Poem: Don’t Look Away

Sionnan I love you dearly

Don’t look away

I never left you

Sionnan I long to see you

Don’t look away

I am still waiting

Sionnan I long to hear you

Don’t look away

I still need you

Sionnan I long to hold you

Don’t look away

I am not leaving

Sionnan I long to kiss you

Don’t look away

I am not running

Sionnan I long to sense you

Don’t look away

I am still pleading

Sionnan I will not leave you

Don’t look away

This is your father.

 

Poem: Darling Great Queen

Blonde and blue-eyed

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

I made a life promise

The day you were born

That never could I

Dare to leave you.

 

Clever and caring

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

I watched as you grew

And started at school

I never thought once

I would lose you.

 

Learning and loving

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

Ten years now have passed

My heart beats too fast

To think of that life

Gone without you.

 

Searching and seeking

My darling great queen

Your gentleness

Shines out before you

A grey life lived on the rim

Because my love never dims

A broken heart reaches

Northwards to you.

 

Poem: Future Comfort

Sweet gentleness

Your name is life

It surrounds my being

Cuts like a knife

Cascades and unfolds

In all that I do

The love that surrounds me

And the friendships too

I watch the rain fall

And the winter does grip

But your warmth it envelops

So nothing will slip

Risk and perspective

Valour and pain

Is marked here forever

Though death does remain

So fear not my love

As we walk up that road

Stronger than ever

Let me carry your load

And we come now full circle

To the top of the hill

And hold hands together

Brave blood to spill

For love is not blinded

And neither is truth

As my tale unfolds gently

Our own fountain of youth.

 

Precious memories, how they linger

dadTODAY rings with remembrance… it is five full years since my beloved father died.

My dad was part of me and I part of him in every way. He is never far from my thoughts and often inhabits my dreams.

He was not the perfect father, but he was my father and the best there ever was. He taught me so much about optimism, overcoming setbacks and being myself… and much more about living.

His own life was full of obstacles. At four years old, he was knocked down by a car – one of only a few on the road in 1934 – suffered severe head injuries and had his left ear sewn back on. After three months in hospital he had to learn to eat, read, write and talk again.

Later in life, he ruptured a kidney in a motorbike accident, came close to death with hepatitis in Egypt, was rushed to hospital for an emergency appendectomy while working in Munich and suffered osteoarthritis, glaucoma, temporal arteritis, cancer and a series of mini strokes. His later years were plagued by health problems… but he never complained, even when he was dying with Parkinson’s Disease.

On the counter-side, he enjoyed so many successes. He was one of the junior designers of Concorde, helped design many other aeroplanes too; he rebuilt windmills, worked on the earliest electronics for rechargeable batteries and later the development of ground-breaking microwave engineering.

At home, he made several small fortunes renovating houses and lost small fortunes with his obsession with buying and selling some perverse motorcars.

He took risks, made mistakes, won and lost and won again… he never gave up.

But more than that he was my dad and full of love, which he often found difficult to show.

As an adult, I had to wait until I was battling cancer at the age of 31 to really understand my dad more fully. Over those months, we bonded as father and son and shared many emotions. He was always there for me.

I will never forget the day, about eight years later, when I won my first major press award. At the awards dinner in Edinburgh, dad and mum shared a table with me. After I received my award I returned to our table and dad was the first to stand and hug me and say “well done, son”. That moment always stays with me.

Ironically, I could only repay him after he had passed away. The proudest moment of my life was conducting his funeral service in front of our family and friends.

Some of the words from my eulogy to him I recall now:

“When I think of Dad I think of a man of no compromise yet someone who would do anything and compromise for anyone. And if ever there were regrets in his life, he rarely if ever voiced them.

He always had time to live, laugh, love and work so incredibly hard for his home and his family, whom he adored.

Dad was, at times, the most annoyingly anti-social man you could meet.

With a vengeance he hated Bob Monkhouse, Bruce Forsyth, Margaret Thatcher, the man across the road with a twitch, those bloody long-haired pop singers, the guy with the beer belly who had more hair than him, the happy next door neighbour who would ask after his health, David Beckham, Eastenders, Terry Wogan, Prince Charles… the list could go on and on.

But he also had heroes, golfer Jack Nicklaus, Nat King Cole and Doris Day, and probably his biggest hero heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali – so it is sadly ironic that this magnificent sportsman too is fading with the same disease that took Dad.

Ain’t life a great leveller.

But despite dad’s pretence at anti-social behaviour, he was the most sociable and likeable man anyone could ever meet. In fact anyone who met him was immediately touched by him and loved him.

Count how many thousands of times we caught him happily chatting at the garden fence with a complete stranger, or the times he made a bird table for a neighbour or helped someone decorate or do their garden, or the dozens of times he helped us kids move house, knock down a chimney, lay a carpet, fix a roof, mend a car, drive us to a date, cover for our indiscretions … again the list goes on and on.

And now dad…. as we say goodbye, we will always remember you with love and so much affection… love and affection which we tried to bestow on you whenever we could.”

And we played out his coffin with Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable”

He is gone and I miss him.

But he left his mark on this Earth and, yes, he lived.

Love minus zero / No Limit

FriendsSOME of my blog postings are off-the-cuff and I guess this is the first of such posts.

The replies, text messages, emails and phone call responses to my recent post When You Gonna Wake Up and Strengthen the Things that Remain made me lose two nights’ sleep. The insomnia was not for any negative reasons, but rather a warm feeling of love and friendship.

You see, it is easy to know who you love and who loves you… my wife, my children and my mother come instantly to mind. But it is less easy to appreciate who are true friends.

I guess that due to my inherent OCD nature I have always demanded loyalty from friends and in return given my entire loyalty to them, through good times and bad. Some, who I regarded as true close friends have let me down and so were jettisoned from my world, something I now regret, because we are all human and all make mistakes – me more than most!

Google the word ‘friendship’ and a myriad of advice is offered from all corners of the world:

Friendship is a type of relationship between two people who care about each other. But such a dry definition doesn’t do the concept of friendship justice. Consider these examples: A friend is the first person you want to call when you hear good news. A friend remembers that you don’t like pickles on your sandwich. A friend will accompany you on the most boring of errands and make them seem fun.

In other words, friendship is wonderful. But that’s not to say friendship is easy, though. It demands time and effort, and it requires that people put someone other than themselves first sometimes. But in exchange for that work, a friend can provide an immense amount of support and comfort in good times and in bad.

Many qualities are necessary for a good friendship, including honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty and unconditional acceptance. A friendship should make both people in the relationship happy; both people should have fun when they spend time together. To be perfectly frank, that’s a tall order. Human beings can clash very easily, which is why it’s hard for some people to maintain many friendships. It’s possible that friendship can exist between two people at one stage of life, but life changes and personal growth may make friendship impossible at another stage.

Very true.

So my best friend is also the woman I love, my wife Gill.

For longevity I also count at least two friends from school, Alex (who has known me since I was 12) and Graham, who has been a best mate since we were in sixth form together, and with whom I share many life similarities.

Then I am blessed to count upon two more friends from my university days, Jo and Judith. In Jo’s case I feel a close affinity even though we have not seen each other in 35 years. So Facebook has been our saviour! Judith and I have remained friends even after both were battered blue by life experiences, but have been there for each other.

Next are the friends I picked up along the way at work and at home and who are still there even after 15, 20 or 30 years: a former student Andy, ex work colleagues Jane, Karen, Debs, Stephen and Peter. My son’s child-minder and her husband Catheryn and Colin; friends through thick and thin Judith and Lawson; and Sue who was one of my first visitors when I had cancer even though she was phobic about hospitals!

And finally there are those I should classify as new friends – people who have only been in my life a few years, but mean so much: the wonderful Angela and Alex, the rock solid and caring Caryn and her son Sam (by chance my son’s best friend), my best friend at work Craig, my almost surrogate daughter Helen, who was my witness at my wedding to Gill; the amazing and lovely reporting duo Adele and Natalie; my former boss who is still there to offer advice Graham; the lovely Hannah and Karen, whose words in the past few days have had me in tears; the gorgeous Sue, two friends and among the best journalists I have worked with Sophie and Rachel and the pug loving Yvonne, again whose words have given me great comfort.

A man is known by his friends and not his enemies and I am a very lucky man.

All of the above have been there when my life was at the bottom and to them I can only give my love and thanks and the knowledge that I will never forget any of you.

Thank you.