All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Unsent Letter #8: You won’t remember me

In late 2012 I decided to write a series of unsent letters to people from my past. Rather than choose the person myself, I wrote 100 names onto 100 scraps of paper and placed them in a hat. Each day, I drew a name from the hat and then freewrote that person a letter. In order to break my current melancholic mood – and a particularly nasty bout of writer’s block – I’ve decided to revisit this idea and pluck a few more names from the hat, beginning today with a letter to someone who crossed my path only once, for a mere twenty seconds.

13 March 2014

Dear FLWTCB

If I know anything, I know one thing; you won’t remember me. But I will always remember you.

I will always remember your shoulder length brunette hair dancing in the wind. I will always remember your deep blue eyes piercing the darkness of an autumnal Scottish evening. I will always remember the smile that lit up your face as our eyes met that blustery, blissful evening. And I will always remember the wiggle of your cute bottom as you walked down the platform to vanish from my life forever.

Ours was the briefest of moments, no more than twenty seconds out of the millions of minutes of our lives, yet a moment that I will remember always; for you were the first woman – the first stranger – that I had ever had the courage to look in the eye and smile at.

It was September 1997 when our paths crossed. You wouldn’t have known that I was a runaway, that I had fled my familial home in search of myself. You wouldn’t have known that I’d spent the day roaming the wilds around Loch Shiel, soaking in the atmosphere of the most beautiful location I’d ever visited. You wouldn’t have known that social anxiety was wreaking havoc on my life, rendering me unable to look people in the eye. And you certainly wouldn’t have known the momentous nature of the smile I gave you.

All you would have known is that an overweight man, flushed with bliss, overflowing with ecstasy, caught your eye on a desolate train platform and smiled at you. And you graced him the gift of smiling back; a smile that has remained with him through all the passing years.

A smile that proved to him that he could make eye contact with strangers; that he could smile at people without suffering an anxiety attack; that he may not be quite as ugly and repulsive as he believed himself to be.

Whenever I have doubted myself in the intervening seventeen years, whenever I have questioned whether or not I could (or should) smile at strangers, I have thought of you. A woman who didn’t fling abuse because I deigned to look in her direction, a woman who didn’t recoil in horror at my presence, a woman who graced me the gift of happiness, even  though you knew not who or why I was.

So, my dear FLWTCB, even though I don’t know your name, even though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to decipher the cryptic moniker I have given you, should you ever read these words and recognise yourself, I just wish to thank you for making that mere boy feel a joy unlike anything he’d experienced before.

For giving me a moment that, however brief, will remain with me until the day I die.

With love and thanks,
Addy xxx

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Through My Eyes: A letter to my younger self

Way back in May of this year, before my untimely relapse, I began working through a blog challenge devised by Bold Kevin over on Voices of Glass. His Try Looking At It Through My Eyes challenge is one of the only ones I know that focuses on mental health and each prompt is thought-provoking, challenging and fun.

Thus, now that I am blogging again, I’d like to pick up where I left off with the fifth day of the challenge: Write a letter to your younger self telling them the things you think they will need to know about when they are diagnosed with your condition.

~ A(nother) letter to my younger self ~

letterwriting

Note: whenever I write unsent letters on my blog I do so as a stream of consciousness because, c’mon, who edits letters that they send to people!? Thus, this post was written between 16:28 and 16:52 on the 22 August 2013. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors contained within, for they are part and parcel of stream of consciousness writing.

22 August 2013

Dear Addy,

If the delivery-company I’ve decided to employ does their job correctly, you’ve just had this letter hand delivered to you by a rain-soaked courier. I’m sure you get the reference. What you probably didn’t understand was why the courier was rain-soaked considering it’s a rather fine and balmy evening where you are…well, in a valiant effort to kick-start this letter with a smile I instructed the company to pour a bucket of cold water over the individual moments prior to approaching you. The way I see it, if you’re gonna go with a pop-culture reference, you may as well do it properly.

Anyway, now we’ve got that wee explanation out the way, let’s get down to business shall we. In order to prove my credentials (that I am in fact you from the future…again!) I shall now tell you exactly what you’re doing: you are currently sitting on the East Beach in Port Fairy, a small knife in your trembling right hand, a mobile phone in your left. You’ve just read a text message about insects and are beginning to question your decision to end your life tonight. Am I right?

Of course I am.

I’m you, remember.

Now, put that fucking knife down you imbecilic moron and pay attention to me for a moment. What you do afterwards has no bearing on me whatsoever, just so long as you listen to what I have to say.

A little over eighteen months from now you are going to be diagnosed with an illness called Bipolar Affective Disorder. This diagnosis is going to turn your life upside down and I’m here to prepare you so the transition is as painless as humanly possible.

Now, I know you’re familiar with the term bipolar, but I’m going to start with the basics…okay? Good. From here-on-in I shall be referring to bipolar as manic depression. Why? Well, contrary to the PC do-gooders, you will come to realize that you much prefer the phrase Manic Depression to describe what you suffer from. Unlike Bipolar, it is far more descriptive of the illness and will one-day resonate with you far more than Bipolar ever will.

The reason for this is that many people (namely arsehole psychiatrists) will stick permanent labels on you with their trusty DSM approved label makers, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. It will take you many – many – years after that first psychiatrist to realize that you and only you can decide what label (if any) applies to you…so you may as well learn that lesson now.

Got it?

Good.

Now, Bipolar Affective Disorder is a mental illness in the ‘mood disorder’ classification of illnesses; which means that your moods are – for want of a better term – fucked. This deep suicidal depression you’ve just slipped into courtesy of Louise’s betrayal, your ludicrous workaholic mentality and years of untreated mental health problems is part of the bipolar cycle. Soon enough (I won’t tell you when as it will take all the fun out of it) you’re gonna experience something called mania. You’ve been there before, without realizing it, but when you experience it next it’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life. To whet your appetite, imagine yourself as an immortal God where nothing you do, say, think or feel is wrong; where you are the most perfect individual to have ever existed and everyone (regardless of how cute and untouchable their posterior) thinks you are the bees-knees.

(Note to self – when you come to write this letter, please find a better phrase than ‘the bees-knees’!)

Of course, this is all bollocks. You are not an immortal God and regardless of how you perceive yourself during these periods, you are actually acting like a major twat. You just don’t realize it. Of course, nothing I do or so will stop you during these periods so…what the hey…go with it! Just enjoy it, because soon enough these depressive thoughts will creep back in and life will turn to hell in a hand basket once more.

That’s the nature of Manic Depression. This endless cycle between mania, depression and (what everyone forgets about) all the shit in between!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but there are gonna be days where you go from walking on rainbows one minute to frying in the depths of hell the next. There are going to be weeks where you believe that you can save the universe by hanging yourself. There will be days that erase themselves from your memory and months that you will never again be able to remember.

It’s a bastard, Manic Depression, and you’re gonna hate the crap out of it for destroying your life.

But what I need you to understand – what I need you to remember – is that it isn’t all shit.

Sure; there’s gonna be a crap-load of medication that will leave you zombified, more self-harm than you can possibly imagine, people (friends!) fleeing your life faster than you think possible and an entire society turning against you because you dared suffer from an illness that you have no control over.

But…your creativity will (as it always has) blossom. You will take some of the most beautiful photographs in the world, paint some of the most random (and obscure) images ever known to humankind and write like some possessed demon on steroids, churning out page after page of the most detailed, random, gut-wrenchingly honest collection of letters known to blogging kind.

Because of your illness you will meet some of the most beautiful souls that you will ever know. People who will put a smile on your face with one word in an email, people who (for the first time in your life) understand you completely and – even if you find this hard to believe right now – never judge you, not even for that!

You will blossom, Andrew, because of your diagnosis – but only if you let it.

So let it.

Once you get through all the confusion, pain, agony, torment, loneliness and social hate.

Once you get through all the labels, meds, misdiagnoses, re-diagnoses and psychiatric bullshit.

Once you stop getting hung up on a word and start getting hung up on yourself, you’ll not give two shits about being diagnosed bipolar because – even when the entire world disagrees, which it will at times – it’s just another small stitch in the multi-coloured tapestry that is you.

And everyone who doesn’t see that isn’t worth knowing.

So, stand the fuck up, throw the knife in the trash and phone Ms. I’m-sending-you-a-text-message-about-ants because she can help you a helluva lot more than I can right now.

Just remember one thing: one day you are going to be fine, Andrew, one day you will be happy again.

I’m just not going to tell you when, because…spoilers!

Love and hugs always,
Addy xox

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |

Also, you can find previous letters I have written to myself here:

| A letter to my younger self | A postcard to my younger self | A letter to my future self |


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A postcard to my fourteen year old self

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is: write a letter to your 14-year-old self.

A few months ago I sent an open letter to my thirteen year old self. If you haven’t read it, you really should, as it’s a post that has passed my strict regulations of awesomeness to become one I’m proud of:

Unsent Letter #7: And before you think it – no, I’m not trying to flirt with you!

Not wishing to inundate my younger self with letters from future me, I decided to send him a postcard instead.

~ CLICK THE IMAGE TO DISPLAY AN ENLARGED VIEW ~

 Callanish Standing Stones (Isle of Lewis, 2000) © Addy


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3 Letters to three different people…

Given I recently wrote a series of unsent letters and felt I needed to creatively unwind after a &*$%^*$ stressful day, I hope my deviation from today’s task isn’t too disappointing. Instead of three letters, here are three postcards to three different people:

~ IF YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE READING THE TEXT, CLICKING THE IMAGE SHOULD DISPLAY AN ENLARGED VIEW ~

Tomorrow: 2 Languages I know (or would like to know)


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Unsent Letter #7: And before you think it – no, I’m not trying to flirt with you!

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay, this is going to be a little interesting. And difficult. Apologies in advance if I lose my way on this one!

9 September 2012

Dear ——–,

I know you’re not one for taking orders, you’re stubborn like that, but for the first time in your life you will do exactly what I tell you to do, understand? Trust me, you’re gonna want to.

Okay, I want you to grab a couple of bars of chocolate, a mirror and a bottle of water (it’s very important that it’s water) and then you’re going to walk to the Castle. Yes, there! See, told you I knew you! Not every day you receive a letter from someone who knows exactly what you’re thinking, is it?

You are not to read any further until you are safely nested away in your Fortress of Solitude, got me?

I’ll see you in about twenty minutes.

Okay. Settled in?

Good. You may proceed.

——–…I’m Addy, aka, you in twenty years.

I’m writing to you because in September 2012 you come up with a crazy idea to write a series of unsent letters on your blog (you’ll understand in time) to important people in your life. You don’t decide who will receive these letters yourself, but instead write down a hundred names and then draw the lucky recipient at random. You’re supposed to keep them anonymous, but given I’m writing to little-me, I’m bending that rule from now on!

Today, Andrew, your name came out of the hat. And yes, you are important to me, even if neither of us believes it.

So, before I go any further, I want you to pick up the mirror I asked you to bring. I want you to spend the next five minutes just looking at yourself. Look at your hair, your nose, your lips and the funny little scar above your eyebrow. Look at your eyes, I mean really look at them. Now stand up and take your top off, look at your chest and nipples, look at your back, your freckles and muscles. Unbuckle your belt and take a gander at your penis. No need to strip fully, just look at it. Run your hands over your body, feel your skin, your hair, your earlobes. Squeeze your buttocks. Wiggle your toes. And before you think it – no I’m not trying to flirt with you!

I know you Andrew. I know how much you hate yourself. All those hours you spend sitting in your room carving patterns into your leg with those scissors isn’t just because of the emotional pain. I know you’re telling yourself that, because I did.

You’re self-harming because you hate yourself on every level.

You despise the way you think; the way you can’t talk to people, the way you can’t talk to girls (especially Kathryn, but we’ll get to her in a minute), the way you think you’re useless at everything you do.

You hate how you look; your thin lips, your unmanageable hair, your weight, your chubby backside.

You abhor yourself so much you just want to end it all. No need to fake denial, Andrew, I’m you remember!

Well, I need you to understand that it’s all wrong. You’re suffering from an illness that’s all. It’s not an illness that affects the body – like mum’s diabetes or dad’s asthma – it’s an illness that affects the mind – like Kathryn’s anorexia or mum’s depression. I know you don’t know this yet, but you will, and I really, really, need you to start changing the way you think.

You are a beautiful boy, Andrew, really, truly, honestly. In a few years you’re gonna have girls wanting to strip those clothes off right where you stand but if you continue thinking the way you do you’ll bottle out and miss out on seeing their cute backsides!

You are not useless. You are not worthless. You are not stupid. You are not ugly. You are not grotesque. You are not evil.

You are the exact opposite.

Think of you’re writing, how creative you are, how you spend hour upon hour drawing portraits of Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. They’re good, Andrew, really good! Think of how imaginative you are, how your fantasies run so wild you spend weeks writing story after story. Think of how much you care. How you’re always trying to help people – mum and dad, Kathryn, your classmates. Think of when you helped that man cross the road even though those prats ripped the shit out of you for days afterwards. Think of when you helped the old woman on your paper round when she slipped on her front steps. Not everyone would do that, Andrew, but you do.

You spend so much time worrying about everyone else’s happiness you don’t leave any time to think of your own.

And you need to!

You need to be nicer to yourself. You need to stop berating and beating on yourself. You need to be kind to the only person you will spend your whole life with you. It’s not fat, it’s a challenge. Your hair isn’t unmanageable, it’s rugged. That butt of yours isn’t chubby, it’s spankalicious. Your nipples aren’t pathetic, they’re Super-Nipples (you’ll laugh when she says that, but it will make you so happy!)

Before we go any further Andrew you need to promise me that whenever you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself you’ll stop, take a breath, and twist them around just like I did above.

Because if you don’t do that you’re going to start self-harming more and more to get the same hit. You’ll move on from scissors to knives. You’ll start pondering matches, and then entire boxes, and you don’t want to go there Andrew, believe me, I speak from bitter experience.

OK? We got a deal?

Good.

Now, Kathryn. Not your sister, the other one. The one you’ve been dreaming about every day for the last eleven months. The one with the magical eyes, heart stopping smile and excellent bottom. You’ll learn for certain as you get older that women are scary, and enchanting, and terrifying, and amazing, and frightening, and the greatest thing on Earth. Seriously, Andrew, women have it all worked out. They are smarter than boys, funnier than boys, better looking than boys and you get on with them far better than you do the males of the species – even if that’s hard to understand right now.

What you’ll also learn over time is that, no matter what the media tells you, women and men are basically the same. We all want the same things; love, affection, care, compassion, orgasms and ice-cream. Not necessarily in that order.

They’re not going to bite your head off and feed it to their offspring. They’re not going to stab you in the eye with an ice-pick if you say something stupid. And they’re not going to chain you to a wall and whip you to within an inch of your life unless you ask them to and/or pay for the privilege.

What I’m getting at Andrew, is your anxieties over talking to Kathryn are powered by the same issues that’s clouded your opinion of yourself. You’ve convinced yourself you’re a terrible person so you can’t imagine how she could ever be interested in you, whereas you’re an awesome person (change your thinking, remember) and she’d be lucky to have someone as amazing as you in her life.

So stop umming and ahhing and convincing yourself it’s all too hard, just walk up to her and say ‘hello’!

That’s all you need to do. After that, it’ll be second nature.

As for the other Kathryn, there’s nothing you can do about her right now other than what you’re doing. Although, in a few years, when the family goes to Great Ormond Street – do whatever you can to convince mum and dad that she should be in there! She won’t get the treatment she needs where she is, regardless of what anyone tells you. So if you want to help her, make it happen! Okay?

POP QUIZ HOTSHOT (you’ll understand that in a few years) Fill in the blank….your feet are                                 .

The reason I’m saying all this Andrew is that you think you won’t always be like this, but the way you’re thinking at the moment is only going to get worse if you don’t take care of it now. In a few years you’ll be thinking of killing yourself, a few years after that you’ll be running away from home, and a few years later you’ll be so caught up in the cycle of negativity and self-harm you won’t know how else to live. You’ll end up homeless, isolated and alone.

And you deserve more than that!

You are an amazing kid, Andrew, looking back now I can see that – and I wish I had someone telling me all this when I was your age. Hence, why I’m breaking the laws of space and time to try change things! Although I can’t give too much away – partly because of the time-continuum, partly because I don’t want to spoil too much – here’s a few things to keep in mind:

– In 1995, when it comes to choosing your A-Levels, listen to your HEART not your anxiety!

– In 1997, phone home first.

– In 1999, don’t question the woman with the left-hand side obsession.

– In 1999, remember the word Walkabout.

– In 1999, listen to what Alice tells you instead of thinking it’s a joke.

– In 1999, tell the person who paints your face what you’re too afraid to tell Kathryn right now.

– In 2000, the woman who slaps you in the face needs your help. Do everything and anything you can!

– In 2000, don’t listen to your ethical code; you will regret it for the rest of your existence!

– In 2001, remember the initials V.S.P

– In 2002, listen to your heart and punch you’ll know you in the face.

– In 2004, suggest you wear a wedding dress as a form of protest.

– In 2004, don’t worry, she’ll be back.

– In 2006, trust the taller one.

– In 2006, remember to say what you’re thinking when you’re eating soup.

– In 2007, if you’ve forgotten all of the above and things play out exactly as they have, remember:

– In 2007, do not drink the Gin and Tonic. If you do, and it happens (believe me, you’ll know what), tell someone.

– In 2007, triple bind the scarf to stop it stretching.

– In 2008, someone will offer to repay you in kind, accept it.

– In 2008, call her! Just fucking call her. Do not let anything, anyone or any anxiety stop you!

– In 2009, the person who shares the name of someone in your past needs your help. Do everything and anything you can!

– In 2009, remember a synonym for rocky pinnacle; not a flightless bird.

– In 2009, do not click ‘publish’ when mentally unstable.

– In 2010, they are not offering Salvation!

– In 2011, if you’ve forgotten all of the above and things play out exactly as they have, buy a new belt, yours is getting weak!

Hopefully you’ll only need to remember the first item to give you the life you want; I’m just trying to cover all the bases!

Now, with all that in mind, and without trying to embarrass you, I need to talk briefly about you know what. If I remember rightly you’ve already started thinking about it and you’ve already started convincing yourself that it’s wrong, bizarre and downright disgusting. But remember what I told you? CHANGE YOUR THINKING!

POP QUIZ HOTSHOT: Fill in the blank…your thoughts about this are                                                                 .

I told you to think positive! Now, given I know you won’t want this written down anywhere – prying eyes and all – I want to let you in on a few things. Firstly, you are not alone! There are many people who think the same way you do – millions upon millions of them! Secondly, in about five years you’ll discover something called the Internet and when you do you’ll berate yourself for wanting to type something in. Don’t! Because you’ll finally learn that I was speaking the truth when I said you weren’t alone. Thirdly, there is nothing wrong with it! Fourthly, never, ever, ever, let anyone stop you from experiencing it.

Life is meant to be lived, Andrew, never forget that! You don’t want to get to my age and still have this as a fantasy! It will invest you like a parasite and devour you from the inside out! Just embrace it!

You see Andrew, like all those body issues and mind fucks you give yourself, this is just another part of the anxiety; another reason to hate yourself, another reason to convince yourself you’re the world’s most grotesque human being.

Whereas in reality, it’s just another reason to love yourself even more!

Like your writing, your art, your imagination, your compassion, your creativity, your passion…this is just another small stitch in the multi-coloured tapestry that is you!

No-one will ever define who you are Andrew, trust me on that. People will try. Oh, believe me they’ll try! But no matter what gets thrown at you, you don’t let them. You channel your strength and keep trying to be the best version of yourself you can be. This is what you need to start doing now.

Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. Don’t let anyone control your destiny. Not those cunts at school, not your sister, not your teachers, naysayers or abusers. You – and you alone – are in charge of your life.

So as long as you believe in me like I believe in you, we’ll be just fine.

Take care my friend, be nice to yourself, always.

With love and hugs,

Addy xx

PS…In 1996 you will become disheartened and question your faith…just remember 2005!

PPS…POP QUIZ HOTSHOT: Fill in the blank…The freckles on your hand are                                                  .

PPPS…Yes, I still write dozens of PSs!

PPPPS…Please stop hating yourself so much, no matter what you or anyone tells you, you really are a good person.


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Unsent Letter #6: In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay, this one is an anomaly because even though they’ve made a significant impact on my life – I’ve never actually met them!

8 September 2012

Dear ——–,

Given you and I have never met I want to make it clear from the very beginning just who I am. If I don’t this letter will either come across like some weird junk e-mail from an Arabian Prince or something even more creepy and disturbing that you’ll have to ask your parents about. You see ——–, I’m your Uncle, and at the time of writing you are two years old.

Your life, at this moment in time, revolves around eating scrumptuous food, playing with toys, throwing the occasional tantrum and making life as difficult as possible for your parents. If you’re not doing the latter, hop to it! They’re called the ‘terrible twos’ for a reason – until next year you have carte blanche to be as naughty and annoying as you like!

Throw food around at dinner time. Draw stuff on the walls. Stick toast into your Dad’s video game consoles. Pour honey in your mother’s hair. Sit in the middle of a supermarket screaming until your mum caves from embarrassment and gives you a chocolate bar. Vomit over a lawyer’s $10,000 suit. Bring home a stray raccoon and leave it in your parent’s bed.

Obviously, these are just a few ideas, but as your Uncle it’s part of my job to make sure you’re living life to the full. Don’t worry about your parents, they may scream and shout from time to time, but they’ll see the funny side of that racoon one day!

Anyway, I’m sure you’re far more proficient in the ways of the Dark Side (get Dad to show you if you don’t understand this pop culture reference) than I am so we’ll get on to the gist of the letter.

As you know, we’ve not had the chance to meet yet because I’m currently living in Australia publishing novels, directing motion pictures and hanging out with the Wiggles. You know the Wiggles, right? All this talk about me being a crazy homeless man is hearsay started by a rival film-maker who’s trying to discredit my project for his own nefarious (ask your mother) ends. I assure you that once I’ve finished my film I’ll invite you to the premiere so you can dazzle the crowd with your awesome tuxedo before winging you home way before bedtime so as not to earn the ire (ask your dad) of your parents.

Before that though, I’ve taken a few hours break from filming in order to pen you this letter to fulfil my duties as Uncle and partake some vitally important life-lessons that I hope will hold you in good stead for the future.

  1. Whatever anyone tells you, there are only three Indiana Jones movies. It is a trilogy that begins with Raiders of the Lost Ark and ends with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Got that? Good, now remember it always!
  2. Your mother is God. Whatever she says, you do. No questions. Unless she wants you to wear a silly Easter Bonnet made of tin-foil, in which case, don’t. Those pictures will come back to haunt you, I guarantee that!
  3. When you get to High School and start crushing on a girl (or guy) even though it feels like the hardest thing in the world – talk to them! Don’t let any anxieties get in the way of flirting with them…and only if they’re willing…kiss them, canoodle them and attend all night parties against the wishes of your parents. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
  4. Never – ever – do drugs. If they’re ever offered to you remember Grange Hill (ask your Dad) and just say NO!
  5. Should you feel the need when older to travel the world, there are some stunningly hot girls (and guys) in Australia who are just gagging for a sexy accent like yours. And remember, what happens in the land Down Under, your parents need not ever know about.
  6. In relation to number 3, never forget Mother’s Day. Should you ever have any problems working out what to get her, your mother is a huge fan of: Civil War Re-enactments, Ed Wood movies and WWI era memorabilia.
  7. As for Father’s Day you wouldn’t be going wrong if you got him: the novels of Mills and Boon, anything from the discography of Crazy Frog, tickets to a Monster Truck Rally or mittens.
  8. Vanessa Hudgens is the world’s finest living actress. Or if she’s been cruelly snatched before her time by the time you read this, was the world’s finest actress.
  9. Apple and all its products are evil. Don’t get sucked in.
  10. You’re a man, yes, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel emotions. Never feel bad about talking to people about any problems you have. If you don’t, if you choose to bottle it all in, chaos will ensue. I assure you.
  11. Harry Potter doesn’t exist. The entire series is a mass world-wide hallucination. Don’t fall for it.
  12. Find something you love doing and do it. Don’t let criticism, naysayers or bullies stop you.
  13. As with number 1, there are only three Star Wars movies. It is a trilogy that begins with The Phantom Menace and ends with Revenge of the Sith. Got that? Good, now remember it always!
  14. For the love of whatever you grow up to believe in, NEVER START SMOKING!
  15. Look after your teeth, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.  And yes, I mean brush them twice a day without fail.
  16. Scotland is the greatest country in the entire world. If your parents tell you otherwise, they’re lying.
  17. Christopher Nolan is an over-rated hack. The same goes for Joss Whedon, David Fincher, John Lasseter and Alfred Hitchcock. So avoid any movies by these people and go for: Michal Bay,  Brian Levant, Uwe Boll and Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer instead.
  18. When your parents show you their wedding album, I am wearing a kilt not a skirt. A kilt! And before you ask, yes, beneath the kilt I was decked out in the traditional Scottish way! (ask your mother)
  19. You will go blind. It’s not an urban legend.
  20. Remember the words of the great Frasier Crane (ask your parents) always:

I should point out that, like Dads, Uncles have a terrible sense of humour. It’s part of our official duty to be as unfunny and embarrassing as possible – something I learned from experience – so it’s entirely possible I was being a little sarcastic with some – if not all – of the above pieces of advice.

The only thing you need to remember ——–, is that this is your life. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are, what you can do, where you should go or who you should spend it with, especially if they leap out at you unexpectedly carrying a big red book! (ask your Mum)

It’s up to you to live your life however you see fit, and when things go wrong (which they will, be under no illusions of that) remember there are people like your mother, your father, your grandparents and all manner of aunts and uncles who will be there to help you back on your feet. All we want is for you to have the best life possible, and we’d move mountains to help you achieve it; your mother and father especially, who love you more than you’ll ever know.

Just remember no matter how naughty you are, no matter how many times you do the wrong thing, no matter what mistakes you make, no matter how many raccoons you kidnap into your parents bed, you will always be loved.

And in the end, that’s all we need.

With love and hugs,

Uncle Addy xx


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Unsent Letter #5: It’s a bit of hole, but a gorgeous hole

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. An oddity this one, considering I only knew her for four minutes!

7 September 2012

Dear ——–,

Never thought you’d be hearing from me again, did you?

What was that?

Ah.

Don’t worry, I’m not upset you don’t remember me – I would’ve been stunned if you had! You see, the thing is, I’m doing a series of unsent letters to important people of my past and today, your name was plucked out the hat. Aren’t you a lucky woman? It’s not often you receive a letter from someone you knew for four minutes some thirteen years ago, is it?

Yes. You’re more than entitled to screw this up and throw it in the garbage but before you make a decision let me tell you why you’re an important person from my past, it may just pique your interest to keep reading.

You are responsible for the best twelve months of my life.

Yep, I’ll say it again just so it’ll sink in. You, ——–, are the person responsible for the best twelve months of my life. Now, doesn’t that feel a little awesome? No. A bit creepy? Fair enough.

In September 1999, I was but a young, fresh faced wee thing completely clueless with the methods of bunk beds, dorm rooms and all night drinking games. You were a ravishing raven haired backpacker hostel receptionist, who, like the Sirens of lore, enchanted every male who ventured too close. I was too shy to strike up a conversation for the five days I spent in Edinburgh, but on the last day, I bit the bullet.

You were wearing a pair of faded, dark blue jeans with a slight tear in the left knee. Your shirt was red, your jacket raven black to match your hair and your socks rainbow striped beneath kicked off ankle boots. You had a small Celtic knot tattooed on your chest, a silver stud in your nose, a gold ring in your left eyebrow and a single looped ring in your left ear. You also wore Jarvis Cocker style black rimmed glasses and had a habit of scratching the back of your neck whenever a guy was pissing you off.

I remember the latter only because I stood in line for ten minutes whilst an ogre of a Spaniard tried to chat you up, but you kept fiddling with the ring on your finger hoping he’d get the hint.

Anyway, when I finally reached the head of the queue I made no attempt to convince you into my underwear, merely requested your assistance. I wanted to book a hostel in Fort William and you were able to do so until you asked if I’d ever been to Oban. After telling you I hadn’t, you nodded sagely and and then picked up the phone.

After you’d booked the accommodation – and given them my credit card information – you gave me a booking slip and told me I wouldn’t really need it as they had a record of my reservation but to hang onto it anyway. I thanked you and you said “You’ll need this though,”

You then leaned over the desk, revealing the tattoo on your left stomach (which is when I wanted to ask you what is it with you and your left side? but didn’t) and pulled out a train timetable. Which I already had so politely declined until you said “Not to Oban, you haven’t,”

(And then the conversation went something like this…)

“I’m going to Fort William,” I said.

“I made the booking in Oban,”

“I asked you to make a booking in Fort William,”

“I know. But you also said you’ve never been to Oban. So I booked you Oban instead,”

“Why?”

“Oh. Did you have something important you needed to get to Fort William for?”

“No, not really, I went there a few years ago and wanted to pay it another visit,”

“So you’ve already been to Fort William?” You said. “But not Oban,”

“I’ve never been to Oban,”

“A sentence you’ll never be able to say again after tomorrow. Look, there’s a train at two-ish and you’ll be in Oban by five, easy,”

“But,” And then I made some weird sigh, and then I smiled, and took your timetable. “So what’s in Oban?”

“Nothing really. It’s a bit of hole, but a gorgeous hole,”

Now, I’ve worked in backpacker hostels in the years since this exchange and I can honestly tell you that if any of my receptionists had booked a hostel for someone that wasn’t at their destination of choice, without asking or confirming first, there would have been lashings of trouble. We’re talking a bollocking of such biblical proportion it would have redefined this British colloquialism for scolding for the rest of time.

I should have been angry. I should have been pissed. I should have been all manner of cheddered off.

But, like you said, I’d never been to Oban. So what the hey?

Anyway, we never crossed paths again, so I was never able to thank you for being such a bizarre receptionist. The thing is, ——–, like I said at the start to try and tease your interest, you’re responsible for the best twelve months of my life.

Because if I’d gone to Fort William I would never have been in the Oban backpackers to pick up a copy of the Anne Rice book Memnoch the Devil from their book exchange. And if I hadn’t picked up that book I would never have had a random conversation with a strange little Danish man who waxed lyrically about a wee town called Portree.

And if I hadn’t listed to his sonnet over this fishing village I would never have decided to go there after a few days in Fort William. And if I hadn’t gone to Portree I would have arrived in Inverness a week early, which means I would never have met Patrick, and if I hadn’t met Patrick, I wouldn’t have gone to Aviemore, so I wouldn’t have chanced upon an old woman in the Visitor Information Centre who recommended I visit Foyers.

And if I hadn’t extended my stay in Inverness to visit Foyers I would never have met Deborah. And if I’d never met Deborah I would have missed out on spending four months with some of the best people I’ve ever known. This, in turn, inspired me to go to Canada where I would meet Annie and Rachel.

And if I hadn’t done that, lord knows where I would be right now!

You see, ——–, your rather cheeky action set off a chain reaction that not only gave me the best twelve months of my life, it changed my meager existence in so many ways it’s almost impossible to count. Without you changing my plan for me, I wouldn’t have met people I couldn’t imagine my life without.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Even though we knew each other for only four minutes some thirteen years ago, even though I don’t even know your name, the impact you had on my life is beyond measure – and I’ve always wanted to tell you this.

With love and thanks,

Addy xx

PS…I took this photo twenty-four hours after we met. It’s always been one of my favourite’s from the trip.

PPS…You’re right, Oban was a bit of a hole, but a bloody gorgeous hole!

Other letters in this series: