Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Mum's dead, dad's dead, brother's aren't speaking to me, son has disowned me... Merry Christmas everyone!

It shouldn't be funny, but it is.

That point when you don't think things can possibly get worse and then they suddenly do.

My life since becoming homeless in 2009 has been a veritable rollercoster of emotional turmoil, consistent disappointment and profound loneliness all indispersed with moments of spectacular hope, impossible achievements and unbelievable friendship.

Be under no illusion though, this blogs title is no exaggeration but it's certainly not anything like my worst Christmas to date.

That honour has to go to Christmas 2013 That year for the first time in my life I failed to host my son at Christmas. I had nowhere to live and for the first time in my life, had not a penny in my pocket (through no fault of my own).

 It was also the year I realised that I was living in a very different world to the one I'd occupied the previous 20 years. Not one of my regular haunts would assist in housing us or providing supplemental support in these desperate straits, the Savoy Hotel turned me down cold ( a regular in the American Bar for 20 years), Harvey Nichols (a regular at Christmas for 20 years), knowing I was homeless thought it would be a good idea to offer me a measley Christmas Pudding (the only thing that actually required an oven to prepare - you really couldn't make it up) and Hamley's (where I'd purchased nearly every toy I'd ever bought my son for Christmas since he was born 16 years ago), couldn't even be bothered to respond.

That was the year that let me know everything had been corprotised.  Businesses were no longer run by families, who you could appeal to on a humanitarian level or even supported by creative and intelligent PR's who could have leveraged a wonderful "Christmas Saved" press story from helpfully intervening. No, now everybody was just concerned about the instant money. Not long term customer engagement, not good press, not even the potential of just simply feeling good having helped a fellow human being.  No "give us the cash mate or f**k off" seemed to be the new clarion call.

But that was 2 years ago and this is the 30th December 2015 and at least this year I had some cash in my pocket.

Again though, I spent Christmas out of London, but thanks to the ever brilliant support of my best friend David Williams (we've now been friends for 38 years) and his house in Hertfordshire and good friend Paul Wiffen (and his Car in Chadwell Heath) It was nowhere near as bad.

It wasn't like a needed to be alone, I'd had almost complete strangers who'd become friends this year offer to share the day with me.  Samantha Young a burgeoning journalist with a large family offered, even though she had barely the space to house her own family, Elise Godsell who lives up North and whom I'd only known on her few visits to London over the past 6 months offered and David Williams' brilliant family (I'm often referred to as their second son) in Wales, as every year, had invited me back to their house in our home village.

But I passed on every invite, mainly because I didn't want to impose on anyone else at this time of year but also I wanted my traditional London Christmas.

Ironically, that backfired on a spectacular level.

Firstly, I've had a cough for the past 3 months, I suspect it's cancer or Pneumonia (I've literally just visited the Doctor and been given a course of antibiotics to see if that rights it, before being allowed to have the various tests to discover what it really is) because of the living in the car thing (the Doctor actually asked me if it was warm in there and seemed to take offence when I said "No it's bloody freezing"as I laughed at the suggestion, I'm just grateful for global warming or whatever other factor that's producing one of the warmest winters on record), which meant I was by no means firing on all cylinders.

Secondly, the people I'd hoped to meet in Harvey Nichols on Christmas Eve (which would have warranted the exertion to get there) were either ill (new friend, 30 year old Syrian News Anchor, Areej Zyat) unavailable (Ponni Arumugam who ironically spends every Christmas Eve with Amanda Paul for her Birthday, more of that later, Karina Cornell, Penny Glazebrook, Sanne Winderickx,  Dawn Grant, Christine Davis, Caroline Heatlie, Cristina Keech, Deone Morris, Karina Cornell, ) undecided (Christina Jansen, Samantha Young & Samantha Tyson) misconstrued the date (NYE or something else, Aceil Haddad, Baaba Nzema-Ghana, Elizbeth Block, Julia Sterling) or surprisingly & unusually simply hadn't responded to requests (Dirk van Der Velden, Amy Elizabeth Kingsmill, Deborah Collins, Elin Robinson, Elizabeth Jones, Emma Williams, Harriet Olaleye, Marianne Alapini, Sarah Begum), the people who could make it (George Chiesa & Nichola Hartwell) were people I often see and would be able to see over the festive period anyway.

And thirdly, without a car myself, it's impossible to get to the Peter Pan Swimming Race in Hyde Park on Christmas morning, as there is no public transport running, and unless you're in Central London, a taxi is the same cost as a mortgage.

By boxing day, my usual trip to Richmond Park, had ben ruined by the construction of Westfield in Shepard's Bush making the A40 an impossible impasse some years ago and the alternative Hampstead Heath was not looking inviting with a 2 hour trip to get there and the subsequent rain not making for good walking conditions. I'd promised Areej a trip to the Ballet to see the Nutcraker at the Royal Opera House in the afternoon and her ill health had scuppered that too.

So Christmas passed, uneventful, outside of London and alone.

My dads death in 2007, was not too upsetting, my mum's in 2014 far more so, but it was the failure of the my son sixteen year old son to even respond to a Christmas text that was the most heartbreaking event of all.

I'm still unclear as to what exactly happened with us.  He just decided he no longer wanted to come to London.  As you can imagine this was an anathema to me.  If anything, I would have thought he would have been rebelling against his mother and come running away to London, as it is I've been completely cut out of his life. Worse than that, his mother isn't replying to any of my messages either, so I have no idea what's going on in his life.

Now that's clearly soul destroying.

Since my mother's death, my relationship with my brothers has also diminished to the point that this year, I didn't receive a text or email from either of them. My continued homelessness may be a factor but should that be a factor no attempts to build bridges as ever been made.

I always think of Christmas as a Dickension experience, so often put out an olive branch out to people I may have lost contact with (al la Fred from a Christmas Carol).

Amanda Paul, whom I lived with for 5 years, is a prime example, although she is the fundamental reason I find myself in my current state I always wish her a Happy Birthday as the day lands on Christmas Eve. It normally elicits at least a thank you, but this year nothing!

Kathryn Tabu, who made the start of 2015 a far better experience than the last 6 ones, a 29 year old model, whom I dated for the first 6 months of the year and sofa surfed with for 3 of them, ended our relationship unexpectedly and quite brutally in the Summer, was also offered the seasons greetings in the hope of eliciting at least a response telling me she's still OK (I still care about these people hugely, wouldn't have been in their lives if I hadn't) but nothing in return.

My family (son, Mother of son, brothers, sister-in-laws) were all offered the same courtesy but not one of them saw the benefit of returning the gesture.

It actually hurts to write that down. In stark hard print, it feels so heartless, so unnecessary, so cold.

Thankfully people like Naomi Kenton (a girlfriend for 7 years, 20 years ago) remind me that there are some amazing people still out there, I'm putting my son's disowning down to his adolescence, my families absence to the departure of our mother (who kept us together) and Amanda & Kathryn down to needing to keep me distant (something I never can tell if that's because they cared too much or never cared at all).

Anyway, that's Christmas 2015.  I promised myself in 2013 I'd never spend another one alone, I was wrong.

But tomorrow's New Years Eve and 2016 beckons, so hopefully, they'll be better times then...

One can only hope!    

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Memories for my son Charles Atherton-Laurie....

About a month ago, my 16 year old son informed me that he didn't see me as a "real" father but more as a distant relative and he didn't want to come to London to see me anymore (he resides in Cardiff with his mother).

As I'd just travelled 160 miles from London to Cardiff on a National Express Coach in the early hours of the morning (arriving at 3am) had, had no sleep (spending the remaining hours until 09:00am in a 24 hour McDonald's - my idea of hell) before meeting him, all simply to deliver his Comicon Costume (a birthday present that I'd had made by the special effects team behind the masks in Mad Max Fury Road) on time...

To say I was disappointed, would have been the biggest understatement in history.

The cliched words that came from his mouth like "You're buying my affection" I believe could only have come from his other parent.

It's not like that he doesn't know his father sleeps in a car, on the tube or when lucky crashes on friends floors or that because of his health has to survive on disability state benefits (a wapping £20 per day), so with what he thinks I can buy his affection, is beyond me.

The amazing things I am able to achieve for him come from living in London and having a wonderful circle of friends who would do anything for him.

But while we endure our estrangement the thing that annoys me most is the inability to share those moments that I so love.

He's hoping to become an Aeronautical Engineer and my recent visit to the Science Museums Cosmonaut exhibition I know he would have (excuse the pun) been over the moon with, even though I was clearly visible in the crowds of the Lord Mayors Parade in the BBC coverage yesterday, he wasn't with me and his Mum even when prompted, wouldn't point me out to him on their TV in Cardiff.

But with his recent revelation that he may be Transgender it was the launch of Brewdogs new beer No-Label on Friday that I would loved to share with him, because only in London would a brewery produce a sex-change beer to celebrate inclusivity.

Nothing like that would ever happen in the pitiful slurry that calls itself the capital of Wales.

I just hope my absence from his life is merely a phase and we will, not very long from now, once again rekindle our relationship as Father and son, as I love him dearly and miss him every day.

Monday, 21 September 2015

It's the little things that make all the difference....

It's ironic, I haven't posted here for nearly 2 years, not because I haven't wanted to, but because health and circumstance prevented me from doing so.

And today I do so, because an act of unkindness has nearly pushed me right back to committing suicide.

I haven't slept more than 5 hours in the last 72 hours. Grabbing snatches of sleep between return journey's on night buses traipsing to and fro Heathrow Airport.

I haven't eaten in 2 days, instead spending the last of my remnants of cash on beer to allow me to keep going through the pain and panic attacks caused by the lack of sleep and to stay using the computers here in the Hoxton Hotel where I'm currently located.

I've been frequenting this venue for months now. I'd built (or at least I'd thought I'd built) good relations with both management and staff alike.

I'd left my holdall in the left luggage for a few days. Having a Louis Vuitton bag when you're on the streets, makes you a little bit of a prime target. A fish in a barrel waiting to be skewered. So laying it somewhere protective for a few days helps inordinately.

It's also a weight and when you're struggling with my health condition CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) carrying a few extra pounds can change everything.

So it was moments ago, without a by or leave, receptionist Richard just dumps my bag at my feet and says I cannot store it there anymore.  I'd been sat at the computers all day, not being particular productive (almost organised a film shoot for Thursday, developed a new idea for my campaign with Museum of London next year entitled #UniquelyLondon and assisted with a friends legal woes, but still nothing spectacular), feeling extremely weak and waiting for the weather to subside so I could attempt to do something.

That one action, took away everything, suddenly in that instant I can no longer move, it's a burden too much, all my clothes will get drenched, the weight will prevent me from getting anywhere, I can't take it to the theatre and I can no longer protect my straw boater if needed.

The lack of any interest to why they were holding my bag never entered the equation, it was a fait du complis and onwards I trek....