Author Archives: tompugh2004

The Man Of The Hour Has Taken His Final Bow. 

Dear Dad, 
You died on Monday. Thoughts arrive in waves, usually crashing with grief. Not a grief of what I’ve lost but rather of what I never had. I had a dad but never a father. And I needed a father more than anything.
You never once told me you loved me. Not once, not ever. Yet you happily told me a number of times how you wish you’d hit me harder as a child. So I’d learn my lesson which is in fact your speak for you wish you’d beaten me into submission so I’d never challenge you or stand up to you. I remember the first time you told me that you wished you’d hit me harder. I felt sick. So sick I had to stop myself from throwing up while on the phone to you. 
You’d fail to see the irony of the fact you hated that as a six year old I fought you not to get beaten as you’re telling me to take it like a man, yet you praised me for being gutsy on a sports field. I guess guts only matter as long as it suits you. 
I have no idea who I’ve lost here with you dying. Certainly not a friend or a father. A dad I guess. 
I hated your racism, sexism, misogyny. It’s what I was brought up with. You passed it onto me and I’ve done so much to try and heal this. And I’ve had to learn to apologise and accept I’m wrong because you certainly never showed me how to. You never said I’m sorry. Not once. Or admitted a mistake. I thought this was how to be, how a ‘man’ was. But you’re wrong. An apology is something beautiful. Yes, to apologise we choose to make ourselves vulnerable, yes this can be hard but it shows the other that we truly value them. 
How I’d have embraced an apology or admitting you’re wrong. Even once. 
You know, it wasn’t ok you owned a brothel. No! Whatever you say it’s not ok. Nor was taking me there as a child. 
It wasn’t ok to ask me to give an affidavit against my mum when you wanted to get custody of my brother. You had no right to ask but at 17 and a clueless dutiful son I said yes. And broke mum’s heart. A heart that was already breaking enough. You don’t ask a child to betray their mother like that. But you didn’t care as long as you got what you wanted. I think of this often and how much I hurt mum and I know she never forgave me. I’ve done some shitty things in my life but that’s the worst. And you asked me to, forced me to. 
I tried hard to love you. Tried even harder to be loved by you. I wanted that so much. To feel like you actually cared about me. But I never felt that once I started to grow up and mature. Once I realised the only thing you ever talked about was sport or gambling and that there was never a chance of intimacy, of adult conversation. I tried. Oh I tried, and each attempt brought an attack whatever the subject. Shaming me for being sensitive, for having claptrap philosophies. Anything you didn’t understand you attacked mercilessly. 
So who the fuck have I lost? I really don’t know. I lost you years ago once I started being myself, not who you wanted me to be. It would have been amazing to sit down over dinner and be allowed to tell you who I am, for you to be interested. To tell you of mistakes I’ve made, fears I have and have you, my father, support me, love me. For you to have taught me it’s ok to be vulnerable. But dinner would be an endless procession of stories with you front and centre until you decided going out wasn’t an option and dinner would be watching something for you to gamble on so loud talk wasn’t possible or you’d sssh me like a little child. So I’m lost. Totally lost. Someone who was never there can’t be gone. 
Yes we’d laugh. A lot, deeply knowing our sense of humour. But that’s not enough when it’s always the same and all there is. If only there’d been more. Intimacy, honesty, a father. I’m angry, really fucking angry and so confused because I lost you years ago. Lost unless I was exactly who and how you wanted me to be. Like when you offered me a great 21st birthday present…on the condition I split up with my girlfriend you didn’t approve of.
My head says I should be in bits crying but I’ve done that for years. I’ve missed you for years. I reached out to you for years and would be smacked back. 
What do I do with the man who admits he used my uncle’s funeral to punish me? Refused to allow me to read yet my brother and sister read when my uncle was also my godfather? You told me not to come to the funeral, which I did, so you could tell everyone how bad I was for not coming. The man who destroyed my relationship with my sister so you weren’t challenged by her about hitting our mums and in the process crushed her as well? Who the fuck wants to destroy their daughter? Their son? 
I don’t know what to do or how to feel except angry. And I know there’s deep sadness, I’ve felt it, carried it for years. 
Dad, maybe you can be a father and come to me in a dream and help me find a way to you. 

Two sets of lyrics come to me and trigger the sadness…
Oh dear dad…
I’ll ride the wave

Where it takes me

I’ll hold the pain

Release me
And – 
Tidal waves don’t beg forgiveness

Crashed and on their way

Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away

A snowflake falls in may.

And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out

Cause the man of the hour is taking his final bow

Goodbye for now.
Boy did you like a fight. Wow. And didn’t much care who you hurt. Just so long as you won. Christ, you’d even tell stories proudly of who you’d crushed. Makes me feel a little ill. 
So, you tried to destroy me, crush me to your will. It didn’t work. 
I’ll see you at the funeral. 

Tom

Broken Leadership.

You shame those aching for peace?
Yet no shame 

sending your children to death, sending others’ children to their death?
Do you look your own children in the eye and say I love you when you are sending to death fathers in lands far away that you’ve never shared bread with? 
Do you make love to your wife? Each thrust echoing the strike of a bomb, perhaps falling on young lovers. An orgasm of blood at your behest.
Leading children to death from behind your secure walls is not noble. Is not courageous. 
You shame those who say no to death? Perhaps one dark night when you look down at your bloodstained hands you may feel the shame of murder. 
Perhaps.

Dear Dad, who are you to teach us to kill? 

I believe those in positions of power are the parents of those in their charge.

The manager of a store is the father or mother to their staff. The owner of the cafe to their staff. A CEO of a multinational to their staff. 

Parents, all parents, have a responsibility to be the best parent they can be. To teach values, compassion, vulnerability, empathy. To nurture, be accountable, strive to grow, to protect, make courageous decisions. To be human. 

A Prime Minister or President is the father or mother to the children that make up the population of the country they parent. Because parenting is what governing is. Nothing more, nothing less. The father of my country is not taking care of his children and I’m frightened.

David Cameron, it seems, is about to get the backing of his closest relative, MPs, to bomb Syria. This is done with great rhetoric that it is necessary to protect the country. 

So Dad is going to beat up on another family. Because they beat up on a family that is friends with Dad. So far so good in a macho kind of way if that’s your thing.

Except the fact that dropping bombs on the bad family is killing innocents as well as, maybe, the ones who beat up on France, the friendly family. 

And the bad family actually isn’t a family at all. It’s a lot of very pissed of people from lots of different families who are sick of being given guns and money to beat up on other families by the UK, US and whoever the hell else has a vested interest in fucking them over. For oil. Or something. 

Now a good dad, if his kids are getting beat up goes and asks their dad why. They don’t drop bombs. These bombs kill people. And will result in retaliation and if that’s the case I can’t blame them. Cameron, the US, the coalition whatever they’re called…they like ‘the good guys’ I prefer bullies…are now going to put their children even further in harm’s way. But not them. They live in bombproof houses, Mrs Cameron (how do you make love to a man knowing he’s just sent people to their death?) doesn’t get the tube. 

While all this fighting is going on the UK likes to tell the world how to live. While support for its own poor is cut, when child poverty is an embarrassment, when thousands of men, women and children are living rough yet thousands of houses stand empty. But your country isn’t right. Unless we like it then it doesn’t matter what you do. 

Instead of saying yes, we gave you those guns, screwed you over and maybe you’re pissed at us and let’s sort this mess out and we’re sorry Dad is going to bomb you. 

That’s not courage. That’s bullying. Courage is saying no more killing. Courage is saying I’m wrong. Courage is not putting your children in danger because you’re too scared to stand up and say I’m not going to be in the gang that kills anymore. 

David Cameron is a bully and a father who will get his children killed and say it’s the fault of the bullied for fighting back. 

That’s not a father, that’s a psychopath. 

The Healing

I’m on my way back from seeing Gary Clarke Jnr. 

One day after the attacks on Paris. Twenty four hours after gunmen opened fire on an Eagles Of Death Metal concert. 

I didn’t want to go to a show today. It somehow felt wrong to enjoy myself when last night people doing exactly the same thing lost their lives. How many? Over a hundred? One of the merch sellers lost their life. If you go to gigs you’ve probably bought merch. Maybe from this guy. 

I felt afraid going to London today yet I’m from London, we’ve had terror attacks when I grew up. This felt closer to home. Music, a gig – I’ve been to countless. I also felt guilty at times as if I shouldn’t go and do something that cost so many their lives last night. 

I stood and watched the show, music taking me away and I’d shut my eyes and remember Paris and I’d imagine the joy, the revelry being ripped away by bullets and I’d come back to the dreadful reality and stumble back to the moment and see Gary Clark Jnr playing, hear his stunning guitar, feel the crowd. And I’d feel guilt again. Why should I be able to dance the night away? 

And I thought about the attack. And how social media is flooded with the most wonderful support; as well as this hatred of bigots. Tricolors everywhere in support, in solidarity. Candlelit vigils. 

And I wonder if this attack took place in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan would we in the West even notice? Do we truly notice what’s not in our backyard? I spent a lot of time also noticing how much freedom I have as a white male living in the West. White privilege, male privilege…perhaps we need to add Western privilege? Because I live in Syria means as much to their loved ones as it does to ours. Because I’m not going to sleep with gunfire in the distance, because I can go to the market, the park, a gig safely. But people didn’t go to their show last night and come home safe. Close to my doorstep. And my world felt less safe today. A lot less. And it was due to one night of attacks and poignantly on something I love, take part in, work with. Live music. 

So it became so much more real, more visceral. 

But I don’t live with attacks, gunfire, bombings every day. Others do. But we don’t put their flag on our Facebook pages, tweet them. 

Do we truly want world peace or is peace where we live good enough? Because I don’t see anyone in power trying to work towards a resolution, being accountable for what we’ve created. I see blame, revenge, profiteering and a lot of arrogance that we know what’s best for you. 

Hatred creates hatred. Persecution creates hatred. Subjugation creates hatred. Two wrongs don’t make a right children are told. 

When will a politician, someone of real courage stand up and say enough? Say we, WE, have to start to try and work this out together. Be humble enough to say we screwed up. We’re screwing up and let’s put people before profit, saving lives before saving face. Will this ever happen or will we just carry on bombing, killing, creating fear, hatred? Because it’s not working. 

An eye for an eye leads to two blind people. And it seems as if we’re being blindly led into an abyss that will, one day, be too big to come back from and no amount of Western privilege will be able to save us then. 

In Hiding. 

If I said it’s been a while I’d be far from honest and only trying to kid myself to make myself feel better. 

It’s been well over a year since I’ve written. And I wondered why. Wondering rather than shaming myself or burying it to feel better…conning myself to feel better. 

Wondering and up rose the truth. I’ve been hiding. Hiding my heart. A heart that was operated on this time last year, a physically wounded heart. I knew it was bigger than the simple, yet terrifying, operation. Psychically something alien, no natural to help my heart. A damaged heart. There is heart disease in my family yet I know a lifestyle full of drugs didn’t help. A grief arose. A grief that brought me face to face with my own self destruction. And I ran from facing this.

My truth too painful; that I’d been killing myself. Yet I know this is because it was too brutally painful to live. 

So vulnerable. Yet my vulnerability is my strength. And it was so hard to stand in this place, to date greatly. New arrivals in my life quietly saying no, I won’t accept your vulnerability. Afraid, a wounded heart, shame for having wounded my own heart, a child within broken hearted because again he wasn’t being accepted…and I closed down my heart, tried to fit in by hiding me. 

Over a year later I know to hide is to break my own heart. 

Yes, the majority of humans are terrified of another’s vulnerability. I know that place well, know I’d have criticised, shamed, judged to shut up anyone who dared to make me feel uncomfortable because they had the courage to dare to be vulnerable. And that is the crux. We shut other’s vulnerability down because we are terrified of our own. 

I’ve shut down to try to fit in, be accepted. To be acceptable to someone else so I might get their approval. So I’ve buried myself behind cigarettes, sugar, caffeine. Hid myself to ‘you’ might like me. But it backfired. Being inauthentic is exhausting, miserable, full of disappointment. Self prescribed disappointment. 

So I’m choosing to write again. From here I know I’ll remember more who I am, not who the ‘you’ who is terrified of their own vulnerability wants me to be.

I owe it to myself, not you.

Ray Rice, Lee Westwood, nail varnish, the Tube, Leaving Here and a fanciful hope.

I’ve seen both Ray Rice videos. I’ve seen the now deleted tweet by Lee Westwood, seen the NFL backtracking, seen Floyd Mayweather say the original ban was enough. Mind you Floyd did do time for battery against an ex girlfriend so no surprise there really. And I’m left so sad, so very angry.

If you haven’t seen the videos I’d say don’t. Brutal and callous are the words I’d use for the attack and aftermath. Rice would have got away with knocking his fiancée out cold if he hadn’t been caught on camera. Quite what the NFL have been doing I’m not sure but the full truth isn’t out I’m sure.

What concerns me is domestic violence again seems to be less about the women than men needing to be protected. Maybe I’m wrong but there seems to be a culture of cover up across the board. It’s almost as if there’s an unconscious belief that if this gets taken really seriously the fall out would be men not being ‘men’. And domestic violence isn’t taken seriously enough for me, how else do you explain Lee Westwood tweeting that Rice is a free agent, sign him for the 49ers? It’s not taken seriously in the NFL as the initial ban was TWO games, yet smoking a joint gets you a year ban.

And I’ve been reading recently how prevalent sexual harassment on the Tube and Subway are. Some stories I’ve read left me feeling ill at the violation.

And yet it mostly seems that the responsibility falls on the woman. She was wearing a low top, shouldn’t have been drinking, walked in the wrong place, walking late at night, wear nail polish that changes colours if your drink is spiked, why is she with him?

BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT.

If ANYONE gets assaulted it’s the doer’s responsibility. If I get mugged it’s not my fault.

Yet if a woman gets assaulted its somehow laid at her feet in an awful lot of cases.

My dad hit my mum. Once that I know of because I head the screams and came down, saw the bruises on my mum and tried to beat my dad up. I was around 10. Maybe once, but in reality how many times? He hit my stepmother, again only the once I know of. He broke her ribs in self defence he says. I did see scratches on his face another time. Hear of her attacking him with a tennis racket. But what else happened? Where is the truth?

The truth is in this age of information we have access to real news from all over the world. We see so much and hopefully our awareness grows, our desire to be courageous and do something grows. But does it? I see funding in rape crisis cut and cut. I see cover ups and lack of successful prosecutions.

A fanciful hope is that the NFL stands up and are true men. My hope is that they quit the crap that’s going on now and do something positive. They are a billion dollar business. They have huge influence. They could support DV organisations with funding, raise campaigns of awareness, bring in a culture of telling the truth. I know, fanciful. But I can hope. Without hope what’s the point?

And Leaving Here…a great cover Pearl Jam does. About domestic abuse. Makes me so sad hearing it at the same time as loving the song. I hope I’m not alone in understanding what it’s about. I hope as well as rocking out and dancing some men are moved to take a stand for women.

I’ll be painting ’em up again. This time realising my bright red polish is anti-rape, anti DV, anti harassment. And in honour of the women I know who have been raped, the women I know who have suffered domestic violence and those I know who have been harassed and assaulted on trains and busses.

He Couldn’t Cry.

He couldn’t cry.

The hurt ran to deep to cry. The blows, the words and the touching seared. Scarred a heart perhaps too tender for this world.

Too far below did the tears pool to break forth. A grand reservoir long since frozen over, the thick ice allowing not even the merest hint life to be glimpsed.

Here, still as death below the ice, lie the rivers of truth waiting to be set free that they might live. That he might live.

So clear is the river of truth, so sweet it’s taste. Rivers so full of life you can see them dance teeming with laughter.

Only love can melt the ice of a frozen heart. Only love can release the tears.

The tears of joy that only living and loving can free.

He couldn’t cry his tears of joy because, as yet, he lay frozen, waiting, aching for the warmth of love to melt him free.

Pizza with cheddar is still pizza.

When I decided to wear nail varnish to say both I support women and I utterly condemn rape in any form I wasn’t aware of what was going to be brought up for me.

When I went to have a steam and swim yesterday I felt very exposed as all I had on was shorts and nail polish. Bright red nail polish. I felt uncomfortable with some of the looks I got and energy coming my way. I combatted this internally by acknowledging that I am standing up and being counted for something I believe in deeply. The safety and respect of women.

The looks directed at me took me to a place of wondering. I allowed myself to go deep inside, to open my channels to explore what it was like for women to have covetous looks directed at them and a vision of a gang rape came to me and I felt the terror of the victim. There was more than terror as I felt a helplessness. And tuning into the men I felt a cruel triumph and utter dehumanising of the victim. And I realised this goes on every day. Women become objects. Men lose their masculinity in a rage filled attempt to be men.

Later two young women are talking amongst themselves, one saying that on an occasion when there had been so much steam when she came in she stumbled over a man a lot older than her she hadn’t seen. He took her hand to steady her. Then continued to hold it for a minute after she had sat down. What disturbed me as much as this violation of her safety is when I said I was sorry this had happened to her she really wasn’t able to say it wasn’t ok. Holding a young woman’s hand uninvited when she’s in a swimsuit is harassment.

This all makes me very sad and angry. And confused. Confused because I truly believe that women have the right to be safe, to not be harassed, to not be objectified. Yet I know the legacy of my childhood still lives in me. A legacy that was born in a brothel.

From the age of 8-14/15 my father owned a massage parlour. It was a brothel. Apparently full sex wasn’t allowed which makes it an ok business according to my father and therefore not a brothel. Sure, and pizza isn’t pizza because you use cheddar. What it taught me is women were there for my pleasure and to do as I said. Not true. In my family women aren’t respected unless they’re entertaining, beautiful and making home- and that’s not respect. So I carry some issues. I do struggle with objectifying women, expecting women to answer my every need, to make me feel better. But I struggle with this and don’t act it out. And sometimes I don’t even know what the ‘rules’ are. Is looking ok, glancing at a woman I find attractive ok? I know ogling isn’t. I know rape isn’t. I know sexual harassment isn’t.

I know that my statement hasn’t made much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Make that negligible. But it has brought to me a wish to do more to bring this issue into the male consciousness.

A girlfriend once quoted to me, by who I can’t remember, and this may not be verbatim…

There isn’t a woman alive who hears footsteps in the dark and isn’t afraid.

I can’t change this. I’m not in the public eye to get a great campaign going. But I am willing to speak up where I can, when I can. And maybe, just maybe, a few more men will realise what their footsteps can evoke.

Why I’m wearing nail varnish.

Four students in the US have come up with a nail varnish that changes colour when it detects ‘date rape’ drugs in a drink. Stir the drink with your nails and the tell tale change of colour occurs if rohypnol etc are present.

You have to be kidding me?

But sadly this is real. I’m also sickly amused by the fact that the four students are male. Why? Well, it’s a lot easier to make a nail varnish than make a stand it seems. It’s men doing the raping, it’s men who cause women to feel unsafe walking home.

Excuse the pun but this nail varnish is mere veneer. Rape is an issue that won’t be combatted by nail varnish.

So I’m wearing nail varnish for a week as a statement saying I’m a man and I’m not ok with rape. I personally know too many people who’ve been raped including someone who was robbed at the same time. The perpetrator was caught. And got a longer sentence for the robbery.

I can’t stop rape. I can’t stop people making jokes about rape. But I can make a stand against rape in my own way.

I’ve asked make friends to do this as well. If I was a rock star, movie star etc I’d have 10,000 men with painted nails by dinner time. I’m not but if 50 men do this that’s a lot of people asking why. I’m doing this for a week. I hope I get asked a lot.

It takes no courage to rape. It will take some courage to go into a meeting or the gym with painted nails.

So men reading this, paint ’em up.

Here’s a video I made earlier about this-

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=956289097720982&id=814123041937589

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