The Hardest Thing in the World

This is the hardest it’s felt to get started since I started my fledgling blogging career a week ago.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about when I started this blog on my business website so wrote abut my childhood and went from there, chronologically.

I‘ve felt a bit like Forrest Gump only on a keyboard.

I’ve just kept typing through my life!

Sometimes you just bolt though life without the time or chance to look back.

So it’s been nice from that perspective. Well for me anyway, haha.

After all, who wants to hear about a kid playing in a wheelbarrow full of sand and cement in a manky back lane in South Shields!

Every other topic I’ve written about has just flowed, even though I normally have such a terrible memory. I’ve surprised myself.

They’ve mainly been nice happy stories, even My Letter to my Dad, despite the sadness it was happy memories.

So it’s been great to look back through the eyes of these blogs.

But the end of a relationship is never going to be a good story.

Suffice to say that it had just gotten pretty crap. For lots of the time.

That was it.

I remember, that was the one thing we agreed on.

No big huge dramas, no cheating. Just lots of nothingness.

Not doing stuff together, not wanting to spend time together, not talking much.

And when it’s been like this for lots of years you have to accept when it is irretrievable.

So something drastic had to happen.

The hardest thing to accept was the fact that we would not be a family unit anymore, living under one roof.

The thought of a future without Sonny and Lolas company all of the time was the worst feeling in the world.

But when you are not happy because of the relationship you are in and it constantly makes you feel down you need to do something about it.

And that something is the hardest thing in the world when there are kids in the story.

I had contemplated what to do about how I felt for many many months, if not years.

It was the toughest decision in my life as I knew that my life would change forever.

My parents were happily married until the day my Dad died.  My Mam was always by his side.

They were inseparable. To me anyway.

Sure, they had the odd argument (usually once we were in bed) but generally they always seemed happy and definitely in love.

So from this upbringing to decide to split up and to break up the family unit felt like being a failure.

And no-one wants that.

Looking back now I know that it was just accepting the truth of the situation but that’s how it felt at the time.

I also worried about the effect it would have on the kids.

Kids from broken homes?

Oh they always go off the rails don’t they? That was the stereo type, at least when I was a kid.

Well I needn’t have worried.

One thing I’ve learned over the last few years since is that is the adults that do all of this unnecessary worrying and the kids just get on with it and accept the situation that they are in.

So I can confirm the my kids still are as ace now as they were then ?

Returning to back then; totally out of character for me I started to stay back late at work.

Usually I wanted to be the first out of the door, not the last!

There was lots of work to do but I think subconsciously it was in part to delay going back home.

I was avoiding the situation.

One night another colleague Gregor stayed back late as well in the office.

Feeling pretty stressed I opened up and I told him that I was going to end the relationship. He was the first person I told about it.

And he, feeling pretty bad about what I had just told him, said that they’d just found out that they were going to be having a baby! He was going to tell everyone else in the office the following day but think he told me to maybe cheer me up.

It’s okay mate I won’t tell anyone else to piss on your chips! Haha.

Love to get a good bit of Ying and Yang into any story ?

I adored Sonny and Lola but needed to be brave and do the right thing for their sakes.

It was not a mutual decision which made things really difficult but in the autumn of 2012 I agreed to the request that we would wait until after Christmas then we would tell the kids.

Living under the same roof under the pretence to the whole of the outside world that we were still together for 2 or 3 months was not as easy as it sounds.

For weeks I didn’t tell anyone as I was worried it would get back to the kids before we told them.

As crazy as it sounds, that was the case.

So all this tension was built up inside me and I didn’t tell a soul for months!

The relationship started not long after I came to Aberdeen in 2002.

So I didn’t really have much time to build up a big social circle or form close friendships and like many guys I am crap at keeping in contact with old friends.

My best friends, the ones I’ve spend the most time with, before things like kids and relationships came, and know how each other tick are all back in England.

I have lots of folk I know in Aberdeen, friends from work, through scooters (I used to have vintage Vepsas and knew lots of folk through that) and football, good neighbours.

But no-one that I saw regularly enough to call a best friend to be honest.

My brother and I never speak on the phone and it wasn’t really the type of thing I had ever spoken to my mam about. Although I do now actually.

So it stayed bottled up.

All these feelings and thoughts.

Eventually, I think in early December I confided in a friend about the separation.

Me and him rarely had a night out, once in a blue moon! Then all of a sudden we were in our local, The Palm Court having a few beers and a heart to heart 3 weekends in a row haha!

Cheers Lee! You’re a star mate.

Then I told my brother over the phone.

Probably knowing our relationship the best of any of my family or friends, from the time we spent together and joint holidays, etc with his family he was not surprised in the slightest.

And around the same time I spoke to the tenants in my apartment and informed them that I needed to give them their notice as I was going to move back in after the new year.

As mentioned in a previous blog I worked in oil and gas then which was awash with money and budgets for team building. This inevitably meant we used to get lots of end of project gatherings, etc many with a free bar or at least a few free beers.

It just so happened that one of the works nights out was around then, at the start of December, for some Norwegian graduates who were returning back home after a year in our office.

I was was on a bit of a health kick at the time, and would love to go into that a bit deeper in future.

I put on a stone or so of weight in my late 30s.

This was totally unlike me. I’ve always been lean and not a picking of fat on me.

Then this belly seemed to appear from nowhere ha!

Possibly as I stopped playing football in my mid 30s and didn’t really exercise much for a year or 2 when life was so busy with the kids, work and renovating the house.

Or possibly due to eating kids leftovers (never waste anything was how I was brought up) and too many take aways but looking back it is coincidental that it happened during this period of my life.

More likely a combination of the two.

Anyway, I had discovered a love for a glass or red wine instead of beer. I liked the taste but the main reason initially was it was less calorific than beer, but very a very higher alcoholic value obviously!

So here I am drinking large glasses of Malbec at the same pace as my colleagues were drinking relatively weak beer.

For the whole night.

Throw a few sprints into the equation at the end of the night which folk were buying and there was only one way I was going and that was onto the floor!

At the end of the night I left the pub with a colleague, BC who I had previously shared a few work trips to Stavanger with.

We had a right laugh over there, and we joked later about how I was singing to him down Union Street when his bus home came and I attempted to walk home!

I was BLEEZING as the locals say up here haha!

Several HOURS later the police dropped me off home in a dog van (apparently the dogs were going crazy, sorry again neighbours) and my face was a right mess.

They had found me lying in the snow in a desolate part of Queens Road, not too far from home!

I think I did well to get that far!

I love walking so after a night out I like to walk home. Even though its a good 2-3 miles to my house from town.

And this particular night it was really icy due to the thaw and freeze cycle. So a bottle or 2 of wine plus the ice resulted in this.

I’m guessing I slipped but looking at my face it looks like I was set upon my a street gang haha!

Might seem odd taking a photo of it but did it to remind myself of this time and not to be so stupid again. I continue to walk home from nights out!

Christmas came and went.

It could not have felt more awkward with the in laws there for the whole day and me not knowing if they knew about you know what!

On Boxing Day (I thought but looking back through old photos I seemed to have went or a walk up Bob Scotts Bothy in the Highlands with mates I hill walked with on the 27th so might have been the day after) I said I was going to South Shields to see my family and that when I got back up we would tell the kids.

I only intended on staying in South Shields for 2 or 3 nights then we would get it all over and done with.

But I could not face going back and having to tell the kids what was going to be happening and ended up staying down about a week or so.

The day I got down there I drove straight to my Mams and told her.

I wanted to tell her face to face and not over the phone.

She was great about it. Really supportive. She didn’t seem too surprised either.

Then I went to my Nana’s and she was the opposite.

Very upset and said I had to stay together, for the kids sake. I guess it’s a generational thing. That’s what you did in her day.

My brother and great sister in law put me up. Which was great of them.

I know I wasn’t the most fun company with the situation so really appreciate what they did for me then. They’ve always been really good to me.

One of those crap sofa beds which has 3 foam bits which fold out onto lie on the floor was my sanctuary in their spare room for this time period. So sleep quality was reflective of this haha!

On nights the three of us would share a bottle of red and a beer or two, normally quite a late night.

Then I’d wake around 5 or 6am and take their ace little Jack Russell Alfie (who they got as a rescue god when he was about 2 years old and sadly passed away last year) for a walk. All of these photos were taken on those mornings.

December 2012: Wor Alfie my little walking mate. He was a canny little soul.

We’d walk from their house on Barbour Avenue to Marsden beach first.

Then we’d comb the beach, rock-pools, cliffs and every nook and cranny I explored as a kid when I used to spend lots of happy Sundays there with my old next-door neighbour and very good friend Micky Morley walking his wee dog Carly!

Then we walked along the stunning coastal paths, along every little bend and curve, following the line of the cliffs.

Alfie and I walked for hours, 7, 8, 9 miles each morning. He was in his element!

Up and down that coastline that I love.

And will always love.

My sister in law Laura used to joke on that Alfie was never the same since after those long walks haha

Sounds soft but the South Shields coastline is a spiritual place to me.

All the way up to the mouth of the River Tyne.

And all along its banks. To where my grandparents were brought up on Tyne Dock and where I first worked after University in the Tyne Dock Engineering shipyards that once lined it.

I have no idea why I feel that way. And know that I won’t be alone feeling like that about it.

The memories?

Going there as a kid?  Picnics with my Mam and Dad and grandparents and mates and their parents. Sandwiches with sand in and the freedom of the wide open beaches?

Herd Groyne Pier January 1st 2013: A New Year

Splashing and playing in the waves?

Going there with my parents to the Marsden Grotto as a kid whenever my Aunties and Uncles came up to visit from down south?

Going bird watching with all my school mates after our teacher Mr Mills told us there was a Ring Ouzel in Marsden Quarry?

Drinking along there on bank holidays with with mates, having the time of our lives?

Bouncing up and down to the Some Roses on the dance floor in a bars function room along the coast for my mates wedding with all of my best mates?

Chugging up the Tyne at 2am in the morning on the Pilot Cutter in the pitch black up some dogy rope ladder onto some big ship from some far away place.

Or when two of my best mates, Ali and Ulrik took me there the day my dad died, to help me though that day? To rescue me from the pain and loss.

Spending a week on this beach with Sonny and Lola when my first niece was born and all those memories?


It feels something deeper than all of that but I’ve absolutely no bloody idea what.

Like it literally is something in my blood, from generations back.

Anyhoo, I remember at the time walking in solitude, well with Alfie as my little mate, felt like therapy in itself.

Pulling yourself together.

Get your strength after the previous months of stress.

The biggest moment in you life is ahead and then a new chapter will begin. That was ALL that was on my mind. Telling the kids. I was DREADING it.

I can only relate this feeling to the bit in Superman 2, I think, where the main man loses his strength. Then he goes back to that weird place with all of the crystals and regains his superpowers again! Haha.

Marsden beach, South Shields, the coast in general is the place when I can go to draw strength.

Marsden Beach 30th December 2012: The dawning of a brand new day.

As bonkers as it sounds, its a fact.

I have always collected pebbles and sea glass with the kids. Ever since they were really little (they were 7 & 8 years old actually at the time).

The day before I drove back up I saw a nice one, glistening in the early morning sun.

Then another!  I thought I’d collect 3, no 4! The kids would like those.

I put them in my pocket to take back up to Aberdeen then forgot all about them.

Then I went to the Barbour Factory Shop in Bede Industrial Estate and spend a heap of cash on clothes in the sales!

T shirts, shirts, hats and scarves, stuff for the kids, and 2 or 3 jackets. With this recent health kick and the weight I had lost all of my clothes were now hanging off me and I hadn’t bought clothes for myself in ages.

My wardrobe was in some serious need of sprucing up.

Retail therapy? I guess subconsciously I was getting ready for being single again. But didn’t realise that at the time.

I drove back up to Aberdeen on the Thursday and arrived at night.

It was agreed that we would tell the kids over breakfast the following morning.

Whilst I was making an omelette she started to tell them.

Mam and Dad haven’t been getting on so Dads going to be moving into the flat on Clarmeont Street.

The atmosphere in the room heightened.

I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. Like an out of body experience, only everyone was out of their bodies!

Lola ran around the kitchen table, flung her arms around me and said “If dads going to the flat, then so am I.”

It was just her reaction to the shock I guess.

I felt the 4 pebbles in my pocket and pulled them out.

I put them all down on the kitchen table and looked at Sonny and Lola and said:

“Sonny, you take one. Lola, you take one. Choose one for Mam. Okay, this one is mine. See now when we are all together. We’re like this”

And I put all of the pebbles together.

Then I said “When you go to school” and I pushed the pebbles back towards them “you’re there, but…” pulling the pebbles back together “we can always come back together.”

“So when Dad’s at the flat” taking my pebble away towards me “I’ll be here” but we can always come back together.”

I guess I simplified it a bit as it will only be the 3 pebbles coming back together in future but it seemed to calm them down and we finished breakfast as if everything was normal.

We spent the weekend together and on Monday the kids started back to school.

Two weeks later once the tenants had left I went back to the flat which I bought when I moved to Aberdeen to stay for the first time since I moved out 8 years previously.

December 2012 Marsden Bay – my kryptonite sanctuary! And many others also it seems…

And part of a new chapter in my life.

Aberdeen —
18 Viewfield Gardens, Aberdeen AB15 7XN, United Kingdom

South Tyneside —
44 Hartington Terrace NE33 4DE South Shields

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