Little kettle

I suppose that each great journey begins with one step, but I wish at the moment I could take a few more of them.

It’s been one month and three days without alcohol (Yay!) – which I feel in itself is something of a milestone – but on other fronts I feel I’m not making much progress.

For those following what I’ve been doing so far, some may have noticed my walking updates have been few and far between. Whilst moving about has become easier over the last month since I’ve given up drinking and lost a bit of weight it’s still by no means easy.

Honestly I remain mortally embarrassed by it. I wanted to be further forward and feel more successful, neither of which I feel tonight.

My minor victory (or major victory if I’m forced to put a positive spin on how I feel) so far is that I can now go to do some shopping at a local (small) supermarket and by the time I have finished I only have minor back pain.

Previously this would be severe back pain and trembling until I could be seated again ASAP.

Any distance walking remains frustratingly out of reach though and I’ve had to accept there are real and unavoidable physical limitations that being so heavy imposes. I’ve twice pulled my left calf muscle and had to limp back home – depressingly close to base camp. I also have an odd pain in my right heel since I wrote the new horizon post that makes me limp in the morning.

In an almost farcical turn of events a week ago whilst trying to walk round my block I was stuck for 15 mins about 100ft from my front door sitting on someone’s garden wall in the dark struggling to stand or get my breath.

Home had at the time never seemed so far away.

So a few days ago (I probably should have done this sooner and faced up to reality) I dusted off my exercise bike in the spare room. This is a gym quality piece of fitness kit that a few years ago cost me nearly a grand and a half, when I had similarly lofty fitness aspirations.

I spent so much on it because I was simply too heavy to fit on a bike that ‘normal people’ might use. I’ve lost count of the things that creak and break beneath you when you’re this heavy and I wasn’t taking any chances when this monster was ordered.

I was expecting at the time for the firm to have a specialised delivery team, but instead a poor guy on his own had to manhandle it from his van in a huge cardboard box to my front door before running for the hills after he had his signature. If I’m honest thats probably the hardiest workout anyone has got from it before and since.

For the last few days though I’ve been trying to use it again. This activity is not comfortable either, since I have a rather large gut that gets in the way of cycling, but at least I’m not crippled and can get home after using it.

At the moment its set to ‘normal’ workout, and gives me a mandatory two minute warm up, and then starts a thirty minute countdown for me to stop pedalling.


At the moment I can get to 27 on the counter – so a total of five minutes. This really shouldn’t make me want to drink but it really really does.

Instead of doing it though I’m writing about it, which almost fills the gap.

I’ve recognised that when I fail to constructively fill my time I begin to feel like this. It’s one of my main drinking triggers. Its probably the worst of all actually.

An expanse of time with nothing immediately obvious to fill it.

I can’t fill it with exercise because I can’t do enough of it. Instead I am either left to think about my limitations or go out. Since its mostly pubs open where I live at this time of night the options remain limited and I don’t want to turn up on people’s doorsteps every evening expecting a cup of tea whenever I’m like this.

(Note: Author pauses for a few minutes to mentally slap himself around face several times after reading today’s whining self pitying blog that others are soon to endure as well. Author makes a concerted effort to provide more balanced coverage of this evening’s mood.)

But – I’m aware that at the moment I’m looking at the negatives instead of focusing on the positives.

Doing something instead of nothing is good – even though that something may be small. In time it will get bigger, and I must not mentally derail myself or fall back into bad habits.

I have a meeting with the diabetic nurse tomorrow where I plan to discuss (as well as my still aching foot) nutrition and my planned attendance of a diabetes friendly club like slimming world or weight watchers (neither of which seem to take much account of diabetics from what I have seen in the past).

The morning after that I get to meet my new D&A case worker and discuss how to move forward mentally from my previous drinking habits. I’m actually looking forward to this a lot (although it’s also a bit scary).

On Friday the final visit to the bungalow happens, and that particular shackle will fall off my ankle. On Saturday my brother will hand back the keys to the council a week ahead of schedule.

Once all this is done I need to investigate an evening class or something to fill my time and occupy my mind constructively. I can only do this after I know what hours I’ll need to set aside for anything associated with the clinic, as this above all else must be my focus.

I’m also proud that I’m still sober, given the events of the last month, and I can’t ignore the significance of my positive choices in this respect. I have to recognise (as a friend going through something similar recently said to me) that I cannot boil this particular ocean. Instead I have to take it a cup at a time.

Sometimes though I do wish my kettle was a bit bigger…









Stick around

It’s been a lazy Sunday after a busy week and a busy Saturday.

Although I woke up early I ached all over and didn’t feel much like getting up. However since a shower usually brings me around at 8am I hopped in and turned the heat up as far as I could stand it.

I’m not sure why but recently I’ve come to like the almost but not quite burning sensation of hot water, and hold my hands under it until I can take no more. It produces a tingling sensation that I always hated previously, but like with sprouts at Christmas as you get older your tastes change.

Movies for instance are a good example.

When I first bought my own colour television and a video recorder (Nicam digital stereo and a SCART connector no less) I purchased VHS after VHS of all the latest and greatest movies.

I must have worn my copies of Terminator and Predator out with the constant rewinding.

I just loved the action, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

These days I still like a good action movie, but I’m not always so keen on the violence, or come to think of it the noise.

Whilst explaining this to a friend & telling them why they should watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel recently, my friend replied ‘pffft. I’ll watch it when I’m old!’

‘But it’s a good film!’ I protested.

‘Yea but I’m not old!’ He replied.

It’s difficult to argue with facts.

He wasn’t old (neither am I!) but I felt he was missing the point. When Arnie pinned a guerrilla to a wall with a machete and said ‘stick around’ I used to giggle with glee.

I still smirk now if I’m honest, but mostly with nostalgia and humour at the cheese of the line.

Nowadays I like to think I’m more likely to be found in the documentary section of Netflix rather than the blockbuster section, and although I definitely like action movies I often find myself these days yearning more for a good plot and some well acted characters, or a bit of history that educates while it entertains.

This afternoon after a spell where my armchair and I had been enjoying some intimate alone time together I decided I needed to avoid an impending coma and headed off to the cinema.

People had been recommending ‘Deadpool’ to me for a while, knowing that I’m into superhero movies so I decided to give it a go.

While I enjoyed the in jokes and the comic and film references that the film revelled in from start to finish it fell a little flat for me. I left and came home wondering if I should look for a good documentary before donning my slippers, pouring my mug of Earl Grey, filling my hot water bottle and heading for my early night sucking a Werther’s Original.

Netflix filled my TV screen and I hunted through the documentaries.

History? Nah.

Politics? Triple nah.

Gangsters? Mmmmmaybe….

Then I remembered. I had a Vin Diesel film I hadn’t watched yet where he played an immortal witch hunter, killing anything that had smaller biceps than him with a huge axe or an even bigger sword, whilst grunting the occasional line of dialogue.

I sipped my Earl Grey tea. I’m trying to be sophisticated lately and drink it without milk.

Surely there was a more cerebral documentary? Something to broaden my mind?

I tapped my finger on the rim of my mug, considering the educational documentaries on offer, and what the Discovery Channel could provide.

Two hours, several dead witches, a few bullets and lots of chopping and grunting later I had finished my Vin Diesel backlog and felt rather satisfied.

I had also decided that Deadpool was after all a bit amusing, and giggled about the bit where he got shot in the bum. I think if I’d gone in with different expectations I’d have rather enjoyed it.

Clearly I just like a lot of different types of films and someone getting a slapstick bullet in the rectum still makes me laugh.

Pffft. I’ll watch the documentaries when I’m old. Life’s too short to be serious.

Now where’s my copy of Predator 2 and that pint of milk?…



‘It’s a Pegasus!’ said my friends’ eldest daughter this evening when I asked her why her little pink toy horse had wings.

‘It can fly!’ she said smiling – immediately demonstrating this irrefutable fact as she trailed it through the air, walking away from me with her younger sibling.

I was surprised.

Not because of her vocabulary. She’s clearly a bright little spark.

Her five times table, recited while we waited in the pub for our dinner to be delivered  was spot on (all the way up to 105!), as was her mental arithmetic. She wanted to be a vet, she told me while sitting on her mom’s lap, so she could help animals.

Presumably she didn’t plan to discriminate. The future career choice as I imagined she envisaged it would most likely include mythological creatures as well as more traditional ones.

As a child I had loved Greek mythology, particularly Jason and the Argonauts and the trials of Odysseus. This was a minor obsession for a short while while I was growing up, and it was also a subject I’d happily studied at university.

For some reason though when I looked at the horse I’d not associated the word to the miniature animal in my hand.

This has been happening a lot over the last few weeks – and this was another example where my thoughts were elsewhere without me realising it. Where I found myself not connecting the dots.

At that particular moment my mind had clearly been back in my mom’s bungalow, where I’d been with my brother for most of the day, clearing the last few smaller items.

‘Its nearly empty.’ My brother had said, standing in the living room as we prepared to leave for the penultimate time.

I noticed as he said this his voice wavered slightly. I didn’t ask if he was ok. I kind of knew how he felt. If I had replied I might have choked too.

Behind me was mom’s dark red patterned armchair, the one she’d been fighting for breath in, surrounded by fleece blankets, balancing a cup of tea on her lap and refusing to leave when we wanted her to go to hospital. The oxygen condenser had always been switched on whenever I visited and the constant hum of its operation had been connected in my mind to her seated in that position.

Now the armchair was silent and empty.

When I looked at it while I walked around the house I had wondered why there was no trace of her – no dent in the springs, or discolouration in the fabric. It was just an armchair now, with no hint of its recent occupant.

Now all that remained in the house were bare items of furniture, waiting to be picked up by the man with the cowboy hat in a week’s time.

Once he’d lassoed them into his van they would all be gone, and the chapter would be closed.

It was a strange, and sad feeling that had taken the word ‘Pegasus’ away from me momentarily, and continued to hold me in time at the bungalow even after I left there.

Back at the pub our meals arrived, and as we prepared to eat we began to catch up with each other’s recent events. Picking up their cutlery both of my friends silently engaged their parental sixth sense, tracking their daughters while they edged ever closer to the enticing pool table in the corner the pub.

The two girls mischievously began to circle their silent prey while behind them adult conversation turned to the evils of underfloor heating contractors.

Previously I had assumed that these fine people were pillars of society, but over many recent months several of them had secretly banded together with a solemn vow to individually provide the crappiest customer service possible to my friends. In doing so it seemed they had collectively exposed themselves as the very worst kind of scum and villainy and deserved deep disdain.

Their infallible ability to be completely fallible was the only trait they posessed that could be counted on it transpired. They had proven to be aloof, unhelpful, missed appointments, failed to provide quotes, and were generally a bad sort.

Such irredeemable actions had not enhanced the environment of their prospective clients, whose floor (for the time being) remained very chilly, in tandem with their mood on the subject.

However, despite my best efforts to think venomous thoughts in solidarity about underfloor heating contractors, the armchair remained in the back of my mind.

I realised then that Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross was playing in the background.

Ten days ago this was the opening song at my mother’s funeral, and was her favourite, as far as I knew.

I mentioned this to my friend and (having read my blog) she reminded me that I had written recently that the universe seemed to be talking to me, and suggested that this might be another example.

Lately its definitely got something to say.

Maybe its always talked to me and I just haven’t listened. Maybe I’ve heard but not realised. Maybe I’m looking for patterns where beforehand I wasn’t. Maybe I was too drunk to care.

It does seem odd though that these things keep happening, and I’m glad that in writing a blog I’m keeping a note of them, because in a year or so I’d like to look back at who I am now and compare me to who I will be then.

I hope I’m a bit more like my friends’ daughters who had concluded by the end of the evening that it was a really good idea to put all the cue tip chalk down the pockets of the pool table, thus making the game far more challenging than its future participants would be expecting.

They weren’t thinking about armchairs and depressed springs. They were living in the moment and just loving life in pigtails as they ran around the pub with a little pink Pegasus poking out of the top of a comfy, warm little blue jumper.








Boris is at my house, and has been hunting for buried treasure.

Sadly the most that he could find was a particularly large cache of cobwebs behind my sofa. He came out after an exploratory sniffing and grunting session covered in them and stared expectantly at his master and me.

I can’t stop smiling while he’s around and my tendency to start patting my knees and talking nonsense to him remains undiminished.

‘Ooozagubboythen? Ooooooozagoodliddleboythen? Yezzzyooaree! Yez! IzzYou! Yezzzyouare!!!’

Boris for his part has no tail to wag, but he tells me with his eyes that he understands everything I say and acknowledges that he is in fact a good boy, and that for some time, yes, he HAS known this. He needs no confirmation.

Watching him expectantly pad back and forth following my friend as he transfers the Chinese takeaway that’s just arrived onto a plate can’t fail to make me smile. I find I’m watching Boris way more than he’s watching me. Maybe this is because I’m not food, but I think mostly because he already has a pet human and doesn’t need another.

After we’ve eaten my friend grabs my plate and heads to the kitchen for a glass of water. I pause the film (Johnny Depp – Black Mass – very good) and follow him to do the same. Now we’ve eaten, its time for our nightly ritual. Now we get to take our middle aged old fart medication.

My friend and I play illness top trumps. I have more pills than he does but his smaller number are for REAL men and put hairs on their chests.

He’s currently winning our game – much to my quiet disgust. Hopefully something dramatic but non life threatening will allow me to up the ante one day soon and prove once and for all I’m the Jedi master of being ill. For tonight however I concede defeat and curse my good health.

We head back to the living room and the film. Boris leaves his temporary dinner time banishment to the floor and hops up onto the sofa next to his master.

I know it shouldn’t but this makes me insanely jealous. I want a dog!

The universe also appears to be reminding me of this at every turn.

On a previous post where a colleague of mine, Ryan played my mom’s guitar, the very first advertisement that YouTube served me when I watched the video was for the dog’s trust…


I paid little heed to this, laughing with Ryan the next day about it at work. I mean – what were the odds? Maybe because I’d googled them when I was planning on getting a dog I was being presented with the most relevant ad for me?

They were in fact my first choice and are just down the road. Kenilworth has the largest dog’s trust in the UK, and seemed a really natural fit. I mean, how can you NOT get a dog that comes from a place called Kenilworth?!

Then yesterday I get home, expecting the usual fast food menus pushed through my letterbox, but noooooo… The universe isn’t prepared to let it slide when I ignore its Post It notes.


A lady that’s not lived here for 10 years receives a mail shot from THE DOGS TRUST and its sitting on my doormat!

(covers ears and starts chanting lalalalalalala….)

The assault however is not over.

In order to remind me AGAIN the universe enlists the help of my sister in law who is a dog nut. She’s liking and sharing anything vaguely doggy on Facebook at the moment, and every time I load my page up I’m greeted with some kind of puppy or pooch looking impossibly cute.


As Boris and my friend get ready to leave, I’m jolted back into reality. Sadly I can’t get a dog at the moment, but one day in the near future I am sure I will. I’m not sure I’m going to throw it any dinner parties, but I might buy it a Dr Spock body warmer…

As Boris pads off into the night I find myself muttering

‘Yezyouare… Yezyouare…’

I’m sure he rolls his eyes at me.




Spock Pug



Somebody said to me today during a conversation ‘when you eventually get married…’.

The words that immediately preceded this and followed it seemed largely irrelevant, as the core expectation was that I would eventually find a partner and settle down.

Its not the first time that people have said this in passing. Others have used platitudes like ‘I think you’re not in the right place at the moment’ or ‘when the right person comes along’ in much the same way.

I’ve often wondered if they feel sorry for me or feel a bit sad that I don’t have someone.

To be absolutely clear I’m not a lonely person. Sure, I live alone but that’s by choice. If I craved company I could move someone in tomorrow, but there’s no such impulse.

Years ago this wasn’t the case.

I couldn’t function outside of a relationship, and I genuinely thought the world would consider me to be half a human being if I couldn’t demonstrate that I had what it took to make someone love me and be in a stable partnership.

Since my home life wasn’t so great, and I came from a family that was at the time (for want of a better word) broken, the impulse loomed large at all times. I wanted to construct my own family unit, and I wanted prove that I could do it ASAP.

I never seemed to have a problem finding girlfriends – the main issue in retrospect was actually loving them, as I tended in my adolescence to go for the first one that seemed vaguely interested in me to be sure I didn’t miss the boat.

This caused a multitude of bad decisions and bad relationships – where if I’m completely honest I was way too dependant on the girls I hitched my wagon to.

Since I needed them to validate me I also needed the relationship to work. In most cases this was pre-sabotaged due to the fact that I went into the relationships for all the wrong reasons. When they fell apart, so did I – once again convinced that the world would see me as a failure and an incomplete man.

This ‘serial monogamy’ of lengthy hook up after lengthy hook up culminated in a really long relationship – only this one was unique, because for the first time I loved her deeply.

I couldn’t stop laughing when she told me jokes, and she was naturally funny. My sides would hurt all night I laughed so much. Her dark brown eyes and corners of her mouth showed such playful mischief when she smiled that I was entranced from the word go.

In the most mature way I could think of to get her attention and make her recognise I was a serious prospective mate I attempted to endear myself to her by throwing rolled up balls of paper at the back of her head until she noticed me.

When I finally scored a bullseye I heard the words i’ll never forget.

‘F**k off will you! You’re really getting on my nerves.’

She was mine.

Our relationship continued on much the same basis for some time afterwards, with several years of ham fisted attempts to show her how much I cared. We had a great many arguments and a great many laughs.

She summarised my wit and comic appeal one evening (shortly after i’d pulled her pyjama bottoms down for the umpteenth time while she had her hands in soapy dishwater at the kitchen sink) as follows;

‘You’re not funny you know – you’re just persistent!’

I never took it as an insult – in fact I rather liked the statement – as it summed me up in many ways.

One particularly long suffering (sci-fi hating) colleague of mine can attest to this. I tried to convince the whole office some years ago that he loved Star Trek by asking – no PLEADING with them to not talk to him about the subject since he was very embarrassed about people knowing.

Naturally people couldn’t help themselves, much to my amusement.

Over many years I have e-mailed, texted and messaged him sci-fi themed purchase ideas at every available opportunity. He’s always delighted and usually sends me spirited (although often monosyllabic) encouragment to underline our friendship.

Behind his single finger gestures as he passes my desk there is a deep common bond.

He has been made aware of Star Trek garden gnomes, Starfleet socks, Spock Pug Dog outfits (with matching bowl!), USS Enterprise cheese boards, Vulcan business card holders, Starfleet golf clubs, Phaser replicas that change the TV channel – the list is endless.

So she wasn’t wrong.

She was right about a lot of things actually, and I wish looking back that I had realised that at the time. I resented being changed – but failed to recognise that a great deal of the things that she was asking me to do were for my own benefit, and are among the things that I am still struggling with today.

When the relationship ended the silence was deafening. Not only did I feel I was a failure again but every experience, previously shared, was now half what it was before.

What was the point of reading a book if i couldn’t tell her about it afterwards? What was the point of going for a walk if she wasn’t holding my hand?

It took five years to properly get over the breakup. If I am completely honest only then could I sleep with the radio or television off, and only then did I successfully manage to migrate to the other side of the bed.

But something had been turned off along with the television. My own company had become ‘enough’, which was a major revelation to me. I was amazed that I no longer felt the stigma of being a single man, and the inner voices of related self condemnation were gone.

Now I live very differently – with the void she left now filled by friends, who I also love very much. Instead of her voice (which I focused on to the exclusion of every other) I now have a variety of people that I rely on for a variety of reasons. In many ways I feel like I am a much better person because of this.

So I don’t feel alone on my own, and I still don’t pine to replace her.

Maybe one day that will change – maybe when I have really become someone I’m proud of that will just happen of its own accord.

But I still can’t imagine myself married…

I mean. Like. Eeeeew.






Number 15


About two weeks ago when I started my blog I was mental electricity in a jar. Bottled lightning.

I think that I was moving that fast in my head because I didn’t want to stop and consider what was going on around me. If I wasn’t drinking then I had to fill the space with something – and my list of things to do in my time that I planned to take off work grew and grew.

My list was as follows (in no particular order)

  1. Get a dog (it will happen one day)
  2. Learn a language
  3. Get fit
  4. Sort out blood sugar
  5. Decorate house
  6. Sort out overgrown garden
  7. Add to my youtube channel
  8. Take a course in something I’ve never done
  9. Write a book
  10. Play a musical instrument
  11. Take a photo every day
  12. Write a blog
  13. Turn my garden into an allotment
  14. Join a geocaching club

Some amongst the people reading my blog may note that these were not entirely arrived at on my own, and whenever a well meaning reader contacted me with an idea (other than jumping out of a plane) I added it – after all, it was all something I’d never done, and that was the point!

For a brief moment when I decided NOT to leave work I stared at my feet and thought ‘well thats all on hold now’.

But after a little while I realised – that was the old me thinking. The old me lost 6 hours most days getting drunk in the evening.

New me has 42 hours extra a week.

New me has 2190 hours a year he didn’t have before!

So I can’t get a dog at the moment, but I can do other things…

Number 15 on the list was something I had promised myself I would do on my year off – and the other day I issued this as a challenge to a friend during a lengthy and heartfelt discussion.

‘Speak to someone new’

Originally I intended this to be a daily exercise. This is not so easy with full time employment – but the spirit of the challenge is a good one, as meeting someone new isn’t always easy and it forces you to step outside your comfort zone.

If I couldn’t do it every single day I had resolved to make a point of doing it whenever possible.

I agreed with my friend that we would both meet (and most crucially) talk to and get to know about someone we had never met before.

My new person unexpectedly turned out to be a man I was getting a quote from for furniture removal.

I’d phoned him earlier in the day on the recommendation of a colleague who said his prices were very reasonable, and that he did a good job – including sweeping up after himself. He sounded full of beans on the call, and as luck would have it he turned out at the last minute to be in the area of my mom’s bungalow this very evening and said he could pop over to do a quote.

Although I originally had other plans I needed to get this sorted and not worry about it any more so I agreed to meet him after work and discuss the items that needed removing.

I knew I had met my favourite new person for the week when he appeared from the darkness of the nearby car park wearing a cowboy hat, pushed back at a relaxed angle on top of his long blonde hair.

He greeted me cordially at the gate.

‘Hi Dave – nice to meet you!’ he said with a warm handshake, and a personality enhancing facial twitch, which manifested as a friendly wink.

He’d arrived in a van with his young daughter in tow, and as she sat inside the warm cab playing with her toy he followed me into the house.

‘This looks like an easy one!’ He said with a big twitching smile. ‘I’m used to places being full to the ceiling and giving a nice big quote – I’ll have this done in no time!’

I mentioned to him that me and my brother had moved the worst already – but it barely registered. I realised then that this was a man who loved his work, so I asked him about what he did on an average day.

‘Everything.’ He said.

‘I’ve chased rats out of houses, gone in with full facemasks and white suits, climbed over piles of rubbish only a foot away from the ceiling! I love it. The bigger the pile of stuff the bigger the quote!’

I smiled. ‘Where there’s muck there’s brass!’ I replied.

‘Oh yea!’ he said ‘ AND you find all sorts in house clearances.’

I looked like I wanted to know more.

‘Rings.’ he said. ‘Loads of em. Cleared a place a few months back – found a box full of gold rings. That was a good un! Made a packet on that!’

He looked around the relatively bare bungalow again.

‘But this one’s an easy one – be done in no time!’

We agreed on a quote and a date. I already had a figure in mind which he’d significantly undercut – as well as saying he was happy to disconnect my mom’s cooker, so he’d made a swift sale.

‘Thing I can’t stand though is the smell…’ he continued, after shaking my hand again.

‘I went in one place, droppings everywhere – and the woman kept complaining we were making the kitchen work surfaces dirty when we moved boxes. Kept wiping them even though there was rat crap everywhere. Lads wouldn’t go in in the end. Had to throw the bags out of the window to them!’

He smiled nostalgically at the happy memories of airborne refuse and then handed me his business card with the agreed sum marked on the top left corner in green pen.

Who has a green biro? Clearly this man did.

I liked him.

Eventually his twitchy cheerfulness exited the bungalow and I was left smiling – in a place that previously I felt pretty miserable in.

This rat chasing, smell resistant, rubbish hurling treasure hunter with a cowboy hat had just become my knight in shining armour.

I watched him ride off in his metal steed with his playful daughter, and felt glad that my to do list had one less thing on it for the week.

New person met (tick).

Now… About the other 14…


Sixpence none the richer

Six pence doesn’t buy a lot these days thanks to inflation. When I was a child it was very different.

6p was a king’s ransom.

When I was 4 years old in 1977 the Dandy (a UK children’s comic, and my absolute favourite) was 4p. This kept me entertained for days – weeks even – as I read and re-read the stories within.


Desperate Dan and Korky the cat never failed to make me smile week after week with their slapstick humour. When the shops were shut on a Sunday and it was raining outside I used to lie lengthways across my bed with my head dangling over the side on a pillow reading my comics on the floor for hours at a time while the blood drained into my head.

As I got older I also realised the position was good for night time stealth, since the comic or magazine in question could be quickly slid under the bed and the bedside lamp switched off before any parent caught wind of illegal nocturnal activity.

This tactic worked just fine with the coarse cover on the Dandy, which was pulp and low grade paper, but if you had a glossy covered comic (I’m looking at you Star Wars weekly) you could easily slide it way too far on the carpet and if you did, then you needed a long arm to retrieve it or the bed needed to be moved.

There was an art to such subterfuge and I was trained from an early age in delicate periodical concealment for the trifling sum of 4p per week.

The 2p change from this bounty could be used to buy some sweets, since at the time 1/2p was also valid currency. Although generic boiled sweets could be purchased by weight in a little white paper bag I rather liked buying the bigger sherbet centred soft ones (Refreshers) – two for a penny.


The chewy outside of the sweet begged you to bite into it immediately, but if you did then the sherbet within might burst out before you’d moistened it enough. Stick it in your cheek like a hamster however, and the sherbet blended with the rest of the sweet, making a soft sparkling mush in your mouth that fizzed as you sucked it into nothingness.

Since I never had many sweets as a child (a 5p cache of them was like being gifted a bag of gold) the combination of my infant literature, sugar, colouring and E numbers was absolute heaven. I could get it all for 6p.

These days I can’t buy anything with it. I need a bag of 5p’s just to get some sugar free chewing gum. Since I’m diabetic this is much less fun. It doesn’t fizz and its primary reason for existing is not to provide enjoyment, but make my breath socially acceptable.

If I want a comic (which I still do) then that 6p covers even less ground. A copy of Spider-Man is now £2.99 – nearly 75 times the price of my Dandy.

So why the preoccupation with 6p?

Well frankly as I type I’m trying to figure that out myself. I found amongst my mom’s possessions on Sunday a small teddy bear. It was in a carrier bag yellowed with age, with one slightly larger bear that was tagged and dated – suggesting it was purchased in 2002. The larger bear (as did everything else in the house) also had a label with her name on it.


The smaller bear had a hand stitched red jumper on it and had a belt with a purse that looked like my mom had made it. It looked gaudy and twee, was covered in little sequins and I didn’t like it.

I removed the jumper, threw it in the bin and started to take the belt off. The bear would be going to charity naked – as nature intended.

Then I noticed in the bear’s little felt black purse, which had been carefully sewn by my mother, there was a five pence piece and a one pence piece. I took them out of the purse, tutted, put them in my pocket and dropped the little purse in the bin as well.

After several weeks I’d had more than enough of sifting through dusty relics of creepy dolls and endless carrier bags and this was just another obstacle in the way of us handing the bungalow keys back to the council.

However, for the past two nights I’ve been pre-occupied with guilt. I feel like I have been callous and unfeeling in my treatment of her bear, and I regret what I did. It made me cry on Sunday when I got home and lay in bed and every time I think about it it makes me want to cry again.

I don’t know why it makes me feel like this. I know grief isn’t rational, and I shouldn’t over analyse. But I can’t help it.

I think I threw away something human on Sunday though. I think I threw away something that’s lost to me now. The 6p won’t buy me anything, and it doesn’t matter – but maybe the bear and its accoutrements did.

Or maybe its not the bear…

Maybe my mom mattered to me more than I want to admit, despite her failings.

I think I miss the mom that inspired me to hide my comic and turn off the light when I was little.

I miss the mom who came upstairs to check on me because she loved me.

I miss my mom.


Jaunty Dave


I’m always amazed by how differently people handle telephone calls.

For instance my father’s telephone voice is so far from his actual voice that you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were calling 1950 when you hear his answering machine. Somewhere back in time at the BBC I imagine there’s a wartime broadcast with his name on it still waiting to be voiced by his received pronunciation, of which I think he is justifiably proud.

My father doesn’t just pronounce words on calls with people he doesn’t know, he plants a Union Jack in them and claims them for the British Empire.

Other people in contrast approach communication with the battle lines already drawn and their pronunciation is truncated and sharp.

I worked briefly with a heavy metal obsessed Dutch guy in the Netherlands, notable for being the only person I have met who grew cannabis in an upside down Storm Trooper helmet on his kitchen windowsill. For such a nice guy he was strangely direct when we spoke on the phone, until he realised who you were.

‘Met Hans.’ he always barked in a curt voice when I called him on the phone (the literal translation I believe is ‘With Hans’) until he realised who I was and then his tone changed to ‘Heeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyy Davvvvvveeeee’, presumably as the contents of the Star Wars prop kicked in.

At the other end of the scale was a mild mannered Scot that I met while working at BT in Bristol. He was the epitome of placid calm on the phone from beginning to end. His soft Glaswegian accent melodically lulled the inbound callers into sale after sale of BT Internet packages.

His voice when I sat next to him was the equivalent of a Celtic poet, dripping like honey on a warm day onto a soft crust of bread covered with melting butter, fresh from the oven.

Until the phone went down.

‘Ach ye f**king c**t I hope ye f**king choke to f**king death on yer own c**k’ he would scream (or words to that general effect), often before punching his heavy CRT monitor clean off the stand onto a neighbour’s desk, throwing down his headphones and storming off for a cigarette.

Strangely his tenure of employment was limited and he didn’t sit next to me for long.

In contrast to my tartan colleague I genuinely liked speaking to people and being ‘nice’ on the phone – often having really pleasant calls with people i’d never met.

I still firmly believe that if you’re friendly with others then often very little harm will come to you, and it brings out the best in other people too.

However, if I’m honest sometimes being nice is also a pre-emptive defence mechanism designed to disarm people and stop assaults before they’re deployed.

I noticed today that when the lady from the drug and alcohol clinic called me to set up an appointment I was in full on ‘jaunty Dave’ mode. I answered her questions like I was on a radio broadcast, not wanting to sound unsure or unhappy.

Sure I was willing to come in on X day at X time! Yes – that would be GREAT! I’m REALLY looking forward to meeting you!

I’m positive she sounded confused – almost as much as me when I ended the call. Who had she just spoken to?

Why had I done that? Was it for me, the people around me or was it for her?

It wasn’t really what I felt. I felt embarrased and vulnerable – and as always I had reacted by playing the capable, disarmingly friendly guy.

I resolved to leave my phone voice at home for the meeting when it eventually arrived and try as much as possible to take down my barriers, whatever they may be.

No jauntiness, no stormtroopers, no flags being planted, and no monitors being punched.

(just) Davey








I’m not sure if its a trick of memory, but I don’t ever remember having a bike with stabilisers. I recall being held from the side by my dad briefly while I wobbled and tried to pedal fast as a learner, but I can’t think back to a time where i was unable to stay upright on my own.

My very first bike was actually a Frankenstein’s monster which I loved dearly. It was constructed in secret at night from scavanged bits of other bikes in the loft by my father while I slept. A new bike for a birthday was at the time financially out of reach for my family, but it didn’t matter to me one little bit.

It had a dark blue frame, black tyres and shining (but slightly rusty) chrome handlebars with with white plastic grips and black pedals. The granite like saddle was made of slightly yellowed white plastic and could shake even the hardiest of spines loose from your hips when going over rough terrain.

Where the constituent parts came from I’ll never know – but I loved it nevertheless. It carried me all round the neighbourhood, through the woods and endlessly around the park.

My well meaning mother replaced this when it eventually expired with a beige  folding shopper bike from the Kays mail order catalogue. It had white wall tyres and a saddlebag at the back for cans of beans or other similar consumables.


In order to further endear me to the other children in the neighbourhood  (who collectively refused to believe that I was a trendsetter) she bought an identical one for herself so that we matched on excursions to the local supermarket.

They also had shiny metal bells next to the left hand brake, so we could alert pedestrians to my humiliation if needed.

In a mysterious set of circumstances unknown to my mother at the time, the folding shopping bike was distressingly almost snapped in half by unexpectedly brutal metal fatigue, meaning our matching mother and son transports were no longer.

Sadly this tragedy meant a new bike was needed – and after spirited sales patter from myself the mortally wounded shopper was eventually replaced with a far sturdier Raleigh Burner BMX. This was unlikely to break if it was accidentally thrown from the roof of a garage repeatedly like its predecessor – and this was for many years after my main mode of transportation.


It’s fair to say that the 1980’s were simpler times, and I doubt these days a parent would be comfortable with the 8 hours a day I could typically be out of the house on my bike with my friends.

The independence all of these bikes brought was formative and life changing. When I was on two wheels there was very little that I could find wrong with the world.

I needed no stabilisers and I could do everything on my own.

These days I’ve been made to realise thats not the case any more. I can’t do everything on my own, despite feeling like I should be able to. Now, more than I did back then I need stabilisers to keep me on the straight and narrow.

As an adult these are not two extra wheels at the back of my bike, but rather the structure provided by friends, colleagues, and family.

After much deliberating and lengthy conversation before mom’s funeral with a very philanthropic manager and my brother, I have been made to realise that dealing with any kind of substance abuse whilst at the same time introducing a year of free time could be a colossal and costly mistake.

When I went to the drop in clinic, they too thought that I might be setting myself up for a fall when I shared my plans.

I had to concede to myself and others that maybe my willingness to ‘fix me’ by changing everything in one go might be better accomplished a bit more gradually and with professional support.

My boss (who must be bored of me by now) was as supportive as anyone could possibly be about my needs for counselling if I remained in my position – and I was left wondering what I’ve done to deserve him and others being so patient with me.

On Friday with this varied and well meaning counsel under my belt I decided not to leave my job, withdrew my notice and put my dog (apologies to my sister in law) on hold for a while.

Further down the line though a dog still lurks in the bushes looking for a sober master to take it on a walk.

Watch this space…

Tomorrow however I’m back at work with my friends, and until i’m better I’m taking things one step at a time.






London Calling


A true highlight of the last few (often dark) weeks has been how people around me have reached out in often unexpected ways to lend an ear and let me know that they’re there if I need help.

Something that really touched me, and came at just the right moment happened on the day of my mom’s funeral several hours after the event when i was at home, quietly reflecting.

To give a bit of back story before I elaborate, there were never any musical instruments played in my house as a child – at least not competently anyway.

Some years later after moving out (and much to my stunned surprise) I learned that my deviously secretive father had hidden the fact that he could play the piano, and without warning started to do so whilst sitting in front of one at his mother’s house.

I remember being taken aback by the fact that I’d never seen this side of him before – and wondering why he’d kept this to himself.

My contribution to melody in contrast was pitiful. I’d never learned to play anything.

My woefully abused plastic recorder from school counted as little more than a brief period of torture for next door’s cat, while a sturdy wood and metal family mouth organ was only used by me for hammering drawing pins into my wall to secure my Spiderman posters.

There was however one other instrument in the house. In my parent’s room.

It had been there as long as I could remember, unloved and unused in a green carry case, zipped up and hidden away. Occasionally its location moved and from time to time it briefly came out to satisfy my curiosity.

It was an acoustic guitar, and as a young boy when i got my hands on it I had strummed it like an ape with a hammer, never coaxing even the most vaguely harmonic sound out of it.

A week or so ago my brother and I found the guitar at mom’s bungalow. On the head of the guitar behind the tuning pegs he had scratched his name, presumably so he could take it to school and make sure it didn’t go walkabout with another light fingered pupil.

Then further down on the back of the upper bout my mom had crudely written in Tippex her own name some years later.

My mom wrote her name and address on everything.

When I say everything I mean EVERYTHING. Even a small foldable stepping stool in her kitchen had her name written on it along with her address, despite it never leaving the house. I swear if I turned the cooker upside down her name would be underneath.

My brother was already angry that day, but this REALLY annoyed him. He wanted to take the guitar to the local tip and go completely ‘London Calling’ on it, smashing it to smithereens in a symbolic gesture designed to release the tension he clearly felt at the time.

For a moment I was on board with this – it seemed like a good idea. I was annoyed as well. The house clearance was really getting on my nerves and i’d already released some tension smashing a yellowed collection of particularly horrible 1977 silver jubilee plates at the ‘waste for landfill’ section of the dump.

In my mind’s eye my brother would mirror Paul Simonon on the famous Clash album cover as he wrought righteous vengeance on the tainted guitar in front of stunned onlookers at the tip before we walked off in slow motion like rock stars.

Then I paused.

Maybe it could be used elsewhere.

The last remaining member of my days team at work (Ryan) was a keen guitarist, and sometimes jammed and uploaded his tracks onto youtube.

Maybe he would like it? He could sand off the names and use it for himself, or give it to his young lad. Surely it would be better than smashing it?

Unlike the Queen’s broken face on a severely fragmented plate, it might then have a future.

I called him, and he sounded surprised – but was happy to take it, so I brought it into work the next day and handed it over.

I didn’t think much more about it – until at 8pm on the day of my mom’s funeral he sent me a video (since edited slightly) of him playing the guitar.

I’ll be honest – I cried a bit.

Seeing something that had been unused for so many years, and just buried under clutter by my mom turned into something that sounded so wonderful genuinely topped off my day on a positive note, and was so gratefully received words failed me.

I’m of the opinion lately that things are happening for a reason.

I’m not sure why but things that I’m doing aren’t turning out at all the way I expect them to.

Instead they’re turning out the way they’re MEANT to, and there’s a huge comfort in that.


Jumping into beanbags

Tea does you the world of good.

Its just a leaf, mixed with hot water, in a cup and a splash of milk – but it often comes with an ear. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, its attached to a friend.

If you’re really lucky it has a good friend and a mental little dog.

Yesterday the ear was attached to a very good one of mine. He’s been through some difficult challenges over recent years and has faced them with an optimism and strength I’ve been in awe of. He’s even managed to be there for me at the same time, and I try to catch up with him whenever I can.

While I sipped my hot tea and digested the bacon and stilton roll he’d made me I watched his dog run back and forth around the living room. He was chasing a squeaky toy we were throwing for him and as he did so we talked over my visit that morning to the drop in clinic and how his week had been visiting relatives.

Boris (a French Bulldog) had been with him, reportedly bounding around the beach a few short days ago and had shown a new passion for trying to eat waves as they hit the shore, which amused my friend no end. He’d also reportedly gathered quite a doggy fan club amongst the locals and for some unknown reason had been a particularly firm hit with any builders he met.

I smiled at Boris with a mental image of him crashing into waves as he dived once again into a beanbag 5 times his size to retrieve his toy. He’s honestly the main reason i want a hound of my own and looks like a cross between a gremlin, an ewok and Stitch (from the Disney film). I can feel the tension flow out of me when he sits next to me and grunts while he lets me stroke his chest.

I’d shown my friend the leaflets from the drug and alcohol drop in clinic, the list of local AA meetings that I’d been given and told told him that they’d be assigning me a case worker. He seemed positive about it, and quietly listened to me as I talked about my reasons, and the recent funeral.

I said that they would be calling me on Monday or Tuesday to arrange another face to face, and more in depth meeting. I added that I felt it was a first step and that I was just going to see where it led me for the moment then tailed off.

I fussed Boris a bit more – he was sitting next to me munching on his toy, and grunting while he nibbled the edge of it.

I wasn’t sure quite what else to say.

The duty worker who had spoken to me earlier in a rather featureless interview room had asked me a question, and it was lingering in my mind.

‘What do you want from us?’ He had said, pausing for a moment to look me directly in the eye. ‘Do you want to give up drinking or get help with cutting down?’

In the interview I’d said ‘give up’, mostly because I feel have some problems with impulse control.

Anyone who knows me will recognise that I generally do things to excess or not at all. Often I feel like I’m a pendulum – swinging one way or another, but always needing to reach the furthest point I can before swinging back the other way. A stable middle point has always been something that has eluded me.

Maybe this was the issue – and maybe that was another layer of me, that sat even further under my drinking. Maybe this impulse control was the key, and it had links to deeper rooted problems, including my eating habits.

I was tying myself in knots already, trying to self diagnose, and beginning to tense up.

I resolved to try and listen – not think – and to become a leaf in the wind.

‘Once you’ve been through some sessions with us and we’re satisfied your drinking is under control we will refer you to our IAPT CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) partners.’ The duty worker said.

‘We’ll be with you every step of the way.’ He concluded.

My leaf temporarily settled nearby.

Returning to the moment I changed the subject and invited my friend and his furry companion to a movie night next week. It was time for a home field tea drinking fixture at my house. We both wanted to watch ‘Black Mass’ with Johnny Depp and I said i’d wait until he came over before I watched it so we could enjoy it together.

I thanked him for his counsel, patted his pooch and made my way home, still pondering my visit to the drop in centre.

This then for me is the immediate goal. Like Boris I am diving into a beanbag much bigger than myself, and once I’m in it I don’t know what’s going to happen. Its unfamiliar territory and I’ve just got to relax and go with the flow.

Somewhere in there is my squeaky toy, and I’m determined to find it.




Pressing pause

I feel down this morning and I’m not 100% sure why. I’m writing this trying to reason out whats going on in my mind and make sense of what I plan to do today.

I had a lot of trouble lifting my head off the pillow when I woke up, and my sleep last night was full of strange dreams (mostly involving George Michael travelling across Peru…).

I’m not sure how I should feel after a funeral. I thought that there would be a sense of closure and an impetus to move on, but now I’m not so sure its that simple.

The threads and unanswered questions that the event has left about family remain in my mind, and I’m preoccupied by them. I also wonder what the future holds and today I’m scared about my ability to face it.

The day my mom died I was sitting outside a drug and alcohol drop in clinic, unsure whether I should go in or not. I’d gone to my doctor to request counselling to deal with the unpredictable emotions my mother’s most recent hospitalisation was bringing to the surface.

I called the cognitive behavioural therapy team on the number my doctor had given me, and after a brief investigative conversation they refused to help me unless I did something about my ‘alcohol abuse’.

I was really angry at the time. I thought they were labelling me as an addict and ignoring the true root of my problems – my mother.

‘I just need someone to talk to.’ I said to the lady on the phone, but she was adamant I needed to go elsewhere, and gave me another number. Exasperated I wrote it down and ended the call.

I sat there for 20 minutes unsuccessfully trying to burn holes in the chimney breast in front of me with my eyes.

I’ve never considered myself an alcoholic. I didn’t shake or physically crave the drink itself unlike others I’ve known over the years, but I have always used it as part of my coping process. Over the years I’ve drunk a LOT of alcohol. Probably more than anyone should really be able to get away with. I’d pushed my luck, and if I was REALLY honest with myself maybe alcohol was the ROOT of many of my problems NOT than the sticking plaster.

At that moment I think I finally admitted to myself that I was alcohol dependant.

Using this specific term lessened the blow for me at the time, and made me feel less of a failure in this area than i probably had a right to. I’ve stopped drinking before, for quite long periods, but when difficult times have hit I’ve always gone back.

So – I went to the address the CBT team had given to me and parked up.

While I was sitting outside this clinic pondering my decision the phone rang, firstly from the hospital (the call failed) and then from my uncle to tell me that I needed to go to see my mom.

Anyone who has ever been through the gauntlet of getting information from a hospital will know they tell you precisely nothing on any inbound or outbound phone call. To find out how bad things were I’d have to drive from Warwick to the other side of Birmingham (about an hour’s drive after i’d picked up my brother from work).

It wasn’t the first time that this had happened, and in other instances I’d arrived to see my mom wolfing down a plate of liver and mashed potato, alive and well.

I’d also been on numerous attention grabbing mercy dashes to her house, leading to nothing but her being perfectly ok and leaving me feeling manipulated and angry.

Today though it seemed different. When my brother had called the hospital back he conveyed the sense of urgency back to me. We had to go there.

At that moment the choice was stark.

Do I look after myself and step through a very scary door to admit my problems, or do I look after my mom (who refused to look after herself) and go to the hospital?

I felt at that time like a pause button had been pressed. I’ve used that metaphor to explain the moment to a few people, and it still seems particularly apt. For whatever reason the tune to which I normally danced suddenly stopped and everything went quiet.

Mom died on the way to the hospital.

On the one occasion that the need to see her was real and urgent we never made it in time.

Today, back over in Warwick the pause button is still pressed. For three weeks the silence has continued, drowning out the noise of normal life with bungalow clearances, funerals, relatives, my dad staying with me, friends offering support and a new blog.

This morning I need to go back and see what happens when i walk through that door, because honestly i’m a bit worried about what happens if i don’t.

I think I’m mostly scared of judgement and being looked at with scorn, and feeling small and weak.

I don’t for a moment think that anyone will do this to me. These are the weapons I use against myself all the time when I am left alone to gauge my own success and my capabilities.

If I walk through that door this morning it means I’m going to have to deal with these failings, and work towards handling things in life a different way, rather than eventually at some point in the future opening another bottle.

I’m going to have to press play again and I have absolutely no idea what song comes next.


Victory Bananas



‘I think that we’re social animals’ said female student to her bohemian colleague next to me ‘…and we’re designed to form complex groups. It’s our defining characteristic.’

Male student looked like he disagreed.

‘No.’ he said, ‘Our prime imperative is to pass on our DNA and to proliferate. It’s what we’re made to do!’

She paused for a moment draining the last of her latte.

‘How do you explain firemen and nurses then? People willing to lay down their lives for others?’

Male student fell silent for a while, looking into his cup and thinking. This clearly presented an obstacle to his argument.

‘Do you want another coffee?’ He said, changing the subject.

Female student sensed blood in the water and began to circle her stricken prey.

‘Don’t get me wrong.’ She said ‘I don’t deny human complexity. We’re all flawed in some respect, but I believe humanity is fundamentally good. For every bad person there are a thousand willing to work to make society better. Teachers, social workers, ambulance drivers, coast guards, charity workers, the list goes on and on. There’s much more to it than just continuation of a species.’

He intently studied his empty cup.

‘Actually – we need bananas. ‘ she said, deferring his inevitable defeat. ‘We better get some on the way home.’

Silently notching up a win female student stood up, and followed by male student plodded off hand in hand in search of victory bananas, placing their tray of crockery helpfully on the counter of the coffee shop as they passed.

As they left I mused on their conversation.

I’d just come from the bank, after arguing with officialdom about whether my Virgin Media statement constituted a utility bill, and whether or not it would provide part of the complex keys needed to unlock my mother’s financial affairs.

After huffily conceding that a telephone was a utility whether it came bundled with the internet and television or not she photocopied my driving license and the folded paper with a big Virgin logo on it.

‘Do you need my birth certificate?’ I asked, unfolding it from behind the bulletproof glass. ‘I brought it just in case.’

‘It’s irrelevant.’ She replied, tapping on her keyboard.

‘OK – thanks.’ I said, folding it back up.  ‘Is there a reference for our conversation?’ I asked.

‘No – just use the one you’ve already quoted.’

I turned to leave, and as my back was facing her she said ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’

‘Thanks.’ I said without turning or slowing.

As i sat in the coffee shop next door stirring my tepid Earl Grey watching male and female student leave I considered male student’s point, and concluded that the bank clerk must be his one in a thousand.

On the bright side someone would be getting a tremendous evening when she returned from work and knuckled down to the business of passing on her DNA.

I just hope when it gets mixed with that of her jubilant partner it turns out a little more like the other 999 working to make the world a better place.





Banoffee Instagram

Well – I’m not sure there’s much to say.

I can usually write without thinking and say what comes into my mind, but today is a bit different. At the moment I just feel the need for peace and quiet – and sleep, lots and lots of sleep. Words are not coming easily.

The service went very well, and as seems to be the case lately didn’t go as I imagined it would in my mind’s eye. The Minister did a great job bringing out the lighter aspects of my mom’s history – and was kind and respectful to her memory.

My previously stoic dad was the first to go and unexpectedly started to wobble during ‘Happy Talk’. I put my arm around him while he cried and suddenly started as well – then noticed my brother crying too.

Both Pete and I sobbed heartily  when the minister’s closing prayer finished and ‘My Way’ started as the curtain closed on the coffin.

My sister in law put her arm around me and patted me gently on the back while I got it out of my system. Her hand remained there until the moment had passed, and then she checked I was OK and withdrew.

We slowly filtered out into the rain, said our farewells to relatives and moved on to a more pleasant locale.

I watched my sister in law photographing her decadently dripping Banoffee Pie later at the pub when dessert arrived following a hearty steak lunch (its not a complete meal unless its on Instagram). I turned to my Dad watching quizzically, and then to my brother smiling at her need to capture the culinary moment on film. Time slowed a little bit.

All of us were completely focused on each other.

Isn’t this what the best moments of life are made of? We’ll never get them again, and we better enjoy them while they’re there.

I can’t get over how much I love them all.

For now though I’ve had enough of self reflection. I’m going to bed for a while with the lights off.

Tomorrow is another day.



Happy talk


I haven’t been able to sleep all night. My mind has been full of incomplete and fragmented thoughts – the kind you only get when you’re unable to get any rest. Nothing about them in their abstract form is resolvable. Every conundrum they present has an answer just out of reach, just like this enigmatic black and white photo of my mother.

I have no idea when it was taken, who took it, where it was or why I never saw it in the 42 years I knew her before she died.

The funeral is in four hours, and I’ve been reading and re-reading old letters from me, my brother and my dad that my mom kept from 1997 when I lived in Wales.

Strangely they don’t paint her in a good light and I’m wondering why they weren’t ripped up and burned at the time she received them. Instead they were preserved and hidden away for 20 years.

The words in my letter to her could have been written a month ago, but instead they were penned when I was nearly half the age I am now, when I was (again) trying to make her understand that love was not a right and that it couldn’t be demanded from people.

At the time she’d just pushed my brother away the same way that she had with me. I was offering advice about how she might repair family conflicts and improve relationships in the future.

The advice, unlike the letter did not get through. Changes were never made and things were never resolved.

So, today I’m attending a funeral and I honestly don’t know who its for. I can’t find in all the things my mom wrote, saved, hid away or left in her personal effects anything that can give me an insight into who she was or why she treated people the way she did.

I’m also hoping I don’t burst into laughter at the absurdity of one of the songs chosen for her funeral that she always loved.

I can’t honestly at the moment remember any happy talk between us – but my mom played the South Pacific album over and over, and embarrassingly I know it pretty much word for word. I’ll probably remember it until its time for my own funeral.

Hopefully in between washing the car, picking up my brother, driving to the cemetery and  meeting my relatives I can remember something good that fits in with this jaunty upbeat track before the curtains close on my mom, and we get to ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra – which at the moment seems infinitely more apt.


Prime numbers

Well I’ve just come out of my diabetic review. It didn’t go quite as expected.

I went in for the first time since being diagnosed with diabetes armed with my actual weight.

You may not understand what I mean by that – but for some time at my surgery doctors have been unable to get an accurate reading from the puny bathroom scales they possess. These are designed for mere mortals to stand on. Gods amongst men like myself are not catered for by the standard NHS and have to get our kicks using weighing machines in Boots the Chemist or at special bariatric scales in hospital obesity units.

In the past I’ve had doctors attempt to combat the problem by making me stand on two bathroom scales with a foot on each. The unfortunate outcome of this has been the noise of crunching gears and the creaking of a general practitioner’s wallet opening at Argos to pay for replacements.

Today I wasn’t in the mood for humiliation and wanted if at all possible to get a reading that meant something honest and real. I didn’t care what it was, I just wanted to stop hiding from it and finally know the truth.

After a trip to Boots (filled it seemed with gawking children, too young to know that staring at a man’s belly for 5 minutes was impolite) I had a reading.


I handed this to the nurse, and now my practice finally know everything about me. They know how much I’d been drinking until 3 weeks ago (at its peak after mom re-entered my life 109 units a week at the cost of approximately 9072 calories), they know my weight (31st 9lbs), they know my cholesterol (borderline at the moment), my blood sugar (73 – I should be aiming for 53), my blood pressure (elevated), my family history, my depression, my bereavement – all of it.

I’m not hiding any longer from anyone. I’m no longer going to let embarrassment or shame dictate who I see, what I do, who I talk to and what I think. I’m taking the burden of this colossal physical and emotional weight and turning the spotlight on it for everyone to view so that its power and hold over me is removed. If everyone I see already knows in advance what I am then what do I care any more? It’s out there already.

The lovely nurse sat and listened to me for twice the time she should have as I explained my circumstance and change of direction. She also helpfully shared some personal experiences as well – and said we’d finish the medical review at a later date. Now, she said, was a time to talk, not focus on the numbers.

Strangely of late though numbers have been popping up all over the place, and I’ve become mildly obsessed with counting things. When I cleared it my mom’s kitchen table it had 37 pens and 17 lighters on it.

‘Hmmm. Both prime numbers…’ Said my maths teacher friend Rob when I told him, musing over the significance.

At the time I was puzzled – was there a reason?

Who knows. However 3 is also a prime number and so are 109, 31 and 73, so if nothing else I’ve managed to give him something more to think about when he reads this…



New horizon

imageAfter another chat yesterday with a friend containing advice on self improvement I decided to start walking today and test my horizons.

After getting up early I headed out of my door and pointed myself toward the end of the street with the full intention of doing a lap of the crescent that I live in, returning triumphantly afterwards to a shower and the applause in my head.

My father (staying with me at the moment) was already up and typing away on his laptop. Wordless I put on my headphones and set out of the door. I had a mission.

It seems that my flabby assault force had the objective in sight but lacked the means to take this particular hill on this particular day. I managed the end of the street before the pounding in my chest was too much. My legs were on fire and I couldn’t breathe.

It seems my capable radius (for anyone wishing to escape my wrath in the near future) is approximately 400 metres, so plenty of work to do.

However the the sun was coming up and I felt positive – which was a nice start to the day!






Under the playground

A few months ago I was in a really bad place. Much much worse than I am now.

Honestly when I look back I think I ignored the signs of a nervous breakdown. I simply could not stop crying, and i’d never been like this before, and it lasted a week or more.

Mortifyingly when it started I cried in front of my team at work.

Sitting at my desk I my shoulders started shaking and out of nowhere I broke down. A quick thinking man mountain of rugby trained muscle on my team saw what was happening, and bundled me into a meeting room, where for a while I cried uncontrollably on his shoulder.

I’ve never been afraid of appearing weak, and liked to think that I was in touch with my feelings – but this was something deeper. I couldn’t turn it off and it scared me.

A manager sent me home. Upon arrival I turned the TV on. Every channel seemed to have families or animals on it and each set me off worse than the last.

Later that evening I went to bed, very drunk, very upset and cried for two hours straight listening to the voice of Jeff Lynne singing ‘when i was a boy’ before I fell asleep.

I heard the song again today and its amazing how a change of mind and a change of circumstance can produce a completely different reaction. Today as i listened it underlined how despite days like yesterday I’m slowly getting better, and this time brought back some happy memories.

The significance of the song you see, lay less in the lyrics, but instead in the history that I had with ELO and a childhood friend.

As a very young boy my friend Richard’s dad had waxed lyrical about the fact that he had been in a band with Jeff (a Brummie as well) and used to get the 45 singles whenever ELO brought out a new song. Consequently the band’s music was all around me when i frequently visited their house.

I spent many hours there when things were bad at home sitting on the end of Rich’s bunk bed swinging my legs in time to tracks like ‘Im Alive’ and ‘Calling America’ while we ate chocolate and drank lemonade.

Richard was a fantastic story teller and shameless fibber when we were very little. On one occasion at school lunch break he proudly told me that he and his dad had constructed an underground railway from his house to school in total secrecy, and it could transport us to school at the rapid speed of 7 seconds from the station beneath his house.

It was in the testing phase he explained and wasn’t quite ready, but early runs had proved promising. Its incomplete status was the only reason why (together) we were still walking to school instead of arriving in the lap of luxury at the school gates in our own personal bullet train.

I didn’t believe it. Complete nonsense. How could such a thing be true?

‘Its running at the moment’ he said. ‘right beneath us.’

I looked sceptical.

‘If you put your ear to the floor you can hear it passing below us.’ He said, pointing to a cracked concrete playground surface with some netball markings painted on it.

Un-noticed by me other children were listening to our conversation, and as I looked behind Rich I could see a boy drop down and press his ear to the floor.

‘I can hear it!’ he said excitedly.

‘Told you.’ Said Rich triumphantly, also getting down to the floor and pressing his ear to the crack in the concrete. ‘They come every few minutes – if you wait you’ll hear another.’

I looked round and multiple children now had their ear pressed to the floor.

‘I can hear it coming!’ said one. ‘Me too!’ said another girl.

Before I knew it about 20 girls and boys were all lying down, convinced that there was a train passing beneath us. Rich had suckered them all and was loving every minute of it.

The ruse wasn’t uncovered until the dinner ladies rang the bell and explained to the prostrate children that the noise in the crack was actually traffic on the road next to the playground, and that my friend’s nose had qualities in common with that of Pinocchio’s.

I drove past that playground last week. It’s no longer a school and is instead a small housing estate. I smiled at the blissful ignorance of it’s occupants as i looked out of the car window.

If only they knew what lay beneath them wasn’t bedrock or concrete foundations but the dusty, unused station of a dreamed bullet train that existed for a brief but shining moment of childhood fantasy.

I hope that there’s a child in a bedroom above that exact spot that dreams of speeding trains at night and has no idea why…



Tanks for the memories


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I’m tired. Really tired.

It’s been another long day at my mom’s bungalow, with more caches of stamps, photos of my childhood (and my lovely little dog) that make me sad, letters dredging up old conflicts, bags of old medicine dating back as far as 1975 and more trips to the tip.

The funeral is also getting closer and its weighing down on me. I’m stressing about meeting relatives I haven’t seen for 25 years and wondering how they will judge me for being so overweight. It shouldn’t matter to me but it does.

I’m in poor humour, and I can tell that the affable frame of mind I started the day with is teetering on the brink. I feel like I want to snap at people for no good reason, and that annoys me, making the whole thing worse than it really is. Several weeks ago I’d be going home to a glass of wine, and not stopping until I fell asleep.

I’m clearly not yet at the point where I have stopped thinking about getting drunk. This realisation is currently annoying me further, because it means i’m fallible and i don’t want to be. Now I have to deal with the emotion that life throws at me and not bury it, which is going to take some getting used to.

I finally threw my toys out of the pram about two hours ago and demanded that we call it a day and go home. In my mind’s eye the preferred mode of transportation would have been a tank, and my navigation would involve only a straight line, laying waste to everything in my path until I smashed through the front wall and arrived in my kitchen, grabbing a cold one from the fridge. Sadly my elderly VW Passat doesn’t have the destructive capacity required for my fantasy journey, so we’d have to take the less direct route to my house.

Various boxes of unused cleaning products, shampoo, soap, shower gel, unused toothbrushes, photographs and documents were loaded into the car, and we locked up for the day.

The journey home didn’t start well. As I pulled away in the car my brother Pete’s coffee tipped over and liberally covered him. He wasn’t happy.

My dad thankfully was in a conciliatory frame of mind and did his best to change the topic and provide mediation. He’s good like that sometimes – somehow managing to remain calm where my brother and I fail to.

The car was filled with his voice for 10 mins as i drove through the country roads and over the motorway, passing a garden centre that I mentally bookmarked for a future visit.

Then unexpectedly my brother said ‘I was going to ask you not to feature me in your blog posts, but now I’ve changed my mind. Put me in there if you want. Write what you need to.’

‘I’m annoyed’ I said. ‘I wanted to write a happy post tonight – and now i’m just pissed off.’

‘Don’t think about it’ he replied. ‘Write what you feel.’

Irritatingly he’d hit the nail on the head.

Not saying how I feel is what got me to where I am now – and talking openly and honestly to anyone that cares to read my words is going to be part of my process of self repair and improvement. Not only is it cathartic but its also what has sparked comments from people that have read my blog so far, and has in a really short space of time opened my mind to new possibilities with offers of support and advice.

So here I am – wanting a drink and still feeling a bit angry and telling the world I’m not all that strong at the moment.

But you know what – the more I type, the better I feel, and the better I feel the more I type. Rather than remaining in a vicious circle i’m building a virtuous one.

I do hate it though when my brother is right.

I’ll never hear the end of it.






The things she carried

Its not an easy thing to admit that you felt a sense of relief that someone you know or close to you has died.

We’re conditioned through life to believe that familial love is or should be unconditional – after all you only get one family, and you should cherish it.

Its not that easy though, especially if the person in question was often abusive and unpredictable. Even in a situation where love is strong it seems grief takes many forms. One could even be mistaken for thinking that there is none at all, as it often it masquerades so well. It can surface as anger, numbness, confusion, mis-direction and denial to name but a few. In the last few weeks both before and after my mother died I’ve felt them all.

Anger was the worst. I cried and raged both inside and outwardly to those unfortunate enough to be caught up in my moment of venting.

‘Why was she so bitter, why did she hate people so much, how could she tell so many lies, and manipulate so many people?!’

This went through my mind over and over, and I couldn’t resolve the question.

At the moment, I’m still trying to make sense of my mother as I sift through her bungalow with my brother in silence. I’m surrounded by her possessions and mounds of scribbled and incoherent thoughts.

Carrier bags full of them. Wrapped and wrapped again, and then wrapped some more, tied in string, covered in sellotape and then wrapped in another bag, and hidden in a box.

Inside these (many & draining) boxes are the closely guarded thoughts are of a woman who couldn’t understand why she found it impossible to connect to people – and wanted nothing more than love. She wrote poignantly in one note, scribbled in a pad I’d recently bought her that all she wanted in life was to be loved by her family, but that she wasn’t good enough for them, and then scribbled out ‘them’ and replaced it with ‘him’.

I don’t know who ‘him’ was. It could have been any of us in the last few months and weeks when her mercurial mood swung in favour of one son and against another. It could have been my dad or my uncle.

I’ll never know.

Strangely though its not these things that are having an impact on me at the moment.

When she died her various purses contained 118 first class stamps and 29 second class stamps. Her pay as you go mobile phone had £277 worth of credit on it.


The stamps weren’t particularly special – and she wasn’t a collector. We almost never spoke on the phone and if we did she never had anything in particular to say. For many years due to strange and abusive texts and calls about radiation and fleas I withheld my number.

However, despite that she never stopped wanting to connect – but she never learned how to, and I think thats the thing that makes me the saddest.

After I left the bungalow I went to see my best friend and her beautiful cheeky and energetic daughter who were quite unexpectedly (but thankfully) in town.

My friend is wise beyond her years – and a light that often steers me safely to shore. I love her dearly and would be completely lost without her.

Her little girl was bouncing off the walls and trying to turn on the dishwasher every time her mother wasn’t looking.

Mother and daughter were in synergy. One looking at the other all the time, either to check that they were ok, or to gauge approval and mood.

As I watched them both together I forgot all about the stamps, and just thought about the dishwasher, beeping in distress at being relentlessly prodded with nothing on its shelves to be washed.

I’d like to think though that the dishwasher felt happy someone was interested in it nevertheless, even though it couldn’t say so & felt somewhat empty inside.