for example.

I can remember being terribly frightened when I got married. Not because I didn't want to do it, but because of the importance of it. I was in my mid-30's and my husband Oliver, who is 11 years younger, was also nervous because he was so young.

But he has been a marvellous husband to me. He is a wonderful foil for me when I'm doing my headless chicken act - which I do a lot. He is not particularly calm, but compared with me he's like Mahatma Gandhi.

We will have been married for 14 years this August and I think we notice the age difference less now than we did. The advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages. What I've learned about marriage is that it's really all about listening and not judging. It astonishes me that so many people who are married throw in the towel so early on.

Because I got married in my mid-30's, I knew I wanted to have only one husband. I didn't ever want to get divorced. And it's been a pleasure for me to have been married to Oliver all this time. We have three children - Colm, 11, Gabriel, nine, and Archie, eight - and like any other working mother, life is very difficult keeping all the balls up in the air and, occasionally, coping when they all crash down about my head.

I adore my children and having them has given me a very different perspective on my life. So what if I don't get a job that I really want? It's only an inconvenience, not a tragedy. As long as my children are happy and healthy, that's all I care about. The good thing about being the age that I am is that I only look forward - I never look back. I've been a folk singer, a pop star for ten years and now, in middle age, I've become a chanteuse/actress.

When I was in "Band Of Gold", people looked at me in a different way and now that I'm doing my one-woman show playing 30 different characters, hopefully they will see new maturity in my voice and approach.

People ask me what has been the highlight of my career - having hit songs like "I Know Him So Well" and "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" or winning an Olivier Award for "Blood Brothers" - and I tell them it hasn't happened yet.

I don't want to talk about winning an Olivier Award in 1983 - I want to talk about winning an Olivier Award in 1999. That's how I feel about my life. I've still got so much to look forward to."



"Daily Mail", May 1998. Interview by Lester Middlehurst.






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