Thursday, 26 December 2019

Am I the luckiest man alive?

Regular readers of this blog might think 'Oi Oi, he's been on the sherry a bit to much over Christmas' reading this. Those familiar with my blogs on my issues with dyslexia and cancer, those who have shared my despair at the lack of justice I see in society, those who see some of the rather nasty and at times deranged posts of people I've upset over the years, who still regularly snipe away. Having read these you may think 'what's he got to be happy about?'. But friends who know me know that I am an unrelenting optimist and if I count my blessings they outweigh the negatives, by a magnitude of a million. I have come to see dyslexia as a gift. Had I had a normal brain, I would probably, like my siblings, excelled at school, not felt the sense of alienation when I was 14 that made me embrace punk rock music. I would probably be a self satisfied, successful middle aged man, in a boring job, smugly counting the days down until I got my pension. I wouldn't be running a music studio and playing music in a rock and roll band. I may have had another 0 on the end of my bank balance, but I have no doubt I'd be less happy.

Then there is living with cancer. This was a massive change in my life and hangs over my head like the sword of Damocles. I have come to accept it as a massive wake up call. I am lucky in that I have few symptoms, apart from a need to use the toilet rather regularly. You may think this is simply superstitious claptrap, but I have come to view it as a gift from God, the lifestyle changes I've made have undoubtedly improved my general health and happiness. I was supremely lucky to have been diagnosed during a 'well man checkup'. Dr Cuttell at Mill Hill Surgery suggested an MOT when I went to get a football injury checked out. He said "we recommend that as you are around 50 years old we give you a once over'. That gave me the chance to keep an eye on the situation and take action when there were problems. If that is not lucky, I don't know what is. If I'd not twisted my knee and seen Dr Cuttell, who knows where I'd be now.

As for the dark moments, when I feel down over the lack of justice in our society. I often wish I didn't care, but I would never want to be someone who draws the curtains and forgets those on the margins. I try and do what I can, I could certainly do far more. But my volunteering with HCPT and The Passage has brought me into contact with some truly wonderful people. I have written before that real Superheroes don't wear capes and have special powers. They are simply ordinary people who do extraordinary things. The honour I have to have met so many, some through this blog is immense. My despair is always about the fact that I feel I constantly let them down, by not trying a little harder. It is another great gift to have been privileged to have met so many great people. Back in 2012, when we put 'A Tale of Two Barnets' together, the people we met and the stories we heard made me realise just how vital it is to get the messages across. This little interview, which we used an extract of in the film, with local activist Stan Davison was one such moment. Had we not made the film, this would be lost forever. Please watch this.

And then there are the detractors. A wise man once told me that if you've never made enemies and upset people, you have never done anything of note. He also said that if your detractors are people you'd cross the road to avoid, then you are doing something right. Napoleon once said “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” This is why I ignore them and simply let them get on with it. I have learned that nothing annoys them like being totally ignored. When I realised that simply blocking and ignoring social media detractors is far more pleasant than reading the codswallop they write, it was a moment of great liberation.

When I was a child, our teacher asked us to say what we wanted to be when we grew up. I was a rather useless student and didn't really understand the question. As my classmates said 'Doctor', 'Teacher', 'Soldier', 'Builder', etc, there was much hilarity when I said 'I want to have a dog and a pond'. The teacher said 'That's not a job! What job do you want to do?'. To much hilarity I then replied 'I don't want a job'. The teacher replied 'Well you are certainly going the right way about it'. Everyone laughed. These days, I have two dogs and two ponds. Sadly I have worked very hard throughout my life, but I am extremely lucky that in all of the jobs, I've made great friends. We go away every year with a group of them I met at SPL International (a large UK software company) 35 years ago. I only took the job to repay debts incurred by my Rock and Roll lifestyle, but I found that I was in a band of very special and lovely people. I also found the work really interesting. To my amazement, I had an aptitude for it. I only took the job as I had a crush on the girl on the training desk at Golders Green job centre and she fixed me up on an IT course and told me to come back when I was earning decent money.  If that wasn't lucky I don't know what is. I never took her up on the offer!

The band has been the thing that has driven me. I formed it in 1979 with a school friend. The need for rehearsal space was what made me start Mill Hill Music Complex studios. I was lucky to have a Father who owned a garage and had spare space that we turned into a rehearsal space. Also through the band I met my amazing wife. She turned up at a gig at The Three Hammers in 1985 and the rest is history. That was lucky beyond belief. In fact I've been blessed with amazing friends all through my life. Sadly many are not around anymore, but without their support and help, the band wouldn't have been able to function. Emil Bryden, a friend I made as he used railway land adjacent to my Fathers garage to repair coaches, would lend us his VW camper van. Dermot Fanning passed his driving test at 18 and would drive Emils van all over London, packed with gear and people.

Then there are the amazing people who played in the band. There are too many to list, but without Paul Hircombe I have no doubt that the band couldn't have existed. Paul passed away in 2012 but his support got me through some really dark times. With the studios, Ernie Ferebee, a coach driver for Emil Bryden became my studio partner in 1994. His support and help was invaluable. Sadly he died of Pancreatic cancer aged 52 in 2001. I still miss Ernie, but feel he's still there routing for us. Fil Ross, Tony Cavaye and Darren O'Reilly stepped up and filled the breach. Having such great people is luck beyond comprehension.

They say you make your own luck. I don't believe this. How can work deliver you amazing friends? How can work make you see why catastrophic setbacks are actually huge blessings in disguise? Perhaps the luckiest break of all was being born of my Father Lawrence Tichborne. Sadly I didn't really appreciate this until long after he had passed away. He was an Aussie from the outback of Australia. He taught me to always make the best of everything and always take opportunities. He was a man of deep faith. He told me that when he was in his Wellington, being shot down over Ploesti in Rumania, he had a moment of absolute clarity. Although it seemed like death was seconds away, he said that he felt close to God, but knew that it would all be alright. He prayed that he would see his three score and ten years out and committed that if he survived he would make the best of his life. I didn't realise, when he told me the full story, that he was in his 70th year and I'd never see him again. It took me years to come to terms with what I saw as his very cruel and early death. But eventually I realised that his time had come and he'd lived a full and happy life. If I dropped dead as I completed the final letter of this blog, I wouldn't complain. My 57 years have been amazing. Back in 1979, I wrote a song with Pete Conway called "Live fast, die young". The song started as a celebration of nihilist, drug addled, youthful stupidity. By the time we finished it, the song was a celebration of how much fun you could have if you knew where to draw the line. We couldn't write a song we felt was dishonest, so it ended up being a critique on the stupidity of those such as Sid Vicious, who really threw it all away for a quick fix. Writing the song made me realise that life is to be enjoyed but not abused.

I will leave. you with a little ditty from the band. One I rather like. This is dedicated to all of my friends. It contains a few images I rather like of Mill Hill. Special thanks to Allen, Graham and Fil, The False Dots.


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