Tag Archives: Stockport

Adieu 2019.


Well, it’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot more visual arts this year, so I thought I’d do a month-by-month, blow-by-blow, pictorial representation of my year. (Lucky you.)

Actually, the reason behind it is to see if/how the images/moods have changed over the course of the year. And how that might correlate to my mental health.

As some of you know, I volunteer for an arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), which works with people with mental health issues. I am an ardent advocate of the arts as a medium to treat mental health, and wellbeing in general.

Many years ago, I visted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and you could see the gradual decline in his mental health through his work.

Whilst I’m no Van Gogh, I am trying to see if there are any similar patterns to my own work.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

And before I forget; Have a Happy New Year and an absolutely spectacular 2020.

JANUARY

Oh dear… that’s not a good start.

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FEBRUARY

That’s a bit more positive. Birthday trip to Haworth, West Yorkshire, (home of the Brontes’), with my daughters.

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MARCH

Pros: Part of an Arc exhibition. Cons: Became homeless.

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APRIL

Ee, it’s grim up north. Charcoal sketch of an L.S. Lowry.

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MAY

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

Rehomed.

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JUNE

Think I can see a pattern emerging.

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JULY

Rehab.

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AUGUST

I guess a lot of things are obvious in hindsight.

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SEPTEMBER

The road to recovery.

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OCTOBER

Signs of improvement.

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NOVEMBER

Apart from my volunteer work at Arc, I started facilitating a Creative Writing Workshop at The Wellspring homeless charity in Stockport.

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There are always reminders.

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DECEMBER

A change of outlook.

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As you can see, it’s been a tumultuous year.

I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the last day of it. That would not have been possible were it not for the actions of my dear friend, Siobhan Costigan, over in Australia. Her, and my friends, family, NHS, Stepping Hill Hospital, Pathfinder, AA, The Wellspring and Arc have all played their part in saving my life and helping me to recover. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

As of 31/12/2019, I am 140 days abstinent. I feel completely blessed that I have been able to experience 140 days on Earth with my daughters, family and friends that I might not have been able to. I am truly a lucky man.

I wish you all a magnificent 2020; may the forthcoming decade bring you everything that you hope and dream for.

 

Addendum.

If you, or a loved one, are going through a difficult time, there are organisations out there who can help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you have managed to hold on this far. And remember, if things get so bad, go to your nearest A&E dept., they will take care of you just like any other patient.

The Samaritans call 116 123

NHS call 111 or 999

Alcoholics Anonymous call 0800 917 7650

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7 Nights in Rehab


I’ve been torturing myself about whether to write this post or not.

The primary reason for not posting it centres around ‘not airing one’s dirty laundry in public’, and hurting people close to me whom I love. Whilst the main reason for writing it is that every health and art professional I’ve shown my drawings to thinks I should.

For me, what it boiled down to is whether it will have a positive impact on people or a negative one. Particularly, those people who are suffering from that terrible physical and psychological illness – alcoholism.

I went into Smithfield detox centre in July of this year for 8 days, 7 nights. The staff there were amazing. And I came out of the place fully cured of my physical addiction to alcohol. (The problem upon leaving such a facility is coping with one’s mental and emotional addiction. But that, and a quite catastrophic relapse, is for another post.)

The following are a series of drawings I made when I was there to try and capture my emotional state each day whilst going through alcohol withdrawal with the aid of librium and a few injections in the bum! They are not self-portraits as some people think, just a reflection of how I felt.

I must add that not everyone’s experiences are the same as mine. For example, some people don’t have hallucinations.

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Withdrawal #1

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Withdrawal #2

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Hallucinations

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Torpor

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Fury

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Serenity

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The Awakening

Anyway, to any readers who are, (or think they might be), suffering from alcoholism, I would highly recommend a detox, so please speak to your GP or NHS alcohol service to see about accessing one.

Also, please feel free to message me privately if there is anything you would like to ask/tell me and I’ll do my best to help. My email is: thereisnocavalry@icloud.com

As of writing, I am 98 days sober and I feel like a new person. Four months ago I didn’t think a new life was possible. I had resigned myself to my fate. But, through the incredible support of friends, family, Arc, The Wellspring, the NHS and AA, I have a brand new, positive outlook on life. And, I can honestly say that I am happy.

A huge thank you to Pathfinder Stockport; Arc Centre; The Wellspring; Smithfield Detox Centre, Manchester;  Pennine Care Trust and NHS Stockport.

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Whoa, how’d that little rascal get in here?

 

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Body of Work


I was going to title this post: Portraits of the Damned.

Then I started to include landscapes and still-lives to it. So, the title wouldn’t really make sense. But it will in a minute! Be afraid, be very afraid.

Some of you may, or may not, know that I volunteer for an Arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), in Reddish, Stockport.

I’ve done a lot of this work there, and some at home. But all the techniques I’ve picked up are from either attending or volunteering on their programmes.

Whether it be block-printing, collage, charcoal, watercolour, acrylics, inks, fabric, embroidery, clay or pastel. Not to mention the numerous techniques, yes brushes, but also charcoal tied to the end of a three feet long piece of bamboo! Bits of old Paymobil and Lego, edges of long out-of-date credit cards.

At Arc, it’s never about the technique and what end result you achieve, it’s about enjoying the process of doing it. Losing yourself, immersing yourself in art for a few hours – now that is medicine!

I appreciate that my work is more the stuff of nightmares rather than living room walls. But I like it!

Collage

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Pencil sketches

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Watercolour

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Self-portraits

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Charcoal

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Pen and ink sketches

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Portraits of the Damned!

Mostly acrylic and chalk pastel on canvas or paper.

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And finally, the installation I made for the centenary commemoration of the end of the First World War at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. R.I.P. Herbert Jackson of Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, Stockport. Railway man, musician, fiance – and soldier.

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A Soldier’s Dream


I’m really excited (and honoured) to be taking part in an art exhibition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

The exhibition is being organised by ARC (a charity I do quite a lot of voluntary work for).

The exhibition is being held at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery from 11th November.

After the war, residents of Stockport, rather than erect a traditional war memorial to commemorate the dead, decided to build an art gallery so that future generations may benefit from their sacrifice. Which I think is a brilliant idea.

The theme of the exhibition is ‘A Soldier’s Dream’.

Because, all of these soldiers were, once upon a time, civilians who worked in factories and mills, merchant companies and railways. They had wives and children, brothers and sisters. Mums and … well, you get the picture.

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Scale model of the exhibition.

Instead of focussing on what they did in the war, the exhibition aims to show them as ordinary everyday people who had hopes, dreams and aspirations. Rather than just one aspect of their lives which was to give it in service of their country.

The part that I am involved in is to create a ‘Soldier’s Dream box’. This takes the form of ten 40cm x 40cm wooden crates and each one will ecapsulate the dreams of a soldier who lost his life.

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I can’t tell you what mine will be about yet as I am still in the research stage. I have been finding out about people local to my area in the Four Heatons who lost their lives.

I have always loved history, in particular, the First World War, so I was really excited and passionate about getting involved. (I even did a tour of the Somme a few years ago. I know, I’m a great laugh to go on holiday with.)

As part of my research, (provided by the brilliant website www.stockport1914-18.co.uk), I have been reading brief biographies of soldiers from the Heatons who died. Of which there are many.

But, reading about where they worked, who they married, their children’s names, what team they played for, makes it all the more personal. They aren’t soldiers anymore. They are real people who lived real lives. And I guess that’s the whole point of the exhibition.

Some of the biogs even give their address! These are houses I pass every week. The stories that must be contained between their walls must be incredible.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll keep you posted when I have something new to tell you.

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A real Presence in art – Ewa Konior


There is a brilliant exhibition on at the Arc Gallery at the moment by a stupendously talented artist by the name of Ewa Konior. (Pronounced Evva, I think.)

Ewa hails from Poland, but now plies her trade from her studio in Wales.

There are two very distinctive styles of work on show – the big, bold portraits, full of life and energy. And the smaller, multi-layered images of everyday life built up on wallpaper. You really have to see them in the flesh to see the full effect of the textures and scale.

The title of her exhibition is ‘Presence’ and runs until the 16th June.

Anyway, enough of me rambling, you want to see her work.

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Here are a few shots I took at the exhibition. Apologies for the reflections.

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So, if you’re in and around Stockport, Reddish or Manchester, try to pop along, it really is a wonderful exhibition. It’s Free in there’s free parking round the back of the mill. And there’s also a brand-spanking new cafe in which to relax and admire the work.

Ewa Konior, Polish, artist, Arc gallery, Stockport

Ewa Konior and some auld fella. Photo courtesy of Mark Coffey.

Oh, and by the way, Ewa’s work is for sale if you’re a collector. But please don’t feel obliged to buy me anything. Honestly. It really isn’t necessary.

Arc Centre and Gallery
Unit 33m, Vauxhall Industrial Estate
Greg Street
Reddish
Stockport  SK5 7BR

Artist’s statement:

In my work, I aim to describe the essence of life and quality of existence. Experience, observation and study of the human psyche support my work, I empathise with and give voice to my human subjects. In the paintings of time and place I construct surrealistic locations including abstract elements. Like a frame from a film, the painting is a moment in a movement though time.

I perceive the world as an ocean where, below its visible surface, layers of complexity can be found in its depths. Painting, for me, is intuitively diving into and through the ocean to discover new dimensions and planes. It is an alchemic activity where the creative decision making process and my presence as the artist is evident. My painting is an expression of my particular view, involving aspects of reality, nuanced memories and philosophical contemplations.

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#63/365 – Firefighters


My youngest daughter is in Rainbows. It’s what comes before Brownies. (Which is what comes before Girl Guides – is this the same in every country?)

And today, they went to our local Fire Brigade in Stockport, (north west England). Though, I think they call it a ‘service’ now, rather than a brigade.

Anyways, she got to dress up as a firefighter, spray a hose and set the siren going in the engine. She absolutely loved it. (As did certain adults, ahem.)

Where would we be without our brave firefighters? Burnt to a cinder, that’s where. Or stranded in a flood.

So, to all the men and women of the Fire Service who risk their lives on a daily basis – thank you.

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Firewoman Sam

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Thing 2 doing her level best to soak us.

Thing 1 got in on the act as well.

Thing 1 got in on the act as well.

Nee-naw, nee-naw.

Nee-naw, nee-naw.

And, the real thing…

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Things I am grateful for #15


Stepping Hill Hospital.

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Stepping Hill Hospital, in Stockport, is my local hospital and has come in for quite a bit of stick of late due to 5 patients dying as a result of saline contaminated with insulin. I’m not going to discuss that here as it’s had its fair share of media coverage.

The NHS in general comes in for a lot of criticism. Invariably, people don’t feel compelled to write in when they have something good to say. So, the time has come to put inertia to bed.

Both of my daughters were born at Stepping Hill Hospital and the care my (ex) wife and my babies received was exceptional. For that alone, I am truly grateful.

But, I too, have had call to frequent the wards of SH as a patient having had three operations there.

The first was a cholecystectomy. (That’s having your gall bladder removed to you and me.) I recall tossing and turning on my bed at home at about 4 in the morning, letting out a low incessant groan due to a pain in the right hand side of my chest. I called NHS Direct and they promptly sent an ambulance round. I’m sure the ambulance crew were very grateful for me throwing up in their rig upon immediate entry.

Once at the hospital, an Irish doctor asked me, on a scale of 1 to 10 how much pain I was in. Being a Yorkshireman, and of sturdier stuff than most, I whimpered – 11.

This kindly Irish doctor promptly administered some morphine intravenously. Within 30 seconds I was babbling away like I’d kissed the Blarney Stone.

I was taken up to a ward and, later that day, tested for a heart attack. (Yes, you can get pain on the right hand side of the chest with a heart attack.) In the afternoon, a surgeon made an appearance and asked me a couple of questions, felt under my ribs front and back and promptly berated the junior doctor for theorizing that it might’ve been a heart attack and prognosed cholecystitis.

Suffice it to say, less than 3 months later I had it all whipped out with keyhole surgery. Top job all round, for care and treatment. I do miss that morphine though.

Next up, was for corrective surgery on a broken pinky that Trafford General made a right balls up of. I broke it whilst playing five-a-side footy. Thankfully, they have a specialist hand surgery department at Stepping Hill and they made a very tidy job of straightening my finger and enabling me to bend it once again.

Last of all, was carpal tunnel surgery. They discovered I had this while I was being treated for my broken pinky. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is when a nerve that travels through a sheath in your wrist and connects to your thumb and fingers, becomes trapped, resulting in loss of feeling in said fingers.

I was in and out in less than a brace of hours. Tidy darts all round. On the downside, my wrist was out of action for two weeks. Man, that was a long two weeks.

And, do you know what? It’s all for Free! Gawd bless the NHS.

So, a very big thank you, Stepping Hill, you are all superstars. And, for delivering my two precious babies into this world, I am eternally grateful.

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