New book explores love, death, religion and rape in South Asia

BLOG AV COVER

A UNIQUE new book is set to take South Asia by storm as it addresses burning issues such as love, death, rape and religion in the developing sub-continent.

Divided by partition, war and politics, but united by creativity and common humanity, Asian Voices has brought together 20 emerging writers from across the region to shine a light on their diverse societies.

In 37,000 words, across 260 pages, the contributors paint graphic pictures in poetry and prose of issues which divide and unite people in their respective countries of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The book is divided into 10 sections: Darkness, Light, Love, Loss, Heaven, Hell, Life, Death, War and Peace.

And it is within these sections that the diverse Asian Voices can be heard.

With an infant mortality rate of 4.4% in India and 6.1% in Pakistan (the UK rate is 0.28%) and an adult death rate of 31% and 21% respectively (UK rate 10.3%) – an even higher rate in war-torn Afghanistan – it is hardly surprising that the issue of death features strongly.

Mortality is dealt with sensitively by the Asian Voices writers in at least three sections of the book.

This extract on coping with grief by Lahore based writer Shahreen Iftikhar is an example:

“They say, there are five stages of grief;

I got stuck in denial, with no reasons to heal.

Is this what life is; scribbles on an empty sheet?

Making no sense, just filling the voids of our being?

I said to myself: ‘To Hell with all this grieving and the misery.

It’s time for me to let go of all the tragedies.’

All I had to do was believe.

That is all it took for me to heal.”

 

All countries in South Asia live under different degrees of social patriarchy and this is reflected in the treatment of women.

Rape is the third most common crime against women in India.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. Out of these, 24,470 (98%) were committed by someone known to the victim. And many more rapes go unreported.

Similarly, physical abuse, house-arrest imprisonment and even bride-burning (now illegal) also go largely unreported.

One of the Asian Voices writers, Janvi from Jaipur has already made a name for herself in calling out for social reform.

This extract speaks volumes:

And then one day we decide to raise our voice 

But again, this society shut us by claiming it as useless noise.

The politicians and the media cry that they worship women and cow!

Is this a way of worshipping? But How?

As our wails grow louder and louder about the demons residing in our own town 

They paint henna on our hands and send us off to an unknown place, looking like a clown.

Wondering that this was not the life that we were destined to live, we decide to put an end

And here you go, creating loads of new monsters and making it Trend.

We are sacrificing ourselves from centuries just so that you know

And here you go, treating us again like the trash that you throw. 

We’ve had enough, being the sacrificed Goddess 

Next time we’ll turn this country into a bloody mess.

 

Religion also resonates within the pages of the book.

India is home to at least nine recognised religions, and while Islam dominates in Pakistan, there are also significant minorities of Christians, Hindus and Ahmadi, and even more diversity in Afghanistan.

So the sections on Life, Heaven and Hell deal with each writer’s views of spirituality and faith.

This piece by 16-year-old Shaheeba from Sibsagar touches many pulses:

How could she survive further?

When her life resided in this heart rate.

Though not here, but in Heaven

They merged to a single soul

Whenever their love tale was evoked

It started raining

Dripping all with pure love.

This flooded the river of love

Which immersed both the fragments of the hamlet

With the virtue of love.

There was love everywhere

Flowing in the winds of hamlet

Residing in the lifeless soil

Felt in the arms of the mother

And in the oneness with God.

Some souls are united in Heaven.

Some stories are plenary despite being partial.

 

The one thing which binds all the writers together is the eternal subject of Love.

For centuries the Indian sub-continent has given birth to some of the world’s greatest love poets. And they continue to emerge as we enter 2019.

This poem by Agathaa Shelling of Ahmedabad, explores that deepest of all human emotions:

You’re the sanctified sacrament in the shrine of love. I’ll devour you and I’ll become pious forever.

Yes, I’m an atheist and there’s only one religion that I practise. That’s love. And there’s only one deity from whom I receive my hymn… it’s you.

And if this is not love. I don’t know what it is. A little bit of fall in your summer. A little bit of rains in your spring. Sunshine in your winters. And a chilly gust of wind in scorching heat.

“There was once a king of verses. Power were his words. Mightier than any sword. And then there was a queen of metaphors. Deep were her rhymes. Deeper than any ocean.

He weaved a tiara out of his words and she sharpened his sword out of hers.

And that’s how they announced their love, with poetry.”

 

Minnie Rai, a writer and 26-year-old refugee from Kabul, who now lives in London, sums up the ethos of Asian Voices: “We don’t become by knowing… we become by doing.

“It is in the present we live and share diversity from within outwards. Through love and death we learn the language of war within us that separates us from the truth that sits beside our heart. When we share that truth, we become one… Asian Voices,” she adds.

 

  • Asian Voices will be published in both paperback and Kindle e-book in February.

 

Dying with dignity and loved by many

Maart

I HAVE known musician Maart Allcock, in a roundabout way, for many years (we were students together in Huddersfield) and followed his career since then via Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention and other more recent ventures with Kieran Halpin, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).

He has always been a larger than life character, full of charm and warmth and beer!

The knot became tighter when 10 years ago I discovered that his wife Jan was childhood friends with my long-time friend Judith. Anyway, I wondered why he had disappeared from my Facebook friends, then suddenly on Sunday read this on his website.

In my humble opinion, it is both heart-breaking and beautiful.

No more introduction from me, just stay strong Maart, and know you are loved by so many people.

These are his words:

“Hello everyone.

People were saying after my appearances at Cropredy last year that I was unwell. I was not. I’d lost weight because I had discovered the joy of exercise and was working out regularly. I was actually very fit and any illness was far beyond the horizon.

This year was meant to be my travel gap year. I was going to revisit friends and favourite places around the world before slowing down to enjoy the evening of my years. I made it as far as Madeira in January for some heat, a place I’d never considered before, but I loved it. Such a beautiful fragrant isle, truly a paradise.

A week after my return, I developed jaundice, and had to go to hospital. Scans and tests revealed that there were more sinister things happening inside me. Now the race is run and the final chapter has begun, and my liver cancer is terminal. I am in absolutely no pain or discomfort at this time. For the time being, to look at, you wouldn’t think there was much wrong with me. I am fully mobile, with energy, eating and sleeping well, and totally at peace with what the future holds. How long that future lasts is anyone’s guess, but I probably won’t make it to next summer.

I shall play my final live performance at the Fairport Cropredy Convention this August, but I shall continue to make music while I draw breath.

My main priority now is to finish the autobiography I began in January, and which now has an additional final chapter. I had no idea the deadline was so strict then. I will go with dignity, good humour and good grace. I just have to wait now for transport back to my own planet. I only came for the curry anyway.

So, do not be sad. I achieved everything I ever wanted to do from daydreaming in a council house in north Manchester to travelling the world with my heroes, playing to thousands and thousands of people, and getting paid for it.

I have lived a lot, laughed a lot and loved a lot, and I shall leave this planet with eternal love and gratitude for my wife Jan, my three children Madeleine, Jered and Jane, and their mum Gill, and all of you who took any interest in this mad northerner. Thank you all so much. Be happy and shower the people you love with love.

Maart

Still here for now…  Harlech, Cymru, June 2018”

Seeing the Real You At Last

Friends

JOHN Lennon once wrote: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”.

But, as I sit here, I am drawn by the words of his former writing partner and fellow Beatle Paul McCartney:

“Maybe I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time

Maybe I’m afraid of the way I love you

Maybe I’m amazed at the the way you pulled me out of time

And hung me on a line

Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you

Maybe I’m a man and maybe I’m a lonely man

Who’s in the middle of something

That he doesn’t really understand.”

Now, exactly five years since the nervous breakdown, which changed my life for ever, I am still looking to understand my life and the people who have been part of it!

As many readers will know, 2013 was personally an awful year, culminating in the complete breakdown on 12 June.

It was also the start of a recovery and realisation that only by honestly addressing my life, could I find a way forward.

So I began a journey of self-awareness and discovery.

The support of my lovely family was an immense part of this journey.

And the friends who were there for me when my life was at its bleakest also helped sustain me, and drive me forward.

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 so 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 ongoing atrocities in Palestine often make me realise how much evil exists in this world.

But there is still so much goodness and good people.

I could not have survived without such people… so many wonderful friends, who climbed out from behind the barricades to give help when they saw I was drowning.

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?

Psychologists believe there are 16 distinct types of personality in human beings:

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?

But, 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.

So the two things I have learned from my breakdown and recovery is:

Don’t let the antagonists be part of your life… leave them behind.

Embrace your friends and those who love you.

Simple stuff really and I guess you don’t need to be a psychologist to figure that out.

But don’t let it get to a breakdown before you do!

I finish with an embrace for Helen, my confidante and best friend. 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.

Revealed for posterity: the real me

BLOG Nic

MUCH of my life has been a story of two distinct sides… personal and professional.

Childhood sexual abuse, two battles with cancer; the death of my best friend and later my father; more failed relationships than you care to shake a stick at; bankruptcy; the suicide of a family member; the loss of two of my children; the repossession of my home; discovering one wife was enjoying sex with another man; becoming a single parent, an unprovoked assault that almost took my life anyway; and finally a nervous breakdown in 2013.

Set against that backdrop there is a star-spangled career in journalism with a raft of awards and recognition at the highest level, the chance to meet many stellar people, an honorary doctorate in written journalism and an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons praising my investigative skills. And latterly the writing and editing of six diverse books of fact, fiction and poetry.

So while my personal life has been a rollercoaster of pain, my professional life as a writer, editor and publisher has been my rock.

But last week, my personal and professional personas collided in a metaphorical train wreck, just as a seven week pro-bono publishing venture reached its conclusion – ie the book was published!

I won’t bore readers with a blow-by-blow account, but in a nutshell:

I handed over the final manuscript of a book to a trusted friend for e-publication, then 36 hours after publication that same person took the book down from its publishing platform, blaming me for her actions.

I still find myself reeling from what happened.

Naturally, many knives were drawn against me as the responsible editor and publisher. But what really hurt is what then followed… a quite sinister campaign of lies, innuendo, disinformation and blame. And at the back of this an ongoing smear against my honesty and my character.

In the words of my great friend Sara Salyers:

“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.”

I have no intention of rallying against those whispers, but I do wish all my professional clients and colleagues to know who I really am.

My real friends and colleagues over the past 40 years know me well. This is what a few of them have written… 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 and kind man.

JA (known Nic for 32 years)

 

I met Nic in the summer of 2016 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 18 months)

 

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 7 years)

 

I’ve known Nic for five 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. 

CB (known Nic for 5 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 9 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 14 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 42 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. 

As for Nathan, I just don’t know how Nic managed to bring up a child on his own while working full-time as a newspaper editor.

CB (known Nic for 11 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 6 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 10 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.

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 20 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. He is a genuinely lovely man, full of wit, passion and care.

IH (known Nic for 14 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 8 years)

 

I have known Nic for 11 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.

HH (known Nic for 11 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 18 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 12 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.

VM (known Nic for 25 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 8 years)

 

Nic is my husband and the love of my life so maybe I’m biased! He’s thoughtful, a bit wacky sometimes, he talks in his sleep and when he’s not quoting from Dylan songs or talking at ghosts, he’s talking lovingly about his family, those that live with him and those that are absent. He’s kind, caring and hugs those he loves as often as he can. He’s intelligent, knows what is happening in the world and refuses to read the Daily Mail. So I think that makes him fairly awesome.

GO (known Nic for 6 years)

 

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.

ER (known Nic for 18 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 6 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.

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.

Much love to a brave, brilliant and loving friend.

SS (known Nic for 22 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 10 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.

NT (known Nic for 10 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 3 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 31 years)

 

Beyond Dark Eyes

I am sat here alone and writing

The midnight moon shines on the temple gates

They’re drinking wine and talking

And my thoughts they all now separate

I live in another world

Where pain and death are iconised

My life is strung with traitor’s pearls

And all I see are dark eyes

 

I think of you sleeping so far away

Hear you breathe sweet innocence

Your face it fades into darkened grey

But your words now enter my inner sense

I can hear a desert drum

Beating beneath the poet’s disguise

Four riders watch as they come

And all I see are dark eyes

 

I was raised to be discreet

For all life’s intended purposes

They tell me revenge is sweet

Against my enemy’s twisted vertices

But I feel nothing for their game

Where beauty goes unrecognized

All I feel is heat and flame

And all I see are dark eyes

 

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)