Better stop dreaming of the quiet life, ’cause it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus ’cause those rosy days are few
And stop apologising for the things you’ve never done
‘Cause time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change
This town called malice
Paul Weller 

It is the 1980’s and I was back from London, where I was studying by day and working on west end shows by night. I was returning for an evening for a friends birthday. The venue was a working men’s club in South Kirkby a village in the community of villages where I grew up. 

I remember it was a fun evening catching up with lots of people I had not seen for some time.

At the end of the night walking down the road from the club I heard raised voices behind me, then the words I have never forgotten when they were very close

“that’s him, works in theatre, must be a puff”

There was a boot in my back and I went down, there followed a series of boots to my face (Brave folks these Yorkshire miners, don’t let anyone tell you different) Friends appeared to put a stop to any further damage and the perpetrators ran off.

Needless to say I was taken to hospital and patched-up. I still carry a V shaped scar on the bridge of my nose as a reminder.

I will never know if they were just out for a fight, a common pastime in the villages, or if the thought of me being Gay was reason enough to inflict physical harm.

It was however cause for reflection.

I have talked before about dad’s influence on my upbringing and his basic believe in equality for everyone, however homosexuality never came up in conversation. Dad part 1

I discovered late in life that one of dad’s brothers was Gay. Most likely due to their very strict Catholic upbringing that they had endured he never ‘came out’. He would also have been dissuaded by local cultural thinking. He must have led a pretty lonely life in that village. I only ever met him a handful of times growing up but I wish I had known him better.

He died about 4 years before dad, in his house and it was about 2 weeks before anyone discovered his body. I don’t know if dad knew that his brother was Gay until after his death. But I digress.

I got on with my theatre life back in London, then Manchester and then Northampton with a few minor diversion inbetween. 

Incidentally it included an interview at the New Vic Theatre long before I was to settle here and make it my home. I was being interviewed by a  panel of people when Peter Cheeseman joined us at the table. 

It went very quiet whilst he picked up my CV and glanced at it. You could hear a pin drop.

“25” he shouted, “shouldn’t you be chief electrician at The National by now?” 

I smiled and quickly thought I could reply with a similar question however before I could think of a more diplomatic response he spun my CV onto the table, got up and walked away.

Peter did a lot of incredible things for theatre in North Staffordshire, a man that theatre lovers should be very grateful for. However my impression of him that day was somewhat different. In hindsight I do feel honoured to have met him even under those circumstances though.

The Theatre Industry is generally a very welcoming place for everyone regardless of race, gender, class or sexual preference etc and you quickly meet people of all kinds. It doesn’t take long to stop seeing the difference and just get on with what we have in common.

I had over the years attended church services, of all types and denominations  including Spiritualist and Scientology, I guess I was always looking for answers to those basic questions.

Regular visits to services in Anglican and Baptist churches ended abruptly when I was invited to witness a friend have a full submersion baptism. 

It included a sermon from a visiting pastor who was convinced that all the countries problems were the fault of the ‘Blacks’ and he had no problem in voicing his opinions as the word of God. 

Not quite believing what I was hearing I remembered that the Church of England was once a big supporter and benefitted financially from the slave trade. Maybe opinions of things in Stoke on Trent had not caught up yet? I was pretty new here after all. Something I read recently stated that “it’s scriptural truth that’s important and the church should not bend to what society thinks” 

I am sure that William Nibb would be turning in his grave, as would all religious leaders who were swimming against the tide on this major issue of their time.

I didn’t step inside a Church again for worship for almost seven years.

It was a chance meeting (that turned out to be not so chance) with a Methodist Minister that got me back into regular church attendance. I liked what I was hearing from this person and his group of friends. I also wished for my very young daughter (I have spoken before about how her birth was a very spiritual occasion for me) to have a church family, the support that can bring and a religious education.

We attended this church for many years, I was there to learn and get something from the experiences and not to use my skills and knowledge to help out in a technical sense, I enjoyed just being a part of the congregation. Due to my involvement though I was to get involved with many other religious events. 

I became aware of some very odd beliefs that I mistakingly thought you could only read about in history books, most notably the ‘gay’ debate and the limited role women should play in the role of the church. I struggled with these concepts.

side note: the belief in creationism, which is widely believed in the Stoke area is so ridiculous that I don’t waste any of my time thinking about it.

I did discuss and give my opinion on the LGBT conversations when I felt the need to challenge the opinions when voiced.

It became very clear to me that this always starts as prejudice, then people find and interpret scripture to support their prejudice, in absolutely every case I am aware of, and there are many.

Very similar I would think to the ‘slave’ debate and the churches viewpoint in years gone by.

I was slowly but surely ostracised by some in the church as my opinions became known. The most obvious was when the church was organising a trip to Auschwitz (a bucket list type thing for me) My many e-mails went unanswered and my phone calls ignored until finally I was told the trip was full – sorry!

Terribly disappointed I carried on giving my support including building a networking event to promote the newly built Lottery funded cafe on site, all be-it with much less enthusiasm maybe. 

A short time after when the law on same sex marriage changed the application form for a venue to apply to conduct weddings had a new tick box ‘same sex marriage’

The Methodist Church instructed all its churches not to tick this box and ‘my’ church council agreed. This marked the end our regular attendance. 

When discussing with Christians phrases I often hear on the subject of homosexuality ranged from

“its an abomination, that’s what the bible says” delivery with wide eyes a red face and a definite air of violence on most occasions


“well I’m very open to ideas but if I was asked directly I would have to refer to scripture”.

At the core of this thinking is a prejudice that they probably learnt as a child, a fear and lack of understanding that they carry inside, not scripture, simple! stop lying to yourself, face the truth. 

To put it in terms that my Christian friends will understand (the rest of you can role your eyes as I often find myself doing)

Nobody is interested in your narrow minded prejudices, least of all God, because it gets in the way of God’s plan for you. It places a stain on any good works you do because it is poisoning your soul. You are ‘fishing’ with hate in your heart and toxic bate. Nobody is interested except of course the private members club that you are turning your church into.

I know many people here in my adopted community that call themselves Christian’s and are ‘churched’ in one way or another. I really would be lost without their support over the years and I would count them amongst my close friends – my very closest friends.

I have also many friends that follow different religious paths, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhist as well as agnostics and atheists.

I love and respect them all equally, whatever their beliefs, however we just have to agree to differ on some issues. Giving the impression that all Christians are bad people because they have some ridiculous beliefs would be like saying that all Yorkshire Miners at thugs. Of course that’s not true. 

I am well into the addition of Ventoclax stage of treatment now and it only struck home this week that I would be spending a great deal of time at the hospital between Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon as the dose is increased weekly. It really came as a shock this week, its like they think I have nothing better to do! 

I have to admit that this caused me to feel a little sorry for myself, focusing on some negative aspects of how my body is reacting, the chronic pain that I am constantly experiencing and my outward appearance. The wide range of thoughts I have been having whilst writing this blog have steered me into remembering the positive. And there is so very much I am grateful for. I have made a list, a private one, at least for now. 

If you are interested in learning more about the issues and damage that having a negative culture about LGBTQI issues within a religious context can have I can highly recommend Undivided  by Vicky Beeching. Sadly this book is not available in a lot of Christian book stores. 

If you want a very quick but powerfully sad insight into the worst case causation of these issues you can see a video by clicking here  (you only need to listen to the first minute to get the point)

May see you soon, take care, be kind…





Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out
Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads.

There appears to be an unspoken understanding about the level of illness based on the car parking situation at the hospital.

I often arrive early for appointements and have a coffee, people watch and occasionally start up or join in conversation with strangers. There was a conversation about the cost of parking and a lady turned to me and asked how much it costs me each week? I get free parking I replied. She reached out and touched my arm, “oh I’m so very sorry” she said “how are you feeling”? 

There was a void. I time between having that first phone call from the doctor, the initial consultation and tests and obtaining a prognosis. Looking back this was the worst time. A couple of weeks of What if…?

I knew it was serious by the speed of action for the various professions at our wonderful NHS

This was now followed a period much quiet regarding communication, and a period of extreme, sometimes confused noise in my mind.

I didn’t discuss what was happening with anyone, it was a sort of ‘dirty secret’ .

I didn’t know what was going to happen so what was I going to say to anyone else? I maintained a calm approach externally whilst internally I was making plans for the worst case scenario, anything less than that, once exposed, would be a bonus.

Jan and Issy had been going to the WordCraft evenings at Bottlecraft in Hanley. Issy has been writing poetry since the age of 7, it is a passion of hers. We enrolled her into the New Vic youth drama groups at the age of 4 so she would have another circle of friends to those at school. She flourished under a culture of creativity and self expression and this early introduction to drama has stayed with her

She is now involved in after school drama groups three evenings a week. I am not sure exactly how or why she started writing poetry but I do know that she has a talent for it and wanted to go and see her take part in a Wordcraft evening.

I can find small gatherings of people like this more than a little scary. I cannot easily melt into the background if I am suddenly not feeling confident. I worried unnecessarily. 

I sat listening to people of all ages express themselves through their spoken word some funny, some sad but all thought provoking. It was, as was expressed often, a ‘safe place’. I was taken aback by the creativity from all, some clearly nervous but having what it takes to stand up and express themselves. 

Before long it was Issy’s turn and she strode up to the front full of confidence. gave an introduction to the first of two poems and delivered them both clearly and precisely without out a hint of nerves. Full of confidence about her creativity and her performance.

This was a room full of the best of people, a reminder of the incredible humanity that exists. People who I knew would help to nurture her talent should I not be able to.

following the poetry she chatted to people and ‘networked’ like she had been doing it for years, a complete natural. 

Worst case scenario thought one that evening, how do you tell your daughters that you have a terminal illness?

Worst case scenario thought two that evening,  well if it was to be I was tearfully confident that my work could be considered to be done, this young lady is ready to face the world.

This week I started the next phase of my treatment, the introduction of Ventaclax. A drug so powerful if they had got the dose wrong it could start killing the cancerous cells so quickly that my kidneys would not be able to cope and I could have immediate kidney failure. There was also the chance of allergic reactions. Comforting thoughts!

Consequently I have been in hospital a few day’s this week being observed. 

On Wednesday morning I took the first two Ventoclax tablets at the hospital, sat and waited to see what would happen.

My trial nurse decided to take my blood pressure. It was completely off the scale! 

“should we ignore that one and take it again in half an hour” she said laughing!

“good idea” I replied

Half hour later my blood pressure was normal (for me).

“I was probably the most anxious I have ever been in my life when you took it before” I said 

“you don’t show it” she replied.

“I think I did” I said…

May see you soon, take care, be kind…




Two scientists are racing

For the good of all mankind

Both of them side-by-side

So determined

Race for the Prize, Flaming Lips. 

Dad would have loved to have gone into politics but his speech impediment stopped him. Or more to the point the lack of confidence it caused. He was much happier writing. And writing he did. To Members of Parliament, local councillors and his favourite pastime for many years, the local newspaper. He would pick a topic (pre social media) and write about it in a letter to the editor. This would usually result in someone writing a reply with a contrary opinion and dad would write back. This would go on week after week until the editor would comment to close the subject. 

He had his time helping local politicians and councillors generally choosing independents of one type or another, never the two dominant parties. Those on the right would call him a lefty and those on the left a right winger. Although I never told him I admired his stance and his speaking out on matters that he considered to be wrong.

Dad was always fit, cycling and walking a lot. The walking was a pastime he had with his partner of over 25 years following mum and dads divorce. His mind was always sharp and he was incredibly reliable. A typical trait was once a persons birthday was in his diary they would recieve a card every year. This amused me as ex-partners would continue to receive birthday and Christmas cards. 

When on the 4th of May a card did not arrive in the post that should have flagged up a warning that all was not well. However as one arrived a few days later I didn’t give it too much thought. 

I would try and visit a couple of times a year and we would often go to Wakefield or Doncaster for Coffee. It was during one of these visits when it became obvious that something was not right. He said he was going to buy a newspaper and he would meet us in the cafe. After almost an hour, now a little concerned, he walked through the door, coffee now very cold. “where have you been” I asked “I don’t know” he replied, looking a little worried, “Have I been gone long”.

Doctors appointments were made and before long a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease was given.

Dad appeared to go downhill rapidly from this point, eventually moving into his partners home so she could look after him They had always  maintained their own homes during their long relationship, both very independent people.

There were to be a number of hospital stays over the next couple of years each seeing a deterioration in his health and quality of life.

The call came on the 22nd of April 2015 saying that if I wanted to say goodbye I needed to get to Pinderfields Hospital now!

On arrival the doctor explained to me, as next of Kin, that in his opinion and given his condition the kindest thing to do was to remove life support and allow nature to take its course. His partner and her daughter were there and after a short discussion we all agreed.

He was quite agitated in a disoriented kind of way before they decided to drip feed him painkillers. I am pleased though that my eldest daughter managed to visit during this period. He was soon to lapse into unconsciousness. 

A private room was found and I guess I thought it would be a matter of hours. That night the wonderful staff appeared with a mattress and blanket and made it clear I was welcome to sleep on the floor of his room, tea, toast and conversation was also provided.

After the first night I took to nipping out in the mornings for the short walk into Wakefield and having coffee and toast at Costa. the same cafe I had first realised that something wasn’t quite right. Food would would arrive later in the day with partner and her daughter and they would stay for a few hours. Their presence was a great comfort to me. They had shared dad’s later life while I was a distant son.  

I was in the cafe one morning when two ladies came through the door and found seats at the table next to mine, I assumed they were mother and daughter. The mother clearly upset and the other lady asked me if i would chat to her whilst she went to get them both a drink. It turned out that they were not related. The younger lady had noticed the older lady looking lost and confused and approached her. She explained that she had arranged to meet her daughter but she had not turned up and was worried.

On chatting with the lady it became clear that she didn’t know her daughters or indeed her own name. She was not sure where they lived. Together after asking permission we checked her handbag and on a card was name and phone number of Carol – Daughter, with a short note explaining that the lady had dementia. 

I went outside and called the number, spoke to the daughter who asked if we could put her in a taxi and gave us the address of her workplace. We were happy to help, quickly briefed the taxi driver on the details and waved her goodbye. 

I went back to the cafe to get another coffee and as I sat down my phone rang. “hello this is Pinderfield’s hospital, are you anywhere near to us, I am afraid your dad’s circumstances have changed” 

Dad had passed away alone that morning. It had been seven days since removing life support with no water or food.

The death certificate stated ‘Parkinson’s related complications’ but I cannot help but wonder if he simply starved to death. On my watch. If he was strong enough to last seven days without food and water maybe he would have been strong enough to deal with surgery and treatment. I will never know. It has certainly formed my opinions on assistant dying.

He only ever gained consciousness on two occasions, both in the middle of the night. The first occasion I clearly heard him shout “get the Fuck off me” it went very quiet and whilst I waited for more words of wisdom I realised that I had never in my life heard dad swear before. He had great difficult with the letters F, P, S and Q in particular although this announcement was clear and without a trace of a stammer. It made me smile.

On the second occasion a couple of nights later I woke to hear him whisper “help me” a few times over. I got up and stood by his bed but there was no sign of consciousness by then.

His favourite times were spent in Scarborough with J, and one afternoon later that year we scattered his ashes on the cliffs by the castle.

Today marks 8 weeks since I had an alcoholic drink and tonight following the HoneyBox at the Archer I will be having a red wine with the team.

My thoughts have been with anyone, no matter what their ailment that has gives them chronic pain.

I am blessed that never before in my life have I been kept awake at night in pain, until this week. I think I have done well so far.

I had a CT scan and blood tests this week and I have a meeting with the consultant on Tuesday. I will be discussing pain relief.

May see you soon, take care, be kind…



May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
Forever Young – Bob Dylan

Dad was the 7th child of a 7th child. I remember him telling me this and just simply about why people would have so many kids. It would be the start of my interest in social history. 

It would be fair to say that by all accounts Dad’s upbringing was not easy. The youngest of a large family entering the troubled world of 1936 into an equally troubled family who really didn’t need another mouth to feed. The result of one of Grandad’s spells at home when not residing at his majesties pleasure, Grandma would often remind her youngest how unwanted he was.

Grandad was a miner and an active member of the communist party and as such would be arrested on a regular basis. 

I’m not sure if Grandma, a strict Catholic, had realised until the letter from the Vatican arrived that marrying a known communist would mean excommunication from the Church. The way she was treated was to lead to Dad’s atheism. I am not sure when it fully formed but I do know that it stayed with him until the end.

Grandad was to succumb to pneumoconiosis before his 40th birthday, and consequently we never met. He had probably been working down a coal mine since he was 14, maybe younger. 

In one of the letters Dad wrote to me in my thirties he recalled as a toddler, choking, and how grandma has carried him all the way to the doctors so of course there was a feeling of protection within the family for him, particularly from his elder sisters I think. So, he concluded ‘there must have been some love there somewhere’. 

He carried deep scars from his childhood and consequently his children carried the scars of those scars and history could easily have repeated himself, but Dad in his own way worked hard that that would not happen. Though a number of beatings I would endure as a child would show those scars could spontaneously burst into life.

However in the midst of the overriding culture of our small villages way of life, a hard working male dominated landscape fearful of anything different and seemingly alien he taught me to respect people regardless of their background long before this would start to become an accepted view point. The thing that is often referred to these days as being ‘politically correct’ as if that’s a bad thing to be avoided. He often didn’t ‘fit-in’ because he wouldn’t join in with the everyday racist banter, the sexism etc. He chose his own path that he believed to be right.

His experience of his own problems living with an awfully bad speech impediment would have forged this viewpoint. 

I remember returning home from school one day. I would have been about eleven and casual repeated some racist comment that I would have heard during the day.

When the stars stopped revolving round my head I contemplated what had happened, pretty much everyone talked like this, what had I done wrong?

Over the next few weeks books would start to appear from the local library, dad knew I was an avid reader, he had always encouraged me to do so and had taught me to read pre-school. Books about Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement, about Gandhi, William Wilberforce and many other people he admired.

Newspaper articles about Apartheid in South Africa, a subject much in the news at the time would be left out on the kitchen table. 

Dad didn’t find it easy to communicate, everyday conversations could be frustrating, deeper conversations even more so. But he was well read, clever enough despite the disadvantages to pass his 11 plus and have a good grammar school education in Wakefield. 

The thing that reminds me the most of the Dad I knew as a child though was teaching me to play Chess. It started at the age of seven and we would play at least once a week. I was eleven when I won my first game. For a few months it was fairly even and the final year or so I never lost.

Mum and Dad separated and later divorced when I was fourteen. When asked whom we would like to live with my sister chose to go with Mum. I chose to stay with Dad, mainly because I had decided that it was mum who had broken up the family home. In reality of course they both carried blame. Dad said I could stay but I was to do everything for myself.

I learnt to cook and sort of look after myself. Dad arranged for me to have a weekend job delivering furniture so I could pay board.

With the touring that I was doing with a local band and my Air Training Corp attendance etc it was a busy time.

Sad to say we never played Chess again.

58 days into treatment and although I look terrible (not someone would want to have dinner with never mind coffee for being sick in on your pizza lol) I feel ok. Still a bit achy in places and getting tired quicker than usual.

I was struck this week by a part in the recent adaption of Dracula (a brave but flawed effort from Moffat and Gratiss) when Dracula is in a modern yet modest house to say the least saying how it was full of riches never seen by kings and emperors he had known. 

It reminded me of Harold Macmillan speech in the 1950’s “most of our people have never had it so good” It is probably so true today but the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is massive and surely as a nation we cannot be comfortable with that. can we? 

May see you soon, take care, be kind…