Reflections…One Year On

Around this time last year, I wasn’t feeling particularly great. I decided, purely on a whim, to escape the dark recesses of an English winter and fly abroad for a holiday. This I hadn’t done since 2009. Last year, I remember going into the travel agents and booking myself a week at the lovely hotel pictured, in the gorgeous Canary Island of Fuerteventura.

Looking back, it’s something I didn’t regret doing for one moment. A little bit of impulse, a bit of inspiration, and then before I knew it, I was at Stansted Airport on a cold January morning ready for an incredible adventure.

What about this winter? Well, you see last year’s trip was a one off, a hunch. This time around, though I don’t feel quite as bad as last year, there isn’t quite that desire or impulse to fly off to warmer climes. Maybe I might fly abroad during the summer, but doing something like last year’s trip makes it all the more sweeter. Waiting a few years for the next one would make me look forward to it. But I’ll always remember that fantastic island in the eastern Atlantic, memories that will always stay with me.

Allen Brooks xx

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A full diary in the Christmas lead up

To help with getting through to Christmas Day unscathed, I have a fairly full diary next week as the big day approaches. There’s the usual activities, volunteering, Peer Support (which I haven’t been to recently), Music Bingo, CBT appointment and a few meals with friends to put the icing on the cake.

I can assure you it does help in distracting me from all the extraneous stuff that’s involved with Christmas, the less involved I am the better I feel. The bit that does get me is the period between 27th and 31st December when all the festivities have largely finished and everything has slowed down. The local area is quite ghostly, little traffic and everyone is away. Got to try to keep occupied between those two dates.

All in all, looking forward to Monday and the lead up with little or no Christmas involvement. That suits me down to the ground and keeps my well being just this side of sanity. Friends and family obviously help too!

Allen Brooks xx

Loneliness and Solitude at Christmas

Though I live on my own, I do have some family and very good friends. I will be seeing a lot of family and friends over the next two weeks, and that helps me get through this festive period.

Others though, aren’t so lucky. We see a lot of adverts on TV and on trains about loneliness. This time of year magnifies that feeling of solitude and helplessness and some people just cannot buy into the Christmas spirit at all. I also think that Christmas has become too commercialised, money and presents coming before health and well being. People who are less fortunate than ourselves can get forgotten about.

But it’s supposed to be a happy time, right? Well, if you believe all the hype, then everyone should be happy, smiling, full of Christmas cheer and bonhomie. The reality though is that some cannot be that way, they cannot pretend. I allow Christmas to pass me by, and as the years go on, this becomes more of the case for me. I cannot pretend to be happy. I am what I am. If I’m unhappy, I’ll be unhappy, and I won’t put on an act. There’s so much pressure and all for what? 24 hours in the year when we over indulge and before we know it, it’s all over again.

So, if there’s anyone that you know that is on their own, try dropping them a message or popping round to see them. That may give them a lift at this pressurised time of year. Always remember those that are less fortunate. I’m ok, I do have family and friends. I can just about tolerate Christmas. Keeping busy and forgetting about it can work wonders and stop me from feeling down. But it isn’t always easy of course. Bear that in mind as you tuck in to another lorry load of Brussels sprouts, after unwrapping another load of socks and watching some mediocre Christmas TV. Keep an eye out for those who want to shut themselves away.

Allen Brooks xx

Christmas 1990….

Three days before Christmas 1990, my world was about to change. My parents had gone to the local hospital, as Dad had been unwell in the previous few weeks. Some tests had been done and the results were now available. The news could not have come at a worse time.

Dad was given the news that he had three months to live. He had an aggressive cancer of the oesophagus that prevented him from keeping any food down. His weight had started to reduce. I, of course, broke down and unashamedly wept. Three months and Dad will be gone. I was only 18 at the time and we were very close. That Christmas was very surreal and unhappy for me. Wouldn’t you be if you received that kind of news?

Dad managed to last another four months, but a once fit and healthy man was now reduced to a shadow by the illness and endless rounds of chemotherapy. I hated seeing him just wasting away to nothing, and I got angry at the fact that cancer was to claim another good person in life. Why him? I’ve never received the answer. All I can say is I hope I don’t go through what we went through, unable to eat and drink and gradually becoming weaker by the day. But his spirit got him through seven months.

They say time is a great healer and it’s been 25 and a half years since he passed on. But to be left without a father at the age of 18 was something I couldn’t get to grips with. His wise advice and calmness would have helped me through some difficult moments, but that is a hypothetical statement now. He watches over me and he is never far from my thoughts, even at Christmas. Dad was taken away from us far too early.

Allen Brooks xx

Down Wembley Way….

Had a good night last night that made up for the irritating day that I had. I went to Wembley Stadium, with an umpiring colleague, to watch Tottenham play Brighton in the English Premier League.

The pair of us have been to Wembley before, to watch our local side Leyton Orient lose in a play off match. It was nice to make a nostalgic return, and the stadium looks imposing everywhere you went.

The night was wet and cold, and there was a crowd of 46,000 to witness a dull game which Tottenham eventually won. Getting out of the stadium on to the local trains was a devil’s own job, but we managed it and despite being hemmed in like sardines on the train, we made it home safely. It was a good evening, we had a good laugh and the view was spectacular, right up in the Gods, high up. If you were a bit wobbly about heights, then our seats weren’t for you!

A good way to finish off what was up till then a maddening and annoying day. Love watching live sport in the flesh, there’s no substitute for it!

Allen Brooks xx

Very pissed off….

It’s just one of those days today. Little things are going wrong, making my temper shorter and shorter as each thing happens.

Like most run ups to Christmas, the London wide transport service starts to fall apart. I don’t know whether this is an infrastructure problem, underfunding or staff shortages, but today has seen delays and cancellations all over the place. Not one train has been on time. The buses are late, packed with Christmas shoppers as well as commuters. I’m due to go out again later and I wanted to get home, put my feet up and have a cup of tea. Not even home yet from a meeting I had to attend. It’s a shambles.

Not only that, I’ve nearly had my right foot taken off by someone treading on my heel as I was walking across the station concourse. The next person to do that will get a decent size 11 boot straight up their backside. So as you can tell, small things are irritating me and my mood is deteriorating quickly. I hope the evening will be better than the afternoon, but right now, steer clear of me because the steam is starting to come out of my ears.

Living in London! Don’t you just love it.

Rant over

Allen Brooks xx

Ice Ice Baby….

Back to volunteering today at the national mental health charity I’ve just joined. Despite the odd technical hitch, it went very well and I managed to get a fair bit of work done, which was pleasing.

Another very cold day in London Town too. Ice everywhere, but despite that it was cheerful, bright and crisp, as you know my favourite winter weather type, so that shook me from a certain early morning fuzziness. Great to get out and enjoy these clear, bright days.

Back on track…and things seem to have settled down after a week where it was sheer madness. The Christmas season is passing me by, but I don’t seem to have those winter blues….yet. It’s all quite rosy at present.

See ya

Allen Brooks xx