This year, I aim to celebrate my 61st birthday. For reasons I won’t bore you with, I never expected to reach 39. Those 22 years since have been a bonus. I’d like to recap the last 6 decades. Can I be honest? I have lived a most ordinary life. To quote ABBA, I’m nothing special, in fact, I’m a bit of a bore. But in my time on this Earth there have been moments which shine through the daily grind.
I almost went down the toilet bowl at birth. I was not expected to live beyond three months according to family legend, due to Whooping Cough. A weakly child, I was in and out of hospitals for tests until the age of 13. My grandparents and father died when I was 7, the latter while I was asleep in the bedroom next door. I awoke to the sounds of my nephews nieces and cousins playing in the back yard. Happy dance! I would go play. Only to find they had been brought by my elder siblings, congregating at the death bed. While I slept. 10 feet away. Even at my advanced age, to this day I cannot find it in my heart to forgive this. You should have woken me.
My stepfather, appearing on the scene 18 months later, was not a nice man. He gave me the job of managing the garden. For at least one hour before and after school most days, as well as weekends, I dug and weeded and planted and watered. Potatoes. Peas. Carrot. Cabbage. No big. I was allowed a pet rabbit, which I loved, until it disappeared in mysterious circumstances just in time for Sunday lunch. Yep. I was occasionally beaten at home and bullied at school until I finally turned on both, scaring myself almost as much as my oppressors. But I stopped them. An ordinary life.
At the tender age of 13, I became the only person I know to receive a doctor’s note excusing me from my morning newspaper round. Because anti -depressants. Which sucked because that was when I discovered my lifetime appreciation of the silence and peace of early morning, throwing my bike into all kinds of wonderful mid-air curves before the grown-ups were around to stop me. I was Paper Boy.
I left home at 17, I will finally admit primarily through fear of watching my mother age and die in front of me. I had already seen death far too often. I have not mentioned my run over dogs yet, have I? This is turning into a Shakespearean tragedy. Moving on… I found a lifeline girlfriend and moved in with her and the family she was nanny for. Only to be jilted for the man of the house, the husband of the woman in whose arms I later found solace. Who then became pregnant. Life is complicated.
That turned into 13 years of mutual misery and occasional hilarity as we raised 5 kids, only 1 of which was biologically mine and to be brutally honest there was a question mark over her parentage for the first few years. Life is complicated. But I was raised to stand by my commitments, which I did. I made this mess. Cuckoo in someone else’s nest or not, I dealt with it. Even though it cost me my family. And my mother, whose heart I completely broke, to my undying shame. I remember walking to school the day she died, to walk my own daughter home and gently tell her before anyone else did. She was around the same age as I was when my father died. Karma is a bitch. Cat’s in the cradle. Google it.
I married to give my daughter a name, the week before she started school, because I knew first-hand how cruel kids can be. The day of our wedding my bride to be was drunk and I am told that the night before her mother danced naked over me while I slept. Fair enough. Sorry I missed that. Because Yorkshire. My best man had announced his love for my wife during my stag night 7 days earlier. I stepped in to stop the police arresting him when he punched through the window of the local unemployment office in his anguish. Turned out they were an item. Not the best week. This was a theme I would become familiar with over the years.
I still married. Because. Children. Jump ahead a few years, a lot of water under many sordid bridges later. We split soon after my soft spoken brother in law found me chugging cheap wine and paracetamol over my parents grave. I was only three bottles in and built like an ox, ironically due to a life spent digging potatoes, so under his care and calm gaze I got up and we walked it off. And we moved on. It was never mentioned again. Because Yorkshire. Again. I won’t say I never looked back.
The Next Phase
Soon after I left the marital home with what I could carry in garbage bags, to the gentle sound of crockery bouncing off the sidewalk. I figured it best to leave before the kids got hit by a stray teacup. Walked to my nephew’s house a couple hundred yards away and knocked on the door. When he opened it, he took one look and said “It’s about time”, and stepped aside to let me in. Yorkshire style. I spent the next few weeks with him and his girlfriend, almost living on their couch, feeling sorry for myself and licking my wounds. My nephew pulled some strings and found me a hovel into which I could crawl. This was probably the lowest point of my life.
I spent 8 long years in that hovel. It wasn’t all bad. During this time I finally sowed my long-overdue wild oats, at one time seeing 5 women regularly, plus a few one night stands. I was up front about it. Almost all knew about almost all. There was even a little…um…overlap, on occasion. It got blurry. But I was young and ripped. And miserable. Going from a family home with 7 and a dog to a solo terrace gets lonely. I was compensating. Compensating like crazy. I rarely slept. Went through some transformations. Survived.
I just want to say for the record that my nephew was and is a true pain in the ass. He delights in picking fights and causing chaos and can be annoying in the extreme. But despite his gruff exterior, and though he does not want anyone to know it, he was and is a rough diamond. And I love him. The ass.
Years later, and I was still waiting for the call from my daughter. It came, eventually. She was by now 13. I scooped her up in an instant and brought her to my hovel with the intent of rebuilding our lives together. Made plans. Cancelled others. Ditched a 2-year relationship when I was told to make a choice. Really? That’s no choice, and I don’t like ultimatums. I cherish the photo I have of the two of us on that day. Standing in front of the fireplace in my hovel, together, for the first time in many years.
She left me a note when she went back to the family. 24 hours later. I was broken. And alone. Again.
I had been sowing my oats until this point. During this period I lost one relationship after a genuine old-school bar fight which left me with a broken sternum from a flying kick delivered by one of the rugby team the four of us took on. You read that right. And we held our own. Until the police arrived and broke it up. I loved that bar. Well, what was left of it. I lost another relationship when I chose my daughter and she went back home within 24 hours. And running through the middle of all of this, I lost another, deeper, longer relationship I won’t talk about here. Because she deserves better than me and I have always known it.
I was by this time working for a company in South Croydon, London. Driving down from Yorkshire once a week to plan the week ahead and spend the night, before heading off around the country to all points of the compass. I spent 3-4 nights per week in hotels on a company expense account. Hey, I may be flawed but I’m a hard and diligent worker and made a lot of money for the company. I was seeing a co-worker in Croydon. Didn’t work out, and I got traded to her friend during a works party while she hooked up with my boss. I’ll say it again, life is complicated. Who said Brits are prudes? Big lol. You know nothing. Nothing, I say.
Cut to the chase, I moved to Essex, three hours away from all that history and spent 8 years with this fine lady. I seem to have a thing about the number 8. She was an absolute nightmare in many ways, and to be fair so was I. Wrong time, wrong place. Both broken. But at that time we needed each other. We moved to Canada with her two daughters, another two unfairly caught up in the silliness of adults. I apologize to you as well as my other poor waifs, caught in the swirls and eddies of what passes for adult life. None of you deserved that crap.
Well, I have survived at least two strokes and at least two heart attacks. Cancer. Along the way I survived a home invasion. I also walked unscathed through a plate glass door, successfully fought off an attempted gang rape at a party, and survived several physical attacks, one involving a hammer and another a screwdriver to the eye. I bounce. I have directly saved no fewer than five lives by intervention. One from a fall, two from drowning, one from an idiot on a mission, one from knife attack. Maybe more. To be honest, those are the ones I recall. 6 decades is a long time. Sounds exciting, but it was just right place, right time. Nothing brave, or heroic. Just there. An ordinary life.
While still in a relationship with my saviour that I moved with to Canada, I met Nikki. I make no excuses. I am human, subject to human flaws and frailty. I fell, hard and fast. My then partner saw something had changed, and confronted me. When I finally came clean she asked point blank if I wanted to be with Nikki. That was the moment of truth. I had it easy. But I was unhappy and I knew she was too. Both had been for some time. We had been through a lot together, and came to this place together as wounded animals. So I said yes. I’m a dick. But I am usually honest. Often brutally so. In the end.
Credit to my ex, for all her rough edges she was and is a class act. Respect. I moved in with Nikki, same as before, with basically what I could fit in the car. At least this time I left with a car. From a 2,100 square foot home to a 2-bed apartment. Oh, and I inherited a teenage son. More kids. I never planned on kids. Turned out he was about to embark on his own journey, and turned out to be a fine example of a human being and a parent. Better for sure than I ever was. I would be proud to be his father.
I have over a dozen grandkids back in England. Some I have never met. I often joke that I left England because I could not afford Christmas. I miss them. Most of them. We chat and follow each other on social media. But the truth is that my life now is better without all that drama and toxicity in it. Tired of being a handy emotional stress relief toy, some are now dead to me. I still bear the guilt of failure, which is why I put up with it for so long. But I finally, eventually, closed some doors forever. And moved on. Because things were said that cannot be unheard. Or forgiven.
We all move onward, along our own paths. Always. Because life is complicated.
Almost 20 years since coming to Canada, I have a different perspective. So what’s next in this checkered life I lead? I don’t know. But I do know that I am happily married to a lady that puts up with my ongoing shenanigans. I behave. I have a mortgage and a home and a cat. A job. A side hustle.
But I am ready at the drop of a hat to try something new. A new career. Sell the house and buy a camper and just roll out… somewhere. Maybe North. East. West. South. It doesn’t matter. Just drive. I have reinvented myself and started anew so many times in so many places that the prospect of change holds no fear. My restless spirit still longs for the next horizon. Always has, always will. Because I may be old, but I am not yet dead. Because I am always ready to learn. Ready for the next challenge.
Because Yorkshire. Because onward.share this with friends: