I’ve been really lucky in life. I am an only child, who was hellbent on making friends. I have satisfactorily made an entire herd. Without siblings, there’s no way of getting away from it, it can be a lonely old business. Combatting this problem & not having an adolescence wrestling, punching or arguing with someone who looks exactly like me, has ensured that I got myself a group of mates who are all class acts. Brothers if you will. There are sisters too of course. Never forget the Sisterhood! I covet them all & really don’t want to lose any of them. But, as men are inclined less to talk, the Brotherhood of Man really is one hell of a difficult group to join.
Brotherhood Of Man.
So, when your mate, who is the same age, has the same warped sense of humour, into all the same stuff, even supports the same football team, casually announces in the pub amongst all the other bollocks spouted between the two of us, that he has been thinking about killing himself, you do pretty much sit bolt upright, spill your pint & listen. The instant adrenaline hit that that news produced, literally had me in some sort of energy limbo, where I wasn’t sure whether I needed to immediately go run it off, or if he was going to just run off & do it straight away!? All I could think of was…
1) But you’ve still got your fucking hair!?
2) Who else will I talk about hating the Arsenal with!!?
3) How are you going to do it!!!?
Instead, a very important manly decision was made.
More pints were swiftly ordered…
Coffee & TV.
Nick & I met & hit it off straight away, when we were thrown together with all the other bleary-eyed twenty-something crew, on the set of The Big Breakfast, a cult Nineties breakfast television show filmed at LockKeepers Cottages in Old Ford Lock, a pre-hipster quiet backwater of East London. Post Chris Evans, it was presented by Paul Ross, Gaby Roslin & my personal favourite, Paula Yates. We formed a tight double act of PR & set photographer, hammering out words & pictures between us, fuelled by coffee, toast & the incessant daily rage of the producers. It was exhausting.
I sat calmly & listened to Nick (which is no mean feet for me!?) as he explained that due to his cyclical Clinical Depression condition, he couldn’t muster the energy to go through with the morbid deed itself. I breathed a sigh of relief. Having extensively browsed the suicide websites, his brain was so completely fried, that he couldn’t get the energy together to even complete reading anything in detail online. This & his guilty thoughts of his young, legend of a wife & amazing children suffering post any act of desperation, had hindered him completely.
Let’s Stay Together.
Over the years, I’d always been aware that Nick had irregular ‘down periods’ which debilitated him. Phone calls & emails go unanswered for weeks on end, then he’ll pop up out of nowhere going running for miles & phone fancying a few pints or ten. His work had suffered. This in particular was the reason for his abrupt departure from The Big Breakfast, which at the time really annoyed me. ‘We worked really well together’ & ‘But we’re are all tired’. My selfish younger head couldn’t get round it at the time.
In between sipping his pint, Nick matter of factly told me that he & his brain had decided that jumping in front of a train was going to be the way forward. As he explained laboriously at length, it all sounded to me like the Worst Advert For Train Travel…EVER.
Last Train To Clarksville.
I grew up near an express train line, where this act was an unfortunate regular occurrence. His words shook me to the core, of the memories when the line was shut down because of a ‘jumper’. The ‘selfish git’ who was stopping everyone else from moving forward & getting on with their day, whilst taking their ‘attention seeking’ to a whole new level. But really was it…? It is quite an act of personal destruction for someone to be driven to it. This reminded me about Bob Carlos Clarke, an amazing photographer I followed as I started out & more recently, the death of the German international goalkeeper Robert Enke who both suffered this fate, whilst being treated for depression.
Suicide Is Painless.
The conversation had now switched from what he had been thinking internally, to the suggestion by myself of a working collaboration which might help to release his burden further. We can work together in words, in tandem, in pictures or individually, whatever it takes to alleviate any Nick overwhelm. Perhaps, then put a project together where we address the fact that SUICIDE IS THE BIGGEST KILLER IN MEN UNDER THE AGE OF FIFTY YEARS OLD. Just digest that for a moment. A truly shocking statistic, one I am sure people would be interested to read about first hand. Perhaps it will help others too..?
Boys Don’t Cry.
Being part of this age group, has enabled me to see others in my own creative industry, who evidently have the same symptoms, but are undiagnosed. Half the time, they really don’t know what is going on with themselves, but also cannot be approached by others due to the stigma attached. It’s a little like standing up for the pregnant lady on the crammed Tube carriage, so she can sit down & rest her feet. But she isn’t actually pregnant. Awkward.
My Heart Will Go On.
An already very open Nick (he doesn’t think he is open, it’s just mind games playing with himself…) can literalise his thoughts, with my photography, to potentially help others stuck in that same sinking ship. Think of it like a photojournalistic Leo & Kate in Titanic. Nick’s incredibly hairy simian-like naked frame, reclining on the chaise long, whilst I ponce about painting with light.
Perhaps this project may become something larger, but for now we’ll work together little & often to perhaps at some point produce a photo book handbook.
For now, I just want to help get my very hairy mate back on his feet.
And Heaven Knows You’re Miserable Now…
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