Monday, 29 December 2008

Oh Great! Britain.

The following blog was typed in front of a 'dead' studio audience. I may have to type this rather quickly as the zombies are getting quite close to the cast and crew that helped produce this blog.
So here I am living in Great Britain. That's right, Great Britain, also known as the United Kingdom, or the U.K. Then again, shouldn't it be called the 'U.Q.'? Which ofcourse means the United Queendom. After all, when a King is on the throne, the national anthem is sung like this: 'God save our gracious King, long live our noble King.' So it stands to reason that with a Queen on the throne, that indeed, at this time, I am living in the 'U.Q'?
Now, speaking of the national anthem, I have noticed something that I consider rather contradictory. Although I don't see as many as I used too, there is a collection of 'anti-establishment' rebels with skin heads and Union Jacks stamped on their heads. Very scary looking. (The men can look pretty scary also). Well these anti-establishment rebels like to go to football matches. When the national anthem starts up, I have observed that these 'rebels' sing the song with such awe-inspiring gusto. Matter of fact, it is not unusual, for these, 'I hate all things relating to establishment', to break into spontaneous bursts of the the national anthem. Maybe they are just part time 'rebels'. I think they are actually very patriotic.
In Britain, there is a grocery shop named 'Iceland'. There modern slogan? Well, it would be right up to date in... oh the nineteenth century. There slogan is: 'Mum's gone to Iceland'. Well as somebody who just happens to be a Dad, I take great offence to this sexist slogan. It stereotypes that women do the grocery shopping. Well, having been a single Dad, I can tell you that I do know how to grocery shop. Still, how about this Iceland. 'Dad's gone to Iceland'. Then again, I wont shop in such a silly shop with even sillier adverts on the television. Rant over.
You may have noticed that there are two other flags up at the top of this blog, besides the 'Union Jack'. The one with the red maple leaf is the flag of Canada, 'the true north strong and free'. I would like to take this opportunity to dazzle you with some amazing 'facts' about Canada eh. Did you realise that it was a couple of Canadians who basically sorted out the Universe? Please allow me to explain. Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek fame, is Canadian. You remember this famous line? 'Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship 'Canada eh'. Then again, there was also Commander Adama, another Canadian trying to get things sorted out in space and the leader of a noble mission. Do you recall him saying this? 'Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, 'Galacticanada', leads a ragtag, fugitive fleet, on a lonely quest—for a shining planet known as Earth." So there you go, some overwhelming 'proof' just how vital Canadians have been in our space type adventures.
Wait there's more. Let me tell you about an invention by a truly great Canadian scientist. The year was 1962, the scientist in question, Edward Asselbergs, created something so significant to the betterment of mankind, that other events of 1962, such as John Glenn being the first American to orbit the earth, pale by comparison. That's right, Mr. Asselbergs brought to the world.... instant mashed potatoes.
So that leaves us with just one more flag. That is the flag of the United States of America. Our American friends may have realised that Britain has put a rather boastful adjective before the name of the nation. 'Great' Britain, well gee whiz...I'm surprised you have not done something about that and bettered that adjective for yourselves. So here you go...'Super Duper' United States of America. From now on, no chants at the Olympics of: 'U.S.A...U.S.A.'... from now on you can chant this: 'S.D.U.S.A.'....or maybe not.
Right then, enough of this. The audience is starting to head towards the cast, crew!
So as I proceed to take off outta' here...I wish all of you a peaceful, positive 2009.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

'Boxing Day Eve'...Again.

Well here we go again. December 25th and 'Boxing Day Eve' has arrived. Time for those who waited a whole year to renew family hostilities; to make up for lost time.
I was thinking that, yes indeed, I could do another cynical blog, somewhat similar to my blog about cynics at Christmas parties. I could continue on about how some folks use Christmas day to truly catch up on the resentment they felt towards other family members. Yet what good would that do?
So instead, I wish people would take that little bit of effort to see the good in each other. To respect rather than undermine. Let us dare to be happy and pass our positive intentions on to friends and family. Life really is too short for negative energy. So have a peaceful, positive 'Boxing Day Eve'. Oh...what the heck...'Merry Christmas'!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Old Enough To Know Better?

I've been to some pretty darn wild towns in my time. There was this particular town, in this particular country, that was so wild, you could get arrested for being 'sober and orderly'.
Did I get your attention with that first sentence? I think the idea is to capture the reader's imagination in the first line. Sorry, you don't like me using the word 'capture'? Okay, there you go..have your imagination back. Whoops..where did you go?
Old enough to know better. Old enough to know better than what exactly? I've heard it all before: 'oh the kids of today..when I were a lad we were so much better behaved!' Oh really? Selective memory perhaps? Were we actually such wonderful, law-abiding, polite, well-mannered kids? Oh the stories I could tell you about my younger days...but hey..Mum reads my blog.
I am getting very tired of people telling me: 'look at those awful 'hoodies' causing so much trouble and intimidating us old folks.' Okay, a tiny majority of young people wearing their hoodies are causing some hassles. Yet, from my own personal observations, most of these young folks are just minding their own business. If anything, from what I have observed, the 'older folks' (and maybe this is where 'old enough to know better', might just be fitting), are the ones with the problem. I've seen 'mature' adults give these kids dirty looks and make stupid judgemental comments. This hardly makes for a healthy relationship between the generations.
I like to think that I have a positive, healthy, youthful attitude towards life. So when I talk to someone twenty years younger than me, who tells me how old they are and why bother to have fun like they used too; that's when I get right pissed. Enough of this crap already. I am fifty five, does that mean I have to act a certain way according to some 'rules' of how I'm supposed to act at this age? Well, shit on that! I can, if I had the inclination, still 'boogie 'til I puke'. Nobody is going to tell me: "that's it old man, time for you to grab the slippers and pipe and wear some god-awful cardigan." No chance, for I am a free spirit who refuses to fit into some predetermined stereotype.
You might have read the preceding and thought: 'the old dude is having a 'mid-life chrisis'. Well if you did, you would be wrong. I got bored buying furry dice for my fancy cars, ages ago. If anything, the older I get, the younger I get. So excuse me while I grab my son's skateboard and dazzle my perplexed neighbours with my latest moves.
While I was typing this blog, my son was in his room, distracting me with all his noise. "Kids these days, they have no respect!" What the heck am I saying? Doh!!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Anger Management?

'Anger management'. So when someone tells me they are going on an 'anger management' course, I have two options of thought happening in this weird little mind of mine.
Option 1: Oh, so they are taking a course to control their outlandish, irrational outbursts of anger over such things like the pasta is stuck to the bottom of the pot. Somebody has put on the roll of toilet paper the opposite way to what they expected and, heaven forbid, they can't get that last bit of dog food off the spoon. Or maybe, just maybe, they are pretty darn angry because the boss is a patronising, condescending, arrogant little twat who needs to be whipped to an inch of their life with a wet noodle.
So option 1 is: Go on some course for anger management, pay out loads of money, (which makes them even angrier), only to be told: "take a deep breath and count to ten."
Option 2: So they are going on an 'anger management' course. Now why would they want to do that? Would the course teach them to get ready to sing these words to management: "take this job and stick it, I aint working here no more.." ? I mean, why would they want to 'anger management'? Do you really need to take a course to know how to piss off the boss? I don't think so. All you have to do is point out the fact, that if it wasn't for you, the entire organisation would fall apart. Tell your boss that they are an incompetent buffoon who makes Fred Flintstone look like one of the great intellects of the 21st century B.C. That should do the trick.
So option 2 is: Wait for your number to be called in the unemployment office.
So life is about our perceptions. It's all subject to interpretation. I can look at a bottle of shampoo for 'greasy hair' and think: "why would I want greasy hair?" I can look at a bottle of juice with the instructions that tell me to: 'dilute to taste' and wonder: "hmmm, if I don't dilute it, does that mean I can't taste it?" Don't get me started on 'free' range chickens', 'cause when I went up to the counter they said I would have to pay for the chicken.
I'm considering going on a 'happiness management course', heck, I don't want my happiness to get out of control.

Friday, 21 November 2008

For The Love Of A Son.

The above photographs are of my son on his seventh birthday. This would be his last birthday in our home as a family unit. For the next five long, painful, heartbreaking years, Tristan was barely in my life. Due to my ongoing mental illness, compounded by the evils of drink, my wife thought it best that they leave. She did was she knew was right and I respect what she did.
Five years of desperation, five years of coming so close to killing myself, five years of battling the opposing forces in my mind. Somewhere in that murky fog that surrounded my being, I noticed the flickering light of opportunity. The opportunity to find some clarity, the chance to make amends with those confused by my illness.
I had enough resolve left to reach out for those last fragile threads of my sanity. His visits to me increased. My former spouse, seeing that I was trying so hard to be better, to get better, allowed Tristan to stay on the weekends. He was now nearly twelve, he told me that he was so sad.
My little boy, my little 'man', had to tell his Mother that he was not happy, he wanted to live with Dad. For many a week he thought through how he would tell his Mum. For many a week, I told him that it best that I stayed in the background whilst he wrestled with his dilemma. I knew that if I spoke on his behalf, it would most likely be construed that I had tried to influence him.
All I ever wanted for Tristan was for him to be happy. Regardless of who he lived with. Early September, 200l, my son came to live with me. I recall so vividly that September morning, when he went off to meet new people, make new friends at Westwood high school. In our hallway, he stood in front of the full length mirror and stated: "Dad, I'm well nervous." I gave him a reassuring smile. Off he went, a new start, a new life. I was so proud of Tristan, I can imagine how anxious the thought of starting again must have been.
So now I was a single Father. A single Father battling with his mental health issues. Yet, know I had motivation, a reason to live. I was determined to make my home a warm, safe environment for Tristan and his new friends. I discovered a renewed energy, an invigorating sensation, to get things done. I decorated my home, heck, I even kept it neat. My goodness, I was so house-proud.
Today, I looked out my window, observed the beauty of the garden I created. I reflected back over the last seven years and thought about just how far I've come, indeed, how far we both had travelled. Our journey has been one of much emotional upheaval, with many a high and low. I know that, one day, he will travel down another road. This road will lead to his destiny. I applaud him, I cheer him, I know he will be alright.
My son has bestowed upon me a great gift. The gift of wanting to live. My son has saved my life. For the love of a son, I know that my life has a purpose.

Friday, 14 November 2008

You Wanna' Complain?

You wanna' complain? I wanna' complain. Is there a Complaint Department to complain about Complaint Departments?
Now then, you might feel the urge to complain about this blog. The reason? Because the rest of this blog has absolutely nothing to do with complaining. But hey, please read on, you can always complain about how the next few paragraphs will reveal how one dude (one obviously very bored dude), can ramble on with a whole load of disjointed musings.
I was wondering around the streets of Leek and noticed something that I would not have imagined in my wildest dreams. Heading towards me was a jogger...are you ready for this? A jogger with a smile on their face. Ofcourse, the fact they were wearing a very tight tracksuit, might just have been the reason for their beaming grin. Moving swiftly on (kinda' like our jolly jogger...).
Sometime around 1665 or 1666, Sir Isaac Newton 'found' gravity. Mr . Newton was drinking tea in his garden, he saw an apple fall to the ground. Sir Isaac started wondering why it fell, and finally concluded that the same force which caused the apple to fall also kept the moon in orbit around the earth. He reckoned the same force, or 'gravity', also kept the planets in orbit around the sun. if Sir Isaac 'discovered' gravity; what the heck was it like, in the year 1664, for instance? I can think of a typical scene. "John?!" "What troubles thee, my dearest Winifred?" "Grandmother Elizabeth and Grandfather Thomas are floating over yonder hill!" "Fear thee not, Winifred, for soon, a wise and wondrous man shall bring them back to earth." I shall end this paragraph by leaving it 'up in the air'.
Now then, here we go again, I shall leave you with a whole bunch of stuff to contemplate. I have been thinking about going camping. I like to have plenty of tents. I thought about the tents I once had, I looked at the tents I now have, indeed, I thought about the tents I want to buy. In other words: past, present and future tents. Yeah, I know 'Nomads' are 'in tents' lovers. Did all this talk of 'tents' make you 'tense'? Do you get it?
Do kangaroos, wallabies, toads and frogs listen to 'hip hop' music? Is 'Cape Town' the place that Batman was actually born? Have you ever seen anybody on a 'wild goose chase'? In Britain they say 'petrol', in North America, they say 'gasoline'. In Britain they say 'car park', in North America, they say 'parking lot'. Now when it comes to the following songs, the North American terms work better. Let me demonstrate: 'Putting our the fire with..'petrol' (uh no). 'Paved paradise put up a 'car park'. (I don't think so). Let me leave you with a rumour. Apparently, the promoters of 'Live Aid' and 'Woodstock' are combining forces to put on the greatest rock festival ever witnessed. The name of this festival? 'Livestock'. Headline band? Bet you can come up with one. Okay here's one suggestion, 'The Mooo..dy Blues'.
This very silly, disjointed blog is now, finally, drawing to a ridiculous conclusion. In you wanna' complain about most of this blog not being about complaining, may I suggest you find that Complaints Department that you can complain to about Complaints Departments. Finally, yes finally, that's if you're still here. I observed that glowing orb in the sky and said: "What do think about the demotion of poor Pluto? You don't care!? You cannot be 'Sirius'.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Pluto Pantomime!

August 24th, 2006. (B.B.C. newsfeed on their 'Science and Nature' website)

"Astronomers have voted to strip Pluto of its status as a planet.
About 2,500 scientists meeting in Prague have adopted historic new guidelines that see the small, distant world demoted to a secondary category.
The researchers said Pluto failed to dominate its orbit around the Sun in the same way as the other planets.
The International Astronomical Union's (IAU) decision means textbooks will now have to describe a Solar System with just eight major planetary bodies.
Pluto, which was discovered in 1930 by the American Clyde Tombaugh, will be referred to as a "dwarf planet".
There is a recognition that the demotion is likely to upset the public, who have become accustomed to a particular view of the Solar System."

Well that news of the demotion of Pluto as a planet certainly outraged me. I thought I would give the astronomers time to see some sense. Twenty six months later and I'm still waiting.
What's with this farsical Pluto 'pantomime'? Astronomers playing the part of panto villans as they declare: "Ha, ha, ha...Pluto is not a planet!" "Oh yes it is!!" Scream the disgruntled audience.
So they have decided that poor Pluto will now be labelled as a "dwarf planet". A planetoid if you like. A meaningless lump of ice wandering aimlessly in the nether regions of the solar system. The audacity! What gives them the right to tell us, the great general public, that, hey guess what, all that stuff we learnt about the planets in school was wrong? Well sorry, as far as I'm concerned, Pluto is still a planet.
So all those books that stated we have nine planets in the solar system have now become obsolete. Well, I don't think so. For in my heart, Pluto is still very much a part of our planetary family. Although, suddenly, my 1923 'Dominion Educator' encyclopedia, has, according to those know-it-all astronomers, become bang up-to-date.
So I say to the good people of Pluto: "Greetings Plutonians, we, the decent folks of Earth, stand by you in solidarity. We will not desert you, because we know, (especially us dudes), that size isn't everything. When you look out into the night sky, (which I guess is always), take heart Plutonians and pity the poor bastards on Uranus."

Thursday, 30 October 2008

In The Middle Of Somewhere?

The ominous lingering of my reclusive state is starting to whisper my name. I try to ignore the voice that tells me: 'what is the point?'
Each time I have seen the flickering glimmers of hope, my enthusiasm has been stifled. Too many times my willingless to be involved was dismissed. My proposed input was greeted with apathy and indifference. For I am a man just trying to be a part of something, yet that 'something' mostly eludes me. It teases me from a distance. What does it take to be accepted?
Yes I am the reluctant recluse. With every thread of my courage, I proceed out the front door. I try to exude kindness, compassion and I know my ability to make people laugh is infectious. Inside this man, their is a much different story. A tale of terror, a tale of pain and loneliness. Yet there is a perception that I'm okay.
Well that perception is wrong. I am not okay. Yes I do the best I can but I do it on my own. In a way, the fact that I have had to get on with it, has made me proud of what can be accomplished without support. I am a very busy recluse. I have been busy being a Father, busy acting as a Mother, busy being mentally ill. Despite all these challenges, somehow, my positive attitude glows with the thought, that soon, on that very magical day, I will realise my own inner peace.
There is a perception that I am out their social networking. I do see the occasional person and I am most grateful for this. Yet mostly I sit here and try to interact with my online community of friends. They have been a vital lifeline, in a life that is full of bizarre extremes. This virtual world has given me the chance to finally be involved with people who are becoming a circle of empathy.
To reduce the pain and anxiety of my reclusive state, during the last two Christmas days, I have stayed online in a mental health forum 'chat room'. I announced that I was there for anyone who was in a situation similar to mine, or anyone who just wanted to chat. From early morning until late at night, I stayed online. Nothing happened. I sat there in the haunting quiet of my home, stared at our dog Penny and I cried. That is my reality, a reality that may strike a chord with those of you who have been overwhelmed by relentless isolation.
Despite what I have just written, deep within me beats the possiblity that I can truly be a part of something very special. So here I am, still surrounded by own nagging self doubts. Still trying to discover some self esteem and make a positive impact in this world.
I am pleased to announce that the power of an empathetic community that is happening online, is growing. I am heartened that people are taking the time to display positive interaction. I can think of no finer example than the collaboration blog: 'A Symphony of Empathy', that I had the great privilege of doing with 'dcrelief''.
Yes I am mostly a recluse, a recluse on a mission, a recluse on a journey. The power of this empathetic community gives us the strength to challenge those who would undermine and devalue the goodness that we want to share. In the middle of somewhere? Yes I am. That 'somewhere' is a very special place in my heart.

Friday, 24 October 2008

A Symphony of Empathy.

I am truly honoured that a lady I consider to be a writer of great honesty and transparency, has asked me if we could do a collaboration blog. The following is what she so kindly forwarded to me. Her portion of the blog and my continuance response, is testimony that we can indeed embrace the power of empathy. Behold: "A Symphony of Empathy."

I wonder if there would be more peacefulness in a world where people were a symphony of empathy. We need kind exchanges of understanding each other’s feelings or similar experiences.
For me I thought I might be alone with the depth of pain I felt and no one to tell me how to let the pain "roll away" from my heart. My days are mostly spent alone and the mind plays tricks to tell me that no one would ever understand. I’ve been sitting here experiencing "bad days" and wondering how to keep going. So what do you do when you’ve lost your way?
I took a sabbatical from my regular writing and posting of "let me help you articles" to find ones that would help me. Why; because I was no longer helping anyone to feel good about themselves. I had lost me along the way and that affected my writing. My posts became more negative with each passing day. My loss began to affect my "working" relationship with others… and a personal one or two as well. I didn’t search, I just wandered from place to place reading in a reading world.
That was about the time I met an individual who "talked" to me. With his own experience he was able to see the written word I spewed forth as a plea for understanding. His kind regard of my situation opened the door for me to experience a symphony of empathy, as he brought along friends to offer support for my wellness; my wholeness.
Though my initial reaction was "fear to be known," "fear to share," and "just plain fear," his demeanor was assuring and I stepped through a portal of communication. I experienced what he called, "positive interaction," no matter how much I fought to be my old self. Today it is easy to understand what he has taught me, but my explanations are not as "pat" as I’d have them for sharing with you. So maybe I should let you experience, first hand from him, the definitions of the way he brought me to a measure of peace: a symphony of empathy!

Empathy. There will be those that read the preceding writing who will experience a profound sense of understanding. If you know someone who has had a 'broken leg' and you have had a 'broken leg'; You can empathise. Many of us have had 'broken legs', broken hearts, broken spirits. Yet we can realise that that despite life's twists and turns, despite the painful ironies, we have the power to challenge a negative environment.
Positive interaction, being there for someone, caring for the wellbeing of another, empowers us. We can be a part of something. We can be involved and being involved, can give us what so many of us crave; the sense of belonging, the sense of being needed. We have the right to be valued.
The journey along my own personal road to recovery has encountered many 'potholes'. When I finally ventured out my front door, I challenged my anxiety and managed to rekindle my enthusiasm for life. Often, my enthusiasm has been greeted with indifference. This apathy almost made me give up, yet again. However, after so long being a recluse, I have discovered a resilience that will not allow me to get overwhelmed with disillusionment. For now, those that continue to undermine and devalue my good intentions, will find that their cynicism has no power over my life.
I reach out, with genuine understanding, to those who have been subjected to a negative world. We can find strength in empathy. Embrace the power of solidarity. We can support each other and relish the positive possibilities. Seek the peaceful harmony of that song we call 'contentment'. Through "A Symphony of Empathy", we will reach out to each other and know that we do have the right to a happy life.
Dcrelief, I thank you for your courage and your openness. Continue to find therapy through the power of the written word. With sincere empathy, please know that I am here for you. We embrace positive interaction. Help each other, we help ourselves. Indeed, we can all be an integral part of "A Symphony of Empathy."
Special thanks to dcrelief for her thought-provoking contribution to this collaboration blog.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Too Busy?

Too busy to give the time of day?
Too busy to watch the children play?
Too busy to hear the call of the loon?
Too busy to marvel at the waxing moon?
Too busy to help the man in need?
Too busy consumed with the thought of greed?
Too busy to observe the setting sun?
Too busy to have a bit of fun?
Too busy to listen to the wind through the trees?
Too busy to put a friend at ease?
Too busy to enjoy life's simple pleasures?
Too busy to care about the world's hidden treasures?
Too busy to stroll through the morning dew?
Too busy to say 'I love you'?
Are you too busy?
At what cost?
Think of all the times you lost.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Fleeting Glimpses In The Shadows.

Fleeting glimpses in the shadows
Shadows cast across my mind
Through the haze of confusion
I cast my thoughts upon the flickering light of hope
Lost in a stormy sea of mental confusion
I reach for the threads of fading optimism
Lost in a world
Where the cynics scream my name
This man, this sad and lonely man
Defies the insincere
I travel along the pathway
That leads to empathy
I am the child that embraces
The remaining embers of hope
I seek that elusive dream
The dream of contentment
Through the fleeting glimpses in the shadows
I see the light of love

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Cheque It Out

Friday, October 10th, was 'World Mental Health Day'. It was also my son Tristan's birthday. Tristan in no longer a teenager. Another phase of his life starts. I can longer call him a 'teenage rebel'. No more teenager, unless, you can call a twenty year old 'twenteen'?
World Mental Health Day was a busy day for me. My own anxiety levels went into bizarre overdrive. I took an exceptionally deep breath and headed out the front door of my home, my private world in Leek. Destination, the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle Under Lyme, twelve miles from my reclusive world in Leek.
Two hours and two packed buses later, I arrived. There I was outside the New Vic Theatre. So many people, dare I go in the entrance and 'impose' myself on all those people? Challenging my fear, this walking 'paradox' entered the building. Me, the introverted extrovert, was abandoning his uncomfortable comfort zone and attempted to interact with the vast sea of humanity that engulfed my senses.
I watched Dave Wheat's play: 'A Matter of Time'. It had been several years since I watched a play, yet being there with many people I knew, seemed to help reduce my anxiety levels. It was a thoroughly professional performance by wonderful actors. I have great admiration for all those involved and applaud their noteworthy efforts. I visualised myself standing on the stage, in front of all those people, that would be the ultimate challenge in confronting my low self-esteem.
After the show, I slipped out and headed for the bus. Two packed buses and two hours later, I was back in my other world. Heading for the kitchen, I noted the chewed up correspondence that had been flung on the counter. Before me lay the remainders of my son's birthday card and cheque that his Grandma and Grandad had sent. Before me lay what was left of my expenses cheque. Now then, what had happened? The answer was pretty obvious, unless my son had suddenly got an appetite for paper.
The perpetrator of this act of correspondence chewing was cowering in the living room. The gulity party, (pictured, named and shamed), 'Penny' the dog, made a hasty retreat behind the couch. " stay there...why the heck do you always think the post is for you?" I thought.
Back in the kitchen, I had a bit of a temper tantrum. Grabbing what was left of the mutilated mail, I proceeded to chuck it round the kitchen. My son thought I was angry at him and stormed out of the house, the dog took off to my bedroom. Oh great! What a day, what a mess.
I sat down, I calmed down. I realised it was about time I put a catchbox on my door. Tristan returned and I apologised to him. For I was angry at myself, not him, not the dog, myself, for not making allowances that when our dog hears a noise at the front door, she has to check (cheque?) it out.
We are going to attempt to take what's left of the cheques to the bank. With a little luck, the bank will be understanding. World Mental Health Day. Well, in the klahanie household, it certainly was a test on our mental health. The good thing is that instead of fretting over what happened, I decided to have a bit of a laugh instead. I think that's pretty darn positive. Must go now and check our cheques. "Oh Penny why couldn't chew up the electric bill instead?"

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Pass It On.

Pass it on. A dear friend of mine, who has embraced the positive ideals of the 'Changes' ethos, has told me that I have demonstrated 'Step 12' of the Changes 12 Steps To Mental Health. 'Pass it on'. I like to think so.
Although I live a double life, when I challenge myself and go out the front door, this virtual recluse steps out into his other world. I try to be involved and when my involvement touches the lives of others in a positive way, that, to me is heartwarming achievement. For, I firmly believe that when we pass on the positive possibilities that we have experienced, we pass on that most powerful of gifts, the gift of hope.
I am involved with Changes for all the right reasons. The empathy that I have witnessed, the empathy I try to provide, is testimony that we can all be here for each other. I extol all the positive virtues that have helped turn my life around.
I have come a long way, I have a long way to go in my recovery. Yes, there are moments of great emotional torment. There are moments when I get disillusioned with the negative environment that undermines and questions my sincerity. The good news is that I work through such situations. I will not allow negative scenarios the 'oxygen', that ironically, in the past, almost suffocated me.
So to you, I 'pass it on'. I have learnt through working with Changes that, if I apply the 12 steps, my life can be so much the better. We can truly be here for each other. We have the right to a happy, positive life. We know we have a choice. If you have embraced the positive choices in your life; you too can 'pass it on'.
Here is the link for the the new Changes forum. I hope you will check it out.
Please stay positive and keep smiling.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Halfway House Honeymoon.

It was Saturday October 6th, 1984, our wedding ceremony and reception had gone well. My wife and I could be very proud of our accomplishment. Our ceremony had been a bittersweet occasion. Amazing the emotional ripple effect that can be caused by the outrageous inhumanity of one sad little man. For this sad little man, a man who could manipulate the vulnerable, a man who posed as my wife's father, received no invite. Through all the sad confusion and ongoing mind games, my wife's mother and one sister felt obliged not to attend. How sad. How very painful.
Undaunted and strong in our unity, we were determined that this would be a celebration of our resilient love for each other. This lady who had gone through so much horror and emotional torment in her life was now my wife. A memorable wedding for all the right and wrong reasons, was drawing to a conclusion.
We got into our car and drove off, passing by St. Andrew's church (pictured), Fort Langley, British Columbia, where only a few short hours before, we had exchanged vows and told the world of our love. We were not alone in our car. For her two other sisters were passengers in a car that was heading towards a destination that would mark all our lives forever.
So on that night, the night of our new beginning, we headed to her sister's new temporary home. Two confused, deeply traumatised teenagers were being driven to a secret location. Soon we arrived at the 'halfway house' (safe house). Over the next two weeks this would be their home. A place where children who had been mistreated, abused, undermined and neglected could discover some form of sanctuary. A place of hope for children in what must have seemed a hopeless world.
In the early hours of the next day, my wife and I said our goodbyes. We had experienced such poignant moments of deep sadness and resilient determination. These children and her two sisters were significant inspiration in my life. As we headed off to our hotel, I made a commitment that I would be a supportive and loving brother-in-law to my wife's little sisters.
By the time we got to our hotel, it was almost time to head off to Vancouver airport. Exhausted, we boarded the plane that would to take us to Los Angeles, California. After a brief stay in Los Angeles, we continued on to our honeymoon destination. For the next two weeks we took in the sights, the sounds, the culture of Cancun, Mexico. We made the most of our honeymoon. I know, despite all the thoughts of what we were going back too, we were determined to experience the wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula. The ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, set on cliffs overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, has been strongly etched into my memory. A most memorable honeymoon, with so many extremes, had drawn to a conclusion.
Upon returning to Vancouver, we went to the halfway house and took her two sisters away to our beautiful home in Langley, British Columbia. This would be the beginning of a fresh start for them and hopefully for all of us. For not only was I now their brother-in-law, I was now their foster father. I tried so hard to be a good brother-in-law and a kind, respectful foster father. I like to think that, somehow, I have helped them to have a better, happier life.
The ripple effect of one man had defined the lives of many. The anguish and despair perpetrated by one man, by an evil monster, has, even after so many years, left emotional scars on those of us directly involved.
I am divorced now. What had once united us, destroyed us. Why did it have to be this way? I am confused and deeply saddened over the events from the past. Somehow, I know that I must move on. Yes my heart is broken, I wish I could tell her that I always cared. This blog is the beginning of my closure of a painful chapter in my life.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Heavy Mental.

There is an irony about having mental health issues that has taken quite the toll on me lately. I am involved with others who have their own mental health concerns. Sometimes their issues almost overwhelm me. So instead of being good for my own mental health, they can actually be detrimental. I thought that empathy, being such a powerful force, would help them and help me. Oh how wrong I can be. My positive outlook has been severely challenged.
Yet, despite this, I realise just how far I have come and how far I have to go. Not that long ago, I would have succumbed to such perplexing negativity. I would have thought: 'To hell with this, I'm going back under my duvet.' I know I've got my own life to live. I must not allow the issues of others to dominate my life. I must not absorb the anger and the hostility I have witnessed recently. For if I do, my anxiety and depression, will kick in, big style. I am determined to stay strong.
So I wish to end this rather short blog on a most positive note. Just when you think that negative forces wil destroy your positive intentions; look beyond and you will notice people who will support you through the trying times. I have found support through a very tough time. That has given me a renewed sense of purpose.
As I did this blog, I was listening to the new Metallica C.D. I guess you could call it 'heavy metal'. What I experienced lately might be called 'heavy mental'.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A Conspiracy Theory?

I have a theory that conspiracy theories may be a conspiracy by people who write about conspiracy theories to sell more books about conspiracy theories. Conspiring, conspiracy theory writers? Then again, this is just a theory. I wouldn't want conspiracy theory writers conspiring against me and starting a conspiracy theory about sell more books about conspiracy theories.
So there I was, strolling down the street in the pouring rain. Loaded down with carrier bags after another long trek to the shops. As I walked along, drenched from head to toe, I heard the oncoming roar of an automobile. The dude in a gas-guzzling beast of a car pulled over and said to me: "You know you should really try to use less carrier bags. We all need to do our bit to save the environment."
Now then, speaking of the old dog versus cat debate. Guide dog, police dog, sheepdog ( no, it turns out, that it aint part sheep, part dog), watchdog (no that isn't some terrier wearing a timepiece) and ofcourse we have the sniffer dog (don't ask). Guide cat? Well no. Police cat? I don't think so. Sheepcat? Cats hurding sheep? You're having a laugh. Watchcat? More like: 'watch cat' rip up your rubbish and shit in your vegetable patch. Sniffer cat? Oh yeah they sniff alright. Sniffing around for food. 'Hey you useless human, where the hell is my meal?' Meow...
Once again, I leave you with a couple of random musings. Some of what I am about to write may be true, some may not. You decide. This American dude walked up to me and asked for directions. "Excuse me sir? Could you tell me how to get to 'Li cester'?" I told him that it was pronounced "Lester." "That sure is funny" he replied. "It aint said the way it's spelt. We wouldn't talk that way back in Little Rock!" "Little Rock, that's in 'Ar kan sas'?" I asked. "No man!" He said. "It's pronounced 'Ar kan saw'!" I overheard a woman in a supermarket state the following to the person she was with: "I need chicken breasts." Hey, whatever.
To be honest, I think that people who say 'to be honest' are perhaps not telling the truth. To be honest. You know, I hate it when people keep saying 'you know'. Well, guess what? Maybe I don't know, you know? So, to be honest, you know, this blog may have been all part of some conspiracy theory. Over to you conspiracy theory writers.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Pretty Twee

At times I realise my writing can be pretty 'twee'. Or as Elmer Fudd might state: 'Awww...look at the 'pwetty twee'. You wacky wabbit..' (I couldn't resist a reference to his rabbit friend).
For the longest time I thought the word 'twee' might have been good ol' Elmer's way of pronouncing 'tree'. Not a word used that often. (Matter of fact, I had to look it up in the dictionary to confirm the definition of 'twee'). Yet when I look back over some of my previous blogs. Well 'twee'..that certainly could describe a few of my blogging attempts. Definition of 'twee': 'excessively sentimental, sweet, or pretty'. Or perhaps: 'Something that is sweet, almost to the point of being sickeningly so. As a derogatory descriptive, it means something that is affectedly dainty or quaint, or is way too sentimental'. Hmmmm...
Born 'twee'? Maybe. I wonder what 'Tweety Bird', or even 'Tweedledee' and 'Tweedledum' would make of my blogs? I think, upon reflection, that my twee blogs were my way of trying to work through situations in my life that I need closure from. I know deep down, in my heart of hearts, that closure from such heartbreaking events will most likely never come to fruition. I have to accept the fact that closure from such pain is a remote possibility. So with head held high, this sad and desperate man is starting to move on from a traumatic and painful past. (Good grief! twee was that?).
I have two upcoming blogs of a deeply personal nature that I would like to share with you soon. On Friday, March 14th, 2008, I wrote a blog titled: 'The Freedom to Find Each Other'. Fairly soon, I shall backtrack to the time that caused my former love and I to go on such an epic adventure. The other blog will be about our Honeymoon night..and before you think I might be giving out too much information; that blog will be about a very sad yet inspirational night. To say that our Wedding night was, shall we say, different, is quite the understatement.
So now I start to make those tentative steps forward towards my own form of closure. I dip my toes into the warm 'Caribbean Sea' rather than the 'muddy puddle' that I had been so familiar with. Undaunted, I move onward and challenge the negativity that I had given permission to overwhelm me. Well negativity, from now on, it's permission denied. (For goodness sake man, stop all this twee writing). Pretty twee...indeed! Must stop now because I'm starting to feel nauseous.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Under The Moon, Over The Weather.

No matter how down I become, I know that having a bit of a laugh, is a powerful tonic. In times past, during a deep depressive state, I lost the ability to find the funny side to life. In times of such despair it was like pirates had hijacked the 'good ship Lollipop'. Now that is an outrage and I knew I must reclaim my own personal ship.
Back in the dark days, I would click my heels three times, think of Kansas and end up in some sewage treatment plant. (Even my metaphorical red shoes had no sense of direction..hell I'd been better off flying by the 'seat of my pants'). Depression took away my sense of direction. Where was I going? Matter of fact, I didn't even care where I ended up, because I was not of any validity to the world.
For many years I was a very confused, very scared man. I was so ill that I did not even think myself worthy of any help. I 'deserved' to be mentally ill, it was punishment for having the audacity to breathe and take up valuable space on this planet. It was strongly ingrained in my distorted thinking process. I had allowed a negative environment to almost destroy me.
On the verge of becoming completely engulfed with negativity, I reached out for my last tiny thread of sanity, desperately clung on, and embraced the saviour that was humour. Hell, if I was going to be depressed, I was going to find some irony in it. I became determined to try and enjoy life. I like to think that humour is infectious. For is it not better to bring joy to others and be grateful for what we have?
'Under the moon, over the weather'. Yeah, I know, I mixed up a couple of well known sayings. Well the title kinda' sums up how my life has changed for the better. Did I ever tell you I used to be a 'model'? I'm 'life-sized'. So the lady told me she was a complimentary therapist. So I said: "Really? Well then, pay me a compliment"....I leave you with this thought. The pirates have been thrown off my own personal 'good ship Lollipop'. I bloody well made sure that they had to go overboard via the 'poop deck'. Oooh arrrrr....

Saturday, 9 August 2008

But Hey, I'm Not Complaining.

I was thinking of starting out this blog by attempting to do some fish puns, just for the halibut. Sadly, after coming up with the predictable ones such as: 'oh my cod' and 'calling all carps', I began to flounder.
So there I was on the number 18 bus heading from the wilds of Leek, (the 'Queen of the Moorlands'), to the great city of Stoke on Trent, (pottery capital of the world and a major producer of the legendary Staffordshire oatcake). Little did I realise that upon boarding the bus that I would suddenly think how much I missed having a car. Yes indeed, on the number 18 bus was a group of folks who I believe may have been guests on the Jeremy Kyle Show, (Britain's answer to Jerry Springer?).
Screaming obnoxious kids, rude, loud parents and people I assumed were the grandparents. Ah the grandparents, fine examples of how to use Anglo Saxon expletives in every mumbled sentence they exhaled from their big gobs. As I slumped into the only available seat left, I thought: "does life get any better than this?" Never have I been so glad to see the Potteries Centre and get the hell of that bus. But hey, I'm not complaining.
I've noticed a new kind of rudeness in today's modern, technological society. When someone comes to visit me, I think that is very nice, I appreciate the company. Nothing like a good old 'chin wag' as we discuss such things like the meaning of life and more important topics like who will win the Premiership this season. Yes it is so nice to have a chat. Some positive interaction. So when my visitor's mobile phone (cell phone) rings, why do they suddenly forget they have come to visit me? Why do they think it is alright to ignore me in my own home and have a conversation with someone else for 3o flippin' minutes? Why, for that matter, is the exchange of text messages so vital that it can't wait until they have finished visiting me? What the heck is that all about? But hey, I'm not complaining.
It's a few minutes before the grocery shop closes. I wander over to the reduced section in hopes of being able to grab a bargain. Before me lies a barricade of trolleys that have been stategically placed by a group of people who are determined to take the lot. If there are 30 packages of cheese, regular price £1.99, reduced to 9 pence, they make sure all of it goes into their trolleys. You see, they work in teams, a well-drilled precision unit that will not allow the likes of me anywhere near the reduced food. So they clear the lot, with the exception of the 9 pence tub of cottage cheese with chives. I gratefully grab the tub as I watch them drive off in their brand new Jaguars. But hey, I'm not complaining.
I now leave you with another collection of random thoughts and observations. If A.C. Milan played D.C. United of Major League Soccer, would the atmosphere be electric? Why is it called the 'Mile High Club'? I would have thought at 5280 feet, the pilot would still have the 'fasten seatbelt' sign on. No stopping some folks, I guess. I've heard a rumour that there is going to be a new social network site called : 'My Spacebook', where people go online and chat about their collection of books about space. And finally... I'm very disappointed with the Marcel Marceau C.D. I recently purchased. And finally..definitely..the future has arrived..computers are blaming it on human error. But hey, I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A Therapeutic Oasis.

The creation of my garden was a statement of peaceful defiance. When I moved in to my home, it was more a matter of: "garden? what garden?" I looked out through my living room window and realised what a huge challenge lay before me. My garden and, for that matter, the gardens around me, were merely dumping grounds for people who didn't care or just couldn't be bothered. Beyond my living room window was a panorama of indifference.
On my own, only armed with a shovel, I proceeded to transform my forlorn excuse of a garden, disguised as a landfill, into a 'therapeutic oasis'. A place for our dog 'Penny' to play. A 'hang-out' for my son Tristan and his mates.
It has become a sanctuary to soothe my soul, our garden has given me a positive focus. I was determined to turn a negative environment into a special, spiritual place. I look out through my living room window, I notice the beauty, listen to the wind chimes and realise that inner contentment may well be a possibility. Anyone for a barbecue?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Write On.

All I ever wanted to do was write. That was my dream, a dream I had from a very young and tender age. When I was ten years old I submitted a play to a show named 'Razzle Dazzle' on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (C.B.C.). I was all excited about the prospect of them doing my play on television and winning the coveted first prize; a transistor radio.
Well the C.B.C never did send me that radio. I had to eventually conclude that someone else was the winner of their play writing contest. I got on with my life, went to school, did several mundane jobs and lived from week to week. Yet the dream of becoming a writer was always lingering in the back of my mind. "I'll keep living my life so devoid of meaning" I thought. "Tomorrow or maybe the next day, I shall become a writer."
The thought of becoming a writer still burns in my mind like a glowing ember. The dream has not been extinguished. As I sit here alone in my house, I know, no matter how good, or how bad my writing is, I can use my blog as a therapeutic outlet. For writing is my chance to work through my feelings. This is my platform to try and make sense of it all.
Writing this blog is testimony that I shall continue to choose positivity. I could easily give up and never have my writing noticed by a wider audience. Giving up is not an option. For what I write is a source of comfort to me, and hopefully, a source of comfort to others.
I have mental health issues. The power of the written word has helped me deal with my illness. To remain undaunted and determined to live my dream, has been the catalyst in my ongoing recovery. We all have choices, pursue your dreams, never give up. One day, I shall be a writer. The little boy who did not win the transistor radio was disappointed but stayed resilient. Heck, if I try hard enough, I might now win a state of the art sound system. Let me conclude by saying this: "Write On."

Friday, 11 July 2008

Squeeze The Bottom?

I was contemplating doing a blog on procrastination..nah..maybe another time. So, instead, I'm going to do a completely disjointed blog. Something quite different for me then. Squeeze the bottom? In some situations I think it is most appropriate to squeeze the bottom..I mean if you squeeze the top of the toothpaste tube, the paste below gets trapped. That is not good.
You know your having a bad day when you go to a certain restaurant and ask for an 'Unhappy Meal', just to cheer up. There is a song by those legends of rock, Led Zeppelin, titled: 'Ramble On'. That is precisely what I am doing in this blog. I told you this blog would be confusing and perhaps bordering on incoherent. I would completely understand if you did not read anymore of this. Matter of fact, well done if you are still here.
For those of you still reading, lets continue. I was talking to this dude the other day who told me he was 'strapped for cash'. I replied: "Really? Just how much do you get paid and what sort of straps are used?" Hang on a moment please..the phone is ringing.... Right I'm back now. Unbelievable, I have won another cruise to the Bahamas. I used to win trips to Orlando but never actually took them up on their kind offer. Anyone else get these phonecalls?
I was having quite the chat with a couple of folks the other day. They were telling me that Britain was getting so much like America. "Everywhere you look, American restaurants, American movies, American television. We need to retain our British culture." "So why are you dressed up like a cowboy and cowgirl then?" I inquired. "We're off to our Line dancing class. We just love Line dancing." Scream! Hmm..any Americans taking Morris dancing lessons?
Now speaking of baseball. As you may realise, baseball is a major sport in North America. Baseball requires the usage of a baseball bat. So not unusual to go into a sporting goods shop in North America and purchase a baseball bat. In Britain, baseball is not exactly a big sporting concern. So when someone goes into a sporting goods shop in Britain and purchases a baseball bat, just who are they playing baseball with?
I shall now draw this silly blog to an end. Let me leave you with some silly thoughts that are swirling in my head. Yes I'm bored. If anyone ever says to me that all I do is argue. I shall respond by saying: "No I don't." In tennis 'love' means nothing. I hear you can win loads of money in an 'air guitar' strings attached. So I think it is most appropriate to squeeze the bottom..of the toothpaste. Where do squeeze your tube of toothpaste? "Usually in the bathroom" you reply. Very funny, very pedantic. Right, that's it then, this blog has reached the bottom.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Please Don't Look The Other Way

Greetings friends. The following is an article that I submitted to the Talkbank Times. I thought I would share it with you. Maybe some of you can relate to my experiences. We need to eliminate the stigma attached to mental health issues. You, the media and myself can do our bit to challenge the stereotyping that revolves around mental health concerns. I thank you.

I live in a small town. Living in a small town, when your life is falling apart, word soon gets around. Due to series of overwhelming negative circumstances, I broke down. The onslaught of my mental illness, caused me to end up in a psychiatric unit, very close to this small town.
A visitor to the hospital noticed me and couldn't wait to spread the word. When I returned home, I was subjected to ridicule. "Hey nutter, out of the nut house" they would say, as they laughed. I ignored them, it caused me anxiety but I tried to move on to a better life.
The years rolled by. Yet even now, when I see someone who knows about my past, they become very uncomfortable. I will be in a shop, I smile at them, they blank me. It is very sad, do I scare them? How can I convince them that I am a harmless man? I have committed no crime. Maybe just maybe, they worry that the 'mental guy' might be having a bad day. Do they fear for their safety? Or do they fear that what they perceive about me, might happen to them?
People in this small town, who do not know about my past, are kind to me. I have a great laugh with them. Oh they might think of me being somewhat unconventional in my attitude towards life, yet I detect no fear. They relate to a guy who has the ability to make people happy. That is all I want to do, bring to people's lives a bit of joy. If only those who would pass judgement could understand that, yes I am ill, but I challenge my negative world.
Those that feel awkward around me are aware of the stereotypes that surround mental health issues. They are aware of the negative sensationalism that the media has often portrayed. So wouldn't it be nice if they could read a story about someone who has mental health issues, yet remained undaunted in seeking positivity? Wouldn't it be nice that they read a story about a lonely, desperate man who was determined to get better? What if they read it and realised the story was about that 'nutter' who causes them such anxiety? What if they started to understand? Now that would be sensational.
Please don't look the other way, I extend my hand of friendship. There is nothing to fear.
Gary Pennick.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Inside a Cider Bottle

June 18th, 2008 marked the ten year anniversary of my realisation that I could not drink, ever again. On June 18th, 1998, my many battles with alcohol ended. If I had not stopped drinking, my battle was going to end anyway. I was that close to drinking myself to death. A long, painful drawn out suicide. Instead I chose to battle my addiction and finally win the war. Five weeks alone in hospital gave me time to reflect. I came to the realisation that if I was going to survive a self-inflicted ordeal, that I would leave hospital a free man.
I wasn't very original using alcohol as form of replacement for something missing in my life. My life was falling apart. Mentally and physically, I was a sad, pitiful example of someone who had almost given up on life and the wonders living could offer. My behaviour was bizarre and often bordered on incoherent. Physically, I was a severely jaundiced, bloated, 'yellow balloon'. Yet up until that day they stretchered me out my house, I didn't really care. 'Go ahead and die. You have no friends, your family here in England has left you for the sake of their own wellbeing. Drink yourself to death, nobody will even notice, you'll just be another pathetic statistic.' Such dark thoughts were relentless. To have survived that hell from ten years ago has given me the incentive to use my second chance to the fullest.
When I become aware that my mental health was deteriorating; I attempted to numb the panic it caused by consuming vast quantities of alcohol. Ofcourse, the horrible irony is that my drinking compounded my mental health issues. Not very clever, I know, but I was a desperate man in desperate circumstances.
Let me describe to you a typical day, ten years ago. After drinking myself into oblivion from the night before, I would wake up from a very poor, disturbed sleep, with a sense of panic. I need a drink, it is early morning and the off-license is closed. I wonder if I can last another hour? I stagger over to the off-license, still partially drunk from the night before. I purchase a two litre bottle of cider and take my 'salvation' back to my house. I have consumed the entire bottle within in minutes. I feel sick, I pass out for two hours, only to wake up knowing I must have more cider. So back to the off-license to purchase yet another two litre bottle of cheap, nasty cider. The pattern continues, I consume the cider just as quickly as the previous. I am in a constant state of 'topping-up'. I needed alcohol, this shadow of a man was physically and psychologically trapped and controlled by his master. I was a slave to drink. For the next three weeks, right up until that moment I was whisked away in ambulance, all I did was drink cider. No food, just cider.
Five weeks in hospital gave me the opportunity to get control back. I was determined to conquer my master. I wanted to live and I mean really live. So when I walked out of the hospital, I knew that I had broken the shackles that alcohol had placed on me. I knew I would make it, because the key element was that I was sincere in my conviction. The sense of relief I had goes beyond words.
I have been asked why I write such blogs. It reinforces my belief that I can choose to live in a positive environment. I write blogs as a form of personal therapy. I spend a lot of time on my own and think of my blog as a form of communication with the world. I sincerely hope that there will be people who read my blogs who get a bit of comfort from them. You see, I firmly believe that we all have the power within to challenge adversity. We can all demonstrate that negatives can be turned into positives.
Ten years ago, I was trapped. Ten years on, I am still not well but I am so much better. It has been a slow journey, sometimes painful, sometimes exhilarating. Ten years ago, I was stuck inside a cider bottle. Yet I crawled out and saw the world with a clear vision. I looked out from the top of the bottle and knew I had the right to live.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Maple Syrup On My Oatcakes?

Oh Canada, land of moose and maple syrup. Home of the grizzly bear, the ocean playground of the mighty orca, and ofcourse, a natural habitat of the beaver. I shall now conveniently end this paragraph, avoiding the temptation of an innuendo.

For three weeks I lived in my other world. Vancouver is not the city I remember from when I lived there. It is now a sprawling, cosmopolitan, hectic city. The rapidly changing skyline, which has dramatically altered since my last visit in 2005, is nothing short of unbelievable. With the upcoming 2010 winter olympics, the construction business is booming. The face of Vancouver is changing beyond recognition. The remaining buildings from my childhood, that stood so tall and proud, are now dwarfed by the massive towers that overshadow them. This might be interpreted as progress, I'm not so sure.

Immersed in the buzz of the hectic life of Vancouver, I realised I needed to focus away from my own anxiety and take time to appreciate the simple yet beautiful pleasures Vancouver has to offer. It was late spring and the cherry blossoms were in their full glory. Tree lined avenues proudly displaying glorious pink blossoms. Pink blossoms that gently cascaded onto the ground. Vancouver was covered by a carpet of what could be described as 'pink snow'. What an awesome sight and welcome relief from my own bizarre form of panic. Amazing how concentrating on the beauty of the blossoms helped me in my own quest for a moment of inner peace.

I fondly recall the times I shared with friends and family. I drew great inspiration from my friends. The determined resilience of Heather and Wayne in such challenging circumstances was a provocative reminder that I too had the inner strength to continue to challenge my own negative speculation. For the wisdom and the kindness they displayed to me has renewed my own determination to attempt to be a positive influence to others. My trip to Canada was a powerful experience.
There were some amusing and some surreal situations. Watching the Champions League Final, live at 11:30 in the morning at my good friend Leon's house, seemed most surreal. It just didn't seem right to be watching football at that time. Being a Chelsea fan, the outcome was very frustrating, but somehow didn't seem as bad as if I been watching it in England. Then there was the time at Heather and Wayne's. I decided to check out the television stations. All those channels and nothing worth watching. Then I found one channel that was super boring. For ages I stared at the screen thinking that this tedious channel looked vaguely familiar. Then I realised that it was not an actual channel. In fact, it was the picture from the camera that was set up in the entrance to the building they lived in. Doh! Ofcourse I also spent a considerable amount of time with my friends saying 'eh'. We all had a good laugh about the fact that Canadians say 'eh' quite a lot. So what eh?

Three remarkable weeks came to an end. It was time to go to Vancouver airport and take the 'big bird' back to Manchester. So all packed up, my Stepdad and my Mother took me from White Rock to the airport. I was quite concerned that my baggage allowance was over the acceptable weight. So knowing that my hand luggage was underweight I did a bit of juggling. I put a very large jar of peanut butter into hand luggage. So saying goodbye to family, I headed through Customs. Upon putting my hand luggage through the screening device, I knew there was a concern. "Sir, we have a problem with an object in your hand luggage." Said the Customs Officer. Upon opening my hand luggage he discovered the offending item. That friggin' peanut butter was a banned substance for carry-on luggage. So a rather embarrassed Customs Officer confiscated the dreaded peanut butter. Then he looked at my contac lens solution but decided that I could keep it. Gee thanks.

Safely through Customs, we finally boarded the plane and took off to Manchester. It was a very good flight back and I felt more relaxed. What was really cool was that on the monitor each passenger had was a channel that showed the view the pilot saw out of the cockpit and the view below the plane. I thought that was very exciting. Watching constant twilight through the cockpit window and the occasional glimpse of land below was most fascinating.

The hours past by, all nine of them. We had left Vancouver at 3:30 P.M. on Saturday, May 24th (Vancouver time), we arrived at 8:30 A.M. Sunday, May 25th (British Summer Time). Where the hell had the weekend gone? Safely through British Customs (minus the peanut butter), I met up with my good friend Philip, who transported me back to Leek. Time to return to my other world.

I got back to my house in Leek. For three weeks, my son Tristan, had been looking after the place. What would I be coming back to? Well there was no 'den of iniquity' (oh well..never mind). Actually, the house was very neat, but the garden..well that was something that needed some serious attention. So, despite being extremely jet-lagged, I found myself out in the garden, frantically trying to sort it out. I got great satisfaction in being out in my garden. Despite the 'jungle' before me, I knew that soon my 'oasis' would soon be back to its wonderful glory.

Going back inside my house, I realised that the grocery supply was low. So in a very surreal state of mind, I wandered down to Morrisons to get some supplies. Just a few hours back in England and I was off grocery shopping. Checking out the tomato sauce, I looked up and saw a familiar face. It was my former spouse. A lady I had not seen in months. A lady I had stopped talking to because of a situation regarding our son. Yet we both sensed something was different.

The conversation was most pleasant, bordering on amicable. She realised that I had just got back from Vancouver. She said lets just enjoy the rather surreal situation we are in. I thought that was a very nice thing to say. Then I thought: 'let's make this surreal situation even more surreal.' I showed her a picture on my camera phone. Whilst in Canada I had taken a photograph of our old house. This was the house where are dreams began and our dreams ended. This was a most poignant moment and I wonder if this was some kind of healing lesson for us both. She drove me back to my house, we laughed and the anger I had towards her melted away. A thought provoking start to my return to England.

So I had left Canada where I had gotten used to people saying: 'How's it goin' eh?' Now I was back in North Staffordshire, where people have been known to say: 'Are you alright duck?' (what a 'fowl' expression). For the first two years of living in North Staffordshire, I had a sore neck. 'Are you!?' 'Duck'? To this day I'm on the lookout for low-flying objects.

Now back in England, I look forward to the future. Knowing that I have friends in both countries fills me with comfort. I have learnt much about myself over the last few weeks, perhaps it is okay to 'impose' myself on society. Being the 'hermit on holiday' was rather ironic. I hope that proving that I can challenge my anxiety, my social phobia, will be source of comfort to those of you who have similar concerns. Now then, being totally confused, I wonder if it is okay to put maple syrup on my oatcakes?

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Destination Hope.

Greetings everyone. My dear friend Heather, someone who I had not seen in fifteen years, kindly allowed me to use the following e-mail as an introduction to this blog. I dedicate this blog to Heather and her strong, positive family.

"Hello My Dear!!
You have our permission to do all that you ask. Wayne’s accident happened on September 16th, 2oo6 approximately 3:30 in the afternoon. His prognosis at the beginning was quite good and the doctor told him to expect a 95% recovery. Due to the bungling of several so called professionals and the fact that he nearly died 4 times ( one time close enough to have the minister come to his bedside twice), his body had to try to heal itself from illness which took away from his recovery. His spinal cord injury although it was not severed was serious enough to cause what is called an incomplete quadriplegia which means that he has feeling some places and not others. His main injury seems to be due to swelling and the damage it can cause. Sort of like a brain injury being made worse due to not getting enough oxygen for a long time. We are very hopeful of a good recovery which means he will walk again but with assistance. At this point the worst damage has been to his sense of self. He no longer feels like a contributing member of society and is floundering to find an anchor. I try to help him but my words are a bit like not seeing the forest for the trees. I am too close. He actually came home to stay on January 25th, 2008. A very long time indeed and we are still adjusting to what is supposed to be life. We only now are really starting to enjoy some very sweet moments together. I can send some photos of before’s if you like. Stages from the beginning to now. He really has come a very long way and he ( very sweetly) attributes a great deal of that me) I thank God I have the positive attitude that I do, it really has got me through this. Anyway, I can send more info. Just ask away.
How are you now? I am so very proud of you Gary. Doing what you did with the issues you are trying to deal with was tantamount to a miracle. I respect you deeply for your courage and I expect that you will continue to grow and blossom. I bet you were real happy to get back to your garden though. Where did you put the chimes?
Well. I’ll talk to you soon. Let me know if you want more info and I’ll send it along. Love you dear!!!

In the face of adversity, that is when you discover just who your true friends are. When Wayne's life changed under such traumatic circumstances, how many 'friends' came to visit him as he lay in his hospital bed? Sadly there were too few. The reality is that some of his visitors felt too awkward. I say, see beyond what happened, focus on Wayne's eyes, see his humanity.
This is a story about courage, resilience, perserverance and the power of love. When I went back to Canada, it was not so much a holiday, no, it was so much more than that. I sought positive inspiration in my own personal journey towards mental health wellbeing. The inspiration I embraced from this brave family is immeasurable.
Seldom have I witnessed such positive determination in a situation that could have torn this family apart. Heather and Wayne know that we have choices. They knew that to allow the circumstances to overwhelm them, was a sign that negativity would be given permission to win. Through the sheer strength of Heather, this permission would never be an option. I know that Heather's love for Wayne during these times of challenging stress, have motivated him to improve his quality of life.
This family unit remains undaunted. With the support of Heather's daughter Margo and her fiancee Brennan, I have seen a family that has found the inner strength to be there for each other. This inner strength will see them through such troubling times. The positive outlook they have displayed is a lesson for those of us who may have contemplated giving up. No matter what the world throws at us, we can discover the power within ourselves to not let negative forces dominate us. We can distance ourselves from a negative environment.
On May 11th, it was Mother's Day in Canada. It also marked the 10th anniversary of my best friend Rob's life coming to an end. Margo is Rob's daughter and I know Mother's Day was a poignant reminder of her dearly loved Father's passing away. Margo was only seventeen when her Dad was taken away from her. I know how devastated she was and from so far away in England, I sent my heartfelt sympathy. Margo, you are a lovely lady and it has been my honour to see you again after fifteen years. Your Father would be so proud of you and the decent spirit of him lives on.
On June 8th, 2008, Margo gave birth. My warmest congratulations to Margo and proud Father Brennan. I know you will make a wonderful family, the love you have for each other will be a powerful influence on your child. Welcome to the world Gabriel, may our legacy to you and your generation, be that we make this planet a greener, more peaceful place.
So to Heather I say. Thank you for being such a positive inspiration to me.To you Wayne, please remember that you have so much support from your determined family. Please draw strength from knowing that nobody can ever remove your dignity. I hope you can now take comfort in knowing you have a friend in me. I am here for you buddy. To Margo and Brennan, thank you for your kindness, your good natured spirit made my trip back to Canada all the more enjoyable.
I listen to the wind chimes that Heather and Wayne so kindly gave me. As I listen to the music of the chimes that now floats into my living room from my beautiful garden, I think of this strong, positive family. The wind chimes are an inspiring reminder of just how grateful I am.
There is a town in British Columbia named 'Hope'. I have fond memories of that town. Heather and Wayne have indicated to me that they would like to live in Hope. As far as I'm concerned, they already live there.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

How's It Goin' Eh?

A lot of folks seem to be under the impression that Canadians say 'eh' a lot eh. I suppose that could have some credibility if you spell out the word 'Canada'. It would go like this: C 'eh' N 'eh' D 'eh' Well how about that eh!
So there I was in Vancouver. First thing to remember was that traffic proceeds on the right side of the road. Always a good idea to be wary of the way vehicles travel when you decide to cross the road. So focused with that thought I ventured out for a stroll. Safety first is the key to any trek out.
Walking along the sidewalk I tripped on the curb (kerb), slipped on a diaper, fell into the parking lot, spilt my potato chips into a puddle of gasoline, bumped into a tire (tyre) and nearly broke my cell phone. Ofcourse the preceding sentence was a load of garbage, that didn't really happen, but it does illustrate some of the differences in the way the English language is used in North America.
When it comes to differences, the difference in me from the last time I visited Vancouver was immense. When I last journeyed there, in October 2005, I was a shattered man, mentally and physically. My overwhelming illness was plainly and painfully obvious. Years of negative situations had almost destoyed the last remnants of my sanity.
That trip in October 2005 was the catalyst in my own personal road to some semblance of recovery. I so desperately wanted to get better for my family, my friends from the past, and for the sake of my own mental health wellbeing. That trip was the turning point in my life. Realising that I had a choice, I chose to seek positive alternatives. Why should I let a negative environment dictate my life? I went back to England determined to distance myself from factors that had undermined my right to happiness.
During the next two and a half years, I made a commitment to become active, to pursue positive possibilities. I challenged my anxiety and got involved with people and Organisations that revealed a great power, the remarkable power of empathy. Finally, after many years of personal torment, I embraced positive options. I met people who genuinely cared, I like to think that I demonstated my own sincere kindness in return. At long last, I was a part of something special.
May 2008, I returned to Vancouver revitalised. Yes I still had great anxiety, yet I knew that inner resolve would master unrealistic sensations of panic. The first big challenge was to have the courage and order something at McDonald's. (Some might say ordering and eating food at McDonald's takes courage anyway). In 2005, I was too scared to go in and order. Some irrational fear prevented me from having the 'audacity' to 'bother' the staff. This time, I found the courage to go in and place and order. "That comes to $6.92, have a good day." Said the dude behind the counter. Wow, I did it, a triumph in confronting my bizarre anxiety issues.
Now I was ready to face my next anxiety test. I was ready to go on public transport in Vancouver. This involved getting familiarised with a method quite different from what I was used to in Stoke. In Vancouver, you are required to put a transit card into a machine. I panicked over the thought of putting the card in the wrong way. If I did that, would the people on the bus laugh at me? Would the driver kick me off the bus for being such an idiot? Well I did put the bloody card in the wrong way, luckily the driver just smiled and indicated the correct method. Phew! No public humiliation and I used what works best for me. I had a good laugh with the driver. "You'll have to excuse me, I'm a bus virgin!" The lady driver responded: "There you go." This exchange of pleasantries was significant, last time in Vancouver, I was too scared to joke about.
Somehow I knew that this adventure in Canada was going to be thought provoking, highly emotional and of tremendous benefit to my ongoing progress towards an even better life. As the trip unfolded the experiences were even more profound than I would ever had dreamed. In my next blog, I shall tell a story of great human courage and resilience in the face of adversity.
So you might now have the impression that Canadians say 'eh' a lot eh? Well, what can I say eh? Oh's it goin' eh?

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Pterodactyl Airlines

It was 10:30 A.M., May 2nd and we waited in anticipation for the imminent departure of our flight from Manchester to Vancouver. So we waited and we waited some more. At about 11:00 A.M., the pilot made an announcement. "Ladies and gentleman, we are experiencing a slight delay. The electronic baggage loading equipment has broken down and the plane (or is that a pterodactyl?) has to be manually loaded."
So I sat there figuring that we would soon be shortly on our way. Another half an hour passed and the pilot stated: "Ladies and gentleman, the plane has now been manually loaded. However, they have loaded on the wrong luggage. They now have to manually ofload the incorrect luggage and manually load on the correct luggage. If it's any consolation to you, fourteen other planes are in a similar predicament."
Gee, that made the situation so much better? How reassuring to know that your misery was being shared by loads of other folks in other planes. How reassuring as you sit in a stuffy plane with no air conditioning and one usable toilet. Still, I reckoned that soon we would be on our way, off into the blue yonder. At long last, just gone 1:30 P.M., three hours late, we left Manchester airport. My journey, an adventure that would challenge my anxiety, had finally begun.
Now when it comes to flying, I do try to do things on the cheap. So I guess it came as no surprise that I was on a plane with three classes onboard. 'First class', 'Business class' and 'Cattle'. What I didn't realise was that being in the 'Cattle' section meant that we would have to help get the 'flying dinosour' off the ground. We were instructed in the cheap seats to put our feet through the holes in the floor and shuffle our feet in a frantic motion. I found this most odd, however 'Fred' and 'Barney' sitting next to me, were well into it. So with our feet powered momentum, the flying dinosour flapped into the afternoon sky. Welcome to 'Pterodactyl Airlines'.
Over Scotland, over Iceland, over the southern tip of Greenland, our winged beast flapped. Then the route changed from the usual continuance over northern Canada. The pilot took what could be best described as a more scenic path. Below was the prairie Province of Saskatchewan and the city of Regina. From there we passed over Calgary, Alberta and got the fantastic bonus of flying over the magnificence of the Rockies. Wow!
We were now descending into Vancouver. Flying through the Coast mountain range, I glimpsed at the awesome beauty of Greater Vancouver. Seeing the wonderful vision of my other home, my other life, my other world, brought the slightest trace of a tear to my eye. What positive experiences lay before me? How well would I challenge my anxiety and low self-esteem? Brimming with positive thoughts, I prepared for the final descent into Vancouver International Airport.
The pilot came back on the loudspeaker. "Would the people in the cheap seats get ready to put their feet back through the holes in the floor. We need you to use your feet as brakes on the runway! Yikes! What the hell will that do to the remaining sole on my trainers? I think that next time I shall spend the extra money. Saving money on my flight is one thing, yet what about the cost of replacing my trainers?
We landed safely. Local time was 2:30 P.M., an hour later than the time we left Manchester. Now it was time for the joy of going through Customs. Upon reaching Customs, I could not believe the huge number of people waiting to get through. I suppose that was partly due to our three hour delay and missing our allocated landing time. I felt, like I'm sure many others, very stressed at the chaos that ensued for the next hour.
Then I got through to the reception area. Waiting very patiently were my Mum and my Stepdad. I was here in Vancouver. How thrilled I was to see them. How thrilled I was with myself. The first hurdle in my ongoing challenge to live a better life was well and truly under way. The excitement, the adrenalin surging through me, was assurance that this trip was going to better than my last visit here. I knew it, and just as significant, my family could see how much better I was. I had made a pledge to them that I would embrace a more positive life. I was inspired and I knew that over the next three weeks, I would try and be an inspiration to my dear friends from the past. Little did I know that this journey was to be even more poignant than I would ever have dreamed.
So I was at the start of a great adventure. In the following blogs, I shall tell of the great inner strength and resilience of some truly remarkable people who have come back into my life. The first day drew to a close. I thought the sun would never set that day. No 'jet lag' (or as it was called in the olden days 'propeller lag'?) heck I didn't even have 'wing lag' from being a part of the 'Pterodactyl Airlines' experience. (Okay, it wasn't really a 'flying dinosaur' I was a matter of fact, the airline I was on was very good..even to us folks in the cheap seats)
So no parade in my honour upon my return to Vancouver. I was kinda' relieved about that. I mean, shucks, did I really need the embarrassment? The real honour was rediscovering and rekindling warm, sincere, friendships. I am so grateful for what I have. I thank you for your time.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Recluse Still On The Loose.

Greetings friends.  I am now at the the halfway point of my adventure in Vancouver.  When I return to the 'green and pleasant land', that is England, I shall be doing a series of blogs regarding the emotional and heart wrenching journey that I have experienced.  
I have witnessed and embraced the great inner strength of some incredibly brave people.  Their determination in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to me.  Their resilience, which I shall reflect upon at a later date, has made my determination to choose a positive life, grow even stronger. 
So when I return to Leek, I shall be going on a bit of a 'Blogathon'.   I hope you will honour me in reading my stories about the ongoing determination of my rediscovered friends and the inspirational and fear challenging time I had.
In closing, I know that my return to England will be so different than the last time I came back. Last time I came back to a world of emptiness, devoid of friendship.  This time, thanks to all of you, I come back to England, warmed with the knowledge that I have friends.  Your continued support and the support of my friends and family in Canada, has made me more determined to choose positive anticipation rather than be overwhelmed by negative speculation.
Recluse still on the loose?  Maybe, but I sure have enjoyed my time beyond the doorway rather than hiding under the duvet.