Who Am I? Part Twenty Eight


So, I made it to Swindon against all the odds. On the Saturday I set off to serve the new venue near Banbury. It was out in the sticks all on its own next to a busy “A” road, but I found it OK. I forged a very good relationship with the centre and would serve it again many times in the future. My trip to Copenhagen was also very successful and gave me a much-needed cash injection. On my return to Wales it seemed that there had been a bit of a blip with the caravan, but it wasn’t a problem as Carol and Bruce let me stay in a spare room in the house until things were sorted. I returned from another trip and found the caravan in situ; it was to be my home for about a year. Living there wasn’t without its teething problems, but on the whole, we all got on very well. Carol and Bruce were also quite flexible and they would let me use the house to conduct healing and meditation sessions. Things continued to bobble along; I was serving the churches in the Ceredigion area, continuing to work in South West England and still getting the odd client here and there. However…

I mentioned very early in this series of posts that Spiritualism had never really resonated with me. I carried on serving the churches because I felt that a power far greater than me wanted me to engage in this work. But as time went by I continued to feel more and more isolated from this religion whose churches I was serving. Yes, I met some lovely people and there was always the few venues that I really looked forward to serving. But generally, I found the churches and centres to be very negative places, and at times, demonstrating mediumship was like having my teeth pulled with red-hot pliers. Something felt like it was going to give; I started to feel that my time in Wales was done. I didn’t bank on what followed next though.

At about the same time that I moved to Wales, my brother decided to move to Spain. He lived up in the East Midlands anyway, but our mother was quite upset about this; one son moving to Wales and the other moving to Spain. There was a very deep bond of love between me and my mum, but on a physical level, she was an extremely difficult person to be around. She was unbelievably negative, so I very rarely asked her how she was, because I knew that she would only start moaning and reel off a list of ailments. I’d always visited her fairly regularly, but could never stay in her company very long because of the negativity. She originated from the North of England; a place called St Helens (near Liverpool), and had lived in a village called Rainford later in her youth. She had kept in touch with people up there, but as she got older her visits back “home” became less and less. By 2004 it had been some years since she had been for a visit; part of the problem was that she could never make a decision so she would spend months procrastinating, “shall I go or shan’t I”? She normally travelled by coach and would be met at the other end by my Uncle Philip, her half-brother. Unfortunately, her mobility was not what it was and she was getting frailer, so at some stage I offered to drive her up there from Swindon and pick her up again when she wanted to come home. She finally decided that she would go at the beginning of October and stay for one month.

The time came and I set off for Swindon. I stayed overnight at my mum’s place and the next day we left for Rainford. We had only gone a few miles when my mum started to display some very strange behaviour. She had seemed fine the night before and that morning, but I noticed that she asked me a question, which I answered, but within just a matter of minutes, she asked exactly the same question several times more. At first I just remarked, “you just asked me that”! But when it continued to happen I feared the worst. However, I felt that it would do my mum good to be back where her heart was for a month, so I thought no more about it.

At the end of October I drove up to Rainford again. I just knew that something was amiss. Sure enough, at the first opportunity my mum’s friend, Yvonne, proceeded to tell me how her and her daughter were extremely worried about my mum. She related to me things that could only mean one thing; my mum was in the early stages of dementia. She again displayed strange behaviour on the journey back to Swindon. The problem was; I lived in Wales, around 170 miles away. Thankfully, Sue was able to keep an eye on things for me, but I knew I had to get my mum moved. She still lived in the maisonette and struggled with the two flights of stairs. I’d found a place for her in a lovely sheltered accommodation complex a couple of years before because I could see that her decreasing mobility was going to present a problem, but she was having none of it and refused to move. So, I was gobsmacked when after finding a bungalow for her, just a few hundred yards up the road and close to the shops and doctors surgery, she agreed it would be best to move. This is another episode that I wrote about extensively in my book, The Amazing Journey, so I’m only going to touch on the main points here.

Sue was amazing, she checked in on my mum when she could; they had become best friends a couple of years previously.

The time came to move, so once again I drove up to Swindon. I conducted the move virtually single-handedly. At the last-minute there was some God-sent help from Sue and another friend of my mum’s. Unfortunately, once the move was complete her mental health plummeted. Sue kept an eye out, but she had her own life to lead. The only thing I could do was move back to Swindon. One of Sue’s sons, Justin, very kindly let me stay at his flat; rent free! He only wanted me to contribute towards energy costs. At some stage my brother moved back to the East Midlands from Spain; his move was not related to our mother’s condition.

As the situation worsened, she started wandering off, she was also continually phoning the police saying there was someone on the roof; and this was just the tip of the iceberg. The bungalow was in sheltered accommodation, but it was not a care home, so there was minimal support from the warden. The next door neighbour was aware of the situation and also kept an eye on things. But, the whole situation was exacerbated by the fact that my mum also had bad arthritis in her hands and was not able to lock her doors at night. Drastic things call for drastic measures, so I went to the GP’s surgery and explained the situation. An appointment was arranged that same day at the hospital and my mum never returned to that bungalow. She had only been in there a matter of weeks.

She was admitted to the psychiatric hospital, where it took five months to assess her properly. During this time she had a fall and fractured her hip. There followed a comedy of errors where she was backwards and forwards to the general hospital because of infections; she was also on the receiving end of some appalling treatment in this establishment. Eventually, her assessment was complete and I was able to find a residential care home for her. It was a great place (The Orchards), with great staff, in Wroughton, just outside Swindon. At last, there was now some stability. Throughout this whole nightmare process I received no help from family, but Sue was an absolute saint. It will never be forgotten.

Now that I was back in Swindon I started to expand my network of churches and spiritual centres to serve. Sue and John Geis would give my telephone number out whilst on their travels, and I also contacted the venues I’d served before moving to Wales. I started to get busier again.

I’m going to end this post by sharing an amusing story with you. I was at Justin’s one morning. He had gone to work so it was just me in the flat. It was one of those mornings where you want to rant at the universe! I was doing my meditation and railing off to spirit that I needed more money to be able to function, and, “what are you going to do about it”? I quickly forgot my meditation rant and drove down the road to the big supermarket for a few things. When I came out again and went back to the car I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. I didn’t even notice anything when I was getting into the car or when I put the keys in the ignition. However, just as I was about to turn the key to start the car, I noticed something flapping about under the wiper blade. It was a five pound note! I got out of the car very gingerly, thinking it was some sort of candid camera stunt. I had a quick look around to see if anyone was watching me, then I took the note from under the wiper and threw it into the car. I drove back to the flat perplexed. A free fiver no less… “but is it real”? I asked myself. “There’s only one way to find out”, I thought. So, on my way to visit my mum that afternoon I stopped off at the supermarket again. My intention was to buy a bunch of flowers. After all, I could only get arrested if the money was counterfeit! Then I would just plead ignorant. Sure enough, the money was fine, so I was able to not only recognise the symbolism of the cheeky spirit gesture, but get my mum a £5.00 bunch of flowers…

 

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Who Am I? Part Fourteen


The remainder of the nineties up to the year 2000 were a very crucial time for me. They brought me a lot of pain, but they served as the springboard for greater things. It was in 1993 that I put an ad on the notice board at work stating that I was looking to rent a room or flat somewhere. One of the supervisors approached me and said he was looking for a lodger. I won’t mention his name for reasons that you will understand in due course, but he was a bloke that I got on well with and he had a reputation for being, “one of the lads”. He lived in West Swindon and in no-time at all I was moving out of my mum’s for the last time.

We got on great, having similar tastes in music and alcohol. He was also able to get hold of cannabis; combine that with my new-found hobby of making my own beer and we had a situation that was doomed right from the start. There were all-night drinking sessions and other goings on; our antics even managed to annoy the next-door neighbours, whom we both got on extremely well with. It was mainly our habit of deciding to go out into the garage after midnight to play the vinyl 45 version of Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix at a rather loud volume.  You see, the stereo system in the living room had no turntable, but in the garage my partner-in-crime had an old system that we were able to play vinyl on. The wild times endured for a few months, but the cracks were starting to appear and I saw the writing on the wall. It was mainly due to my friend’s rather complicated personal life, which only seemed to get more and more complicated as the weeks went by. My emotional pain was very evident too at this time and I would have episodes of deep blackness, which would not go away regardless of how much I drank.

In the May of 1993 I took myself away on a holiday to Turkey. I liked the country so much that within a few days of getting back I’d booked up to go there again in six-week’s time. My friend decided he wanted to come with me, so he booked up too. I’m no saint, but my friend’s behaviour was extremely embarrassing from the time we set off right up to the time we got back. For some reason, he felt the need to be extremely loud in public places; even in the presence of young children, and his behaviour in general was at times rather strange to say the least. Within the first few days after we arrived back home, certain things happened, which resulted in him making a spur-of-the-moment decision to go and stay with his ex-wife. He told me he would probably be back the next weekend. During that week I was on a late shift and I came home one evening to the sound of music playing as I opened the door. It was a particularly doleful song by Annie Lennox; the name of which escapes me. As I entered the living room I saw my friend sprawled out, face down, on the couch and a near empty bottle of bourbon on the floor next to where he lay. I smelled a rat and went out to the kitchen to find a suicide note on the worktop.

I was angry; it was as though he knew I was on a late shift and did this knowing I would find him. I did not ring an ambulance immediately; I was too angry. At some point I decided I should ring one, so I called 999. I waited outside for the ambulance and within no time it arrived. However, in between me making the call and the ambulance arriving, my friend came-to. He staggered outside asking what was going on and I just ripped into him for putting me in this situation. He was taken into hospital and eventually he went into the mental health hospital in Devizes, Wiltshire. For the next few weeks I was in the house on my own. I looked after things for him, but at the same time I knew I needed to get out. It was while I was taking care of the house that I found out that my friend had played his suicide “trick” several times in the past. Another friend at work, Mark, said his mother had a spare room that I was welcome to use as a stop-gap. I most gratefully took up this offer. After living with Mark’s mum for four weeks, I moved in with a family friend of their’s who happened to be looking for a lodger. One rather amusing thing happened during this time that I will share with you.

I had bought a fez whilst we were in Turkey, and any Brits reading this will know that a fez was one of the trademarks of the late British comedian, Tommy Cooper. I went to visit my friend one day while he was being treated in Devizes. I turned up wearing the fez; I wanted to put a smile on his face. It did the trick and we laughed about it months later, saying that I was lucky they didn’t keep me in.

Eventually, the dust settled, my friend came out of hospital and started to get his life on track again. We met up a few times when he was well again but our friendship dwindled and we went our separate ways. My latest abode was in the Penhill area of Swindon, which was considered, wait for it….. a rather dodgy area. However, any place is what you make it; my new landlady was OK and so were the neighbours. It was a fair distance from work but I had acquired a car again just before moving to West Swindon, so that wasn’t a problem. I plodded along for the next couple of years getting more and more disillusioned with my brain-numbingly boring job at the Royal Mail. Then something happened that gave me an idea. My nephew had moved to Swindon in an effort to get away from the drug scene in London. However, he simply replaced the London drug scene with the Swindon drug scene. He eventually had a mental break-down and was admitted to the most horrendous mental health institution, Seymour Clinic, in Swindon. My brother’s ex-wife also moved to Swindon in an effort to supervise her son’s recovery. It was during a conversation with her that I had an idea.

She told me that she was a student, studying politics. She was slightly older than me, so I thought that age really isn’t a barrier and it would be a great idea to try something completely different. Being a music enthusiast, I’d been practising guitar for a few years and decided that I would do some kind of music course. I made some enquiries at New College in Swindon and realised that I would be letting myself in for a really difficult time. But the atmosphere amongst the performing arts students was so infectious that I got to thinking that there must be some way to achieve what I wanted. I decided to throw caution to the wind; a Popular Music course was to start at the college in September 1995, which marked the new academic year and I signed up for it. A few weeks before I was due to start I received a letter saying that due to low uptake the college was no longer running popular music, but… they were running a BTEC Performing Arts course, which contained musical elements and would I like to transfer onto that. I decided to go for it and gave my notice in at the Royal Mail.

During the last couple of years me and Gillian had got back together on numerous occasions, but she eventually followed her sister and moved up to Binbrook to be near her parents. Now at the age of 40 I was a full-time performing arts student at a sixth-form college in Swindon, surrounded by teenagers. I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for, however, it was during my time at New College that I finally discovered why I had been experiencing such deep emotional pain for so many years.

Part Fifteen will be with you before you know it!!

 

Synchronicities; don’t you just love ’em


BlackburnSynchronicities never fail to amaze me and I’m going to share with you one such synchronicity that occurred in the last week. I had been visiting a friend in Swindon for a couple of days, and just prior to setting off on the journey home, my friend and I had a brief conversation about my nephew, Steve. However, before I carry on it will be necessary for me to give you some background information.

Stephen was my older brother’s second child, but the first by his then wife; and also his first and only boy. Steve and I had a magical relationship when he was young. But for reasons that are not relevant to this story his childhood was neither stable nor happy. We continued to be close and then in 1976 I joined the army. We saw each other sporadically whilst I was in the army, and it was apparent to me during my visits, that his living conditions were less than ideal. The army, however, was not for me and having bought myself out just before Christmas in 1979, I went off to work in Germany in March 1980. By the time I came back to England in 1986 Steve was a teenager and into drugs. I was quite disturbed by what I saw; mainly the changes in him, but I had no idea back then as to what would eventually transpire. I had also gone through a drug period but I’d never taken anything serious and I was quite saddened by how my nephew had evolved from a beautiful baby smiling up at me from his pram, into someone I didn’t even recognise.

Now it is also worth mentioning here that I was always considered to be a bit of an oddball in the family. The Holmes’ have never been that close anyway, and as time has gone by, it’s now reached the stage where I have no contact at all with any remaining family members. It was difficult enough before, but once I found my spiritual pathway I was considered to be even more of an oddball. Steve was always my closest ally, but in the mid 1990’s things changed drastically. He had a promising career as a footballer and was on a Youth Training Scheme at Blackburn Rovers, who at the time were in the second tier of English football. He even played twice for the first team, but having been caught with drugs outside a night club in Blackburn, they let him go. He then returned to London where he drifted from club to club in non-league football, playing for some famous old clubs along the way. Then in an effort to get away from the London drug scene he moved down to Swindon, which is where I was living at the time; my mother was also living there. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster, because all he did then was swap the London drug scene for the Swindon drug scene. During this period he was playing for Marlow Town, another famous old non-league club; he even appeared on BBC Match Of The Day once, after Marlow had been drawn against Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup. At one point things seemed to be going well. I thought he was off the drugs; he was getting paid by Marlow and also had a full-time job. He met a girl and they ended up having a wonderful Christmas baby. However, things took a dive just prior to the baby being born.

Steve broke his leg playing football and was never the same again. He did recover but he was not able to play to the same standard. I had no idea that he was still heavily into drugs until 1996 when things came to a head. He had a serious mental breakdown and ended up in a place called Seymour Clinic, a well-known Swindon mental institution. It was an awful depressing place, which I am happy to say no longer exists; in recent years it has been replaced by a more modern facility. Over the next few years he would periodically find himself in Seymour Clinic and another similar establishment, not always on a voluntary basis.

During this period he fell into the clutches of a Swindon based Christian Fundamentalist group that had a reputation for preying on vulnerable people; with a mental illness Steve was an ideal candidate. As a few more years passed by Steve relapsed into his illness a number of times. Also, because of all the medication he was on, his weight ballooned and he became very disheveled; a shadow of the athletic young man he’d been just a few years prior. Unfortunately, when I found my spiritual pathway he decided that I was “in league with Satan” and we ceased to have regular contact. In 2003 I moved to Wales, but when my mother became ill in 2005 I moved back to Swindon. I saw Steve sporadically during this period but since my mother’s funeral in May 2009 I had bumped into him just once, one evening in a shop in Swindon, whilst on a visit to the same friend I mentioned at the beginning of this story.

Steve lives a very short walking distance from my friend, and she was telling me that she had seen him a couple of times recently from a distance, and had indeed seen him that morning whilst on a trip into town. We both agreed that for all his troubles and faults, he had done a fantastic job with his son. The relationship with the child’s mother had broken up back in the 1990’s but Steve was a doting father and he made every effort to support his son over the years. My friend and I agreed that he had learned wisely from his own childhood experiences and had done his son proud.

Soon after we finished our conversation I said my goodbyes and set off on my journey home. I had only driven a very short distance when I saw an unmistakable figure, yes it was Steve. My first reaction was just to carry on with my journey, as I had no way of knowing how he would react to me. But something told me to drive up to the end of the road, go around the roundabout and come back. This I did, and as I drove past him again I tooted the car horn and noted that he recognised me straight away. I took the first right and pulled over by a bus stop. Steve was really glad to see me, he jumped in the car and I drove around to where he lived. We only had a short chat in the car but during the course of our discussion he told me that he was now working full-time with???? Yes, you’ve guessed it, people with mental health problems. I was so pleased for him; it’s the first proper full-time job he has had in some years.

I could see the face of a man racked with guilt, pain and sadness because of the past. He is obviously still in a great deal of pain because of what he experienced when he was growing up, and I’m sure that was behind him going off the rails. It is also apparent that he feels a lot of guilt for the way he has conducted himself over the years and let his life go the way that it did. But it was great to chat with him and I felt the connection there once again, albeit briefly, and I was happy to be able to give him encouragement. He was also pleased for me with what I am doing and he took my telephone number. I am still waiting for a call, but it has only been just over a week. Synchronicities eh! Don’t you just love ’em?