It’s funny what you think about when you can’t sleep, isn’t it? The other night I found myself remembering the bedsits I rented in London when I was young while – not very successfully – trying to pursue a theatrical career. 

There was a nice but noisy place in Earls Court, a miniscule lodging in Little Venice, a death trap of a room above a greasy takeaway on Fulham Road and a short let in Willesden Green which I shared with a colony of mice.

Next, my mind moved on to the ‘in between’ jobs I took when theatre work was thin on the ground. These included demonstrating Fisher Price toys in Hamleys, being a tea lady at Thames TV and more stints as a barmaid than I can count. 

And, as I looked back, I realised that these different forms of employment taught me a lot. Certainly, in the pubs, I had to learn quickly how to cope, pleasantly, with difficult customers, and that’s been quite useful!

I fell asleep again eventually, but in the morning, I was still dwelling on the past, and in particular on those relatives I’d loved most.

There was my favourite aunt who was a wonderfully warm woman with the most beautiful smile.

My paternal grandad, who’d had no schooling after the age of 12, but who had huge drive and energy and made a success of various small businesses. I always enjoyed being in his company. 

Then my other grandfather, who worked in the shipyards in Glasgow, had a passion for showbusiness, and saved up all year to take his annual holiday in London so he could go to as many shows and plays as possible.

Once I was old enough, he took me as well. 

And it was with him that I went into many famous theatres for the first time, including Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where we saw the original cast of My Fair Lady. I still tingle all over when I remember the joy of watching that with him.

I feel now these three relatives live on in me somehow. And I am glad and grateful to have spent time thinking about them afresh.

Next, my trip down memory lane took me to my school days. I imagine many of you have a teacher to thank for opening your mind to new possibilities. I definitely do. Her name was Mrs Skuse. She taught at my primary school and was a marvellous musician. I adored her, though she could be terrifying.

Back then, I was having piano lessons with an old guy my parents knew. To be honest, they were shockingly bad. Somehow, Mrs S got wind of this and decided, without asking anyone – including my parents – or expecting payment or thanks, to take me under her wing and coach me herself. 

Because of her efforts, I was awarded a place on Saturday mornings at the junior department of the Guildhall School of Music. This changed my life forever.

I’ve no idea what sparked off these memories, but as a consequence of re-visiting them,

I’ve decided to tell my younger relatives some of my experiences – having realised that few people alive today were part of them. I’ve also begun a written record, which has encouraged even more delving.

We all know of course that if we don’t share details of our past with others, they’ll be forgotten. So perhaps this festive season would be a good time for you to tell younger relations all about what you got up to when you were younger, and what experiences turned you into the person you’ve become.

Sadly, the oral tradition of story-telling – fiction or fact – around the fireplace has largely gone. But why don’t we revive it this Christmas? 

I know many individuals these days investigate their ancestors via the internet and also that, courtesy of mobile phone cameras, we have countless visual reminders of how we live now.

However, I believe we need the power of words to flesh out the reality of the people, places and things that have shaped us.

I bet your younger family members would love to hear about Christmases when you were young, or about your first day at school, a childhood pet, a teacher who guided you, an early love who showed you how special you are, or a boss who promoted and supported you.

They will know you better through finding out more about you – and in time may understand themselves more too. After all, you are a living influence on them, and in their DNA.

And maybe, like me, you’ll consider writing some of this down to preserve the memory of those folk who helped you on your way, and to give you a laugh as you recall some of the scrapes you’ve been in.

It will also remind you of just how much you’ve done, and how amazing you have been in coping with life’s ups and downs. 
Most importantly, it will give you extra confidence to carry on achieving in the future.