The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Respect Ignites The Beauty In Competition …
April 13, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Childhood, Comment, Football, Nottingham, Nottingham Forest

A few weeks ago, Nottingham Forest played Liverpool in the FA cup.

It was the first time in 23 years we had played each other and while the recent history of both clubs could mot be further apart, seeing the, both acknowledge their old rivalry – when they ruled Europe – was something special to see.

Liverpool started it with this magnificent video.

Watching it was very moving to me.

Not just because it takes me back to my childhood, but it takes me back to matches I actually attended.

With my Dad and friends.

Special times.

Memories of my youth, my home, my family.

And then Forest did something that made me incredibly proud.

To honour the 97 Liverpool fans who tragically died at Hillsborough – when Liverpool again played Forest – they did this.

With all the shit going on in the World at the moment, seeing old enemies respect each other before competing against each other was something wonderful to see.

Even though we lost 0-1 and our roof suddenly started leaking as there was a huge storm in Auckland while the match was on … it was still a welcome distraction from the feeling of fear that has permeated the globe thanks to the ego of old, rich, toxic, white politicians.

So thank you to Liverpool for the moment and the memories [again] and thank you to Nottingham Forest for letting me believe that even in the worst of times, there’s a chance for something special to come out the other side.

Come on you reds.



Happy Anniversary Mum And Dad …

Today would have been my parents 58th wedding anniversary.

Amazing.

And while the reality is Dad died 23 years ago and Mum 7, they had a good marriage.

Yes there were some hard times along the way.

Some that still hurt deeply when I think of them.

As is often the case, they were brought on by stress triggered by a lack of money, health issues and/or family bullshit they were pulled into.

But while there are some moments that I wish could be erased forever, I was brought up in a house of love and support.

Love for each other.
Love for me.
Love for us.

As I said at both my parents funerals, I never wanted for their support or compassion and it was only as I grew older that I realised how lucky I am for that.

The photo above was taken at the Nottingham Registry Office where they got married.

They’d been living in London but came to Nottingham to be closer to my Dad’s family.

They were only supposed to be there for a few years – but you know how it is.

I always thought that must have been hard for my Mum.

Don’t get me wrong, she liked Nottingham … but she was Italian, had moved to London for adventure but met Dad, fell in love and then found herself in the Midlands, even further away from her family.

I think when I came along, it may have helped because she wouldn’t have wanted to raise me in central London and so Nottingham probably became quite a good place then.

She stayed there for a long time.

A lot longer than she had lived in Italy.

We had talked – prior to her death – if she wanted to move back to Italy.

It was a real consideration.

Dad had died. Long term neighbours had died or moved away. Her sister was alone in the family home back in Guardiagrele.

But it didn’t happen and now her ashes, like Dad’s, are scattered over their beloved garden. The garden that was my family home and always will be, despite eventually selling the house.

I’ve written about how hard that decision was.

How conflicted I was when it suddenly became mine.

But I think they would be happy how I handled it. Plus I have a beautiful jar of soil from that house with me. And by selling the incredibly generous gift of their inheritance, I was able to buy our family home in the UK. A home with a garden my parents would absolutely approve of.

I still remember the bizarre moment Mum and I went to register Dad’s death and we realised it was in the same place as where they got married.

It had a weird closed circle to it.

Similar to the fact Mum died in the same hospital where I was born.

I miss them. I regret that I didn’t really talk to them about these things.

Part of that was because I thought I’d have more time to do it but alas, Dad fell ill when I was just 24. And then I kept moving countries.

But I’m very glad they got married 58 years ago today.

Because they gave me a childhood and a family that was as special as they were.

Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad. I hope you’re holding hands and laughing at the silliness and joy your son and his family get up to.

Rx



Emails From History …
February 10, 2022, 8:00 am
Filed under: Childhood, Dad, Death, Family, Fear, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad

A while back, I received an email from someone at Queen’s Medical Centre.

The QMC is a hospital near where I lived in Nottingham.

It was once the biggest hospital in Europe, but its real significance is it is the hospital that saved my eyesight, saved my Mum’s life, saved my Dad’s … until they couldn’t.

It’s a place that ignites an insane amount of emotions in me.

I obviously haven’t been in it for a long time, but the last occasion I was there – when I went with Mum to see her specialist to try and delay her op as it was going to coincide when Otis was going to be born – so much came flooding back.

It smelt the same.
It had the same bustle and noise.
It had the same cafes and newsagents.
It had the same corridors, doors and places of eery silence.

I have spent too much of my life in that place.

It may be a place that saved me and the most important members of my family … but it also subjected me to feelings that I never want to experience again.

Fear. Worry. Pain. Confusion.

So it was strange to receive this email from a medical student [QMC is also a medical training and research hospital] saying they had found this blog and discovered the posts I had written about my Mum and Dad dying.

They told me they were doing a project where they were reaching out to people who had suffered great loss to see if they would be willing to write about their experience and how they came back from their darkest points – so that it could help others going through a similar thing.

I was both flattered and terrified.

Flattered to be asked. Terrified what it may reignite.

Because despite Dad having been gone 23 years and Mum 7, I can still be affected by their loss with the most random of triggers.

And it was then I realised why I had to do it.

Because while Anthony Hopkins eyes can make me think of my Dad … or random elderly women in Thai Restaurants in Manhattan Beach can make me feel compelled to give them a hug … the rush of emotion they ignite has gone from drowning to reconnecting.

I know that might sound strange.

And I can assure you that isn’t how it feels when you’re in the moment of it.

But after – when the moment has been allowed to overwhelm – it is exactly how I feel.

Which is why I sent them this. I hope it does someone good, somewhere.

I hope it lets Mum and Dad know even though their loss can stab me with pain.

I’m OK.

And so is the pain.

Shadows

And then there was no one.
He was on his own.
An adult who still felt like a child but had no other choice than to grow up.

This was not part of the plan.
Yes, he had some vague notion of the concept of death.
But they were going to live forever.

But silence reinforced truth.
They had both gone.
And despite the decades of life he’d lived.
And despite the family he’d raised.
He never felt so alone.
Abandoned.
An orphan.
Drifting in a sea, with no life jacket left to protect him.

And as truth took hold
He entered a black hole of time.
Not knowing if he would be able to cope.
Not sure if he wanted to.
But somewhere deep inside there was a will that was starting to take hold.

And while the first days and weeks made him a slave to his tears.
Bit by bit he crawled his way back.
Out of the darkness and back into the light.
Still struggling to make sense of anything.
But out and alive.

But despite all the years
A shadow still remained.
In the background.
Far enough to be out the way.
Not far enough to fully escape it.
And it stays there, waiting to pounce whenever it pleases.
Waiting to drag you back into its darkness.

They say time is the great healer.
But that’s not exactly right.
Because time doesn’t heal, it reframes.
And while you never know when it will happen, you know when it does.

Because one day the shadow will strike.
Envelop you to drag you down.
Take you to a place that feels like a prison … except of being locked in, emotions escape out.
But the tears now have a different role.
They’re no longer about what you don’t have.
They’re for memories of what you did.
The silly, the ridiculous, the bland and the majestic.
Each tear becomes a memory of what those two meant to you.
The people you would give all you have to see again,
But now you realise they’re not completely gone.
Because the shadow is no longer a sign of loss.
But a reminder, they’re still there.



Just Bung It In The Oven …

Hello there.

I hope you all had a wonderful festive season.

I hope 2022 rewards us with all the opportunities and possibilities that the past 2 years took away.

I hope we can see our friends.

See our families.

Be healthy.

Be happy.

Live with hope and optimism.

Now I said this blog wasn’t going to be back until Jan 31st … and it isn’t.

And frankly, after the December I had – which included the death of a dear friend, an unexpected hospital visit for me and an emergency operation for Otis [who is fully recovered, thank god] – I need all the time I can get to recuperate.

However on Sunday, it is 23 years since my Dad died.

In just 6 years time, he will be gone as long as he was in my life.

And in 9 years time, I will be the age he was when he died.

They will be two very significant moments in my life and – if I’m being honest – I’m nervous of one and scared of the other.

Nervous because it just seems impossible he will have been out of my life more than he was in it.

Of course he is still in my life, but you know what I mean.

Scared because the reality of death comes ever nearer.

Now I know no one knows when someone is going to die – but the idea that it could be when I’m 60 – like he was – is an irrational thought that just sits there. Coming out when I least expect it.

And when it’s quiet, another ridiculous idea enters my mind.

Because Mum died at 83 and Dad died at 60 … I can also convince myself I’ll die between those 2 ages.

So 72.

Now I get 72 is quite a way a way, but it feels a fuckload closer when you’re 51 and your son is only 7.

But all this could be the melancholy of this being Dad’s anniversary, because the reality is I’m happier in my life than I’ve been for a long time.

Not that I was unhappy, but there were moments … but right now, I am in a truly good place and my parents would be so happy to know that.

Which is why I want this post to be about something that would make Dad smile.

A few weeks ago, Jill and I were talking about books that made us laugh to the point of pain.

While we both had a few, her major one was Catch 22 and mine was the first Adrian Mole book – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾.

Adrian Mole’s ‘diary’ came out in 1982 but I got it in the summer of 1983 … which means I read it at the same age as Adrian was.

I loved it. It was hilarious, poignant, tragic and uplifting.

It covered so many issues so many kids were going through.

Family. Friendship, Girls. Sex. Arguments. Parent and Grandparent arguments.

It was, in some ways, the diary of every kids aged 13.

I loved it and still love it when I revisit it every 5 years or so.

But the reason I’m telling you this is because of when my Dad read it.

I think Mum had told him how much I enjoyed it so he decided to check it out.

Anyway, one morning I came downstairs and Mum asked me to ask Dad about what happened in the night.

She said it with a smile, so I knew it wasn’t bad.

I went in the lounge and he was there in his favourite rocking chair.

“Mum told me to ask you what happened last night”

As soon as I said it, he looked at me. His face lit up, a big smile came on his face that allowed his gorgeous dimples to come into the spotlight.

“Oh Robert …” he said, “I was reading your book last night and the bit about the Christmas turkey not being defrosted made me howl with laughter.”

“It was 2am and I had to come downstairs to try and calm down”.

“The bit where they’re trying to thaw the turkey under the hot tap in the bath …” to which he he burst out laughing again with tears in his eyes.

Of course, seeing my Dad like this made me laugh too and then I heard Mum laughing from the kitchen at the state of both of us.

While I never really understood why that bit tickled him so much, I have an idea.

Whether it was the time Mum invited a really miserable elderly couple to our Christmas dinner but only announced it a few days before Christmas and we already had a house full booked … to Dad’s terrible first ever experience with a microwave that literally carbonised sausages … to drunk family members causing scenes … to buying a turkey so big it didn’t even fit in our over … to a not-very-funny-but-very-funny episode with a glass of water when his Mum came to visit.

Who knows. Maybe it was some of that, maybe it was none of it.

But regardless of the reason, I will always remember how that paragraph revealed the child in my Dad and that is why I will always love that book.

It might also explain why I love the Plenty Christmas ad from a couple of years ago. Because watching it again, it’s basically that scene made as a commercial.

I miss my Dad.

I miss him so much.

I would give anything to be able to talk to him and discuss what I’ve done in the last 23 years.

Introduce him to his daughter in law and grandson.

Tell him that Paul and I are still inseparable and mischievous.

Show him all the places I’ve visited and lived and then tell him about all the things I’ve done and still want to do and try.

Watch him try to take it all in and then hear all his questions.

But as I can’t, I’ll honour him by sharing the paragraph that made him roar [which is at the very bottom of this post] and say this:

Dad. I love you.

I think about you all the time.

I am almost overwhelmed with the things I want to say and share.

I hope you’d like [most] of the decisions I’ve made. I know a few would raise eyebrows, but hopefully not too many.

All I’ve ever wanted to do is make you and Mum proud.

I hope I’m doing that overall.

A kiss to you and Mum.

And a lifetime of my love.

To the rest of you, give your loved ones a hug and see you on the 31st.

_________________________________________________________________

The Secret Life Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

Friday December 25th (1981)

I went up to the bathroom and found my mother crying and running the turkey under the hot tap.

She said, “The bloody thing won’t thaw out, Adrian. What am I going to do?”

I said, “Just bung it in the oven.” So she did.

‘We went down to eat Christmas dinner four hours late. By then my father was too drunk to eat anything.’



If Companies Want To Know About ‘Agile’, Ask My Son …

3 different nationalities.
4 different countries [In 4 different continents]
5 different homes.
4 different schools.
Two major long lockdowns.
All of this in just 6 – but soon to be 7 – short years.

And yet despite all that change … all that waving goodbye and learning to say new hellos … he remains a happy, curious, cheeky and compassionate kid.

And while he loved his life in China, America and the UK … he is blossoming in NZ.

Sure, some of that is because he has been able to get back into some sort of routine, meet new friends and play with other kids his own age – at least until Delta struck and he got locked down with his parents for weeks on end – but it’s more than that …

Outdoor life is a way of life here.

Being outside is no longer a conscious choice.

The line between indoors and outdoors is now very slim.

No need to change clothes. No need to wear shoes. Spontaneity is allowed to flow which – let’s be honest – is exactly how a kid should be able to live their life.

I’ve lived in similar environments before … in Australia and America for example … but whether it’s because I’m older or now live in a bloody treehouse or have a kid of my own, I appreciate it so much more.

Watching him be able to run around outside is a real privilege.

Of course, for people born here, that’s a normality … but I have lived in environments where that’s not the case, which is why even seeing him watch his iPad in the sun is something I don’t take for granted.

We cannot discount the importance of being able to play outside, but sadly many governments and councils seem to.

Viewing it as ‘a favour’ rather than a fundamental right.

Playing outside helps kids in so many ways.

Bond … learn … imagine … express … play … explore … compete … respect.

It’s not a ‘waste of time’, it creates a deeper foundation for life.

An ability to think outside of lines and others definitions.

Giving kids an environments where they can be outside is basically an investment in a countries future.

A nation of curious, interested, healthy people.

But not everyone gets this.

Some actively try to stop this.

Often people of immense privilege who either associate outdoor life as something for either the elite or the rough.

Fortunately NZ does not see it this way.

They revel and celebrate it.

They have the best parks I’ve ever seen in my life.

Parks made to enjoy and encourage kids to push their boundaries.

A new discovery of what you’re capable of with every visit.

And while for most kids it’s about developing, for Otis it’s also about grounding.

A place he can feel is his.

A connection to where he lives in a way he’s not had before.

Because while he is young, I do not underestimate what he has been through.

Fuck, there’s people I have worked with who have literally freaked out when asked to move office desks … and yet here’s my kid, who has moved countries, homes and friends and still embraces the possibilities of every situation.

So much of that is down to his brilliant Mum who has helped that change happen in the most comfortable, seamless way … but it still requires a mindset to look at what you’ll gain rather than just what you lose.

And while I know one day I’ll no doubt be dragging him off for another adventure somewhere else on the planet [but don’t worry, it won’t be for ages. Probably] I want you to know that I love you from tip to toe and let you know I’m so, so proud to be your dad.

Thank you Otis, you’re a little legend.