Life is Fragile

Time is flying passed and there is never enough of it. This post is about death, but hopefully not in a morbid or morose way. Perhaps more about the joy of living and memories of those who we’ve lost or are going to lose soon. Hopefully it will remain light-hearted and be celebratory but it’s been a tough month so bare with me…

This last month has been tough and the last week much tougher than most – chuck in the latest terror attack on London and the emotional One Love Manchester concert and everything that has been happening hit me at once in a dramatic, teary-eyed explosion of emotions.

My mate’s dad finally lost his battle to leukemia. He died surrounded by family and friends in hospital. We was Jimmy Copley, internationally renowned drummer who played with Paul Rodgers, Tears For Fears, Tony Iommi and Jeff Beck among others. He was a legend, an insanely talented drummer and someone I’m proud to call a friend. I grew up and went to school with his son Jack and we remain friends, although perhaps not as close as we used to be. Growing up with Jack we always knew that his dad was cool and a musician. But he had no airs and graces. He was the most down-to-earth person you could ever hope to meet.

JimmyWhat struck me most during his fight will the illness was his incredible positivity and his love of life. I would often bump into him walking around Bathford or on the bus and he always stopped and chatted and took a genuine interest in my life and what I was doing. His fame didn’t change him. To me he was just an ordinary guy who I felt proud to know and slightly in awe of.  He remained positive until the very end, always with a smile on his face. In fact he spent his last few months recording new material which has just been mixed down and will be released to fundraise for the amazing teams hospital departments that looked after him during his illness. The album features all manner of incredible musicians who came together to help Jimmy finish his final tracks.

For more information about the album “Live on Through the Music” and to donate to the cause visit the website:

http://www.liveonthroughmusic.com/

 

DeanoThe second person who left us suddenly was my friend Deano, who was only 40 years old and was found dead at work. His funeral was Friday. This hasn’t quite sunken in still and the emotion is incredibly raw. He was an amazing guy, incredibly funny and the life and soul of the party. He played rugby for Avonvale RFC, taught rugby to the juniors and also marshaled at Roller Mania at the pavilion in Bath. His sudden death has left the whole community in Bathford in shock. His friends and team mates from Avonvale all had special rugby tops made and wore them to his funeral. It was an amazing and emotional sight seeing them line the pathway up to the church. Deano worked on diggers and he absolutely loved them – the bigger the better. His coffin was paraded through Bathford and down to the church in the front bucket of a digger.

Deano 2When he arrived at the church he was walked through the two lines of his rugby team mates as they formed a guard of honour and clapped as he was carried between them. The service was beautiful with stunning tributes from his friends and family and there were well over 300 people in attendance to say their final goodbyes. I have many happy memories of Deano and we used to go our drinking as a group and had some hilariously funny nights out. One night he got so drunk he was found hanging on to a lamp post for dear life. I’ll always remember him, cider in hand, on the middle of the dance floor leg extended playing it like an electric guitar and singing along with Queen. AC/DC or Guns and Roses. One of his favourite songs was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird which summed him up perfectly. It’s going to take a long time to register that he’s gone. Every time I pass his house I expect to see him standing in the doorway, fag in hand waving out. And then every time I remember that I won’t ever see that again.

 

MickyThe third person to go recently was an old friend, Micky the chef. One of my first jobs when I was 15 or 16 was as Kitchen Porter (posh name for washing up) at the Crown in Bathford. Micky was chef and took me under his wing. The kitchen was a lovely and often hilarious place to work especially when there were difficult customers. Micky would come flying into the kitchen in the campest rage you could ever imagine flapping his tea towel about. He affectionately called everyone “Bitch” or “Hun”. At the time the pub was a proper local where we had the “Cheers” corner where all the regulars sat. Many hours were spent listening to Micky’s stories of working far and wide, serving royalty or his time spent in Rhyl. We often went off on trips to the theatre and we would go off to visit some of his favourite places in Bristol. And sometimes a crowd of us who worked there and regulars would pile back to Micky’s and sit with him and Chris listening to his ever fascinating stories and tales. He was also an incredibly talented artist and painter. He didn’t have an easy early life but he achieved so much on his own terms. And that’s how it was with Micky he did it all his way. He had a particular love of the music of Edith Piaf (he used to do an hilarious full vibrato impression) and Mama Cass. No matter how much time passed without seeing him he would always wave as I passed him on the bus and would always chat to mum whenever she saw him. He was one of a kind and will be missed by everyone who knew him.

 

And finally we get on to my dad. I’ve mentioned in previous posts about his illness but to give you a bit of background. Six years ago he was rushed into hospital. He could barely breathe. In fact he had a heart attack on the way to the hospital and had to be revived. He was put in an induced coma for ten days and we were told that he may not survive it. This happened just after Christmas – I believe it may have even been Boxing Day. Whilst he was in a coma my nan also passed away. It was not great time by any stretch of the imagination. Thanks to the amazing staff at the Royal United Hospital Bath’s intensive care unit he pulled through and we were told he had about a year left to live. He was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or Chronic Lung Disease. Six years later, a couple more heart attacks and fighting off skin cancer and he’s still going. Until this Wednesday when things took a turn for the worse. He was having real difficulty breathing so we called out the district nurses who came in and spent most of the night with us trying to stabilize him. We were told he’d be lucky to last out the night. So we prepared ourselves for the worse. At the time of writing this he’s still very much alive but we’ve been told he could go at any moment. He’s currently bed-bound and being fed drugs intravenously through a machine. He has up and down days. Today was a bit more of a down day. He was confused and slightly not with it. Making comments about making sure the cat didn’t steal his tablets and then this evening my mum found him very seriously trying to unplug his bed – which I’m afraid to say did make me laugh – it’s a normal double bed and not plugged in at all – I guess it’s gallows humour . Possibly a water infection – possibly some kind of hallucination bought on by the morphine and other cocktail of drugs that are currently keeping him going. The whole experience is incredibly emotionally draining. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched someone slipping away slowly in front of your eyes but that’s exactly what is happening. He’s currently disappearing piece by piece and we’re pretty much sitting here waiting for him to die. Wondering if the next breath he will take will be his final one. We don’t know when it will be but we just know that it could be soon.

Life is a funny old thing sometimes isn’t it!

But what do I take from all of this? It would be very easy to just sit and cry right now and just become a sobbing, sniffly, emotional wreck. And I have sat and I have cried and for a brief but all to fleeting moment you get some sense of empty release. But what I have chosen to take from all of this is the overwhelming support and kindness that’s around me and actually around the world in general.

My favourite quote to pull out at times like this is by Fred Rogers:

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

There is always shit going on. In life. In the world. But there are always – 100% without fail, people there offering to help. People coming together. People uniting. It would be easy to turn to fear or anger or even hate. But love always wins. Always.

For all of those who have been lost above the overwhelming thing has been the unity it has created. The sense of togetherness. People uniting in grief and going out of their way to help and support each other. Love always wins.

To the amazing teams of paramedics, doctors, nurses, consultants all fighting day in and out to save lives. To our amazing NHS. The amazing people who have chosen to spend their lives serving and saving others. They are the real heroes. They have propped us all up so many times and are always there without fail. The come together when you need them most. They don’t judge. They perform miracles. They show compassion and give hope. Love always wins.

To the people of the world who keep on offering help to each other no matter what life throws at them. Even after disgusting and cowardly terror attacks. Their spirit cannot be broken. They offer up their homes, open their hearts wide and let people enter in. Helping complete strangers. I guess a stranger really is a friend you haven’t met yet. They continue to support each other. They are there for each other. Love always wins.

Shedding tears tonight watching the one love Manchester concert. Seeing people sharing their grief. Coming together and proclaiming loudly that hate and terror will never win and never stop us living our lives and enjoying ourselves. Hate has no place here. Love always wins.

I choose to remain positive. I choose to continue fighting for what I believe in. I choose to stand by the community that has always been there and always stood by me. I choose love over hate. Peace over war. Calm over fear.

Love, ALWAYS, wins!

xXx

Why I Decided Not To Change My Profile Picture To A French Flag

A few people have asked me why I have chosen not to change my Facebook profile picture to the French flag. It was a difficult decision but I made a conscious choice not to. And whereas I love the fact so many people are coming together to show unity, support and love for the people of France by doing so – it just did not sit right with me.

Like millions of others all over the world I watched the terrible events in France unfold on Friday night. I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing and my heart is still heavy when I think about the terrible news and all those killed or injured. It was truly a dark day and a sad, sad set of affairs. But it is too easy to forget that it is not only Paris that has suffered greatly this week. There was an earthquake in Japan, suicide bombings in Lebanon, bombings at a funeral in Baghdad, an earthquake in Mexico and an attack by militants on a university in Kenya killing 147 people. There is much less news coverage of the other events but they all still represent a pointless loss of life and must not be forgotten.

And that is one of the things that does not sit quite right with me. Of course I 100% feel for the people of France, of course I do. You would have to be a monster not to feel anything hearing the stories, watching the footage and seeing the events unfold. But I also feel equally bad for the loss of any life wherever it happens. So I think we need to treat the French Flag as an addition to the grief we feel for people all over the world and make that clear in our postings about it. I know a lot of people do feel this way and feel equally bad about things happening the world over, but let’s be careful about how we show that support.

I do think we have to be a little bit careful and sensitive about why we do things. Just like the option to add rainbow colours to represent equal marriage that Facebook released several months ago. The intentions are truly beautiful but are we just doing it because everyone else is and we feel the need to show everyone? Is there more that we can actually be doing to help those affected by the attacks and other attacks around the world? I have some amazing friends on Facebook who I know will be looking for more ways to help because that’s the sort of people they are. I’m blessed to know so many wonderful people.

But there is a culture on social media at the moment which doesn’t sit comfortably with me and I discussed this with a friend earlier.

Here’s a scenario. You are walking through a city and you see a homeless person. You buy them something to eat and something warm to drink. A genuine act of kindness. You then take a selfie of yourself with the homeless person and post the picture on social media saying “Saw this homeless person sitting on the street brought him lunch. Dude was really happy.” Yes it’s still an amazing gesture but it’s tainted by the need to tell everyone else what you did. The deed, as good as it was becomes one of self-gratification and not of the pure intent which you first bestowed the gift. The pureness is somehow tarnished.

(Incidentally if you want to help people worse off in Bristol read the amazing Grace’s list of 5 suggestions here: http://bestofbristol.co/5-ways-you-can-make-a-difference-in-bristol/)

Another story that was shared with me and I’m going to repost here (thanks Gill) tells a similar tale. Apologies for those of you who are not religious (like myself) but it makes a beautiful point.

A man dies and goes to Heaven. He’s met by St Peter, who shows him around. He sees three scribes, writing in three books.

“What’s this?” he asks.

“They’re writing up your life.” Replies St Peter.

“Lawks.” Says the man.

St. Peter knows what the man is thinking. So he starts explaining.

“The first book is all your good deeds.”

It’s a pretty big book and the guy is pleased.

“This second book is all your bad deeds.”

It’s also not that small. The guy is a bit embarrassed so he turns his attention quickly to the third book. He’s confused. It’s a big book, but the scribe isn’t writing in ink.

It’s water.

“What’s this book?!”

“It’s all the good deeds you did when you thought people were watching you….”

I am not saying the flags are bad by any means and I love the feeling of togetherness it has created but it is the reason why I chose to upload a picture of the peace sign made out of all the flags of the world instead. For me personally this atrocity highlights all of the terror and hurt in the world and not just France and makes me want to find out how I can help out and do more about all of it. But please do not feel I’m judging you if you have changed your profile picture, anything but. I respect the fact that you feel moved enough to show a sign of respect and to those of you who haven’t changed your profile pictures I love you too. No-one should feel pressure to change their picture just because of what everyone else thinks. The choices are personal so please remember that before you attack people who have chosen to show their respect in other ways.

“Now the pain we all feel at this dreadful loss reminds me, reminds us that while we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.” – Albus Dumbledore, The Goblet of Fire – J K Rowling.

I have chosen to fight back with words so below are a few points which I hope may stem some of the unfocused hatred I’ve seen spill out over Facebook and Twitter in the last three days.

You cannot blame Islam or Muslims for these attacks

As the comedian Adam Hills rightly states “Terrorism has no religion”

“There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world right now. 1.6 billion. As someone pointed out on Twitter this week, if Islam really bred terror, we’d all be dead right now… The combined forces in total of Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda make up 0.003% of the global Muslim population… Less than 2% of all terror attacks are carried out in the name of Islam. You’ve got more chance of being killed by a bee sting, a peanut or the NHS.”

Then let’s take a look at the statistics from France:

6 Million Muslims live in France. If only 1% of them were radicalised terrorists that would be 60,000 Muslims attacking Paris… You do the maths and you will see that it’s a minuscule percentage of them who have been radicalised. So please do not tarnish them all with the same brush. This is exactly what those seeking to cause terror want – for the rest of the world to turn against Islam and Muslims and therefore push more of them to sign up to their cause. We cannot judge them this way and allow the terrorists to win. They want us to live in fear. They want our freedoms to be restricted and way of life to feel threatened. We cannot let them do this. We have to carry on in spite of their attempts to militarise us to respond to their sick acts of terror.

How many people have died?

Let’s look at who “ISIS” have been killing. In France there are 129 dead, 352 injured, 99 critically. In the last year reports state that ISIS have killed over 200,000 and most of those killed have been Muslims and some Christians.

The current death toll in Syria is estimated at 250,000 (30,000 of which are children). In 2014, 2,220 Palestinians were killed by the state of Israel…

The Independent newspaper released the following statistics from 2013 on deaths from terrorism around the world:

“Using new data from the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), shows that over 80% of global deaths occurred in just five countries.” Iraq suffered the worst with 35.4%, Afghanistan 17.3%, Pakistan 13.1%, Nigeria 10.2%, Syria 6.0%…

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Read the full article here Independent Newspaper Link

Why have the attacks on France really hit home? I think it is easier for us to empathise with people that we see as similar to us. France is incredibly close to home and it makes the situation seem more vivid and real. Many of us have lived in or travelled to France. It’s a place we know about and it feels more real. That’s not a bad thing – it’s human nature but in doing so we must not forget all the others who are suffering.

We also shouldn’t forget that it is our unmanned drones that are blowing holes in Syria and Iraq. The difference being these attacks are sanctioned by our Governments, so that makes it okay right? I don’t believe so. It’s faceless and senseless killing with little thought for any of the innocent who get in the way of it.

I think veteran of World War 1, Harry Patch sums up my feelings about this best:

“I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.”

The atrocities in Paris were not an act of religion. They were an act of murder and killing by some very sick and disgusting individuals. The word religion in it’s most basic from means “to bind” or “to bond” – it signifies a coming together of people who share the same beliefs. A unity. If nothing else these events have proven once more that there is a solidarity in the world. As France grieves the whole world joins hands with it in a united show of support, love, strength and light in its darkest of hours.

“Spirituality is not religion. Religion divides people, belief in something unites them.” – Flight of the Phoenix.

Let’s blame the refugees…

I’ve seen numerous attempts to blame refugees for these attacks. Sorry but this is exactly the reason why these people are refugees. They are fleeing from places and lives where living in fear is a daily occurrence. I’ve seen numerous posts by people with pictures of World War 2 with quotes such as “we didn’t run away like cowards, we stood our ground and fought”. Sorry to burst your bubbles but did we not evacuate people to the country for safety? Did people not leave the UK and look for safer places to live in order to protect themselves and their families? This situation is no different. The main difference is they come from countries where they do not have the protection and support that we have in Britain. Our Governments put actions in place to allow for us to evacuate people safely. We forget how lucky we are.  At the end of the day they are people. Let us not forget this.  People who have experienced things that we cannot even begin to imagine. Show some humanity and compassion and just because you are lucky enough to have food on your table, a roof over your heads, a job to earn money and your family around you – please remember there are those in other countries that do not and by no fault of their own. They are all individuals and it must be as individuals that we form opinions of them. We cannot treat them all in the same biased way.

There have been numerous posts about “shutting our borders” and “keeping them all out”. Posts that are essentially racist wrapped up in a pretty bow to hide their true colours.

Yes these terrorists may well have travelled with refugees but that does not make them refugees. It makes them terrorists disguised as refugees. There is a big difference. If you think closing the borders is going to make any difference you are deluded. Many of these terrorists will be travelling on forged passports and entering fairly easily into the country. How do you propose we stop them? Ask all terrorists to wear badges featuring pictures of Jihadi John and the words “I’m a terrorist” scrawled across the front? By blindly blaming groups of people we are playing straight into the terrorists hands. That is what they want.

In Conclusion…

I would urge people to focus on the positivity that has come from this terrible occurrence.

Parisians throwing open their doors to strangers and helping each other by using the hashtag #PorteOuverte which essentially means “Open Door”.

To the taxi drivers who continued working and turned off their meters to give those caught up in the events free rides to ensure they got to safety.

To those caught up in the football stadium whose voices united in singing their national anthem as they helped each other exit the stadium.

To the ordinary people on the streets who tended to the injured and helped to administer first aid.

Davide Martello who drove 400 miles from Germany to play John Lennon’s Imagine on a grand piano outside the Bataclan.

“I can’t bring people back but I can inspire them with music and when people are inspired they can do anything. That’s why I played Imagine.” – Davide Martello

To the Emergency service personnel who went above and beyond to help save as many lives as they could.

Also the world coming together in the days following the attacks and showing their support.

Helpers

By all means be angry, but don’t let that anger be misguided. By doing so we allow the terrorists to win and play into their hands. Let us not forget that it was people who died, ordinary people, and that it is those same people who are dying daily all over the world. Any loss of human life is a terrible waste. Let us also remember that killing does not redeem killing.

If the aim of these attacks was to destroy faith and divide people then I’m afraid they have failed miserably. Instead there is an incredible display of love and compassion from the entire world and a feeling of love and support for all victims everywhere. Long may this compassion continue. United we are strong and love, faith and togetherness can conquer anything.