Not Everyone Is Dreaming Of A White Christmas.

(This was written in December, with the snow and freezing conditions in the UK today this still holds true. And does every day.)

I’m on my way to meet two young people to let them know Given To Live is taking them to a show. This is what GTL does, tries through live music to make someone’s world a better place.

It’s a two train journey, over three hours travel each way. And it’s cold. I’m cold. Waiting on platforms I overhear people saying…my god it’s cold…its sooo cold…it’s freezing.

It really is freezing. And the countryside looks fantastic out of the train window, cloaked in white. And while I nip out to buy a warming coffee in between trains I see a young man sat motionless wrapped in a sleeping bag.

And I remember when I was homeless. It was summer, a warm summer and it still was chilly at night. It’s not like going camping when you’re looking for a safe doorway or car park. A safe space where no one will abuse you, attack you, piss on you because it’s a laugh on a night out.

Homelessness isn’t all drink and drugs. And even if it was wouldn’t you want something to take away the desolation? Some say it’s a choice…can you imagine how terrible a life must be to make that choice?

I’m going to be cold again when I get off this train. Then I’ll be picked and into the warmth of a car and taken to the college where the two young people are. I’m looking forward to writing the story, which I’ll do in the warmth. I won’t be afraid, humiliated, desperate for a place in a shelter that won’t have room for everyone who needs it.

This post won’t stop homelessness, won’t stop those who will freeze to death from dying. But maybe you can buy a sandwich or a hot drink.

Just as importantly you can look a homeless person in the eye and say hello, trust me it really makes a difference being treated as human. Maybe you’ve a spare jumper, coat, sleeping bag you could give away or donate to a shelter.

Not everyone is dreaming of a white Christmas.

Sea Lions

Sea Lions.

The sea lions barked and shouted.

Played, pushed, lay peacefully and sniffed the air deeply.

The sea lions fought for position, to be the boss.

Fought to impress a lioness.

They shouted with full bellies, not worrying about the two legged watchers taking in the scene of nature at play.

Watchers who daily poison the sea lions world, daily dump toxic loads, daily lay murderous traps of discarded plastic.

Finished with barking, strutting, playing, sniffing and loving the sea lions slept.

Slept in front of the watching humans.

Arrogantly intelligent humans that aren’t smart enough not to destroy the world they live in.

I have wished for so long, how I wish for you today.

Dad died a couple of weeks ago and was cremated on Tuesday. 
He was my hero until my journey into rehab and therapy opened my eyes. Opened my eyes to seeing that things that I shrugged my shoulders at because they’d simply been part of my life became real. Then therapy asked me to grow up, to mature and I accepted the question and became conscious. Not fully or perfect but awake. And this in turn created a chasm between me and my dad; and my family what little there is. 
What I’ve realised this last few days is there is nothing in a relationship if it’s just a script. I loved my dad, I loved how our sense of humours were perfectly in sync. But the conversation never went past him. Never went past sport and gambling, past his stories about him and pretty much everyone had him as amazing. 

He did do some truly awful things to me, both as an adult as well as a child. But as this week has passed and I’ve wondered, felt, mused upon things I realise the biggest heartbreak is I never knew him. I knew Tom Pugh (both Toms but not named after him) but not Tom. I knew dad but not a father. His masks were so fierce no one got in. Sure, some sentimental tears about my mum and grandfather but that was it. 

Tom Pugh died the day he fell, drunk, and broke bones in his back in the summer of ’14. He was no longer able to play tennis, no longer able to be the sports star with his stories (he played cricket for Gloucestershire, won God knows how many racquets tournaments), no longer able to be the mask he’d worn for so long. And he had no idea how to be Tom, to be human. 

I went to see him a lot early last year. In the end come May I didn’t bother and never spoke to him again. I knew he was going to die, knew I wanted him to. For me and for him. All last month I kept wanting to call but I couldn’t, I didn’t because I knew it would be just the same and my heart would break a little more. Although it’s only now I realised my heart was breaking each time we spoke. I’d get angry, frustrated, sometimes I’d hurt. But it was so usual my reaction was the same pretty much every time. 

I wondered why did I go and see dad so often last year? The answer is I wanted to be able to love him and him love me. And he couldn’t allow either though in his own way he tried by leaving a note a couple of times. In the end we had one fight too many and I gave up. Maybe I shouldn’t have, maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I hadn’t he’d have written a note that said I love, the actual words. He never said that. 

I wish I knew then that was what I was doing. I’d have simply told him I’m there because I want to love him before he dies. But I didn’t know consciously. And I’d walk in alone. No support or understanding from my very estranged brother and sister, no wife or partner to say take a breath or coax the tears at the end of the day. I didn’t really do very well but I tried. I’ve a long way to go. 

I went to see him on Monday in the funeral home or whatever it was. I’m glad. I could be honest and vulnerable without him answering back and, to use one of his expressions, smashing me to smithereens which is what he did. I told him I loved him, which I’d forgotten in all the hurt, and I wished he’d once said he loved me or he’s proud of me. And he should have been proud. Yes, I did some really shitty stuff in my life when I was using and drinking. But without any help from my family I got myself back. Back after being homeless, many overdoses, suicidal, depression, back to living. But he never wanted to know, always changed the subject if I tried to bring it up. 

And it’s so confusing because I only have his script, his masks to miss and I got so tired of those so long ago. Then I miss what could have been, what should have been and it’s hurts so much, so very much. 

I loved him, I just wish I could’ve found him. Even once.

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. 


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. 

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.