A place I want to visit

Lockdown sucks. The coronavirus pandemic sucks. We are due to visit Kiev, Ukraine in October and I hoped to fulfil a long term ambition of visiting Chernobyl with my friends. It took a bit of persuasion to get them to agree to enter the exclusion zone in the first place and now, due to the restrictions on travel and requirement to quarantine upon returning to the UK it looks like the trip will probably be cancelled.

Chernobyl is number one on my list of places I want to visit. Ever since I stumbled upon the Kidd of Speed website I’ve been fascinated by the Chernobyl disaster. It happened in 1986, I was 9 year old at the time and I have vague memories of seeing it on TV. Watching reports of a deadly cloud of radiation spewed into the atmosphere and drifting hundreds of miles. Here in the UK, 1500 miles away, toxic heavy rainfall hit farms in North Wales in April and May 1986 with radioactive caesium and iodine. The government responded by banning the sale of sheep at thousands of farms to stop radiation entering the food chain.

Now, 34 years later, with the radioactive core of the reactor encased in steel and concrete, Chernobyl is ‘safe’ to visit.

And I want to go.

I’ve always – well, for as long as I can remember – had an affinity for dystopian settings. Places like this which are desolate and ruinous or abandoned hold a fascination for me. If we don’t get to Chernobyl this year we shall go another time.



On this day

As part of the August 2020 blog-a-day challenge I’m going to look back at something I wrote four years ago about ‘family’.

The little man on the left is my nephew. Four years ago he came to visit and I was moved by how kind and loving he was for someone so young and having the issues he has. Jackson was born with cerebral palsy.

He is the cause of the rift between my brother and I. I have written much about the problem I have with the decision my brother made.

[My] brother, the wonderful man who rejected this lovely little boy in favour of an evil woman, and then fell out with his brother (me) because I won’t reject my principles when it comes to family and fatherhood. He’s perhaps the very essence of anti-family.

Four years on and those wounds have yet to heal. Its quite possible that they never will. All I ask is that a man stand up and be a man. A father be a father. But that simple task is quite beyond him. It has caused a great deal of angst within the family.

Fran says I should speak to him, impress upon him how wrong he is in the decision he made. I considered it but he isn’t stupid. He knows. He knows it was wrong to reject a child. He knows it has impacted our parents greatly. He knows they’re upset with him. My Mum tries her best to keep the peach and maintain a relationship with him despite how much she detests his actions. I cannot comprehend his reasons for the rejection of his first born son.

I have gone back over something I wrote in 2016 and understood the irony of it:

Family, your children, your children’s children, your brothers and sisters. You can’t pick them. They might infuriate you. You might sometimes think you cannot stand the sight of them. But they’re family and, maybe it’s duty or obligation, but you stand by your family. You do not abandon them.

But how am I to fix that which cannot be fixed? What is an Al to do?


Biggest regret

I’m a firm believer that everything that happened in your life up until this point was the right thing. Every decision you made was the right decision. There may have been calamity and tragedy but if you are:

  • Still alive
  • Not in prison
  • Healthy
  • Free

Then why would you wish to go back and change any decisions you made? Just one change, one amendment to your history, could have unforeseen and negative consequences. There’s an old adage at play here; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

There are of course many things which happened in the past which lead to difficulty and which I look back on and wish I hadn’t done – or had done sooner. In many respects the first 35 years of my life was mistake upon mistake. At the time I might have wished I’d done something different but when I sit here now happy and healthy with my family also happy and healthy. When I look back I realise those decisions I made lead me to this point. At the time I regretted buying a house with someone when I was uncertain about the relationship. At the time I regretted ending a relationship with someone I loved. There are regrets in my life but I temper that regret with the knowledge everything worked out in the end.

I have no ‘biggest regret’ in my life. I don’t think of this as ‘fate’ or any other notion that my life is not mine to control, but everything happens for a reason, right?

As the philosopher Eminem once said;

You know, if I had a chance to do it all over again
I wouldn’t change shit

Favourite quotes

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

I was going to publish this as is because I was feeling lazy but instead I think I’ll take a few minutes to explain why they resonate with me as they do.

Nietzsche’s quote has been known to me for decades but only recently has its appeal become personal. Doing the job that I do I encounter ‘monsters’ and not just as physical manifestations (violent abusers, hardened criminals) but also in themes across society. An underlying culture of cruelty and indifference applied by ‘the powers’ against the poorest and the most vulnerable. I see evil. I see wickedness. I see exploitation and abuse. I see all of the things which people who are sleeping safely in their beds on a night do not see. My colleagues and I combat these things.

Nietzsche reminds me to temper my response to wickedness and violence. It reminds me that I have to be the ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ and that my methods must remain true. One cannot fight with a monster by becoming the same as the monster. One must be conscious of one’s methodologies in that fight.

Thomas’ quote is clearly referencing death. I have seen death. Too much personally and too much professionally. Every day above ground is a gift. Every new dawn a privilege. This reminds me that old age is not guaranteed and that we don’t all make it that far. It instils in me a desire to fight for every last day, every last breath. Do not go gentle…

Favourite photograph from 2020

I love this. Taken in June 2020 on a rainy summers day. We took a trip to Thorp Perrow arboretum. The weather flitted between showers and sunlight hence why Lucas is wearing his rain coat. He loved to explore. He’s a real adventurer.

This photograph is beautifully framed and edited to bring to life the light through the trees. Little Lucas looks to be enjoying tramping and exploring the surroundings.

How was your weekend?

I’ve been sat looking at this blank page for 30 minutes trying to think of a way to sum up my weekend. Between domestic violence, assault and sex offenders, its been a fairly standard weekend.

Crazy, huh? That violence, assaults and sex offenders can be seen as ‘standard’ but welcome to the world of the police constable.

Saturday and Sunday dayshifts made up my ‘weekend’. When most people are choosing to kick back and relax, have a beer or fire up the barbeque, my colleagues and I are strapping on body armour and facing down threats to society.

I walked back into the house on Sunday evening and tried to switch off the awful things I had seen. One difficultly you face doing my job is keeping your family safe from your trauma. It is traumatic. It may be that someone else has suffered a beating or someone else’s children have been abused, but we are all human beings and you cannot help but feel a small part of the trauma that victim’s feel. Some choose to speak to their loved ones about their experiences. Others choose to keep things to themselves. Some will fall somewhere between these two extremes and give sanitised accounts of what has happened during a normal day at work.

Saturday was spent dealing with a domestic incident where someone broke into a flat belonging to the family of his ex-partner and damaging items within. Burglary is not a crime against property – despite what people may think. Having your telly nicked is only part of the story. Someone has violated your private property. What else did they do in your home? Will you ever feel safe again? Its easy, when you’ve been to twenty burglaries, to forget the human impact of this crime. Victim’s often feel very vulnerable. The place they should feel safest suddenly feels very unsafe.

Sunday morning a young man was violently assaulted walking home in broad daylight. A bright and sunny day and suddenly your peace comes to an end at the hands of unknown attackers. Working with ambulance crews to ensure the safety of the victim is the priority before trying to locate suspects. CCTV enquiries, witness appeals, searching the location for evidence of the attack. Just as people are settling down with a cuppa and the Sunday papers, officers are sifting through the dregs of violence on the streets of small-town England.

As most are thinking about Sunday lunch my colleagues and I were considering the best approach to an online paedophile hunting group operating a ‘sting’ in the town. Its not as simple as ‘bad man do bad thing,’ there’s far more to it. Arrest, gather evidence, seize electronic equipment, consider the community impact, safeguard victims and also safeguard suspects. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes. Most people just see a Facebook livestream of the ‘sting’ but not the hours, days, months of work that goes into the subsequent investigation.

I walked back into the house on Sunday evening tainted by the things that I have seen.

How was your weekend?

Three goals for next year

Let’s be honest here. 2020 has been a strange and terrible year. From the millions of acres of land destroyed in Australian brush fires, to the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, to the official withdrawal of Great Britain from the European Union, to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, to the coronavirus outbreak which has seen 700,000+ deaths worldwide, to the widespread disorder in Hong Kong, to the global #blacklivesmatter movement proving that the fight for civil rights and equality is still a struggle in the 21st century, to the… take breath, 2020, you’re only half done.

I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times.

Roll on 2021 and a promise of better times for all of us. The sooner we put 2020 behind us the better for all humanity.

What am I hoping to achieve in 2021? Let’s talk about something positive.

Joe. I referenced my brother Joe in my last post. He lives a long way from here and between life, jobs and financial issues we have not seen each other for several years. Off the top of my head I can’t recall our last meeting. That situation needs to be fixed. Lucas will be two when 2021 starts and he’s never met his uncle Joe. Next year we shall meet. Be that here or there or someplace in between, the situation must change. My first plan for 2021 is a reunion with my brother.

Holidays. No summer holiday for us in 2020 and my planned trip to Kiev, Ukraine in October is looking like it may fall flat too. The requirement to quarantine for 14 days is just too much of an ask. People gotta work, you know? What was a promise of fun and adventure with my pals is looking bleak. We should be going to Portugal in September but that too is unlikely. Flights get cancelled, the government doesn’t know where it stands on the subject of air-bridges and their decisions are typically no sensical. The recent reintroduction of a Spanish quarantine came on a day Spain had significantly less deaths than the UK. It’s just not worth the risk of booking flights knowing we could be denied a chance to travel that same day.

A proposal? And not an indecent one ala the 1993 Robert Redford/Demi Moore ‘drama’. Fran keeps promising to make an honest man of me. Don’t tell her, but maybe, just maybe, 2021 is the year the question of ‘will you marry me’ gets asked.

What are your goals or aims for 2021?

My Family

Oof. This might be long. I come from a big family. Not big as in Victorian England big, but big compared to most modern western families. I’m going to ignore the extended family for this as there is not enough time in the day or the year, for that matter, to cover all. Additionally I’d be sure to forget someone given just how large the clan extends. To give that some context, at my Gran’s funeral many years she was mourned by twelve children, over fifty grandchildren and a dozen great grandchildren. Those numbers have swelled in subsequent years (and that doesn’t consider the paternal side of my family or my stapdad’s family either!). So let’s keep this closer to home.

First there’s Fran and I – we have a child, Lucas. I also have a child from a previous relationship; Thomas. That’s our core. I’ve always been so pleased with how welcoming Fran has been towards Tom. She doesn’t treat him like her own child and he’s not so I wouldn’t expect her to do so, but she’s kind, patient, considerate and interested. I can’t ask for more than that.

Tom doesn’t live with us but we see him as often as possible – actually, that’s a lie. He’s 13 this month and has his own life. We see him when he can fit us into his busy schedule, which is not as often as I would like. Here he is yesterday with Lucas. Lucas loves him a lot.

Outside of our little group I have my Mum and step-dad. They’re the glue that tries desperately – and often fails – to hold us all together. I say us all as my Mum was blessed with four sons:

  • Me
  • Michael
  • Eton
  • Ellis

I also have another brother, Josef, who is from my Dad’s second marriage. I’ll write more about Joe another time. I wish he was very much an inclusive part of the family but we live so far away and have such different lives it’s a struggle.

Mike is the main cause of angst within our family. There’s a divide between us and it causes anguish for my parents. I’ve wrote a lot about Mike and our non-relationship in the past. It is a constant source of torment.

We are currently still estranged. I think about him often but I cannot bring myself to set aside my principles for an easy life.

Eton is the first child from my Mum’s second marriage. Half-brothers is such a terrible term. He’s my brother and always has been. Perhaps due to the age difference we don’t see each other often. We have different friends, different interests, different lives – despite sharing a career. He knows I’m there is he needs me.

Ellis is the youngest of us. He has struggled with mental health for the last decade and it’s been tough for all involved. He’s getting better, he’s outgoing, smart, passionate. I have a lot of love for the wee guy. Its sad that he hasn’t developed into the charming, successful, independent man he was destined to be, but that is down to mental health and beyond his control.

Here we are: Eton, Ellis, Byron, Lucas, Al (me), Laura, Mum and Fran.

They say you can choose your friends but not your family. You get what you’re given. Tell me about your family. Do you get on with them?

Three Favourite Songs


Two of my favourite Foo Fighters tracks are on the ’97 album The Colour and the Shape. ‘Everlong’ just beats out ‘My Hero’. The latter is more anthemic but ‘Everlong’ tugs at the soul. It’s felt as much as heard. It starts low and builds to a quick paced beat which sits at odds to the slow rhythm of Grohl’s lyrics.

Breathe out
So I can breathe you in
Hold you in

It’s majestic.


After first hearing Red Hot Chili Peppers late 1991 following the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, I went back through their previous releases. Released in 1989, Mother’s Milk is the band’s fourth studio album and ‘Knock Me Down’ stands out on that album as one of my all-time favourite songs. Like most songs I like it’s the lyrics which stick. The Chili’s are not well known for lyrical brilliance and they make up any glaring gaps in quality penmanship with large doses of showmanship. ‘Knock Me Down’ spoke to me:

Don’t be afraid to show your friends that you hurt inside, inside
Pain’s part of life, don’t hide behind your false pride
It’s a lie, your lie

It’s an excellent inclusion on one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers finest albums.


Released in 1998 as part of the soundtrack for the film City of Angels, ‘Iris’ was huge and by far and away the most well-known song from the band. I can’t remember when I first heard it but the song featured prominently in my period of self-destruction following the death of Clare. The opening words said what I was feeling far more eloquently than I ever could:

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

Whenever I hear ‘Iris’ I think of her.

What I’m afraid of

Far from fearless I do consider myself to be ‘brave’. Doing the job I do I have to put aside my concerns around self-preservation to a degree. When there is a man with a knife everyone runs away. I’m required to head towards danger when everyone else moves in the other direction.

Nelson Mandela said:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

I’m often scared but I have to overcome that fear and proceed. To the outsider it looks like fearlessness but there is a difference between being fearless and being brave.

What does frighten me? Am I afraid of death? No. I am concerned that should I die my family will lose a sizeable chunk of its income and I would hate for my children to grow up without their father. But death doesn’t scare me. Eventually, everything and everyone dies. Why would you be frightened by that? It is inevitable. The only thing not certain is the timing of the event.

I have long considered myself a proud atheist and have poured scorn on those who cling to the notion of god and heaven. The ‘afterlife’ is a device designed to prevent fear of death, but understanding that the only thing after life is oblivion is, in a perverse way, comforting.

Oblivion is the absence of pain, the absence of fear, the absence of caring. Its difficult to fathom being the self-aware species that we are.

I’m not afraid of death but I am afraid of pain. I have never liked pain. I am afraid of heights. I can’t climb a ladder without quaking with fear. Its not irrational either. Heights equal falling and falling equals pain.

Give me death and oblivion over falling and pain.

Perhaps that’s a bit bleak and morbid. In my next post I will tackle something much more fun!