My Secret Life: Stella Duffy, Writer, 44


The flat I grew up in... was in a council block in Woolwich, south London, where I watched the 1966 World Cup with my big brother. Aged five, my family and I moved to a little wooden mill house in Tokoroa, New Zealand.

When I was a child I wanted to be... Emma Peel, a trapeze artist, an air hostess, a ballet dancer, a poet, a gymnast, an actor, a writer.

The moment that changed me for ever... was meeting my wife at the Banana Cabaret in Balham on Sunday 30 September 1990, about half an hour before I went on stage. I was there to improvise and to be funny, if possible. She was in the audience, being beautiful.

My greatest inspiration... My mother: she was a London-loving, Walter de la Mare-quoting, theatre-applauding, sharp-tongued, cake-baking, dress-making, cigarette-smoking, brandy-drinking, plant-saving, happily-flirting, full-time working mother of seven.

My real-life villain... all the arms manufacturers. No guns, no gun crime. No land mines, no land mine tragedies. No missiles, no targets. No weapons, no war.

If I could change one thing about myself... I'd be happier with my body shape and size and get over it.

At night I dream of... getting more sleep and not waking up with my neck and hip hurting.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Eyes, teeth, freckles and more white hairs than I'd like.

My style icon... Vivienne Westwood. I would like Vivienne Westwood to take me home and dress me in her own clothes. Please?

My favourite item of clothing... My perfect green, suede, four-inch-heel wedding shoes from Gina.

I wish I'd never worn... the egg-yolk-yellow shift with the bright pink shiny leggings that we made ourselves. And a peacock blue headband, red belt and pink lace gloves: Cyndi Lauper and 1980 have a lot to answer for.

It's not fashionable but I like... TV. Usually good American drama series – though sometimes British; and Dancing on Ice was a big favourite in our house.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... chanting. I've been a Buddhist for 22 years.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... haggling. I hate the very idea of it.

All my money goes on... I have absolutely no idea. I love holidays, but rarely have them. I love eating out, but don't do it enough.

If I have time to myself... I read books instead of writing them.

I drive... my wife's car. I really don't care. It's silver. I like buses – especially when they go over Waterloo Bridge, and trains that stop on Blackfriars Bridge.

Movie heaven... All About Eve, followed by Now, Voyager, followed by Dark Victory and then The Women. And if there's time, How to Marry a Millionaire. The dresses! The hair! The lines! The women in leading roles!

My house is... in dire need of a spare room that would make it so much easier to have all those New Zealanders staying. And a new kitchen wouldn't hurt either.

My most valuable possession is... Financially, I don't have any. I'm not much fussed about "things". Emotionally, it's a toss-up between my father's prisoner of war diary and the few pieces I have of my mother's jewellery.

A book that changed me... Jeanette Winterson's The Passion. At the time, all caught up in only wanting to read women heroes, I didn't think I wanted a male narrator. She was right, it worked brilliantly.

My favourite work of art... The Rothko paintings in Tate Modern for their peace and quiet and their melancholy.

My favourite building... is Tate Modern.

The shop I can't walk past... It's a toss up between L K Bennett and the deli round the corner from Brixton tube. Luckily, they're not very close.

The last album I bought/downloaded... The soundtrack from The Big Easy. Cajun music makes me happy. Even when it's sad.

The person who really makes me laugh... Shelley. My wife, not the poet.

The best invention ever... TV. Well-made, it reminds us we're not the only people on the planet, and we can see – cheaply, easily, in our own homes – what we're doing to ourselves. Now all we need is to do something about it.

In 10 years time, I hope to be... alive. Happy. Healthy. Living with Shelley in central London AND by the sea. The latter ideally miles from anywhere or anyone else.

My greatest regret... Not really being old enough to be friends with my father who died when I was 25 and whom I hadn't seen for two years before he died – we were not estranged, just living in different countries.

My life in seven words... "We're London weeds – we don't give up."

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