Finally having some ‘me’ time in my hometown Newcastle and catching up with family and friends. It should have been last week when I came north but that couldn’t happen because the car needed servicing. If I had been able to come last week I would have had five days here but unfortunately I only have two days and so I’m striving to get around to seeing folks and also just touch base with my home town. As a boy the quayside played a big part in my life and now as a man I always feel the need to spend time there when I’m home.
Today I met up with a man who joined the Royal Navy around the same time as me and who has been reading my memoirs. His name is John (see photo below) and although we hadn’t met before we got on really well. Over a cup of tea on the quayside we talked for a couple of hours about life, loves and of course the Royal Navy before exchanging gifts; John gave me a book called Fish and Ships, the Royal Navy, and I gave him a copy of my cartoon book JL Against All Odds (you can read it here on my website). John is a wonderfully sensitive man who has supported many vulnerable people throughout his life and it was truly a pleasure for me to meet him. Thank you John for taking the time to say hello and let’s stay in touch 🙂
This weekend (3 April) is my beloved granddaughters 24th birthday and so I’m thrilled to be here for her special day. Having been the primary male in her life we are extremely close; as a child I took her everywhere with me in a papoose. What was really funny and yet very sweet today was that I needed some new clothes (jeans, jacket, tee shirt) and she chose them all for me 🙂 What was also lovely for me was that she took me to the Black Garter pub where she works and without question all of the regulars absolutely love her. I’m a very proud grandad. More photos will follow.
Here’s a special pik. Just had a virtual trip (thank you Google Maps) around Gibraltar where we used to live 1977/78 when I was in the Royal Navy and where Benita was born and where Tracey went to school. We lived with our three daughters at 21 Edinburgh House on Queensway (when I served HMS Rooke) and this photo shows the entrance to our home. It hasn’t changed one iota and I have nothing but lovely memories of our beautiful outpost.
My virtual tour took me around my favourite haunts including Alameda Gardens, Caleta Palace, the Piazza, Irish Town, Montague Bay, Rosia Bay, Eastern Beach, St Michaels Cabin and of course the rock apes area.
A really lovely blast from the past for me 🙂
When I first met M’lady Ms.Grace I was in the Royal Navy and spent a lot of time away from home; In those days (mid seventies) there was no technology and so the most important part of the day was when the mail arrived. Sometimes it was me who collected the bags of mail for the lads and I remember one particular time when I had to take a helicopter ride to get it (not for the faint hearted). I remember the sweat on my brow waiting for the master-at-arms to call out ‘Dixon’ and throw me a letter.
As my packing to move intensifies I came across this treasured collection of love letters which I’ve safely stored away for almost forty years. Come my final retirement no doubt Ms.Grace and me will drum up the courage to have a read of them again over a cup of tea….
Many of my readers will be aware that my website is my autobiography and that the first chapter (Manboy Geordie) is already published here. Today I’ve opened a new page for my second chapter called ‘Sailor Daze’ (no it isn’t a misspelling) to chart my Naval Service between 1971 and 1981. Part 1 is a series of memoirs from my basic training at H.M.S. Raleigh and is published now and available to read. As I add new parts to this chapter I’ll put an alert here on my home page or alternatively readers may want to click the button to get email update alerts.
I hope you enjoy my stories and anecdotes from this ten year period in my life when I served on several warships and travelled extensively all over the world and if you are ex-RN or serving RN I’d love to hear from you and read a few of your tales.
Just reflecting back on my Navy days although not sure why. HMS Scylla was one of several warships I served on during my ten year stint and she took me all over the world including a couple of war zones. At the end of her days they sunk her off the south coast of England to become a living reef for sealife which really pleased me. Fundamentally she was a major part of my life and still is in my memory; it’s great to go online from time to time and do the virtual tour to look around her. The next chapter of my autobiography will be about my life in the Royal Navy and I hope to begin publishing that this year.
Life is like a piano. The white keys represent happiness, the black
keys show sadness; and as I’ve travelled life's journey I'm so
thankful that the black keys make music too.
She was 44 when she took me, a very damaged 7 year old, out of care
and in 1962 that took some balls. Social Services in the North East
in those days were a disgrace, I don't think I ever saw the same
social worker twice in years and their main agenda was to put
foster parents through as many indignities as they could with
weapons ranging from criticising the contents of the pantry to
openly suggesting there may be a better placement for the child
Not surprising that as an adult when I requested my case notes
from Durham Social Services the hapless authority couldn't find
them and so from where I'm sitting nothing much has changed -
has it Durham?
If readers (or Durham Social Services) detect a note of anger
here they're right. Having worked in Social Services for the past
28 years they're welcome have a master class course from me any
time on the importance of keeping good professional case notes,
writing them knowing that the child is entitled to see them and
respecting the incredible people that become foster parents.
She was 56 when she died of cancer of the larynx by which time
I was an 18 year old in the Royal Navy; they flew me home from
Mombasa and for the next 17 years I made an annual pilgrimage
to the cemetery to see the book of remembrance in its little glass
box. I'm nearly 59 now and have already outlived my incredible
foster Mam who passed away 40 years ago on 27 February 1974 -
that same parent who put up with the criticism, sarcasm and
interrogation of the social services; the same social services who
had the audacity to suggest I would be better placed with other
As an artist I believe every picture tells a story and the three
photos I've chosen for this post show my own personal journey; I
suppose you could say they show my life. They show (1) me before
I was placed in foster care (2) as a young adult in the RN after
12 years with my foster Mam and then finally (3) as I am today.
To imagine what picture 3 would look like had picture 2 been
different is unthinkable.
On Thursday 27 February 2014 I will again make my pilgrimage to
the cemetery to view the book of remembrance and say thank you
with love to my remarkable Mam.
Today I returned home from Turkey to a lovely surprise, my Veterans Award from the Government on behalf of the Queen. I remember being told about it some months ago and was asked if I wanted a formal presentation which I declined. It would have been by some politician or dignitary and in my view that would have been an occasion more for their own publicity and I didn’t think the theme suited an occasion like that.
I guess we all have periods in our lives which remain fondly in our memories and my time in the armed forces is one of those. Tales of those days will be in my autobiography here on my website between the dates of 1971-1981 but for now I’ll just relish the moment in hand.
I thought I’d get the old joke in first this year before someone else blessed me with it. It’s quite funny having a funny birth date 🙂 Thanks for your good wishes, I’m 58 today going on 8, and no I have no intention of growing up. This picture is a favourite of mine; it was my 19 birthday and taken on HMS Scylla in Sydney, Australia in 1974. Whoever you are, wherever you are “May the fourth be with you” x Alan
When my children were little we lived in Gibraltar and Carol used to make all of their frocks and hats. Being three bonnie little girls they always turned heads particularly those of the locals who would call out ‘Oh bambino’s’ and make a big fuss of them all. When we returned to UK, on my release from the Royal Navy, I can remember standing at a bus stop with the children and when the bus arrived three or four women would get off to help me to get the children and the buggies and all their paraphernalia onto the bus (as though as a man I couldn’t cope :). Lovely times.
Today the girls are all grown, Tracey is 40, Sam is 36 and Benita is 35 and what I’m really proud of is that they’re all still close to me. They’ve all had pain in their lives but have come through; and between them all they have blessed me with 11 grandchildren.
What I think they have all come to realise is that although they are now adults with families of their own and lives of their own they still remain my bambino’s, such is the unique relationship between a father and his daughters.
This painting is connected to my song ‘Oh mien Papa’ ( the lyrics are on my Songwriter page).
I’ve started putting together a slide show of my Navy Days which sent my memory back to1974 when I was in New Zealand. I spent time in Gisbourne and Christchurch and of course all the surrounding places and was absolutely stunned by the beauty of the place. I think what I always found amazing was that I was literally on the other side of the world in a place so similar to the gorgeous greenery of England; I think it was as a young sailor that I first realised how fascinating our world really is. Hopefully my new slide show will give my memoirs a little lift from all of the text.