Who Am I? Part Eight


As promised I’m going to start sharing some of my incredible experiences with you too. So as well as tying up the loose ends to this particular chapter of my life, I’m going to start and finish this post with a couple of things that happened to me many years ago.

It was during my cannabis and pill period, I suppose I would have been around 17, I remember having my first experiences of being “the witness”. I remember on a number of occasions, even when no substances had been taken, that I could be sitting around in a room with a group of people and all of a sudden I would have the experience of simply being an observer and not someone who was actually there. I just assumed it was my eyes playing tricks on me because the colour of things would alter as this experience occurred. So, all the yellows, reds, blues and greens etc. would still be yellows, reds, blues and greens, but the hue would be different. They would look like colours that were not of this world. It was almost as though I was outside my body, but it was nothing like an out-of-body experience. It was very strange indeed and it would be many years before I understood what it was all about.

I went back to Swindon for a few days and at some stage knocked on the door at 80 Gladstone Street. Sonja answered and I told her what had happened. I said that we’d like her to come to the funeral, she said she’d rather not, so I said my goodbyes and left, and that was the last face to face contact I ever had with her. When I’d moved out I took my Hi-Fi equipment and record/CD collection and left Sonja everything else. It sounds very saintly of me but it wasn’t. I simply didn’t want the hassle of having to move stuff.

As I stated in a previous post the landlord had been quite dodgy and I’d sought legal advice over a matter concerning the property. I then moved in with Vic, and shortly after, Sonja decided to move in with Bobby and Doug in Kent, so we both washed our hands of 80 Gladstone Street. It was ironic that we had been living in Gladstone Street and my parent’s new flat was in Gladstone Avenue. They had only been in there for a month when my dad died.

He’d been a bus driver, working out of Holloway Garage and later Archway Garage in North London. He’d retired in the January of 1986 and now in October of that year he was no longer of this world. He had been quite a social sort of bloke so he’d also been quite popular. The funeral was at Highgate Crematorium and the procession was to drive past the bus garage so that my dad’s ex-workmates could pay their respects. What ensued was a crazy and in some ways quite awful episode. The funeral procession had been driving slowly anyway, and on top of that, it was at a very busy time of day so we got stuck in traffic. As we crawled along, bumper to bumper in the traffic, it was as though we were on display to the world. It was that time of day when all the schools were kicking out. At one point we were stuck in the traffic unable to move and some school kids started to laugh and make fun of us. They were coming right up close to the car windows and pretending to cry; the journey just seemed to go on for ever. Eventually it was all over and it was back to the flat in Wood Green for booze and nibbles. The flat was packed. Prior to and just after the funeral the phone didn’t stop ringing. Then gradually, once the dust settled, it stopped and barely rang again. It became apparent that virtually all the people who attended were my dad’s friends and not my mum’s. My dad had been very social, my mum was the opposite. My brother only lived down the road in Enfield, but he hardly ever visited. My mum was stuck in the flat on her own and with squatters in the flat above. It was not an ideal situation so I moved back to London.

When I think back to my time in Germany with NAAFI and my crazy marriage, it’s hard to believe it actually happened. It is so far removed from my life now. However, on reflection I must have been an absolute nightmare. With regard to Bobby, she may have had her issues but in hindsight I can see that she was actually very tolerant of me. I look at it this way, if I had a daughter would I want them getting involved with me as I was then? Not on your life! So yes, she showed remarkable tolerance in allowing us to live together. She also knew that we called her BA behind her back, then there was the time I spiked her curry oooohhh I could go on… As for Sonja, it was no life for her being married to me. Every night I had my headphones on listening to my music and every night I would drink. I never did anything nice for her; it was just a case of me wanting my comfortable space outside of the staff hostel, my endless supply of booze and food indulgences, but I didn’t want the wife to go with it. It was no wonder she had her own stuff going on. About five years after I last saw Sonja I bumped into her sister in Swindon Town Centre. Nicki said that Sonja had married again and divorced and was with a new partner living in Cornwall. Wherever she is now and whatever she is doing, I only wish her well.

Since I started this series of posts Tony “Big Tone” Black has reached out across time and space, which has made me very happy, and the legend that was Slippery has now retired to that great NAAFI shop in the sky. Slippery… I salute you!

Probably the first miraculous experience that I can actually remember as being extremely strange, exceptionally beautiful and beyond doubt, very, very real, happened some years ago. I can’t remember exactly when and I can’t remember where I was living at the time. It may even have been before I went in the army. I heard my name being called. It was just once and it was the softest and sweetest voice you could imagine. It was an androgynous voice. It was neither male nor female, yet at the same it was both. “Richard”… I opened my eyes and realised I was in bed and that the voice had very gently woken me up. I looked at the clock and it said exactly 07:00 am. I had to get up for work and had set my alarm for 07:00 am, but it had not gone off. There are no words in the English language that can do the sweetness of that voice justice.

Well, that’s going to be it for a few weeks. I’m off to Belgium, Germany and Holland. Thanks for supporting my blog!

Who Am I? Part Seven


My last visit to Germany. Detmold 1991 at John Bastock’s house.

It soon became apparent after a series of “goings on”, that it simply wasn’t working with me and Sonja living under the same roof. The branch manager at Sun Alliance put me on to an old acquaintance of his, who he said might be in a position to rent me a room. Enter Vic Davies; a lovely elderly man in his late 60s. I knocked on the door of 10 Dowling Street, just off Swindon Town Centre and no more than 200 metres from the branch office. Vic answered and I explained that Dave Hollister had suggested I come and have a word with him. Vic and Dave went back years and he offered me an upstairs room in his house. Vic was a lovely man, but he had the worst speech impediment I’d ever encountered. It was so bad that I would finish his sentences off for him. We got on very well and for a while a modicum of normality entered my life.

Of course, I was no longer living in cloud cuckoo land, which meant that the money had stopped flowing in. Because I had paid into the NAAFI pension scheme for under five years I was entitled to claim all my contributions back. This I did and my timing was perfect. I received just over £500. I mention the timing of it because it wasn’t long after I received the cheque that NAAFI sent me a bill for removal charges. It was over £180. I felt they were taking liberties as I’d had to leave stuff behind due to the lack of available space on the removals van. I didn’t pay it and they never caught up with me.

I should mention before going any further that during my time in cloud cuckoo land I had not been so aware of my deep-rooted psychological issues; I presume because of the constant flow of alcohol. I will also mention here that what I have tried to do with this series of posts is use language that is in line with my level of consciousness at the time the events took place. The idea is that the reader takes the journey with me and has the experience of evolving with me from the completely unconscious fool I used to be to the not so unconscious fool I am today; or something like that. I will also be adding details of my amazing experiences along the way, so that the whole story comes together with perfect precision.

The job was a bit of a wake up call too. The products we were selling were fantastic. The trouble was, and it’s probably still true today, that people have an aversion to life insurance. The truth is that most people don’t understand it. They don’t know how it works, they don’t understand the great value it has and will either avoid it like the plague or buy a policy that isn’t suitable for their needs. At that time in the 1980s there was a hell of a lot of money to be made in the financial services industry. The sky was the limit. This was just before the Financial Services Act of 1987 and commissions were very high. I soon realised that what you needed to do to be successful was to try to sell at all costs the products that paid the highest commissions. There were people in the insurance business back then, just ordinary salesmen, earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. Some of them would only make one sale a month, but it would have a massive commission. Invariably, I came into contact with people who didn’t have a lot of money and I wanted to help them. I wasn’t going to tell them lies. But the writing was on the wall from the start and I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t going to work. I did learn something very valuable though.

At one point I decided to go to a hypnotist (I can hear you laughing) in order to be hypnotised into being an amazing salesman! He may or may not have been genuine, but one thing I will always remember is that he could, if he’d wanted, had me coming to see him indefinitely. But he didn’t do that. After I’d been to see him three or four times he said something to me I’ve never forgotten. He said, “I can hold your hand and lead you to the M4, but I can’t drive you to London”. For those who don’t know, the M4 is a motorway that stretches from near Carmarthen in Wales up to London; en route it passes through Swindon. It made me realise that the only person who could make me into an amazing salesman was me, and as my heart wasn’t in it, something had to give. I didn’t foresee what happened next though.

I was enjoying my new-found freedom and went out one night, not returning to Vic’s place until 09:00 the following morning. I saw the look on Vic’s face and he said to me, “have you been into the office”? I said “no”. I looked at his face and for some strange reason I thought he was going to tell me that my brother was dead. But instead he said, “your brother rang, your dad’s dead”. I couldn’t believe it; I didn’t have the understanding that I have now. We’d buried the hatchet nearly seven years ago but for most of that time I’d been living in Germany so we’d not seen a great deal of each other. I’d recently been to London and helped him with some work in their new flat and he’d taken me for a beer in one of the local pubs in Wood Green. For the first time ever I’d felt really close to my dad but now he was gone. I can’t remember what I did immediately after Vic gave me the news, but I know that at some point I made a phone call to London and said I’d be on my way soonest. I also remember going into the office, it was there that I shed my first tears. There was no way I could have driven so I went to the bus station and bought a ticket to Victoria. It was a surreal journey, with all kinds of thoughts going through my head. When I arrived at Victoria Station I went straight into the pub and ordered a double brandy. I knocked it straight back and then walked the half mile or so to the railway station. I got the tube to Wood Green and I remember as I walked to the flat that it was such a beautiful day for October. As I walked up the road I could see my dad’s light blue Ford Cortina parked outside. It was such a weird feeling.

I’m off on my travels in a couple of days, so I’m hoping to write part eight later…

 

Who Am I? Part Six


The truth was about to come out…

When I arrived at Kathy and Joe’s place it was obvious that something had been going down. I’d no sooner got through the door when Kathy said, “I’ll leave you two to talk”. Sonja then proceeded to tell me that the whole thing was true; she really was the most stupid international criminal mastermind in the entire history of the human race. However, it doesn’t end there. My wife, being a compulsive liar, had ulterior motives for telling me the truth. It turned out that within about 24 hours of me leaving her ex-boss’s office that day, roughly two weeks before I left Germany, he set off for the UK and turned up on Kathy and Joe’s doorstep at 08:00 in the morning with a “heavy”, just as Joe was leaving for work. The heavy apparently wasn’t much of a heavy, but that’s not the point. I couldn’t believe that Sonja would bring that kind of nonsense into the house of friends who had been kind to us. But she did leave a forwarding address after all…

Somehow, Joe let them in and left for work,leaving Kathy and Sonja with the two “geezers”. Sonja was confronted with her dastardly deeds and had a piece of paper thrust in front of her, which she promptly signed! The piece of paper was her admission to the theft of her ex-boss’s money. He now had her over a barrel. She told me that she signed the piece of paper because, “I was so frightened I literally wet myself”. I was more annoyed about being lied to than anything else; had I known that my wife was a criminal mastermind I could have prepared myself. But it did explain a few things. It explained why she was always taking money from the cash box when I went to pick her up in the evening. It also explained why she’d been removed from the other job; she had obviously been stealing from her other employer too. Two things I never understood though, why we never had anything to show for her actions; for the life of me I just don’t know what she did with all the money she stole. The other thing was that I could never work out what all that working on Christmas day stuff was about. It was obviously a lie; I can only assume that she arranged to spend part of Christmas day with someone else because she did not get any attention from me.

Sonja’s ex-boss had her signed admission of guilt and was going to involve solicitors. She was terrified and looked to me for support, but I was still angry at what she’d done and told her I would stick by her but as it was her mess she needed to resolve it. She needed to engage her own solicitor and wanted me to come with her, but I said no and told her she had to do it herself. In fairness to her she did. The money owed was whittled down to £1000, which to be honest, I thought was a bit light. But her ex-boss, via the negotiating of the solicitors, said that if she agreed to pay him £1000 he wouldn’t take it any further. It broke my heart to write that cheque! I told her that if she ever lied to me again and I found out, we were over.

We over-stayed our welcome at Kathy and Joe’s; it’s not really relevant to go into the details, but various things happened and I decided that we could not impose on them any longer. I went out one day and drove the 15 miles or so into Swindon and rented a house from a dodgy letting agency (you must be thinking that I use the word “dodgy” quite a lot, but it was just the way things were then). The rent, including rates, or whatever it was called back in 1986, was £300 per calendar month, which was a hell of a lot for that era. I didn’t realise until we’d moved in that I’d rented a house smack, bang in the middle of Swindon’s red light area…

Somehow, amid all the chaos, I’d finalised all the necessaries in regard to my job with Sun Alliance Services, and I’d been on a two-week training course in Wales. We were residing at 80 Gladstone Street, just off the town centre in Swindon and my marriage was just going further and further down the tubes. We still had some stuff stored in Kathy and Joe’s garage, but Joe’d had enough of us and during a visit to Lyneham, without Sonja, he told me he wanted it out as soon as possible. I should also mention that the “Adams Family” had moved to Kent when Doug got posted back to the UK, and Sonja had been communicating with her mother via Kathy and Joe’s phone. This was during the days before competition when BT had the monopoly and call charges were still high, especially during the day. I’d used their phone a few times, so just before we left I wrote Joe a cheque for £5, which would have more than covered my usage. However, nobody really anticipated just how much Sonja had abused the amenities, and when the bill eventually arrived Kathy and Joe nearly had “his and hers” heart attacks! Luckily, we were tucked up in Swindon by this time. I bumped into them in Swindon town centre one day. I was on my own and Kathy launched into me about their phone bill; that was when I first found out about it. When she calmed down I told them about our “lovely” house and invited them round. They said they had to go off and do something but if they had time on the way back they would pop in. They didn’t, and I never saw them again.

When Bobby had been with her husband before Doug they had lived in Wroughton, which is a tiny town just on the outskirts of Swindon. He had also been in the military, so Sonja was already familiar with Swindon before we’d gone there together for the first time. One day she was in town when she bumped into a long-lost friend from her time spent living in Wroughton. So, Sonja took to hanging out with this friend and all her mates. As a result, I’d come home and find the house half-full with kids of a similar age to Sonja. It was at this time I suppose, that I realised I’d grown up a bit; it was probably because of the responsibility that came with being a Hi-Fi salesman. We also , against my wishes, had the sister from hell move in with us.

At some stage I found that Sonja had told me another blatant lie. I knew that she’d been in my briefcase because, yes you’ve guessed it, she left evidence, but she denied it. Other things happened and it was apparent that we couldn’t go on. Now, this is where I had great respect for her. Me, being a bloke, I just let things go from bad to worse without really saying anything. But it was her who actually said that maybe we should think about a break.

I went to London, supposedly for two weeks for some breathing space, but after about a week my dad said that it was pointless me being in London if there were things that needed sorting. I knew he was right, so I came back unexpectedly. I’m sure by the look on Sonja’s face that she’d been into all sorts while I was away, but I didn’t care. We agreed to split and I said I would sleep in the spare room.

In a few months time my life would change forever.

 

 

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?