For a while now, my younger daughter Rebecca has been nagging at me to write a blog about “my daughters”... So, belatedly, here it is... and don’t ask me why the title is in German because I really haven’t a clue!
Although I barely look old enough (!), I have two daughters: Leigh-Ann and Rebecca, both of whom were born in the 1980s (the exact years have been omitted for reasons of safety... namely mine...). Leigh-Ann was born in York and Becca in Gateshead... and they now live in the respective capitals of England and Scotland.
Throughout my few months as a serious blogsmith, I have always tried to be open and honest about my own failings and whilst I am not going to go into any great detail, I would readily concede that I haven’t been as good a parent as I would have hoped. My younger years were blighted with bad decisions, born out of naivety selfishness... or both. I don’t consider myself to be a bad person, but whether or not objective opinion would disagree, I am not going to offer any excuses for my past.
What I am going to do is say that from being a teenager, I always wanted to be a father... and I always wanted to have a daughter (or two). I was lucky to be able to raise my stepson Chris as my own, but my two natural children were the girls I longed for.
The picture is of the two of them on the banks of the River Tyne back in 1995; it’s one of my favourite ever photos but certainly a lot has changed over the past sixteen years. There have been times when my relationship with both girls has not been as close as I would have liked... and I am to blame for that. I was lucky though... my life belatedly took a massive turn for the better and I had the chance talk things through with both of my daughters; to give them the explanations they deserved and to accept the failings I know that I had. So, at a time when my life had finally reached a point where it was filled with trust, love and stability, I was able to understand more about the person I was and appreciate that whilst I could never make up for the time that had been lost, we could still make the most of the years that were yet to come.
Now, I have a wonderful relationship with both of the girls: they are both tall and pretty (as you’d expect!!), but they are very different people. Leigh-Ann has a lovely kind and gentle nature; she’s so easy to talk to and has grown into a wonderful young woman. Becca has a worryingly similar sense of humour to her father; she’s had to mature very quickly, but has coped brilliantly – I’ve just met her new boyfriend Scott and Becca looks happier than I’ve seen her in a long time.
They’ve had tough years for differing reasons, but have overcome all the obstacles that have been put in front of them and emerged from the other end, better and stronger people. So there it is: today’s blog is for Leigh-Ann and Becca... I’m incredibly proud of both of you; proud to be able to say I’m your father... and I love you xxxx
I have started my latest book... and for the first (and probably last) time, I’m trying my hand at fiction.
I am well aware that writing will never bring me fame and fortune, but however many or few books I write, hopefully some will ultimately remain as a reminder of who and what I was. That is why this book is so important to me... everything I’ve written so far has involved real events, real people; books that in fairness that could have been written (and probably a lot better) by many other people.
But not this one...
I want to tell a story, some of which will have basis in fact, but basically it is “a story”.
Two people, teenagers, who know each other by sight, but start to spend time together because of the smallest twist of fate... the one thing that I believe drives my life... all our lives. The story will focus (almost to the exclusion of any other major character) on the developing relationship of two young people each struggling to come to terms with events from their past, but able to relate and almost understand each other in a way they could never understand or accept themselves.
Since 2004, I have made several attempts at telling this story; all of which have faltered at some point. At one stage, I had written something like 30,000 words, but just couldn’t maintain the clarity of thought, or quality of text to justify plodding on, given how much this piece of work means to me.
Obviously, since then, my own personal life has changed (for the better) beyond words and maybe it’s because of the stability and contentment that I now have that I feel able to revisit the book that I hope... I want... to define me as a writer and perhaps even as a person...
So the journey... or journeys even... of (self) discovery is/are about to begin for two eighteen year olds...
Will there be a happy ending? Well that would be telling, but what I will say is that whilst many people touch our lives, there are very few who make a genuine and permanent difference.
This book is about making a difference and I hope one day, some of you will want to read it...
I wonder how many blogs written today will start with the words “ten years ago...”?
The events of 9/11 have been well chronicled over the past decade, but if I may, I would like to offer a few personal thoughts...
In 2001, I was working as an insurance broker and was on my way to a meeting when I heard the news that two planes had crashed into New York’s Twin Towers. As barely believable as it sounded, the television pictures I saw later in the day provided the truly shocking reality.
The individual stories that unfolded over the hours and days that followed were, in many cases, heart-wrenching. I tried to put myself in the position of those people at the moment of realisation that they were going to die and the effect on the loved ones that were left behind... but it was simply not possible to comprehend the emotion of loss on such a scale and in such shocking circumstances.
My lack of understanding extends to the religious extremism that would prompt any human being to destroy innocent lives – and that’s before you even consider the brutal and callous nature of the “plan” carried out by Al Qaeda. I think I read somewhere that the “reward” for those who sacrificed their own lives was the promise of some sort of eternal paradise... Now I’m not really very interested in or knowledgeable about religion; officially, I would class myself as “agnostic”and whilst I have certain beliefs, they are based on personal experience, not the interpretation of words in a book (and definitely not someone else’s interpretation...).
I’ve no doubt that these “terrorists” believed in their cause and their destiny absolutely... the cynic in me would suggest that the reality of their afterlife may not be quite as perfect as the brochure had suggested...
Politics is another subject I tend to shy away from and once again, I wouldn’t profess to understand the full extent of the reasons why we have committed to fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I look at the human side of these conflicts and the number of families whose lives have been devastated by the loss of a loved one... I’m not sure the wars – and by definition these deaths – can ever be completely justified and that must make the pain so much more difficult to bear for those who are left behind.
My son Chris has served in both countries; he was one of the “lucky” ones to return unscathed... but on a day when the spectre of religious fanaticism and terror will dominate the news, I simply want to stop for a moment to remember the “ordinary”people (the passengers on the planes, the occupants of the Twin Towers, their families, the emergency services...) whose lives changed forever that fateful Tuesday...
We’ve just got back from a very pleasant week away in Majorca.... nice hotel, lovely quiet resort, glorious weather (too hot at times) ... I’ve added a photo to distract you from the poor quality of the text but what I want to talk about is the flight over to Majorca...
It was an early start from Doncaster-Sheffield (aka Robin Hood) Airport (we arrived at something past three in the morning) and we were in the check-in queue just in front of the female equivalents of Little John and Friar Tuck, both clearly looking forward to a week of sun, food, sea, more food, sand and perhaps a snack to round off each evening.
As luck would have it, the family ended up one row in front of us and the bigger of the girls had a bit of a struggle squeezing into the aisle seat...
Actually that’s perhaps a bit unfair... it was only the excess flab that struggled and it ended up rolying and polying over and under the arm rest. It wasn’t a pleasant sight, but that didn’t stop me staring...
She tried (and bless her she tried ever so hard...) to fasten the seat belt. At one point, I was sorely tempted to whistle the theme to Mission Impossible and she eventually waved the white flag and asked for “an extension”. She was laughing loudly, as if her size was actually funny... which from one row back I suppose it was...
Anyway, we eventually took off.... although there was a disturbing moment when the Captain announced that the plane would not be able to cruise at the expected 36,000 feet owing to it being “overweight”; the mystery was easily solved courtesy of the pastie crumbs now sprinkled across the floor of the row in front. There was, according to the Captain, also a small chance of turbulence... if he’d known the girl on the end of the row had demolished the sausage and bean pastie, he would surely have reconsidered “small chance” to “guarantee”.
However, the defining moment of the two and a half hour flight came as we neared Palma Airport. The intercom crackled into life and the Captain said: “We need to bank right on the approach to the runway... would the lady on row 14, currently occupying seat C... and quite a bit of seat B as well... please lean to her right and give me at least a fighting chance...”
Okay, so that bit isn’t entirely true, but I think you get the picture.... We landed safely and went our separate ways; we headed for the coach that was taking us to our apartment... The girls? Well they were last seen frantically looking for Burger King...
All my own work... almost.