The 75-year-old poet on feeling lucky, going to mass and his life as a pop star
Poetry isn't sexy. It's a quiet work. I always thought it was only clever or dead people who wrote poetry, but then I realised it was a way for me to settle scores in a funny way. Putting into words what I couldn't and can't say.
I was brought up to believe I was lucky. Even though we were poor, I was lucky to be a Catholic; to be born in Liverpool – everybody wanted to be born in Liverpool! If I complained about my eyesight, my parents would say, "You're lucky you're not blind." My upbringing gave me a sense of confidence even if we didn't have much.
Liverpudlian men don't cry. We may shed a tear on the inside occasionally, but that's about it.
I like being on stage, but I don't like people looking at me. I can't bear the idea of celebrity, but I like to be recognised for my work. My dad always said, "Don't make a fuss or draw attention to yourself" and my mum always said the opposite – perhaps it comes from that.
We don't encourage imagination, especially in schools. We live in a time where everything is based on information, rather than allowing our minds to wander.
Your subconscious can cut memories out to protect you. I remember running across the sand at Seaforth beach when I was three, chasing a red bouncing ball and hearing my aunt scream before picking me up, and her stepping between silver studs in the sand. I'd run into a minefield. There was no red ball – it was the family dog that I had chased and it had been blown up.
My foray into the music world was unlikely. One minute I was a 24-year-old French teacher writing poetry in my spare time, and the next I'd formed the Scaffold with John Gorman and Mike McGear [Paul McCartney's brother], Brian Epstein was managing us and we were on telly with a number-one record.
I've had my doubts about religion, but if I don't go to mass on a Sunday I feel as though something is missing. People are often surprised to find out that I'm a Catholic, but there's a real peace and perspective in it for me.
Women have had a huge influence on who I am. My dad worked on the docks and the rest of the men in the family were in the armed forces, so I spent my childhood surrounded by my mum and aunties who were all gossipy and funny and very chatty.
When you're young, you're terrified. Terrified of ageing; of things changing. But as you get older, you grow into it.
I won't lie – turning 75 is a bit of a shock. I have wondered what I've got going for me now, but then I remember that it's really not important to have anything going for me at this stage.
The world has changed so much in my lifetime. I've gone from minefields to Twitter in 70 years. Perhaps that's why I go jogging, to try and keep up.
As Far As I Know, Roger McGough's latest book of poems, is out now (Viking, £12.99)