Happy New Year 2020

I wrote the first part of this at the end of 2018.

In 2019, I intend to step back even more than I already do from the drama of life. The meaning of life to me, is simply, to live.

So I promise myself I will live my life to the maximum.

To all my family and friends and to those people I have yet to meet, have an unforgettable new year bash, and live your life as if tomorrow never comes.

Happy New Year 🥳

It’s the 30th of December, 2019 and I’ve just finished a 13 hour shift. The long shifts I have worked throughout the year don’t actually fit into the slogan ‘Live your life’ but sometimes life events simply gets in the way of living it the way you originally intended.

This year has a little over 24 hours to run it’s course and it has been very eventful to say the least. As an individual, a couple of friends have passed away. As a family, we have stumbled through a few lightening storms and health scares and come through the other side. Work responsibilities have taken over much of the year. A holiday to Turkey has been the light entertainment for the year.

I faced up to the reality of suffering from anxiety and have learnt to manage it and cope as well as I can.

I found myself crying for no reason other than I felt the need to just let go.

I’ve met (Virtually) some genuine and amazing people here on WordPress and realised my life and the problems I have faced, pale into comparison when I have read some of the incredibly honest and moving life stories on WP.

So, here’s to another year passed and another year yet to reveal itself.

Happy 2020. I hope everyone I talk to and follow on here enjoy a year that’s filled with joy, happiness and realised dreams.

Cheers to everyone

Dad: I never Really Knew Him

I’ve mentioned dad in a few of my previous blogs, and I have to admit, I haven’t really painted him in the best way, mainly because I probably never saw or experienced him at his best. He did many things wrong as a husband and a father, but mum would occasionally talk about him with pride and sometimes, with a little hope in her eyes.

Dad was very vain, taking so, so long to shave and dress himself for a night out. When dad passed away in 1994, my mum was devastated, despite all the heartache dad had caused her throughout their married life, she still loved him with an ingrained passion. Mum knew more than any other member of the family how vain dad was, but we (Me and my siblings) never truly understood how vain he was until mum finally received his birth certificate (Don’t know why she requested it) after his death. His certificate came by post several weeks after the funeral and what was recorded on it even took my mother by surprise. He had always told mum and my mother’s family members that he was born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland in 1918. His birth certificate contradicted his fallacy, stating that he was born in a town called Mullaglass, Northern Ireland in 1914! For a reason that will always remain a mystery, he not only lied about his place of birth, he also took 4 years off his age 🤣 Of course we have hypothesized about his reasons for lying about his age but as for the reason his lied about his place of birth, that has always stumped us.

During one of those rare times he tried to be a father, he would always mention that he had smuggled cigarettes and booze over the border into Southern Ireland during the second world war. I dare not ask him myself but I asked mum why he hadn’t fought during the war. Mum would reply with a shrug of her shoulders and say “How the bloody hell do I know, ask your dad” but I never did. One thing was for certain, he didn’t like the English because he was always raging about being a proud, fighting Irishman when he was drunk and always shouting something about the English man being “Yellow and cowardly”! Yet he would drink with English men, socialising on a very regular basis and of course, he married an English woman!

His sister came to visit him once, travelling from Ireland to stop at our house for a couple of days. During her visit she told my mum a few things about her husband (Dad) that mum knew nothing about. As a family, we knew he could play a violin because he kept one stored away in a cupboard, only taking it out to clean it, tune it and play it for a short time. My auntie told my mum about her father, my grandfather, and how he made tin violins as a hobby and eventually as a means of bringing a little bit of extra money into the household by selling them. Grandad was a skilled violinist, and he taught my dad how to play. Apparently dad took to learning to play very quickly, and became very accomplished in a short space of time. Dad would tune up and play every violin his father made. Dad’s reputation grew and he was sent to a school that specialised in teaching music alongside a regular curriculum. Dad’s brother Tommy also had a natural aptitude for playing the violin, so they practiced and played together in a local orchestra. Someone from the Belfast Philharmonic orchestra spotted them during a visit to the area and they were both invited to audition in Belfast. Unfortunately, things became unstuck, caused by their own stupidity. Not only did dad and Tommy share a love for the violin, they also shared a love for drinking heavily. That being the case, they both turned up for their audition blind drunk. They blew their chance. Whilst Tommy backed away from drinking heavily, dad continued on his lonely course after the disappointment of letting himself down.

I did ask dad about his violin days a few times as I grew up but he would never talk about it, he said it didn’t matter and it was non of my business.

So somewhere in his distant past, I think he must have been happy because he obviously had a love and passion for music. We never experienced love or passion from him (Maybe if we’d all been born looking like violins!) He would do anything for anybody outside of the home, which is why people liked him.

His sister told mum that he never got over his mother’s death, and the drinking took over his life soon after her funeral. He would regularly get drunk and fall asleep on his mother’s grave, always woken up by the guy who looked after the graveyard in the early hours. He would work like a horse to help local farmers and friends, only accepting bottles of alcohol as payment.

So I guess he can’t have been all bad and I often wonder what he would have made of his life if his mum had survived long enough to steer him in the right direction.

I guess dad can’t have been all bad.

Christmas

I won’t get much time over the next few days to come onto WordPress because I’m working today and boxing day and of course, the hussle and bustle of Christmas.

So I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone on here, wherever in the world you are, a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.

Late Swimmer

I was afraid of deep water for the first 39 years of my life. From being a young child, my mother sort of passed her fears onto me. (She never learnt to swim because of her anxiety) Let me start from the beginning. When I was a little 4 year old, I would play on our slum of a back garden (Building site) whilst my brother and sister were at school, and one day, whilst my mum was indoors, I inexplicably decided it would be a jolly good idea to pick up a long piece of roofing slate and plung it into my ear (Clever little bugger) Apparently my screams brought my mum out onto the concrete garden to see blood pouring out of the plundered ear (The right one) with the piece of slate sticking out at right angles, waving hello to mum!

Obviously I can’t remember much about it, it’s just a hazy memory, but mum scooped me up and ran with me dangling under her arm to the hospital. Luckily, we lived a 30 second walk from the town centre, with the hospital a 2 minute walk on the edge of the town, or a 2 minute run.

Anyway, my early attempt at trying to be David Blaine resulted in 2 trips to the hospital every year for a 3 day stay so they could perform a minor operation to enable me to stave off deafness. My yearly trips went on for 12 years until I was 16. By then I was sick and tired of going, so I discharged myself.

So, throughout all of those early years, my mum was advised to keep my right ear as dry as possible (No water) in order to prevent premature deafness. Because of the surgeon’s orders, mum took it quite literally and stopped me from learning to swim out of school, and in school. (You know what’s coming don’t you!)

Of course, the school teachers went along with my mum’s wishes, but at the very first opportunity of going with my mates out of school, I took it. My friends assured me that I would love it, they had got hold of a spare pair of swim shorts and that they would make sure I was safe. (It was a lieeeeeee)

I was having a great time walking around the shallow part of the pool, at last I was joining In with the lads, splashing and jumping around. Then I became a little bit too cocky and decided to walk towards them as they swam off towards the deeper water. I missed my footing, slipped and went under. With my eyes closed, I panicked and started swallowing water. Then I felt my little boy frame being lifted out of the water by a life guard, who placed me gently on dry land by the side of the pool. My friends were having such a good time they had been oblivious to my ‘Near death’ experience. They swam over, made sure I was ok then tried to talk me back into the pool. I was having non of it. From that day, my fear of deep water haunted me.

It wasn’t until I was 39 that I allowed myself to face my fear. My best friend Stuart (Shuffle and click) convinced me that he could teach me how to relax in the water and eventually learn to swim.

So, I placed my 6 foot 3, 19 stone frame into his capable hands and reluctantly trusted him. I walked into the shallow end and felt very silly and self-conscious, I mean, a big lump like me, wading into the shallow end at 30 years old!! To my surprise, the lifeguards didn’t gawp at me like I expected. They watched me intently as I struggled to doggy paddle across the width of the pool, stopping a few times so I could stand up (Waist high!) just to reassure myself I could still touch the bottom! Silly I know, but those nervous feelings took a while to defeat. But I slowly became more confident and better, eventually (After 3 months) able to swim a width without stopping and at a fair old rate of knots.

The day came when, after encouragement from Stuart, I decided to try and swim a length! I was breathing very deeply, becoming out of breath even though Stu was talking to me, trying to calm me down when the senior lifeguard walked by, knelt down beside me and said, very calmly “You’re ready”. I nodded and felt better when he told me he would walk along the side of the pool, holding a pole just in front of me in case I wanted to stop and needed something to grab hold of.

I walked to the shallow end and pushed off. Stuart swam beside me, allowing me enough room for my wide stroke as I kept my eyes on the pole just in front of me. I swam the whole length without faltering and reached the end of the pool quicker than I expected. I had actually swam a length, half of it in deep water! I could do it and I felt amazing! The lifeguard put his thumb up, smiled and asked me if I needed the pole on the swim back. I shook my head, told him I would be ok and set off for the return leg with Stu swimming just behind me.

After a few weeks of building up to swim 10 then 12 then 20 lengths, two or three times a week, we decided to try for a mile and we did it, swimming an extra couple of lengths to make sure we had done it. Swimming that mile happened just before my 40th birthday. I was elated and a little bit proud of myself and proud of Stuart for helping me conquer my fear.

I don’t swim much anymore, mainly because Stuart isn’t in the best of health and I never seem to have much free time, but I still find it surprising that I actually learnt to swim.

Chesterfield Market Town Then

Chesterfield in Derbyshire is/was know nationwide as a historic market town. The market stalls were always a hive of activity, for locals and tourists alike. Over the last few years, many stalls have become unused.

There are plenty of theories as to why it’s popularity has waned. The rise of internet shopping and the rates charged by the local council being the 2 most popular reasons.

The following photographs are Chesterfield market in the 80s.

Sweeping Up For Christmas

From a very early age I went to a Catholic school. My brother and sister, 6 years and 4 years older than me, went to the same school. Every Thursday morning, at 9am, the whole school went to a church service. Even from a very early age, I had no interest in religion, all I wanted to do was play football as soon as the service had ended. Not one of my school friends seemed interested in going to church, so we were marched to church by several teachers who for all I know, had little or no interest in marching us there.

My parents were much the same as the school teachers. Every Sunday, all three of us were made to go to church with mum and dad (When he was sober or not off on one of his jollies) When he wasn’t around, which was often, my mum still forced us to go with her!

This forced religious practice went on for years. However, as my parents marriage became more and more strained, they stopped going on Sundays, but still made me and my siblings go. So, this was an opportunity myself and my brother couldn’t miss. As we watched my sister disappear through the church doors, we would make a detour and go to the nearest football pitch about a 5 minute walk away to watch a Sunday league match. My sister kept our secret for a few years until the day came when I was allowed to make my own choice.

By the time I could make my own choice, my brother had already stopped going for a couple of years before me because of his age, but my sister dutifully remained true to her ‘Faith ‘ but still kept my secret. Then she discovered boys and decided they were much more fun and eventually stopped going.

I was about 13 or 14 (I think) when I was able to inform my mum that I was going to watch the football instead of going to church.

The reason I am recalling my childhood days as a reluctant church goer is because Christmas is approaching. That was the only time I didn’t mind going because of the beautiful Christmas tree in the church and the Christmas carols that replaced the usual hymns that were sung. I also came away from church at gone midnight clutching a selection box, which was a proper treat when I was a kid.

One particular Christmas eve, my sister accompanied my mum and a sober dad to church, leaving me at home alone because I didn’t want to go. When they walked out of the door, I watched the last half of a movie on tv and then started to tidy up before they arrived back home. My mum had left the kitchen looking a bit of a mess because she had been hurriedly baking mince pies and jam tarts, leaving me to clean up after her.

Believe it or not we didn’t own a Hoover. All we had was a very stiff yard brush and one of those push along sweepers that were usually found in caravans before the miracle of electric hookups. So I used the sweeper on the kitchen floor and the yard brush on the living room carpet. It took me a while to make the carpet look plush but I stuck at it until I was happy with it. We didn’t have a stair carpet but I swept the wooden stairs anyway, just to finish the job.

When they arrived back home I didn’t even get a thank you from mum. That was the last time I swept up for mum.

In fact, that was the last Christmas we were all together as a family, and I wasted Christmas eve sweeping the living room carpet.