In today’s installment of the Ten Times to Be Happy Challenge we turn our attention to works of art – paintings, film, television, books, music etc. – and look at which ones have had a particularly life-altering impact on my life. Starting with the obvious…
Doctor Who (1963-Present)
My love affair with Doctor Who began during the show’s twenty-fifth anniversary, when I watched the story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. Little did I know then that this television series would go on to become one of the most important works of art in my life.
For twenty-seven years now this show has been the source of tremendous comfort, inspiration and excitement. It has soothed my soul through countless depressive episodes, been there to support me when I’ve contemplated suicide and stood by me during periods of intense self harm.
For two-thirds of my life I have had the good Doctor and his assortment of companions to guide me through life’s ups and downs. I seriously couldn’t comprehend my life without Doctor Who. It is in my blood. It is part of my DNA. And I will love it until my final, dying breath.
And now a flashback to 1988, and a clip from the very first Doctor Who story that I remember watching:
Quest for a Kelpie (1986)
It began, as far as I was concerned, with the fight.
At midday one Friday, about the beginning of September 1743, a month before my tenth birthday, my mother called me in. As there had been no fishing for a week because of storms, there was no fish to take up the country, and I had a bit leisure to play with my little brother Isaac and the twins. Not Ellen, of course. She had her own friends, always.
“Come in, Jeannie,” mam called. “Away over with your dad’s bite. You can take the wee one with you, an’ be sure he takes no harm. Now mind an’ dinna spill it or I’ll skelp you.”
“Aye, mam,”I said. I knew fine she wouldn’t – if anybody skelped me it would be my dad.
How did this work of art change me? This book made me want to be a writer. What more can I say?
This filmed changed my understanding of what great cinema is. Before I watched it I was gorging on a diet of Hollywood blockbusters and cheesy romantic comedies. Until I watched this, film was just a sugary snack, something to munch on when you felt depressed. But watching this masterpiece of direction made me realise that film didn’t have to be a snack, it could be a hearty main meal. This film set me off on a journey that took in some of the great artists of motion picture history; Welles, Altman, Truffaut, Wilder, to name but a few. This film began my love affair with Hitchcock, a relationship that has been ongoing for twenty odd years now. It changed the way I viewed film, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Is a video game a work of art? Let’s end this insipid date here and now: of course it is! And this video game, this inspirational, incredible, breathtaking journey, is without question, without argument or debate, the greatest video game ever made. From the moment I placed the cartridge into my trusty N64 back in 1998 I was blown away by the commitment put into this work of art by its talented team. The graphics, the music, the design, the everything!
This is one of those journey’s that you simply have to take in life, so if you haven’t already done so, do it now. Stop reading this blog post this very second and travel to your nearest video game store, pick up a 3DS and copy of the game, and play it immediately. You will not be disappointed.
One Tree Hill (2003-2012)
In late 2010 I had been sleeping rough for eighteen months. Throughout that long, brutal period of time there was little in my life worth writing home about. Joy, happiness, inspiration…everything had deserted me. It was just me, surviving through each horrible, endless day. Then a homeless service offered me a place in a boarding house. I jumped at the chance to get off the streets and merrily made my way to the northern suburbs of Melbourne to check out my new ‘home’. It was a cupboard. There were no windows. No natural light. But it was a room to sleep in. A chance to get off the streets.
Shortly after moving in, depression took hold. I found it difficult to rouse myself from bed, spending entire days laying face down in my cupboard, unable to summon any strength for normal, day-to-day activities. I took solace in a succession of DVDs that I’d borrowed from the local library. Veronica Mars, 24, Supernatural, all were devoured as time-killing measures, all acted as white noise for my pointless existence. Until I placed into the drive the first disc of season one of One Tree Hill. Within six episodes I was hooked. Within one season I was a rabid fan.
I fell head over heels in love with the lives and adventures of the high-schoolers of Tree Hill. Peyton became an object of intense lust and admiration. Hayley, and her singing, soothed my troubled soul. Whilst I promptly decided that, were it possible to date fictional characters, Brooke would be my soul mate. But it was the shows writing that enticed me more than my carnal desiring of its female stars. Episode after episode the dialogue and interaction of the characters blew me away, with entire episodes devoted to exploring character and their relationships. Something I had never seen in a television show before.
After watching four seasons back to back, I left my cupboard for the first time in four weeks, desperate for seasons five and six. Watching that show provided me with a renewed zest for life. It inspired me to return to writing. It forced me to reevaluate my decisions and where I was heading. Without One Tree Hill I would be dead. I’m not saying that to be over dramatic, I’m saying it because it’s true. One Tree Hill saved me from myself. And for that, I will forever worship and adore Mark Schwahn’s poignant creation.
Not my top 10 One Tree Hills scenes, but the top 10 scenes of a fellow YouTuber:
The Pioneer (1904)
This is my favourite painting of all time. I first saw it not long after arriving in Australia, whilst exploring the lengthy hallways of the National Gallery of Victoria. From my first viewing of this intricate, soulful piece of art, I was transfixed. I wanted to know more about the couple, about their life and family. I wanted to know how they survived each day and what drove them toward a better, brighter future.
When I became homeless in 2007 it took on an even deeper meaning, for I could relate to the various stages of their life. The first panel with them sleeping rough, dreaming of a better future, was exactly how I felt during those first months of being homeless. Whereas the second panel, and the start of the couples family, reflected my own dream of family and togetherness. Whilst the grief (and change) reflected in the third panel mirrored the changes and grief that I knew would follow me throughout my life.
It is a magnificent piece of art and, in my humble opinion, should be regarded alongside the Mona Lisa or The Kiss.
Memory and Dream (1994)
But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.
How did 50pence change my life? It’s not a huge amount of money, it’s pretty negligible, if truth be told. But in late 2001, my life was changed by this paltry amount of money.
I was perusing a charity shop in Inverness, on my way to work another tedious shift at the YHA, when I saw Memory and Dream peeking at me from the bookcase. It was only 50pence, a bargain, so I took it to the counter and purchased it immediately. The author, a Canadian, had been recommended to me by my friend Deborah, and I had been on the lookout for him for months, so finding such a bargain was a stroke of good fortune.
That night at work, given it was quiet because of the off-season, I settled down to read my new purchase. Within minutes I was spellbound. Charles de Lint has a way with words that few other writers can match. He is lyrical, spinning wondrous stories populated by charismatic, compassionate characters. You genuinely care about the people de Lint writes about. They get under your skin. They make your heart hurt.
But it’s not just because Memory and Dream is a remarkable story that it makes this list. No. Memory and Dream did something no other book had ever done. It made me realise that there was a market for the sorts of stories that my soul wanted to tell. I was forever blending the mythical and magical with the humdrum of contemporary life, but until I read Memory and Dream, I didn’t realise there was a name for it; Urban Fantasy.
That’s how 50pence changed my life.
The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses (1926)
This painting used to fascinate me when I was younger. I was drawn to it by the vibrant colours, sharp angles and subject matter. For better or worse, this piece of art has probably changed my life more than any other, for it was instrumental in setting me off on my journey with kink; a journey that I have been traversing for over thirty years now.
The Stamping Ground (2001)
The first single I ever brought was Naked, by British pop starlet Louise. A particularly loathsome piece of music that I purchased only because my teenage self wanted to imagine Louise stark naked. The first album I ever brought was Naked, by British pop starlet Louise. A particularly loathsome collection of music that I purchased only because my teenage self wanted to imagine Louise stark naked. But the first album I brought that actually resonated with me, that I brought for reasons other than teenage lust, was Runrig’s The Stamping Ground. And it blew my mind. There was actually music out there that spoke to me, that made my soul sing and my heart quiver. Runrig has gone on to become my favourite musical act of all time. Their songs resonate within me more than any other. Their music has formed the soundtrack of my life. Without them, I wouldn’t be Addy.
My favourite song from the album The Stamping Ground, performed live in 2014:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Little did I know that wintry January day that reading a magazine would change my life. I was browsing the shelves of Forbidden Planet, a comic and genre store in Cardiff, when I picked up the latest issue of SFX. Flicking through the pages I stumbled upon a review for a brand spanking new television series called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The review was favorable so I decided to keep an eye out for it.
A few days later I was flicking through the various television channels when I came upon an episode of the said television series. It was the fourth episode – Teacher’s Pet – so I watched it to see if I agreed with the magazine review. I did. I was taken by the characters, the sparkling dialogue and blend of fantasy and reality. So it became weekly viewing and, by the end of the first season, I was obsessed.
Like Doctor Who, Buffy has changed my life because it saw me through some of the trickiest, more painful, chapters of my life. It was there for me during the loneliness and depression of post-school life. It was there for me when I decided to take a chance and go traveling. And it was there for me when I made the even bigger decision to emigrate to Australia.
But after it played an integral part of my abusive relationship, I wasn’t able to watch Buffy. It became a trigger for me. A source of pain and frustration. An endless reminder of the trauma my abuser had put me through. For years I wanted to watch it, but couldn’t. And I thought it would be relegated to the dusty archives of my life; the show I used to cherish but can no longer relish. But earlier this year I decided to face my trigger head on. I missed Buffy. I missed Willow and Tara. I missed the sage-like advice of Giles. So I curled up with some chocolate and endeavored to watch every episode; to relive one of the greatest television journeys ever made. It did trigger me, I’ll be honest about that, but I got through it. All 144 episodes were watched, all 144 episodes were enjoyed. And I found my love of this show hadn’t dwindled.
It will, like Doctor Who and One Tree Hill, remain one of the most influential television series of my life.
A fan’s collection of favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer moments. let’s be honest. All moments are awesome!
So there we have it. Ten works of art, picked out of millions, that have changed my life. But what about you? What works of art have changed your life for the better (or worse)? I’d love to know! :)