Christmas 2010…

Several months earlier, my world was in turmoil. Mum had passed away in June of 2010, and I was struggling to come to terms with that event and others that were going on at a similar time.

Usually at Christmas, I go to my sister or nephew for dinner. This particular year, it was at sister’s. How would I cope? This will be the first Christmas without Mum. 

The day arrived. I remember the day, it was the tail end of a very cold spell of weather. I wasn’t in the greatest frame of mind, emotions were swirling around in my head. It was time for dinner. I sat there, but there was a vacancy never again to be filled. Normally I would eat my dinner without too many problems. This time, I left half of it. The appetite was gone. I wasn’t enjoying this at all.

At future Christmasses, I tried to shut out all the bad memories, with some measure of success. I don’t enjoy that time of year, and it is very difficult to push myself through to the New Year. But I must have been strong to have lasted this far. Another test of my mental fortitude is on the way in a few months time, and the weather outside this summer’s day speaks only of winter. Dark, gloomy and with foreboding. I have to cope each and every day. There’s no other choice. 

Allen Brooks xx

The homely cottage at the end of the road….

It was a summer morning. I was asleep in a comfortable bed. The first shafts of morning were starting to peep through the curtains. 

Then…..rumble…..roar…..rumble….rumble. What the hell is that at this time of the morning? I’m awake now, wanting to know what this noise is.

It’s the first express train of the day from London to Cornwall, thundering it’s way along the line just 150 yards from the front door. The noise seems endless….and then it disappears….the train has entered the tunnel to it’s next destination. 

It’s August 1979. The weather is glorious. I’m on holiday in Devon. I’m only a stone’s throw from the beach on one of the most idyllic stretches of coastline anywhere in the UK. I struggle to get back to sleep. The roar of the train has woken me up. But I remember. I’m on holiday. This is how it’s meant to be. Then the seagulls start their raucous cacophony. 

I go back to sleep for a while. Mum and Dad wake me up and it’s time for breakfast. The radio is on. Dad has been to the shop for his newspaper. I switch on the TV. I turn over to ITV. Nothing. Just a blue screen stating that are no programmes due to an industrial dispute. It’s been a year of strikes and discontent amongst British workers. But I’m only seven years old. What do I know? Not a lot really.

Then it’s time to get ready, get my bucket and spade and make our way to the beach. Golden sands, clear water. We pitch our deckchairs and stay there for the rest of another glorious summer’s day. I’m in and out of the water, looking a bedraggled mess by day’s end. But this is a holiday. Good times. Good memories. Admiring my Dad’s suntan. Watching Mum squeeze her way into a swimming costume. The memories are wonderful. And on a wet July evening that I’m looking at right now, August 1979 was very memorable. 

Allen Brooks xx

St Peter’s Gate….

What would be my idea of heaven? I’ve been thinking about this over the last few weeks and have come up with the following ideas.

Turn up at St Peter’s Gate. “Welcome in, Allen. What we’ve got for you here is your dream idea of heaven. A cricket ground, a beach, a pub, endless blue sky and sunshine outside. It’s always warm, there’s plenty of people around, you’d never be stuck for people to talk to. You’d be free of all your mental health issues, but you would be kind to others who were struggling. How does that sound?”

Brilliant. That’s how that sounds. Brilliant. I hope I’ve got my place booked already!

Allen Brooks

My first live cricket match….

Year:- About 1979 or 1980. Can’t be exact on that. What I can be exact on is the first ever live cricket match I watched.

It was Essex (my home county) versus Somerset in the old John Player Sunday League, played at Valentines Park, Ilford.

My parents took me along and the size of the crowd for a relatively small ground was incredible. There must have been 10,000 inside the ground, standing in rows of eight or ten deep. The best vantage point I could muster was on my Dad’s shoulders, until I screamed to be put back down again. 

The two teams playing were the best county sides in the English game at the time. Essex had players like Gooch, Turner, Lever, Hardie, Keith Pont, Fletcher, a formidable and winning line up. But Somerset too had match winners in the shape of Ian Botham, Joel Garner and my favourite player of all time, Sir Vivian Richards. The crowd were bubbling to see these great all stars in action, and I, too, was itching to see the play.

If I remember rightly, Essex won, but my heroes Richards, Botham and Gooch didn’t perform that well, to my enormous disappointment. But having watched the great game of cricket on the TV, this was my first taste of live play, and I was hungry for more.

This Monday, I shall be watching my first live cricket of the new English season. It won’t be as glamorous as that first live match, but I still love the game as much as I did those 36 or 37 years ago. It’s taken a hold on me that I’ve never been able to relinquish. I’ve tried a few times, but failed! 

Cricket – the best game in the world.

Allen Brooks

Dark Days….

Warning:- This post may contain some material that is sensitive and upsetting. The post goes back to a very worrying time in my life when the occasional suicidal tendency tried to take over….

One night, a few years ago, I was lying in bed. I was going through a very difficult spell once again, with the occasional dark thought beginning to take hold. This particular night, I thought about the unthinkable. Then, I thought about carrying out the unthinkable.

In the kitchen draw were some tablets, or so I thought. I just had an idea to down some and take myself out of this unending cycle of misery. I laid there, and I laid there, then I got up and went to the kitchen. I opened the draw and there were no tablets there. Perhaps it was a sign that I shouldn’t be wanting to end things like this. 

I laughed to myself. I wanted to do myself in but didn’t have the ammunition to do so. Typical. I stood there for a few moments to let the enormity of what I was going to do sink in. Then I decided to make a cup of tea and go back to bed.

I went to see my doctor the following day. He was very alarmed at the thoughts I was having. Then he fired a question at me “Do you want to die, Allen?” he said. This deeply concerned me. I mumbled weakly “No, of course not”. “Do you realise the damage that overdosing on tablets can do, Allen?”. I replied that I did not and he proceeded to explain to me, the damage and even fatal consequences if I carried out these thoughts.

To the present day, and those suicidal ideations have gone. I suffer more from severe anxiety these days, though the occasional bad day, when I feel quite low, still crops up from time to time, like the other week for example. But the deep, dark abyss that I found myself in is no longer in my mind. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts for quite a while now. I do think to myself of the people I would leave behind, and the pain and the hurt that would follow. 

I’ve been thinking of this blog post for a while now, and I’m glad I’ve expressed my feelings of that dark moment. It helps to counteract the good moments, such as recently, where things are better and my life gives no sign of returning to the abyss of depression and suicidal thoughts. Some people think it’s a game; I can assure you it’s not a game. Mental illness isn’t a game; nobody wins. It’s a long struggle of crisis management. At the moment, I’m reasonably ok, but this post is a reminder that things are not always good. I treasure the good days, the bad days have to be endured before the good days turn up again.

There will be more stories on this subject, hope it provokes some strong feelings for the reader. 

Peace and love 

Allen Brooks

Armageddon out of here….

Had a strange dream the other night. I dreamt I was in an office full of people. We had the TV screens on, probably showing some kind of daytime television dross. The people were talking amicably.

Then, on the screens, came a message. “THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO END, PLEASE SEEK SHELTER”. Everybody stopped what they were doing, and predictably, started screaming and running in all directions.

I was given a clipboard and a pen and was told to tick everyone off a list, probably to account for them before Armageddon struck. I was walking round asking people their name before ticking them off. Odd thing to do as the end of days was approaching fast. 

Then….well I don’t know…apart from waking up. My mind can dream of strange things, this was no different. Don’t know why I was dreaming of apocalypse as my life is ok at present. Hoping it’s not a portent of the future???

We shall see

Allen Brooks

In the big time….

Year:- 2000. I was established as an umpire within Essex and I always dreamed of umpiring professional cricketers. I was on the fringes of possible promotion when one week I got a call from Essex County Cricket Club.

“Allen, how would you like to umpire Essex 2nd XI versus a touring Pakistan Academy side?” I jumped at the chance. Professional players with little old me, only an umpire for 13 seasons, taking charge.

The day was typically English summer like. Rain. But it did clear and I looked forward to the match. My colleague was an ex first class county player who was looking to become a professional umpire. He was very personable and very friendly, and he said he would look to me for some tips! An ex pro wanting tips from a guy who hardly ever played the game? Strange, but true. 

The game went well, I didn’t have to do very much and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The players certainly played it tough and there were more than the odd word exchanged in anger on a few occasions. But it was soon forgotten and the game was good. I was treated very kindly and very well.

The coach had a kind word to say about my performance afterwards and then said that I was being kept on eye on for future promotion, i.e. County Championship 2nd XI games maybe? I digested his words on the way home, and while satisfied with how the day went, the demons that cause me so much negativity came to haunt me. 

Did I want this possible promotion? Was I good enough? Not sure on either question. The self doubt crept in, I don’t think that I would have been good enough. The pressure at that level would have been intense, the players play for their career not just enjoyment. I doubt I would have been able to cope with the intense scrutiny, and as time as passed, probably just as well.

Who knows where I could have ended up? I could have been making progress towards possible professional umpiring. But, deep down, it probably would be a major step too far. The self doubt again. I only lasted another three more years as a League umpire, with the enjoyment going out of cricket for me. I tried to return to League action in 2013, but again, my mental equilibrium being shot to bits, the comeback lasted four games.

The lack of confidence, the lack of self esteem, the thoughts of not being good enough. Those thoughts invade my thinking on numerous occasions. Where did it all go wrong? But that’s another story.

Allen Brooks