Updated: Apr 10
Hi (to whoever is reading this), I have never written a blog before and I don't really know why I volunteered to do PTSD999's opening one. I suppose the thinking is that the bar will be set so low that all that follow won't have a lot to live up it (here's my low self-esteem taking over again).
When Gary (Hayes) asked me to open the Blog account with the first feature being from me I immediately asked "Why ?I don't know what to say and who would want to hear from me anyway?" He laughed and said "Just be yourself mate, don't try to be anyone else" before ending the call with "In fact, come to think of it you may be better not being yourself" followed by laughter and "Love you mate, you'll smash it"
You will note I have used brackets several times already. The content of theses brackets are, in most, a reflection of what my mind is telling whilst writing and others an explanation to clarify whatever it is I am referring to
I will be splitting the blogs into several sections to be covered over the coming weeks. I will be looking at some of the most poignant events in my life so far, without doing into too much detail to protect and respect those who I may speak about . The blogs will be relatively short, it is meant to be a blog not a biography.
So, here goes....I was born into a working class family in the 1970's in a Northern City, one (1) of four (4) siblings and the youngest of three (3) boys. My Dad had served in the Military and on leaving had an opportunity to start out in business, which he grabbed with both hands and made a real success of it. So by the time my younger sister and I were born the family were living pretty comfortably in a substantial house in a middle class district. Running and maintaining a successful and growing business takes a great deal of effort, commitment and time. So that meant we didn't see too much of dad. He would leave before we were up and often home after we asleep. In the following years , which I will write about in later blogs, Mum would join Dad when the business expanded.
We were fortunate to have my grandparents - Elsie and Alfie (mothers side) living very nearby and my grandfather - Len (fathers side) lived with us. Grandad Len was a widow having lost his wife Anne to Cancer in her early 50's. I never got to meet her as she had passed before I was born.
I suppose Grandad Len became a father figure in my early years. He was retired and was always around. He had a great imagination, well I know that now but at the time I believed every single word it, the stories would keep me very intrigued. He was great fun to be with and very loving. I can still see him now in his his green army jumper with worn out elbow patches, brown cords which were worn flat on the thighs, a flat cap and a pipe. He smelt of tobacco, snuff (snipping tobacco) and fisherman's friends (sweets). Even now if was to smell creosote i am immediately back to my childhood, Dad is cutting the lawn and I'm helping Grandad paint the garden fence. (This is voluntary memory retrieval triggered by senses and is similar to a symptom of PTSD although those memory triggers are involuntary and uncontrolled). I shared a bedroom with Grandad and Sunday evenings we would got to bed early and watch TV ( I think it was That's Life and Point of View , I may be totally wrong) and eat sweets from his secret stash, usually Kopp Kops (Herbal boiled sweets with a liquorice/ aniseed taste and chewy centre). I was envied by my siblings as I was clearly Grandads favourite and no one else could get near him. I suppose this was due to a serious illness I had as a very young baby. i was less than 12 months old and I had a fever, Mum called the GP who attended and said it was just that, a fever, and I would be fine. Apparently Grandad wasn't convinced and took me to the local Children's Hospital, Alder Hey. Within hours I was in intensive care having being diagnosed with meningitis. Apparently i was critical and wasn't expected to pull through. Mum would to tell a story about the moment she was told to prepare for the worst. She was sat in the canteen of the hospital crying when she was approached by a man with a broad Scottish accent who asked if she was ok. She explained what she had been told and the man was some comforting to her. He left reassuring her that I was going to pull. A short time afterwards a gift arrived on the ward. It was a 4ft Teddy bear, yes 4ft its not a typo, with a card. It read " You are in our thoughts and prayers. Bill and Nessie Shankly". Apparently Bill Shankly lived close to the hospital and would often pop in to provide the staff and children with a moral boost. I still have that Teddy Bear (somewhat battered) almost 50 years later and the Shankly's have always had a special place in my heart, even though he was the manager of my rival team.
It was in 1982 , I recall the Falklands conflict was in progress, when I was exposed to my first personal trauma inn the way of a bereavement. I was getting ready to be taken to watch my local football team when Dad told me that he had arranged for someone else to take me. I was upset at this as it was one of the few times I usually got to spend quality time with him. The game was amazing as we had beaten a local rival very convincingly. I couldn't wait to get home and tell Dad and Grandad all about it. I remember running through the door with my match programme in hand shouting "We beat them five nil, we beat them it was amazing". But the house was quiet which was very strange in our home of seven (7), often more with family visitors. What was happening?
Dad's voice was very croaky and his eyes were red. He took my hand and led me to the living room. His hands were massive and sweaty as he clenched my hand. I don't recall the exact words he used as we sat down but he told me that Grandad Len had gone to heaven. I broke down in tears and ran to Grandad's bedroom, somewhat hoping that Dad was wrong and Grandad would be sat in bed. He wasn't..... I locked the door and lay on the bed holding his flat cap to my face and crying. I think I cried myself to sleep that night. The following weeks were a blur and I don't have much memory of them apart from being told I was not able to go to Grandad's funeral as I was too young. As an adult I can fully understand the reason for this but at the time I didn't. I still have some regrets that I never got to say my final farewell but who knows what longer term effect this may have had on me.
So its now the early 1980's and this is where I am going to end my first blog. In my next blog I will be writing about the effects of the loss of Grandad Len, further losses and my first experiences of Mental Health.
Until next time, stay safe, look after each other and be good to yourself.
Dedicated to My Grandad Len 💙