I also dedicate my song today to birthday celebrant Clair Jeynes who lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Enjoy your special day, Clair, and thank you for being my Facebook friend.
My song today is ‘Alone Heart’. This song was composed by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly who recorded it under the name ‘i-Ten’ on their 1983 album ‘Taking a Cold Look’. It was later recorded by actress Valerie Stevenson and actor John Stamos in 1984, and the American rock band, ‘Heart’ covered it on their 1987 album ‘Bad Animals’, and this version reached Number 1 in the US and Canada. In 2007, Celine Dion recorded it for her album, ’Taking Chances’ and in 2010, Alyssa Reid used the music and lyrics for the chorus of her song ‘Alone Again’.
Because of a very bad traffic accident that I had just before my twelfth birthday when a wagon knocked me down on the estate where I lived, I incurred multiple injuries and remained on the hospital's critical list for almost two months in 'Batley Hospital', West Yorkshire. I was a hospital inpatient for nine months. I was to have over fifty operations on my badly-damaged legs over the following two years, and I was unable to walk for three years following my traffic accident due to a spinal injury I incurred after my body and legs were wrapped around the wagon’s main propeller drive shaft.
Because of the many operations on my legs, I was left with one leg three inches shorter than the other leg. This leg-length discrepancy between both of my walking limbs left me with a pronounced limp and I was advised to wear a raised boot with iron rods at each side of my left leg to buttress and brace the strength but declined. I wanted my body to readjust as well as it could without any artificial and cosmetic help. Between the ages of 11-18, I devoted every spare minute of my time engaging in exercises, sporting activities, and meditation practices which were geared to improve my ungainly hobble and turn it into a more respectable walking movement, and improve my body balance whilst minimising my pronounced walking limp as much as was humanly possible. This involved a combination of imagery, auto-suggestion, physical exercises, and allowing my hips to re-align so that I could ‘roll into step’ as opposed to ‘limp into step’. This punishing physical regime that I imposed upon myself in most of my leisure hours, inevitably meant that I was often ‘alone’ whenever I was engaged in a non-sporting activity that did not require a partner.
While still only a 12-year-old boy patient after my accident in an adult male ward for nine months, I lost familiar contact with my peer group, and in the after years, I often preferred being in more adult company than that of my own age group. For one thing, in order to work on a seven-year programme of physical improvement I engaged in, I needed to read and understand many kinds of different adult reading material than my peers were reading, if ever I was to establish a reasonable walking movement and regain my body balance again. I needed to know how the mind and body interacted with each other and worked together. Acquiring that knowledge involved me reading many medical pamphlets, and books on physiological, psychological, and mental aspects of human functioning. I was a 12-year-old boy in a hospital ward reading all manner of highbrow stuff while my school peers and neighbourhood friends were swapping ‘Dan Dare’ and ‘Marvel’ comics between each other. The closest my peers ever came to appreciate the workings and functions of the human body was their secret hoarding and gawping at their mother’s clothes catalogue she would order from; particularly the section which displayed pages of women’s lingerie that was divinely draped around the beautiful part-naked models in their knickers and skimpy underclothes.
At the age of 21 years, I went to live in Canada and I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to some of the American states over a two-year period. I had always wanted to travel, and for two years before I emigrated, several workmates from the textile company where I worked planned to emigrate with me. We were all unmarried except one workmate who was going through a divorce. During the last nine months prior to our planned departure, we would daily cheer “Hello, Canada, here we come!” whenever we met up at work. Then, as the departure date drew closer and the time to book our tickets arrived, my Canadian travel companions dropped out of the planned journey one by one for a variety of plausible reasons. In December 1963, I travelled across the Atlantic Ocean ‘alone’.
While in Canada for two years, except for the last six months before I returned to England when I was courting a young woman, I was ‘alone’.
Upon my return from Canada, I was determined to progress in the textile industry as far as I could, especially after I became engaged to a student-teacher. We planned to marry when her training course had been completed, by which time I would be 26 years old. Between the ages of 23 and 25 years, I progressed through the post of ‘working foreman’ on a non-salaried wage to become a salaried ‘supervising foreman’ with a Cleckheaton finishing firm. Between the years of 25 and nearly 27 years of age, I advanced further to become a ‘mill under-manager’ on the night shift, with the prospects of becoming ‘mill manager’ on days during the immediate years ahead. During these textile years of advancement, being a ‘gaffer’ among the workers I supervised automatically placed me in the more isolated position of being ‘alone’. Salaried foremen are never seen as being one of the workers by the men/women they supervise, as it never works trying to have a foot in both camps. Human nature will always decree that there will always exist an ‘us and them’ mentality on the shop floor by ‘worker’ and ‘foreman’ alike.
Instead of waiting, however, I decided that being a mill manager was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my working life, so I took an ordinary mill job on days with another textile firm in Brighouse and went back to night school to obtain my GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’-level qualifications to gain me university entrance. I decided to train to become a Probation Officer. I joined the ‘West Yorkshire Probation Service’ in 1970/71, and very soon learned that my training course to become a Probation Officer did not equip me with the skills required to adequately deal with the type of offending client I was expected to supervise and assist to positively change their criminal behaviour pattern. So, over the next 27 years, I constructed my own programmes and courses for working with my clients and developed methods that proved phenomenally successful. Once again, I found myself working in an unconventional way to that of my colleagues, using methods of work that had been previously unseen in traditional Probation Officer practice. Being ‘before my time’ in many of the pioneering methods I was using, along with being the first Probation Officer in West Yorkshire to research their own working efficacy, how I worked for the next 25 years effectively meant that I was invariably more often ‘alone’ in what I did.
Between the ages of 28 years and 73 years, I wrote stories for children, young persons, and adults. I wrote and had published sixty-four books in total and allowed all the £200,000 profit from their sales to be given to charitable causes. Now, anyone who is an author knows that this activity is a somewhat isolated and lonelier occupation than most other tasks. While there are the book launches, invited speeches, and other obligatory social events to attend, the bulk of one’s time between one book and the next is spent ‘alone’, thinking, writing, researching, drinking copious cups of coffee, and smoking too many cigarettes as you effectively live what you are absorbed in writing about.
Since my 70th year of life (8 years ago), I contracted a terminal blood cancer which robs me of any effective immune system with which to fight off any illness Hence, what the lockdown citizens of the country have experienced since March 2020, I have lived with since March 2013. I cannot safely mix with any crowd, and if I enter a room with more than six people in it, I remain highly vulnerable if I and others present do not wear a face mask. Sounds familiar? Each day I meet people (anybody) outside my home, I effectively play Russian Roulette with my life. Their cold becomes my instant pneumonia which is deadly at my age, and their germs confine me to my sick-bed or place me in the hospital ward. Every time I am within the touching distance (not at a social distance, but closer) of anyone with a germ, or within the breathing air space of someone with a cold, or shake hands with a person who has not washed their hands, I take to my sick bed soon after! Over the past 8 years, for the first six years, I was confined to the hospital, or my sickbed, or my house for nine months of each year. There is nothing new in experiential terms for me about the restrictions that Covid-19 has imposed upon a large part of the country since March 2020. For the most part of this past 8 years, with the exception of my wife Sheila’s daily company, and the occasional family visitor, or my close friend Brian, I am physically ‘alone’.
Since I developed terminal blood cancer in early 2013, I have had two nine-month courses of chemotherapy, forty sessions of radiotherapy, three years of three-weekly blood transfusions, approximately one dozen operations; nine of them life-saving cancer operations. In fact, seven cancer operations from the total twelve having been performed during the past two years (the last operation was a 6-hour operation involving a neck dissection), along with the forty sessions of radiotherapy I have had. I currently have three different body cancers and I as I write this post, I am awaiting biopsy results after a recent operation to remove a small hard cancer lump on my cheekbone facial area. Those results will reveal if a more major operation to remove facial cancer is required. Should my biopsy results indicate that more major operation to remove facial cancer is needed, then, unfortunately, because the cancer cannot be removed from beneath the skin surface of my cheek without severing the facial muscle nerves, I will incur a facial collapse and be left with the permanent facial appearance of a severe stroke victim.
Now while it would be so easy to tell you that for the greater part of my life since that wagon ran over me at the age of 11 years, bringing my childhood years to an early end and leading me to grow up too fast, I have been ‘alone’. It genuinely felt like I was at the time, but today, I do not believe such to be the case. It is true that between the ages of 11 and 18 years of age, and during my two years in Canada, I tended to be a ‘loner’ as I pursued my own thing; also in my textile, Probation Officer, and author career.
However, despite the restrictions that my blood cancer places on me today, and which I will have for the rest of my life, in all that I do or try to do, I have had a loving wife to share my life with, six brothers and sisters who are always there for me if/ when required, and some very close friends; not forgetting my God who has undoubtedly protected me ever since the day that I was born.
In fact, since I married my wife Sheila in November 2012, I have never been happier in my life. I love my life, and I want it to continue for as long as it can. When God wills it that my time is up and my boat is called back into shore, only then shall I wave a final goodbye to this life on earth. During the past eight years, I have had the constant support of literally hundreds of Facebook friends and contacts who have joined me on my medical travels and who have walked alongside me to urge me on as I face one hurdle after another. Through their constant support, prayers, and goodwill, they have effectively built a ‘bridge of love’ that will enable me to cross from one side to the other as I leave my earth life for the next. Indeed, I know of hundreds of people who pray for me daily, light candles for me whenever they attend church, and even offer up masses on my behalf. Between them, my wife Sheila, my family, and my close friends, there has never been a man who has felt so loved.
I no longer feel ‘alone’ and until the day I die, I never will!
Love and peace Bill xxx