Be Kind – Caroline Flack

Guest post by JD

Be Kind…. Life is short and precious…. 

Having watched earlier this week, the hard hitting but poignant documentary Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death… Her story has given me time to reflect and I have to say it is one of the most emotional pieces of TV I can remember watching. It was not easy, I felt sad, helpless, guilty and frustrated…. I am not sure which of these emotions I felt the most but they made me want to put pen to paper, something I have never done before….

We live in a world where we are quick to judge, say negative things and at times hurt people for no particular reason. People that we may know, but also people we do not have a relationship with.  In a climate where the pandemic has magnified people’s mental health and social media can be all encompassing, it is easy to say something that may make us feel better, but at the cost of someone else… Some seem to find it cathartic to post something that, both intentionally and unintentionally can be upsetting or offensive to an individual. We all need to take time to think before we say something.  

Like everyone, I want to feel good about myself, but more importantly, I want to make others feel good about themselves. Life is not easy at the best of times and I am sure there are people we all may know who need support, some help, a shoulder to cry on or just an ear to listen, however small their problems or challenges may be. Quite often though people look or seem ok when they aren’t.

I’m fortunate to have good friends around me, including virtually, and some friends will tell me I say it too much, but we are here for a good time not a long time and if you don’t have something positive to say then say nothing. Maybe it is a cliché but if we all take 5 minutes to say hi, send a text, make a call or write a letter it might just make a difference.

Caroline will be missed by many people and I feel so much for her friends and family, and there are other families who will be in the same situation.

We should all do something nice for someone today, let us all look out for each other as we hopefully come out of the pandemic.  Life is precious, and I hope all those struggling will get some support from those around them. 

RIP Caroline … #BeKind #ItsOkayNotToBeOkay #Mental health

Just another day as the years roll by

It’s hard when somethings gone and you’ve never really had it in the first place. You know, that nagging feeling you’ve forgotten something but you can’t for the life of you think what? It’s there in the back of your mind somewhere, but try as you might it just won’t spring to the fore.

I guess that’s how I can describe not having my dad. He was never there, but I knew he was missing. The years have rolled by. Forty three years to the day to be exact. I torture myself with have I wasted my years. After all, I’m six years older than he was when he was cruelly taken away on that snowy winters day. He’d done a lot. Captained the local cricket team, played rugby to a decent level too. He fancied himself as a comedian and even won a talent contest at Butlins.

He worked so hard, he’d worked down the pits as a lot of kids his age did in the grim towns of the North.  When the pits closed though, he didn’t sulk, he cracked on and qualified as a teacher. He even taught future world champion boxer John Conteh. Dad would probably joke that he taught him everything he knew to be honest.

As for playing hard, yep, he did that too. He was forever taking motorbikes apart, usually in my grandma’s kitchen. Much to her annoyance. When he wasn’t doing that he was building and flying model aircraft. I think he did it at Burtonwood. That used to be a magical place for me as a kid, but since the old aircraft hangars have been replaced with modern warehouses for The Hut Group and Dominoes… it’s kind of lost it’s charm. He didn’t stop at model aircraft though and when he left us,he’d actually completed many hours training to be a pilot. He was a right daredevil my dad. Me, not so much. Maybe, just maybe I’d be a bit more daring if I’d have had more of his influence rather than just his genes.

But, as one of my favourite Feeder songs exclaims

We can’t rewind!

I don’t know what he’d make of Covid. He’d probably shrug his shoulders and get back to fixing or tinkering something as the world rolls on. I’m sure many of you have lost loved ones. As one of my good friends said today ‘it’s the circle of life’. I quickly replied ‘alright Elton’. Maybe I have got some of his comedy genes after all, as they found it hilarious.

As some of you know, mum’s not been well either. Her MRI showed she’d had four strokes not the three we believed. However she is a warrior. She’s faced so much in life and still battles on. I’m not sure how my heart will cope when anything happens to her. I mean I know it will. When you’re younger, most just take for granted that your parents will be around. They seem indestructible. Especially when handing out punishments. As you mature though, you see their weaknesses grow and their shield lower. You become the one worrying about them, protecting them. It’s a sobering moment, that’s for sure.

I guess that’s why the years rolling by without dad get easier. As much as I’ve never heard his voice or smelled his scent. It wasn’t taken from me as a memory. Just a dream, one which I can play out however I imagine.

I miss him, I always will. My sisters got the holidays and the memories, but they also got the heartbreak much more than I did. So I feel for them more than I used to. I used to be jealous but no one wins, every hurt is valid and relevant to every person.

So please, whatever you do, be kind. Always.

2020 Vision

As the clock struck midnight to usher in the New Year, I was filled with optimism. Despite 2019 not being a great year, I convinced myself that this was going to be better. I was eagerly anticipating moving into my new home. I had got my running to a really, really good level. I was healthier than I had been in a long time. I’d spent alot of time managing gigs and becoming more involved in Softlad Promos, and despite losing one of my best and longest standing friends I was looking forwards not backwards.

Sure, I’d made a couple of mistakes in my personal life. Forgivable, if not forgiven. I regret the hurt I caused, but don’t think I deserved the hounding I got over one of them in particular. But that’s in the past and not the point of this blog. I even had a date lined up for the first week in January with someone who I had admired from afar and man was she beautiful. On top of this there was also the Smut Marathon to look forward to. It was going to be a busy year no doubt.

Fast forward 3 months and St Patricks day. The dating was going swimmingly. Despite it never being a relationship, it was fun, exciting, sexy. We connected and had the best of times for those fleeting months. I never knew St Patricks day would be the last I saw of her, but I don’t regret a thing, not even the gesture that in my opinion ruined it all, despite it just being read completely wrong. It’s just who I am.

After my twitter drama in January/February (with reprisals in April and June and September) I had to change my account for the Smut Marathon and little did I know how important this writing competition would be for me. The competition had to be shelved, which was a really sad state of affairs, as once again the ugly side of social media was laid bare. However, It did bring me closer to the organiser Marie Rebelle. We spoke often. We listened caringly, we shared tales both happy and sad. Marie always takes the time to read and comment on my blogs. To have that from someone who writes so wonderfully is incredible. The fact I get to call her a friend blows that out of the water though. Along with Marie I made some amazing writer friends along the way. Myself and Jae Lynn bonded over a love of music and most notably Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way‘ and now rather than being a writer friend. Jae is simply a friend who writes.

Not only did I connect with Jae but I also stumbled across Carolyna Luna. We bonded over stickers (who knows, 2021 may be the year I get them) as well as writing and music and Star Wars and Bourbon to name a few. She inspired me to write when I didn’t have the words. She encouraged my confidence when I’d found my way with my new twitter but more than that, she became a huge part of my daily life.

As lockdown continued, I stumbled across the #VirtualPubCrawl when Shiner Sam posed a selfie one day with a beer and a band tee. All of a sudden I was engrossed by this wonderful community. Raising money for charity whilst drinking beers and listening to exquisite music. I mean… what is that about! Too good to be true right? But as the clock struck 3 every other weekend, the chords to Primal Screams ‘Loaded‘ signalled the start of the madness. There are far too many people to mention that have made this an amazing part of my year and everyone that has spoken to me or tweeted or done a down in one or donated to charity are all legends. However it would be remiss not to mention a handful. Al Burke was the first person to speak to me and become a friend. Then there are a ton I plan to meet in 2021. Andie, Ems, Danny, JD, Kirsty, Jake, Paula, Ady, Andy, Al, Dom, Rob, Matt, Sarah, Sarah, Russ, Redders, Dan, Amy, Michael, Lisa x 2, Johnny, Richie.The list really is endless and that’s before I even mention all the bands.. again special shout outs to Revivalry and Citylightz, you guys are the absolute bomb.

Now I make no apologies for mentioning these next few people who made my year much more bearable. People that transcended Twitter and I met in real life.

Lilycat – You gave me confidence and support in the unlikeliest of circumstances. You were the best part of the first quarter of 2020. Thanks for the Peanut Butter Latte and well just for being you. Keep swishing your pony.

New Indie Sounds. Mate. That night in Manchester was just the best. Never met someone that felt like an old pal within a few minutes. I promise I’ll get you that drink back when tier 4 lifts.

Indie Rob and Gems. Rob. You gave me so much this year buddy. You helped me through an awful time and I cannot thank you enough. Gems. Who knew we have probably been in each others presence so many times in Wigan and never even knew we existed. So much love for you two.

Scott and Kay. What an amazing couple you are. The kindest people I know.. how you treated 12 was the most warming thing I witnessed in 2020. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sam. Thanks for giving me some much needed confidence over summer. Amazing to think 12 months ago you never knew I existed. But I did with you. Yet here we are now and I can class you as a friend. Probably the craziest thing to happen to me in 2020. Keep being that new music champion but more importantly keep me posted on my fav, Beryl

Dating was a bit hit and miss in 2020 some incredible highs and some earth shattering lows. So let’s just leave that eh.

A special mention to my twitter bro and twitter sis. Syriz and Vimtotime. Again 2 absoluye shining stars. Both with amazing twitter accounts that I just connected with.

To Amy, who’s been there on twitter for me for over a year. Making me laugh daily and sharing her beautiful blogs and amazing pics.

To Splintercat who keeps me in check, never let’s me get too big for my boots and keeps me in tea and cakey. A smile is never far away.

Finally, my last memory of 2020 is dedicated to my mum. She’s had the toughest of years. 2 strokes, losing friends with alarming regularity (nooo not falling out with em, them sadly passing, no she didn’t do it) . One of the best things about seeing 2021 in will be the fact my mum gets to see it in as on more than one occasion I was frightened that she wouldn’t.

So as 2021 arrives. Here’s to health and happiness. To kindness and care and to getting back to doing the things we enjoy with those that we love.

Strong

Strong – Adjective – Able to withstand force, pressure or wear.

Excuse me for a while, While I’m wide-eyed and I’m so down caught in the middle

I’ve excused you for a while, While I’m wide-eyed and I’m so down caught in the middle

And a lion, a lion, Roars would you not listen?

If a child, a child, Cries would you not give them?

Yeah, I might seem so strong, Yeah, I might speak so long

I’ve never been so wrong

London Grammar – Strong

Like love and hate, there is an incredibly fine line between strength and vulnerability.
Two people who I have become close to, underneath the surface, have been dealing with so much, even disregarding this shitty covid year.
They have faced very different but nonetheless difficult times. However to a casual observer, you wouldn’t know a single thing was hurting their beautiful hearts.
I mean, I feel privileged to have become close enough to them that they allowed me to see them at their most vulnerable. It displays a huge amount of trust to be given this no holds barred, soul bearing view.
They’ll get through it, I know they will, even if they don’t. Hopefully I’ll be able to help them raise a few smiles along the way.
That being said, there’s a friend of a friend who’s having just the absolute worst time possible. Like hand on your heart, blow after blow, crushing time.
It’s not at the hands of a malicious ex though, or anything at all like that. They are facing the biggest battle, and man does my heart ache for them.
I mean, why does it happen to the beautiful souls, with so much to give? Why does it always home in on their greatest attributes to weaken them?
It’s in these moments though when they see who’s got their back. Who’s worth their time. There is a phrase,

Darkness can only be scattered by light and hatred can only be scattered by love.

Pope John Paul II

It’s true on both counts. When you’re down and you’ve reached the bottom. In your darkest moments, there will almost always be someone there for you.
A little beacon of light for you to gravitate towards. In this case, this person has at least one that shines brighter than a light saber. AT LEAST ONE, and to be honest, even if they only had this one person, I know that would be enough.
Nothing is ever too big or too much trouble. So when you’re reading this, know that you can focus on what’s ahead, as you know your back is covered.
You’re stronger than you think, but let others take up the slack when you want to be weak. No one will judge you for it. Be kind to yourself above anyone else.

When those times hit, have a listen to the playlist. I hope it helps you get through a moment, because ultimately, that’s all they are, just moments in time. And each one that passes is another big win. If you ever need anything then know you have someone else to call upon, unconditionally……..

You got this.


Nobody’s perfect

I hate that I let you down, and I feel so bad about it. I guess karma comes back around, cos now I’m the one that’s hurting.

Jessie J

This song randomly came on this week, and back in the day I listened to it alot. It’s been noted before that music touches your soul and creates memories. Sometimes the memories are good, often, not so good. It’s always the lyrics rather than the melody that cut deep when you’re feeling sad, and that makes sense. When you’re happy, you want to dance like no one’s watching. When you’re sad you simply want to curl up, be numb and let the world pass you by. When this song came on, I listened, I was mesmerised, in a glassy eyed daze and I just kept repeating it over and over and over. Every single word resonated deep inside me.

I’ve been thinking alot about Karma, social media is rife for people wishing Karma on those that have wronged them. One recent incident was someone who’d been hurt by their partner years ago. Their partner came home one day and said they’d connected with someone else and it was over. The ‘wronged’ person, years later had connected with someone that was already in the burgeoning steps of a relationship. Incredibly they were wishing that their new connection would choose them ahead of this person’s partner. Quite happily praying that this would be the universes way of paying it forward.

I mean that’s gross isn’t it? Wishing ill on someone you have never met, who you don’t even know, who has done precisely nothing to you. That’s not karma,  that’s just vile. Two wrongs definitely don’t make a right, and surely if the person you snatch is capable of doing that to be with you. They are capable of doing that to you?

Having read up on Karma, it’s more about getting back what you give. You send kindness to someone, anyone and at some point down the line, that kindness comes back to you. Not in a mirror form, not in the same way it was sent. It’s like yin and yang, it’s like the theory that every action has a reaction in a way. Everything you say,  everything you do, has a cause and effect. That being said, I was left disappointed recently. Something that I was looking forward to happening didn’t, I was hugely excited cos you know things like this don’t happen to me, (and I was right, they don’t). I’m sure this person never meant to cause any disappointment, I won’t say hurt because it really wasn’t. You can’t miss something you’ve never had. Ultimately, they owed me nothing, having never met. Things change and that’s when people can’t cope. Change scares alot of people, when something is planned or scheduled, alot of people don’t bank on needing a plan B, C or D. Thankfully, I can process things, one of my closest friends always is in awe of my ability to compartmentalise things. Once something is done, I accept it, box it up, and move on. There’s literally nothing to be gained over mourning or stressing about things you can’t change or influence.

Anyway, the more I replayed this event in my head, the more it reminded me of something I’d done to someone. The parallels were there for all to see, even the month it occurred was the same. As the lyrics from Jessie J chimed out

And I hate that I made you think that the trust we had is broken
So don’t tell me you can’t forgive me
‘Cause nobody’s perfect,

Jessie J

It is almost like this song was written for what I did. I connected with someone, didn’t believe it was going to go anywhere and just before we met I let her down. She did forgive me, and tried and tried to keep that connection, but ultimately it was just too hard. I guess that’s because it was a very real connection. That’s my only consolation from that mess. At the time, I was upset, but also kept convincing myself that we hadn’t met, we’d made no promises, we ultimately didn’t owe each other anything.

Fast forward to a similar event happening to me, and albeit it was a much smaller disappointment, and less had been invested in it, but ultimately it made me realise how badly I had treated someone. Everything for a reason and I guess this was my lesson.

Never underestimate the power of your words and actions on another person. You can lift them up and slam them down far more easily than you can ever imagine. Behind a screen it’s even worse because you know, you can’t see someones tears behind a screen.

It’s strange how the world operates, but just as I’d began to compute what I was dealing with, I saw an unusual message from someone I’ve known on and off for a while. Someone who lights up wherever she goes, someone who never ceases to make people smile. I reached out and checked in. The conversation flowed and I must have struck a chord because just like that, everything came out. It was like I’d undone the pressure cap and my word my heart ached. I completely forgot about my insignificant woes and listened intently to someone who was struggling so much. I had no idea, but why would I? Take a happy selfie, post a silly picture, tell a stupid joke (they are stupid mate) and everyone behind a screen smiles and laughs. Who’s making you laugh though?

Social media is a blessing and a curse, it can lift these lonely moments, on demand company from people who share the same interests. But, let your guard down and it can consume you, take over your life, so much so that you find yourself checking WhatsApp last seen, hoping upon hope that someone who doesn’t deserve you is okay. You become a social media version of yourself and when the screen lights up, it’s show time, put on your happy face and please your audience when inside you heart is shattering.

It’s okay not to be okay, Karma really doesn’t work as a mirror and I know my incident wasn’t karma, it was just a way of ending a connection that wasn’t necessary and leading me to a new one that absolutely was, for both of us.

Everything for a reason, no matter how hard it is and how many tears it causes. People that are meant to be there will be, and people that care will always step up, even when you don’t know you need them.

VPC and Me…

As I sit writing this, the final preparations are being made for the twelfth and final #VirtualPubCrawl. Over the course of the last 4 months, the airwaves of Radio Matlock have, on every other Saturday been filled with the best in Indie music courtesy of Redders.

If you stumbled upon this blog by any other means than twitter, you probably will wonder what on earth I am going on about, so here’s a brief summary.
#VirtualPubCrawl started out as the brainchild of Indie Rob as a way to cope with lockdown and spend a Saturday with your mates down the virtual pub. It quickly grew and once Redders was on board, the platform was set. Add in some awesome logo’s and merchandise from Russ (Brandsintheair) and everything was good to go. Saturday afternoon’s consisted of music, drinking (not essential but recommended to cope with the mayhem) and a whole army of twitter folk, commenting, sharing and liking posts.

I first stumbled across the crawl at the end of May courtesy of a selfie from the beautiful Shiner Sam. Sam posting selfies isn’t anything new, and to be honest with you, there are many MANY worse things to see on the internet aren’t there (even on a bad day with bed head she’s a solid 9.5)? However, this selfie was different. She was posing in a fancy tee and having a drink. I clicked on the hashtag and my screen filled with tweets from a whole host of people from different places. I had followed Sam on my old account and she just struck me as someone always smiling, obviously loved music (new and old) and just had something about her. So, I started following the crawl and whilst not joining in, I listened to the show. Sam later became a part of the team officially, and following the crawl will be hosting a regular show all about new music. Giving bands that wouldn’t get airtime much needed publicity. She really doesn’t see how valuable the tweets are for the artists she merely listens to, but she brings them to a wider audience and sends them on their way of reaching people they probably wouldn’t otherwise. It’s a wonderful thing she does without even realising and even better than that I get to message her most days and call her one of my very closest friends.

Back to the story, I saw that the next VPC was on the 6th June and made sure I wasn’t busy.. (jokes) Lockdown was in full swing and this community was not only making the most of the Saturdays, I also discovered that they were raising money for a little hospice in Hartlepool, (Rob’s home town). Alice House Hospice is a small hospice doing incredible things for those with loved ones affected by a life limiting illness. Ensuring people get the care and support they need at the most difficult of times. I think I am right in saying that Rob just wanted to raise £300 for them initially. As it stands right now, the VPC has just raised £8000. YES EIGHT THOUSAND POUNDS. I can’t imagine what that does for a small charity like this, but regardless, for a group of folk that just love music, it’s a pretty outstanding effort for just having a laugh every other Saturday. It’s what Rob intended the VPC to be about in the first place and has exceeded all expectations. What Rob didn’t realise, was by having this aim of raising a few quid for the hospice and having a laugh with some friends, something far greater was born.

Anyway, now you have the background, I’m gonna tell you about what the VPC means to me. It’s been an incredibly humbling experience. I get teased endlessly, but as often is remarked, I bring it on myself. It’s always in good spirits and full of affection. I remember being completely lost at first, not knowing anyone, like the new kid at school, and I will always be thankful to Al Burke for talking to me that first day and being my OG. She’s a brilliant young lady, a great writer and full of enthusiasm for new bands. I mean we won’t talk about the DM slide she received because of talking to me, but needless to say it set the tone for the hilarity of the VPC for me.

Throughout the VPC, my following has grown and grown and grown. I have spoken to so many people and now I even get followed by bands just because of my involvement. I really don’t think they know what they are letting themselves in for.

It’s the community that I don’t think Rob could have ever dreamed of being formed. I have already met 2 people purely because of the crawl and even without the VPC live event in Octber, I know that would have grown, because the crawl is about the people.

People supporting people, strangers bonding not only over music but just the strangest of things. Who can ever forget the Flamingo’s. Now, I am going to let you into a little secret. The flamingo pants were just an accident. I had ordered myself a VPC t shirt from Russ, and was excited at debuting it on the crawl. I tweeted that when I had finished work I was going to slip into something more comfortable. Meaning the tee. HOWEVER, the gaffer (ROB) picked up on this and tweeted about it. I panicked a bit as every fecker had worn the t shirts so it wasn’t nearly as exciting for anyone but me. I tried to blag Rob by saying I’d only show if I got something like 25 RT. (bear in mind Rob had thousands of followers but I’d never had even 5 retweets on a tweet so I though I was safe). OH NO. Rob made sure I wasn’t so I then had to think of something that would stand out. I’d done my washing (you know cos I am a house trained, clean conscientious bloke… form a queue ladies) and there were my flamingo boxers.So bingo, I have a decent arse (I know, I know) so i lay on my plush rug and took a couple of snaps and away we went. I didn’t think it would get any attention at all and would be forgotten about by the Sunday morning hangovers, yet here we are 2 months later, and it’s there in VPC folklore. The amount of love I got on my birthday, Chippy and Mrs.Chippy with Dave the flamingo. Jake and Kirst with their flamingo tribute on their new garden bar. I can never ever tell people how important that was for me.

Lockdown was shit, Like really shit, but thanks to everyone, it won’t be what I remember 2020 for. I’ll remember despite being alone for 12 gruelling weeks, unable to see my daughter or mum or sisters, I never once felt lonely. When I felt rejected in other parts of my life, I never felt anything but welcomed by the VPC crew. To think I have grown up in the same town as Gems and Matt but never crossed their path, but thanks to the VPC, I know I have friends for life in my home town. It’s hard to put into words how much everyone has been a shining star for me. Further afield there’s my Scottish pals Sarah, Robbie, Alan, and Kris. Sarah called me last week, and despite not being able to understand a word she said, (think Jimmy Crankee on acid) shes an absolute beaut. We have a shared love of Alan Partridge and again I know that we will be pals for life and see each other, whether in Wigan or Scotland.

Then there are the guys, like Gary, Danny, Richie, Mike, Rob and Ady. All legends in their own lunchtime. Gary took my VPC tweet up virginity and it was just the best. We sat and chatted like old friends, he was as nice in person as he seems on twitter (when he’s not being a tw4t) . Again another friend for life and a salt of the earth guy. Danny sent me a flamingo gift, just well, for nothing and it made my day. Richie always checks in and has a giggle, usually at my expense. Mike with his unending love of the Lathums and just the funniest dancing vids ever! Rob, I recently discovered lives near to me too, so that is another excuse for a pint. Then Ady, another one to get his own show soon, who always checks in, and gives you the most precious gift anyone can. their time.

Onto the ladies, Lelly who produced the amazing video for VPC and who along with SSC never lets up about my arse pic, when we speak, along with 3 beautiful women who will have the pleasure of my company in a few weeks. Andie who, despite me previoulsy often wondering if she actually likes me or tolerates me (tw4t), has shown herself to be one of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out. Then Paula another beaut with an accent to die for but who has the kindest biggest heart. The first person to send me anything and she just makes my wee face hurt from smiling. Finally Emma completes the terrible trio. Someone who I only started talking to properly recently, after she restarted a thread that blew up not long ago and I dmd her to tell her off. Again, a surprising connection that came from nowhere that I just cherish so much with the weird and wacky convos we have.

I could go on all night with bands like Revivalry immersing themselves in the community and just being amazing, and I know there are others I will have missed out but you are probably all bored now.

I am going to finish by saying thank you. I love you all incredibly. You have changed so many lives, not just mine, and the world is a much better place for the VPC. Rob you should be immensely proud mate. You have genuinely created something special that will never be forgotten. You have probably unwittingly connected people that may have saved each other, if not literally, mentally. You have given people a platform to create bonds and friendships that have literally changed lives. I just cannot express how much this means to so many.

Just Thank You….