The Lighthouse Award

the-lighthouse-award

I love this idea.
The three ways I would like to help people in 2014 are:
1. To write to and ake amends to anyone I may have hurt
2. To love those around me
3. To make my friends feel special because they are my friends
Thank you again

Good Time Stories

The Lighthouse AwardI decided to make an award to recognize the people who have created beautiful, heartwarming, and inspirational blogs. Their blogs bring us happiness, enlighten our hearts, and bring a little joy to our lives when we visit their pages. The work that these people have done has truly given us rays of light in a gloomy world.

Here are the rules:

  1. Display the Award certificate on your blog.
  2. Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
  3. Inform your nominees of their award nominations
  4. Share three ways that you like to help other people.
  5. There is no limit to the number of people that you can nominate.
  6.  HAVE FUN!!!

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Three ways I like to help other people:

  1. Hold a door open for someone.
  2. Pay for the food of a person behind me in a supermarket
  3. Send someone a card or an email just to say “thank…

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Poem: Don’t Look Away

Sionnan I love you dearly

Don’t look away

I never left you

Sionnan I long to see you

Don’t look away

I am still waiting

Sionnan I long to hear you

Don’t look away

I still need you

Sionnan I long to hold you

Don’t look away

I am not leaving

Sionnan I long to kiss you

Don’t look away

I am not running

Sionnan I long to sense you

Don’t look away

I am still pleading

Sionnan I will not leave you

Don’t look away

This is your father.

 

Poem: Darling Great Queen

Blonde and blue-eyed

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

I made a life promise

The day you were born

That never could I

Dare to leave you.

 

Clever and caring

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

I watched as you grew

And started at school

I never thought once

I would lose you.

 

Learning and loving

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

Ten years now have passed

My heart beats too fast

To think of that life

Gone without you.

 

Searching and seeking

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

A grey life lived on the rim

Because my love never dims

A broken heart reaches

Northwards to you.

 

Poem: First Born

You were my first born

My blue-eyed son

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

You were my true north

Son of my right hand

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

You were my first joy

Son of the South

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

You were my own pride

Youngest of Jacob

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

You were my rock

Son of my sorrow

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

You were my future

Love of my soul

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

How did I wrong you?

Brave son of my loins

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

You daddy is calling

Cross the green pasture

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

So come home quickly

Time it has passed

A lifetime ago

Where are you now?

 

Who’s Kidnapped Father Christmas?

MY younger son Nathan is almost 12-years-old and has already developed a number of real passions in life… rugby, taekwondo and his X-Box are among his favourites.

However, he also reads insatiably and like a lot of kids his age is transfixed by zombie and ghost stories.

In his last year at primary school his teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He answered: “A writer like dad”, before naïvely adding “and I won’t need any exams for that!”

Recently he was asked to enter a story writing competition at his new high school, under the title Who’s Kidnapped Father Christmas?  This is his entry:

THE front door bell chimed.

Cal looked up from his X-Box, walked to his bedroom door and craned his head onto the landing to listen. Downstairs he could hear his dad open the door.

“Good afternoon, Mr Jones is it?” he could hear a voice ask.

“Yes, that’s me,” he heard his father reply.

“I am Police Constable Rogers,” continued the voice. “I am sorry to bother you sir, but we are conducting house to house enquiries about the disappearance of two young children in this neighbourhood. May I ask you to look at these photographs?”

Cal could hear a faint shuffle of paper as the police officer showed his father two pictures. There was a long pause, before his dad answered, “No, I am sorry I can’t say I recognise either of them. But my son Callum may know them.”

There was another pause before Cal heard his dad shout: “Callum, can you come down here for a moment.”

Cal dropped his X-Box controller by his door and gingerly made his way downstairs to join his dad at the front door. In front of him was a tall brown eyed policeman holding two A5 size photographs.

“Good afternoon young man,” said the policeman. “I wonder if you can help us… do you recognise either of these children?”

Cal looked at the photographs of a young boy and a girl and shook his head.

“Sorry they look like Year Five kids to me,” he said, “I am at high school.”

The police officer thanked Cal and his father and made a tick on a list on his clip board. As his dad shut the door, Cal could hear his X-Box messenger ping from his bedroom. He turned and scampered upstairs to see who was sending him a message.

It was from his best friend Ben. The message was simple, “How’s Chris getting on? Can I come over later?”

Cal put on his Turtle Beach headphones and called Ben instantly.

“Not been to see him since breakfast,” he said. “But he seems to be getting stronger by the day. He loves those Werther’s Originals sweets you brought him yesterday.”

“Does anyone suspect anything?” asked Ben.

“No, dad hasn’t been down to the old summer house since August and with the rugby I don’t think he will go back down there till after Christmas,” answered Cal. “But we had a copper at the door earlier. Have you heard about two missing primary school kids?”

“No,” said Ben. “Shall I bring some more bread and Pot Noodles over later?”

“Yeah that will be great,” said Cal, “But make sure you use the back gate.”

“Okay,” said Ben, “See you about five o’clock, should be dark by then.”

The afternoon passed slowly as 12-year-old Cal tried to reach a new level on the video game on his X-Box. He sat on his bed and took a sip of coke and thought about the strange events of the past two weeks. Chris still puzzled him. He seemed to have appeared from nowhere the day that he and Ben discovered him slumped on the park bench near the little kids’ play area. Cal remembered there was blood on his chin as if he had fallen over and bashed it. But other than that Chris was unremarkable. He was old, with a messy white beard and wore a dirty old coat and faded red trousers. And he did smell awful. It was a familiar smell like rotten meat from the back of the butcher’s shop. If Cal had to guess, Chris was at least 80.

So he and Ben had helped the old man to his feet and took him back to the old summer house at the end of Cal’s garden. On the 10 minute walk back the old man said very little except that he was hungry and very grateful.

That was two weeks ago and since then the two boys had found some new clothes from the bag his mum puts charity shop stuff in and had fed Chris on a diet of bread, soup, Pot Noodles and now Werther’s Originals sweets. They did manage to get him into the main house one afternoon while mum and dad were out and let him have a hot bath. Cal had to admit that Chris smelled a bit better after that bath. But the rotten meat smell soon came back.

Now the old man was getting stronger and although it was December and cold outside Cal knew they would soon have to ask him to leave.

At 4.45pm Cal heard his dad leave for rugby training.

Ten minutes later he crept downstairs and walked down the garden to the old summer house behind the beech hedge. He knocked on the door and told the not-so-bedraggled man that he would be back in a moment. Cal heard the back gate open and turned to see Ben appear with a Sainsbury’s bag full of Pot Noodles.

“Where the heck did you get the cash to buy that much,” asked Cal.

Ben winked and said: “Better not to know. Chris needs food and it’s not like it’s stolen or we have kidnapped Chris or anything.”

The two boys entered the summer house and handed the bag to Chris. The old man peered inside. At that moment Ben noticed that Chris had some blood on his hands and a cut to his wrist. He nudged Cal and pointed to the blood. Cal grabbed some tissue from his pocket and began to dab Chris’s wrist.

“How did that happen?” he asked.

“Dunno,” replied Chris gruffly.

Ben then noticed a large green sack in the corner of the summer house.

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the sack.

“Just some of my stuff that I left in the park,” answered Chris. “Can you boys leave me be now, I need to go out for a bit.”

He seemed ungrateful but the boys left the summer house and disappeared to the main house to play on Cal’s X-Box. But as they began to climb the stairs they heard Cal’s mum gasp loudly from the living room.

“What is it mum?” Cal called.

“Come here,” his mum replied quickly.

The boys hurried into the living room where Cal’s mum watching the news channel on TV.

“Have you seen this,” said mum, “Another child has gone missing in our town. That’s three in less than two weeks,” she gasped. “You boys stay in tonight, something’s not quite right.”

“Okay, mum,” said Cal. “Is it okay if we stay in the garden and can dad give Ben a lift home when he gets back from rugby?”

“Sure, sure,” answered mum who was still transfixed to the TV. “It is saying here that at the site where each child was last seen, the police have found a small opened Christmas present. It is weird, weird, weird,” she added.

On the screen a policeman was showing the green and silver wrapping of an opened Christmas present.

Ben whispered to Cal: “Hey, do you think we had better go and tell old Chris to be careful out there, cos he was going out and who knows how dangerous it might be for an old man.”

“Yeah, good idea. Let’s go and tell him now,” answered Cal.

The boys hurried down the garden and knocked at the summer house door. There was no reply, so they knocked a bit louder. Still no answer. So Ben gently opened the wooden door and turned on the light. There was no sign of Chris.

Cal looked at the green sack that they had seen earlier.

“Hey, I wonder what is in here?” he asked.

Ben tugged at the sack and out tumbled a couple of small boxes wrapped in green and silver Christmas wrapping paper.

“Whaaaat!” exclaimed Cal, “That’s just like to ones the copper was showing on TV just now!”

“There are loads of them in this sack,” said Ben.

Cal pointed out another black sack hidden behind the green one.

“And what do you think might be in here?” he said.

“Oh man!” gasped Ben. “It is full of the Pot Noodles, stale bread and Cuppa Soups we have been giving Chris the past two weeks.”

“In that case,” said Cal, “What’s he been eating and how is he surviving. He’s just an old man, isn’t he!”

The boys were about to find out. Behind them the summer house door creaked open.

“Aha, so you thought you would do some busybody nosing around then,” said a gruff and quite menacing voice.

Cal and Ben turned to see Chris standing in the doorway wearing a dirty looking Santa Claus coat and trousers and muddy black boots. But what worried the boys was the black sack he was carrying which seemed to be moving about as if something was inside.

Chris saw the boys looking at his sack. He paused for a moment and said: “Just a little snack I picked up while I was out.”

“But you two boys are much bigger. Think I might save you both for my Christmas dinner. Although I usually eat well on Christmas Eve with all those kiddies I have to visit.

Cal and Ben tried to scream but Chris was too quick for them.

As they passed out both boys had a distinct feeling of being stuffed inside a very dark sack.

Lookin’ into the lost forgotten year of 2013

2013MUCH of my life has been a rollercoaster but I would never change that for a humdrum merry-go-round, even if I was offered my time over again.

The highs have been at oxygen mask altitude level while the lows have reached depths I could never have imagined.

That is life!

But nothing prepared me for 2013… the Pepsi Max Big One of all rollercoaster years, and with 13 days still to go until the New Year, anything could still happen!

My then fiancée Gill and I saw in the year with a wonderful meal, too much champagne and loving family evening as we planned our future together.

January was a whirlwind from start to finish. Highlights included planning our nuptials, buying wedding outfits and a dinner with good friends and former work colleagues Rachel, Sophie, Angela and her brilliant husband Alex. We ended the month with our own pre-wedding party couched in a distinct Mexican theme… bucket loads of chilli, Margaritas and Tequila-a-plenty and a multi-coloured Pinata called Barry, which we filled with goodies and bashed into oblivion in a shared act of joy! The assembled friends made it a night to remember.

February was a month of two halves.

Gill and my wedding, with my younger son Nathan as best man, was a day we will never forget. Despite the rain and cold outside, the warmth and love inside ensured something that would bond us together forever.

We needed that bond, because 48 hours later we discovered Gill had a hard lump in her left breast. A GP’s diagnosis of a tumour some three days later began two weeks of more tests amid mutual panic and fear. The eventual all-clear following a breast scan and negative biopsy allowed us to begin living again.

March was a blast from beginning to end. It was as much about the weather as anything else. We had planned our honeymoon for the last week of the month. It was going to be a road trip starting in the Lake District and taking in large parts of Scotland, including Galloway, Argyll and Edinburgh and finishing in York. We had carefully booked our hotels and began packing. But then came the worse spring snow in living memory. At the time, we lived near the top of Hope Mountain in North Wales and we were quickly marooned in waist deep snow and 10 foot high drifts. A two day power failure left us shivering and re-planning our honeymoon… if we had it bad, the Lake District and western Scotland was sub-arctic.

On Tuesday 26 March, we eventually managed to dig one of our cars free and begin a hastily rescheduled honeymoon taking in a more accessible Whitby, Masham, York, the Dales and Cheshire. It was cold but brilliantly unforgettable.

April was the month to plan our future as husband and wife with greater purpose. And with my son finishing primary school it seemed a good time to move. We soon found a new home – a wonderful 19th century stone cottage – in a cosy market town across the English border, which was easier commuting distance for work for us both. The rest of the month was filled with conveyancing, buying and selling furniture, early packing and working on new practicalities.

May became the first of four pivotal months in our lives. While steeped in packing and preparations for removal, something totally unexpected happened at work. In my job as a newspaper editor, that something sent my life into a complete tailspin. And to mix metaphors, the tailspin became a train crash.

While researching on-line for more information about a North Wales’ child sex abuse case I was carrying in my paper, I decided to look for any lasting details about my own abuser… the man who had ruined my life 43 years earlier.

I discovered that my abuser had died in 1996, aged 64… some five years AFTER the police had previously told me he was already dead!  Had the police in 1991 cocked up? Had they identified the wrong man? I guess I will never know, but I had been denied the justice and closure I had wanted all those years earlier.

The rages and tears came again as I struggled to take back control. I was nearing breaking point.

Then on Wednesday 12 June, two days before we were due to pick up the keys for our new cottage, the breakdown occurred. I flipped and with it my whole life lay on its back kicking into a nothingness. And so began six months of medication, counselling, recuperating and… moving house! And this second pivotal month became even more pivotal. On Friday 28 June as we moved into our new home – with the removal van unpacking our belongings – Gill fell in a hidden hole in the back garden, breaking her left leg and tearing the tendons either side of her knee. Life went into auto pilot and overdrive. Ambulances, operations, hospital visits, and tending to my son’s last days at primary school and making the house habitable for my wife’s return home became a blur… but I did lose over a stone in weight.

July was the hottest on record outside, but for me, much of that month was spent cooking, unpacking, gardening, cleaning and caring for my bed-bound wife or attending final school events. The highlight was undoubtedly my son starring as Prospero in a school adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest. A close second was him passing his blue/red belt grading at Taekwondo, which means he is just two belts away from black.

Gradually as Gill regained some mobility we managed to venture out together to enjoy some summer warmth. We also delighted in finding a wonderful high school for Nathan, just a short walk from the front door of our new cottage. All the while I was slowly recovering from my breakdown.

August came too quickly and the month began with multiple cancellations of planned holiday events due to Gill’s incapacity. So it was goodbye to the annual Fairport’s Cropredy Convention music festival, farewell Steve Harley concert and so long to a planned short break in Whitby. But more sunshine, trips into the countryside and time to re-evaluate our lives and a new way forward. Plus a hectic and expensive month buying uniform and sports gear for Nathan’s new school.

September became the third of our pivotal months. I had been writing about my life experiences as a form of therapy since early July, but now decided to go public and began blogging for the first time in my life. I have been doing this now for almost three months and I am still learning a lot about the art of writing for a world-wide internet audience.

It is a steep learning curve and one thing is for sure, it is a world away from newspaper journalism where every day you have a guaranteed audience of X thousand readers who pay a hard earned buck to read your words. It is at times lonely but also very rewarding and indeed therapeutic.

But the world of blogging also gave me insight into the work of other bloggers – many from the USA and Canada – and some have become firm favourites… so much so that I have ventured forth and bought their published works. Others have become soul mates from afar due our shared experiences.

In September, I also started work on my first children’s novel The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield, a project I began four years earlier, but which had gathered dust on a shelf ever since.

As the month ended, decisions were starting to form about a new career path away from the bustle, back-biting and grime of 28 years of newspaper journalism.

October saw Gill return to work for the first time since her accident, my son Nathan discover rugby and me write creatively for every day of the month as my blog and book began to blossom. The blog grew like Topsy with light-hearted shorter biographical pieces in the Pardon Monsieur and Brief Encounter categories and more in-depth writing collected under a selection of headings taken from lines in Bob Dylan songs. I also began writing poetry on a regular basis for the first time in 35 years. I still have strong reservations about my ability as a poet. Some others disagree.

But deep insecurities were set aside and more chapters also grew on my novel as I started to believe in myself as a writer at large. I also gained inner strength from dozens of supportive emails and text messages from old and new friends and a ream of testimonials from former trainees and employees. Life in general was beginning to create a purpose as Gill, Nathan and I became a fully-fledged and mutually supportive family.

November became the fourth and probably most important of our pivotal months. It was the month when I finally decided to leave journalism behind. Journalism had been the largest and most consistent part of my life since I stumbled into it by accident way back in the spring of 1985.

It has often been hard work – with long unsocial hours as standard – and it has sometimes been grueling, harrowing and frightening… but it has also been immense fun.

But the decision was made and on paper at least, my last day as a newspaper editor and journalist was 30 November 2013. The next day I reformed my old writing company Time is An Ocean (another Dylan reference) and life was for real.

Meanwhile, I finished 12 chapters of my novel (I envisage 22!) and posted drafts and a synopsis to promising literary agents. Watch this space for news and positive developments.

Life has a real future and depression has been pushed into a small corner.

So we are now midway through December, I am in full mid-life crisis mode with a new sports car and a leather jacket… oh and Christmas is a week away. As a family we have already sampled one school Christmas Fair, the town’s annual Frost Festival and a mass day out to the cinema and a restaurant for Nathan and nine of his friends to celebrate his 12th birthday. Meanwhile, the boy wonder has been appointed a Year 7 ambassador and crowned as the student with most merit points in his first year at high school. We are all very proud and will continue to nurture him over the next year towards teenage-hood and increasing use of his dad’s taxi service!

From a personal perspective I am so grateful for the love of my wife and family for helping me through this rollercoaster ride and view the coming years with confidence and happiness.

So to you all… have a very Merry Christmas (or Holiday Season as you Yanks call it!) and a New Year of peace and social justice.