Who Am I? Part Nineteen


When the fertilizer hit the fan at work I found that I still had a job, but not the one I’d been doing. It is not relevant to go into too much detail here so many years after the event, instead I will simply relate the main points. The marketing division was unrecognisable from that day in mid December 1998, when the “Swindon crew” rocked up in Reading for the first time. There had been many comings and goings, new jobs, but mainly for people with specific qualifications and young graduates. It was apparent that I was a fish out of water; at one point I was turning up for work in the knowledge that I didn’t really have a job. It was clear to me that I did not fit into the model of the division and that I was on borrowed time. Things got quite intense when I put up resistance to what was happening to me. It didn’t go down well that I was fighting my corner. I remember it being a terrible feeling, working in a place where I didn’t actually have a job. It was also obvious to all my workmates as well, but in the corporate world there is no room for sentiment and it was all about self-preservation. I could see that Gary and Huw were not comfortable with what was happening to me, but Gary had a position of great responsibility and had to get on with his own stuff. Huw as well; his job changed drastically and he was flying, but I will always respect that through that difficult time they remained friends.

Things eventually came to a head when my stubbornness won me a battle. However, it did not win me the war, because I turned up for work one day and the stress of everything had finally taken its toll. I sat down at my desk and had a pain above my eyes. I had not been myself for months; I’d not been sleeping well, drinking every night and with the realisation that I was now a “dead man walking”, having irritated management even more by winning my little battle against them, I had nothing more to give. I was spent. I was told to go home and I would spend six months off work with an acute stress related illness…. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me! Meanwhile…

The open circle became very frustrating. I was like a caged lion, hungry for knowledge of the spirit, and I wasn’t going to get it in a spiritualist church. But, while I was off sick I encountered Sue and John Geis; they ran a spiritual development centre in Gloucester. I got chatting to John at a charity clairvoyant night at Swindon Town Football Club in September 2000. I’d met him before when he’d been working at the church. John’s wife Sue was one of three mediums working that night and I, along with my friend (also called Sue) were helping out with the teas. We were chatting and out of the blue John asked me if I would be interested in developing spiritually. I didn’t need asking twice and I gave him my number. Hold that thought…

We were now into the new millennium and me and Sue, the graphic designer, were history; we had split for good around April 2000. I was off work from early September 2000 to March 2001, and that was a crazy time for me. I was full of anger and hatred towards those at work who I considered were responsible for my plight. The negative emotions festered within me and I became more bitter with each passing day. At first Huw kept in touch, and when Gary was in town we would meet up. But I became a very difficult and negative person to be around and eventually the phone stopped ringing.

It was just me, in my flat above the hairdressers, with my booze, my hatred and my anger. I hadn’t felt like this for a few years, but in that time of misery, every now and then, out of the blue, the phone would ring and it would be Sue. It was probably at this time that I realised what I’d lost. It was apparent that Sue Crewe was an exceptional human being with a heart of gold. She was genuinely concerned about me; even though she was now in a new relationship with a man she would eventually marry and have two lovely children with. She still thought about me and made the time to get in touch. I am eternally grateful for that. meanwhile….

It was around 1999 that I started having strange experiences in the early hours of the morning. Hold that thought because I’m going to elaborate in the next post.

There were some very significant events during my time in the grip of my self-made hell. I’d started trying to meditate. It was my own version but it suited where I was on my journey. I’d also got to know of a book called, “Discover Your Psychic Powers”, by an author called Tara Ward. Not the sort of book I would read today, but very significant indeed back then. It was one of those books that gives you exercises to do. I remember one day I was reading a particular chapter, and there was an exercise that was about forgiving those who you perceive to have done you wrong. The hackles went up and I put the book down in disgust. I wasn’t going to forgive anyone! It must have been a few months later (as I’m quite a slow reader) that I came to a passage that said, “please refer to the exercise on page …”. I leafed back through the book and to my disgust I saw it was the exercise about forgiving people. Once again I shut the book in a defiant mood; there was no way I was going to forgive those b*#*##*!!!!!!!

A few days later something inside me felt that if I was encountering this exercise twice, there must be something in it. I felt that someone, somewhere was trying to tell me something. I decided I was going to give it a go, but it took me a couple of days to psyche myself up, such was the depth of my anger and hatred. The time came and I sat down to do the exercise. I remember that I kind of put my own spin on it. I did a meditation, in which I divided all my “enemies” from work into two groups, men and women. I visualised that I encountered all the men one by one in the street. I greeted them, shook them by the hand and wished them well on their way. I then visualised encountering the women, greeting them with a friendly hug, producing a bunch of flowers from behind my back and giving them the flowers as I wished them well on their way. It wasn’t that difficult. When I’d finished I stood up from my seat and to my amazement I had the tangible experience of feeling something rising up inside my stomach. I realised years later that this was my kundalini rising after so many years of being stuck.

The next significant thing to happen was that in between the Christmas and New Year of 2000/01 I got a phone call out of the blue from John Geis. He said he was starting up a new closed circle in January and would I like to participate. It was manna from heaven for me and I snapped up the chance. But that wasn’t all! He said that before the circle begins there is a chance, if I want, to attend a meditation workshop at their centre. I jumped at the chance to do this as well, and what a choice it was. In all the time I’d been going to the spiritualist church I’d never had any proper guidance with regard to meditation. But in the space of a few hours on this particular Saturday I experienced an explosion within my being of epic proportions. I’d never experienced anything like it in my life and my new adventure had begun.

I’m so glad to have been able to write two blog posts in such quick succession, as my chronic fatigue has not been very kind to me since my return from Nepal. Thanks for your patience!

Who Am I? Part Eighteen


This post is going to be like one of those films where they keep switching from one scene to the other because there are several stories going on at the same time, which all come together in the end. Firstly, as far as work was going, I fell for the yarn that was spun to me prior to accepting the new position, and was swept away on the crest of a wave of delusion. I was constantly making enquiries as to whether any new positions were coming up, and I had my heart set on joining the marketing team. I was bored with key accounts, and my efforts to get myself noticed didn’t go down very well with key accounts management. So much so, that my line manager eventually took me to one side and reminded me that I was a customer agent in the key accounts team; implying that I should know my place and get on with the job I was paid to do.

Eventually, I was offered a position within the marketing team; I was elated! If only I knew then what was just around the corner! It was cloud cuckoo land for several months. The job was only a side-step, but the marketing manager promised me it would lead to a promotion. During a conversation I had with the key accounts manager some weeks after taking up the new position in marketing, I mentioned what I had been told about getting promoted; he just laughed and walked off! This was a sign of what was to come. But in the meantime I was still riding the crest of a wave. There was long lunches, paid for on the managers’ expense accounts, and even though I was quite a low grade I was issued with a company mobile phone and I could also claim any expenses that I incurred on my travels. I should mention that my new job entailed managing the products that we were trying to sell to our commercial customers. This meant going out on the road from time to time, hence I was allowed to claim any expenses incurred. As well as ordering any stocks that I thought we needed I was also responsible for managing the installation of the aforementioned products. By this time I was no longer using the rail warrant to get to work. I had been advised to take out a company loan and buy a car, as I would need one to do my new job. This I did, and because I was not the only one commuting from Swindon, we would car share so that the burden of fuel expense could be shared.

In the meantime I had started going back to the spiritualist church on a more regular basis. Nothing had particularly changed; I still felt that there was a staleness to Spiritualism and the atmosphere in the church was pretty much exactly as it was. This time however, I did get to meet several people who I could relate to, and eventually I decided to go along to what they called the “open circle”, which was held on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. An open circle is not something that I would particularly advise participating in these days; they can actually be quite dangerous, but at that time it suited me. The open circle is for people who are wanting to find out more about Spiritualism and to start to develop their psychic and mediumistic abilities. It’s called an open circle because anybody can come and sit. Me and my particular group of friends formed the nucleus of the open circle; there was about six of us. When it was just us it was great, but sometimes there would be loads of people turning up, and everyone brings their own horrors with them so to speak, so an open circle is not always the ideal experience. Meanwhile back in Reading…

My best mates at work were Gary and Huw. Gary was one grade below middle-management within the marketing team and he lived in London. Huw was also in the marketing team and lived in Swindon; he was one of the car sharers. From time to time Gary would come to Swindon and stay at Huw’s house and we would get together over a few bears and have a real laugh. Eventually, I realised that my sexy new job was nothing of the sort. My line manager had previously been responsible for what I was now doing. When it became apparent that it entailed a lot of hassle and that it was pretty much a losing battle, they needed someone to dump on, and that person was me. In theory the products were great, but in practice they simply didn’t work; mainly because of the many unforeseen problems with installation. Cracks started to appear and eventually someone very high up within the organisation realised that our new all-singing-all-dancing marketing department was haemorrhaging money. Thousands of pounds had been spent with very little return so heads had to roll. Incredibly, there was only one actual redundancy that I remember, but there was a huge restructuring. The one bloke who got made redundant was Dave. He was one of the three salespeople and a really good bloke. As ever in these situations it was the people who had been responsible for the biggest mess who came up smelling of roses once the dust had settled, poor Dave was just a scapegoat. Meanwhile back at the oasis…

Prior to things turning sour, I started a relationship with a woman called Sue. She worked in the same building as me in Reading; she was upstairs in graphic design. We were together for six months, during which time I was incredibly insensitive towards her. I really didn’t appreciate her and eventually we parted company. For me, it was a case of, “you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”, but we still had some good times together. I’m mentioning Sue because I think she is quite significant to my story at this time, which will become clearer a little later. We had two things in common, an interest in Spiritualism and alcohol.

Eventually, I got more involved with trying to develop myself spiritually, and there is a milestone moment I will share with you. I’ll also have to backtrack because it was the first time I ever went to the open circle.  It was as though something inside me was saying, “now is the time to go forward”, so I decided that I was going to go to this open circle thing. The person in charge said we were going to try something called psychometry, which is to pick up information from an object by holding it. For example, by holding a piece of jewellery in your hand you may be able to pick up information about who has worn it. Most of the others present seemed quite apprehensive but I quickly offered myself forward to have a go, and to my amazement I was able to give some fairly accurate information to complete strangers simply by holding the items they had brought with them. This was the springboard for me and now there was no holding me back.

Because this period is quite involved I’m going to split it into two parts as I want to keep the reader’s interest. So I’m going to get straight on with part nineteen.

Who Am I? Part Seventeen


This is the building on the Kembrey Park Industrial Estate (known as “Cherry Orchard”) where I worked for the utility company in the Corporate Accounts Dept.

1998 was a pretty good year. As the months went by I decided that I wanted to move on from the call centre and I watched the staff notice board closely to see what other vacancies came up. I saw a job advertised in Corporate Accounts and went for it. I was successful in my application, so after two years on the call centre I was on the move. It meant I would be working in a different building but on the same site. My feelings were that I wasn’t getting any younger, and having wasted my education and early working years, I decided that this was my last chance of building a career. I was now dealing with my own designated list of commercial customers. On the surface it seemed ideal, but some of the accounts were an absolute mess and of course, there were accounts that were in dispute. So, it wasn’t all plain sailing but it was better than having customers screaming in my ear.

I was settled in the flat and had a very close female friend, Maggie, who I spent a lot of time with. We’d been friends virtually since I started working full-time, and became very close during 1997. We went on holiday a few times together and in the summer of 1998 we became an item! There was 15 years between us, but Maggie was very mature for her age and we had some great times together.

Another change happened as the year was drawing to a close. Within the same office as the Corporate Accounts team there was the Key Accounts team. It was a very small team of two customer agents who looked after the biggest customers. These were the big corporations whose bills would be for hundreds of thousands of pounds, or even in excess of a million pounds. As well as the two customer agents there was three key account managers who were not office based. So, the agents would have their designated customer accounts to administer and the account managers would be on face-to-face terms with the customers “out in the field”, as they say. One of the agents was taking a team manager’s job and I was asked if I would like to take her place in key accounts. I agreed to move, but I only had to move a couple of feet as the girl I was replacing sat opposite me! Things appeared to be going swimmingly well. I had more stability within myself; and sinking into the depths of darkness seemed to be a thing of the past. The job might not have been the best paid in the world, but I was now earning more money than I’d ever earned in my life. I’d also developed a taste for red wine and Gorse Hill was a bachelor boy’s paradise with several supermarkets for buying my booze and a plethora of restaurants and fast food joints.

Me and Maggie had a good thing together but we were not joined at the hip. We would go for long country walks and meals, and during the time we’d known each other we visited the Lake District, Cornwall, Devon, the Peak District, Wales, Northumberland and the Isle of Wight to name just a few of the beautiful places our travels took us to. We both also liked our own space and sometimes we would not see each other for a week to ten days. Life was good and as we entered December 1998 I was given another opportunity. The manager of Corporate and Key Accounts approached me; I had only been in my new position for a couple of weeks, and he said that the industry was gong to go through drastic and exciting changes in the coming years. In line with these developments the organisation was forming a new Customer Marketing Division, which would be based in Reading. He said that I was under no obligation to move, however, the key account positions would be moving to Reading to form part of this new all-singing-all-dancing marketing division. He painted a rosy picture of sexy new jobs, with salaries to match, and gave me the impression that all else would be swept aside by this incredible tsunami of positive change that was going to engulf the industry. I was tempted, very tempted; and also excited, but commuting to Reading presented an obstacle. An 80 mile round trip every day! It would cost me a fortune in fuel.

A few days later I went to the spiritualist church and the medium came to me with a message. He said, “you are hesitating about something. You have been offered a golden opportunity”. I will never forget those words, “golden opportunity”. Had I known then exactly what that meant I might have declined the offer of the new position in Reading. But I was only thinking in worldly terms and on Monday morning I told the manager I was up for it. It’s a funny thing in life, that the soul’s definition of things is completely different to the human definition. As it happened it was a golden opportunity that I don’t regret, but it took me to a place of great pain first in order that I could free myself from the self-imposed shackles that had been holding me back for years.

It was agreed that the company would provide me with a rail warrant for the first six months. After that I would have to fend for myself, but I intended to use that six month period to nab one of the sexy new jobs that were being created. It all happened really quickly, two weeks before Christmas in 1998 I started the new job in Reading. The writing should have been on the wall from the off. Our Customer Services Director at the time, a lady called Jane May, took us all out for a celebration lunch to launch the new division. At that time there wasn’t that many of us, but the bill still came to £950, which was mainly for wine! Jane was a very nice lady who was always warm and friendly towards the staff, but soon after the official launch, she went off sick and we never saw her again. We were now into the early part of 1999. But I will finish with another little anecdote from the tail end of 1998.

I was still involved with the theatre productions put on by John Williams. Towards the end of 1998 he’d organised another night of theatre in Highworth. He gathered a group of actors together and we were to put on an extremely truncated production of Macbeth, to take place about two weeks before Christmas. John became the butt of the group’s jokes and it was obvious that the dynamic was not as it should be. To cut a long story short, the performance was absolutely awful, and it remains to this day the last time I ever set foot on a stage. I had made up my own batch of fake blood to use in the production, and in the dim light of the stage during the crucial moment, I’d managed to spill most of it onto the boards. On top of that the evening had ended with a distinctly icy atmosphere between John and the actors. He phoned me up a few days later; he wasn’t happy! He said he’d been given grief by the people who ran the community centre because of the fake blood all over the stage. He also expressed his general displeasure. A few months later I bumped into him in a supermarket in Swindon. There was no animosity between us, but it was the last time I ever saw him and my theatre days were over.

Soon my life would change forever!

PS See you when I get back from Nepal…

 

Who Am I? Part Sixteen


The metropolis that is Gorse Hill in Swindon

I inadvertently gave you false information in Part Fifteen; I remembered after posting that I did not go to the doctors straight away. I don’t know why, but my recollection of other events indicates that I actually left it until around October/November time before going to the doctor. I was kind of enjoying working full-time again, in an environment that wasn’t only very clean, but also completely alien to what I was used to. I’d never worked in an office environment before and I’d never worked with computers before. More good news followed in November 1996 when my job was made permanent. Being a fully fledged employee meant that I was earning more money, so things were looking up. However, I had regularly pondered what Whitey had said to me that day in college, and I came to the conclusion that I had to do something. I was prescribed some tablets at my own request, and of course, you were not meant to be drinking alcohol whilst taking them. I tried to be good, but my version of being good was only having a couple of pints of beer in the evening; sometimes I would exceed that. Then something happened that caused me to take drastic action.

I was well settled into the job and I got on great with most people in the organisation. It was approaching Christmas time; I would guess a coupe of weeks before. The company hired out one of the nightclubs in the centre of Swindon on an evening when they were not normally open, so it would have been a Monday or Tuesday. This was to be our Christmas do! Because of the alcohol thing with the tablets, I decided in my wisdom that I would stop taking them a couple of days before the party, get hammered with my work mates and then start taking them again afterwards. Anyway, I don’t think I really had all that much to drink, compared with what I was used to, but I woke up the next morning with the mother of all hangovers. I’d experienced hangovers in my time but this was ridiculous. Luckily, I didn’t have to start work until mid-day. I somehow managed to drive in but it was still a horrendous experience trying to do my job. What I haven’t mentioned is that I worked on a call centre trying to placate angry customers. That wasn’t what it was supposed to be, but because of the utter contempt that the company seemed to have for its customers, that’s what we were doing a lot of the time. It was a such a relief when I finished my shift that evening.

A few days later somebody told me some of the things I’d been doing on the night of the party. I was horrified; more so because I had no recollection whatsoever. I happened to mention that I’d been taking happy pills but had stopped taking them a couple of days before so that I could have a drink. The same person explained to me that those tablets take several weeks to leave your system once you stop taking them. I decided enough is enough. I got the tablets and flushed them down the toilet and then simply got myself by the scruff of the neck and sorted my head out. It worked! In a short time I was no longer suffering with depression. Now, I realise that this sounds a little bit too simple, but it isn’t the last word on the subject and I will return to it as my series of posts draws to a conclusion.

1997 brought with it more changes. I’d realised that my relationship with my landlady was becoming somewhat strained. The first 18 months had been very harmonious, but I was now approaching the four-year mark and I thought it best to jump before being pushed. One lunch time I took a stroll into the Gorse Hill area of Swindon, and as I walked past a hairdressers, I saw a sign on the door that said, “flat to let”. I went in to make some enquiries and before I knew where I was, I was moving into the flat above “LA Hairport”, in Cricklade Road, Swindon. This was great for me, it was a big change from my tiny room in the house in Penhill. I was also without a car again, having run my previous car into the ground, and the flat was around 10 minutes walk from work. Since leaving college I’d kept in touch with John Williams and he continued to get me work with the murder mystery company he was involved with and also another company that he’d set up himself with another lady. John also put on theatre nights in the town of Highworth where he lived (just outside Swindon), which he got me involved with. This wasn’t paid work but I just loved performing. He also got me into The One-Act Play Festival, at Swindon Arts Centre. On top of all this I joined a theatre company.

Head To Toe Theatre Company was based in Swindon. Although an amateur group it wasn’t the kind of namby-pamby amateur dramatics that you find in most villages and towns up and down the country. Head To Toe specialised in some of the darker works of Shakespeare and the productions tended to be extremely intense and powerful. The only thing was that it was quite a close-knit group; some of them had known each other from school days, so I was always a bit of an outsider. A couple of them were unreliable too when it came to turning up for rehearsals and there was of course the bickering that you always get when creative people are gathered together. I played George, Duke of Clarence in a production of Henry VI Part Three, which is the play that charts the rise of Richard, Duke of Gloucester as he murders his way to the throne to become Richard III. It was a fantastic experience but it turned out to be the only play I did with them as I left the following year having become fed up with the childish behaviour.

I ventured back to the Spiritualist church from time to time, mainly to avail myself of the spiritual healing. I’d managed to give myself knee ligament damage in both knees due to excessive use of the treadmill in the gym. At the time I didn’t know it was knee ligament damage because I hadn’t been to the doctors. But amusingly, I would go to the church on a Saturday or Sunday night, have healing and then go to the pub. I would then walk home from the Old Town area of Swindon and then wake up the next morning wondering why my knees were hurting!

1998 brought more changes; in fact life was leading me to places I never knew existed.

 

Who Am I? Part Fifteen


My time at New College was extremely enriching, sometimes a lot of fun; whilst at the same time very difficult. I was the only full-time mature student on the course, although there were other mature students doing separate modules. I got on like a house on fire with the kids, who were mainly 16 year-olds. This was a great honour for me, considering that the other mature students were quite often the butt of the kid’s jokes. There were also some older kids, between the ages of 18 and 21; these were the ones who tended to lead the younger ones astray, however, I also got on very well with them. I suppose I’ve never really grown up and always had this child-like practical joker side to my character, which has always appealed to young people. I also found that I was able to use my own experiences of my childhood and adolescent years in order to provide help and guidance when needed. I got invited to nights out with the other students, I got invited to birthday parties and even got to meet some of the parents.

However, it wasn’t all rosy. With the kids being so young and having the negative influence of the older, stronger characters, there was usually quite a bit of disruption in the classes, which I found quite frustrating. Worse than that, the tutors also proved to be very unreliable and would from time-to-time simply not turn up. I had made quite a sacrifice giving up full-time employment. Whereas the kids would go home to their parents and not have to fend for themselves, I was having to do various mundane jobs in the evenings and at weekends in order to pay the bills and keep the car on the road. This put quite a strain on me, but before I elaborate more on this I will share with you some of the more positive aspects of the experience.

I had joined the course as a guitarist. However, it very quickly became obvious that I was actually quite a rubbish musician. There was 16 year-old kids playing like Jimi Hendrix, and I was still at the stage where I was siting on the edge of my bed trying to strum a tune. But my disappointment was short-lived because I found I had a flair for acting, which was a completely new experience for me. I loved the theatre modules that formed part of the course and I got involved in our production of Little Shop of Horrors. A part-time tutor, John Williams, had a very sympathetic view of my situation. He could see that I had a great deal of enthusiasm for acting so he got me some paid work with the murder mystery theatre company he was involved with.

The college had links with a utility company that had offices in Swindon. The utility company had an amateur theatre group that raised money for charities through their productions. Initially, this was very annoying for us students as the utility company used the college’s facilities, which would sometimes mean that our course would get pushed to one side so that these people could use the space. As you would imagine we resented this very much, but college politics always dictated the state of play. In the long-term however, it proved fruitful for me. I’d been working behind the bar at the council-run golf club in Broome Manor, Swindon, I’d worked at the big Honda factory serving food and washing up, I worked as the barman at the Nationwide Building Society social club and I’d also had bar work at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon. They were all mundane, boring jobs that paid very low wages; especially the bar job at the Wyvern. Eventually, one of the tutors had a word with someone at the utility company and I got a job there in the evenings as a temp. In time this led to a full-time position, which I’m still very grateful for to this day.

During this period I even ventured back to the Spiritualist church from time to time; nothing seemed to have changed and I still felt like I didn’t belong.

Meanwhile back at New College… The course was descending into a shambles. The kids were still disruptive and less than enthusiastic about doing the course work, the tutors were becoming more and more unreliable and college politics meant that the course was hanging in the balance anyway. The principle and her deputy were constantly at loggerheads with our tutors. It seemed that performing arts students did not fit the image that the college was trying to promote. But they still wanted the kudos of being able to offer theatre productions to the public. I was forever sinking down into the depths and trying to pull myself up again. I found it very hard trying to undertake a college course that seemed doomed to collapse, whilst at the same time scratching a living and keeping the demons in my head at bay. Then it happened…

Something occurred that made me feel that I’d let the team down. In hindsight, I didn’t let anyone down, but at the time , that’s what my head was telling me. The pressure built up and I broke down; I just couldn’t stop the tears and this quite shocked my young friends who witnessed it happen. I think it was the next day, we were in the theatre hall discussing stuff when I received a revelation. Martin “Whitey” White was 18 years old, he was very outspoken and opinionated and he was one of the kids that I got on extremely well with. Martin was a bit of a nightmare at times, but that day he did me a huge favour. Suddenly during the discussions, he pointed at me, and in no uncertain terms exclaimed, “YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION”. He went on to say that if I wasn’t 100%, then I couldn’t give 100% to the group, so basically, I was a liability. I thought that was a bit rich coming from Martin and I became extremely indignant. After all, wasn’t depression something that girls and pansies suffered from? I, on the other hand, was a big, tough bloke; how on earth could I possibly have depression????

When my ego returned to earth I realised that there was a lot of truth in what Martin had said. He planted a seed that day, and for the next couple of weeks I pondered his words. It made so much sense; it explained my strange behaviour going way back to my army days and even before that. It also explained why I would sink down into such terrible depths of despair and feel so much emotional pain. Even in the 1990s people didn’t really talk about depression and it was still widely considered to be a weakness. I decided that I was going to do something about it and several things happened in quick succession that meant it was going to be “all change” again in my life.

The course became more and more chaotic by the day. With all the pressure I felt under, exacerbated by my depression, I decided that I had to move on. The kids didn’t seem interested in doing the work, the tutors seemed to have their own agenda and college politics meant that performing arts was living on borrowed time. I left the course in June 1996 and it coincided with me being given the opportunity to work full-time at the utility company, albeit still as a temp. At this time I also decided to go to the doctor. I made an appointment and told him that I had been suffering from depression for many years but had only just found out. I then asked him to give me some “happy pills”, and he duly obliged. The only thing with the pills was that you are not supposed to drink alcohol while you are taking them. Oops! Hang in there for the next fun installment!!!!

 

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!!

 

Who Am I? Part Thirteen


The flat at 15 Dixon Street was, in a sense, a God-send for me, but as stated in the previous post, it was also the place where I experienced some extremely dark times.

The flat at 15 Dixon Street was about 30 seconds walk from this church, on the right-hand side. To save you asking… No.. I didn’t attend!

I was approached one day by one of the supervisors at work who told me that his mother was looking for a tenant for a flat that formed part of her house. The rent was unbelievably cheap; only £30 per week, and it would give me my own space again. I went to have a look and decided to take it. Mrs Davis was an elderly lady who wanted the flat to be used. She was not interested in making money out of it. She was an extremely honest lady and declared the rent as income to the Inland Revenue. If she kept the rent low, she would not have to pay tax on it, and she simply wanted to provide a home for somebody who needed it. She had asked her son if he knew of anybody at work who was trustworthy and reliable. It was quite an honour to be the first person who came to mind. The flat needed a lick of paint, which I was more than happy to do. I got on extremely well with Mrs Davis, and the fact that I’d painted her flat firmly cemented my place in her good books. It was only on rare occasions that she would come down to see me, so it was really good for me that I had this space and that I was left alone. I was as regular as clockwork with my rent, so all-in-all it was a great situation for all concerned.

Normally when we spoke it was because I had gone to seek her out. During one of our conversations we somehow got on to the subject of spiritual matters and it turned out that Mrs Davis read Tarot cards, which she did for me on several occasions. Living in Dixon Street gave me a bit of stability; it was less than 10 minutes walk from work and right on top of all the amenities that Swindon offered. However, being a basement flat it was rather dingy and not very well lit. I also felt very isolated within myself for a lot of the time that I lived there. In hindsight, my view now is that I’d had so much going on in my life with my marriage and my relationship with Carol, also my business venture and a few other things, that my deep emotional pain had been by and large suppressed since my teenage, and later, my army years. Now I had my own private living space again, my mates were all married or in serious relationships, so I had more time in isolation than I wanted, and it was during these times that I sunk down into incredible depths of pain. It seemed that I’d been feeling like this for years and that there was simply no end to it.

There was a shop on the corner of Stafford Street, which was one street up from Dixon Street and about two minutes walk from the flat. I would quite often go there and buy their tins of extra strength lager. It was vile stuff; in a plain can with the letters “HSL” on the side. HSL stood for “High Strength Lager”; it was like drinking treacle. A can or two was all it took to knock me into a stupor. I suppose, in my own mind I thought I was numbing the pain, but oft-times I would just sit there crying and wondering if or when the pain would ever stop.

At the end of 1991 one of the girls at work who lived less than two minutes walk from me invited me to a New Year’s Eve party at her house. She was from Sheffield and said that her sister was coming down for New Year. Enter Gillian into my life. She had been in an abusive marriage; married to a man who quite often punched and kicked her. We got on very well and romance blossomed. I had no car when I lived in Dixon Street, so most weekends I would get the coach or train up to Sheffield. I usually worked late shifts, so I could stay until Monday morning and still get back to Swindon in time for work. Gillian had a little boy who was two at the time and there was constant problems with her ex. Before I met Gillian his behaviour had been so appalling that he’d caused Gillian’s dad, Roy, to have a nervous breakdown. Court orders were taken out preventing him from having anything to do with the family, but he ignored them and the police seemed not to care. On one occasion he’d put a brick through the rear window of Roy’s car. Gillian had brothers who could have sorted the problem out, but her parents did not like conflict and were typical of their era in wanting to do things in the “correct” manner. So all-in-all Gillian’s ex caused a great deal of stress for the whole family.

I suggested to Gillian that she should just up and leave Sheffield and come to Swindon. By now her parents were living in Swindon; they had the flat that Gillian’s sister had previously lived in. They had come down because the strain of living in Sheffield had become too much with all the aggro. So Gillian and her little boy moved into the flat with her parents. She was however, very independent and tenacious and she wanted her own place. Eventually she was rehoused by the local council in a tiny matchbox of a flat in the Nythe area. Somehow Gillian managed to fall pregnant; I say somehow, because she was on the pill and we certainly didn’t plan it. I, on the other hand, still lived in a world where alcohol was king, and I kept saying to myself, “I’ll start saving in a couple of months”. Although we didn’t live together, when I stayed over at Gillian’s I found the flat to be really cramped. Also, her little one was a real handful. Gillian must have sensed that my heart wasn’t in it, and out of fear of being left alone with not one, but two small children, she announced to me that she was going to have an abortion. She was four months gone and right on the point of no return as far as having an abortion was concerned.

My feelings were that she was the one who had to go through the pain of giving birth, so if she decided she didn’t want that, then who was I to argue. Ironically Gillian had to go to London for the abortion, to St Anne’s Hospital, which was just a stone’s throw from where I was born in North London. In fact, the hospital was directly opposite Downhills Park, which was one of the parks I used to play in when I was a kid. Our relationship was on and off, and I suppose it’s true to say that we were such good friends that we really shouldn’t have been in a relationship. Like a lot of couples, we got on great, but when you cross that relationship line, things start to become stale and you take each other for granted. I should also mention here that when we were talking about doing the happy families thing, I gave up the flat in Dixon Street and moved back in with my mum. The thinking behind it was that I would be able to save some money. Bad idea, bad move!

What also happened was that Gillian’s parents bought a static caravan in a place called Binbrook, which was near Grimsby. It was a lovely area, and several times whilst we were together, me, Gillian and the little one would go and visit. I loved the bones off Roy, he was a very witty man and he always made me laugh. It was sometimes hard to believe that he was struggling with mental illness. I always held the whole family in such high esteem. They were what I call a real family. They were very close; always phoning each other up, and when they were together they would play board games and stuff. All the things that I wasn’t used to. They accepted me as one of their own and I’ve never forgotten it.

In November 1992 the main sorting office moved from the town centre in Swindon to an industrial area called Dorcan. It was apparently a state of the art all-singing-all-dancing sorting office with machines that did the work once carried out by humans. It didn’t really make any difference; there were no redundancies and the new office was about 10 minutes walk from my mum’s place. However, living with my mum was driving me round the bend. The job was driving me round the bend and so was my life in general. Something had to give; but what? It wasn’t long now before my life would change beyond recognition, but before I reached that stage I had to go through darker times than I could ever imagine.

To be continued…