A little Dutch Courage

The week beginning 6th May 2019.

A date that will long live in the memory of us here mortals lucky enough to witness some sporting greatness we may never see again on the same scale.

Liverpool? 5 times champions of Europe and historically one of England’s greatest clubs. Only Manchester United after the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson can lay claim to rival. Up against the Artists from Catalonia in a 2nd leg affair that should have been a procession. Led by the maestro of Messi, Superman Suarez and Classy Coutinho, even the Gods would have been forgiven from believing this was a miracle too far. And that’s why we have a love affair like no other with the beautiful game. Witnessing a sea of Red that Moses would have struggled to part at Anfield strike fear into the La Liga giants and lifting the underdogs to arguably the greatest 90 minutes in their history.

We as a connoisseur were spoiled with the delights being served up. A 5 star show that only comes around once in a generation if we are lucky. No. Step up what was formerly known as Amsterdam Arena. And this is where it affects the game closer to home in Scotland.

Tottenham Hotspur. Led by the shrewd genius that is Mauricio Pochettino needing a result in the Amphitheatre that is the Johann Cryuff Arena. Where we have witnessed one of the most exciting young teams European football has produced in many a year. Led by the 19 year old talisman De Ligt and having the strings pulled masterfully by Frankie De Jong. 90 minutes from a 1st European cup final in 23 years. In the stadium that shares the name with who, some would say the greatest European footballer of all time. A side like Liverpool who had 1 hand on the famous trophy throughout the 70s.

Tottenham as we saw, carved open and at half time the Dutch fans were booking flights to Madrid for the June Finale. Chickens and hatching come to mind. Step up Lucas Moura. The greatest 45 minutes he will ever produce to see Spurs into their 1st final at the expense of the thrilling young guns from Amsterdam. The narrowest of margins. 4 seconds. We were truly spoilt and bursting at the seams with what had been served up.

An all English final and congratulations to both clubs. However when Mo Salah is worth more than the entire Ajax starting 11, it makes the achievements of the Dutch side even more remarkable.

A UEFA cup final followed by a semi final of the closed shop Champions league of UEFA. Doing the impossible by dethroning the reigning Kings of Madrid in their own palace. Following that up with dispatching the footballing God that is Ronaldo like any other player. 4 seconds from a 90 minute battle for immortality.

The Dutch eredivisie is comprised of 18 teams. A 34 game season in a country of approx 18 million people. 3 times more than Scotland yet they are dwarfed by the so called big league nations of England, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. The onus clear on technical brilliance that wowed all who were fortunate enough to watch them. Sadly they will most likely be pilfered by the big guns of Europe, however Ajax will reap financial benefits that will keep the golden conveyor belt of talent from their academy turning for years to come.

In Scotland we have a top league of 12. A league where for decades we have sat back in the dark while the rest of Europe powered away on an Express of brilliance. A league of soul destroying substance that has not only stagnated but is in fact in reverse. We have some fine clubs and stadia. The big 2 in Glasgow winning European trophies in their hey day. Aberdeen under Sir Alex in 83 and Dundee United beating the mighty Barcelona home and away in 1980s. And that’s before we get to Hibs and Hearts. We have a product with potential off the charts yet we continue to neglect the worth in front of our eyes.

As a Rangers fan, the events of 2012 were incomprehensible. That argument is for another day. What followed though was a missed chance. The top flight clubs that remained survived on only 2 home games against Celtic. And as Rangers climbed the leagues, they provided gates that would keep some clubs in business for a year or 2. A share of wealth finally throughout our national game.

And now we have had the return to the top flight? And the chance to change gone due to the self preservation and greed of those at the top table. Unwilling to throw any scraps to those below yet have the cheek to bemoan the riches on offer in England that have created such a financial gap. Gluttony holding onto the plum ties against Glasgow’s big 2 and lining their own pockets. Having teams so focused on survival at any costs that football is reduced to kick and rush.

A golden opportunity should have been taken to replicate Holland. A country that may be larger than ours in size, yet only 12th largest population wise, in Europe. We could easily have an 18 team top tier. With the odds of survival even greater than a 12 team league, the chance to try and catch up with the Juggernaut of Europe that has ran out of our sight. To focus on technical ability and youth. To create a domestic product to export to the world that is a lot more pleasing on the eye than the monstrosity we see now. Knowing that if a team is relegated they have a great chance of coming back stronger. Sadly self preservation has scuppered all of this.

Maybe 1998 can be remembered as just another world cup for the tartan army rather than our last one. To have a national team that can produce at last heirs to Dalglish, Cooper, Law, Baxter, Souness and Gemmell that we have shamefully have failed to do. Look at Croatia, World cup finalists with a plethora of talent yet smaller than Scotland.

To see our clubs go into battle in European competition better equipped to at least have a go rather than get humbled year after year.

Ajax should have woken up a sleeping giant in our nation. Instead I fear we will continue to say what if.

We have world class names like Steven Gerrard on our door. We should be trying to entice every other Gerrard and Rodgers out there to the rest of our league.

Our fans deserve better. Our clubs deserve better. Our custodians need to remember they are only that. Our clubs will be here long after they depart this earth.

Football is nothing without fans and if we keep short changing them we risk losing all we hold dear.

Its our beautiful game. It’s time we reclaimed it from Blazers from a Dinosaur age that are unfit for office.

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The Beautiful Game

The Beautiful Game

Competition. Human nature at its finest. From the Roman amphitheatres to the Olympic games of Greece. Striving for perfection and the right to be number 1.

The love of sport is such a global phenomenon it unites mankind even if we do not know it. I’m a mere infant at 36 compared to some with sporting memories but I have a back catalogue I cherish. From Sally Gunnell in tears on the Barcelona podium after winning Gold to Lennox Lewis dominating the Great Evander Holyfield as I watched as a child. Seeing Scotland win the final ever 5 nations with Gregor Townsend carving open a French defence that Wellington would be proud of to the heartache of France 98 when we pushed the Samba superstars to the limit. And on that final note we come to Football.

The Beautiful game or not so in recent weeks.

22 humans chasing a ball. Simplicity? No. An art form. From the mighty armchair and maybe armed with a keyboard we sometimes vent explosion in the form of emotion at events on the small glass screen in front of us.

Recent weeks in good old Caledonia we have been treated to an ugly side. Where the architects of our national treasure are unable to craft their magic without the fear of a missile being launched from the very people that are meant to appreciate their art. Spectators now crossing the line of using their eyes and ears to actively engaging with the sportsmen and women we are meant to respect.

I’m not going to go into who is to blame for every incident. We would reach the end of time and still never be in agreement. This is where another human trait emerges with vigour. Tribalism.

We naturally withdraw into camps and defend our own, even if its glaringly obvious to the rest of the world the fault lies at our own door. I happen to wear blue tinted spectacles. For that I make no apology as it’s in my blood. I have many friends with green and even maroon tinted glasses. It is what it is.

Last words on the ugly side. If our masters who walk the corridors of both sporting and political power are serious about eradicating such activity then they can. Call out each and every example and treat equally. If you are in a position of authority then I’m sorry but you cannot wear the tinted specs that the rest of us get away with. And sadly that seems to be a major reason in why the minority can ruin the fun for the majority.

I’m reclaiming the beautiful game for my own peace of mind.

I fell in love with our national game as a young child. Following in the footsteps of my Grandfather and a love for Glasgow Rangers. I grew up idolising the heroes of Ibrox park. From the euphoria of screaming at the television as Gary McSwegan hauled us back to a draw with French giants Marseille to seeing our all time Great Super Ally McCoist defy the odds with an overhead kick to win the League cup final after a horrific leg break.

Then came “the moment”.

100 mile drive to Glasgow after my Father who supports the other team bought me my 1st strip and also handed me a shiny foil paper card. Forget Wonka bars and tickets of gold or the new national lottery. I was going to see the Famous Glasgow Rangers.

Fort William had a small but loyal supporters club. It was run by a gentleman called Colin Pinkett. A selfless man who would look after myself and my pals and allow us to be the next generation of young bears. We travelled south on our very own chariot in the disguise of a mini bus.

We parked up with our valet paid handsomely the sum of 1 of the queens finest Pounds to “look after our motor”. I would learn this was always a wise move to accept and pay the rate being asked.

Walking along the magnificent red bricks would come into view. Towering into the heavens was our very own Coliseum. Steeped in history I cannot do justice in a short written piece. Along edminston drive I would meet my very 1st Rangers Icon. And in 2019 only a few weeks after his death, I wish I had known then as a 12 year old I was shaking the hand of a true legend in Mr Eric Caldow. A gentleman who signed my match programme and wished me a good day.

Walking up the steps of the Broomloan stand and nothing prepares you for the magical sight that awaits. It’s a feeling I thought would never be beaten. Oh how I was wrong. As a father and taking the hand of my little girl and seeing the sheer delight in her eyes retracing the same steps was a million times more powerful for me.

I’m a Father of 2. And how I dream of a day where I’m watching Glasgow rangers with both my children by my side. My Son and Daughter both born just a stone throw away in the old Southern general hospital. As I type this, my lad Kyle would have been 10 years old on May the 6th. Not a day passed where I don’t miss my wee man.

Our beautiful game? When Rangers were there for me. When they became much more than a club. Having a spare season ticket for my daughter to take a pal is in Kyle’s name. A touch of class so I can say forever that my 2 kids had a seat side by side at our Ibrox home. You never hear the good in our media these days about such human kindness. To me it will live with me forever. That’s beautiful.

Many who follow me will know our journey. It is what it is. From losing Kyle to his Mummy’s cancer. We try to fight back and help others.

Through setting up my own charity in Kyle’s name I have been unable to visit our home as much as liked. For me the right thing to do was to allow other families to share the love we have for our club by giving away our season tickets. I’m humbled to say we have made many new friends and knowing some little bears saw our team for the 1st time due to my kids is a legacy I’m proud of. That’s the beautiful game.

When Amelie was struck head to toe in Psoriasis it was another blow. Seeing a little girl in pain and also being bullied was beyond hard to take. As her Dad I will do anything for her. Rangers stepped up again. One of the proudest moments of my life was seeing Amelie leading out the famous Glasgow Rangers at Ibrox Stadium. To grace the hallowed turf and partake in a minutes silence on remembrance weekend brought a tear to this RAF Veterans eye.

I watched my little girl stride into school the following Monday now 10 foot tall recalling her big moment to all her pals. I saw my little girl start to tip toe out of the shell she had been imprisoned in for the previous months. That to me is more than a club. That’s the beautiful game.

I never realised at the time that witnessing such greats from Gascoigne and Laudrup to De Boer and Van Bronckhorst that such pain would come. 2012 saw acts of greed and shame I never thought I would ever witness. Mr Struths famous quote would never be more apt than it is now.

“Our very success, gained you will agree by skill, will draw more people than ever to see it. And that will benefit many more clubs than Rangers. Let the others come after us. We welcome the chase. It is healthy for us. We will never hide from it. Never fear, inevitably we shall have our years of failure, and when they arrive, we must reveal tolerance and sanity”.

“No matter the days of anxiety that come our way, we shall emerge stronger because of the trials to be overcome. That has been the philosophy of the Rangers since the days of the gallant pioneers.”

We rallied led by the great Sandy jardine. We took our medicine and rightly or wrongly fought back. We filled our Ibrox home from division 3 and followed our team far and wide. Sharing the blue pound and helping smaller clubs with payday they could never have dreamt of.

We are not quite out of the woods yet. But looking at the world class name of Steven Gerrard leading our team still gives me butterflies even at the age of 36. No longer the likes of Sandaza and Cribari but Defoe and Arfield should show how far we have come. Mr Struth in all his wisdom could not have chosen his words better.

I have seen supporters rally round raising money for sick children no matter what team they support. That’s our beautiful game.

We now have a player wearing the Rangers badge that gave such joy and beautiful moments to the late and inspirational little Bradley Lowery.
That’s our beautiful game.

I was at Ibrox to see 50k cheer and raise money for the brave Fernando Ricksen as he battles Motor Neurones. Love from many clubs for our former player.
That’s the beautiful game

To say we lived in an era that produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Zidane, Figo just to name a few. Magician’s in their own right.

That’s the beautiful game.

Seeing supporters brave the cold and sleep out in the name of Charity. That’s the beautiful game.

My very first fundraiser in Kyle’s memory we were donated gifts from clubs such as Celtic, Rangers, as well as Inverness. They could see beyond football colours.

That’s the beautiful game.

Using social media as a platform for good and making friends through a shared love of your team.

We all have our own stories to tell. Our own tales of those first steps into a stadium or meeting an icon. To wearing our 1st top to tears of Euphoric highs and heart breaking lows. Emotions of recalling memories with loved ones who are now watching our team from the best seats in the universe to the dream of taking new generations to a game for the 1st time and passing the baton over. Wishing for a time machine to share those moments again we maybe took for granted. Hoping to be lifted over that turnstile just one more time.

I know I’m going to appreciate the moment even more now as my little girl grows up.

Ladies and gentlemen that is our beautiful game.

It’s the right time for me to say good night to my blog. I have given all my words and bared my soul. I hope its helped even just 1 person as I now look to the future and making our Charity a success for my wee lad.

Thank you for all the kindness. especially the Rangers Family.

X

Lets talk about Silence

Silence.

No words spoken yet a nuclear device of thoughts are detonating within the walls of the mind.

Suicide

The biggest killer of Males under 45 in the UK. 84 take their lives every week. That’s 84 too many. 84 Sons, Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Uncles.

I’m going to write on this because I hope if anyone is trapped within a mind of silence, they can escape even for 5 minutes to let their voice out.

When I lost Kyle in 2009, my world literally came to an end. To carry a white coffin at 26 wasn’t the script my marriage 7 months earlier should have been writing. It was the start of my own mental health being in the firing line of life. This barrage left it scarred and on life support.

I wanted to scream and cry. No words would form nor water would flow. Society had a padlock firmly around my mind that forbid any feelings as a Male from departing my broken soul.

Following the programme of what was expected of me I didn’t even cry at my own Sons funeral. Something 10 years on I deeply regret.

I was tasked to be strong. I took care of my wife and swatted off the world with my Cape to shield her. Unbeknown to me that by doing so I was leaving my own fragility in the firing range for more mortars of grief to land all around me with no way of deflecting them. My persona as some sort of Super-Dad did more harm than good. The Cape may have shielded those I loved however it also blocked them from seeing the hurt that was bottling within me more as each sun went to sleep.

Occasionally when the stars were looking the other way, a cork would silently slip off, allowing some excess pain to quietly run free. Not enough to burst the dam but sufficient to allow some sort of functionality.

As the years progressed, my cellar of tears remained locked away in a vintage collection. Slowly I would open a bottle on occasions they were required. Like Christmas, Birthdays and the 1st day of School. Not quite free flowing but the pressure was easing a little more than the previous years.

And so came the day another asteroid hit. This time it was Cancer. The impact that hit so hard I was blind. If there was a way out at that moment I could not see how. Yet I placed hope and faith our Son would see us ok. My wife was the inspiration and key to emerging through the storm.

Frantically almost immediately the Cape was back on and my soul panic buying as many bottles as possible to store the impending sadness.

This was the lowest point of my life. After reaching what I thought was rock bottom and climbing out only to be smashed down to earth’s core with only a ladder of molten misery to climb free.

This was the point I begged for a break. My back was in pieces surrounded by the billion bits of straw that suffocated me. My inner mind factory was now functioning erratically and was unstable. Each moment alone when the world fell silent, glass would split one by one as grief flowed. It would barely be out of my body when it was being immediately recaptured as my Cape herded it back into bottles. I couldn’t go on much longer intact.

This is the time of my life I wanted the lord to take me in exchange for letting my 2 girls live in peace. I never acted upon anything but how I wanted this pain to end. I’m ashamed to type that even now knowing my 2 girls needed me. I needed to talk as my dam was now at a level of caving in. I found writing and most importantly I let my guard down so those I love could see the real me. It was almost like admitting I was a fraud. The person I laid claim to be all these years didn’t exists. It was like Goliath throwing off his costume only for a tiny mouse to stand in his place.

Fast forward to 2019 and a decade since my life changed. And I’m still here. I even have a new Cape. This time its translucent. I can still be the hero to my 2 girls but also let them see when I’m hurting. To allow the world to see a Father can grieve. I allow my tears a free pass now. They travel via my blog and often carry the words for me to share.

I’m lucky that I still have this world and a chance to leave my foot print. My charity Anam Cara Fasgadh is a decade in the making and hopefully our potential caravan will make life a little gentler for other families. We may have walked the same path but on the journey I can honestly say that no 2 shoe sizes are ever the same. Each story unique.

Let’s talk about silence. Society has moved on and more Fathers and males in general are finding the acceptance allowing us to share our feelings. To lose the disguise chained to our persona for so long and let our true colours shine out.

I’m sharing all of this because it’s real. And that some still suffer in silence afraid to let anyone in.

For anyone out there who has been on or walks this path please know one thing. You are never alone. I may not be able to stop the downpour but I will walk by your side in the rain.

A Rainbow will always follow a storm.

Anam Cara Fasgadh

I would like to introduce you formally to our new Charity, Anam Cara Fasgadh – SC049149.

It still feels surreal typing that!

This is a bit different from my other blogs. I want to take the time to explain our exciting new adventure and what we hope to achieve.

10 years ago in May my only Son Kyle, was Still-Born. It was the defining moment of my own life and laid the foundations for my future. At the time I was 26, 7 months married and staring into the abyss. As a father and husband I lost out on time to grieve and care for my wife as I had to go back to work 3 days after laying Kyle to rest.

Last summer my local MSP, Kate Forbes, took my case to the Scottish government as I pleaded for them to adopt the new legislation brought in by the campaign of Carolyn Harris in Westminster, to abolish Child funeral fees. After weeks of petitioning we got the result we prayed for. And only recently Kate disclosed to me how Kyle played his part in changing legislation.

Myself and 3 friends discussed last summer how we shared a vision. To help others who are in the same situation we found ourselves in.

Andrew & Susan Simpson, and jenni Morris. 3 people I’m proud to call my friends. All live each day to honour their Angel’s, Eilidh-Beth, Alex , Theo and Jay. We all met through our children.

Buoyed by the success of parliament we decided we wanted to act. Our vision? To give a space and haven to anyone who has lost a Child as we had. To have an escape at no financial cost whether it be the immediate aftermath of a loss or 20 years later. We hoped to simply give refuge for the bereaved soul. And so our concept of Anam Cara Fasgadh was born. A mix and match of Scottish and Irish Gaelic describing the above. We are a mix and match bunch. None of us perfect yet we simply strive to give our all to help others.

We spent the next 10 months formulating a plan. To get a team of trustees, the incredible Niki, Claire and Irene on board as well as forming new relationships with people we are blessed to call our Patrons. First up was Gavin Wright, a Scottish Actor I had been fortunate to converse with over our shared love of Glasgow Rangers. An absolute gentleman who offered me words of kindness in my own hour of need. A man I’m now proud to call a friend and Patron.

We then have 2 fantastic MPs in Will Quince and Carolyn Harris who are Conservative and Labour respectively. Both Will and Carolyn have walked in our shoes as bereaved parents. As well as being both instrumental in the National Bereavement Care Pathway legislation going through parliament and of course Martin’s Law for Child funeral fees. We are thrilled to welcome both on board.

Last year I was fortunate to.have shared my love of running with an author writing her own book. Little did I know that Kyle would ve included in a best seller along with a link to this blog. Bella Mackie has been an inspiration to me personally and I urge anyone to read her book, Jog On. Its something a lot of us can relate to when finding a coping mechanism when life hits you. Bella said yes also to be our Patron.

Last and Certainly not Least we have Kate Forbes MSP who is my local MSP. Kate has been a massive support to me over the last 12 months and I can think of no better human being to join our team and welcome our Scottish Finance Minister.

We also have support from several other cross party parliamentarians. Proving that our cause is much bigger than party politics. Child loss doesn’t discriminate, it could happen to any one of us regardless of who we may be.

Finally on 21st of March 2019 Anam Cara Fasgadh received official charity status and registered as SC049149. 10 months of smiles, tears, emails, conference calls, late nights all paying off.

So what next?

Well now the hard part begins. We should be fully functional in coming days to accept donations and apply for funding. Our goal is to secure a caravan on the beautiful Argyll location of Tralee Bay. I would urge anyone to have a look online and see for yourself the stunning area. Linked below I’d a VLOG by Mikey McManus, a superbly talented Cameraman and Drone pilot who has given his time to help promote our cause. This shows where we hope to lay the foundations of our charity.

Our Twitter handle is @anamcaracasgadh and Facebook is same. Any shares or likes of our pages are massively appreciated.

To those who have messaged support we cannot thank you enough. If anyone would like to support us in any way at all please get in touch. From running a 5k to simply raising awareness, we would literally welcome anything with open arms.

I promise you that we will give this our absolute heart and soul.

I never envisaged at 36 I would be married with a child above and one on earth and a Co-Founder of my own Charity. I can’t change the past but we can try and make the future a little gentler for someone else.

Always a Rainbow 🌈🌠💙

Charity begins at home

It’s February the 22nd 2019. The day I turned 36 years old in my journey through this world. It has been a monumental week that I’m going to share. Beginning with rewinding this story precisely 10 years.

I’m 26 years old. 4 months Married and about to embark on my new life. The ship has sailed and excitement grasps my lungs with every breath. Our Honeymoon was in the previous October in Dublin and it was a city I will forever love. Our dream for the coming year was to save our treasures and set sail to California to live our dreams. And then we dropped Anchor. We were expecting our first child and our plans were put on hold as we found port to take on our exciting news.

The script? July would arrive. We would be new parents and live happily ever after? No. Our journey had other ideas and our future would have a compass we had no chance of reading with any sense of the direction required.

Our pregnancy was tough. Instinct told me something was very wrong. Rachel was very ill and her sickness hospitalised her on more than one occasion. I recall my birthday in 2009 playing guitar hero to my little baby. Innocent and if I had known it was the one and only birthday we would spend together I would have played music all night to sing goodnight.

06th May 2009 the hurricane of life destroyed our vessel and left our family no longer a 3 and ship wrecked on an island of pain. Kyle McGuire was born asleep. The most beautiful baby boy and the hours together were an honour I will never forget. I sang all the nursery songs I could, in a 12 hour window as the sands fell into a glass timer I wished would pause just for a bit longer.

In the coming months and years we stood back up and hauled our ship from the ocean floor and repaired it under the light of a Rainbow.

Our 3 became 4 as Amelie Ellen Jennifer McGuire came aboard one year later. A little sister for our perfect Boy.

I looked at both of my children in the eye as newborns and vowed the exact same thing. To fight every single day and to try and make the world a better place in their name.

We set sail once more with a radiant North star we could call our own to guide us. Our new course carried us along the ocean current of life as we taught one another how to smile again.

2013 arrived with a bang. The exhilaration of completing my 1st Marathon in Kyle’s name for Tommy’s baby charity was a Landmark moment in my own moment as captain of the ship. After our Sands fundraiser previous we added some more funds to a precious cause and I was keeping my vow. We were fighting back. Suddenly we broke loose from our port of content as the cold November Rain lashed down. Cancer had attacked with venom and we were once again listing badly.

As a family we had to use every shred of reserves. And Cancer had picked one hell of a lady to start a fight with. Rachel gave her absolute everything and battled with every inch of her heart.

Eventually the mother of all storms passed over. The sun came back out and on Kyle’s 5th birthday his Mum rang the bell of remission as we once again raised our sails.

As a family we won’t give up. Our voyage has change direction more times than a tennis ball at Wimbledon. We are still sailing and still looking for rays of hope and sunshine.

We stopped off on 5 more marathons raising funds for some special charities. Sands, Tommy’s, Clic Sargent and SiMBA. And handed over some pieces of 8 as we went. And on this journey we met some people that would shape our destiny for 2019.

I can’t name every person but please know all of you who have stood by our side will remain in our hearts for eternity.

In 2018 Caroly Harris successfully ensured that Child funeral fees would be abolished in England and Wales. A lady who I regard as a hero. Her inspiration armed our Cannons and we fired our hopes and passions towards the Scottish Parliament. My local MSP Kate Forbes led the way as we challenged for Carolyn’s legislation to be adopted. Even when it never looked imminent something changed. Our petition helped. Families won.

I heard our Son’s name in parliament and only as I write did I learn that between parliamentary business, Kyle’s story did in fact play a major part. Humbled.

Along the 7 seas I met 3 people I need to talk about and 4 others who I haven’t met that are integral to my own history.

Susan and Andrew Simpson and Jen Morris. Our ships in any other universe would have sailed past without so much as a wave. However someone thought otherwise. 5 little Captains brought us together along the canal of fate. Theo & Jay, Alex and Eilidh-beth and Kyle. All steering their parents to the same port called SiMBA. Our little ones gave us friendships for life.

In May 2018 we all decided it was time to give back. Charity begins at home as they say and our new family now nurtured a new hope from our shared port in Scotland.

After 7 months, 2019 welcomed the year Anam Cara Fasgadh was born. We formally applied for charity status and as I write we are hopefully only days away from achieving status. Our dream to anchor the ship and create a safe refuge in the midst of pain for fellow families to be able to share. To be a candle when the lights have gone out so others can at least find themselves amidst the dark and have vital breathing space.

At the beginning we went back to 2009. 10 years on and our California dreaming is coming a decade later. This time getting to share it with a special little sister knowing her brother will always be by her side. The book I wrote for my daughter whilst guided by above will be published too. And we waved Cancer goodbye. Rachel you bloody well did it.

Our sails are new. Our deck is rebuilt and our Rudder repaired. We can’t turn back no matter how much we want to. We can only sail into the sunset and face whatever challenges the wind blows in our direction. Something changed though. We are not alone. We are on the stellar sea with our friends along side. Strength in numbers watching each other. No longer one North Star but now a galaxy of twinkling hope to help navigate Anam Cara Fasgadh through the choppy seas that await.

We won’t give up. We will fight forever and a day.

For every single one of our children above and below this is for you.

Anam Cara Fasgadh

Rainbow catching

I’m 5 years old. It’s 1988 and my 1st real memories are being unlocked from the little jar stored in my mind. This was the 1st time I can remember the pain of disappointment coupled with unrivalled excitement. One evening the Sandman chapped my door to tell me that my taxi was ready. And just like that I was a Ghostbuster. Amongst my heroes and doing all I had ever wanted in my short life. And then came the crushing blow. As my carriage returned me to reality I awoke as plain old me. Utterly devastated that I wasn’t the hero that I had literally just dreamed of.

At 5 years old I had my 1st lesson handed out from life that you can’t always have what you want. A lecture 30 years on that I have never forgotten, delivered from the 1st school of hard knocks visited.

My world became split in 2 over the next 3 decades. A reality I craved to leave behind and a fantasy I was desperate to stay forever and a day.

I grew up yearning to be anything from a famous footballer to a Ninja turtle or astronaut. Anything to escape to the make believe I found refuge. And once again the sound of an alarm clock usually signalled another crushing defeat for my army of hope from the General of fate. Sometimes it was easier to give up on my dreams.

The coming years from my late teens onwards defined me as a person to the current day. I found that if you’re willing to fight and give everything then you can achieve the impossible.

At 17 years old I enlisted in Her Majestys Armed Forces and the Royal Air Force flew into my life. A small kid from the West Highalnds. From a village of maybe a hundred or so to a barrack block contains the same number in London. The odds were stacked against me. Homesickness targeted me with pinpoint accuracy and came within a whisker of success. Resilience burned and I had to dig in. Eventually the kid who left Scotland passed out at his parade now a young man. Wearing the royal blue uniform was one of my greatest honours. I Had to pinch myself. This was real. The first time in my life I was able to grasp happiness that wasn’t taken from me with every sunrise.

Jumping forward to 2009. I was newly married to the woman of my dreams. Again reality had beaten fantasy. My 1st child was due. I Had it all to look forward to. And then my world ended with a crushing blow.

Kyle was born asleep in May 2009. Beyond perfect I’m every single way. Beautiful and my own. Fantasy and reality had collided in the most painful way and derailed all the strides of the last 9 years. I couldn’t grasp that in one hand I had my wish of being a father to a perfect wee boy. On the other hand I was saying goodnight forever. The system had crashed and with it my mind lost all power. The standby generator woild kick in. Auto pilot engaged that would remain for years to come. I miss you.

When 2010 gave me a daughter it was almost a 2nd chance. I couldn’t come off auto pilot. Scared that the nightmares that had replaced every dream in my sky were only a blink away. Instead of enjoying the precious gift of life I despaired that fate was waiting to snatch away my light as it had done 10 months earlier. I would have given anything for my sleep to be returned to me safe and well from the void that stole it. My little girl started my road to recovery.

Cancer.

Yup. That word. Even now it makes me nauseous.

Rachel beat you. You might have broken me and my fragile heart. You did not beat her. As a family we fought back.

If you allow the darkness to consume you then eventually it will suffocate anything good you have left.

We broke free. We raise awareness. Ran marathons. Hosted events and we never gave up. By now I dread the moonlit sky. I would rather be awake capturing the milky way by lens than by 40 winks. I Had lost control of the ability to rest. Each night a new monster would arrive at my door with my old friend the Sandman and terrify me. I was now scared to answer the door of my mind after sunset.

Slowly I began to wake up and take back control. As Rachel’s cancer was cast away and Amelies skin was clear I was able to relax. I was able to close my eyes and instead of waking up disappointed in the morning I now rejoiced simply for being back in fantasy land once more. Even if reality was waiting with that cold cup of coffee.

And then it happened. My fantasy and reality crossed one more time.

I wrote a book for Amelie. I had found an outlet over the last 2 year’s. Blogging and scribbling was my own way of coping when I felt suffocated by the world. When the words arrive I simply scribble and let them speak. They make sense to me if all else fails.

Most mornings it would be a case of the sheer disappointment that something remained locked in the filing cabinet under pipe dream. One day everything changed. Fate had dealt me a hand of a lifetime. The filing cabinet was wide open and a file was missing.

I woke up on an icy February morning of 2019 and the file was still gone. In its place I had something special. My dream of being a published author was lying in front of me. I Had signed my 1st publishing contract after 2 years of rejection.

After 35 years of broken dreams it finally happened. It came true. My rainbow was shining after the mother of all storms.

I still have to work hard. I know fate played a part but so did dogged determination.

If you are going to sleep at night and harbour your own special hopes then grab them tight. It’s not an easy journey. It could be painful lined with a tinge of joy. Never give up hope.

Dreams can come true x

A Rocky road

I’m an 80s kid. Born in 83 and brought up to an era of magic as a child. Ghostbusters and Teenage mutant ninja turtles were my early obsessions. When the Sandman came calling I would usually be transported to lower Manhattan either chasing spectres or Spinning on a half shell with some Kung Fu moves to make Bruce Lee nod with approval. Innocence I would probably give anything just to go back and visit for one day.

Dreams. They are another world. And for those precious moments a salvation that even as an adult hold the gift of Hope.

The 80s also gave us Movie classics. From the Goonies to Back to the Future. A plethora of silver screen right before our Impressionable eyes. One of my favourite franchises I still watch now as an adult with the same love as I did many moons ago. As a soon to be 36 year old Father of 2, it has more meaning to my life than I could have ever imagined all those years ago staring In wonder. I’m talking about the life of a fictional character named Rocky Balboa.

Who loves an underdog? It’s been a British love affair for generations. From Rourke’s drift and Zulu to the Crazy gang of Wimbledon defeating the mighty Liverpool to plunder the silver on offer disguised as the FA cup. The list goes on. Who failed to smile when Del Boy finally made his coin? Or when Eddie the Eagle thundered down the slopes? Maybe our finest hour when “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. I spent 8 years in the Royal Air Force and that last one still brings a lump to my throat with pride.

Now let’s talk about Rocky.

Before we proceed I want to add that the 1st Rocky movie was in 1976. The one I’m going to focus on is number 4 made in 1985.

The art of pugilism. Many great warriors have graced the ring over the years. Some I grew up with such as Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield. Then before my time such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Rocky Marciano to name a few. And on the last one leads to why this movie strikes a chord.

I’m a bereaved father. I lost my Son, Kyle in 2009. Coming up to 10 years. And everyday for me has been a boxing match. Each day my mind has come up against it’s opposite numbers throwing punches as hard as any of the men I have mentioned earlier.

Rocky 4 sees our underdog head to what is now the former Soviet union. To fight against the giant of a man called Ivan Drago. To me Drago portrays life as I know it. Tough and unflinching. No emotion as he despatches anyone in his path. When Rocky loses his closest friend and mentor to this machine I could only relate what it felt losing my only boy. Cold and unforgiving as the Siberian winter. No rewind or 2nd chance.

The path is crystal clear. You can curl up, which I wanted to do many a time, or you can fight back. When Rocky agrees to go to Moscow to lose the inevitable battle I could feel it. The pain of what has come before you and also the fear of what lies ahead. My dreams that were so cherished as a child were now a conflict zone not even the United Nations Peace Keepers would wish to patrol. Reality was blow after blow raining down and waiting for the knockout to come. One thing I did have in common with the champ was I don’t give in easily.

And so I started my fight back by training to run a marathon. Just as Rocky ploughed through the frozen plains of Mother Russia I used the same music as my own inspiration. My legs ached and burned as much in my own mind as the lung bursting moves I watched on the TV. It also gave me hope.

When Drago beats Rocky to a pulp as expected the easy option would be lie down. When life hammered my family, ashamedly I had moments on the canvas I wanted to stay down. Some moments I wanted the bell to sound forever. No towel was there as I looked to my corner for anything. And I found my wife by my side. She would not allow me to give up. Nor would our daughter born a year later.

Every time I would pound the streets focusing on my end goal I knew I couldn’t give up. When set backs came I had to strike back. I climbed back off the canvas and made a vow. Promising that Kyle would have a legacy. That I would speak his name. And for 10 long rounds I have done just that. We decided to strike back. As the Iron Curtain was torn down by Uncle Sam in 1985 there was not a chance of giving up. 6 marathons later being the body blow I needed. As our Underdog won in true David v goliath style, someone in Scotland even if just for a moment felt the same.

As with all victories they come at a cost. My mental health is fractured. It’s not the same place it once was. The blows of Still-birth and my wife’s Cancer put me on the canvas many times. I may have got back up but part of me died too.

I cry. Yeah you heard me right. I’m a 35 soon to be 36 year old man. And I cry. Sometimes when the world has been tough and I reflect on my own journey from Philadelphia to Moscow. Then other times I cry with joy. To see my daughter grow into the beautiful young lady she has become. To see my wife beat cancer. And each time crossing that marathon finish line this underdog has given his blood, sweat and tears to honour his wee lad.

The world has moved on from the 1980s. It’s ok not to be ok. We don’t have to hide and pretend it’s not happening. Mental health isn’t a game. It’s real. If you are lucky enough to get through life without any trauma then I genuinely salute you and wish you well. For those of us blessed to survive the hurdles, you command my utmost respect.

It’s ok to talk. For those of us with Angels too good for this world, never be afraid to speak their name. As a parent we have an eternal right to cherish our memories no matter how small.

I have had days where I’m top of the world and feeling like the same champ Rocky did. The flipside is the days I wanted it all to end. You don’t need a statue at the top of the steps to know you have conquered Everest.

Im going to finish up with a quote by the man many call the greatest. If ever I needed a little inspiration for the last 10 years of battle then maybe this shines most.

I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’

Muhammad Ali