‘For a person without much education I’m good with words’
1980s pop icon Alison Moyet narrowly escaped a life of dead-end jobs – and is proud her own children have had a world of opportunity
What is your earliest memory? I was at a child minder’s when I was about two. I was sitting on the floor alone in her empty living room and on the wall she had a moulded plate of a watermill scene. I remember thinking life was happening inside it. I’ve been looking for that scene ever since.
When did you last feel really happy? Yesterday. I went to the studio to rehearse, only this time I took the bus from the bottom of my road. Life felt straightforward. I was going to work to do some singing and I was a part of the real world and I could see the sea. How brilliant is that?
How do you relax? It is not how I relax; it is how to motivate myself. Relaxing comes easily; my job is punctuated by a lot of waiting so you learn to be still and patient. I can relax in a dentist waiting room. I read, watch rubbish telly and brilliant films. I walk the lanes and the seafront. I bathe till my fingers look like Nora Batty’s stockings.
What has been your biggest achievement? Defying a life without prospects. I dropped out of school and into short, ill-paid jobs in which I also failed to shine. Changing that for my children is a source of great pleasure; they’ve accomplished so much more than me and have choices that I did not.
And your biggest disappointment? That I have not been able to undo the baggage I carry. Those close to me would say I think too much. I deconstruct everything and it’s exhausting. Not only am I floored by unkindnesses but anything I’ve done that hurts someone else haunts me for years. What are you best at and what would you like to be better at? I am good at affection and forgiveness. And for someone without much education I’m good with words. But I’m bad with admin. I’d like to be better in emergencies, too. My daughter was once howling with pain in the early hours. My husband took control... I fell over because the noise made me faint.
What is your best and worst characteristic? I’m emotionally generous; I don’t withhold and I see beauty in everyone. My worst is self-loathing. I feel ridiculous and odd. My knowledge of current affairs is woeful and my memory like a colander. I withdraw into invisibility so those I love don’t know they are in my thoughts: I don’t like this about myself.
Who do you most admire? People cool enough not to need bolstering by association. I have a friend who adores a particularly naff act, and she’ll proclaim it in a withering crowd. I love someone brave enough to moon at the fashion police.
What is your most treasured possession? I don’t care much about things. I don’t own anything I couldn’t bear to lose. But that said, I like my coffee maker.
Who are you closest to? I’m closest in different ways to many people... but I am at my most naked with my husband.
Describe the best night of your life.
My son’s wedding: food, dancing, family and love. The sun shone all day and it was wonderful to catch up with my ex-husband and his beautiful wife and, together with my husband, David, it was a delight for us all to see our lad marry his darling girl.
What is your biggest fear? Dementia. I have seen Alzheimer’s affect a number of people in my family. It’s cruel for the subject and everyone around them.
What is your favourite word and why? ‘Yes’ is brilliant unless it’s the answer to ‘Am I an a**ehole?’
What is your motto?
‘The sooner we get on, the sooner we get off.’
What was the last show you loved? Dexter, Six Feet Under, Nurse Jackie, The Office, Extras. Anything with Alan Partridge. What was the last gig you went to? I don’t really like going to gigs. I get anxious. My last gig was my own.
What would your dream dinner date be? Back at my parents’ table with my siblings, on a happy day, like Easter. The tablecloth came out, Dad bought lemonade and there was no shouting, Mum cooked and they were both well. Then the ice- cream van stopped and we got a raspberry ripple block and it ended with Jason And The Argonauts on the telly.
What is the last thing you want to say?
What? Ever? ‘Morphine!’ Alison Moyet plays the Cork Opera House tomorrow, Belfast Waterfront Hall on Tuesday and The Olympia, Dublin, on Wednesday. Her new single, Changeling, is out on 14 October