The psychologist

I came in from the wilderness

Drenched to the bone

Darkness hung above me

Broken and alone

Your words fell like rain

And mingled with my tears

In pools at my feet

They washed away all fears

You sketched the view so clearly

Like a graphic artist in a play

A friendship etched quite dearly

There is much more I need to say

Hunted like a crocodile

Ravaged in the corn

Come in, you said, I’ll give you

Shelter from the storm

Tales of Brave Louise

You said the darkened winter

Might bring you down forever

Left gagging for the summer

Where pure air lets you breathe

Sea breeze cascades

The salt wash

Of Louise Ulysses

The battlefield of conquest

To your secret hidden haven

Where mermaids play

And sanity stays

Untouched

 

You fight against injustice

And the violence of your kin

Carving deep blue ripples

In the tissues of your mind

Now within your coral sea

You swim so very deeply

And Sirens laugh

Through your fingertips

To your secret hidden haven

Where mermaids play

And sanity stays

Untouched

 

You cannot yet surrender

For you touched the distant sands

And treasured friends are calling you

To leave the pain behind

Among the shingle

And the mock weed

Beyond the next beach barrier

You dance upon white horses

To your secret hidden haven

Where mermaids play

And sanity stays

Untouched
 

(Inspired by Tales of Brave Ulysses)

Empathy

Beauty is a painted veil

Its colours are skin deep

Love is just a holy grail

Fading grey while you’re asleep

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

Magic sparkles in the night

And laughter fills your dream

Hope dances in the morning light

Drifting away on an urgent stream

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

Life it seems to crawl away

Drowned by rivers of blindness

Curtains shutter the brand new day

Floating on a sea of kindness

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

Time lingers on the ocean’s edge

To where the soft winds blow

High up to that golden ledge

Looking back on what was left below

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

The Human Touch

Your eyes sparkle

On a hot Hazara night

You look to the sky

Where the stars burn bright

And turn

And think again

The human touch

The human touch

From a far distant land

The human touch

The human touch

Ripples gently across the sand

Your thoughts wander

To a far off place

You dream of the future

With a lifetime’s grace

And turn

And think again

The human touch

The human touch

From a far distant land

The human touch

The human touch

Ripples gently across the sand

By Allah’s hand

In a world gone wrong

Across 4,000 miles

You’ll hear this song

And turn

And think again

The human touch

The human touch

From a far distant land

The human touch

The human touch

Ripples gently across the sand

Your thoughts they sail

Across the oceans wide

No rhyme nor reason

The tides they collide

And turn

And think again

The human touch

The human touch

From a far distant land

The human touch

The human touch

Ripples gently across the sand

We were so much older then, we’re younger than that now

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

Last Thursday 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 is an emptier place now he is gone.

But nothing prepared me for a second similar shock today.

By sheer chance I found out that one of my oldest and dearest friends Gill Gilson had died last summer after a long battle with lung cancer. Gill was just 56.

We met at university (Bretton Hall College) 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. If my mum reads this, I am sure she will remember Gill.

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 are made of this.

We sadly lost contact about 15 years ago, due to my many house moves. I only found out today that she had stayed put at her dad’s old house in Holbrook in Suffolk. If only I had known I could have got back in touch before her untimely death.

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. “I should have been a man!” she once said, “Because I love drinking with you guys…. I have no time for all this airy fairy girl stuff!”

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

Gill died on 22 July last year. Her death notice said she was “A much loved partner, daughter, sister, auntie, godmother, friend to so many and talented music teacher at Copleston High School” – not far from the same village where she grew up.

The head teacher at the school said this in a letter to parents: “She was an excellent accompanist, playing the piano for numerous Drama productions, Dance shows, Harvest Festivals, Carol Services and, of course, the Soirées.

“She accompanied pupils for their instrumental exams, spending hours with them patiently rehearsing, driving them to the exam centre, seeing them through the nervous wait before meeting the examiner, playing for the exam itself and bringing them back to school, via the bakers and a dough-nut!

“However, most pupils will remember Miss Gilson in the classroom. She was an excellent teacher – with the ability to get the point across with a mixture of strong discipline and fun. She knew her subjects well, drawing on a lifetime’s experience and education. She was also an excellent form tutor, having that knack of knowing exactly where to draw the line between firm discipline, and being the pupils’ friend.

“She showed considerable pride in her groups and, despite being absent from school through ill health for a considerable amount of time, they re-paid her with tremendous loyalty and affection.

“Teachers and pupils alike will remember her sense of fun, her no nonsense approach to life, her attention to detail, her ability to listen and her marvellous sense of humour. Gill taught literally thousands of pupils at Copleston and many have good reason to be grateful to her.

“Gill coped with her final illness with typical dignity and courage. She had decided that, given the choice, she would prefer to spend her last days in the hospice. She even planned her own funeral, and I have no doubt that she would have been pleased with how it went; a wonderful turnout for a wonderful person, who will be truly missed by so many.”

All I can add to that is: Cheers Gill, it was wonderful knowing you. I will raise a pint to you tonight.

A Tight Connection to My Heart

I have been meaning to update this blog since March and a whole summer has passed before I caught up with my own tail.

As regular readers will know, 2013 was an awful year for me. But 15 months on from the breakdown I am back where I feel alive, loved and comfortable.

And the support of my lovely family has been an immense part of this journey.

But it is the friends who were there for me when my life was at its bleakest who also really helped sustain me.

Many years ago I helped an old friend who was facing a tough time. He has now sadly passed away, but he left me a letter with the immortal words: “A man is known by his friends and not his enemies, I am grateful to count you as a friend.” Today his words chime clearly in my conscience.

You see, it is easy to know who you love and who loves you, but is less easy to appreciate who are true friends.

The events in Palestine this summer and elsewhere made me realise how much evil exists in this world. Even last Friday after the Scottish Independence Referendum we witnessed other forms of anger, thuggery and man’s inhumanity to man.

But there is still so much goodness and good people.

I could not have survived without such people.

So thank you for being there during my darkest hours: Laura E and Jane CW, Karen B, my friend of 22 years Judith G, a friend of even longer Jane A, my warmest buddy Nicola B, the lovely Kay D, members of my extended Outterside family including Lorraine, Stuart, Nicky and Karen, the timeless Sue C (is that 9 year-old son of yours really now 36!), more recent friends Kate M and Andy, Janine and Pete J, Catheryn and Colin B, Adele, Nat and David, the wonderful musical pals Sandra, Carolyn and Fiona.

Jenny and Caryn plus former work colleagues Marcello, Stephen, Craig C (you are an amazing mate) Rachel R, Sarah B, Sophie C and Karen A and especially the two Hannahs (LT and B) who both have the capacity to reduce me to tears by the unexpected honesty and true warmth of their words. And there are Vonny and Sam H, two amazing friends. Another friend by chance Julia (who is coming to stay next weekend) and of course Angela and Alex, who over the past two years have become the closest of friends… the number of phone calls and emails from Bristol have really kept me going!

Then at the end of last week, Juliet, my business advisor for the past nine months and a simply lovely human being became a good friend too.

It has always puzzled me how human chemistry works and how some people become such great friends while some others torture our souls.

It is almost as if you know who will be a friend when you first meet them… or is that only me?

And it is a bit like meeting life partners, you don’t necessarily need to have similar personalities for it just to work!

Psychologists believe there are 16 distinct types of personality in human beings, which in a nutshell are:

The Duty Fulfiller

Serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living. Extremely thorough, responsible, and dependable. Usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments. Well-organized and hard-working, they work steadily towards identified goals.

The Mechanic

Quiet and reserved, interested in how and why things work. Excellent skills with mechanical things. Risk-takers who they live for the moment. Usually interested in and talented at extreme sports. Uncomplicated in their desires. Loyal to their peers and to their internal value systems.

The Nurturer

Quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings. Interested in serving others.

The Artist

Quiet, serious, sensitive and kind. Do not like conflict, and not likely to do things which may generate conflict. Loyal and faithful. Not interested in leading or controlling others. Flexible and open-minded. Likely to be original and creative. Enjoy the present moment.

The Protector

Quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they are done. Extremely intuitive about people, and concerned for their feelings. Well-respected for their perseverance in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic, rather than leading or following.

The Idealist

Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people.

The Scientist

Independent, original, analytical, and determined. Have an exceptional ability to turn theories into solid plans of action. Long-range thinkers. Have very high standards for their performance, and the performance of others. Natural leaders, but will follow if they trust existing leaders.

The Thinker

Logical, original, creative thinkers. Can become very excited about theories and ideas. Exceptionally capable and driven to turn theories into clear understandings. Quiet and reserved, hard to get to know well. Individualistic, having no interest in leading or following others.

The Doer

Friendly, adaptable, action-oriented. “Doers” who are focused on immediate results. Living in the here-and-now, they’re risk-takers who live fast-paced lifestyles. Extremely loyal to their peers, but not usually respectful of laws and rules if they get in the way of getting things done.

The Guardian

Practical, traditional, and organized. Not interested in theory or abstraction unless they see the practical application. Have clear visions of the way things should be. Loyal and hard-working. Like to be in charge. Exceptionally capable in organizing and running activities.

The Performer

People-oriented and fun-loving, they make things more fun for others by their enjoyment. Living for the moment, they love new experiences. Interested in serving others. Likely to be the centre of attention in social situations. Well-developed common sense and practical ability.

The Caregiver

Warm-hearted, popular, and conscientious. Tend to put the needs of others over their own needs. Feel strong sense of responsibility and duty. Value traditions and security. Need positive reinforcement to feel good about themselves. Well-developed sense of space and function.

The Inspirer

Enthusiastic, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities.

The Giver

Popular and sensitive, with outstanding people skills. Externally focused, with real concern for how others think and feel. Usually dislike being alone. They see everything from the human angle, and dislike impersonal analysis.

The Visionary

Creative, resourceful, and intellectually quick. Good at a broad range of things. Enjoy debating issues, and may be into “one-upmanship”. They get very excited about new ideas and projects, but may neglect the more routine aspects of life. Generally outspoken and assertive.

The Executive

Assertive and outspoken – they are driven to lead. Excellent ability to understand difficult organizational problems and create solid solutions. Intelligent and well-informed, they usually excel at public speaking. They value knowledge and competence, and usually have little patience with inefficiency or disorganization.

I guess we all fit into one of those categories… or do we?

I reckon the psychologists have missed two important personality types: the Psychotic and the Complete Bastard.

Because while we are loved and supported by our life partners, soul mates and good friends, there are others who seem hell bent on ruining the lives of other human beings either at work, at home or any given social situation.

Now the two things I have learned from my breakdown and recovery is: (a) Don’t let the antagonists be part of your life in any way at all… leave them behind and (b) Embrace your friends and those who love you.

Simple stuff really and I guess you don’t need to be a psychologist to find that out. But don’t let it get to a breakdown before you do!

As this blog turns full circle I finish with an embrace for Helen, my confidante and witness at my wedding to Gill. She is the daughter and sister I never had, and my true soul mate.

She tells things as she sees them: “Fuck the bastards Nic, you are beautiful!” A man is known by his friends and not his enemies and I am a very lucky man indeed.

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.