Category Archives: Life

July 4th 2021

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Before we get stuck in to… well, whatever this is, I want to warn you. This is a long-read. It’s probably going to be filled with a lot of my ramblings, and its structure might not be the best. But that’s what life is really like: messy, uncoordinated and full of curve balls. There will be several parts to this story, probably in different posts.

So let’s start.

It all begins almost one year ago on July 4th. A day of independence to some, but for me it now just signifies the one thing. My amazing, heartfelt and incredibly witty dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour on that evening. The night before, Mum had rushed him into our local hospital after his doctor’s surgery refused to see him because they were ‘too full’, had no emergency appointments… blah, blah. Mum made the choice to rush him into A&E – and it was the right choice.

She rang me that Saturday evening. I distinctly remember we had chosen to have pizza as a takeaway and a glass of wine. I had barely taken a sip and I received the phone call. I packed a bag in haste with some clothes and whatever else was classified as ’emergency’ and just left. During the 40-minute drive to my parents home, I rang both of my best friends. I said, “I need you to listen carefully. Something incredibly serious has happened with Dad, he’s in the hospital. He was acting funny last week – could be dementia, I don’t know, but I’m going to need you a lot this year, I can feel it.” I mean, I’m paraphrasing, but it was something to that effect. Of course, my best friends are amazing and I knew they would step up when faced with grave consequences. And they did.

When I arrived at the hospital, mask on, I waited about 10 minutes until some arse was acting up in front of a receptionist. They were rushed off their feet and apologised for my wait, I was fine with it. This was still in the middle of the pandemic, not all of us had received our first vaccination – I only had got my first one back in June. We were all under a lot of pressure.

They advised me to go into one of the rooms. I saw Dad. One side of his face was slurred, it looked like he’d had a stroke. The first thing he said to me was, “why are you crying?”. I immediately rushed over to his side, grabbed his hand and said, “Dad, you’re not very well. You’re really poorly.” He then said something strange, he said: “Why didn’t you tell me? You knew. You knew.”

He wasn’t lying.

You see, I sort of have a ‘hidden’ ability. It’s known to those I’m close to. From a young age, I’ve always had ‘visions’ of people dying. These are more than just dreams. Usually when I wake up from them, I’m physically crying, shaking all over and more often than not have a nose bleed. I shout and scream a lot in my sleep too, or so I’m told.

It was a long time ago, but back when I was around 14 or 15, I started having visions of my nana. She had recently died. I think it all started then. Then came my Mum’s best friend at the time. I’d had a vision the night before we went to see her in Scotland with Mum and Dad, she was surrounded by bottles of alcohol and was dead. Mum went to see her, but there was no answer. She went to speak to the neighbour. He told Mum she had died after drinking herself to death. Well, that was it. It all came after that.

I started receiving visions of people in our family dying. Slowly but surely they all rang true. My nana was the daughter of a gypsy, so perhaps that’s where it comes from – either way it now runs through Mum, my aunt and me. Anyway, back to the story…

Around November 2020, I’d had a particular vision that Dad was going to get a terminal illness and he would die relatively young, or rather at age he was now or soon. In the years prior to this vision, I’d dreamt of Dad’s death many times. From car accidents to him getting shot, plane crashes etc, but I just assumed it was my fear of letting him go. With this vision though, it felt different. Like someone, somewhere was calling out to me, signalling to me that this was going to change our lives forever. I’ve always known I’ve had a particular spirit bonded to me as a child. She’s followed me everywhere. Maybe you’ll think I’m crazy… but it feels very real to me.

So my spirit, I think, was calling out to me at this point. She’s often drawn attention to herself in the room I’m in. She’s moved things around in my old bedroom in my parents house, made herself very prominent in my parents’ attic and, just recently, has been watching over me in my new house with my soon-to-be husband.

When I woke from this particular vision, I was physically sweating everywhere. I had kicked and screamed during the night and the sheets were in disarray. I had been crying for a long time, not even aware I was doing it. But I didn’t have a nose bleed. Weird. So, I dismissed the notion of it being real.

In early December 2020, I received a call from Dad. He said my uncle had passed away. He’d contracted Covid-19 out in Spain at the time and my cousin barely got out to see him in time. I still think about how hard it must have been for him.

I started crying on the phone. Dad immediately asked what was wrong – it’s not really like me to cry over someone I wasn’t close to (for various reasons that I won’t go into). I said to him, “Dad,” and I kept repeating his name (I couldn’t control myself). “I thought it was you!”

To this day, I can’t really recall what he said. But I know it was something along the lines of, “Me? No, I’m fine. You’ve got nothing to worry about with me.” He said that phrase all the time, every time I asked him how he was on the phone, the “Me? I’m fine” is what he’d come back with.

Fast forward back to July 4th and here we are, where he says to me: “Why didn’t you tell me? You knew. You knew.” I don’t really know if he was talking to me or not at that point. He was looking elsewhere. So, I returned quickly with, “Yes I know, Dad. I knew. And I told you I knew something was wrong. Remember that call when you talked about your brother passing?” He nodded. “This is what I was talking about.” He went quiet. He was laid on the bed, fully clothed in his jacket (he didn’t want to take it off), and one side of his body was curled up.

There was a quietness in the room at that point. It just hung there, and it was stifling. I looked at Mum, who was just beside herself with worry. I looked at Dad, who for the first time, genuinely looked afraid. It was as if he’d seen a ghost when I’d walked into the room.

After a while, the silence was broken with a nurse coming in to check Dad’s vitals. They were holding him back in the room after they’d done some tests to see what was the issue. They couldn’t discharge him, even though he was full of agitation at that point. Walking around with his jacket on. He just wanted to be at home.

A couple of hours went by and we really had no clue what was happening. My stomach was playing havoc with me and I needed to get away for a bit. Mum gave me her keys (I forgot mine in the rush) and said I should just go home and go call my partner just to let him know what was going on. Dad wanted to come with us. It was hard to see him like this.

When I got back to my parents house, it was about 11pm. I couldn’t really sleep or get into any sort of comfortable positioning. So, I waited for Mum to come back home.

A little after 1am, I heard the car drawing up and I saw Mum alone. I’d got about three quarters of the way down the stairs when she rushed in and quite literally flopped into my arms. She sobbed. I just held her crying, not even knowing much at that point. Through her on- and off-again sobs, she said, “Your dad, they think he’s got a tumour. A brain tumour. They think it’s cancer.”

I froze.

On July 4th around 1am, my entire world crumbled around me. This man who I’d loved all my life, who gave me everything, had cancer. Even now, writing this, I’m crying because it still feels like this happened yesterday.

In the days and weeks after the initial shock, we learned how bad it really was. It was terminal, it was his death sentence. Why? Because he was diagnosed at 67 with a Glioblastoma (wild type) frontal lobe brain tumour. And they gave him just 12-15 months survival rate.

But, in reality, it was a lot shorter than that. However, that’s a story for a different day.

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You were always there for me.
A virtual avatar;
Watching from afar.
I never knew this day would come.
When I’d be left with tears that run.

How did we get here?
A silent place;
No longer face to face.
I never knew this day would come.
Where I’d wake up without the warm sun.

Where are you now?
A new life;
Taken with force by a would-be wife.
I never knew this day would come.
Scared to message having turned to the rum.

Won’t you come back to me?
It’s been over a year;
Even more I fear.
I never knew this day would come.
When my heart would break as if it was all just for fun.

An avatar.
No longer living;
Far from dying.
Waving to me from a screen, not that far.

Written for a good friend who I’ve fallen out of touch with. One day, I hope they’ll come back. For now, I just want them to know I’m thinking about them, that they’ll always be in my heart, and I’m fiercely proud of them. They are still a part of my pack – never left behind.

Standing Still

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I’ve been meaning to post something on my personal blog for a while, though I’ve never gotten around to it. Life just sort of, throws you in at the deep end sometimes, while you tread water, hoping that you’re still kicking. In a way, there’s a morbid fascination to it. In one moment, you’re fantasizing about what it’s like to drown, the next you can’t breathe. Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically… But that’s what life is, right?

Two people that I deeply respected, admired and followed for many years died quite recently. They weren’t family members or even friends, but iconic characters of their time. Both of their deaths affected me in different ways; they died in the same month just two weeks apart.

One was Margot Kidder. She was, and always will be, my Lois Lane. I knew her as a character intimately when I was a kid. She was everything I had ever dreamed of being. A ballsy, sharp, level-headed reporter with a way of talking herself out of (and into) danger. When I read of Margot’s passing from the Christopher Reeve Foundation as I was scrolling through Facebook, I sat there in stunned silence. And that sentence right there was probably the kicker. It brought back all the moments I loved between Chris and Margot on screen.

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Margot and Chris were good friends while they were on the set of Superman and Superman II. They were also fiercely loyal to Superman’s Director, Richard Donner; it was one of the reasons why Margot only came back for smaller parts in 3 and 4. I recently stumbled across a photo of the two of them together at Niagara Falls, on the set of Superman II. And I remembered that just last year, I was stood in the exact same place as two of my heroes. To many people, the death of these two actors and the characters they played on screen would just be a passing sadness. But to me, they were my childhood. A little bit of my childhood died; I’ll never get it back. Yet there’s a bitter sweetness to it, knowing that Superman caught Lois as she fell away.

The second, was a man who was diagnosed with bowel cancer several years ago. John ‘TotalBiscuit’ Bain was a very talented, vocal gaming critic who found fame through YouTube. I was lucky enough to meet him at a UK convention run by his long-time friend, Jesse Cox. Back then, he was suffering through Chemotherapy and, while undoubtedly in a lot of pain, sat for 8 hours at a table signing, meeting and greeting fans.

It was that year that I got on the train back from Telford, when I bumped into him at the train station. He was heading north to see family, listening to music, waiting for the train while people stood around him shivering in excitement. It was odd, I guess, seeing him in a normal setting around normal people, doing normal everyday things. But that’s just it, he wasn’t a celebrity, he didn’t let his status define him, instead he stood up for the little people; the indie game developers who were short on money, the gamers who had no voice. And he sure as hell helped people through rough times just by doing his own thing, and doing it damn well.

In late May, John Bain passed away peacefully. My heart broke for his wife Genna and their son. He was 33, just five years older than me. That puts things into perspective.

It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself in hospital undergoing an investigation. I sat and spoke to two women; one with pneumonia and the other who had cancer. And there I was sitting, panicking that I had just fainted and knowing that I was sat with two women that had much bigger problems than me. I felt terrible.

Something triggered in me then. And it’s still working it’s way through my brain now. It happened the other day when I was sat basking in the beautiful sunshine in our garden. I watched the birds have a dirt bath. And then, much later, watched another bird bathe in my neighbour’s stone water basin, flicking its feathers while the water jumped off its back. I realised that sometimes you don’t need to be moving forward in life, sometimes you need to stand (or sit) still and watch everything else happen around you.

Perhaps it’s the best advice I can give anyone who reads this. Letting things happen around you doesn’t mean that things are out of control. It doesn’t mean that you can’t help influence change. But it does give you time to assess what the right course of action may be. Sometimes doing nothing but watching and listening means everything to one person, allowing them to heal. Be content with who you are, allow yourself the time to – quite literally – stop and smell the roses because time is something we never get back. Know that it’s okay to stand still.

If you enjoyed John Bain’s content and would like to help support his family during this difficult time, please visit their Go Fund Me page, set up by his fans with all monies raised going to Genna Bain. 

In the Moment ~ Poetry

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In the Moment

The air is thick, painted with heavy sighs.
Grasping at straws, no longer with ties.
She sits there waiting.
Darkness, no sunrise.
The air is thick, suffocating with cries.

Moments pass and the next train draws in.
Her carriage awaits, bound by sin.
She sits inside waiting.
Darkness, all cooped in.
Moments pass, left to rot in a meat tin.

Destined for doom, they say.
All she felt was pain, night and day.
She sits in the cold waiting.
An owl girl with feathers that fray.
Destined for doom, too wise to obey.

Wishing her luck would change,
Cawing and flapping, so estranged.
She sits outside waiting,
But there’s no perfect exchange.

They meet. They talk. They part.
Once lovers, now perfect strangers.
She leaves, never looks back,
And silently lets go of her heart.

~ Silver

The Lost Daughter of the Clayr: Lirael by Garth Nix

For those of you who have yet to come across the internationally acclaimed author Garth Nix, you are certainly missing out on a big bucket of deliciously chewy treats:  a fantastic fantasy series aptly named The Old Kingdom Trilogy, featuring all things good, bad and witty. Starting with Sabriel, originally a stand-alone novel, Nix penned his two sequels Lirael and Abhorsen with such attentive delicacy that it is certainly hard to imagine my life without the story revolving around Lirael.

I can hear the cliché bells ringing when I say that this story changed my childhood.

But whether you choose to believe me or not, I respected the fictional character of Lirael. In a world where everything presents itself as fake, selfish and image based, the character of Lirael represented the opposite of the popular trend.

Lirael – my signed copy.

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Topic of Debate: University vs Real Life Jobs

Students vs The Rest of the World:

It seems there has been an ever-increasing dislike for students who complain that they are ‘tired’ and ‘overworked’ by their University study work. It appears that non-students who work a 9am – 5pm job, evening work, or some that are doing two jobs find students frustrating, somewhat egotistical and quite frankly ‘cop-outs’.

I must agree that working all those hours in a regular job will be tiring as well as monotonous, but how can a regular worker believe it’s harder than studying for a degree, masters or PHD?

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Study sesh, anyone?

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The Inbetweeners Movie: Riding Out On A High

Shagaluf? Sorry, it’s Malia

The Inbetweeners have been posing nude in front of our tv screens for a successful three series, now they’ve got us hooked on the big screen ready to bare their bums (as well as other parts) in a 90 minute ‘LOL’ trip to the Greek Island, Malia.

On hearing the word ‘movie’ in the same sentence as ‘end of the series’, it is safe to say that I was a little dubious.  Though it worked for Sex and the City, fully disregarding the atrocity that was the sequel, I was blindly hoping that The Inbetweeners Movie may just ride out on a high.

I wasn’t disappointed.

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Cleaning out my Facebook Closet

Facebook = A social networking site where you request to be friends with someone, can send messages to complete strangers and poke people.

This afternoon I went down from 321 Facebook friends to 297 friends, as a way of cleaning out my Facebook closet. Nevermind spring cleaning, this is the time for a summer send-off to all those ‘friends’ that I’ve never spoken to in my life, who just add you as a friend as a mere popularity race.

Become a socialite today!

Well guess what guys, it’s not a race to the fake friendship finish line, and I am not going to be apart of it. Do you think someone is going to give you a gold medal on reaching the four figure mark?

Wait – there’s probably an App for that.

Many of my Facebook friends (the real friends – no, honestly!) have also been cleaning out their friendship closets as a bid to starting their professional life, whilst giving their own summer send-offs to their university life. I don’t blame them, I’ve just done the same!

But what I don’t understand is why some people (myself included) have received a request from a person they disliked from their past – school for instance – and accepted the request. If I’m being honest, I really just accept their friendship invitation to spy on them. Yes. I like to play Peeping Tom on my own computer, flicking through their photos and their personal – ahem – public life. And I know you, (yes you reading this!) like to play Peeping Tom too.

It’s not a secret, it’s pretty much what social networking sites were invented for. God forbid if they were invented to actually socialize.

Truthfully, I could have deleted another 10-15 on my friends list, but I can’t deny myself a little sneak-peak at their profile once in a while… Hey, a jobless graduate’s got to have something to fill their time with right?

In all honesty, Twitter is really the way forward. Isn’t ‘following’ someone a more accurate description of what we do on social networking sites?

Don’t worry, it just became that much easier to stalk someone. You’re totally safe.

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the Door to the Past: Poverty in the Dominican

For the first time, I find myself having difficulty expressing my thoughts so succinctly and concise, but poverty is not a topic that can be so easily summarised. Sure enough, many of us watching television daily see commercials of the poverty in Africa; of the malnourished children and the slums they call homes. Many of us will turn a blind eye to the disastrous areas of the third world, but what happens when you are forced to look upon such devastation?

The Local Gas Station: A Gallon for 9 Dollars

You feel guilt.

That morning, I had set out for an adventure into the Dominican wilderness, to experience all things Caribbean; from the delightful cocoa, to the more-ish and wonderfully scented aromas of roasted coffee and the crunchy taste of the coconuts – I was certainly well catered for.

But what of the locals? The young girl that reached up into the jeep to give me a parting gift; an exotic red flower. What life does she lead, while I sit in blissful luxury in a five-star hotel just twenty minutes away? Looking into the deep contours and colours of the flower, I felt guilty, but incredibly grateful for what I had.

Her Parting Gift

Almost a year ago I created a blog on ‘The Importance of Being Grateful’, and of the family that claimed thousands in benefits, cheating the real poverty of our own country. What right do they have? What right do they have to take money from the homeless, the penniless and the tragic?

School Area: Brightening the Day

I was faced with one question: what could I give back to the Dominican locals?
What could I give back to the school that had trembled in its footsteps towards the future? Those grey wooden desk chairs, the rotting chalkboard and the basketball hoop hanging by its steel chains in the playground – what can I do?

Raise awareness.

The children and adults alike are happy because they know no different. They have pride in themselves, and they seemed to say ‘do not pity us, for we are proud of the way we live’.

If you are visiting the Dominican Republic, please spare a thought to the children and their education. Please donate crayons, pencils, colouring books, children’s toys, anything that may help them.

They are a proud nation, and their children deserve to play with something other than the discarded bottles of tourists.

The Makeshift Game: How many stones can fit into this bottle?