I watched Joanna Lumley's Siberian adventure last night, complete with pictures of her as a model in Moscow in the 60s. I was a model then, too, and she and I are almost the same age. What happened? How did she go on to become an actor and celebrity while I stayed in total obscurity? No, I'm not bitter, just stating a fact. I'd even featured on the front page of the Evening Standard (London based national newspaper, for those who don't know) in my professional acting debut at the age of 15. Sunk without trace.
I went on to marry Brian Cookman, who, when I met him, was an advertising executive with EMI Records. He then went on to help set up the London office of Rolling Stone Magazine with Jann Wenner and Andrew Bailey. To the dismay of a lot of my family and friends, he turned professional musician a couple of months before we married. There was a record contract, single, EP and album releases and then - nothing. This isn't unusual, as anyone in the business will tell you, but other people around at the same time did rather well.
Broke and living in the depths of the Cambridgeshire countryside, I persuaded Brian to go to what is now called an open-mic gig at a local folk club, while I sat at home with our baby daughter. This started a whole new spike in his career, one of the highlights of which was becoming the most popular Main Stage compere at Ken Woollard's Cambridge Folk Festival, and the only one up to that point who received encores! He was funny - very funny - and a talented songwriter and singer, and Fred Wedlock, Mike Harding and Jasper Carrott made quite a good thing out of doing the same thing... Yes, he knew them all.
A few years later and living back in London, he persuaded some musician friends to join him to make an album. (Yes, there are still copies available.) Another kind friend backed him, and off we went. He even dedicated it to my recently deceased Dad. You've guessed it.
We ended up with four children.
The boys both play, and Miles fronts two bands and is very nearly as funny as his father. Leo is turning into a multi-instrumentalist and is a talented writer still struggling (in his attic in Brighton) to make his mark. They are both songwriters, too, and in my opinion, the equal of many of the current crop.
The reason that this an apologia is to explain why, with all the admitted talent in the family (not mine, the real Cookmans), not one of them has achieved the recognition that some of their peers have done. They just aren't pushy. Showy, yes. Sociable, definitely. BUT. We are all, actually, rather SHY. Yeah, go on, laugh. But we are. My Penn side (my maiden name) is exactly the same, so my poor kids had no chance. We've all tried to overcome this with some success, but it peeps out occasionally, and of course, it makes it impossible to push ourselves. We like someone else to do it, and although we all, as the current deplorable phrase goes, "Big Up" each other we're not really very good at it. Social media appears to exist for the purpose of promotion, and I have to use it in my job, but I know I don't use it to its full potential.
So, if anyone would like to - er - Big Up the Cookman siblings, they're welcome. They won't do it themselves.