Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A very strange day.

without comments

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.

Written by Administrator

August 25th, 2020 at 11:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Time for a midlife crisis.

without comments

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!

Written by Administrator

August 16th, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


without comments

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.

Written by Administrator

March 4th, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Back in the Premiership.

without comments

Dear Boys,

So after one single season in the 2nd tier of English football, Newcastle return to the top. William and I went to the game at Peterborough last Saturday and it was a cracking game. Newcastle going behind early on, playing badly for all of the first half before scoring in added on time. The second half was completely different – the Toon scored 2 quick goals and took control of the game before Peterborough came back and got a goal back. Newcastle almost went to sleep at this point and if Peterborough’s strikers had been a little more accurate then they would have taken all three points. But they weren’t – which is why Peterborough have been relegated.

The singing during the whole match was constant and unbelievably loud. Fantastic support from start to finish.

The problem now though is putting together a team that can stay in the Premiership. The team that has won the Championship is not good enough to stay up as the gulf between the first and second tier is huge and gets bigger every year. If Newcastle are not to become a yo-yo team then money needs to be spent.

Having said all that I am chuffed with the way the season has gone. While walking around Sainsbury’s today I just wanted to shout “We’re Newcastle and we’re gonna win the league!” over and over.

Written by Administrator

April 6th, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized