Live each day as if it is your Last

BLOG dad and me

My death waits like an old roue’

So confident, I’ll go his way

Whistle to him and the passing time

My death waits like a Bible truth

At the funeral of my youth

Are we proud for that and the passing time?

My death waits like a witch at night

As surely as our love is right

Let’s not think about the passing time

But whatever lies behind the door

There is nothing much to do

Angel or devil, I don’t care

For in front of that door there is you

(Jacques Brel)

 

ONE thing I have learned from my life, is that it is a short movie.

And if I die tomorrow I will be grateful for it.

Sure, it has been a rollercoaster with more depths and dark places than I care to recall… you can visit those if you wish in plenty of my other blog features.

But, it has also been a stellar ride; visiting so many beautiful places, meeting scores of amazing people, enjoying two successful professional careers, producing five wonderful children – plus three more I sort of adopted – and the best family and friends I could ever wish for.

And I know it will end soon.

For the past 30 years I have been living on borrowed time, since I twice cheated cancer and later survived an almost fatal assault.

But I am still here and my life defines me.

As it does for all of us.

A couple of summers ago, I sat talking with my 87-year-old mum about life, death, the universe and our own mortality.

She began reviewing the fact that most of her peers, friends and siblings have now died and the ensuing loneliness is sometimes difficult to bear.

I blithely joked that she is still healthy and active and has experienced a full life.

And that life should not be measured by age or loss.

As I looked at my ageing mum and in the mirror at myself, I realised that time never stands still.

In 2016, I happened to be in South Wales on a business trip, and decided to use my time there to visit the grave of a dear friend who died tragically young, 28 years ago.

Andrea Price grew up in the small mining village of Rassau by Ebbw Vale.

She was the sweetest and most funny girl I have ever met and we became inseparable soul mates, while we both battled cancer together during the winter of 1987 and summer of the following year.

Racked in pain, with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a bone cancer – diagnosed while she was on a walking holiday in France – she knew her chances of survival were slim.

“But I’m going to fight it,” she urged, willing me to do the same. “I haven’t yet got my degree, I haven’t learned to drive… and I’m still a virgin.

“I want to live a bit before I die.”

She did.

But that did not dull the agony when in May 1990 I stood and shared heart wrenching tears at her funeral.

She was just 23.

For me, my memories of Andrea always remain, and often been my driving force to live.

Her smile and her laughter as she beat me in a physiotherapy game of football in the hospital gym, where she was only allowed to use her right leg and I only my arm. At the end of the game we collapsed side by side on the floor guffawing at how silly all this was.

Then there was the Wednesday night visit to the local rugby club for a game of bingo and a half pint of beer. We walked slowly back to the hostel at 10pm. She rested her head on my shoulder as we walked and suddenly whispered: “I love you Nic… we are going to win, aren’t we?”

I kissed her forehead and answered: “Of course we will.”

A year before her death I visited Andrea again in a hospital in Birmingham, where she had undergone a hip replacement operation in a last attempt by surgeons to remove the seat of her cancer.

I sat and clenched her right hand and looked into her sparkling eyes.

I giggled: “Hey, you’ve got freckles and hair!”

“Yes,” she answered, “I have been off chemotherapy for three months now to build up my strength for the op’.”

I had only known Andrea as a tall, underweight, pale-faced girl stooped under a horrendous NHS wig, which at times made her look like an extra in the Addams Family.

But now, holding her hand, this was how I was going to remember her.

True love never dies.

And something remarkable happened during my trip to south Wales.

After laying flowers at the cemetery where her body rests, I decided to post a copy of my first poetry book The Hill (with a brief accompanying letter) through the letterbox of her old home – vaguely hoping it might reach someone in her family.

My book included two poems I had written to Andrea.

Time passed and I naturally assumed the missive had failed.

But always be prepared for the unexpected.

Suddenly, I unexpectedly received an email from Andrea’s younger brother, asking if he could buy more copies of my book for other members of her family.

I fought hard to fight back tears as I read his email.

And later I cried again when he told me that her father (now in his 70s) was writing to me with some photographs of Andrea – the one thing I have never had is a photo of my beautiful departed friend.

In the words of Bob Dylan: “Death is not the End”.

I have faced the death of family and friends many times over the years.

The grief is always immeasurable, and in recent years some of those deaths were untimely and shocking.

Three years ago, I discovered that my former brother-in-law Dougie had died suddenly aged just 54.

It was a total shock. I had not seen or spoken to Dougie for many years, since my former partner and I split, but he was a lovely man and the world became an emptier place with his passing.

Then a few weeks later, I found out that one of my oldest and dearest friends Gill Gilson had died in the summer of 2014 after a long battle with lung cancer. Gill was just 56.

We met at university and became the closest of friends. We were never romantically attached… we were just good mates and stayed in touch for many years after graduating. She sometimes came to stay and we would sit and laugh as we shared many student memories.

I also remember Gill giving me a lift home from Yorkshire to Sussex in her old Morris 1000 Traveller and eating cold bacon sandwiches which she had secreted wrapped in foil in her glove compartment.

Memories of life are made of this.

Gill was a musician and a fabulous piano teacher. Her only weakness – and her charm – was she loved beer and I still remember the mornings I had to knock on her door to tell her to get to lectures because she had imbibed in a few too many jars the night before.

Gill oozed fun, gentleness and companionship in everything she did.

I miss her.

Then in the summer of 2016, I took a long overdue holiday in my old haunt of Chichester in West Sussex.

Whenever returning home – as I still call Sussex – I always made a point of catching up with another old friend, Jayne West.

Jayne and I met as teenagers while nursing together.

Any hope I may have had of a romantic attachment disappeared quickly when on our second date she told me she was gay and lived happily with her partner Julie.

She was the first openly lesbian woman I had ever met – in a time when personal sexuality was more closely guarded.

So instead of romance, we became lifelong friends. Each visit we would swap stories of the directions our lives had travelled and how much weight we had both gained.

I had not seen Jayne for over 10 years, so this holiday visit was going to be an extra special catch-up.

But before I set off for the drive down south, I discovered that Jayne had died in November 2013, aged just 56.

Her partner Julie was with her to the end.

It seems that time, life and death waits for no one.

So we live our lives as constructively as we can, seeking happiness and pleasure, loving and caring, and at times grieving.

And always knowing that our own time is limited.

And each day might be our last.

I recall two sets of lines from the movie Dead Poets Society.

The late Robin Williams, playing the role of school teacher John Keating, teaches his charges the essence of life: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.

“And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for… that you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

“That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

And later, turning to fading sepia school photos of students taken decades earlier, he reminds them of the passing time and the brevity of life: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel.

“The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable?

“Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Listen, you hear it? Carpe – hear it? Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

We should all make our own lives extraordinary as we pass this way just once.

My own is almost run, and it has certainly been extraordinary

So my advice to all my children and other young people I know: live today as if it is your last… carpe diem.

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Depression and the angry thief

BLOG Depression

I HAVE been depressed most of my adult life.

Depression impacts on every aspect of life and well-being. It is much more than feeling sad. It is a mood disorder that can interfere with everything.

Having untreated depression can put your life on hold for months, if not years… it can also lead to thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

My own depression festered inside me as a reaction to many things: the sexual abuse I suffered as a young teenager, a major life crisis in my late 20s, battling cancer in my early 30s, relationship breakdowns, the loss of two of my children, bankruptcy, assault, the loss of my home and the deaths of my soul-mate Andrea, my life-long friend Jayne and my amazing father.

Any of these things could have triggered the condition, and for me they did as a matter of course.

The depression manifested itself in feelings of deep lows or worthlessness – especially in a relationship or at work – but also in many other less obvious ways such as anger and irritability, frustration, OCD behaviour, tiredness, insomnia, forgetfulness, clumsiness and the inability to concentrate on one thing for long periods.

In my case, it was all of these, plus for many years, an over-dependence on alcohol.

But, there is a limit to how long you can lock things inside while appearing to function normally on the outside.

And my “normal” exterior collapsed in a complete nervous breakdown on 12 June 2013… a day when I simply could not hold it all in any more.

It is now five years since that collapse.

Those years have been an important period of professional counselling, the love and support of family and close friends and the catharsis of writing and unburdening my mind, memories and fears.

In the months soon after the breakdown I was struggling to get back to a life of any sort and was fighting my way out of the corner.

Now, I am so far out of the corner you won’t find me… I have at last found my way home.

But the Black Dog never leaves and the depression can still manifest itself abruptly… often when I feel I am being dragged back into that corner.

And without control I snap.

Irritability is a symptom of depression, and it makes total sense; depression usually plays havoc with our sleep patterns.

Lack of sleep causes irritability, and makes us less able to cope with day-to-day challenges.

With depression often comes aches and pains, and our digestive system can be affected, causing us discomfort. Pain makes us irritable and frustrated.

Moreover, depression can be overwhelming. Getting through each day often requires Herculean stamina.

So much energy is directed towards trying to cope that, if anything goes wrong, or something else is added to the pile, we snap.

We just can’t handle any more.

Sadly, our irritability is often directed at others, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This isn’t acceptable, but it is understandable.

It’s good to wait until you feel calmer, then apologise, and explain how you felt at the time – it can be helpful for others to understand your perspective and give them a chance to help.

More tears and genuine remorse is a bi-product of depression.

The classic symptoms of depression – disinterest, lethargy, sadness, detachment, and sleep problems – can make our lives so difficult.

Suddenly, we’re don’t care about the things that we used to enjoy. We can’t concentrate on our favourite books, or TV shows. We don’t have the energy to get up, get dressed, and go out to meet friends.

So, we stop doing things.

Soon, we might not recognise the person we’ve become. We feel as though we’ve lost ourselves to depression. This also inevitably leads to anger; we become angry at depression, we might blame ourselves, and feel incredibly angry at our circumstances… why me, why has this happened?

Depression is an illness, yet we very often blame ourselves for having depression.

It feels like a personal failing.

Because depression is also a thief.

If we’ve been living with depression for a while, it can feel like it has been stealing from us.

It can feel like we have lost an aspect of ourselves, of our identity; we are forced to come to terms with a new ‘us’. We may wish we could go back to how we were before.

Depression can force us to give up work, or our studies, putting a stop to our life, for months or years. It’s common to feel that depression has stolen time from us, and to feel angry about what could have been. Depression can also make us lose touch with friends, or push away our loved ones.

We might feel angry – both with the depression, but also with them. It’s very easy to get lost in thoughts of what could have been.

It can help to try and look towards the future, rather than ruminate in the past.

We can’t change what’s happened, but we can set new goals that interest us, as we are now. We can reflect on the things that depression has taught us about ourselves, and what makes us happy – and make plans based on this.

We can even try reaching out to the people that we previously pushed away, and explain what was going on for us at the time. They may have been hoping from afar to hear from us again.

Looking forward, and achieving new goals, can ease the anger we feel at depression’s thievery.

If you feel depressed, talk to someone… be brave and confide, you will be amazed how many other people out there feel similar things and will let you unburden.

And how many will also forgive and help you to rediscover the real you.

There is light on the other side of that dark door… just have faith in yourself.

  • With thanks to the Blurt Foundation for the practical aspects in the second half of this blog: www.blurtitout.org
  • Thanks also to MIND, who have always been there: www.mind.org.uk

Child sex abuse survivor’s long awaited second book now published worldwide

BLOG cover

A CHILD-SEX abuse and cancer survivor’s long awaited second book of poetry is published worldwide today (Wednesday, 9 May 2018).

Multi award-winning writer Nic Outterside quit his 28 year career in newspaper and magazine journalism following a nervous breakdown in June 2013.

He began the slow road to recovery under the watchful eyes of his doctor and the support of his family. Part of the suggested therapy was for him to begin writing and talking about the life experiences which had led to his breakdown.

His first paperback book The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light, published in November 2014. It was met with international acclaim and the first 1,000 print edition has almost sold out.

From childhood sexual abuse, through cancer, bereavement, bankruptcy, divorce, repossession of my home, the loss of two of my children and an assault which almost took my life, I guess there was a lot to write about,” says Nic.

Last week, Nic made the book more widely available by publishing a second edition on Amazon Kindle.

Now, after a three year wait, he has published its sequel Another Hill – Songs and Poems of Love and Theft.

“When I released The Hill in November 2014, I was struggling to get back to a life of sorts and fighting my way out of the corner,” explains Nic.

“I am still really proud of that work… it is certainly raw and maybe at times too personal. I now view it as less as an anthology of songs and poems, and more as a document of my life.

“By the middle of 2016, I was more than halfway through writing a raft of poems for the new book and by this time I was out of the corner, and still fighting.

“But by the time all the work for Another Hill – Songs and Poems of Love and Theft was concluded I was so far out of the corner you won’t find me… I have at last found my way home.

“I am so grateful to my close family and many friends who have given me support, inspiration and encouragement over the past five years,” he adds.

Another Hill – Songs and Poems of Love and Theft is priced at £2.20 ($3) on Amazon Kindle at: www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Hill-Songs-Poems-Theft-ebook/dp/B07CXYJTV4/

 

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now

Blog cover

MY social and literary hero Patti Smith once said (three years ago to be precise): “I’m 67 years old; you’re not going to tell me what to do. The only person who can boss me around now is my daughter.”

And just a few short years behind Patti, I know that feeling well… although in my case, substitute son for daughter.

I started writing for myself when I was about 17, and almost five decades later, I am still writing.

As an angst ridden teenager I would while away my evenings writing poetry… you know the stuff, reams of stream of consciousness prose and rhyme littered with passions and desires, knitted together with unrequited love.

So, it was perhaps not much of a surprise that at the age of 22, I pursued a postgraduate teaching course in creative English and drama at Bretton Hall College in West Yorkshire.

I reckoned I had experienced deep love and rejection and that subsequently my own poetry had become profound and real.

Yes, I was a cocky, self-assured young man.

But that cockiness was soon dealt its first blow.

The university’s dean of faculty, a larger than life woman called Caroline St Leger, heard about my poetry and invited me to her room for “a small sherry and a reading”.

I was at first elated… I had an educated audience for my work.

I was a poet!

So armed with an A4 folder containing five years of my finest writing, I soon found myself sitting across a large oak table from the esteemed Ms St Leger, reading aloud a selected few poems.

Red-lipped with Bette Davis eyes and sipping cream sherry, she sat and listened intently.

I delivered my best poems, but she showed no emotion and carefully lit an untipped cigarette.

As the table turned I sat more awkwardly.

The ageing dean took her turn to read more of my writing quietly to herself.

She halted, sipped more sherry and took one long drag of her cigarette.

Then her critique began.

Her disassembling of my poetic structure and rhyming schemes was polite and scholarly.

Even her observation that she enjoyed my ‘lyric simplicity’ seemed like a compliment rather than a damnation.

But her final words dug deep and stayed with me: “It is clear that you don’t yet know love, Nic. When you have discovered love, you should try writing poetry again, until then write about what you know.”

I swallowed hard.

Crestfallen, I thanked her and walked back to my rooms.

“Don’t yet know love,” echoed in my brain.

Over the ensuing years I was married and divorced twice, helped create five wonderful children and kidded myself that along the way I had found love… and a few times too!

But it took 28 years in newspaper and magazine journalism and a nervous breakdown in 2013 for the poetic spark to eventually be re-ignited.

Now five years since the day of the breakdown, I have lost count of the number of poems – and attempted poems – I have written. But the truth is, I simply cannot stop writing.

During that time I have published two well-received books of my own poetry, and edited an amazing anthology of poems from a group of international writers.

Now I am two-thirds the way through writing my autobiography: Survive the Roller Coaster and Assume the Position.

Poetry is my art… and I have little care whether others read my words or not, because for me it is my calling… I write for myself, because it is all I know.

So now in the autumn of my life, dare I pass on any advice to younger writers?

I am unsure I am qualified to do that.

But, I will share Patti Smith’s advice, taken from her discussion with Christian Lund at the Louisiana Literature Festival on 24 August, 2012.

She spoke to an audience captivated by her charismatic charm and frank openness about the life challenges and dilemmas involved in pursuing a creative life.

These are her words, and for me they resonate so loudly. They are a profound lesson for any person diving into the ever-flowing human interaction with writing… or just plain living:

“A writer or any artist can’t expect to be embraced by the people.

You know I’ve done records where it seemed like no one listened to them. You write poetry books that maybe you know 50 people read and you just keep doing your work because you have to because it’s your calling.

But it’s beautiful to be embraced by the people.

Some people have said to me well you know, “Don’t you think that kind of success spoils one as an artist or you know if you’re a punk rocker you don’t want to have a hit record?” and I say “Well I say well fuck you!”

It’s just like one just does their work for the people and the more people you can touch the more wonderful it is. You don’t do your work and then say well I only want the cool people to read it. You know you want everyone to be transported or hopefully inspired by it.

When I was really young, William Burroughs told me – I was really struggling we never had any money – and the advice that William gave me was build a good name and keep your name clean.

Don’t make compromises. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work.

And if you build a good name eventually you know that name will be its own currency. And I remember when he told me that and I said, “Yeah, but William, my name’s Smith you know (just joking!).”

To be an artist, actually to be a human being in these times it’s all difficult. You have to go through life hopefully you know trying to stay healthy being as happy as you can pursuing and doing what you want.

If what you want is to have children, if what you want is to be a baker. If want you want is to live out in the woods or try to save the environment, or maybe what you want is to write scripts for detective shows. It doesn’t really matter you know.

What matters is to know what you want and pursue it and understand that it’s going to be hard. Because life is really difficult. You’re going to lose people you love. You’re going suffer heartbreak. Sometimes you’ll be sick. Sometimes you’ll have a really bad toothache. Sometimes you’ll be hungry.

But on the other end, you’ll have the most beautiful experiences. Sometimes just the sky. Sometimes you know a piece of work that you do that feels so wonderful. Or you find somebody to love. Or your children. There’s beautiful things in life so when you are suffering it’s part of the package.

You look at it: we’re born and we also have to die. We know that. So it makes sense that we’re going to be really happy and things are going to be really fucked up too. Just ride with it. It’s like a roller coaster ride. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s going to have perfect moments and then rough spots but it’s all worth it. Believe me, I think it is.

You know I’m sure that each generation can say that their time was the best and the worst of times.

But I think the right now we are at something different that I’ve never seen. It’s a pioneering time because there is no other their time in history like right now.

And that’s what makes it unique. It’s not unique because we have renaissance style artists – it’s unique because it’s a time of the people because technology has really democratized self-expression.

Instead of a handful of people making their own records or writing their own songs everybody can write them.

Everyone can post a poem on the Internet and have people read it. Everyone has access and access that they’ve never had before.

There is possibilities for global striking. There’s possibilities for bringing down these corporations and governments who think they rule the world because we can unite as one people through technology.

We’re all still figuring it out and what power that we actually have. But the people still do have the power more than ever.

And I think right now we’re going through this painful sort of like adolescence. Again, what do we do with this technology? What do we do with our world? Who are we?

But it also makes it exciting. You know all the young people right now, the new generations they’re pioneers in a new time.

So, I say stay strong. Try to have fun, but stay clean, stay healthy because you know you have a lot of challenges ahead.

And be happy.”

A video of Patti Smith’s Advice to the Young can be found on Vimeo at: http://vimeo.com/57857893

 

Half a century following the Albion

Knockhaert

This season I am celebrating 50 years supporting the Albion. Now with our first season in the Premier League almost finished, I thought it might be a time for a snapshot of 10 of my personal highs and lows following our team over that half century.

 

2 September 1967

The Goldstone Ground

League Division 3

B&HA 1 Bury 0

My first Albion game. I witnessed in boyish awe a 1-0 home win against Bury in front of a bustling 13,413 crowd with Kit Napier scoring the only goal. Two weeks later I was back to watch us lose by the same score to Torquay. But I was already hooked!

 

13 August 1969

The Goldstone Ground

League Cup 2nd Round

B&HA 1 Portsmouth 0

My first night game against 2nd Division giants and fierce rivals Pompey. Standing in the middle of a packed North Stand I sucked in the pungent air of cigarette smoke and testosterone. On the pitch Alex Dawson scored our winner and Kit Napier had his shirt ripped off his back by Pompey full-back Eoin Hand as he raced towards their goal.

 

1 December 1973

The Goldstone Ground

League Division 3

B&HA 2 Bristol Rovers 8

Brian Clough had just been appointed manager and Albion euphoria was at a new height… but it didn’t last long! Hot on the heels of a 4-0 defeat against Walton and Hersham in the FA Cup, we faced high-flying Bristol Rovers. Smash and Grab strikers Bruce Bannister and Alan Warboys did the damage; and 44 years later I have not since witnessed such an Albion humiliation.

 

5 May 1979

St James Park

League Division 2

Newcastle United 1 B&HA 3

I wrote about this game extensively in TAM#4. What else is there to say, except I was there, and prior to the promotion clinching win against Wigan last month, this was my most exciting moment, supporting the Albion.

 

29 November 1980

Elland Road

League Division 1

Leeds United 1 B&HA 0

I hate Leeds United and I hate Elland Road. I have so many bad memories of the place, including almost being maimed for life as Leeds thugs hurled house bricks at me and friends after a Newcastle United v Bolton League Cup replay in 1976. This game was little different as we were huddled in caged open terracing and spent the whole game trying to dodge coins and other metal objects being thrown at us by Leeds supporters.

 

10 November 1981

Oakwell

League Cup 3rd Round

Barnsley 4 B&HA 1

I was teaching in Barnsley and my 5th form class persuaded me into to going to the game and standing with the home supporters. Gatting scored for us in the second minute and I jumped around like a demented monkey. I was soon put in my place by the surrounding Barnsley supporters and the four goals which followed. I had to put up with ridicule from my pupils until well after Christmas.

 

3 May 1997

Edgar Street

League Division 4

Hereford United 1 B&HA 1

I had lived near Hereford for seven years during the 1980s and knew the town and the Edgar Street ground well; so by hook and crook I managed to get a ticket. At half time we were staring oblivion fully in the face. And we all know what happened next. The defining moment as an Albion supporter.

 

21 April 2001

Brunton Park

League Division 4

Carlisle United 0 B&HA 0

The first and only game I ever took my two daughters to. Basking in sunshine and with hundreds of blue and white balloons we watched and ate crisps as the Albion held out for drab goalless draw and promotion out of the bottom division for the first time since before Bellotti and Archer! Two years later was the last time I ever saw my daughters.

 

14 February 2004

Blundell Park

League Division 2

Grimsby Town 2 B&HA 1

This was the day we delivered a huge Valentine’s card to John Prescott’s office in Hull as part of the Falmer for All campaign. I then drove across the Humber Bridge for a routine league game against Grimsby. It was cold and wet and with no parking close to the ground I was already soaked to the skin by the time I had walked five streets and bought my first Bovril. We lost thanks to two goalkeeping howlers by our young third choice keeper Stuart Jones. This was the match where I came closest to dying of hypothermia!

 

7 January 2012

FA Cup 3rd Round

The Amex

B&HA 1 Wrexham 1

This game – and the replay at the Racecourse – will always stay with me. I developed a close bond with Wrexham FC during their battle against their asset stripping owners in 2004-05 and as a result ended up living in the town for eight years. The love and bond between the two clubs endured, and after our promotion was secured last month, I was showered with ‘well-done’ and ‘thanks’ messages from Wrexham supporters.

 

 

A day and a life following the Albion with a little help from a friend

Albion cover

IT was 50 years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play… and 50 years since my very first Albion game.

Lucy was in the Sky with Diamonds, but at the end of the so-called Summer of Love I was about to begin a love affair that would give me greater highs than any acid trip.

I was a wide-eyed 11-year-old kid when a neighbour in my home village of Mile Oak offered to take me to my first proper football match, at a place I had only ever seen from the top deck of a bus on the Old Shoreham Road.

David Knott was 32, and as an Albion nut he seemed cursed to have a daughter who hated football. So I became his Saturday surrogate son, at least for the purposes of having someone to take to matches at the Goldstone Ground.

My first Albion game was on a bright and sunny Saturday, 2 September 1967; and it was a trip into dreamland as I witnessed a 1-0 home win against Bury in front of a bustling 13,413 crowd.

I stood with David near the front right of the North Stand and watched in awe as these 22 men battled it out on the sun-kissed grass.

I soaked it all in, including the fact that Bury were captained by Scottish international Bobby Collins, who was hard in the tackle and ran the show from midfield, until we scored.

Our scorer was a tousle-haired inside forward named Kit Napier. He became my immediate hero, and along with Brylcreem-blonde crowd favourite Charlie Livesey, they remain personal Albion legends.

Others in our team that day were the solid Norman Gall, John Napier (no relation to Kit), George Dalton, the emerging midfield dynamo John Templeman and two wingers Wally Gould and Brian “Tiger” Tawse, who would match Knockaert and Skalak for trickery, but maybe not pace!

So I was hooked for life and began a routine of a bus ride on the number 26 from Mile Oak to the ground for a home match every fortnight, and a Football Combination (reserve game) on alternate Saturdays – the matches when you got to talk with the keeper during the game!

Then there came the waiting-in-line at the North-West corner gates for players’ autographs after training, during the school holidays, scrapbooks of match cuttings from the Argus and the obligatory club scarf and a matching Subbuteo team.

It was an all-consuming schoolboy passion.

And a passion, which over these 50 years has endured living in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North East, the hellish fight for the survival of our club in the mid-1990s, the Gillingham and Withdean years and at last the glory of the Amex and our promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.

In 1967, England were World Champions, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the newest must-have car was the Ford Escort, mods still fought rockers on Brighton beach, man had yet to land on the moon and colour TV was still just a dream.

Yep, times have changed…

My return bus journey to the Goldstone in 1967 was 8d (about 3p), admission to the North Stand was 2s 9d (13p) – a lot less for the reserve games – the match programme was 1s (5p), a cup of Bovril 2d (1p) and a bag of crisps the same!

So to travel and watch my heroes every Saturday, and enjoy a half-time snack cost a stately 22p!

To put things in perspective: in 1967 a man’s average annual wage was £900, the average mortgage was £80 a year and a loaf of bread was just 5p… a season ticket to watch the English champions Manchester United was £8.50.

To allow for inflation, £1 in 1967 is worth £16.80 today, so I’ll let you do the maths and comparisons.

Now, aged 62 and sitting in front of a state-of-the-art PC with Sergeant Pepper’s playing on iPlayer, the years come tumbling back and memories of that sunny Saturday in 1967 will never leave me.

Sex abuse survivor’s first poetry book now available on Kindle and paperback

WP Hill

MULTI award winning writer Nic Outterside quit his job as editor of North Wales’ flagship newspaper The Denbighshire Free Press following a nervous breakdown in June 2013.

Nic launched his own publishing company and began the slow road to recovery under the watchful eyes of his doctor and the support of his family. Part of the suggested therapy was for him to begin writing and talking about the life experiences which had led to his breakdown.

From childhood sexual abuse, through cancer, bereavement, bankruptcy, divorce, repossession of my home, the loss of two of my children and an assault which almost took my life, I guess there was a lot to write about,” says Nic.

“My first book a paperback The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light, published in November 2014 was a huge success, and last winter I started work on the follow-up.

“I also decided to make the book more widely available this week by publishing a second edition worldwide on Amazon Kindle,” he adds.

The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light is a raw, and at times shocking, book of angst, joy and reflection on subjects as diverse as abuse, cancer, politics, depression, bereavement, love and joy. The full story behind the book can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2N2X7t7awo

You can buy the book on Kindle, priced just £1.43 at:

www.amazon.co.uk/Hill-Songs-Poems-Darkness-Light-ebook/dp/B07CNZ75MZ

Alternatively you can still buy the First Edition paperback (120 copies left of the print run of 1,000) The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light in paperback, is priced at just £1.99 with £1.80 for UK post and packing and is available via Ebay: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Hill-Songs-and-Poems-of-Darkness-and-Light-Nic-Outterside-Paperback/222959978770?hash=item33e9734912:g:3O0AAOSwdjha6DvY