The Missing Pieces

This beautiful lady is my grandmother, Margaret Joan Robinson.

Brought up in north-east London, Margaret was a woman way ahead of her time. Forward-thinking, dynamic, driven and extremely business savvy. Even though she was only 5ft tall, she didn’t take any crap off of anyone.

At 22, she was a sergeant in the WRAF (Women’s Royal Air Force) and after leaving the Air Force, she and my grandad ran many successful businesses in and around Devon. My grandmother was an unstoppable force of nature and was driven to succeed in everything she did.

When I was 6 years old, my grandmother bought an old pianola (player piano). I remember the first time we went over to their place to see it. The moment my little fingers touched the keys I was in heaven.

From that day on, I wanted to visit as often as possible so I could sit in front of the piano and noodle. I’d spend hours writing my own tunes (most of which I’m sure were bloody awful) or trying to figure out songs I’d heard on the radio. My grandmother taught me how to play an old traditional piece of music which I still remember to this day.

This is one of only a handful of memories I have of my grandmother. She passed away when I was 11 and the events surrounding her death changed our family forever.

Margaret lost her life in 1992 after having unnecessary surgery from a doctor who was at the centre of the Bristol Heart Scandal (James Wisheart). Wisheart performed heart surgery on my grandmother and blamed the issues on ‘faulty equipment’. 10 years later it came to light that it was in fact his incompetence that took her life as well as causing brain damage to over 100 children. There have been multiple news stories about the incident as well as a one-off BBC dramatization.

Before my grandfather passed away in 2011, he and I started creating a family tree together. We found lots of interesting information about his side of the family, but absolutely nothing whatsoever about my grandmother. She was an intensely private person and didn’t share any information about her family, her life in London, her upbringing. Nothing. And whenever I tried searching for information myself it was always a fruitless exercise.

My grandfather’s side of the tree has a plethora of information with well over 100 people in it, a couple of whom I have met in person. My grandmother’s side is quite the opposite.

It contains her, her brother and mother, and literally no one else.

And that is exactly how it has stayed all this time, up until a month ago, when someone out of the blue contacted me, saying we were related through my grandmother.

I couldn’t quite believe it and really hoped this guy wasn’t barking up the wrong tree. I asked for more info and sure enough, we are related. Not only that, but he knows a ton of info about my grandmother’s side of the family.

And guess what?

😮 THEY ARE ALL MUSICIANS 😮

All this time, I believed I was the first one to take up an instrument and play professionally. But it turns out my great-Uncle played piano for a theatre in London and my grandmother’s parents played on cruise ships as well as in the pub they ran in London. Everyone in the family was musical and apparently they all played by ear extremely well, something I have always been really good at.

I got to see photographs and look into the eyes of people I didn’t even know existed, as well as hear first-hand accounts of what these people were like and their love of music.

I even got to see photographs of the pub where my grandmother grew up:

 

Once I had processed all of this incredible information, my memories of 6-year-old me playing piano in my grandparents’ house took on a whole new meaning. I had no idea that by simply being a musician, I was connecting to people in my family line who I knew absolutely nothing about. People who were just like me.

I have always felt like a lone wolf, doing my own thing that isn’t in any way connected to anyone else in my family. Now I can truly say that I come from a long line of musicians and I’m carrying on the family tradition ❤ ❤ ❤

Game of Life – the Gay Edition

Recently, my wife and I were going through Netflix trying to find some aimless crap to watch on tele. We came across a show called Coming Out Colton. It documents former NFL player Colton Underwood coming out to friends and family as well as the general public.

It took me back to when I came out over 20 years ago. Even though my friends and family are super laid back and cool, I had a terrible time summoning up the courage to tell them. In my head I had made it into this BIG deal, when in reality it really wasn’t at all. Some of my friends even responded with ‘well yeah, we already knew that!’. What? Really?? 

I wasn’t brave enough to tell my parents to their face. Instead, I did what I do best and wrote down my feelings on a piece of paper. I then waited until my Mum was in her room, slid the note under her door and ran away into my bedroom (to hide….and cringe, and worry, and cringe some more, and cry, but mostly cringe).

As soon as she had read it, she came into my room and gave me a big hug. As expected, she was cool about it and, as always, was super sweet and kind. She then offered to tell the rest of my family, which I said yes to, and that was that.

A few days later we were all gathered around the kitchen table having just eaten dinner (‘we’ consisted of myself, my brother, my parents and my grandad). After dinner, we decided to play that classic board game, Game of Life. 

I’m sure you’re all fairly familiar with GoL and how it works; you spin a giant plastic wheel in the centre of the board and do ‘life’ stuff, such as buy a house, dabble a bit on the stock market, buy yachts and paintings, deal with your aunt’s stray cats, that kind of thing.

One of the main elements of the game which is unavoidable is marrying someone. There is a square you HAVE to stop at and marry someone, whether you want to or not.

There are blue people and pink people that fit very nicely into your plastic vehicle, and the general assumption is if you are blue (as in male) you will marry a pink (female) person and vice versa.

When this realisation dawned on me, I started to feel very uncomfortable indeed.

I didn’t know at this point if the rest of my family knew that I batted for the other team and wasn’t sure how any of them felt about it.

I guess I was about to find out. 

After 10mins of play, my brother was the first to arrive at the church, the destination for marriages.

With a big smirk on his face, he unapologetically said

“I’m going a marry a man!”

Everyone laughed. This is especially hilarious as my brother is a typical dude and straight as a bloody arrow.

Next to arrive at the church was my Mum.

“Who do you want to marry then?” my brother asked.

“A pink person of course!” my mother replied.

Then my Dad followed suit, he also married a man. Even my grandad said ‘yeah, go on then, I’ll marry a blue one!’.

I’ll never forget it. Looking at the board and seeing every car with either matching blue or pink people. When I arrived at the church, me marrying a girl seemed very fitting.

I care deeply about what everyone at that table thinks of me, and without saying a word they made me feel so loved and included. Being British, we generally don’t talk about feelings and that sort of thing. But on this occasion, words weren’t needed.

I’m so fortunate to have grown up around people who love me for who I am. A creative, intenerate musician who ended up marrying a pink person in real life.

❤ ❤ ❤

If you’re interested in reading about the origins of Game of Life, I highly recommend this article. The original game is surprisingly dark and included squares such as ‘suicide’!