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


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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Happy Birthday Mum …

Yesterday would have been my Mum’s birthday.

My Mum’s 87th birthday.

That means she has been gone 4 years and frankly, that seems incredible.

So much has happened in that time …

From moving countries twice.

To changing jobs twice.

To selling our family home to buy a new one.

And while I am in a much better place than I was after the tragic days that she died, I still am prone to being hit by moments where her loss is almost overwhelming for me.

I wish she could have met Otis for real.

I still remember her words when I called her minutes after he was born.

I was incredibly emotional and she was so tender towards me.

Making sure I was OK, Jill was OK and Otis.

Asking if the baby crying in the background was her grandson.

Telling me how happy she was and how happy she was for us.

How she loved the name Otis.

And while she was alone in her home in Nottingham – wishing madly that she was with us – she still told me to go and be with Jill and my son because she was the most compassionate, thoughtful person I have ever known.

While Mum saw Otis on video chat, sent me countless emails/SMS’s about him and – for a brief while – was in the same room together [though sadly it was after she had passed away] … the fact is they never were together in the flesh and I would have loved to have seen that happen.

To see her face as he called her Nona.

To watch her smile he wrapped his arms around you and gave her a big hug and kiss.

To look at my Mum reading her first grandchild a story or walking him through the gardens and explaining the flowers or just watching him run around like a tsunami and then look at me with that look in her eye that tells me everything.

How he’s perfect.

How she loves him so much.

How she is so proud of me and Jill.

How happy she is right at that very moment.

That would be the best present for her – not to mention for me – and while none of those things will be able to happen for real, I will think about them tonight when I’m home and giving Otis a big hug and kiss, because while there are many things I can do a whole lot better at, my Mum [and Dad] taught me one thing I am very good at.

How to love.

Happy birthday Mum, I miss you so much.

Hope you and Dad are laughing and holding hands.

Rx



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.



Happy Birthday To My Wonderful Dad …
September 17, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Anniversary, Birthday, Comment, Dad, Daddyhood, Family, Jill, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis

Happy birthday Dad.

Oh how I wish you were around …

You’d be 81.

EIGHTY ONE!

I’m not sure what is more amazing … that or the fact it means you’ve been gone 21 years.

We would have had such a lovely day.

Now we are in England, we would have come down for the weekend and spent a few days there – organizing stuff, from a cake to a present.

Oh the present would be hard.

I’d want to get you something you have always wanted but could never get, let alone justify.

In a perfect world it would be an old Rolls Royce … in yellow … with white wall wheels.

I can see you now driving to Asda in it, laughing at the beautiful ridiculousness of it all.

God I’d love to have got you that … though I imagine that attitude would change quite quickly once I see how much the bloody thing cost to keep on the road.

But I’d still try and do it for you.

What you and Mum sacrificed for me will never be forgotten … will never be taken for granted.

I would do anything to be able to sit with you and talk about the choices and decisions I’ve made.

To see the corners of your beautiful blue eyes turn up with happiness knowing I am now ‘back home’.

I would love to give you a huge, huge hug and a big kiss on the cheek as I say “Hello Dad” … even though I know you would brush me aside so you could say hello to Jill and then your wonderful grandson.

Oh I wish you could have met them, you’d have absolutely loved them.

I can hear you asking them cheeky questions – at my expense.

The mischievous grin.

The dimple.

The tongue curling up on your top teeth to signify you know you have been a rascal.

For Mum to walk in and give you that look of loving exasperation as she says, “Oh Roger”.

There is almost nothing I would love more than to be with you today, though I suppose while I am not able to be physically with you, I am emotionally which leaves me with this.

I love you Dad.

I miss you so much.

A few weeks ago we went to visit Silvana’s flat in Bayswater and I started crying IN THE STREET.

OK, so I hadn’t been there for around 28 years, so seeing a place that contains so many memories of us being together really knocked me for six.

But in a lovely way.

I could see where you used to park … I could see us running up the steps to press the buzzer to be let in. I even went up and touched the front door because I knew you and Mum had done that and weirdly, it made me feel close to you.

I wish you were on the other side of that door.

I wish you were still here.

Happy birthday my wonderful Dad. Give Mum a hug from me.

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We Are Family …
September 4, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Daddyhood, Family, Jill, Mum, Mum & Dad, Otis, Parents

As I wrote yesterday, this is a big week in our household as Otis starts school.

Proper school.

In fact, he starts it in a few hours time.

Yes, today!!!

And while this is going to be a journey that will be filled with excitement and drama … tears and cheers … [and that’s just how his Mum and Dad will be when we wave him off later today] I had a glimpse of what might be in store for him in a way that took my breath away.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Otis has graduated from preschool.

Well from that day, Otis had this photo taken.

I saw it for the first time recently and I don’t mind telling you it stopped me in my tracks.

Not just because he is in full graduation gear – something his old man didn’t come close to achieving – but because of how much I see traces of my mum and me when we were young.

I wish Mum could see it, she would be chuffed to bits.

Just like I am.



Home Is A Place In The Mind …

As I wrote a while back, we are looking to buy a family home.

Well the good news is we have found one – and while we don’t move into it till December – we’re already getting excited about it.

But as I also wrote, to help us buy it, I was going to sell the house I inherited when Mum died.

The house that was my home for my entire childhood and early twenties.

Well, it has been sold and while I know my Mum would be incredibly happy the proceeds have helped her beloved son buy a home for his family, it’s still quite an emotional wrench.

I absolutely think I’ve done the right thing.

The street I grew up on all those years has changed beyond recognition.

Neighbours have gone.

The college at the end of the street has been knocked down.

My connection to the area is no longer what it once was.

But despite that, it will always hold a special place in my heart … a place that represents ‘childhood’ … a place where it was just Mum, Dad and me and I will treasure that forever.

Anyway, one of the things we have been doing while the purchase goes through has been to visit the house.

Part of this is my way of saying goodbye.

Part of this is to take some flowers so we can plant them in our new place and have a bit of my history in my present.

Part of this is just to let Otis feel a connection to a place that was so important to his Dad and – for a period of 3 weeks in 2015 – was where he also lived.

And while just spending a few minutes there every odd weekend may seem very small, I cannot tell you how much it has helped me reclaim some connection to my roots.

The picture at the top of this page, is one of those connections.

Seeing Otis in the garden I used to play in was wonderful.

The garden my parents absolutely treasured and loved.

It brought back all sorts of memories … from hiding under those fern trees playing ‘hide and seek’ through to running through a small gap that existed between the garden and the street [right behind where Otis is standing] that meant I could have a quick getaway when playing British bulldog or simply wanting to get to the ice cream van before anyone else.

That home will always be special to me.

That garden will always remind me of my parents.

The memories created in that house will always be previous.

And while I will soon say goodbye to it [though I have had it written into the contract I can visit it once every 5 years] I will forever be grateful for all it gave me … from a childhood home filled with happiness and love, through to giving me the chance to buy a house where my family can create the sort of memories that will be as precious to Otis as Nottingham was to me.

Thank you Mum and Dad, you keep on taking care of me.