Dad

It’s a weird time, my birthday. I always hated it growing up, I think the fact it always lands around Father’s Day was always a kick in the teeth for me. Not only was my dad not around to celebrate my day, he wasn’t around for me to celebrate his day either. I don’t really remember my dad’s birthday, mum was never cross with me for not knowing, simply because it was that. He never was there so I never forgot, I just didn’t know. How sad is that? That I don’t even know my dad’s birthday. I only get reminded by my sisters Facebook memories.

When all the other kids were out for Fathers day meals and stuff, I wasn’t. When they were on the fields, practising football or rugby. I was in my room on my computer and video games. He was good at everything my dad. Rode motorbikes, flew planes (model and real), played cricket, played rugby, did stand up comedy. I mean, he literally could do anything. There’s no way I could have lived up to him, but I wished so hard he’d have been around to teach me stuff, to be more like him. He was a good man by all accounts. Funny, kind, charming, clever, to name but a few. He was short though, so at least I have one thing on him.

Me, I was crap at everything, football, rugby, running, you name it. So, I quietly kept myself to myself. I loved reading, it was an escape, you could be profoundly in love with Pandora (one for the older ones) or off to Narnia. Kids these days get transported to Hogwarts. That’s the great thing about imagination. I wasn’t a sad kid without a dad there. I could be the biggest, fastest, strongest, funniest.. anything I wanted to be. But there’s always a bump when reality bites. Anxiety, anxiousness, paranoia are the worst. When you overthink everything and get stuck in your own thoughts, it’s a terrifying place.

Life works in mysterious ways, and from the pits of sadness and despair, something happened, (everything happens for a reason) and suddenly, my birthday became my daughters birthday. Fathers day changed, from me being an empty child, to a fulfilled parent. I didn’t have to worry or focus on me anymore and what I didn’t have. I could focus on this amazing gift, sent to show me that things always turn out okay. There’s always a reason.

Sure the anxiety remains, the self doubt nags away. It’s different, but at least there’s a reason to smile. I always wonder if I was a good son, and I’ll always worry if I’m a good dad.

It’s okay not to be okay, and when you’re struggling, really struggling, talk to your loved ones, your pals, anyone that will listen. Sometimes a different perspective changes everything. Life is so so precious, and can be gone in the blink of an eye, so never take anything or anyone for granted.

Tiller Toward Trouble (Guest Post)

Content warning – Mature adult themes of an uncomfortable nature.

So here, we have a guest post from a friend. A blog which I felt, rather than read. Something which contains harrowing mental images which have been written about, for want of a better word, beautifully. This persons writing style is off the charts and I’m privileged to be able to host it for you. Enjoy would be the wrong phrase, so I shall just say, read, feel, and understand…

So, yet another person has now offhandedly referred to me as a Phoenix…this week. I always just assumed it was the hair. Perhaps even a comment on my hurricane-like personality, a pun on the raku, anything. I never really know. That’s pretty much a theme now, the not knowing. I’m trying to learn how to just accept it – you will too. I promise.


Other people make sense.  Get used to it.


And, before we get down to brass tacks – there’s a story here – there’s always a story, that’s all we are. If you aren’t ready to read it you may want to give this a pass, it’s a little intense.


First, generally I’ve focused on people “on the outside” – tried to reach the people who didn’t understand because they simply had different lives. It would break my heart to see their eyes, to recognize the looks of horror and helplessness. That was after I learned what to keep quiet though. Quite honestly, I was that odd writer chick who wrote about nightmares, and everyone acted like it was so kind I’d taken an interest in the plight of those ‘poor lost souls’ – it never occurred I was a ‘them’ – still doesn’t.  I honestly, arrogantly, thought if I could help bring light to the subject it would help people. Evil feeds on the dark.


It didn’t.


All the stories became ‘just another sad story’, someone else’s sad story, some type of grotesque carnival act as people salivated for details.  Things that only happen in far away places or other cultures or different socioeconomic groups, or just anyone else. Pick a label. There’s always a label.


So, in the very heart of the “Change It or Adapt” mindset we develop, I’m adapting. I’m switching audience. I’m speaking to survivors.


Hello, dear. I’m proud of you. You’re alive.


Don’t scoff. I don’t buy it. I know you’re embarrassed. So, I’ll say it – maybe a little louder for the people in the back. There’s nothing wrong with having survived what tried to kill you.  Yes, I know the normal people read that too, it’ll be ok. They’ll adapt. We aren’t the only ones that can do that you know. Feels like a lie saying survivor, doesn’t it? There’s always someone who has it worse after all. For what it’s worth – I agree with you.


I’ve read the inspirational success stories, and the powerful blog posts about overcoming just like you have. I’m happy for them just like you are.  They amaze me, and are goals, and genuinely fill me with hope. And when I wake up in a cold sweat alone in the middle of the night I think of them and I feel like I’m just as much of a failure as you do. Ooop, oh boo – you think it was only you? Survivors guilt is insidious.


I hate signifying. It makes my skin crawl too. You know, when you’re sitting with your friends and hear stories…and suddenly realize you’re so very ‘other’ – Which were you? The hang a lantern on it kid, or the hide it under perfection kid? Doesn’t matter, variations on a theme.


So, that’s what this post is. It’s the “Don’t do this” of survivor stories. You can get inspiration anywhere. But, sometimes it isn’t inspiration that people need, is it? It’s the scrapes and bruises we learn from. Your friends are your friends – not your therapists. You have to save yourself, good thing you have experience in that. And, if you’re very very lucky – you may have some that will stand beside you while you do. Hope springs eternal.


I’ve struggled with which story. Anything too young and there’s no sense of responsibility, anything too old and it’s just repeating a pattern. I’ve deleted and hem-hawed and stalled in some of the most creative ways. Finally it hit me, that one pivotal moment. That one weekend that honestly wasn’t that bad, but, it changed how the world looked.


Friday was like any Friday, I stayed out as late as I could so I could get into our apartment at a time I wouldn’t be seen. I knew I’d be alone, I usually was, with work and school schedules sometimes it was days between when I’d see my mom. But, I was an incredibly mature kid, I knew how to take care of myself, it was fine. I also new how to pick locks, so we didn’t have to worry about me having a key that could get lost, it was much more efficient for me to just let myself in. Our downstairs neighbor had a key, incase there was any emergencies.


I got home, slipped off my shoes, and went up the stairs silent as death to jimmy the lock and get in. One jiggle on the handle and I heard the rustling inside. He was in a mood and easily twice my size and I hid. I actually hid. I was thin enough to slip behind the dryer and the wall of the shared laundry room before the door opened. After a good half hour of raging around looking for me it got quiet, I hate quiet. Apparently I’d gone to my friends for a sleep over or something. When I slipped out and got into our apartment and into my room I vividly remember swearing I’d never hide from anything ever again. Ever.


Saturday I woke up, alone, early, and slipped out to spend the day with my friend. There wouldn’t be anyone to notice me gone, people rarely knew where I was, or so I thought. But, when I got back the door was ajar, and my room was occupied, and I refused to hide. He sat there on my bed twice my mass and nearly three times my age like he owned the damn place and I pitched an absolute seething fit, which was probably ridiculous because how scary can a twelve year old actually be? But it worked. It finally worked. I didn’t even blink. The early evening was absolutely glorious. I drank tea and watched tv in the living room like a proper person. I told myself with enough determination you can do anything. For a couple of hours it was like my life had absolutely turned around. I’d learned only kids hide.


Evening turned to night and his girlfriend showed up and I learned about cause and effect and consequences.


The building was old and the walls and floors were thin and his room was right under mine. This time there was no hiding. All the while he was assaulting her and then beating the living tar out of her I could hear him yelling it was my fault, and I was next. Simple solution, right? I called the police and managed to drag the dresser in front of my door. She wouldn’t go with them. She didn’t want to get him in trouble. They left. I finally managed to fall asleep despite the noise and yelled promises. I knew I was next, I always was.


Sunday I got ratted out and learned it’s not nice to call the authorities on people.


Familiar, isn’t it? Variations on a theme. We all have that one moment, that instant that sparks the guilt. It always looks different, but we all have it. And, we all look back on it with adult eyes. It’s easier to be angry at yourself that way isn’t it? That’s what starts the pattern, and there’s only one way to stop it. When they get to you physically it just hurts, and it just passes. Mentally, it’s like a worm that just burrows in, but with patience you can get it out. But when they find your heart…


You’re not a kid, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because you can’t hide.


So, here’s your stare it in the eye moment. That moment that sparked yours – actually look at it. Quit digging yourself in deeper and just shut up and see it. Quit falling for the noise. Your perspective will shift – rather drastically. All the normal people have no idea why you’re apologizing for being alive. Look at the kid and see if you can figure out one good reason to keep doing so. Ten minutes ago I could have given you fifty without batting an eye. But, then I quit panicking and just wrote the story, and now I can’t think of a single one.

Be Kinder – Caroline Flack follow up

I’ve heard about the Caroline Flack documentary, and as I write this, I’m watching it. Inspired to do so by my guest post by JD. You see he’s one of lifes good guys. Genuinely. Someone who, despite having never met, I know tries to make a difference.

How do I know? Well one time when I’d gone off twitter for a short while. He sent me a card, just to say hey, just to check in as it was the only way he could contact me. He didn’t have to, he just did it. Went out of his way.

Caroline was well known, a familiar face on TV and on the front pages of the newspapers. She was a beautiful, funny, talented woman, ultimately a victim of her own success.

Watching the documentary, there’s a harrowing moment where she’s recording a video, distressed, wrapped in a parka and a yellow burberry scarf. Trying to scrape the tears from her face, saying the only person she’s ever hurt is herself. I can’t imagine how watching that makes her family and friends feel. It makes you want to reach through the screen and reassure her it’ll be okay. However, it won’t be. She’s now just a bookmark in entertainment history, but we must learn from her tragic loss and do better.

It was a fight, I’ve never hurt anyone in my life. The only person I’ve ever hurt is myself.

Caroline Flack

#BeKind shouldn’t just be a hasthtag that’s used to make us feel better. ‘Oh I wrote Be Kind so I’m good’. Look through your last 20 tweets. Is everything you wrote, particularly about someone else, true, necessary and kind. If the answer to just ONE of those is NO then why’s it there? Delete it!

Too many people are quick to write negative things. Just a few weeks ago, a good friend was thrilled to be playing a vinyl of one of her favourite artists and she tagged them in the short video. To my surprise.. I saw a reply that began ‘unpopular opinion’. Then I was gobsmacked to read something derogatory about the band. They’d untagged the band which I guess they thought was a kind thing to do. But it just showed me that the comment was unnecessary. Why do people on social media feel the need for controversy just for the sake of it. Or one-upmanship. Many times I see someone post a new release song they love. Instead of just letting people enjoy it, others are quick to boast and brag that they heard it weeks ago because they curate for a radio show or similar. For goodness sake just let the people that buy the merch and stream the music enjoy it. Praise the artist for a great song. Don’t make it about you, it’s such a dick move.

Watching the comments about social media, it was like an addiction for her. People posting the most abhorrent tweets about her. But she couldn’t stop looking, I guess she just wanted to be loved. She bottled all of this up from those she loved though. How many of us say, ‘yeah I’m fine’ when really there’s a whole heap of problems rolling round the back of your head. How someone can actually have written ‘Caroline Flack is one of the ugliest hosts on tv’.  I mean.. come on.. she was simply stunning.

I guess there are two things I take from this. 1. Be careful what you post, you can’t see someone’s reaction behind a screen. You may say something that might seem funny to you but you might just have inadvertently mentioned something about their biggest insecurity. It starts with you. You might be one sole voice in a sea of millions but you aren’t responsible for those others.

The other thing is check on your friends. The signs for Caroline were there, the reliance on social media, the craving to be loved. The fact her mum would dread her inevitable splits from boyfriends because she couldn’t handle heartbreak is just so desperately sad. The story of her final Christmas is again just haunting. Her family thrilled to be around her for a special day. Seeing the images of the bedroom, and the implication that the blood spilled was her actions on someone else, not herself, again is desperately sad and plain wrong. Seeing the sadness in her twin sister is just heartbreaking when she’s asked what she’d say to her now, and she awkwardly fidgets with her earring, her eyes glass up and she delicately whispers ‘I don’t know’.

Sometimes you have to be persistent. If your friends aren’t responsive, be patient. Keep checking. If you stop, they may think no one cares. I am sure that like Amy Winehouse, one person could have made a difference for Caroline too. You can be that difference and it starts with a little kindness.

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.

Television Fantasy – Joe Astley & The Wallgate Band

Sometimes you hear a song which sounds like a medley of songs fused into one (think of Greenday’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams). Occasionally, you hear a song which tells a real story. Rarely, you hear a song which brings the two together and resonates so closely with your day-to-day life that you immediately sit up and take notice.

But Wigan stars Joe Astley and The Wallgate Band have absolutely nailed it with their latest offering, ‘Television Fantasy.’  

From the funky bass introduction through to Joe’s vocals building to the anthemic singalong chorus, you can’t help but be infected by the song’s catchiness. In a year when Covid-19 has dominated the planet and the world has been locked away, the lyrics hit just the spot.  It continues whilst touching on subjects such as the political chaos in the United States and the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained momentum following the tragic death of George Floyd.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, television fantasy is all you know for certain, pay no attention to the riot at the front door, television fantasy is all there is worth living for.

Television Fantasy

The cultural shift that occurred as result of the pandemic seems such a lifetime ago. Mentioning this, the song takes another twist. The removal of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol gets a nod as the song covers the endless news stories that have dominated 2020.

They’re pulling down the statues and they’re breaking down the walls. Stranded in the no man’s land of someone else’s war. There’s chaos in the streets tonight, there’s panic in the halls.

Television Fantasy

Then, when you think the song has given up all it can offer and you feel it’s coming to an end, it shifts again to a soaring guitar riff, delivering a poignant message.  

These streets won’t show you mercy, these streets where you call home.

Television Fantasy

You know when a band has a signature tune at their live gigs? You get the feeling this could be Joe Astley and the Wallgate’s band song where it all goes off. And having featured on the Brits and Pieces Compilation and worked with Citylightz at Rockfield Studios, you can’t help but feel excited about 2021 for this outfit.  

Television Fantasy is available to preorder from Apple Music now by clicking here and available from all other streaming sites on 1/1/2021.


Edited by : H.Caine