What feels like a million years ago, my first real boyfriend took me to the cinema to see Bridget Jones' Diary (he told me we were going to see a far more blokey film and I nearly had an over sentimental weep when he confessed that he was actually indulging my extreme girliness, by taking me to what was essentially, a "chick flick"). In the opening scenes, we see Bridget, a little tipsy, sitting alone on her sofa, wearing her pyjamas, singing/miming along to All By Myself in a dramatic fashion. Sitting beside me, my ex's shoulders began to jiggle up and down. Then a big giggle burst out of his lips. Before long, he was laughing out loud, to the point where I thought "maybe he wanted to see this film more than I did..." But then he turned to me - still chuckling - and said: "That is so you."
He was right. Sadly, he was also hugely prophetic, seeing as all these years later, I am currently single and have been known to wear novelty PJs, drink wine and warble along to power ballads... But he was referring to the tendency to totally (and dramatically) lose myself in singing and he was utterly spot on.
Ever since I was little, music has been a passion. And from listening to music, came my love of singing along to it.
My mum has a really nice voice. When I was a little girl, she'd play old vinyl albums and sing along to them and I absolutely loved to listen to her. Even now, when we sing together in the car, I find myself thinking what a sweet tone she has.
As I became more familiar with the songs mum played, I started singing along. The Beatles, The Carpenters and several other bands who were technically "before my time" became my staples and I'd practise singing their songs in my room. When I was only around eight or nine, I sang a duet with my mum at a karaoke night in London, whilst visiting my grandparents. We sang For All We Know by The Carpenters. It was the first time I'd really sung in public and I was buzzing, afterwards. I had been so nervous as I went up to take the mic, but as soon as the music ended, I wanted to do it all over again.
As I got older and more into musicals, I started experimenting with different styles of singing. I was too scared to have singing lessons (I thought I'd be told I was rubbish), so I taught myself how to sing from the diaphragm, when to use a "head voice" and when to use a "chest voice" and I taught myself harmonies. I even sang scales to myself, in an effort to increase my range. I toyed with the idea of doing music or drama at GCSE/A-level and going off to study musical theatre at university. I had big plans to join a choir, or an Am Dram group.
Sadly, once I started secondary school and was bullied to the point of severe depression, my confidence crashed through the floor. I didn't believe in myself enough to even contemplate taking my love of singing any further. I eventually joined a couple of choirs, but I never tried out for a solo.
But whilst my rather lofty dreams of being on stage might have been shattered, my love for singing never dimmed. It simply became less about practising for an audition I'd never be brave enough to attend and more about liberating myself from my self-imposed shackles.
When you lose your confidence, you stop yourself doing a lot of things you want to do. But when you sing - and I mean really belt, not caring who's listening - it's one of the most freeing things in the world. All of that pent-up emotion comes spilling out. All of your troubles disappear in amongst harmonies and choruses. You're not that quiet, shy person who doesn't dare say boo to a goose. You're a Diva.
By the time I reached my late teens, my sister had taught herself to play guitar and had become really good at it. She had (and has!) a great singing voice and we'd "jam" together for hours, recording covers and writing songs of our own. For a while, we were in a band with a friend who played drums (although we never played a "gig" - we were too busy recording demos and writing our own stuff!). I still have a cassette tape of a recording session we did one lunchtime in the music studios at school and I absolutely treasure it.
Nowadays, singing is just something I do for me. I'll have a glass or two of wine and fire up karaoke videos on YouTube. I can easily lose a couple of hours that way, trying everything from show tunes to rock ballads and anything in between. And yes, I am that girl you pull up alongside at traffic lights, only to find I'm belting along to whatever I'm listening to in the car, with no regard for who might hear. Because I don't care - singing makes me so happy, so liberated, that I don't stop to worry about what I sound like. Not too often, anyway.
I don't have the best voice in the world. I make the odd flat sound and there are definitely high notes that I can no longer hit (years of using inhalers for my asthma has dried my throat out and left me a lot more raw than I ever used to be, sadly). But when I lose myself in a song, I'm having fun and I'm feeling free. That's what it's all about, as far as I'm concerned.
I might actually be Bridget Jones, these days, but when I sing, I'm a Diva and the whole world is my stage.