Words for Andrea

MY two year battle with cancer in 1987-88 changed me forever.

During that time I became close friends and soulmates with a fellow cancer patient named Andrea Price.

She was quite simply the most beautiful person who had ever come into my life. She tragically died in May 1990, aged just 23.

I often think about her, and how her life might have been if she had survived rather than me.

On the 27th anniversary of her passing, these poems – written at different times – try to address how I feel about her death all these years later.

More can be read about Andrea here.

 

Still Miss You (May 2017)

Twenty-seven years have passed

You were only twenty-three

You died

I cried

And I still miss you

 

Arrived a January baby

You died a May Queen

You inspired

I tired

And I still miss you

 

Your laughter is everlasting

Now you rest in a better place

I went on

But you are gone

And I still miss you

 

You would be 50 now my love

And giving so much joy

I lived

You died

And I still miss you

 

Gone Again (May 2016)

Twenty-six years are gone

Since we laughed out loud

At nonsense

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

One last breath, a whole life

A child born and scars torn

Love knot sealed and tied

Goddess cried, Goddess died

 

Twenty-six years are gone

Since I kissed your sweet cheek

Said farewell

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

One last breath, the sky is grey

The hungry earth, the empty hole

The velvet box is death’s own bed

Eve’s own kin is dead

 

Twenty-six years are gone

Since your soul passed away

To heaven

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

One last breath, a spirit shed

The heavens frown, an angel down

Spirit moaned, lick of flame

Grips the sky, she’s gone again

 

Twenty-six years are gone

Since we commended your body

To the ground

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

Pass in Time  (May 2015)

Whispering quietly

Watching the moon

Counting time slowly

Thinking of you

You were part of my life

And I am thankful for that

But your souls have crossed over

There’s no space for regret

Andrea, Father, Gillian, John

Betty and Stephen, Ramsay and Don

Once you were here

But now you are gone

 

Living life quickly

Dancing till dawn

Singing the chorus

Of each new born song

Fifty years onwards

Battle weary and tired

Now your souls have crossed over

My thoughts are hard wired

Andrea, Father, Gillian, John

Betty and Stephen, Ramsay and Don

Once you were here

But now you are gone

 

Darkness is falling

The water is high

The mist it is rising

And touching the sky

Life’s an adventure

But the road is too short

Since your souls have crossed over

The memories distort

Andrea, Father, Gillian, John

Betty and Stephen, Ramsay and Don

Once you were here

But now you are gone

 

Darkness (May 2014)

Death where is thy sting?

You came and took

Her away

And still you haunt me

In my darkest

Dreams

You sit like a cactus

At my window

In smothering

Stillness

In my darkest

Dreams

I wake in the night

Still crying

Cursing the name

Injustice

In my darkest

Dreams

You reach out darkly

And remember

It was you who died

Not me

In my darkest

Dreams

 

She’s Gone (May 2013)

I cupped her face in my hand

Gently

Surveyed her features with my eyes

Lovingly

Brushed her hair with my cheek

Sparingly

Tasted the sweetness of her lips

Deftly

Stroked the coldness of her hand

Sadly

Said goodbye

 

Trolls, bullies and stalkers incorporated

stalker

I HAVE been a published writer and hard-hitting investigative journalist for more than 30 years.

Over those years I have received letters of complaint and criticism when my words have struck a raw nerve – as a journalist it comes with the territory.

And it was always good to shine a light on the criticism and give the reader the right of reply.

But times have changed.

And technology now allows the trolls and stalkers to stay in the darkness.

I was active on the Telecom Gold internet in 1988 – long before the World Wide Web was born. Since the Millennium, I have been a member of almost every social media group imaginable, and for the past four years have written my own blog… the one you are reading now!

As a magazine and newspaper editor and writer, my name is well known; and if you search you will find me.

But internet trolls and weirdos have finally forced me underground – the anonymous keyboard filth who threaten, demean, bully, harass and follow.

Some 13 years ago, I had my first taste of these vermin through a football club website – one guy from Cardiff even threatened to drive 300 miles to “find” me! I laughed it off as football banter… at the time I knew no better.

Then four years ago the reality of these anonymous people hit home.

In May 2013, after I published my personal thoughts about the killers of Private Lee Rigby and the Islamophobia which followed his murder, I feared for my life.

Within an hour of my words hitting social media, I faced scores of threatening messages from far right Britain First and BNP extremists. Some had even hacked my Facebook account and downloaded photos of my children. More than a dozen people (including women) made death threats against me and my family, and one man threatened to find out which school my then 11 year-old son, attended… “it would be easy to find him,” he taunted.

So I closed down all my social media accounts, and by lucky coincidence we moved house and area two weeks later!

In the meantime I suffered a nervous breakdown.

I promised to take extra care with my social media activity in the future and re-entered the world of the internet in September 2013, when I began this blog.

So I wrote, campaigned, exposed and wrote some more.

Then it all came back with a vengeance early in 2016, while I was campaigning for the liberation of Palestine… and this time it was sinister and at the same time disgusting.

Over a number of weeks I was being trolled by Zionist Israelis with private messages and public postings of the most vile paedophile and sexual nature I will not repeat.

I managed to find out the identities of two of these trolls (one 35 year-old man and a 22 year-old woman) both based in Tel Aviv.

I reacted by publicly naming them, blocking them and withdrawing from some social media sites.

Although I must state here, that Facebook was toothless in dealing with these twisted bullies and perverts.

Over the ensuing 15 months I still fell victim to the occasional troll, but I had learned how to deal with them.

How wrong I was!

Three weeks ago, I began a daily writing campaign, through this blog, to support Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

My posts were being widely read (one had over 25,000 hits) and shared via Facebook, Twitter and other means.

And I received the occasional disagreeable comment from some readers.

But then it happened…

Three individual weirdos managed to find out my phone number (which is ex-directory) via Facebook and my other social media activity and the calls and text messages began.

I am still hanging up my phone and deleting texts as I write this.

It doesn’t frighten me, but some things in life are more important.

I will always stay true to my political beliefs, which are ingrained deep within me, and will continue to write my blog.

But today, I deleted my Facebook account – which I have maintained for 10 years – and am clearing my social media footprint.

I have had enough!

I am a writer AND a fighter, but family, peace, music and love are much more important.

 

I died in 1988

nde-blog

 I AM not frightened of death… I have already died.

And it was beautiful.

My death all happened one bright day in May 1988…

“Tell me how it feels?”

It was my mother’s voice; there was no mistaking that. I struggled to say something but a dryness in my throat allowed only a smile.

She clenched my left hand.

Beyond her the ward clock reported 9.30.

I drifted back to sleep.

Sometime later I again opened my eyes.

Mother’s own eyes brightened and, as if from her mouth, I heard my father ask: “How is it son?”

I was surprised. I managed to reply: “Fine, but I can’t move.”

The ward clock betrayed 10.10.

“Is that all it is?” I asked looking up at the wall, knowing that I had been led to the operating table at 8.30am.

“It’s 10pm,” my father replied.

I gagged… why had I been out for more than 13 hours?

Over the next three days my parents, surgeons and nursing staff gradually outlined to me the most telling day of my life: a day when surgeons worked tirelessly to remove two thirds of my right lung and repair a damaged aortic artery.

It was an operation plagued with difficulty and twice they thought they had lost me. But working straight through, they never gave up and used finely honed skills to take away the cancer and repair my body.

So what of my own memories…

I recall being taken down to theatre that morning, laughing and joking with the trolley porter and nurse. Whether the personal euphoria was due to unreleased fear or the pre-med tablet I had been given some hour earlier, I will never know.

I also recall being administered the drugs to send me to sleep for the duration of the operation. Again, my memory is that of lightness and love.

I also have vague recollections of waking from the operation momentarily around 1pm that day, seeing my parents’ faces above me, and then coughing violently.

It was that cough that tore the stitching between my aortic artery and the remaining lobe of my right lung.

And within seconds my chest cavity began filling with blood as my lung collapsed and my heart went into overdrive.

I was enveloped by dazzling white light and warmth. Faces swirled above me and I looked down on my own prostate body on the hospital bed.

I was drifting.

Meanwhile, surgeons, doctors and nurses fought to save my life.

Apparently I died for 16 minutes and there was no pain, no fear, no despair.

Instead, it was a rebirth of life and spirit.

The physical aspects of my rebirth have been a boring gain in weight and seasonal hay fever, which I had never suffered from previously.

But the psychological changes have been manifest: no care for a career or future, dazzling vocal dreams, spiritual awakening, ESP and hours of deep thinking.

My own NDE (Near-Death Experience) changed me forever.

According to experts, such experiences may encompass a variety of sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light.

Neuroscience research suggests that an NDE is a subjective phenomenon resulting from “disturbed bodily multisensory integration” that occurs during life-threatening events.

NDEs are also a recognized part of some transcendental and religious beliefs in an afterlife, dating back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Natasha Tassell-Matamua of Massey University, New Zealand, says that 20 percent of cardiac arrest survivors and between four and nine percent of the general public are estimated to have had an NDE.

“Those reporting NDEs often describe a profound psychological event that is mystical, transcendental, or even spiritual in nature; where the boundaries between space, time, and normal perceptual awareness become blurred,” she says.

Some who have survived an NDE describe an “out-of-body” experience and have been able to accurately describe resuscitation efforts.

Others have described seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel, strange and other-worldly landscapes, or claim to have seen their lives flash before their eyes.

Now it has all been brought amazingly to life by the magic of TV.

Netflix’s drama series The OA, is a dizzying tale of Near-Death Experiences and inter-dimensional travel seen through the eyes of a once blind woman.

The series follows Prairie – a woman who lost her sight as a child, went missing aged 21, and returned seven years later able to see again.

As the series progresses, Prairie tells the story of how she ran away from her adoptive family to find her Russian father, only to be captured and experimented on by a scientist obsessed with Near-Death Experiences.

She explains that along with her fellow captives, she was killed over and again in a drowning machine to induce NDEs.

Brit Marling, who plays Prairie and co-wrote the show, said she first came up with the idea after speaking to a young woman who had experienced an NDE.

“When she described her experience, I was really riveted by the idea,” she says.

“She described leaving her body and the sensation of being above herself. 

“All concerns and preoccupations went away and the only thing that remained in her mind was this question: ‘Did I tell the people I love enough how much I love them?’ 

“It became that simple. Then she rocketed back into her body. 

“When you meet this woman, she has a kind of vividness and self-possession and ferocity that’s uncanny. It seemed like she’s really in control of her life.”

Researchers have identified the common elements that define Near-Death Experiences.

Although the features of NDEs vary from one case to the next, common traits that have been reported by NDErs are:

  • A sense/awareness of being dead.
  • A sense of peace, well-being and painlessness. Positive emotions. A sense of removal from the world.
  • An out-of-body experience. A perception of one’s body from an outside position. Sometimes observing medical professionals performing resuscitation efforts.
  • A “tunnel experience” or entering a darkness. A sense of moving up, or through, a passageway or staircase.
  • A rapid movement toward and/or sudden immersion in a powerful light (or “Being of Light”) which communicates with the person.
  • An intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance.
  • Encountering “Beings of Light”, “Beings dressed in white”, or similar. Also, the possibility of being reunited with deceased loved ones.
  • Receiving a life review, commonly referred to as “seeing one’s life flash before one’s eyes”.
  • Receiving knowledge about one’s life and the nature of the universe.
  • Approaching a border, or a decision by oneself or others to return to one’s body, often accompanied by a reluctance to return.
  • Suddenly finding oneself back inside one’s body.
  • Connection to the cultural beliefs held by the individual, which seem to dictate some of the phenomena experienced in the NDE and particularly the later interpretation thereof.

The NDE stages have been noted for their similarity to the so-called hero’s journey in literature. Kenneth Ring (1980) subdivided the NDE on a five-stage continuum:

  1. Peace
  2. Body separation
  3. Entering darkness
  4. Seeing the light
  5. Entering the light

He stated that 60 percent experienced stage 1 (feelings of peace and contentment), but only 10 percent experienced stage 5 (“entering the light”).

Instead, they reported dream-like or hallucinatory scenarios.

These mental experiences ranged from terrifying to blissful.

Others, however, experienced the opposite sensation, with 22 percent reporting “a feeling of peace or pleasantness”.

Heightened senses, a distorted perception of the passage of time and a feeling of disconnection from the body were also common sensations that survivors reported.

So are NDEs real and is there an after-life?

The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement which dominated the world of ideas in Europe in the 18th century.

It included a range of ideas centred on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, and came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state.

The Enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism along with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy – an attitude captured by the phrase Sapere aude, “Dare to know”.

Yet, despite this mass expansion of education and reasoning, a nine-year-old child in 21st century Britain acquired more knowledge in one term at school than the average person did during an entire lifetime in the 18th century.

My great grandmother was born in 1875 and died in 1970, aged 95.

During her lifetime she saw the first motor car, manned flight, the discovery of penicillin, the development of the Atom bomb, the first satellites, and even man landing on the moon.

But she died before HIV/Aids, microwave ovens, home computers, colour television, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, routine heart and lung transplants, cloning, cures for many cancers, CCTV, mobile phones and the internet.

Our knowledge is ever-expanding and whether you are a rationalist or existentialist, there is still so much about life and our universe which we have yet to understand.

But one thing is certain…I died, but now I am alive.

 

Fans United will never be defeated

fans-united-blog2

ON 8 February, 1997, fans of Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, Charlton Athletic, Preston North End, Crystal Palace, and countless other English football clubs, mingled with Real Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt and Red Star Belgrade supporters – all in their team colours – on the crumbling terraces of the Goldstone Ground.

They had travelled from across the UK, and beyond, to watch visitors Hartlepool United take on Brighton and Hove Albion, then rooted firmly at the very bottom of the Football League.

But, more importantly, they were there to stand side-by-side with beleaguered Albion fans, as our club teetered on the very edge of extinction.

With supporters fighting a bitter war against the club’s despised owners, home games in the 1996/97 season had been played in front of ever-dwindling crowds, and in an increasingly desperate and hostile atmosphere.

But this was different.

Despite the cold and damp of a foggy afternoon, this felt like a carnival.

The Albion players rose to the occasion, thrashing Hartlepool 5–0.

“We’d like to thank you for coming,” sang the Albion faithful to the many guests.

The story of the Brighton and Hove Albion’s fight against their rogue owners has been well documented previously, both by myself and others.

But the Fan’s United Day, was the sole inspiration of one person, a 15 year-old Plymouth Argyle fan, Richard Vaughan.

His simple message on a fledgling Albion message board, was the trigger:

“It makes me sick what is happening to your club, and it’s an insult to your fans. I’m a Plymouth fan and I think that one week when we’re away, I’m going to come up and support your protest. I think it would be a good idea if loads of fans from different clubs turned up at Brighton (with their shirts on) and joined in. It would show that we’re all behind you 100%”

Anyway, that was then, and this is now… well not quite!

This is a transcript of an interview I did with Richard Vaughan for BBC Radio Five Live’s Victoria Derbyshire Show, back in April 2005.

The transcript has remained buried on an old external hard drive, and the 20th anniversary of that Fans United Day, reminded me where I had left it.

This is the first time it has ever been published.

Apologies to Richard – who is now a married father of three – for the 12 year delay!

What are your memories of watching your first ever football match?

Compared to most other people I was quite a late starter getting into the beautiful game. It was Christmas time 1993, I was 12 years-old and the match was Argyle v Fulham at Home Park.

My dad took me, and my cousin came along who was down visiting from north Wales. Walking into the stadium for the first time I was really taken in by the whole occasion and was completely hooked.

What have been the highs and lows of following Plymouth Argyle?

There’s been a lot of highs and lows following Argyle over the last eleven and a half years, but never a dull moment. The first season in 93/94 we played some excellent football and really should have been promoted. It all came down to the last day of the season but unfortunately results didn’t go our way and we missed out on automatic promotion by just three points.

We then suffered the fate of so many other teams that have finished third, losing in the play-offs to a Burnley side who were a staggering 12 points behind us! I remember feeling completely cheated and thinking this complete miscarriage of justice shouldn’t be allowed to happen, it was the first time I cried at football!

The biggest highs of following Argyle would obviously have to be the three promotion seasons.

The first in 95/96 we were promoted via the Third Division Play-Offs. The semi-final second leg against Colchester at Home Park is still the best game I’ve ever been to. We were trailing one nil from the first leg so the pressure was really on. We scored the decisive goal with just five minutes to go which prevented the game from going into extra time and for the first time in their history sent Argyle to Wembley.

The whole place erupted at the end with everyone running on the pitch to celebrate with the players, I’ve still never seen a better atmosphere at Home Park. We took around 36,000 fans to the final at Wembley to see the Greens beat Darlington one nil, a very proud day.

The Paul Sturrock era at Home Park has to be the biggest high the club was ever been through. When he took over in 2000 we had fallen to our lowest league position in the clubs history. The crowds were at an all time low and were heading for the Conference.

Paul worked miracles without spending hardly any money at all he created two championship winning squads over just three and a half years! The first Third Division winning season would have to be my favourite out of the two as it was so unexpected, we actually won something!

At 15 years-old, how did you become aware of the situation at Brighton and Hove Albion?

I remember listening to Radio Five Live one afternoon back in 1996 and hearing about the York game when people ran on the pitch and broke the goal posts. I then started following the club’s fortunes every week and started reading the fans views on the internet.

Where did the idea for Fans United come from?

One evening I was browsing through the Brighton fans’ website which I had been keeping up to date with on a regular basis since the York match.

The whole Archer situation had really come to a head and things really did seem bleak for the club.

There seemed no way out and I just couldn’t quite believe that a club like Albion with so much history and fantastic support could cease to exist. Browsing through the web site there was an overwhelming amount of anger, sadness and support expressed from supporters of clubs all over the world.

It seemed to have touched every real fan in some way and something big really had to be done to make people stand up and notice how money a greed were killing this great club.

What sparked you to write the message?

I was so wound-up with everything that was going on that I stated on the message board that I was going to come along to an Albion match wearing my own colours to show my support for the cause and that others should join in too. As there was so many messages of support from other clubs it seemed the best way we could all show the football world that fans were united in their support for the Albion.    

What are your memories of the Fans United Day?

I was really overwhelmed with the immense support of unity shown on the original day, it was action packed from start to finish. We met up mid-morning with a few of the main organisers on the green opposite the Goldstone Ground.

Crowds were already starting to form everywhere, including people from all walks of the media. AFC Bournemouth were themselves in financial trouble at the time and there was also a group of fans from the club doing a collection of their own.

I thought this was really good as it showed what Fans United was all about, truly a day for all fans of football. It was amazing seeing so many teams colours, I think all of the 92 league clubs were easily represented, quite a few from Europe and a fair few from non-league as well.

The turnstile queues around the ground were huge, it was quite a wait to get into the ground. One of the funniest moments I remember was an Albion fan opening one of the emergency gates in the ground and shouting to people in the queue “Quick come in this way, Archer won’t get any more money of us then!”

A good few hundred fans managed to get in for free, nobody cared as this was all part of what the day stood for. The atmosphere behind the goal was immense before kick-off and didn’t let up at all throughout the game. It was really heart-warming to see so many groups of fans all mixing together and all in good nature, I think I even had a chat with an Exeter fan!

Did you follow Brighton and Hove Albion’s fortunes closely in the immediate months and years following February 1997?

Since Fans United I have always made a point of checking the results to see how Albion are getting on every week. I was really nervous listening to the Brighton v Hereford game on the final day of the Fans United season, I was going through the motions as if it was my own team playing!

The worst Albion moment was seeing you guys get promoted at Home Park it was horrible! Although we made up for it by winning the league the following season so I’ll let you have that one. I’ve also been keeping up to date with the ground situation at Albion. It’s an utter disgrace they still haven’t been given the go head to build a new stadium. The Withdean is no way near good enough for a club like Brighton. They could easily be attracting crowds in the region of 15 to 20 thousand and the current capacity is tiny.

I was annoyed with one of the Talk Sport presenters the other morning as he was trying to put Albion down for getting such low home gates, typical I suppose of the ignorant Premiership worshipers!

Have you followed/been aware of the financial crises facing many other football clubs during the past few years? For example: Bradford City, Notts County, Exeter City, Wrexham and Cambridge United.

It’s really sad there seems to always be a club in the news these days that’s in financial trouble. Something drastic really needs to be done soon or we’ll be facing a situation where the country only has two or three professional leagues.

There’s so much money being thrown around by the bigger clubs it seems crazy, Wayne Rooney’s wages over two weeks would probably be enough money to save one of the struggling clubs. One the best ideas I heard once would be to bring in a transfer tax in the Premiership whereby one or two percent of every transfer fee is kept by the FA and put into a kitty. This money could then be distributed around the lower leagues to keep the smaller clubs going.

What are your views on the financial structuring of professional football in this country?

The television money from Sky was improved recently but I still don’t think we all get a fair share of it. If Sky chose to show so many games in one league per season then I think each club should get their fair share of appearances.

It’s also quite worrying how expensive it is to get into a grounds these days. If prices continue to spiral our of control the way they are now the normal man on the street won’t be able to afford to go anymore which is a tragedy. This is one of the reasons the atmospheres in Premiership grounds with the exception of the newly promoted clubs seem to be non-existent as the real fans just can’t afford to go.

What are your views on the whole Fans United movement and how it has developed?

I have mixed feelings that Fans United is still going strong today. One side of me is very proud that fans are still coming together to try and fix the wrongs of the beautiful game, which is great to see. I still have to pinch myself sometimes that all this came about from one of my teenage rants one night over the internet!

The other side of me is quite sad that we still have to go to these lengths to save the clubs that generations have supported all their lives. It’s now a regular thing in the news to read about a club going into financial crisis. It’s now just a case of which one next. In an ideal world there would be no more need for Fans United but unfortunately with the way things are going this isn’t the case.

Do fans have the power to make real changes in the game?

Yes definitely, without the fans football is nothing. We’re the reason football is here today and the people making money out of it should try and remember that sometimes.

How does it feel eight years later?

It still feels very surreal that all of this came about from one night’s ranting over the internet. As I said before I have mixed feeling that it’s still going but it makes me very proud that fan power is alive and well.

  • Thank you, Richard. Thanks too, to Warren Christmas for the introductory few paragraphs, taken from his wonderful blog: The inside story of Fans United – How Danny Baker helped to save Brighton & Hove Albion FC

 

A Sublime Day in May

My paternal grandfather’s abiding passions were his vegetable garden, barley wine, horse racing and Newcastle United Football Club – not necessarily in that order.

But one thing was certain, enter his living room any time after 4.40 on a Saturday afternoon – once the BBC tele-printer was running – and there was complete silence, as he waited for the Newcastle result to come in.

Grandfather, or Pop as he was known, was born and raised in Throckley, seven miles west of Newcastle upon Tyne, the son and grandson of coal miners at the village’s Maria Pit. He was Geordie to the bones.

He had moved south in 1933, during the Depression, with my gran, my dad and his three siblings, to find work and a better life.

With his health failing, aged 86, he returned north early in 1979, following the death of my gran. He wanted to live out his final years on his beloved Tyneside.

All my life he had regaled me with deep passion about the pre-war Newcastle teams (particularly the 1926-27 First Division champions) and the three times post war FA Cup winners, with the legendary centre forward Jackie Milburn – the uncle of Bobby and Jack Charlton.

So we come to the evening of Friday 4 May, 1979, and I am sipping a large whisky with Pop at his comfortable new home on Tyneside and talking excitedly about the reason I am staying with him for the weekend.

I am enthusing about my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion and their end of season fixture at St James Park against his beloved Magpies.

He smiles, asks me to pour him another whisky – this time with a splash of ginger wine – and whispers: “Don’t get carried away lad, your team haven’t done it yet, they still have to encounter the Mags on God’s own soil.”

I went to bed that night with a huge grin on my face.

Saturday 5th May was our big day.

But strangely, it wasn’t the last day of the 1978/79 season.

A snow laden winter had left many clubs playing catch-up with their remaining fixtures, and we were going into our last game at Newcastle, at the top of a remarkably tight Second Division table, with just one point separating the top four clubs.

A win would secure us promotion to the First Division for the first time in our history against a Newcastle side in ninth place, with little to play for, bar pride.

So that morning, in bright sunshine, but with a chill wind in the air, I hopped the local train into the city.

At the station I met an old friend Pete – a Geordie with whom I had gone to many Newcastle games, while we were at university together in West Yorkshire. He had a black and white scarf wrapped around his neck and was grinning widely.

“Why aye, Nic, let’s do some beer,” he enthused, “There are quite a few pubs that open at 10.30.” And so we began a two man pub crawl for the short distance between the city station and the Newcastle ground.

We eventually reached The Strawberry, an infamous drinking hole outside the Gallowgate End of St James Park. It was (and still is) a pub for home supporters only.

“Keep yer trap shut inside,” Pete winked, “Or I am not responsible for taking you to hospital!”

The Gallowgate End or “Gallows Hole” was an historic place of public execution in Newcastle. In 1650, 22 people – including 15 witches – were hanged in one day.

The last hanging took place in 1844, only three decades before the first ball was kicked inside St James Park!

So I drank my pint quietly, to avoid becoming a 20th century execution!

Then, merry with beer, Pete and I shook hands and wended out respective ways to either end of this legendary football stadium. What followed, was the stuff of real legends.

The weather was sunny and dry as the game kicked off, in front of 28,434 fans.

The first 10 minutes was all Brighton as we attacked the Leazes End, where our 2,000 plus fans were gathered. We were dominating, and suddenly from a left wing Williams’ corner, skipper Brian Horton snuck between the Newcastle defence to bullet a header into the net. (1-0 Albion).

With Rollings and Cattlin immense in defence, Horton running the midfield, and Peter Ward inspiring, Albion began bossing the game. A few minutes later Ward let Maybank in with a clear shot on goal, but Teddy shanked it wide.

That was the key for Newcastle to up their game, and they twice came close to an equaliser.

But they hadn’t counted on Peter Ward, whose sublime mazy run through their defence and a directed shot, which somehow managed to cross the goal line, doubled the lead. (2-0 Albion).

Our football was expansive as the rain started to team down.

It was end to end stuff, before Ward fired at goal and Gerry Ryan poked in the rebound from a Newcastle defender. (3-0 Albion).

But the Magpies were not about to give up and they began to put steady pressure on our goal before the half-time whistle blew.

We were almost there… just 45 minutes to make history.

The second half was rocky in comparison as Brighton nerves made their way around St James Park. But the clock was ticking and when Alan Shoulder pulled one back for Newcastle, it was too late for a comeback.

As the final whistle blew, the moment (and the game) was savoured. We went wild as our heroes in yellow ran towards us, manager Alan Mullery ran onto the pitch, hugged Horton and joined in the celebrations.

Tears flowed, voices shouted, cheers echoed, hugs were exchanged and smiles enveloped every face.

We were promoted to the top flight for the first time in our history!

But it had gone to the wire: with a game in hand, Palace won the title with 57 points, we were second on 56, just ahead of Stoke on goal difference and Sunderland fourth on 55 points.

After the game I tried to find Pete for a celebratory pint, but in the days before mobile phones, and amid thousands of cheering supporters, the task was impossible.

A few days later, he telephoned me at home to say; “Where were you afterwards? We were all waiting for you in The Strawberry!”

But later that sublime Saturday evening I arrived back at Pop’s home, to be greeted with a smile, a handshake, a “well done, lad” and a very large whisky.

Pop sadly passed away, two years later.

I will never forget him, or that day.

 

Music was my first love and it will be my last

lk-blog

Over the past decade, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times a new musical artist has touched my soul and changed my order of all things.

That is quite a profound statement from someone married to the bone to Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Paul Weller, and other septuagenarian dinosaurs of rock.

My first new awakening happened in 2004, when a long-time musical friend Michelle Shocked, suggested I look up her New York based pal Mary Lee’s Corvette (aka Mary Lee Kortes).

I ordered Mary Lee’s first two albums – purely on the back of Michelle’s recommendation – and was entranced.

A few months later I hurried along to watch her perform as support to Thea Gilmore at Newcastle upon Tyne’s famous Cluny venue.

I was knocked out and left the gig before Thea appeared, not wishing to dim the experience.

I have since followed and listened to everything Mary Lee has produced and over time, she too has become a good friend.

mary-lee-blog

Check out her whole album homage to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks if you are not convinced and her new concept album The Songs of Beulah Rowley, is probably one of the most important releases of 2016.

My second enlightenment occurred in 2007 when I happened to go and watch the legendary Fairport Convention at Shrewsbury Music Hall.

The support act that cold February evening was an acoustic band, named Tiny Tin Lady.

Whoosh… these four young women’s playing of their own self-penned songs was mesmerising and their album The Sound of Requiem (which I bought during the interval) didn’t leave my car CD player for the next four weeks.

By various connections, in the May of 2007 I was asked to undertake the PR for the band and a long-lasting friendship was made.

Self-described as indie celery with a side of hummus the girls had already toured with Midge Ure, Jah Wobble and the English Roots Band by the time I first met them.

Whereas most girls in their early 20s may be star-struck by the likes of the Arctic Monkeys or Robbie Williams, Tiny Tin Lady were happy to admit that meeting Robert Plant was one of the highlights of their career, who walked into their dressing room after seeing them perform with Fairport.

Plant described the band as: “Absolutely marvellous, brilliant. And incredible voices.”

ttl-blog

The Sound of Requiem, released in 2005, had received rave reviews from the music press. Soon after I met the band, the girls began work on their second album Ridiculous Bohemia.

Released in 2008, it remains one of my favourite ever albums, and the song Fall Into Line is simply amazing.

The band split in 2010, but their bass player Helen Holmes has remained a best friend, soul mate and constant source of inspiration.

The next surprise addition to my music catalogue came just last Christmas at a mega concert for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Simply titled Concert for Corbyn, the gig at Brighton’s Dome included a stellar line-up including Kathryn Williams, The Farm, Robert Wyatt, Bill Ryder Jones, Stealing Sheep, Danny Thompson and Paul Weller.

The event was four hours of pure musical pleasure. But the surprise was a singer and guitarist in Paul Weller’s band called Steve Pilgrim, who was given the space to perform four solo numbers.

One of these songs, which he dedicated personally to Jeremy Corbyn, was Explode the Sun – one of the most amazing numbers I have ever heard.

Steve was originally the drummer for The Stands who were part of Liverpool’s Bandwagon scene in the early 2000s. After leaving the band he played with The Cuckolds and began work as a session musician playing with artists such as Akeboshi and Sophie Solomon.

Steve then went on to drum for Paul Weller joining his band for the 22 Dreams tour and played on the album Wake Up the Nation (2010).

But this drummer also began establishing a career as a singer-songwriter, releasing three amazing solo albums Lover, Love Her (2007) Sunshine (2009) and Pixels and Paper (2011) – on which Explode the Sun appears.

So within two weeks of first seeing Steve on the Brighton stage, I bought all three of his albums and have already pre-ordered his new album Morning Skies, scheduled for release next month.

For this stripped back and intimate acoustic album Steve enlisted the help of two of his mates from the Brighton gig: the legendary double bass player Danny Thompson and Paul Weller on keyboards.

pilgrim-blog

If you are already familiar with Steve’s work this album is his most melancholy, the most honest and most intimate work to date. Pure musical joy.

The stand out song is the title track, which is simply sublime.

Believe me, this guy is worth listening to!

And so that brings us up to date… well, not quite.

Now for the newest and latest addition to my personal play list, and what a find she is!

Through an accident on the social media picture messaging board Instagram, I stumbled across Canadian born – but LA based – singer-songwriter Lindsay Kupser, and what a discovery!

A graduate of Berklee College of Music where she studied Jazz Composition and Performance, Lindsay is a significant and unique musician, with a naked sound reminiscent of the aforementioned Steve Pilgrim, or a young Joni Mitchell.

Her first album The Boston EP, was recorded in February 2014, after she graduated from Berklee and each of the six songs have a certain jazz feel – such is the comparison to Joni Mitchell.

The song It Hurts, is a number I keep playing – just beautiful.

Lindsay’s second album Quiet Songs was released in 2015 and recorded live in the studio. It is an emotional and musical gem.

The album opens with the wonderful All of my Bones Broke on Thursday Evening, a nu-acoustic song of brutal observations on love and heartbreak.

Lindsay’s voice resonates somewhere between Kathryn Williams and the wonderful Laura Marling.

“I don’t want to take her picture, she needs it to breath,” she sings… wow!

The stripped down soundscape continues with Couldn’t Move to Brooklyn where Lindsay sings about her decision not to follow so many young artists and make the well-worn pilgrimage to Brooklyn in New York.

“Pour on the Turpentine and ignite the flame, I’m not afraid of the light or the pain,” she sings on It Is My Turn, a mournful ballad, with the stunning refrain: “It’s my turn and I want to get burned”.

The song is already a classic.

On Tough Country we get a snatch into Lindsay’s childhood memories, as she describes her Calgary childhood home while sitting and observing old photographs. It is sweetly reminiscent of Michelle Shocked’s Memories of East Texas.

The five-track Quiet Songs concludes with Everything Feels So Hard Always, beautiful reflection of the difficulties of big life decisions.

Look out for this woman… her songs might just change your life.

 

Who is the Monster?

WHEN I was 19 and my late dad was 45 years old, he had an extra marital affair and left the family home to live with his mistress.

It was a devastating time for all of us, and none more so than my mum, who seemed to spend the next four months crying and starving herself, while somehow parenting my youngest sister, who was then only eight years old.

A week after my father left, my mother told me that this was the third or fourth affair that my dad had “enjoyed”, and she could not forgive him again.

She was hurting badly; and looking back, I am sure that in her pain, she told me this to drive me away from my father and maybe make me hate him.

But it had the reverse effect.

Instead, I saw my dad as a weak human being and I worried for him, and loved him even more – after all he was “my dad”.

As things turned out, six months later my father suffered a nervous breakdown and my mum took him back, nursed him back to health and once again, forgave him.

He never strayed again, and when he died in my mother’s arms in 2008, they loved each other more than ever before.

So why do I tell you this?

Well, fast forward to 2003.

This was the year I was denied all contact with my middle two daughters (Rhia and Shannon). You can read the full account and my battle for access here: Denial

The loss of my daughters was a major contributing factor in my own nervous breakdown in 2013.

This is fully explained here: When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?

Then some nine months after my breakdown, I discovered that my eldest son, Ben, had married in March 2014, without telling me. To add insult, he had invited my daughters’ stepfather to his wedding rather than me. Perhaps not surprisingly, I suffered another breakdown.

Some 18 months later, when his new wife gave birth to their daughter (my grand-daughter) he instructed members of the family NOT to show me any photographs of her.

Again, I was left reeling – where had all this hatred come from?

It seems that since 2010, he too had been dragged into this denial of access mess.

My last contact with Ben was a text message he sent me in May 2010, in which he said:

“I know your secret”.

When I asked what that “secret” was, he stopped all contact, blocked calls and emails and returned all my letters.

Read this for background about what was going on: The Gaslight Tapes

So I was left with my youngest son Nathan, who I had cared for single-handedly since just after his fourth birthday (he is now 15) and my eldest adult daughter Tan, who had stayed away from all the family problems, and whom I have not seen for a few years.

So time to bring things up to date: at October half-term 2016, Nathan asked if he could pop and see Tan at her office in Telford. I agreed and went with him.

We telephoned the office to find out if she was at work. She was, and she spoke briefly with Nathan, but made excuses why she could not see him personally.

Three days later, she emailed my ex-wife (Nathan’s mother and someone she had not seen in more than 10 years) to claim she was scared by the phone call. But the two page email was full of vitriol about me and how she did not want to see me again and had “nothing positive to say” about me.

Clearly upset, Nathan showed me this email last week.

I was choked by it… I have NEVER fallen out with Tan, never harmed her in any way and had no idea that she didn’t want contact with me.

I had given her space, believing she was being aloof, due to family problems with her uncle and the recent death of her grandfather.

So this email was completely out-of-the-blue and hit me very hard.

But, what became immediately clear was that a 14 year campaign of lies, innuendo, gaslighting and character assassination against me, was continuing.

This campaign was being driven by Alvilde, the mother of my middle daughters, and her wealthy husband John.

As explained in The Gaslight Tapes: “A common element among all the tactics manipulators use is that they cause the person being targeted to doubt their gut instincts about what’s going on.

“Their gut tells them they’re under attack or that someone is trying to get the better of them, and they intuitively go on the defensive. But because they often can’t find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves.

“This is the real secret of effective manipulation. If the “target” were solidly convinced they were in the process of being done in, they’d more likely put up more resistance instead of capitulating.

“Manipulators know this. They win by getting the other person to back down or give in.”

So what is my “secret”?

And what have I done to make me such a heinous father or such a monster, that my children hate me?

  • Am I a murderer?
  • Am I a rapist?
  • Am I a wife beater?
  • Am I a child abuser?
  • Am I a paedophile?

I am NONE of these things…. I have NEVER physically abused, sexually abused, mentally abused or harmed any of my children or past partners. I have rarely even raised my voice to my kids.

Plus, I am a pacifist.

The ONLY time I have ever hit anyone, is a drunken fight I had at a ceilidh in Scotland in 1992, when Alvilde and I drunkenly and publicly punched each other over my refusal to take part in a country dance. It was something we both regretted the next day and something I openly apologised for – this was long before our daughters were even born.

So has this one incident become the bedrock of the gaslighting?

I genuinely don’t know.

But, as my good friend Sara Salyers observes:

“From bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

“Anyone accused of crimes serious enough to cost him the right to a relationship with his children has the right to hear the case against him. And his children have both the right and the duty to pull the whispers out of the shadows and subject them to the light of test and evidence.”

So I ask again, what have I done, to warrant such ongoing poison?

Now, after reading Tan’s email, I am not going to back down again and submit to life-ruining lies and innuendoes.

I believe I am a caring and gentle man, who loves his children deeply and should not be forced through this hell any longer.

If the perpetrators intended to break me, they did that a long time ago. The child sexual abuse, cancer, bankruptcy and bereavements ground me down over many years, but the cruel assassination of my character to my children finished me off.

In June 2015, I tried to take my own life, but was rescued by two passing strangers. The road to emotional and psychological recovery since that day has been strong, but draining.

I am now too tired and too old to fight any longer.

So this is my final battle, my final attempt to break this campaign of vilification, and beg that my older children (who are now all adults) see me as I really am.

Whatever the outcome, I will always love all of them.

My youngest son Nathan knows and loves me as a caring and loving dad, who would do anything for his children.

And my many friends know me too.

This is what a few of them so kindly volunteered to write.

I leave you, the reader, to judge, but this is the REAL ME:

I first met Nic when we worked together for the YTS scheme in the mid-1980s; training teenagers to get employment. Nic had a teaching role. He was married and the loving father of a young family.

Over the years some may have assumed that Nic’s easy-going personality was a weakness, but this was not the case. Perhaps some were jealous of Nic’s character and may have felt inadequate. Perhaps because of this, they tried to make Nic look bad to make themselves look better.

Nic has admitted to faults but has always been a family man and wanted to be there as a father for his children. Everyone makes mistakes but many do not admit to them publicly in social media. Nic is a good, kind man and father to his children. He loves them all very much even the ones he is not able to communicate with which I know rips him apart.

JA (known Nic for 30 years)

 

I met Nic last summer through Momentum and his blogs. We went on to meet and become friends. Nic is a very decent, honest and genuine human being, which is very rare nowadays.

AA (known Nic for 7 months)

 

Nic and I worked together for three years and he became a great pal and was always passionate about what he did.

The love of his family is obvious and I truly hope that his dream of having a relationship with his other children comes true.

SB (known Nic for 6 years)

 

Nic is a great editor and it was one of my life pleasures to work with him. When I was having deep work-related problems, he was the first person I turned to. At work he was inspirational, and out-of-work he is a great family man who adores his children.

Nic and his wife Gill became close personal friends of my husband Alex and me and we have stayed at each other’s houses many times.

AB (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I’ve known Nic for four years, meeting him as the father of one of my son’s best friends, and now we are friends in our own right. Nic has many qualities that I admire, which include being thoughtful, caring, loving, and a very talented writer. Nic is a kind and loving father to Nathan, who in return is growing into a very polite and thoughtful young man.  I’d like to say not a day goes by without him thinking of all of his kids, but it’s probably more likely to be not an hour. Nic deserves as much as any of us to see his family.

CB (known Nic for 4 years)

 

I have known Nic first as a work colleague and then as a friend.

Nic is a compassionate and very fair man who has endured much in his life. What Nic has come through would have crippled most other people. The fact that he has come through it with such little resentment and such a sunny disposition says it all.

I am so proud that I am a friend of his and in my eyes he is a hero.

KB (known Nic for 8 years)

 

I have known Nic personally for many years through our common love of Brighton and Hove Albion FC. In short Nic is a fantastic guy, gentle and compassionate and extremely funny. I hope it all works out for him.

AB (known Nic for 13 years)

 

Nic and I met at college when we were both still teenagers and have kept in touch ever since. We both have great pride in swapping news about how our respective children have grown and developed.

Nic has always had a funny and quirky personality. I can still remember him reading his election speech at Poly with his pants on the outside of his trousers and a knotted hanky on his head. The memory of it still makes me laugh.

Nic does not suffer fools but neither does he exhibit any rash or violent temper.

Nic is now, as he was at 19, a caring, honest, considerate and sensitive man, passionately opposed to social injustice and whose deep and abiding love for his children is absolutely apparent.

I am proud to be his friend.

JB (known Nic for 41 years)

 

Nic gave me my first job in journalism in 2007. I can without hesitation say he is the best editor I could have wished for.

Over the years Nic and I became friends and I have found him to be someone I could rely on if I had a problem as he always made time for his friends and staff even when he was busy or in difficulty himself. 

I was humbled when he and Gill asked me to be their wedding photographer. As for Nathan, I just don’t know how Nic has managed to bring up a child on his own while working full-time as a newspaper editor.

CB (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I worked alongside Nic for six months and he is one of the most earnest, helpful and trustworthy colleagues I have ever known. Gregarious, kind and immensely talented, he commands results using a fair and approachable management style. His sunny nature and sharp wit lit up the newsroom and it was both a pleasure and delight to work alongside him.

SC (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I have known Nic since 1999 and visited him and Ruth often at their home in Oldmeldrum. I met Rhia and Shannon on a number of occasions. I was also present at Nic and Ruth’s wedding in 2003. It was so lovely to see how beautiful Rhia and Shannon looked at the wedding, and how excited they were. It was obvious how much they loved their little brother, Nathan, constantly fussing over him, and how much they loved their dad.

Nic is, and always has been, loving and caring towards all of his children and a thoroughly decent man. It is time he had an even break.

LD (known Nic for 18 years)

 

Nic and I enjoyed a loving relationship for little over a year. We would spend alternate weekends at each other’s homes and spent Christmas and Easter together too. His son, Nathan became good friends with my teenage children. I also met and spent time with Nic’s lovely mum, Jackie.

Nic is a loving person and a wonderful father. He also put himself out of limb to get to know and befriend my children. I never saw Nic lose his temper or harm anyone. It is now sadly ironic that the reason we split up was due to his high personal morality and honesty – something to which I still aspire. He was a lovely part of my life.

NG (known Nic for 7 years)

 

Nic is an outstanding editor, teacher and friend. I worked for him for two years between 2008 and 2010. I feel very privileged to have been part of his editorial team. His enthusiasm is infectious and it encouraged me to unearth some great stories and push myself to new limits. Nic will always be someone I continue to turn to for help and advice.

AF (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I met and worked for Nic between 1998 and 1999. I got to know him and his then partner Alvilde on a personal and friendly basis. I never witnessed Nic lose his temper once and he always adored his two little daughters.

Nic is a unique editor who gave confidence and inspiration to many aspiring journalists. More than that, he is a lovely guy.

PF (known Nic for 19 years)

 

I have known Nic for around 13 years, via our mutual love of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. In all this time, I have seen his devotion to Nathan, often in the face of great difficulty, to be unswerving, with the soul of a man who loves his son dearly. I know Nic would welcome the chance to (re)build relationships with his other children. He is a genuinely lovely man, full of wit, passion and care.

IH (known Nic for 13 years)

 

Nic is a wonderful mentor and teacher and an editor I would willingly move hundreds of miles to work for him again. He is also a warm and compassionate human being and an amazing father to his lovely son Nathan. In a nutshell: he is just amazing.

LH (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I have known Nic for 10 years. We met when he did pro bono PR work for my former band Tiny Tin Lady. I have stayed at Nic’s house many times over the ensuing years and he has become my soul-mate.

Nic is an awesome father to Nathan and a lovely human being. He is one of my best friends in the world and I was honoured to be his witness at his marriage to Gill.

I would love to meet his estranged daughters and tell them to their faces what a beautiful man their father is.

HH (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I consider myself to be a very good judge of character. This opinion of myself has come about through many years of observing the consequences of my decisions based on the judgements I make. Mostly I have been right, and my awareness of other people has enabled me to almost instantly know if someone is going to be trouble, or enjoys harming other people, or is lying to me or trying to manipulate me in any way.

Nic is a sensitive, kind and intelligent man, who wants to live in a world that values peacefulness, equality and compassion.

AI (known Nic for 6 months)

 

I first met Nic while working for NWN Media. I think it was probably our passion for football that got us talking (he is B&HAFC and me it’s Chester).

It was always a pleasure to chat with him as a happy bloke who never seemed to have a problem with anyone or anything. He hid the agony of his family problems well.

Subsequently we have become good friends with a shared love of music and footy. He has always been kind even in his darkest hours and even appreciated my bad jokes.

Even though Nic lives some miles away I consider him a close friend and would happily welcome him to my home or holiday home in mid Wales, where I spend a lot of time with my wife and extended family of foster children and pets. I hope he finds the inner strength and peace that he deserves.

JL (known Nic for 11 years)

 

Nic and I met after our sons became close friends at school, when they were still just Infants.

Over the years our sons have played together, had many sleepovers and grown to be best buddy teenagers.

Nathan has excelled at school and is one of the brightest boys I have ever known. This is in no small measure due to Nic’s parenting of Nathan.

I make these observations as a fellow parent, a good friend and as a school teacher.

CL (known Nic for 11 years)

 

I first worked with Nic in 1993. I also met Dilla – this was before they had their two daughters. Our paths crossed again at The Scotsman in 1996. We became good friends and I socialised with both Nic and Dilla over the following year. I visited their home in Haddington and saw at first hand his wonderful parenting of Rhia and Shannon.

I can say in all honesty that Nic is a kind, funny and a very gentle man. It is a horrendous travesty that he has been denied the rights of any father to be a parent to his daughters.

VM (known Nic for 24 years)

 

I need to thank Nic for his support over the last three years – he is a star! I’ve come to value his kindness, honesty, and integrity greatly.

SM (known Nic for 7 years)

 

Nic and I met through our sons, who went to the same primary school.

Nic is friendly and approachable and very easy to talk to. I have never witnessed him being angry and always thought of him as very laid back and relaxed.

Nic is a loving parent who always wants the best for his son. Nathan is a lovely boy and that is credit to the upbringing that Nic has given him. Both my children have spent lots of time at Nic’s house and I have never had any reason to be concerned. Even with a house full of noisy children I have never seen or heard Nic raise his voice in anger. He genuinely enjoys seeing the children happy and having fun.

KM (known Nic for 8 years)

 

Dad is loving and caring, he spoils me rotten. He is kind and generous. He can be firm and sometimes raise his voice, but he never loses his temper with me. He is the best dad in the world ever!

NO (known Nic all my life)

 

I have only known Nic a short time through our mutual socialist beliefs and membership of the local Momentum branch.

I have to say, I believe Nic to be a thoughtful, caring and gentle soul who wants a just, equal, and caring society. I truly hope his fight to put the record straight is successful.

ER (known Nic for 6 months)

 

Nic is insightful and generous. His passion for social issues and concern for his fellow man permeates every aspect of his work and personality. Nic is a breath of fresh air.

It is for these reasons that I consider him to be one of the best bosses I have ever had and also a very dear friend.

RR (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I first met Nic in 1996 when he was working for The Scotsman. We had a lot in common and quickly became friends.

I got to know him, Dilla and the girls, visiting them in Haddington and going to stay with them in Galloway a couple of times in 1999.

Nic was a proud and loving father and his girls obviously adored him. Everything about his politics and his core values and his behaviour as a dad was of a peace, committed, brave and loving.

No one is without faults and all of us hurt those we love as a result – all of us without exception. But the kinds of fault that would justify alienating and excluding a father, the kinds of faults that would make the violent emotional damage inflicted by parental alienation preferable to maintaining a working relationship with a parent, are not part of his profile. I can state that with 100% certainty.

And from bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

Anyone accused of crimes serious enough to cost him the right to a relationship with his children has the right to hear the case against him.

And his children have both the right and the duty to pull the whispers out of the shadows and subject them to the light of test and evidence.

Even if that means acknowledging the vengeful or venal or deceitful character of the other parent.

Much love to a brave, brilliant and loving friend.

SS (known Nic for 21 years)

 

Meeting and working for Nic between 2008 and 2010 gave me a strength and inner-belief that few could ever manage. I will never forget his presence in the newsroom, his advice or guidance, all of which are worth more than gold.

He is a lovely man and I am a better person for having known him.

MT (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I worked for Nic for over five years, first as a trainee and then on to chief reporter. He taught me everything I know.

Not only a great journalist and editor Nic is the most compassionate manager I have ever worked for. After being diagnosed with cancer he was a massive support to me, treating me like a friend rather than an employee or a ‘number’.

I am very proud and grateful to have been a member of his team and to class him as a true friend.

And to watch Nathan grow under his parenting has been amazing.

NT (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I have known Nic for a little over five years.

I think he, Gill and Nathan are fantastic loving people, educated and incredibly funny.

VT (known Nic for 7 years)

 

I have come to know Nic through his writings and ultimately as a valued friend.    

It is impossible to read Nic’s accounts of his life and of his struggles to gain access to his children, without being deeply moved.   

Nic has a tremendous insight into self, probably more than anyone I know.  Unlike so many of us humans, he can reflect and admit to his weaknesses and imperfections.  

Nic is a valued friend and is a kind, caring and above all honest man. 

SW (known Nic for 2 years)

 

I have known Nic for over 30 years and met him at a particular difficult time for him, health wise. I was a nurse, working at an oncology hospital in Cardiff, and Nic was a patient receiving radiotherapy due to him having a malignant tumour removed from his shoulder area. I would redress his wound each day, and spend a long time talking and listening to a brave, intelligent man.

I gained great insight into a man who was determined to get well and restart his life and career. I saw how he worried about other patients and how one young girl became a great friend to him and he looked out for her throughout his time at the hospital. They remained friends up until her untimely death through cancer. Again this hit Nic hard as he loved her like a younger sister he has never forgotten her and has even made time to meet her family many years later.

I for one class Nic as a caring passionate friend and know our friendship will never be lost. When you meet Nic and talk to him you know him only as a gentleman who wants the best for other people before himself. A selfless man who deserves better than what has happened to him these past years.

AY (known Nic for 30 years)