OK, firstly please forgive this possibly garbled post. I have thoughts rushing at me and they are hard to catch. Bear with me…
I’ve had a weird year, not least because I turned 45. I was worried about this particular birthday because my dad was 45 when he took his own life. My birthday passed and it was OK. But it was when I was in Canada last month, on my own, that I hit his exact age, to the day. It was horrible. But I survived.
Now I feel like this age – 45 – is not a millstone but a milestone. I have survived. I don’t know what the road ahead will be like – I have more mountains to climb, that’s for sure. As we all do, in our own way. But I am still here and I have to make each day count.
My childhood is vivid and present with me as I grow older. Last week, I was in my shed/office (shoffice?) sorting through old postcards and I found this kitsch one of two kittens. I had a shock when I saw who’d sent it to me, back in the long hot summer of 1976. It was from a lady I knew as Auntie Wink. She lived over the road from our sweet shop in Torquay. We hung out. It was fun. Though her house smelt of cat pee.
Wink was the starting point for my first novel The Generation Game. I had no idea I’d kept the postcard. I was really moved to have it in my hand. I was back in her front room watching Bruce and Anthea, eating fish and chips. And I said a big thank you to her for making my book what it is.
And something more. This novel was published as a result of the Luke Bitmead Writers Award, a bursary for new novelists set up in memory of a very special young writer who sadly took his own life. His mother, Elaine Hanson, who set up the award, is a wonderful woman. And a survivor.
So I suppose what I am saying is two things:
1. We can never leave our childhood, however old we get. It shapes who we are, for better, for worse. And sometimes it comes back at us, in unexpected ways.
2. We are all connected.
And finally. Today I am giving a special thought to my dad. I wish you’d got some help, Daddy. Then you might still be here, with us, approaching your 80th birthday. That’s a lot of lost years.
And finally finally. Here’s my plea. If you are feeling suicidal or if you are worried about someone who might be suicidal, then please know there is help. Please call the Samaritans. Please talk.