Updated: Feb 12, 2022
This is not going to be pretty, but I will hold your hand as we go through it, as long as you give mine a squeeze at the rough parts, deal?
For me, part of the reason for this blog, The 11 Year Plan bit aside which you can read about here https://www.my11yearplan.com/post/i-have-a-plan and here https://www.my11yearplan.com/post/what-is-my-11-year-plan is to try and explain or even understand why I am the way I am.
I am not saying that I am a bad person, although I have had my moments, and lets be honest dear reader, haven't we all?
Are you ready? I am not sure I am and I am actually welling up at the thought of this post. Deep breath, lets go.
I grew up in a slightly unusual family unit. I was an only child until 1987 when the first of two half brothers was born on my 15th birthday.
It was normal in that my parents were still together and we lived on a housing estate in a council house, my father worked hard as a carpenter and my mum kept the house as well as having a part time job as a Warden to the local old peoples bungalows on the estate, a role she adored.
How it differed, is that my aunt, my mums older sister, also lived with us, now to me, not knowing any different and it being a part of my childhood this was normal. Of course it may not seem that way to others.
How did this come about?
My mum was the youngest of four children, three of whom were still living in 1986 (there was an elder brother who tragically died when he was around 5 years old and before my mum was born), the other two were the aunt who lived with us as I grew up and an older uncle, who lived nearby with his family.
My maternal grandparents both died before my mum reached the age of two and the children were raised by an aunt and uncle, living in an old council house in an area that has now been demolished and is a carpark
The housing they lived in was sub standard and as was common at the time, late 1950's to early 1960's the local councils built new housing estates of houses with large gardens, parking, outdoor spaces and indoor bathrooms.
The family unit, the aunt, uncle and three children were moved into this new house, which became the one I grew up in and, funnily enough, is still lived in by my aunt and is unchanged in the main
Honest its like one of those living museums you can visit, the lounge has not changed much since I moved out in 1986, it just feels smaller, yes I know I got bigger and yes I know I need to get back to the gym, stop nagging dear reader I will deal with that in a future post.
The aunt and uncle who were raising the family naturally aged and then passed away, my uncle had started a family at this stage and moved out, so my aunt, being the eldest of her and my mum took over the tenancy agreement and they carried on living together.
My father was known to the family as his eldest sister and my mum were close friends. He lived at home in a neighbouring village as the second born of four, having three sisters.
In 1966 he left home and joined the Army, attending the Army Apprentices School to train as a carpenter, a path I would follow in 1989 when it had been renamed to the Army Apprentices College.
My father was six years younger than my mum and they started dating sometime in 1970-71 and by the end of 1971 were pregnant with me before getting married in June of 1972 (I came along that September, did my uncle have a shotgun..?)
My father was 21 when I was born, was still enlisted in the military and had just been posted to Cyprus, so at 6 weeks old, I was on a plane and spent the first two years of my life on that wonderful isle, not that I remember any of it but I have seen the photos.
Hold up, I have missed a bit, dear reader, my apologies, I am in the zone the words are flowing, this may be a long blog.
My parents were now married with a child and of course needed somewhere to live when they returned from Cyprus.
Whilst I don't know the full details, it was agreed that dad would take over the tenancy, from my aunt, of the house she had lived in for over 10 years, but in turn had to ensure she had somewhere to live, hence she lived with us.
She was never the marrying type, she worked hard in her job, but never showed interest in raising her own family.
We returned to the UK in 1974 and my father left the military and started his career as a carpenter, one which would become very successful during the 1980's.
I was a spoilt little shit (I can see some of you who know me nodding in agreement).
I never went without.
Dad was earning good money and we were living a good life, colour TV's in many rooms, including my bedroom. I had BMX's, radio controlled cars, the latest computers and gaming consoles etc. Funny thing, my mum never had a washing machine or a microwave, but she had a colour TV in the kitchen.
He worked long hours, 6 days a week. In the evenings he would go to the local pub and either socialise or work behind the bar, this he did seven days a week, something that my mum insisted on, or so he has always claimed, I will let you make your own mind up about that.
I once sat down and worked out the following;
He would get up and go to work early, normally before I was up for school, he would return around six in the evening, have his dinner, grab a shower and then head to the pub returning after I had gone to bed, this was his routine Monday to Saturday.
Sunday he would play squash with his mate in the morning, go to the pub between 12 and 2, return for his Sunday Lunch, fall asleep in his armchair and go the pub again in the evening returning after I had gone to bed.
I worked out that I would spend no more than 8 hours a week in that mans company.
I have no recollection of bedtime stories or being tucked in by him, we were almost strangers that lived in the same house.
On one family holiday I actually turned around and said to him that 'I never knew you were such fun dad'.
Isn't it funny what you remember?
Quick pause, reader, this is not a 'bashing my dad' post, I suspect this situation was the same for many of you and to me it was the norm.
I thought nothing of it at the time and it is only with hindsight that I see it for what it was. Our relationship has constantly changed over the years, sometimes good, mostly not, currently not good.
Are you like me dear reader? Can you hear a song and then attribute that to what you were doing or where you were when it was released and thereby know the year?
I guess I have certain events that make those songs stick, joining the Army, Operational Tours (Op Grapple 1, winter of '92/'93 always reminds me of 2Unlimited and Ace of Base, when music really was dire) and these events I am writing about etc. that you may not.
I avoid songs from 1986, I avoid anything to do with that year and this is why.
My mum was tiny, no more than 5'3", the family are all short, my aunt only just tips the tape measure at 5', in fact now that she is her late 70's I suspect that number starts with a 4.
Despite being short, mum did struggle with her weight, she wasn't obese by any means and back then it was accepted that she was 'carrying the baby weight still'.
Wow, what a terrible term that is!
The 80's were a boom time for faddy diets, there was the F Plan, made famous by Shirley Valentine when she shouts out of her window to her daughter "sex for breakfast, sex for lunch, sex for dinner, its called the F-Plan".
Weight Watchers was everywhere, breakfast TV was encouraging you to do a workouts with them and we were bombarded with adverts for meal replacement shakes.
Actually, will you indulge me a moment reader?
What a play and film that is, it is guaranteed to make me cry, and why?
Well she reminds me of my mum, the housewife, the forgotten lady, expected to welcome the hard working man home with a hot meal at a certain time, which actually mum always did.
Shirley escaped and made a new life for herself and that is where her and my mums paths separate
With all my heart I wish that my mum had the chance that Shirley eventually did.
If you have never seen the film, I urge you to and even better get to see it in the theatre, it is a one women show and very powerful.
Pauline Collins, who plays Shirley in the film and also played the part in the West End and I share the same birthday.
Life is funny huh?
Ok, back to mum. She tried some of these diets, even joined Weight Watchers, but nothing seemed to be working and, bless her (fuck, this is so hard dear reader... my cheeks are streaked with tears, but I need to write this down) her tummy seemed to continue to grow.
She was ill, but either didn't know it or refused to accept it, which I suspect is the actual truth. Relatives had an inkling, tried to talk to her, but she was clearly scared and refused to seek professional help.
Around April/May 1986 my dad stayed away from the pub on a Sunday lunchtime and told me he was leaving the home and us, he had met someone and had been having an affair.
Within days he had moved out and rented a property on the road he had grown up on, which was in the village next to us. I am 13 years old at this point.
Mum was devastated, she went downhill rapidly.
By this stage she was struggling to walk, she was emaciated apart from this large lump of a tummy and on occasion could not make it to the bathroom to relieve herself, I don't need to go into any more detail than that.
One evening in late June, my uncle, mums brother, my father and some others intervened and mum was sectioned and taken into hospital, I was asleep in bed, but was told what was happening.
I remember lying there and wondering what it would be like for my mum to be better, to no longer have that tummy and be mobile again before falling asleep.
My next memory was my aunt yelling up the stairs in the early hours of the morning, a few hours after she was taken to hospital that my dear mum had died
She was 41.
My uncle, her brother, had returned to the house and came into my room and explained that mum had died of heart and lung failure (not my father, did you notice this dear reader?).
He was calm and supportive, he explained everything to me and asked me if I wanted anything. I was numb and probably in shock, so thanked him and went to sleep.
We lost this wonderful man a few years ago, he was a huge support to me initially after mum died and I know that in some way he blamed himself for her passing.
If you can see this, I need you and your family to know you were never to blame and I hope that I made that clear to you at my wedding and in those final days of yours, I miss you just as much, give mum a hug from me.
All of this time she had been scared of having cancer, she didn't, she had an ovarian cyst, this was the large lump that formed her tummy and in the end the reason for her emaciation.
The doctors reckoned it had been growing for around 6 years, had she been diagnosed earlier she may, well actually would have survived, by the time she was in front of a doctor it was too late.
Today if a lady is diagnosed with an ovarian cyst and it is in the early stages she will be out of hospital the same day as it is removed, this is how minor my mums illness was.
I have since found out that she would tell people that 'she would never make old bones' and that was the reason she spoilt me the way she did, she knew she would never see me grow up, how heart breaking is that dear reader?
My life in March 1986 was normal, by June it was upside down, I now had to leave my home and friends and move in with my father and his new girlfriend, whom was only 10 years older than me
She was very supportive in those first months as she had lost her father when she was 14 years old, so had some understanding of what I was going through.
Dad and the girlfriend took a holiday to Cyprus in August of 1986 and were insistent that despite real effort they could not add me to the trip, dear reader we know the truth huh?
To me, that was fine, I was back at my old home and had freedom for two whole weeks. My aunt isn't much of an authoritarian and I ran riot!
Hey, I had just lost my mum, I had a valid reason for being an absolute arsehole, cut me some slack.
I also lost my virginity during that period they were in Cyprus.
I know! Not even 14, but I will deal with me and the ladies in a different post, ooof that's going to be quite a read!
They married in October 1986 and by the end of the year were pregnant with the first of my half brothers.
As a swift aside, I do go off at tangents don't I dear reader? Sorry it is how my mind works.
Their marriage was turbulent, I witnessed arguments that I never saw between my mum and dad and I was scared by them, I was only 14 and had recently lost my mum, I was now experiencing this.
It was so alien to me to see two people who supposedly loved each other, spend hours shouting at each other and say some truly terrible things.
There was a lot of alcohol involved and they separated in 1993.
Sadly this lady also passed in 1997.
So that was my 1986, it is a year that I would gladly erase from my memory if I could, yet it is there almost every day.
I have two terrible days each year, Mothers Day and her birthday, naturally. I do not know the date of her death, I know it was at the end of June, why would I want to remember that day?
The worst part?
She shares her birthday with Elvis and David Bowie, Bowie even went and died (selfish bugger) just after his birthday, so unless I avoid any form of media it is thrust in my face each year and I will just suddenly burst into tears.
Even 35 years after the event, it is like hitting a brick wall at full speed and then collapsing to the floor.
I warn anyone I am involved with about these days and of course they fully understand and are supportive.
I do wonder what my life would have been like had mum survived and was still with us, would I have joined the Army (she wasn't keen on this) would I have been a better husband, would I have become a father?
Of course, I will never know the answer.
Am I the way I am (to be explored in a different post, although if you are with me on this journey you will already be seeing some of my traits from my posts) because of the events of 1986, was this the start or was I always going to be this way?
I honestly don't know, but I want to try and work it out.
Thank you, reader for sticking with me, I appreciate it probably wasn't an easy read and let me assure you it wasn't an easy write.
Right, I am going to wash my face and pour a glass of wine...