There have always been good singing voices in our family as we are from Welsh stock. My mum and her dad had wonderful voices and, as far back as I can remember, I also sang. It was just a part of our lives.
I was born in a little town 60km outside of London and we came over here as ten-pound Poms. My parents were in search of new horizons and new opportunities. As my gran’s mother lived in Orange, we moved there after we arrived.
In infants’ school, I had a pure boy soprano voice and was picked out to sing all the solos. We were pretty poor and I went to a rough school, which was vile.
The whole poofter-bashing and name-calling aspect to my life started in those years. It was really tough and I was so miserable, but music was like the one light in my life and is what concentrated on.
The highlight of those years was being in a show called The Lark about Joan of Arc, and I played the boy soprano, holding a giant silver crucifix. That was the first time I had the feeling I would be happy to do this for the rest of my life. I was 12.
By the end of high school, my focus became visual art and I studied painting, jewellery and silver-smithing at art college in Wagga.
While there, I also got back into singing and became the vocalist with the army base Kapooka Big Band. I then entered the national Starquest TV competition and came third.
By this time, I was living in Melbourne and began singing lessons. Once I got to know more about music, I decided to enrol in a music degree and studied for another three years. I landed my first professional job as a performer with the Victorian State Opera in a kids’ opera based on Babar The Elephant.
It was a turning point for me, knowing that I could do this as a career. Then came a tour of HMS Pinafore and another tour with the Australian Opera. After that, I felt ready to go to London.
In the UK, I landed some classical work and then the musical Showboat. Backstage, I would sometimes do Shirley Bassey impersonations, and at one concert I sang Bassey’s Never, Never, Never. I found doing drag so liberating and an out-of-body experience.
Later, I did Shirley again for an AIDS benefit, and was offered a season of my own show of doing divas in drag. The thought of it freaked me out as I had only ever done it for fun, but I now wish I had done something with it as it could have been really good.
I did other musicals in the UK, like Orpheus In The Underworld, She Loves Me and Marry Me A Little, but then decided to come home. I thought if I can’t do roles that I find challenging, I would rather not do it at all, but I also never felt like I fitted into city life and longed to be back in a natural environment.
I returned to Sydney and did Follies and A Little Night Music, but I didn’t want to be in the city any longer. I moved to the Blue Mountains for two years, and then went into a mid-life crisis funk as I knew I wanted something deeper spiritually but I just didn’t know what I was looking for.
So, I put a personal ad in Sydney Star Observer as I wanted to meet someone, a soul mate, to share a life with. One day, Mike read the ad and it turned out he lived five minutes down the road. I knew when I met him he was someone special. After a few months, I moved in.
At the end of our first year together, we wanted to get a country property. During a road trip, we came across this beautiful 10-hectare property with a creek running though it near Tenterfield. We walked to the top of the hill, looked down into the valley and both said yes. Two months later, we moved in.
It was a huge leap of faith for us, as we had no idea how to support ourselves. It took three months to get the house in order and we had to do everything ourselves to fix it up. Together, we just worked it out. We are now totally self-sufficient as the electricity for the hot water comes from the solar panels and heating is from the wood fire stove. The only bill we get is for the telephone.
I have never felt so at home anywhere else. In all the years before, I never felt I belonged, but this makes me feel connected to somewhere. I think it is also because we are making it together and are building it from the ground up.
Four months after moving here, jobs as carers came up for a quadriplegic teenager. We were accepted to be a part of the team who care for him three days a week. He was 16 at the time and now, three years later, we are still working with him and he is back at school and doing really well.
It has been a real journey. Mike and I are really in sync and know we want the same things from life. I feel I have come full circle, as I have returned to my art and we are painting and making silk screens. Singing is no longer a part of my life, for the time being anyway.
Being a gay couple in Tenterfield has been uncomplicated. Everyone knows who we are and we know of about 40 other gay people in the region, so we are not the only gays in the village. Small communities are getting more diverse and interesting now. I think we are only doing what a lot of others are thinking of doing.
Interview by John Burfitt