I was born in south-east London in the early seventies, one of a number of babies produced due to the miner’s strikes of that
particular decade. My father was a dustman, and my mother worked nights in a care home for the elderly.
There comes a point in life when you can pin down the exact moment when you go down a path you may not have otherwise ventured. For me, it was the moment my father passed away from lung cancer in 1987. At fourteen, everything began to change. Not showing up at school and eventually, aged fifteen, leaving school altogether to go and work for my brother’s boss as a painter/labourer. Over the years I learned various trades including carpet fitting, wall tiling and carpentry.
I then set about fulfilling my childhood ambition of writing a novel, mostly to see if I could. I didn’t want to look back later in life knowing I'd never even tried.
I remember the day I finished reading Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot , that was the moment I decided I wanted to write stories. I was ten or eleven years old. To put the weird and wonderful things that enter our minds on paper for others to see very much appealed to me as a young boy. Although seemingly becoming one of those unfulfilled childhood dreams, it was something that had lingered somewhere in my mind ever since, until now.
I thought I'd write a more in depth bio about myself, to make it just that little bit more personal, so here goes…
First off, you are probably wondering about the picture of the cat, I’ll get to the importance of that a little later.
As pointed to before, my father dying was a big deal for me. I spent
years trying to find ways to get his attention, mostly through football, but he’d been there and done that with my older brothers.
I knew my father liked old war movies and enjoyed talking about great battles. It was nice to find a subject that piqued his interest, so at twelve, I joined the sea cadets. I’d finally found something that made him take notice of me. I talked to him about joining the Royal Navy and becoming a helicopter pilot. It wasn’t too long after that he became ill and died. It all seemed to happen so quickly. I was angry with him for leaving, but I took it out on myself.
I was away with the sea cadets at the time on a training ship in Portsmouth, called HMS Kent. I had been told my father was having some kind of operation to see if his lung cancer could be cured. I don’t believe I even knew what cancer was in 1987. I was called to the office for a phone call. I can’t recall who it was that told me the operation didn’t go well. All I remember being told was that he'd barely a few days left to live.
I headed straight for the bathroom on the ship and paced about not knowing what to do with myself. Then there was this feeling in my stomach, as though something was trying to burrow into or out of it. I had this sudden explosion of tears and fell to the floor struggling for breath. When I got to my feet, I walked over to the wash hand basin and stared into the mirror above. At this point, I cannot recall at all what I was thinking. I plugged the hole and filled the sink with water before plummeting my face into the basin. I tried desperately to keep my head under the water and drown myself. I wanted the horrible emotions and feelings to stop. I just didn’t know how to deal with or cope with what I’d just been told. It wasn’t possible for my father to die. He couldn’t just leave like this.
Obviously, I now know it was highly unlikely I’d drown myself standing up, but at fourteen and receiving that kind of information, I knew nothing. I’m not even certain I was in my own body at that time, because whenever I’ve looked back on that moment, I’m never actually in front of the mirror with my head in a basin full of water. I’m standing behind myself, observing from a distance.
The days that followed were a complete blur to me. I remember returning home a few
days later and going to the hospital to see him. Alone, I stood over him, watching as he laid still. His eyes were open, but it seemed he was no longer there, at least that’s how it appeared to
me. I tried to talk to him, told him to get better and not to leave, but he was already gone and just a shell remained. I was woken later that night to be told he'd passed away.
The whole experience was extremely painful and even all these years later, it still is, and will always remain so. When I went back to school, I’d missed my pick of options and ended up with all the lessons nobody else wanted, biology, physics and so on. I wasn’t in lessons with any of my friends and my interest in school faded, as did my interest in the sea cadets.
Months later and now aged fifteen, my brother offered me some work painting for his boss. I left school, not that I’d been going in much at that point, and ventured out into the working world. For me it was better than school, especially having money to spend at such a young age. My friends and I used to go to a pub in Woolwich that let us drink in there, even though we were well underage. I entered the world of lager tops and snakebites. Those days came far too soon in life.
In 2001 I intervened in something I shouldn't have when I saw somebody being beaten up. I received a fractured skull, bruising to the brain, and two years of headaches for my trouble. Something changed that day. I became aware of things around me, the past events that had affected me, and the people in my life. I knew something wasn’t right, others also recognised a change in me. I wasn't speaking much and withdrew into myself. I could see the way people looked at me now; it was somehow different than before. I didn’t even feel like the same person. The doctor told me I was depressed. ‘But I’m a happy-go-lucky guy,’ I said. ‘I get down days like everybody else, but depressed? No way!’
I was put on anti-depressants and over time saw three different therapists. It did nothing for me. No, that’s a lie. What it did was open my eyes to the truth; I was depressed, and I had been for a very long time. I just didn’t know it. I then pressed a self-destruct button and went on a drinking binge, a very long drinking binge. I still worked, but come the weekend, Friday after work until closing time on Sunday, I didn’t really stop. For almost two years, I continued this pattern of behaviour, whether it was with people I knew, people I didn't know, or on my own, it didn’t matter. I’d end up in some odd places, and houses of people I didn’t know. I'd put myself in harm's way whenever I could. Confronting people, practically begging them to put me out of my misery.
From there, another cycle began. I went the opposite way. Apart from work and the weekends I had my daughters, I’d barely leave the room in my mother's house, or the mattress on the floor. This pattern lasted for almost two years, until the day I woke up and decided to take a trip, I didn't care where. I looked on teletext, (yes teletext). I popped down the travel agents and booked a flight to Los Angeles; why there? Because it was snowing in Chicago, which was my first choice. To this day I don’t really know why the USA. Why go away in the first place? I can't give an answer to that either. I've always told myself it was to rebuild my confidence.
When I returned, I decided to sort my life out and make an effort to pull myself out of the slump I was in, and the reoccurring thoughts of suicide. It was during this period of my life I met the woman that four years later, I would marry - in Las Vegas.
A few years ago, the ugly darkness of depression began to rise again. I’m not saying it ever went away, I just became a professional (depressionist), my made up word. I could hide it from everyone, and I was damn good at it. I would become a chameleon. Whatever the situation or whoever I was with, I could make myself the person needed for that occasion, I’d been doing it for years. Then finally I couldn't do it any more, I could hide it no longer. The cracks appeared, and I was on my way to a whole new low.
I remember one particular job taking me far too long. I would go to work and just sit on the floor of this empty house and stare at the walls. A job that should’ve taken just over a week at the most ended up taking almost four. That was the moment I knew it was coming back, with a vengeance. I managed to get by for another year, but deep down, I knew I was in decline, and weakening. The contract for the company I did property maintenance for had come to an end. I pretended to be confident. That I’d soon get back on my feet. I didn’t. Then I couldn’t. Suicidal thoughts were creeping back into my head. I felt as though time was no longer on my side. I tried to start a handyman business, but when the phone rang, I became so anxious that in the end, I couldn’t even answer it. I would hit myself constantly in frustration.
My wife told me I had to get help and I knew she was right. The rope I’d held in my hands in the garage also told me the same thing, not literally, of course, that would make me insane. A new doctor put me on some different anti-depressants and referred me for help. I continue to this day in my efforts to live life as close to normal as possible. It was during this time that I made the decision to write a novel. At the time, I didn’t realise that writing would help my depression. I can disappear into another world for a while, and the bad thoughts are kept at bay.
Now, I said I’d tell you about our cat, Tilly. My wife has been amazing in trying to learn about depression, to help me and keep me safe. But believe it or not, Tilly has also been my rock. I was never really a cat person, but when she came into our lives as a kitten, tiny, tatty, and suffering from cat flu, she won my heart. I nursed her back to health, and in return, she has repaid me by keeping me company when I'd been so very down. She is my perfect little pal and shows me so much love and affection that I never thought possible of a cat. Tilly sleeps on the desk or the windowsill as I write away the hours. Sometimes she will come for a cuddle, and I simply cannot refuse. If I am not in the office, she will take the pen from my desk and bring it to me wherever I am in the house. It’s as if she is telling me to get back to work. Our other cat is Mrs Slocombe, and you will find more pictures of my wonderful and beautiful cats in the gallery.
In my brief bio above, I explained how reading ‘Salem’s Lot put the dream of wanting to become a writer in my mind. There were quite a few books scattered around the house. My mother used to read so much back then. One day I picked up ‘Salem’s Lot and thought I’d give that a try instead of Beano or Dandy. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. The next novel I read was Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. It was another brilliant read and sealed the deal with me one day wanting to tell my own stories, of which I hope there are many. It's taken a very long time for me to attempt to write with any kind of passion and commitment. I had often wondered whether I'd realise my dream at all, but maybe, just maybe, I had to live a little and experience a lot before the time was right.
Many incidents have shaped me into the person I am today, good and bad. As much as I try to hold onto the wonderful memories and beautiful things I have experienced, it seems to be the unpleasant and terrible decisions that mostly come to the fore. My heart is good, my mind can be temperamental, but I strive to be the best person I can be with the tools I have at my disposal.
While we are living, we are learning, and without mistakes, we learn nothing.