This morning on Twitter, I spotted a tweet that really resonated, the tweet was by Jack Monroe (@BootstrapCook ) and read as follows:
“Hi Twitter, Do us a favour. Find five tweeters you admire. Message them all, publically, individually, to tell them why…. “
I didn’t have to think long and hard, the only problem was narrowing it down to just five people. for various reasons, I tweeted to Janine ( @tinyjneenie ) , Emma Cooper ( @em_cooper ) , Toby Foster ( @tobyfoster ) , Sammy Bonds (@Mantha_B70 ) and Tim McNeill ( @tdmac83 ) if you’re a tweeter, they’re all worth a follow and if you want to know why I named them you can find out by following me ( @brothershaunepb ) .
I went off to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital after dropping Janine at work, to have my blood tests for my upcoming diabetic review, and had a nice five minutes of chatter after one of the phlebotomists recognised me from the Radio Sheffield ‘Common People’ film. Then off to have breakfast, all the time, my thoughts were with the tweet, and how positive I felt it was, a way for people to put some love into the online world, where increasingly there is a lot of bile, vitriol and trolling.
I came back to my dilemma of narrowing my list down to five people, and then it hit me, today’s blog post was almost writing itself. I’ve spoken here about the army of people who are standing by me on this journey, and I wanted to take an opportunity to mention some of them, to thank them, and tell them why I admire them and feel proud to have them in my life, also I want to thank some of the other people who have been a part of my story over the years.
Firstly, my family, mum, dad, my brother Lee and my sister Joanne. We grew up in a home where we were loved, nurtured and encouraged without being mollycoddled and wrapped in cotton wool, we had some tough times along the way, but through it all mum and dad remained solid, a great foundation to build our lives on, and an example of decent, hard-working values. My brother and sister, twins, my junior by just over a year, could not be more different, Lee is measured, considered, quiet but with a sense of humour based on observing everything around him, and then slaying the room with a perfectly timed one liner, he’s a good partner, dad, and grandad. My sister is forthright, confident ( at least to the outside world ) and is a great ally, although we have always had our moments of friction ( when she first came home from the hospital as a new-born I slapped her straight upside her head, I’m not proud, I was 14 months old) she has always been the defender of our little brood, myself and Lee being more the writer than the fighter, Joanne would quite often go into battle on our behalf, one memorable time earning herself a black eye from a school bully in the process. Joanne hasn’t always had things easy in her adult life, but she’s been successful in her career and has rolled with whatever punches life has thrown at her, like mum, she’s stubborn and looks at the world with an attitude of “right, I’ll show you what I can do”.
My school years were very much a game of contrasts, on one hand I was bullied for a lot of my school life, because I always stood out like a rather large sore thumb, being almost a foot taller than any of my classmates from the age of five onwards. In secondary school this bullying was particularly intense and violent for the first couple of years and led to me missing a lot of school time for about a year. The flip side of this was that I loved learning, I loved being in a classroom, interacting, answering as many questions as I could get away with ( at times being asked to keep my hand down to give others a chance) and most importantly, being allowed to stand up either in the classroom, or on the stage, doing what I love best, performing, reading/reciting poems, acting in school productions (including my first tentative foray into singing) and taking part in all kinds of extra curricular activities, public speaking ( I was national schools champion 1984) mock elections. Several names stand out among the many teachers who taught me over the years, at Brookhouse School Valerie Atkin and Tony Woodward who took my enthusiasm for performing and encouraged it, giving me a real insight into how much joy it could bring not only to me, but to those around me. At Carter Lodge School, Carol Jones, Martin Milner, John Roe and John Stocks all inspired me to push myself to the furthest heights and to stretch my talents as far as possible, Carol Jones in particular was a wonderful teacher, mentor, coach and friend who shaped my love of language and opened my eyes to the beauty of the spoken word. I owe them all an immense debt of gratitude, without their influence, I would not have found myself here now, part of a successful act, recognised in my home town and far beyond.
A man I truly admire and consider myself lucky to call my friend is Pete McKee, his rise as an artist and public figure has been inspirational, not least because he has never given up, through good times, bad times, rude health and latterly ill-health, his belief in his art and his desire to share it with a wider audience has never waned and he continues to create new ideas and fresh takes on our past, our present and our future. Pete took a chance on me when he asked me if I’d fancy singing in a fledgling ukulele band, back in 2009, he was the first to spot the potential in my habit/hobby of changing song words almost at will for my own amusement, and how it might win over a crowd expecting something a little more quaint. The rise of that ukulele band is now quite well documented and we are privileged to have one of the most loyal, lovely and frankly bonkers fan bases of any act currently playing music.
Janine came into my life out of the blue, when Pete opened his gallery ‘A Month Of Sundays’ and we busked outside. we met that day, and within a few months, we were engaged, and living together. When we met I was at a low point in my life, and had almost given up on myself, as I say, this black dog has bitten me before. She gave me friendship which developed into a love that I can honestly say I had never experienced before, a love that continues and grows deeper and stronger with each passing day, she may only be tiny, but she is my tower of strength and my steadying hand when the storm rages. Not only that, she has become a recognised figure in her own right, as a champion of women’s cycling in Sheffield and further afield and she is an outspoken voice on women’s issues, environmental issues and her own professional expertise in childcare.
Music has been my constant passion, both as a performer and a consumer, and over the years I have been lucky to work with and become friends with some of the most talented musicians in this country, almost too many to list here, they have all given me insight, knowledge and inspiration to make myself a better singer and musician, people such as Shaun Perry, Frank Birtwistle, Ozz Salmons, Nicola Farnon, James Bacon, Jonny Trier, Piero Tucci, Richard Bailey, Klive and Nigel Humberstone, Johnny Wood, Steve Delaney, Phil Johnson, John Reilly, Cary Baylis, Julian Jones, Nick Banks, Richard Hawley, Larry Van Kriedt, Tim McNeill, Sarah Mac, Emily Stancer and many others, if I haven’t mentioned you here, please forgive me, you’ve all been an immense influence one way or another.
If I tried to list all my friends who are part of my wonderful support network and who have been here for me over the past couple of weeks since all this began, I would be here for a very long time and we would find ourselves with a list of names as long as the electoral roll in Beijing. (slight exaggeration but you get my drift I hope) Sarah, Maria, Tim, Paul (Ogle and Jones) Pete, Bails, Richard, Emily, Kelly, Jade, Chris, and all of you who have sent messages, sent love, sent hugs and have kept me from my solitude and isolation, thank you, I hope you all know how much you mean to me, how much I admire you for your individual qualities, and how much I love you all. It is for you, and for everyone else I have mentioned today, that I want to, and intend to make this journey a successful one, with the destination being health, hope, happiness and maybe a new life.