These are my heroes, those who in their different ways have inspired me:

  • Patti Smith - "high priestess of punk", writer, musician, with me since my student days; always over the top, pretentious - but listen to Piss Factory

  • Sokny Say - Cambodian trade union organiser, friend, feisty and loyal; four leaders of her union were assassinated during the 2000s 

  • Tsutomu Yamaguchi - "double nuclear bombed" at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, anti nuclear and anti war activist until he died aged 93 in 2010

  • Helen Jimenez - trade unionist, activist, mother; my co-worker when I was a VSO volunteer in the Philippines, still true to her beliefs after 25 years

  • Paul Kossoff - guitarist with Free, my constant teenage companions; all of Free, really, but Kossoff died young, so he became a legend

  • Mervyn Peake - writer, poet, artist. He died too soon. confused in his mind; but he wrote Gormenghast

  • Ho Chi Minh - national liberation leader, he was so much admired by the labour movement in the Philippines, my colleagues and teachers

  • Maria Abichuela - mother of the family I lived with in the Philippines, now dead. Hardly ever left our cramped house, but held it all together

  • Haruki Murakami - the master novelist; try The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 

  • Zafrullah Choudury - doctor, Bangladeshi liberation fighter, head of development agency in Dhaka; when women were prevented from driving, he set up an all-female driving school

  • My Japanese wife Yoshiko - the most compassionate person I've ever known, now a mother

  • Raymond Chandler - no matter how often I read his Marlowe novels, my admiration remains for his humour and humanity (and the Bogart film of the Big Sleep is pretty good too)

  • Jimi Hendrix - 'scuse me while I touch the sky. Better to burn out than to fade away?  

These are some of the people that have helped me through life. Who has helped and inspired you; and who do you need to help you now as you face your current challenges?