Who would ever believe 1 hour out of every week would change a scarred man’s life for ever?
Why is this man’s life scarred? At 52, still affected by a myriad of happenings that cannot be good but they have made me the man I am today. They made my resilient, by the use of drink and drugs, like a crutch to a crippled man, they helped me walk, not without affliction, a soul that was weathered but could operate by infrequent journeys to the outside world. More of my life was lived in this room or that room. Music has always been my closest companion and it turned out to be my saviour. I am as I was then at 15 years old; the only way out is with a guitar, pen and paper.
A lonesome lad kicks a tin can down the alley. A football kicked in to the flooded river has gone for good. He’d had that ball for six weeks. His dad will laugh at the spectacle of it floating around the bend at some speed.
No one knew if that tree could be climbed. I have climbed the rest. But this beast of a tree had no easy access. Most of the branches I couldn’t fit my hand round. Following my brother, I slipped and fell to the ground. The tree had defeated me; not many did. That one had.
I went back there when I had grown. I placed the palm of my hand upon the bark, looking up at the way through the branches. When I popped up above the canopy of trees, I knew things were about to change. The view was great; bees collecting pollen from the flowers of the conker tree. Holding my hands aloft to reach the sky, I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t, but what if one day I reached up and the felt the blue between my fingers? Even if it did happen, no one would believe the word of a child.
A six week holiday away from school. The greatest thing to happen to an 8 year old and his best mate Kev. Every day was an adventure of the highest order. Rope swings tied to the highest trees; great times we had. We were like the lost boys, no restrictions to our imagination.
As I pushed my left-tied trainer to the floor, I was out of the door, shouting ‘bye’ to my mam; a walk I took most days to my best mate’s. Only a short walk, 5 minutes about. It was a quite area of Bad Bargain Lane, especially quiet as it was a Sunday.
I turned to look over my left shoulder and ‘he’ was upon me, he forced me to the floor, sat on my chest, pinned my arms down with his knees. His crotch was unzipped as he released his penis in his right hand. He placed it upon my lips. I shook my head to escape it. He held my head with his left hand and tried to part my lips with his penis. I had my teeth clenched; he wiped it all over my face.
A car with two elderly people appeared at the side of us. They looked down at us, in which time he had put his penis away and had started to make it look like he was only playing. As they drove off, he fled, my ordeal was over.
Dazed, shocked and confused I went to my mate’s Kev and I mentioned briefly what had happened. He laughed, then so did I. We carried on with the day.
At the age of 8 I lost my innocence. I never mentioned it again for 10 years.
My father was a hero to me. He was diagnosed with lymphoma. One day, after battling through the worst storm I had ever before or since seen or heard, he walked into the house, gave a large belch, then a bang of a 13 stone body collapsing hard upon the floor. My screaming 10 year old sister thought it was a rabid dog as my dad was having convulsions. My mother was slapping him hysterically as I phoned an ambulance. Once that was done, I lifted my mother off my dad and asked her to phone again for an ambulance. The storm inside the house was now matching the storm outside.
I sat on the floor with my legs outstretched, and placed my father’s head upon one, while tilting his head so to give mouth to mouth, which was difficult to do as he clenched his teeth in excruciating pain. My fingers got caught in his teeth, but it was like he knew because before biting them off, he opened his mouth and released them. The vomit in my eyes that was spewing from my dad, I had to wipe away to see what I was doing.
I sensed someone stood in the corner of the hall, I looked up, in my mind’s eye I saw my dad floating 2-3ft off the floor with his arms folded, looking at me while slowly shaking his head – with a smile on his face. Then like a rocket he shot upwards. This all happened in seconds. I dismissed it, looked down at my dad and I knew he had gone. At that moment the ambulance men appeared at my father’s feet. I looked up at them hopelessly and said “He’s gone!!”
They said. “It’s alright son, we’ll deal with it from here”.
“It’s too late, he’s gone” I said. They were too late. It didn’t matter because I’d seen him go.
I’d been smoking blow morning till night every day without fail for four years when I had a drug induced psychosis. Within that time, I had taken a fated LSD tab in the same year as my dad’s demise; not a great idea. From that one trip of around 11-12 hours, known as a bum trip, (understatement of the year), the after-effects and actual event itself were like setting off one of those tactical nukes that exploded in mid air taking out all the communications and intelligence of a city the size of New York. My mind was shrapnel, to be pieced back together over the next 34 years. I believe I took 5-6 visits, lasting an average of 4-6 months in the purpose-built mental hospital called Bootham Park. Sometimes the world’s worst place in the worlds, from time to time, it was sanctuary and relief.
The first time I was there, I mentioned about what that man had done to me, as first she dismissed it as part of my mental breakdown, until the day when a paedophile was arrested in our area, and he’d been doing it for 20 years. So then my mother believed me, then she had to deal with how she hadn’t been there when I needed her most. And I had to deal with the fact, that if I had told my mother and father about it at the time - he might have been caught and a lot less children may have been his victims! I couldn’t tell my parents at the time though as they were constantly arguing and I didn’t want to make it worse, and there was the fact my father would have done life inside without a doubt.
So my first experience of Bootham – that completely destroyed any thought of being one of the coolest lads in my area. Instead I had the stigma at the age of 18 of being the local nut job. It is difficult to dress that up, it’s black and white. I was the kid who lost his mind. It was all totally negative in every way. I was not on my own - so many people are ostracised in a cruel way, its not as if having a complete mental breakdown isn’t enough to cope with, but those who used to acknowledge me now laughed at the sight of me in a demonic way. The light had gone, replaced by darkness. Thank God, everyone is not the same. Some people saw it as something unique and zany. Those were my best friends and I was still crazy so nothing much had changed there. I was, am, and always will be the crazy one and now I can prove it, I have the paperwork.
I’d been N.F.A for a few years: No. Fixed. Abode. An old friend of mine had a Joseph Rowntree flat, that he let me stay at. I always brought something to the table me; hash. Every day I’d take a gram for us all to smoke; we survived on cups of tea. Most of the time we’d make joints and cigs out of what doffs were in the ashtrays. We stole sandwich spread and bread, and that was our diet. One day the unthinkable happened; we ran out of teabags – it was my turn to go and shop-lift. I went to the shop, walked out with the biggest box of teabags I had ever seen. A hand on my shoulder. I was caught.
In the cells of the police station and court next morning. Thanks to some fines I’d forgotten about I was sentenced to a shit and shave, two weeks. As I got to HMP Hull prison, it was getting late. That didn’t stop a screw showing me to a cell that I was sharing with someone.
As the key turned in the cell door I abandoned myself to fate. Who was on the other side of the door? It slowly opened to reveal a 6ft something guy. My instincts, which are good, told me this was a good man. The door was locked behind me. To confirm that this was a good man I produced a few joints of cannabis I’d pushed up my back passage, wrapped in clingfilm. He laughed, so did I. He had baccy – so I commenced to roll a few joints. That broke any ice between us, but there wasn’t any. I asked him what his story was.
The story he told me was laced with lessons in life. Not long ago, he had been a teacher of history. He had a beautiful wife and a real close friend, and they often went rock climbing together. The coup de gras was his wife and best friend were fucking each other. (My pad-mate had just become a friend telling me this). He carried on, said he had lost his job, started drinking heavily one night for what ever reason. He threw a brick through a gunsmith’s window, got arrested, and now was getting stoned in a cell of Hull prison with me. And I was just passing through.
After a few days I was on the train home to York, my beloved city.
An old friend of mine has just given me a few joints worth so I’m gonna take this opportunity … as you read this, if I’d written in detail about my whole life, we’d be here all day, so I have attempted to share with you the essence of each happening in whole honesty. You would have had to have been there to appreciate my abstract life, as it never did me any real harm, even the acid was part of this life. Almost a map I couldn’t see, I climb a tree only to see the world stretched out in front of me.
Next, I’d been accepted on a 2-year drama and theatre course. I was 21. Over a period of the first year I’d periodically been slipping away into complete insanity. It took the first year of the course to break me. This time I was diagnosed with manic depression. A few more months into my stay at good old Bootham, one of my great fears was me, myself and I getting institutionalised. I avoided this by periodically smoking hash through the day. I went and sat at the cricket pavilion in the grounds of Bootham (what a God-send that was) in my spare time, which there wasn’t much of as I was constantly piecing my mind back together the best I could. I started by categorising what things were most important to me and worked backwards from there. Over a period of time I’d constructed the foundation of my mind. From there, I’d take each day as it materialised. One day I had this brain wave: ‘Don’t look at things directly, observe the spaces between things.’ Then I knew I was on my way back.
After months of work on my mind and conscious mind, I was released into a very scary world. After a few mini break-downs, I got better and better at piecing my head back together. You might be forgiven after reading this if you thought I had mastered my annoyance: I hadn’t. I spent a further 4 or 5 times in Bootham clustered together from 21-27 years of age. The 3rd time I visited , I wept like a child; I saw no end to it – my head by now was like an empty shed. I was at the mercy of time.
My God-given gifts of song writing and playing the guitar were my ark out of there, somehow this helped me keep my wits about me. My lyrics were slowly, I mean slowly, taking me out of there. Self realisation and observation were tools of mine that I honed; it came to a point where I could call myself skilled.
A year after being out, a life-long friend I had known since I was seven was in a half-way house. He is a paranoid schizophrenic, and what a beautiful man he is. I climbed through his window, avoiding all the questions at the door. He had a friend visiting, who had the same name as me, Michael. I was 28 and he’s still two years younger than me . There was a guitar there, Mick passed to me, I played it, so did Mick, and Rob passed it round as if it were a joint.
The next day, Mick turned up at my bedsit, and from that moment we have never looked back. But that’s exactly what I’m doing. But it wasn’t all bad. When my life was bad it was really bad but when it was good, it was ecstatic.
For the next 8 years we never left each other’s side – we weren’t gay, just really good friends. We’d agreed: family first, then Rock ‘n’ Roll, drink and drugs almost first. We used to tour – Mick with his spirit drums and me with a guitar, lyrics and voice. We toured the council estates, individual houses that would lead to another. The miles we walked in all weathers. Amphetamine covered that. Our enthusiasm was catching but we knew we couldn’t do this forever. As fate would have it, both Mick and me were about to walk into the most ambiguous substance known to man: ‘heroin’. I can’t sate if my life from then was finished or just beginning. How do you differentiate between something that puts you through Hell then takes you to Paradise? It’s only when you’ve been on that yo-yo many times that the extremes of it is a whole new bag of tricks to open. A lot of people I briefly got to know just by being on the scene. Most of these people have passed on, mainly because of illegal Valium. I heard second-hand off that person or this person we are all fully mature adults capable of making decisions that might impact our lives. Its my belief that most of the people I knew of had committed suicide. Then you can have the others side of the coin, there’s a lot of heroin addicts that self medicate just to get through each day, without it they in turn would take their own lives. They have no reason to live, and with it no reason to die.
Mick, for some reason I can’t fathom decided to stop taking his medication. Sorry I neglected to say Mick is a chronic schizophrenic, anyway as Mick deteriorated I said to him, if he’s going to do my head in by doing that, I would stop taking my medication. Over a period of days everything went chaotic. I ended up back in Bootham, God knows where Mick had gone. Then he turned up, visiting me. I didn’t see him again for months
So back in Bootham. ‘Shit’! I’d been there a couple of weeks and realised it was my giro day soon. I’d seen a BB gun in a shop near the Minster. I drew on my experience, and convinced them I was well enough to release me, and they did. I was over the moon, I went to the bank, got my giro, straight to the shop and purchased a really good looking BB gun with targets and ammo.
I headed home, I couldn’t wait, so I went off the streets, loaded and fired the BB gun into a sign. It was pretty powerful.
On the way home I knew of this lass Mick had befriended so I called at her address. Little did I know, that as soon as she saw the BB gun, she ran out of her house to the neighbours and phoned the police which I wasn’t aware of.
When I got to my flat, looking forward to putting up a few targets to shoot at, I noticed a police van pull up outside my flat. I put two and two together – that lass! So anyway I put some music on, “New Order! Loud.
Next time I looked out of the window, the road was blocked off, armed police everywhere. I thought ‘Shit’ and laughed. Through a megaphone they demanded for me to throw out anything that could be classed as a weapon. First thing I threw out was a fishing rod. Some pillows – not sure how long this went on for. I was obviously not right in the head, maybe they shouldn’t have let me out of Bootham? Anyway after a period of time I decided I am going to have to do something so they don’t feel like they have wasted their time, so I got a load of foil, rolled it into a big round ball, and put it in the microwave on full. It popped and banged a bit but nothing to write home about. So after this anti-climax I walked out, my hands held high – after throwing the BB gun out of the window. In their report it was said they were 6 seconds from taking my life.
Back to prison with no medication. This time I was locked up with this guy called “Divine”, his actual name. He was doing his rattle (“withdrawing from heroin) -I had already done mine, but I had nothing but empathy for him, its not nice at all.
What I had done, got thrown out of court, possibility after the police had looked into it. They’d realised I’d got out of Bootham a bit prematurely and I was going through a mental break down at the time of the siege. Sense prevailed, which was a rare thing for me. I went to my mother’s in Scunthorpe to convalesce – a safe place for me, to get my head together. The only place I could get love, my mother’s God bless her. I pray she’s at peace with my father and ancestors of my family, in Jesus’s name, Amen. Hallelujah, Amen. I have faith. I am not religious in anyway. I call myself a “faithful Christian’. That’s a whole other region of my life that one day I might write of, not now. It’s a whole world of intuition.
After being at my mothers on bail for the siege, I had a phone call off Mick. He told me of the plight of this lass who was homeless, could she stay at my flat until I got back?. I said yes. I trusted Mick’s judgement of people. After a period of time my mother dropped me off at my flat; as I walked through my flat’s doorway I saw her, I was immediately smitten. I owed Mick one. My life once again changed. Not for bad as usual.
I was massively blessed with a child; after making love I immediately said to her- I’d just given her a daughter. What a beautiful baby and teenager she is in every way. She is now 15 years old and Krista and I have been together for sixteen years and many more years to come.
We are pretty much up to speed where I am now. Not many people would think that one hour a week would affect anyone in any sort of way but I can testify, it does. Only God could make one hour count. And the big hearts of people that work there (THS) have a major part to play in a lot of people’s lives. Musication is the part of Tang Hall SMART (THS) that we were directed to by word of mouth in this age of technology. Word of mouth led us to a gift only God would give. The people are off the planet, I have fallen in love with the place, that should have never existed. It is difficult for me to quantify which would be more than a response to how much Musication has changed my life in a massive way. I will attempt to. I have always been a not bad song writer. Playing to a click which is something that keeps the rhythm of a song, I was totally against. As I wrongfully thought it would turn our music mechanical and robotic. In reality, once I had conquered it my playing went from mediocre to world class. Neil, the producer and friend has such a subtle way of passing on what he knows. If there was ever a perfect person to do what he does, its him. My self esteem and confidence which I never thought existed was the result. I had been a man who had been broken many times, and to an extent lived in fear if and when my next break down would occur. Not that this has totally gone away but it no more dominates my thoughts and that is just one massive happening. Tang Hall SMART is a life-line to those that are battered and bruised by that big old world out there. And they can show the victims they don’t have to be victims no more.