Freedom Fighter

My Palestine fighter

My Parisian friend

The Zionist evil

It knows no end

So keep your wits about you

Defend what is right

Fight for the righteous

Fight for what is right

The truth will reveal

The West’s dirty deal

We are coming out of darkness

Into a new daylight

Anissa, Anissa

Your eyes light up your soul

Once what was broken

Will soon become whole

Anissa, Anissa

Let love hold you fast

And with Allah’s guiding hand

This war will not last

 

I’m down on my luck and I’m black and blue

OVER the past six months I have written a series of introspective pieces about my own life trials and tribulations. It was been necessarily therapeutic and cathartic but at other times just navel gazing!
Yes, I have become a bit wrapped up in myself.
Then last week I received a surprise email from an old friend and colleague which snapped me out of self-pity and allowed me to focus on someone else.
It was the shock I needed.
I have known Mark for about eight years. We worked alongside each other and I respected him as a bright and intuitive journalist and a razor sharp writer. But more than that, he became a good friend and personal confidante.
He moved away in 2009 to work for another newspaper group in the south of England and our contact sadly became sporadic.
He had almost dropped off my radar until last summer.
Following my break-down and decision to quit newspaper journalism, Mark was one of the first people to offer to write me a personal reference.
His testimonial was amazing. His words made me believe in myself once again, when my life was at its lowest: “Nic Outterside is cut from a different class when it comes to editors. Meeting and working for Nic 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.”
I was humbled, gobsmacked and thanked him profusely.
He told me he was no longer enjoying newspaper journalism and was looking at other options. We promised to keep in better touch with each other.
But once again he quickly seemed lost from my radar.
And I have only just found out why!
I will let Mark’s own words tell what happened; the trauma he has endured and thankfully survived:
“The last eight months have been a bit of a blur. Things had been going downhill for a while with work, in that they were flogging me to death and I just took more and more on. It was 12 hour days, no breaks, abuse, all sorts. People around me were having breakdowns, ill health, just plain walking out, and I did what I had always done and simply absorbed as much as possible.
Given that I could do the job, more got piled on me, and one Saturday September morning at the local magistrates’ court, picking up the first appearance of an alleged rapist, I suddenly blacked out, collapsed down a flight of stairs, shattered my collarbone, lacerated my face and was knocked clean out. Initially the doctors thought I had brain damage due to an episode from the force of the fall.
I spent a week in hospital having all sorts of tests, scans etc. Then I had surgery on my shoulder and four pins and plate inserted. I wanted to go home so they eventually relented and let me out about a week later, went back to my folks, I’ve never been in so much pain in all my life. My shoulder, back, and god knows what else that was battered as a result of going down something like 20 metal steps was excruciating, every single day.
Nightmares about falling were waking me up, then waking up and crying out in pain because I was rooted to the bed. It was horrid. Had to go back to the hospital for months and months of tests, CT scans, sleep deprivation analysis, physio, trauma, polytrauma, speech and language therapy – I was unable to talk properly, and have had severe memory problems.
The day itself was wiped clean from my head, I can remember very little, even from before. Except for the fact I hadn’t slept the night before, which was pretty much the pattern of the prior six months, no sleep, little food. Not being able to remember life events, words, my vocabulary was shocking, and I was shaking as I was walking. It was horrible, and must have been quite scary for the people around me – I recall very little, and the process of recovery has been akin to waking from a bad dream.
Meanwhile I was applying for jobs. But nothing really happened. The doctors obviously didn’t want me anywhere near work given I was going to hospital still two/three times a week.
Then I launched myself into a period of rehab, started doing whatever I could at home, weights, running etc. It was painful at first, but really did help me mentally start to recover. One by one the hospital classes stopped, and now it’s just a case of going back every so often for checkups.
I was at the end of what I could take with newspapers, the old paper is still driving people into the ground, with two or three people leaving every month, shocking stuff.
I wasn’t sure what the future held, but have moved into an area where I can still investigate stories, still dig into things, and it’s interesting. I went for several interviews – including a press officer job at the Home Office – while still in the sling, with my face still a mess of bruises and swelling, that’s how desperate I was to get out.
Then this job came up, I had to go for three interviews, but they seemed to not really care about the obvious injuries, just that I seemed the right man for the job, and they had plans for me.
So now I live and work in London for an amazing online publication. I find it very interesting, the pace is slow, but I am working on some very big stories, with a lot of time to properly research, there’s travel, and I seem to have landed on my feet. Whereas I was being screamed at for six or seven leads a day, and then told they were all shit, I now have time for a break, work on one investigative piece a day, and leave work behind at the end of each day.
I have gone from one of the worst lows of my life, I didn’t think I would be able to walk properly, talk properly, I had no idea what happened to me to be honest, it was terrifying – to now being in a place where things have completely turned around.
Never thought it could happen – and each day is a blessing. I am sure people look at me like I’m daft, scars over my eyes and can’t fully extend my arm, but I couldn’t be happier. So when you are in the bottom of a very bad funk, in time it will pass.
I never had a news editor that could match your brain for a story, or someone who could make a front page sparkle. Considering I ended up working for three decent regionals I never forgot the man whose hand guided me early on and who looked beyond face value to see there was actually a reporter in there -so believe me, your story isn’t done, and I hope that things start to turn around for you soon.”
Mark, I want to embrace you and tell you that you will always be a special friend. Your story is uplifting in its own right. Your courage and friendship has forced me to look beyond.
Thank you.

Love

THIS is the fourth and final part of my Back from the Edge series. It is entitled: Love

The Bigger Picture
I may have missed the bigger picture you know I never had a clue
Till you gave me all these wondrous things when I stood next to you
I could take care of the details every minute every day
But I couldn’t read the crystal ball or learn from past mistakes
Or learn from past mistakes
You gave to me my little girl she thinks her Daddy’s cool
But wait till boys come sniffing round and she’s home late from school
Vin says I’ll find another pocket it’ll come out of the blue
You will never have to share this love there will be enough for two – there will be enough for two
Now I’ve reached the big five zero not everything works well
But then it’s been a busy life and I’ve got some tales to tell
But I wish I listened harder and cherished what I found
I wish I kept more photographs and written more things down
And written more things down
But I wouldn’t change a single day well maybe one or two
But we can’t go back and start again that’s not what I would do
(Kieran Halpin, 2007)

AT 45 years old I never expected to become a father again, but there it was, I was a daddy for the fifth time.
In summer 2001 Ruth and I had been together for two years and we had both agreed to put parenthood to one side, at least until we were settled in our new home on Tyneside.
But after her visit to the local family planning clinic to have a contraceptive implant fitted, she came back with the totally unexpected news that she was pregnant.
The pregnancy was complicated with pre-eclampsia and Nathan was born four weeks prematurely by emergency caesarian section on Christmas Eve. He was a tiny mite, weighing in at just 4lb 11 ounces, but he was healthy and within weeks was thriving.
The early months put pressures on our relationship, but we pushed on and grew closer together. In May 2003 Ruth and I married, and later that summer moved into our big family home on South Tyneside.
We seemed to thrive as a family and made our home a real nest and retreat for ourselves and our extended families and friends.
So when I caught Ruth cheating with another man in the autumn of 2005 it was a hammer blow.
By Christmas I had initiated divorce proceedings and in January 2006 moved to North Wales to be close to my sisters and my parents… particularly for my father who was terminally ill with Parkinson’s Disease.
It was an attempt to find sanity and comfort from a world gone horribly wrong, yet again.
Suddenly I was again bereft of a child.
Then the unexpected happened…
Late in March, during one of my regular weekly trips back to Tyneside, Ruth asked me to meet her for a coffee. I reluctantly agreed as I felt intense emotional pain and wanted any divorce discussions to be exclusively between our solicitors. But she said it was important and was to do with Nathan.
So we sat down for coffee in a small bistro in Corbridge.
I was left open-mouthed when she suddenly told me that she thought Nathan should live with me.
She gave many reasons, including the fact that she thought I was the ‘better parent’, but that did not matter… here was my chance to be a real father at last!
I am forever grateful for her trust and bravery.
I discussed Ruth’s proposal with my youngest sister and my parents who all agreed that I should accept the offer.
My sister – who had been a single parent herself some years earlier – warned me that single parenthood was at times a struggle, but its rewards were many.
Nathan had only just celebrated his fourth birthday and I knew immediately that the task was going to be hard for a working man to raise a child, but I was determined to succeed.
So after a successful weeklong trial stay at Easter, Nathan moved to Wales to live with me.
That was eight years ago and I have never looked back.
He was – and still is – my joy, delight and pride.
From the early days of attending his every need such as wiping his bottom, cleaning his teeth and dressing him every morning, life has eased into the current state of pre-teen sulks and a sometimes ‘Kevin and Perry’ personality.
Along the way we have moved house four times, sat together and watched movies on the sofa, had friends for sleepovers and even lay on the lawn one evening to watch bats fly from their roosts.
He has also cared for me when I have been in bed with flu and sat by me in A&E holding my hand following an assault which left a temporal artery gushing blood from my forehead… he was only six years old and told me not to worry because “the doctors will make you better”.
In return I have taken him on bike rides in the local country park, played football and rugby in the garden, gone for walks in the forest and a week long holiday exploring caves and castles in the north of Scotland.
The highlights are too many to recount but top of them has to be him standing by my side last February as my Best Man at my wedding to my wife, Gill.
The pride and smile on his face will stay with me for the rest of my life.
My pride in him is manifold.
At primary school he excelled at almost every subject. He even wrote his first book! I beamed with delight when two teachers told me he was one of the most polite and well-mannered children they had taught.
His personality and confidence blossomed and was capped when he performed in the lead role of Prospero at his school’s production of the Tempest.
On leaving primary school his class teacher said: “I don’t know what I will do without him. I will miss him.”
He carried his enthusiasm for learning on to high school. He was placed in the top set for all his subjects based on his attainment. In his first half term in Year Seven he gained more merit points than any other pupil. He was rewarded by later being made a School Ambassador and given an Oscar at the Christmas award ceremony for being the highest achiever.
He continues to excel and has already gained three Platinum awards for his project work and continues as the top boy in school merit awards.
Outside school he has practised the Korean martial art of Taekwondo for the past four years and is now just two belts away from gaining the coveted Black Belt.
He has recently taken up rugby. In freezing rain and wind I smile and squirm when I see his small body throw itself to tackle boys who are six inches taller and a stone heavier than him. But he loves it.
Now if I can tear him away from his X-Box long enough I need to thank him for being such a wonderful son, thank him for accepting that his parents are divorced and his mum is 200 miles away and finally thank him for loving his step mum Gill.
I also need to tell him I am so proud of him, I love him and he has saved my life by proving I am a good dad and giving me a purpose once more.
The words of Kieran Halpin at the top of this piece ring so true… with each of my children I simply find another pocket of love.
Your pocket, Nathan, is right here by my side.