The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Memories From The Past …
March 10, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Family, Mum, Mum & Dad

The building above is called The Chateau.

But this wasn’t in rural France – oh no – it was in deepest West Bridgford, Nottingham.

It was also a Berni Inn.

For those not of a certain age, a Berni Inn was a restaurant where you could get a steak main with a strawberry and cream dessert for £4.99

Sounds cheap doesn’t it?

Well it was, but they still made it feel like it was posh.

Hence restaurant names like, ‘The Chateau’.

We didn’t go there much.

In fact we didn’t go out for dinner anywhere really – except for the odd birthday.

But that’s not the reason I am writing about it.

It’s because it’s also the last place I ever went out for lunch with Mum and Dad.

I was living in Australia, but had flown back for Mum’s birthday.

Dad had had a stroke, but even though he couldn’t talk well, he was still able to walk – albeit with a wobble and a stick.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the lunch, but I do remember it was lovely.

A gentle time as a family.

All together.

Enjoying a moment that we probably all secretly knew may not happen again.

There’s some things that stick in my mind …

Getting a taxi to the restaurant as we no longer had a car.

The surreal moment where I had to go to the bathroom with Dad to make sure he was OK [he was], which brought home the severity of his illness to me.

Dad managing to utter the word “knickerbocker” to the waiter/waitress when he was asked if he wanted dessert and he absolutely loved it.

For anyone who saw us that day, they would have just viewed a family – like the countless other families around us – having a nice lunch.

But to us, it was so much more.

A moment of normality at a time our lives were in chaos.

A chance to enjoy the privilege of the mundane.

An opportunity to be a typical family once again.

It was the last time it was to happen for us.

I miss it.

I miss them.

I’m so glad I have a photo to remember the day by.




And In The Blink Of An Eye, The Years Pass By …
March 9, 2020, 6:15 am
Filed under: Dad, Death, Family, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

Oh Mum.

5 years.

It was the worst day of my life.

The hope. The love. The nervousness. The concern. The fear. The confusion. The horror. The prayers. The goodbye.

A lifetime of emotions run over the space of 12 hours.

I remember every minute. Literally.

And while I try not to think about it, I will. I will go back to that place so that I can feel close to the last time I was next to you.

Holding your hand.

Whispering words of love and hope.

Telling you how I would ensure Otis would know you and that I would always honour you when the tragic events of the day played its final act.

Oh how I still wish it ended on a positive.

Everything was set up for that … we had plans, big and exciting ones … but no, a rare condition put paid to that.

I still feel there was some weird circle of life stuff going on – from the conversations we had in our last 6 months together to the fact Otis was born 3 months before your operation [so I’m extra grateful that the doctor agreed to delay the operation to ensure both things didn’t happen at the same time] to the tragic reality that you died in the hospital where I was born.

And while that all fills me with sadness – even now – it also let’s me feel things were done to completion. Where the things we needed to say or show were done right. Where I could say goodbye to you in a way where I have no regrets.

Of course I am sad that we have not been able to share and talk about the adventures of the last 5 years. The moves. The madness. The wonderfulness of your beloved grandson … but given Dad’s situation changed so quickly, leaving us in paralysis and so many things frozen in time, it is a ray of light in an abyss of sadness.

That said, I miss you.

I miss you so much.

I would give anything to have one more chat … one more hug … one more kiss.

I always felt it, but now you’re gone I’m even more thankful you were my mum.

Honoured even.

Everything I am is because of something you – and dad – did for me.

The support and encouragement.

The lessons and the ideals.

The patience and forgiveness.

You were the one that taught me the importance of caring. You were the one who taught me to be open with my feelings and emotions. You were the one who created the foundation for me to build myself upon.

Believing in me in ways – and at times – that seemed madness.

Offering your gentle confidence.

A quiet shelter.

The time, space and attention for me to grow, explore and share.

Nourishing and nurturing me.

I cannot put into words all I am grateful to you for, other than to say my life is filled with memories either created with you, designed by you or encouraged by you and that is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive.

I miss you.

Give dad a kiss while you’re holding hands.

Rx

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Add To Society, Don’t Just Take …

That quote is from my Dad.

I love it.

Not just because it’s from him, but because what it means.

You see he taught me – through his actions and behaviour – that the key to pretty much everything and anything is spending time really getting to know people rather than just focusing your attention on chasing the answers you want from them.

Given my Mum had a similar view means I guess I was always destined to place greater value in the authenticity of subculture than the simplistic, convenience of a focus group.

The reason I’m saying this is that everyone is banging on about the importance of speed, efficiency and optimisation, but are forgetting there’s a huge difference between information and insight … which may explain why society has so much but values so little.

What makes this even more frustrating is companies spend billions each year attempting to ‘earn loyalty’ from customers by trying to do things that they think are more personal to them … which is why I would suggest that if they’re serious about resonating with their audience [rather than just being mildly relevent] they could do with being more like my Dad. And Mum.



Memories Of Mothercare …

I know it’s ridiculous to feel sad about a store closing … especially a store I hardly ever went in and when I did, it was obviously catered for women rather than men, but the news Mothercare has closed has made me sad.

I don’t know how many times I entered that store.

I definitely remember walking in the one in Victoria Centre, Nottingham, with my Mum when I was a very small kid … but I probably never entered another store until 40 odd years later when I was going to be a dad.

Ironically that was in Nottingham as well, even though we were living in Shanghai at the time.

But there’s a significant reason why this store means so much to me, because that’s where I found out I was going to be having a baby boy.

We were in the UK on holiday and my kind, wonderful wife wanted my Mum to feel part of the journey. Her idea to do that was to have a scan that would tell us the sex of the baby and have the doctor write it down, put it in an envelope and let my Mum tell us over a nice lunch.

That morning, before the scan, we were having breakfast and trying to come up with names. We were finding it much, much harder than we had anticipated and were pretty happy that if it was a girl, she was going to be named Eden, Edi for short.

Excited, we went off to a non-descript industrial park where Mothercare was. Inside the store was another company that could scan pregnant women and tell them the babies gender.

It was there my Mum saw her grandson for the first time. She was transfixed by what she saw on the screen. Not just because of who it was but because she had never seen a scan like that in her life. When she had me, it was all “find out when they come out” but here she was, sitting in a room with her son and daughter in law, watching her grandchild move around while still inside their Mum’s tum.

It was an incredibly moving moment for all of us and I will always love my wife for having that idea and always treasure that day.

And it’s for this reason I’m sorry to see Mothercare go.

I know there are a ton of reasons for its failure – but it’s also where I got to share a moment with my Mum that I’d never had before and will never have again. A moment that, were she alive, she would remember as clear as day.

A pivotal moment.

A moment where she got to witness the evolving of her family in front of her eyes.

A moment where the legacy of her and dad would forever continue.

But for me it’s something even more than all that. Because while we didn’t know it at the time, it was a moment where my Mum met Otis for the first time. The only time.

And for that, I’ll always be grateful to Mothercare and sad to see it go.



Thinking Of You Dad …

Today is the 21st anniversary of Dad dying.

That blows my mind as I remember how that day unfolded so clearly, it could have been yesterday.

The only good thing about all the years that have passed is that I can now remember the good times with him – when he was healthy – rather than just focus on the 3 years he was deeply affected by his stroke.

And because of that, I want to talk about a time I remember vividly with him.

I had done well at school and Mum and Dad said that I could have a toy for all my hard work.

I was pretty good at school but at exam time, I would freak out and basically become paralyzed with fear.

Anyway, Dad took me to Broadmarsh Centre in Nottingham.

Broadmarsh was – and still is – the inferior shopping centre in Nottingham, but it had a dedicated toyshop so off we went.

I was so excited.

I loved going on trips with Dad and to get a gift as well was mind-blowing.

I remember him telling me to look around and see if there was something I liked.

The problem was I liked EVERYTHING, but I knew we didn’t have a lot of money so I tried to choose wisely.

I remember there was a Dinky Toy, Bell Helicopter I liked.

It was orange but the cabin was blue and it looked cool.

I showed it Dad.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

I nodded in wild agreement.

“Well we can get that then …”

And just as we were about to go to the till, my eyes spotted a die-cast Rolls Royce.

This was not a Matchbox car, this was something else.

A ‘to scale’ model of a Roller with doors that opened, a boot and bonnet that opened and a steering wheel that actually turned the wheels.

It was AMAZING.

It was also expensive … I think about £5, which back in the late seventies, was a big amount.

Dad saw me playing with it and asked, “Do you like that more?”

I nodded but felt guilty as I knew it was expensive and didn’t want Dad to spend so much money on me.

I remember him looking at me with his beautiful blue eyes and warm face.

He smiled.

“Well …,” he said, “… you’re looking at me with those moo-cow eyes, and you have done so well at school that maybe we can do it just this once”.

I was flabbergasted.

I was going to get the coolest car I’d ever seen.

I remember being so happy and showing Mum when we got home.

I remember hearing Dad explain to her I’d looked at him with these big ‘moo-cow’ eyes and he couldn’t resist.

I remember how happy they were for making me so happy.

And while it would be easy for them to think getting me a new toy was the reason for my joy – and it certainly contributed to it – the reality is I was happy because my parents were always caring, loving, supporting and encouraging.

The things they sacrificed for me is unbelievable.

Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but what they did without so I could live with is amazing.

I hope they know that I worked this out.

I hope I told them when they were around.

My childhood was a blueprint for great childhoods.

I never wanted for their love or support.

I never felt they didn’t care or weren’t engaged.

My Mum and Dad were amazing to me … as teachers, carers, providers and inspirers.

Sure we had our moments – often caused by me being a cheeky or mischievous little shit – but even then, I never doubted they cared.

Never doubted they wanted the best for me.

And while Mum and Dad would have preferred it if I’d followed a career in law or medicine or a formal music education … they believed it was more important I lived a life of fulfillment rather than contentment.

It is a lesson I hope to pass on to my son one day.

Their grandson.

Oh how I wish they could have met him.

I don’t have many regrets but that is one of them.

So what I do instead is instill their lessons and love into his life.

So that while he may never meet them, he will always feel their presence.

Dad, I miss you.

I miss you so much.

I would love to tell you and show you so many things.

To see your reaction. To hear your questions.

You may have been gone from my physical life for 21 years, but you are still so deeply entrenched in my life.

It gives me strength when I face challenges.

Support when I feel alone.

Perspective when I get consumed by small things pretending to be big.

I love you.

Give Mum a kiss from me as you hold her hand.

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It’s Time To Say Goodbye …

So the time has come to close the door on the house I grew up in for one final time.

I’ve written the reasons for why this is happening in the past – as I have the reasons why the house was, and always will be, be so important to me – but it is the beginning of a new chapter for my family and my Mum and Dad would be so happy.

Anyway, we went to visit her one final time.

While the garden remained pretty much as my parents left it – thanks to us having a gardener visit every fortnight for the past 4 years [and we’ve taken a couple of things from there to plant in our new home so we will forever be connected] – going into the actual house was a very different feeling.

Part of it was because there was nothing in it.

No furniture.

No people.

No noise.

And so the overall effect was the house felt smaller … more fragile … and yet, as I walked through each room, there were so many emotions going through me.

As I watched my son run through the place holding his toys, I could see me – probably at his age – doing the same.

I saw where my Raleigh Grifter was waiting for me in 1989, on Christmas day.

I could see where my Dad – and then Mum – would sit in the lounge, on their rocking chair.

I could hear my Dad shouting ‘it’s ready’ from the kitchen our Saturday Beefburger was ready for scoffing down.

I could see my old clock radio when I was in the ‘small bedroom’ and my big stereo when I got ‘upgraded’ to the bigger room.

I could see the bed Mum and Dad slept in … where I would sit by them and chat throughout my time in the house.

Mum and Dad’s bedroom was especially poignant to me.

Regardless what happens in the future, it will always be ‘their room’ as they used for the entire time they were alive [and I was around].

Below is a photo of their empty bedroom that I took.

I’ve superimposed another photo of Otis that I took on the day after Mum died.

He’d just flown with his Mum overnight from Shanghai and he’s lying on the side Mum used to sleep on, looking at a painting of a mother and her child that hung above her bed.

He never got to meet her in person – he was supposed to a couple of weeks later when she recovered from her operation.

Alas it didn’t work out that way which is why this photo is so precious to me and why I feel, in a weird way, they did get to be together – hugging each other tight – if only for a second.

Another thing that got me, was when I went to the garage.

When we were having the house refurbished because we wanted to help a family live in a good area, we wrote a message on the wall about how much that house meant to us.

Well, when we checked at the weekend, we saw the tenants had left their own note and I have to say – it got to me because while my life is moving on, it was built in those 4 walls and I hope it does the same for anyone and everyone who lives there.

Thank you Mum.

Thank you Dad.

Thank you house … you will always be treasured.



You Will Forever Be Home …
October 11, 2019, 6:55 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Family, Mum & Dad

Thank you for everything. Every single thing.

All that happened in your 4 walls will always be remembered and treasured.

May everyone feel the love you let me feel.

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