The Game

Life is NOT a game as we are led to believe,

Play acting scene is politics’ conceit,

If we use our most valuable assets as tools of war,

There will always be one to bully and abhor.

Raise your game, be bigger than your thoughts,

Make “got your back love” your true default,

Take your chances, look not towards blame,

Accept the truth, at the start, middle and end of the day.

It’s time to start living beyond the realms of the blues,

To kick down the goals as all games have rules,

Engage in the future, in your family and friends,

See the best in their soul, not their lack of amends.

Accept all who approach, be they white, brown or pink,

Spread love as religion is not what you think,

Do not hyper-criticise the right to exist,

For karma will reduce your friendship list.

A game has an audience, so live not as such,

Live in reality, be warm to the touch,

And live for tomorrow, through the dire straits,

There’s no extra time in this life of fate.

So make the most of what you’ve built,

Forever add patches to your life-filled quilt,

Life is NOT a game as we are led to believe,

You’re here for a bit, and then you leave.

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Twenty Thirteen

The bad stuff:

2 operations, 1 colonoscopy (2nd on the way), A Barium meal, 15 blood tests, unable to walk without extreme pain for 5 months and inflammatory bowel disease symptoms that have made me unable to work for 9 months. I’ve spent more of the last year in pain than out of it. I was confined to my house as I couldn’t walk to the end of my street so that I barely saw anyone in that time. I lost all my confidence, both musically and emotionally… I couldn’t even play 2 songs back to back without being exhausted. I couldn’t wear ANY underwear for 5 months. I still can’t go to the toilet without severe discomfort. I’ve lost over a stone in weight and currently my 6’2” frame hovers around 10st regardless of what I eat. My on-going illness situation has resulted in my keeping a private blog diary that currently has a word count of over 73,000 words.

Mum recently got seriously ill and we thought we were going to lose her and has had 3 major operations, with some hard therapy and treatment still to go through.

I haven’t been able to go to Liverpool to see my new niece and nephew as I’ve been too poorly, and I can count how many times I’ve met them on one hand.

One of my best friends lost her new album TWICE through no fault of her own and had to record her album 3 times and I ended up doing hundreds of hours of editing and rescuing of audio files (before I got poorly) to help bring the album back from the flames.

I haven’t been able to run Open-Mic Monday for 9 months, handing it over to Ruby Macintosh, who has done a fabulous job of keeping it going whilst I’ve been away through illness.

I missed the ten year reunion of my university course mates through illness as I couldn’t walk at the time, never mind catch a train to London.

I couldn’t play harmonica for 6 months as I simply didn’t have the energy.

I’ve barely gigged in the last 12 months.

I haven’t been allowed to drink alcohol thanks to tablets and creams side effects, so I have consumed merely 6 pints of lager and 2 glasses of wine within the last year (and a bit of a glass of fresh orange). ;)

I’ve kinda had to grow my hair longer thanks to not being able to get to the hairdressers for so long, and there seems utterly no point in cutting it now, other than to keep it shoulder length, despite my increasing amount of silver locks.

The good stuff:

We welcomed Gabrielle and Haydn into the world and I was made an Uncle again! I got to meet them in hospital and see my ace sister be a proud mum for the second and third time simultaneously. A fabulous gift before my illness kicked in.

Mum overcame her operations and stabilised enough to get her home for Christmas and able to enjoy a quiet and lovely Christmas with Rod, Cat, Brody and me.

I was asked to play guitar, ukulele, washboard, and harmonica on my best friend’s new album. I volunteered to help restore that album and assist with some of the mixing of it, and then got the opportunity to play at what remains now, as one of the best gigs of my life, at Ruby Macintosh’s Launch back in October. That gig doubled as my father’s anniversary of passing away, and I could find no better tribute, than to play my heart out on my harmonica. The album turned out to be one of the best I’ve heard in a long time when it was finished and I am extremely proud of Ruby and all that she has achieved with it so far. A bright sparkle in an awful year.

Electric Domestic. A little before I got poorly I ventured down to London and went to Electric Domestic, a music night held at a flat in London that had fabulous artists on stage and wonderful food being cooked before our very eyes. I was honoured to get up on stage with Antonio Lulic and John Parker, and have a bash through one of Antonio’s tracks. I met Martin Cox and many other wonderful people and had the best weekend out for many years.

I was asked to go on the radio and played 4 songs live on air at Phoenix FM Radio on the Yorkshire Underground Band Show with Simon Frost. I was interviewed about the other highlight of 2013… my new solo album.

I wrote the songs to my new album “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” after deciding that the album should share the title of my private blog diary, as each song was conceived within the time of being poorly throughout the year. The album is being recorded as and when I can do it, health permitting,, and will be finished at some stage next year. I teamed up with Tom Higgs and got to designing the artwork, which is all but done, and have a real aim and sound in mind for what the album should be when it is finished. Hopefully, it is a collection of my catchiest songs, designed to make you hum each and every one after you have heard them.

I was lent a 1977 Gibson 335 for Ruby’s album launch by my very trusting and generous step-father Rod Young. This was an honour in itself, being a classic and vintage guitar that shares the same birth year as me. Later in the year, after the gig, Rod would miraculously pass ownership of the guitar on to me, in one of the most generous and kind gestures I’ve ever heard of. Rod is a truly wonderful and kind man who I am forever indebted to.

I would join I Like Mike. Despite illness, at the points at which I’ve been able to manage it I have rehearsed once with, and gigged once with I Like Mike. This truly is a highlight of the year for me, as there is no pressure, to gig or not, and yet I can have fun with three of my favourite people in the best way I know how, only this time playing percussion, which is a new challenge in itself. Thoroughly enjoying the potential of where this band might end up once I get closer to being properly better.

I played at The Orangery for the KT Blues Festival, and met Diamond Dac, Greg, Pete, and loads of lovely people, to help out the fabulous John Jowett. A solo blues gig I might ordinarily not have done, which got me on my harmonica again and back to my bluesy roots. The potential for a project with Rod Young going back to my blues roots is on the cards… watch this space…

Through medical circumstances I end up firstly looking after my Mums cat Mika, but then end up adopting him so that Mums right arm doesn’t get scratched as that would make it balloon up dangerously after her operation. Mika has now been here for 2 months and I utterly love him. We’ve really bonded and he follows me everywhere and has turned into a right daddy’s boy. He’s making me very happy, and despite it not being an easy decision for Mum, she knows he is in a safe place and is being loved very hard every day.

My new sofa, an early present from 3 wonderful friends has given me a sense of style hitherto unknown in these realms I call “my crib”.

The finding of new close friends. 2013 made opportunities for me to get to know some people a lot better and going through hard times really has shown me who my friends really are.

My friends are my family, my family are my friends.

In particular I am thankful for getting to know Nick Wells much better, and also for the support and unerring guidance of Marion Brown. These two people amongst many I simply couldn’t have got through the last year without. Thank you both for everything.

Other friends have also added to the throng of support, namely J, Seb, and Chris. You three were responsible for many of the brighter moments of 2013, and your friendship helped get me through some of the harder moments, and for that I cannot thank you enough.

My friendship with Lloyd and Ruby. These two have been granite-like in their support and help and love they have given in the last year. They have turned into my brother and sister, who I would do anything for. I love these two people so hard it hurts. We have been through so much together, and shared so many happy and difficult yet supportive times, that it is impossible to convey what they mean to me in a paragraph here. They are magical and mesmerising and beautiful people, and one’s a Time Lord.

Cat Thompson. My word. In a million years I could not thank Cat enough for the biblical support she has been to me this last year. Driving me to every hospital appointment, letting me lean on her when I couldn’t walk, getting my prescriptions, doing my shopping, getting me through blood tests, holding my hand when I’m scared and knowing miraculously when to not say a word, when no words will do. This woman is one of the most incredible people on this planet. One of the best. A special one. A lady of courage, of challenge, and of undying passion and generosity. I wouldn’t have got past the last January the 1st, never mind the year in-between, without Cat being around as the best friend anyone could EVER dream of having. Thank you Cat, for being simply amazing.

Mum and Rod, the two most special people in my life, who also took me to appointments despite their own hindrances just to support me at my time of need. I’ll never forget the wonderful support you have been to me, or the times that we have shared together as a family and as best-friends through OUR hardest year ever. God bless you and your love for each other, and for the unquestioned love and wonderful generosity and kindness that you pour into my life every single day. I love you.

And there we have it, 2013 in a nutshell. In a large nutshell, granted but after *that* year. Well… Some things need saying… Y’know?

To everyone who reads this, and all those who don’t. I hope you have a fantastic 2014, full of good fortune, happy memories, and good health.

2013… Bugger off. ;)