Life’s Journey

The information on my home page are the things that have gone well for me in life. I haven’t talked about all the gigs, bands, tracks, signings, projects, sales, deals, recordings, dealerships, etc, that didn’t work out… if I had, you would be reading for months!

From my home page, some may assume that my personal life has been pretty plain sailing. Although I feel I’ve had a good life so far, there’s no doubt that it’s been dysfunctional at times – partly because of nature, partly because of nurture, partly because of me – and I’ve had a few ups and downs along the way.

My journey
In the few years before I was born, my parents went through some understandably difficult times after my brother Andrew died in 1962.

1963 saw my dad hit the bottle and have his first heart attack at 39; and my mum suffered with a reoccurring bout of manic depression [aka bipolar disorder] which tormented her all through her life.

By the time I was born in 1966, my parents were living on the notoriously rough Lupset council estate in Wakefield.

In 1971, they became the managers of a hotel for the blind in Morecambe, and we moved into the ‘manager’s quarters’ which were a series of rooms in the damp basement of the hotel. Although I hated that putrid basement, it was like Bel Air compared to the difficult conditions of my earlier life on Lupset.

I have fond memories of the early 70’s living in Morecambe with mum on the manic side of bipolar and my cheeky chappy dad as embarrassingly entertaining as he seemed to always be.

Unfortunately, the hotel had a bar, dad was a heavy drinker, and he slowly became a drunk… but thankfully, a very happy drunk who was lovely to be with.

The 11th of November 1977 changed my childhood for good. Our basement flat was flooded, in the infamous Morecambe floods of 1977, and my parents were massively under insured and lost ‘nearly everything’. I say “nearly everything” because my musical instruments – by some fortuitous luck – had been moved into the hotel lounge a few days previously and were saved.

After the flood, dad rapidly graduated into superstar alcoholic status, and mum had a major nervous breakdown. I was 11 years old, times were grim, my parents were in meltdown fighting their own problems; and the only positive I could take from the situation, was the fact that I was now totally unsupervised and left to my own devices.

For the next few years – while dad drank more, and mum became ‘sadder’ – I immersed myself into practicing my instruments and experimenting with recording equipment which consumed my life for the next few years.

My practice regime as a young teenager taught me that “my strength is my obsessive commitment to doing something” and “my weakness is my obsessive commitment to doing something”.

Even at an early age, I realised that if I began drinking alcohol and liked it, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I didn’t want to follow dad’s footsteps into superstar alcoholic status, so I’ve never tried it to this day… and I’m probably the only alcoholic who’s never actually tasted alcohol.

By 1982, I was 16 and things were looking up. I had a lovely girlfriend who I had met through playing in the Lancashire schools wind band; my dad had stopped drinking and swapped alcohol for religion – becoming the most committed born again Christian the world’s ever seen – and my mum’s nerves were much better.

As a youngster, I’d always had to go round to friends houses because they didn’t like the smell of the basement, my dads drinking, and my mums silence. But now at 16, I still had to go round to friends houses because they now didn’t like my dad preaching hellfire and damnation, and tellling them they were going to hell.

By the time I went to study music in Huddersfield in 1983, although I wasn’t dating the lovely girlfiend I’d met though the wind band anymore, I was doing nicely for myself because of all the gigs I’d done since I was 12, and therefore, pretty self-sufficient. I was still playing lots of paid gigs, making cassettes, had a car, and had just got a bungalow in the west end of Morecambe, which at this point I hadn’t lived in.

Whilst at college, I met another lovely girl who became my girlfriend, we had a great time and got married at 18… yes, I know, we were too young! We moved into the Morecambe bungalow and although we owned it mortgage-free, we struggled financially.

We were the epitome of asset-rich cash-poor kids, but we we were totally cash-less. The bungalow was a big 5 bedroom place, needed lots of money spending on it, and we didn’t have any money at all.

We advertised for music students – to start a teaching practice – and our advert said “only call between 7pm and 8pm”. The number we used in the advert was actually a local public telephone box, and my wife sat outside that telephone box for weeks – on cold dark miserable nights – taking calls from new students to try and build a business and life for ourselves.

Although we managed to slowly build things up, our early professional life – whilst still studying and working – was hard work for us both. I’d have loved a full-time job in music, but couldn’t get one; but my wife managed to get some long shifts, (where she wasn’t allowed to sit down) in a jewellers shop to make ends meet.

I began earning a living doing a diverse range of things, and this is what I’ve done ever since. As a young married couple, we always seemed to ‘put the cart before the horse’ which was no ones fault, it was just what we did.

We both ‘grafted’ from 1984, got involved with some wonderful business people, some great projects, and got ourselves into a great position financially.

We moved into a lovely small two bedroom bungalow in a little village up the lune valley called Halton-on-Lune, had pretty much everything we wanted, drove beautiful cars, and had a fabulous lifestyle.

In 1991, we had our wonderful little boy Harrison; and after another house move in 1993, we ended up living in an idyllic five-bedroomed house that my wife designed, and we had built around the corner from where we were living.

Although we were in a different league financially to where we’d started ten years previously, yet again, we’d put the cart before the horse and could only just afford the new house and our lifesyle with us both working full-time.

After our beautiful daughter Jess was born in 1997, for various reasons, my wife stopped going out to work and we settled in to a rather old fashioned lifestyle of ‘the man goes out to work, and the wife is the homemaker’. Although this situation needed to happen, with hindsight, we should have just sold the house and downsized in to a nice three bed-semi.

The financial juggling we’d had with two wages coming in, became an overpowering, overwhelming, and overfacing burden for me as the sole breadwinner. Although I should have just taken the attitude of “if we lose the house, we lose the house” I didn’t. I struggled with the pressure, and the enormity of the consequences of what would happen if I couldn’t put food on the table for my family, keep the massive mortgaged roof over our heads, maintain the lifestyle we had, whilst still trying to keep the businesses going.

I took my responsibility seriously, and to keep money coming in I adopted the work ethic of a workaholic by often working 90 hours a week, and always 60 hours a week. In 1997, I went into desperation mode. I needed more money coming in, and felt the only way to do it was to get more plates spinning.

I co-founded Faith & Hope Records Limited – with my amazing ex-pupil Neil Claxton, who’s an absolute Gentleman and musical genius – as well as establishing DMR Digital Mobile Recordings and Mendieta Guitars. In 1998, I acquired Hotwires Sound Installation; and in 1999 established Musicom, and Four 0 Four Media & Marketing Recordings.

In 2000, I threw myself into to my involvement in Monstermob, as well as establishing Beverley Drums and Faith & Hope Songs. In 2001, I established Levin Guitars, Music 4 Worship, Arena Amplification, Paris Woodwind, and Collard & Collard Pianos in 2002.

It all took its toll on me. For years, I’d only spept for bewteen 4 and 6 hours a night; but on a trip to Asia in 2002, I was totally exhausted and slept for around 60 hours out of 72. It wasn’t until years later though, that I realised all I was doing was working, and not living.

Although I was getting involved with new projects and ventures, and becoming more successful in business, the monthly out-going expenditure was still rocketing.

I can’t remember the exact year, but we had a flood in a second house we owned, and due to a technicality with the insurance (we hadn’t been inside the property for over a year), we weren’t insured and it cost tens of thousands of pounds to put right.

It was the second time in my life that a flood and insurance problem had effected my family. Knowing the effect it had on my parents in 1977, the only way I could deal with it was to work as hard as I could to keep all the precarious plates spinning.

I was desperately trying to give my family what ‘I thought’ they wanted. I got it all wrong on the personal side of life – which is the only thing that’s ever really mattered to me – and managed to do ok (ish) on the business side of life.

In the end, it wasn’t enough though. The marriage wasn’t to be, after over 25 years together, my wife wanted to seperate. I was a physical mess, I was mentally exhausted, and it ended in divorce.

I had some lovely times in those 25 plus years, have such happy memories, laughed to the point we sounded like muttley, and have two lovely children (Harrison & Jess) who are both now grown up.

Although I look back on those times as the sole breadwinner with a mixed sense of emotions that range from trauma to melancholy; I now realise that I didn’t have the emotional capability or the explicit knowledge to deal with the situation like I would be able to now.

Although life’s pressures sank me in the end (some quite possibly self inflicted), it was never about ‘debt’, it was about the constant pressure of having to earn enough to pay for everything, and never being ahead of ourselves financially in the latter years.

The positive I take from this period of my life (apart from my wonderful children) is that I somehow managed to always put food on the table for my family; managed to give my children a lifestyle that I didn’t have as a child; managed to give my wife and children a beautifull home to live in; and although I was very close to losing it twice, I didn’t.

After the marriage ended, I decided that whatever happens in the next chapter of my life, I’ll never allow myself to be in that position again.

Life for the next few years was very up and down (especially an horrendously torrid period which was like living in a machiavellian psychological thriller) but thankfully life’s now settled down into a wonderfully peaceful and happy time.

I love my daughter Jess very much and think of her constantly. Sadly, I’ve been estranged from her now for several years. The feeling of loss is unbelievable, but I live each day hoping she’ll get back in touch one day.

My son Harrison is an amazing man, son, and dad. He has given me a lovely grandson called Freddie, and I still think about Freddie’s little brother Teddy who we sadly lost.

Although my parents had their own difficulties, they always tried to do their best for me. Dad died in 2012, aged 87; and mum’s bipolar reoccurred in her 80’s to the point she needed to be sectioned twice.

Bipolar disorder is cruel, the extremes are wild, and the reality of ‘today, is the tomorrow, you worried about yesterday’ can often have no meaning. I’m blessed that I have my dad’s happy disposition, and feel happy most of the time.

Although I’ve never drank, never done drugs, never smoked, and never gambled; I have a problem with my eating and weight.

After getting up to 24.5 stones, I lost 10.5 stones in a year, but I’m back up to over 18 stones again and everyday’s a battle. You can choose not to participate in alcohol, drugs, smoking, and gambling, but you have to eat.

Over the years, I’ve learned some great coping strategies that have got me through life.

I’m lucky that whatever situation is going on in life, I can now get to the point that things could be worse. If something unpleasent happens – or it’s not what I wanted to happen – I can accept it, be thankful for the nice times, close the chapter, and get on with the next chapter.

Looking back on my adolescent years, I could have made some seriously bad choices, but music kept me motivated and on track.

At different times of my life, I’ve managed to get through my journey with the help of some incredible people.

Along with my unbelievably supportive ex wife in the early days (who always had total blind faith and trust in me to never lose our home [her home now] when I used it as bank security far too often) I’ve been lucky to also have a great family, wise mentors, amazing colleagues, wonderful friends, excellent counsellors, supportive stakeholders, and of course, my fantastically supportive girlfriend nowadays.

There’s a lovely saying “the happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just try and make the best of everything” and that’s what I’d like to think I’ve done.

If you’re struggling, and want to talk to someone, contact Music Minds Matter on 0808 802 8008. It doesn’t have to be a major crisis, or about music; their counsellors are there to listen, support and help at any time.

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