Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

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A very strange day.

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At the start of February I started planning my 50th birthday party. 6 months was long enough to get everything ready and everyone invited and confirmed. As the month went on it was obvious that the UK would enter lock down and that my party plans would stay just that.

In the run up to the big day my sense dread increased as I thought about all the things I thought I would have achieved by the time I was 50. The dent I have created in the universe is largely insignificant although some of the things I campaigned for: the end of Apartheid in South Africa, a ban on fox hunting in the UK have happened. Both of these events didn’t play out the way I expected them to. South Africa could, and if you believed the ANC hype during the Apartheid years – should, have become a beacon for the world, a model society that would make Scandinavian countries look 2nd best.

At the student demonstrations I went to in the late 80’s against student loans there would always be someone from the ANC and he – always a man – would start with a raised fist and shout over the microphone “Amandla” and we would shout the word back. They would tell us what a perfect society South Africa would have in the future and that our help was appreciated and working.

The speakers where telling the truth about the end of apartheid – it was teetering on the edge and I’m glad that I played my small part in pushing it over. I’m also complicit in what came afterwards because the very same speakers had been lying about the future society that intended to create. They never mentioned the big houses and servants that they would be claiming for themselves, how the black majority would actually have a lower standard of living with their “champions” in charge than they did when ruled by a nasty racist cabal that didn’t even accept that they were fully human.

Fox hunting has sort-of-not-really been banned. It still happens and the people doing it either circumvent or simply ignore the law. When hunts are caught breaking the law the simply receive a slap on the wrist and then carry on regardless.

And then the all the things I cared about that have actually got worse: the gap between rich and poor, inequalities in health, poverty. The environment is now in a much worse state then when I was laughed at 1988 for asking for lights to be turned off at the Poly of Wales in places where they weren’t needed because the ice caps are melting.

Nothing for me to be proud of and things are actually worse not better.

Not a good way to start the day.

On a global scale I’ve achieved nowt but in my own little way I’m sure I’ve helped people and I know I have inspired one persons journey as a musician. Maybe that is my limit. And as I was thinking about this, that my life has had a positive impact in so much that it has at least created two other lives, the sad news came in that my father in law had – your Uncle Ken – had passed away.

I have many memories of the man – all of them good as he was essentially, a good man. He liked a drink and sometimes an argument, never held a grudge and went out of his way to accommodate. I remember just he and I driving to somewhere in Trinidad and he asked me to pull over. He got out and took some leaves from a small tree and then pulled some more leaves from a plant in the ground. He explained that the leaves on the small tree were for a health drink and that the plant on the ground was Shado Beni – used in cooking. It was a good few years later, while watching Masterchef, that I saw a new and completely new way of preparing food – foraging!! The fact that millions, maybe billions of people everyday do the same thing out of necessity or habit, didn’t seem to trouble the program makers or presenter. Nobody gave Uncle Ken three Michelin Stars.

And here I am, the day after, wondering what I have learnt from all this, how I should respond and how it might shape my future. And I honestly don’t know.

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August 25th, 2020 at 11:34 am

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The Story Behind The Picture. J’Ouvert 2002.

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J'Ouvert in Arouca 2002
ME in 2002.

So here I am, stood in the spare bedroom at number 24 in Arouca, so drunk that I can hardly stand at 8 or 9am in the morning, covered in paint and grease. How did that happen?

It starts on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday in 2002. I’ve been roped into going to Trinidad Carnival. I’m told it’s great and I’ll have a good time. And as a dutiful fiance I have got up at stupid o’clock to catch a flight from Heathrow to Bridge Town, Barbados and then onto Piarco, Trinidad. The flight is long and I don’t remember much about it except that we were buying duty free cigarettes for Grandpa Ken. The amount allowed was two cartons but it was buy two, get one free. So we did. We are about to clear customs with one extra carton – in my mind because it was free we shouldn’t need to pay any tax on it. Tax is a percentage and any percentage of zero is still zero.

11 hours after leaving London we are in the new Piarco airport, the one Basdeo Panday had been banging on about last time I was there, despite the fact it was massively over budget and, more importantly, not finished. Panday is no longer PM, Patrick Manning was handed the PMship by the courts after an electoral tie.

The passport control people have the same attitude as last time – “give them a uniform and they think they are Hitler” – as the saying goes. No smile, no “hello”, just inane questions – why are you here? The temptation to launch on an existential musing is great but I resist. “Carnival” I answer. She looks at me in a strange way – at the time I thought it was a look of contempt. I will learn later what that look was. Then the grilling regarding where I’m staying, who lives there, why do they live there etc etc. I pull out my Palm Pilot and before I can look anything up, my papers and passport are stamped and I’m in the country.

Then we wait for the bags. And we wait. My body is telling me it’s 10pm at night but the clock says 6pm. The air conditioning, that was so good in the passport control area, isn’t as good in this bit. And I’m starting to get warm and a mild case of culture shock. The bags eventually arrive, ours are almost last but this works in our favour as the queue to clear customs has almost evaporated. And then, there we are, at the front and the man is talking to us. I can barely understand him, my ability to translate Trini to English is not up to conversational level yet. He really looks glum, he clearly doesn’t want to be there. Mummy answers his questions, he is happy and waves us through. He doesn’t mention duty free cigarettes, so neither do we.

We walk into the main area and a man tries to pick up our bags from the airport trolley. I ask him not to but he is very insistent. He explains that the trolley can’t be taken past a few metres from where we are stood. I tell him that I’m happy to carry them. Mummy is looking for Aunty Helen, see’s here and I pick up the bags and off we go. Mummy’s bag is very heavy but I pretend it’s not as I don’t want to give the porter the benefit of being right. For the few TT$ he charges, I really should have used his services.

I say hello to Helen, bags go into “Colours”, her Nissan, with bright colours down the side and a quick hop to Arouca to drop the bags, say “hello” to the family and then straight off out to a party. A quick drive down the motorway, we turn off and we are at a blocko – a street party where the street has been blocked off. I’m hungry and they have food but not a lot of it is veggie. I find some salad and breads and have a beer. I can’t remember how long we spent here. Then back to Arouca and I was very tired so I went off the bed. I’m not sure how long I slept until Mummy woke me up with an egg sandwich in one hand – ordering me to line my stomach – and a half bottle rum in the other. Time, for me at least, has stopped but it was dark so anytime before 6am Trinidad time. And now we were going to J’Ouvert in Arouca. I don’t remember who drove us and where we were dropped. All I remember was a handful of guys with buckets of paint and grease and they dirtied me, and the rest of the group, up. From head to toe. I’d played “dutty mas” once before at Nottinghill Carnival with Pure Lime and it wasn’t an altogether fantastic experience – it had rained and Mummy had gone missing on the route. By the end I was cold, wet and dejected. I was hoping for better. Once we were all painted up we wondered off some where and I had my first swig of rum. The bottle went round and came back empty. Luckily the owner of the local rum shack had decided to open up and a few more bottles were bought. Then it rained. For the first time in Trinidad I felt cold as I huddled under the eaves of a house. This was going to be Nottinghill all over again, wasn’t it? The rain shower lasted only a few minutes and a few minutes later all evidence of it had evaporated – literally. I was onto my second bottle of Stag, dry and warm and off we went to join the parade.

Loud music, more Stag – and the odd Carib – more rum and loads of people doing the same thing. I have no idea how long this went on for but I recall that we did either two or three laps and the booze was flowing like water. Eventually it started to get light – so it must have been around 6am – somewhere close it was raining as a magnificent rainbow appeared. Which triggered me and I cried a little with joy and thanked a god I don’t believe in for promising not to kill us all again. I think we walked home and once the photos were taken we went into the back yard to be hosed down and cleaned up. I then retired to bed and slept for rest of Monday and until the early hours of Tuesday. Mummy kept waking me every few hours to administer water and some soup. I did manage to spend some time asleep with my back uncovered and the mosquitoes did their worst. My back ended up looking like a pizza.

I’ve use the term “we” a lot – I genuinely can not remember who was there and wasn’t. I was there, Mummy was there, Uncle Keith was their and because I remember the photograph in the newspaper, Aunty Hazel was there. Your cousin Tricia was there. I think Uncle Hayden was there and it’s possible Uncle Hazley was there. I’m sure more people I know where there, but I just can’t remember. If I can find the photos then I’ll confirm.

My first ever J’Ouvert was brilliant and an experience that defines and almost certainly “opens” another chapter of my life. It was the point that I starting bonding with Mummy’s family and started to get an understanding of the history, the culture and the people of Trinidad. And with that understanding I got a deeper understanding of Mummy herself. It wasn’t just the day that opened, it was also my mind.

P.S. My miserable Nottinghill was a one off and I’ve had many brilliant experiences since with Pure Lime.
P.P.S. The passport control woman’s facial contortions were a mixture of jealousy, I bet she was working for the whole of Carnival, and pity, as I’m sure she knew I wasn’t up to it.

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May 22nd, 2020 at 10:22 am

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Missing Mrs D.

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Dear Boys,

Yesterday we set off for the annual Trini Limers cricket match and it was a very good day. An annual catch-up with people flying in from around the world – some staying for Nottinghill Carnival, some not.

And for the very first time, it really hit me that Theresa was missing. I wept at her funeral as both of you did, but the momentous loss was always just out of sight, hidden over the horizon with only the odd sight of smoke from a fire, to give it away. Easy to turn away and pretend it hadn’t been seen then to engage, walk over and confront it.

Yesterday there was no where to run. At the end of the match there was a brief act of remembrance and once again I cried. Grief is, at it’s very core, a selfish act. The person who died maybe doesn’t even know they are dead, they aren’t suffering, and in some circumstances will have wanted to die. But those of us left behind are now missing out and we don’t want to, and we don’t know why we should have to. 

With the benefit of time and the suppressed emotions and memories forced to fore, what better time than now to really get all the poisonous grief out of my system? Because ultimately that is what grief – a hideous toxic chemical that had a half-life of millions of years, it  can not be broken down, only expelled. Caribbean funerals are great at this – no stiff upper lip nonsense. Cry and wail all you want and no one judges, everyone left to grieve in the fashion they see fit. Your great grandma, Uncle Wayne and then your grandma; they all had fantastic and emotional send-offs. So did Theresa.

We all went to visit her in hospital, a week before she died. She was still strong, still bossy. She wanted water with 4 ice cubes in it. We gave her a kiss on the forehead as we left. Mummy was visiting almost every day but I had stayed away. I apologised for not visiting more and said I would explain when you guys weren’t there. She told me she knew why and it was okay – and I sincerely believe that she did know why: in the face of death I run away, I distance myself from it. I did it with my mother – I ran away to France and then to South Wales. I moved back to the North East when they moved to the North West and then, sensing that even that was too close, moved to London. I had even planned my escape to back to Chamonix when I met your mother. Her emotional and loving gravitational pull and then the birth of you too – there is no way I could ever leave of my own choosing.

So what can I say of Theresa? She was the first of the Trini crew that I met when mummy took me to her and Edison’s house. Her smile when she first saw me – I knew I was going to be accepted. She had a clarity of thinking that I envy – how ever big the project, she seemed to know the different steps required. She was honest to the point of brutality but not for brutalities sake – she took no joy in it. Always ready to listen. After my mother died she became more of a mother figure than the big sister she had been before. There was always veggie food for me and her macaroni pie …

No person is perfect and after a death there is a tendency to re-write history to the extent that the deceased has a Midas touch and their shit smelt of roses. We had our differences over the years – and the odd argument. But nothing major, nothing worth noting.

I still miss you T. Your wise words, your unflinching optimism that every problem can be broken down and solved piece by piece until the obtainable goal is easily in reach, the telling off’s for being defeatist, the pep talks when I was down, having the right words at the right time at the right pitch. Grief is selfishness. I want all that right now, I don’t want to have to dig into my own psyche and find answers for myself – I want you to do it for me. 

And I can’t find the picture that I want – of you asleep on our sofa, with Philip the dog keeping you company. So instead I’ll use a picture from the Ion Bar, now a Sainsburys, from around 2002.

Theresa D’Abreu 1966 – 2018.

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August 19th, 2019 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Family,Memories

Time for a midlife crisis.

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I’ve come to a point in my life where it has finally dawned on me that my shadow is taller than my soul. My life expectancy is about 84 years, take away the 49 years and that leaves approximately 35 years. As I get older, I’ll get slower and weaker both physically and mentally. It’s a real shame that life doesn’t reach mid point and then start going backwards – having a mind and body that starts getting fitter, stronger and faster. 

I have been flirting with a mid-life crisis. I wanted my nose pieced when I was 18 but never got round to it. Tattoos weren’t really a thing in the late 80’s unless you were a criminal or a sailor of some sort. Or a very avant-guard artist and these people were few and far between.

Over the last few months I have thought about painting my nails, nose piercings and tattoos but being a cliché – so well warn that it is a staple of crappy sitcoms – isn’t something I want to be. What I do want to be is a better husband and father. So instead of a selfish introverted “phase” that is basically just shouting “LOOK AT ME!” over and over I need to become more attuned to the needs of those around me, while balancing that with my own needs. 

There will be times when these “needs” diverge and can’t be reconciled. With lots of love, empathy and listening I’m sure they can be negotiated and over time everyone gets all of what they need and most of what they want; the bits missed out on being less important anyway.

So instead of painted nails – an open mind. Instead of a nose ring – open ears. Instead of leaving for another women/family – being a better husband and father. Instead of a fast car/motorbike – better engines for when you guys go karting.

Lets do this mid-life crisis!

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August 16th, 2019 at 1:19 pm

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The changing face of music.

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Dear Boys,

Many years ago when I was a boy there were three ways to listen to music: on the radio, playing records, playing a cassette. Uncle Phil and I both had a record player each by the time I was 9 or 10. Uncle Phil got Grandpa John’s old record player and I got given one by a person at church. The first record I ever bought was Funky Town by Lips Inc and I paid the princely sum of 99 pence for a piece of 7 inch vinyl. In today’s money (2013) that would be £3.60. I only got 50p a week pocket money in those days so I could only buy a single every two weeks if I didn’t spend more than a penny on sweets or crisps. The record players that we had would allow you to stack the records up and when one finished another would drop down and then play. As children we found this cutting edge technology to be amazing although it was a good 20 years old even then.

I was able to maximise my music purchasing power in two ways. The first was to buy second hand records at church and school fairs. Old records and singles could be bought for as little as a penny although what was on offer was what other people didn’t want i.e. rubbish mainly. The other way to get quality stuff was to wait until the record fell out of the charts and pick it up for 49p. This happened to some songs quicker than others but because almost everywhere sold records: WH Smiths, Boots, Woolworths – at least one of them would have over ordered and want to clear the stock.

Except at church and school fairs, albums were out of my price range and to be honest not really my thing. As I kid I just wanted the songs they played on the radio not the more self indulgent album tracks. Compilation albums did exist – the top songs of the last few months – but they weren’t by the original artists but done by supposed sound-a-likes although they sounded like they had be recorded in one day and in a single take. The albums were called Top Of The Pops and had the same name as the main music program on BBC1 at the time although the two were not related – although for a few yeas I believed they were. These albums would usually have a scantily clad woman on the front and I remember nearly buying one in a supermarket called Hillards.

Then in either 1981 or 82 things changed and a company brought put an album with all the original popular songs of the day out and with album one you got album two free. No more naff sound-a-likes that didn’t sound anything like the original. Then in 1983 came Now That’s What I Call Music and the series went on to dominate the market, killing off Top Of The Pops.

So many things from that era no longer exist: Hillards, Woolworths, major shops selling music and the easy availability of vinyl. Music is downloaded now for the same price as a single back in 1980 – 99p. Although downloading is not the same as buying for many reasons. Only being given a stingy amount of pocket money meant my music purchases had to be something that I liked, something that I knew. The only time I could take a risk on something that I might not like was at church and school fairs where I could pay a few pence and if I didn’t like it, simply donate it to the next one. With digital music it is easy to find new artists and songs if you can be bothered to search YouTube or if you have a friend to tip you off. But what is missing is the physical product. I remember when I decided that I was going to buy my first single. I turned on my little radio, tuned to Radio 1, and decided to buy the first record that was playing. I thought about what I would do if I didn’t like the song – let’s hear the song first and then decide what to do. And it was Funky Town. I like the song so I walked in to town, on my own, and visited the different record shops to see which sleeve the vinyl came in. In one shop the single may be in a plain sleeve while in another it would have a full colour sleeve – I learnt that from a lad at school the week before when he was out shopping for singles. The BBC were embroiled in strikes at the time and the TV program Top Of The Pops wasn’t being broadcast so it wasn’t until the advent of YouTube that I got to see the video for the song.

The thrill of owning a physical music product is something that you will miss out on. I spent my Xmas money in 1985 on the album “Fugazi” by Marillion. I spent the 45 minute ride back from Newcastle studying the gatefold sleeve: reading the lyrics and admiring Mark Wilkinson’s artwork and seeing how the two matched. You don’t get that with downloads – everything is instant. No journey to the record shop, no journey back, no sleeve notes or album art to appreciate while listening to the music. And I think you’ll be worse off for it.

Written by Administrator

August 7th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Culture,Memories

A pencil behind a radiator.

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Dear Boys,

I saw this today – a pencil behind a radiator and it triggered a memory. When I was 10 years old I went on a camping holiday with the school to Clipston near Nottingham. The idea of the holiday was to go canoeing and that is what we did in between informal lessons and sleeping in tents.

We had to keep a diary while we were there which involved writing half a page of stuff and then drawing a picture. The teachers brought with them packs of coloured pencils for the drawing part. Every evening we decamped to a barn for tea and then do our “homework”. The tables were made from barrels and had a pole through the middle. I got bored and started putting the coloured pencils in the pole in the middle of the tables.

When it became time to tidy up the teachers noticed that some of the pencils were missing as the packs were brand new and the teachers were not impressed. The teachers told us that all the pencils had to be returned or there would be consequences. Now I was a little scared, I don’t think anyone had seen me putting the pencils down the pipes but I wasn’t sure. None of the usual kids who liked to grass other kids spoke up so I calmed a little. What if the teachers had seen me – I hadn’t been checking to see if they had been watching, I was just bored and did something to eleviate the bordem. I knew I had to get the pencils back but another wave of fear hit me – what if the pipes were blocked at the bottom? If they where the table would need to be turned upside down to get the pencils back. I walked over to a table which I knew had a pencil in the pipe and lifted it up and to my delight I saw the bottom of a coloured pencil. I tried to pull my best “how did that get there?” face. Other children saw what I had done to unearth a pencil and tried the same with the other tables and before long all the coloured pencils were returned.

I haven’t thought about that incident for many years, but a pencil behind a radiator reminded me.


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May 23rd, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Memories

The power of advertising – 35 years later.

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Dear Boys,

When I was about 5 or 6 years old there was an advert on the telly for a brand of bubble bath called Matey. We didn’t have bubble bath in our house, it was seen as an expensive extravagance but this didn’t stop me and Uncle Phil pestering Grandma Audrey in an attempt to get her to buy some. We didn’t try it on with Grandpa John as we knew we could never convince him.

The advert promised that Matey would not only clean the children in the bath but the bath itself, which I thought was the angle I could use to sell the product to my mother. Surely never having to washout out the bath after Uncle Phil and I had been in it would be enough to secure a purchase? No. My mother didn’t believe adverts, pure and simple. In her life time cancer causing cigarettes had been advertised on the TV, even claiming that they were good for you!

Our pestering must have had some effect because eventually we did get some bubble bath but I’m sure it wasn’t Matey. I do remember using the shower attachment to swill away the remnants of bubbles.

So fast forward about 35 years and I was out shopping and I needed to get bubble bath. And then I saw a bottle of Matey next to Sainsburys own and started to hum the tune from the advert. When I saw that it was on offer at half price and cost less than the usual type I had no excuse not to buy a bottle. So I bought some. It may have taken about 35 years but the advert never left me. I remembered the tune and one of the three selling points.


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January 1st, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Culture,Family,Memories


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Dear Boys,

We recently moved out of East London and to Surrey. You William, love playing football so Mum signed you up for the local team and I’m now assistant manager.

One thing that plays on my mind is nepotism and fun. When I was a boy I used to go to Boys Brigade with Uncle Phil. I enjoyed being in the Anchor Boys but when I moved up to the older boys it started being a chore. I have always had a problem with authority and doing things that don’t have an obvious purpose so marching appeared to be the biggest waste of time ever. If I was going to do marching then they were going to have to make it fun – but they couldn’t even do that. I’m not sure how they derived pleasure from shouting at young boys but they did – because that is all they did.

I remember once doing a figure of eight manoeuvre – we would march towards the head man and the first person would go left, the next right, the next left etc. We would then march round in a figure eight crossing over. This was hard to do because we would inevitably walk into each other but after a few practises we were getting there. I walked to the left, wheeled round and managed to judge gap perfectly but the lad coming from the other side got confused and changed direction by jumping in front of me. Queue shouty man going off on one. I kept marching thinking that shouty man was at least shouting at the right person.

The lad in questions was the youngest of three brothers. The father of the trio of brothers was the best mate of shouty man and these three boys were never shouted at, told off and always won – even when, in the case of the first two, they deserved it, or in the case of number three, they didn’t. I wheeled round again and saw the bulbous red face of shouty man still going on. Slowly my stomach started to tighten as I released that it was I that was being shouted at. I knew that my father was in the vestry so I simply walked out, never to return. I shouldn’t have been surprised as the following stories will illustrate.

The Boys Brigade is a Christian organisation and as such mandated church attendance. We were even issued with Boys Brigade Cards that the Minister or Local Preacher would sign to say that we had attended church. Uncle Phil and I attended church every Sunday including holidays. I remember an over night drive to the Highlands of Scotland and the first thing we did before unpacking was drive around the locality looking for a church and Grandma Audrey making a note of the morning service times.

Every month in the Boys Brigade someone was chosen to be Head Boy or Captain – I don’t remember the exact title. As far as I remember the award was given out based on three criteria:

1. Church Attendance

2. Boys Brigade Attendance

3. Attitude at Boys Brigade

As we attended church every Sunday and Boys Brigade every time it was on then both Uncle Phil and I were ticking boxes 1 and 2. In fact we were the only boys that were ticking those two boxes. I wasn’t old enough to be Head Boy or Captain but Uncle Phil was. And every month, when the award was announced,  we would attend Boys Brigade in the expectation that Uncle Phil would get the award and lead the boys into church at the monthly Family Service. And every month is was the eldest of the three brothers given the award. It didn’t matter that they only turned up for church once a month and missed Boys Brigade when they felt like it. I remember one late summer evening walking to Boys Brigade with Grandma Audrey and Uncle Phil and we saw the three brothers heading out with their fishing tackle on the other side of the road. “Going to Boys Brigade tonight lads?” Grandma Audrey shouted out, knowing full well what the answer would be. “No! We’re going fishing” the eldest replied in a very sarcastic tone. When we got to Boys Brigade my mother made it known to the guy who ran it – shouty man –  that the three brothers thought fishing was more important than Boys Brigade and also reminded him that the three brothers hadn’t been in church for a while. So the next week when the decision would be made on Head Boy, Uncle Phil was the only candidate who could win. Uncle Phil had been to all the church services and all the Boys Brigades meetings. He also ticked box 3 because he had been present at the meetings when the three brothers hadn’t. We were all excited about Boys Brigade that week, Uncle Phil was going to lead the boys into church and Grandpa John would take the service.

I remember the night well. I can smell the main hall at the Haven Methodist Church. The room never really got light because the windows were only on one side of the hall so the lights were nearly always on. We were lined up and I had gone through the usual routine of being shouted at and marching around and not enjoying myself. But that was all okay because tonight I would see my brother become Head Boy. The announcements started, we were told that it was family service on Sunday so everyone was expected at church. “And head boy will be …” and it was the eldest of the three brothers. Uncle Phil kept a straight face but I didn’t. I cried. A frustrated cry that I am powerless. That I would love to take an axe to people like that but I know I never will.

For Halloween one year we had to dress up in costume. Uncle Phil spent ages making a skeleton mask, beautifully painted and detailed. The three brothers came with sheets over their heads and the ball from a toilet attached to their ankles. When the judging was being done the man who ran it said to Uncle Phil “where is the rest of your costume?” And of course the brothers, who had spent the best part of 2 minutes on their costumes, won first prize.

So as you can see Uncle Phil had the rough end of this nepotism more often and much worse than I ever did.


As an adult I have to wonder why shouty man acted the way he did. What did he think he was teaching us by shouting, by sucking the fun out of everything, by showing favouritism to a few and hurting the rest. If my father had a meeting on the same night as Boys Brigade Uncle Phil and I would be the first to arrive. Other kids would drift in and I remember that most were resigned to the fact that the three brothers were the favourites, that they would get nothing but that was just the way it is.


With the football coaching I’m trying to learn the lessons. I want to make it fun and interesting, not a chore. I don’t want any of the lads feeling that, despite their best efforts, they are not getting what they deserve. I do have a role model for this and this came from the Boys Brigade in another place.  The music teacher at Birtley Boys Brigade made learning to march with a snare drum fun and interesting. I hope I can be half the man he was.

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March 4th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

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PPPPick Up A Penguin

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Dear Boys,

When Uncle Phil and I were younger Grandma Audrey used to buy Penguin biscuit bars. Grandma Audrey told Uncle Phil and I that the blue biscuits were the best. This wasn’t true because all the bars were exactly the same, it was just the wrappers that were different colours. As children we didn’t know this and we took our mothers mischievous joke to be real and argued about who should get the blue one. Usually in a packet of 6 there would only be one blue, the rest would be either green or red. And Grandma Audrey would take the blue one and tell us how nice it was!

If one of us managed to get the blue one then we would laud it over the other, telling them how great our Penguin was while the other begrudgingly ate our own, unable to enjoy it because the other one had the blue one.

And such is life. I have given up looking at what other people have and wishing that I had it too. Instead I have decided what I want and how I want to live and then do it and enjoy doing it.

Written by Administrator

February 2nd, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Family,Memories

The Death Of Gary Speed

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Dear Boys,

I decided to wait some months until this story moved away from the public eye to write about the death of Gary Speed.

I was looking at the BBC News web site on a Sunday morning when I saw the headline flash up “Gary Speed confirmed dead”.  I was shocked because only the day before we had watched him on Football Focus. No other details of his death were given.

I told your mother that Gary was dead and she too felt the same feeling of shock. She asked how he died and I said I didn’t know but I thought it must be a car crash as I thought that he must spend a lot of time driving around to see various Welsh players plying their trade. My thought was that he must have been driving home late and crashed.

This though was not my first thought. My first thought was that he must have had a heart attack or some undiagnosed heart problem that reared its ugly head and killed him. I suppressed this thought because the man was extremely fit – he had trained regularly for most of his life while I have spent most of my life sitting behind a computer tapping away on a keyboard. If anyone should have a bad heart then it should be me. If someone supremely fit could unexpectedly die with a heart problem – what chance do I have?

I switched over to the BBC’s 24 Hour new channel and they were carrying the story but no mention of the cause of death was made, only that police had confirmed Gary’s death.

A quick Twitter search and information that Gary had taken his own life started to emerge. I have seen information that is quite clearly fake spread through email, FaceBook and Twitter before so my first thought was “this is rubbish, why are so many idiots regurgitating it”.

As I said earlier Gary Speed had been on Football Focus the day before, smiling and happy and joking with his old team mate Gary McAlister.

Then the newsreader confirmed that Speed had been found hung at his home and that it was suicide. I felt stunned, a knot developed in my stomach.  This could not be true. Why would he do such a thing? Had he been set up by the Sunday tabloid press? There were not mentions of him in that mornings press – so why?

The inquest into his death hasn’t started so maybe that will shed some light onto his real state of mind as opposed to the public image. I will always remember Speed for being a Newcastle United player.  For our first date I took your mother to a Newcastle game away at West Ham.  It was raining very hard that night and we got very wet. At half time we waited under the stand in the dry before making our way to our seats and missed Speed’s goal for Newcastle.

Even after the best part of two months I am still stunned and confused by his death.

Written by Administrator

January 15th, 2012 at 2:59 pm