We were all on good form and I had lots of chances to reminisce, reflect, jibe and observe on life’s twists and turns as we whiled away a pleasant seven hours in each other company. One such reminiscence that Ken brought up, that I’d like to share with you, was about an article I wrote on the theme of mental health from some eight years back. It was written not long after my last visit to Canada and was published in a newsletter/magazine that the PSS Umbrella centre had produced and I had sent to Ken. It was a small homespun publication, made by a group of the service users to inform and entertain(hopefully) the rest of the membership and immediate family and friends. It was called “Pick me Up” and I was part of the group that put it together. It gave the group members a chance to try to articulate the experience of what mental health really meant, a contentious issue! It also gave me a chance to be working as part of a group, learn new skills and in essence was a first step towards the blogger that I have become. We had a regular feature in the mag which we called ‘recovery story’; it was where a contributor reflected on their own journey from a place of troubles and woes to a more hopeful one. My recent trip to Canada had given me an idea as well as the headspace and energy to try an articulate my ‘recovery story’. For this piece I had a muse. The muse came in the form of a three inch decorated egg, see photo. In my world, my muse had a story to tell. You see, I had made the egg man some forty years ago and given it as a present to my Uncle Ken who was visiting our family in Liverpool. It was only while visiting and staying with Ken in Toronto and being presented with the egg all these years later the significance of this eggs story and my story began to emerge. Like most of my ideas of any worth they begin with a flood of tears. Yes, I’ll own it, so touched by this lovely gesture that I cried and do you know what, even now, I’m feeling it!
So heres the story, this little egg man went over to Canada with my uncle. My cousins loved this little egg man and gave him a name, Spanky, after a much loved character in a show they enjoyed and kept him in pristine condition in a glass cabinet and in their hearts. So I decided to create a little story in which my offspring is separated from his dad and had a life with his extended family in Canada, was happy but also curious about how his dad was getting on, that the dad has problems with his mental health that meant he was better off where he was-that many years later he was able to go back to stay with his birth parent. This was formed the bare bones of my recovery story- to be honest I’m not sure that it was that clear to the reader at the time what I was trying to get at. I recall friends at the centre saying they liked the story but I found that i needed to explain to them some of the back story to clarify it. Never the less it is good to remember times when you had a go at things outside your comfort zone and the emotions that prevailed rather than the exact detail of what went on.
The story of little Spanky’s return to the UK back in 2011 was not plain sailing however. I had to break the news to Ken and Glenna about the terrible accident that befell the poor lad. While producing the magazine I wanted a photo of Spanky back home in the UK, deciding a picture outside the Umbrella centre would look good. Unfortunately a Humptydumptyesque incident took place. He had a fall and had a large crack on his head. It was while he was on my kitchen table waiting for some attention from all the kings horses etc. That mishap occurred. Unfortunately the only creature who came along was a puppy- Betty, who was six months old and in her chewing phase. She managed to clamber up to the table top via a chair that wasn’t tucked under the table....you can see were this is going. When I got home that afternoon poor Spanky had been dis-membered and scattered across the floor of the lounge!
I was mortified at the time and all the more so that for all those years in Canada Spanky had been looked after so well, kept in pristine condition, firstly in a glass cabinet and latterly in a small cardboard box for safe keeping. Here he was, repatriated to the UK and only weeks had gone by, he was eaten by a monster one hundred times bigger than himself. Ken was sanguine about the turn of events, amused almost, I’m sure there is some life lesson here, the pro’s and cons of living life short and full compared to long and cosseted. When I got home from the walk I had a little peek in the box that I placed his remains in after the incident and have kept on a shelf in my bedroom ever since. And do you know what, I’m glad I looked because I saw something of the spirit of Spanky lying there in its various parts, the young boy who made them, the care taken with this creative offering by my family, the love that was exchanged, and I felt better for looking and remembering. I have now put the little box back on the shelf and like any funeral urn or kept memento a place to go to and reflect on the multi layers challenges of life. So heres to Spanky........ Rest In Peace......and thanks for the journey, the recovery journey!