Kris Akabusi and the two most important women.

Well now, brace yourselves for me waxing lyrical about my beautiful lady wife. She does get awfully embarrassed but she is my absolute world and I see no reason not to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!!

Nicky gained her Social Work degree and additional postgraduate qualifications relatively late in life, whilst working and bringing up her two lovely daughters. The reward for one of her incredible achievements was a graduation celebration where the  enigmatic Mr Akabusi was the guest of honour.

So, a former international athlete, with a fabulous fun attitude to his sport, who has gone on to a lifetime of celebrity and motivational appearances, he is a very active and popular individual and his latest shenanigans can be discovered HERE.

It was a lovely moment when Nicky revealed her Akabusi experience, as he has a special place in my heart. Firstly, as we were growing up in a house of sports fanatics, his athletic prowess and raucous laugh brought many a joyous moment to our world.

Akabusi bookHis book, On Track, was being devoured by my sister as her illnesses were intensifying towards the end of her life. Unfortunately, she became too ill to finish the book herself. On the night she died, which is 9 years ago on Monday, aged a mere 44, I sat with the book at her bedside as she gently slept a heavy final sleep. I read aloud to her for an hour or two in the hope she was, somewhere inside, enjoying the words of one of her favourite athletes as her breathing slowed.

Reading a little more about Kris in preparation for this blog post he says he is often asked why he openly talks about death and loss so regularly, despite him being an upbeat motivational character. He replied, simply, that it constantly reminds him that every day of our lives is precious and to be lived to the absolute maximum. Also that we should surround ourselves with the people we love and care about, that we trust and with whom we share beliefs and goals. And that we should avoid spending time in situations that suck the life, the emotional energy, the FUN, out of us. I couldn’t agree more….

That he openly talks about oft avoided subjects is so refreshing. When Karen was so very ill (and she lived for over 6 years with her various cancers), people started to avoid those of us who were close to her, the word ‘cancer’ becoming a cancer itself, as if simply using the word would curse us. It wasn’t a secret, Karen had cancer. And it was shit. really shit.

As regular readers know, we live and care for Frank, my father-in-law. He has dementia, his diagnosis is a ‘non-specific Alzheimer’s’ I believe. It is also shit. It also has a depressing prognosis and can completely consume us on occasions. We are starting to find that there’s a little bit of a wide berth being given to us (and not just because of all the hot cross buns we’re eating!) as we try and check ourselves into not having every conversation ending up being about Frank and his bizarre diet, lack of understanding of time or that milk has now become ‘that white stuff’.

Anyway, on the 9th anniversary of Karen’s death, I just wanted to pay tribute to her and the life she had, I owe a lot to her memory and my biggest regret of losing her is that she never got to see me with Nicky. She never saw me REALLY happy and she would be chuffed to know that I truly have found my wonderful soul mate, someone with whom to share the lifetime of love I’ve been saving up.

That a lovely link between these amazing women has been made through Kris Akabusi still makes me smile every time I think about it

I still miss my sister, Karen, she was the life and soul and has left us with so many wonderful, energetic memories. And so, every moment with Nicky, we try and enjoy and treasure the time we have, and intend to keep planning those adventures and challenges and celebrate this life we’ve been given.

So I’d better get my arse out of the door tomorrow morning for that long run and, in the motivational words of my amazing lady wife… “MAN THE **** UP”

 

 

 

 

 

The Gaslight Anthem

So, I’m just a bloke in fifties, having bumbled and bodged my way through life, until, in 2014 I went on a date with Nicky. Nicky, my beautiful wife, my life, my world, my everything. There had been adventure and people on the edges of my rather aimless existence up until then. BUT – nothing had prepared me for the whirlwind of life about to envelop me when I went on that nervous first date.

The clich√© is ‘a whirlwind romance’ and WOW – for the first time in my life I understood what people had meant when they’d used phrases like that, and ‘soul mate’ and ‘forever’. I truly have been blessed. We try and cram as much into our lives as possible and Nicky has taught me that, despite the nagging defeatist crammed in a dark corner of my brain saying otherwise, people like us CAN……….

That’s not to say I haven’t met good people before in my life, people I’ve admired, people who’ve impressed, people who appeared genuine, and through all of the **** there have been characters who have stuck.

This is a long winded way of saying I’m writing, not an obituary as such, but a quick tribute, to one of the good guys from the past who tragically lost his life last week.

I was landlord of The Bay Horse Inn (Totnes) in an earlier incarnation. Whilst I was guardian of that 16th century coaching inn, a group of cracking youngsters, most of whom were at 6th form college, started using the pub. A quick can of coke and a game of pool, some welcome banter on those desolate winter mid week lunchtimes.

Anyway (cut to the chase Kevin!), they became firm friends, party people for sure, but with a quick wit and sharp intelligence to them. Amongst this number, for example, was a guy I went on to play in a band with, another chap who went on to be an employee, a colleague, a true friend and even a housemate.

Unbelievably sadly, last week, another of this crowd, Trev, suddenly and unexpectedly died.

Trev (short for Trevelyan) was a lively burst of energy. He was everything from the weekend fun leader to am accomplished amateur boxer, extremely flighty runner (a 1.20 half marathon!), keen fisherman and loyal friend to this great group of chaps and chappesses.

I always said that (if and) when the pub failed, most customers who claimed to be a friend when they wanted a lock-in, would soon forget my name. Trev was one of those who didn’t. For a long time we stayed regularly in touch and when I gave up the fags and took up running he was incredibly supportive and encouraging. Despite a 15 year or so difference in age, we found some great common ground and he was willing to reign in his inner gazelle and plod alongside me.

Before that, he was quite a cheerleader for the band I played in – happily throwing his wild shapes on a lonely dance floor as we churned our way through some of our self-penned tunes in some damn and empty ex-servicemen’s club

Yeah, a good guy.

I haven’t seen him for years. He too had met his forever lady and became a father, before getting engaged rather romantically on Valentines Day this year. He leaves behind a baby daughter, adoring finacee and his lovely, now elderly, parents.

I had a quiet moment for Trev, and for those who’s lives will be savaged by his tragic loss, this week. It truly is a further reminder that life is for squeezing every precious moment out of RIGHT NOW!

I watched Trev box twice. A student of the sport, he saw his ring-craft as his signature.

The first time, despite his fast movement, artful jabbing and focus, he was floored by a strong opponent, bouncing off the canvas at the very start of the final round. He took his fall like the man he was – back on his feet quickly, determined to show the referee he could complete the bout. Hugging his opponent and enthusiastically congratulating him before taking the applause of the ringside table occupied by us, his rowdy cheerleaders.

The second time I had the pleasure of watching him in action, he was even fitter, even leaner and with even more hours of sparring in the locker. A fairly even contest, but Trev continually edged away from his opponent on the judges score cards as he danced and teased and prodded his opponent. A clear victor, I felt Trev was never looking to flatten his opposite number, but to share the full ring time with him. Showing his opponent and the sport the greatest respect, it was lovely to watch. Classy.

Yeah, one of the good guys.

Forgive me the indulgence of publically sharing my memories of Trev, but, quite selfishly, the process of writing this has eased the shock.

I’ve always thought of Trev whenever I listen to The Gaslight Anthem.