Paul E W

I heard just before 10pm that my old friend Paul died today.

Or Paul E W (for Paulie Waulie) as I used to address his cards. I was Kate T M (the mate).

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Gill, sadly also lost to us nearly 6 years ago, Paul, me and Rachel, at Alma Road

He was one of the guys I shared a house with in London in the Poly days. He was very intelligent, tall, dark, handsome, funny and rather shy and reticent unless he knew you. We were all gobsmacked when he bought a Muddy Fox mountain bike – I’m sure it cost £300 back then, which was HUGE money to me. Man though, he loved that bike and would regularly ride up to Ponders End from Erith, mainly along the canals and river Lee, to come and see us for a weekend once he’d graduated and got a job. He was a Civil engineering student and we took the piss out of him all the time because he had to study 9 to 5 whereas the rest of us were lazy buggers, barely getting up for the lunchtime edition of Neighbours. Also, look up Civil Engineering in the Yellow Pages. Back then, it used to say ‘boring’.

You can possibly imagine how funny Paul found it, after all the piss-taking, when I ended up studying civil engineering a few years later. I used to ring him up sometimes, in desperation, and grill him on such interesting topics as flexural members. Calm down in the cheap seats, we’re taking rafters and purlins here.

Paul introduced me to garlic bread. This was 1986, and believe me, it really WAS a taste sensation. He loved garlic and would lace Fray Bentos pies with several chopped up cloves; he called this cooking. He also introduced me to Leonard Cohen (wasn’t so pleased about that) and, on his visits back to the house for a party weekend, he introduced me to vodka and orange the morning after, to settle the stomach. He also used to get a few rollmop herrings in for the morning after the night before. No thanks, not for me!

Paul came up to Walsall for my 21st, along with a bunch of other London friends. My Mom made piles of sandwiches the next day for those heading south on the train. I well remember Paul’s joy at discovering that Mom had put garlic in with the salad on his sandwiches. His eyes twinkled with pleasure.

I remember him visiting for his 25th birthday. I made him a sumptuous chocolate cake and festooned it with 25 candles. I had to carry it in at arms length such was the heat. I remember him marrying the gorgeous Louise, his childhood sweetheart, in Greenwich just over 23 years ago. She was serenely beautiful and he was so bloody chuffed and proud. Bren (one of the other housemates) and I slept on the floor of their living room in the wreck of a house they were doing up. Crap night’s sleep it was and, its only just occurred to me that Mark, (the other Ponders End housemate) and his wife Fe (a housemate by proxy), got an actual bed.

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Bren and Paul admiring their culinary efforts, whilst Franny-Fuckwit (that’s another story) looked on. At Alma Road again.

Paul’s gorgeous Mum always had a soft spot for me because I came from Walsall. Yes, really. She was evacuated (WW2) as a child to Lichfield I think, and the evacuees were taken on a day trip to Walsall market. She always remembered it.

For Paul’s 40th, a few of us made the trip down to Lee and the amazing house he and Louise had renovated. Not the first wreck they’d renovated, no. This was another wreck they’d totally renovated and it is the most gorgeous house. Amongst the crowds of family and friends, when someone referred to me by name, it really made me laugh when Paul’s brother in law interjected “Kate? Kate the Mate?”

And then there was my 40th. I was so pleased that Paul and Louise came up to the Midlands for it. Sorry partners, I’m shoving you out here – it was so lovely to have Paul, Mark and Bren, my housemates, back together again. My Mom was suitably impressed that Louise was a fan of barley wine. Paul and Louise meanwhile, couldn’t believe that the booze was so cheap. As people were waiting for cabs to their B & Bs, my Mom was ever so impressed that Louise’s large bag was chokka with bottles of barley wine.

We all get on with life don’t we? We think that we’ll catch up soon and meanwhile the years roll on relentlessly. I’m struggling now to think of other times we caught up, maybe at notable birthdays? I don’t know. Time doesn’t matter with life friends though. You just pick right up where you left off.

But then they’re not there and you didn’t see it coming, And suddenly you have all the time in the world for regrets.

Edit: just found a few photos of Paul, along with a press clipping either he or Bren found, which amused him no end.

Just a country boy...

Just a country boy…

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Yesterday, I attended the funeral of Gareth Perrins-Seedhouse. I was truly privileged to have known him.

When I say I attended, I mean I was one of the sardines; both St John’s at Walsall Wood and Streetly Crem were absolutely packed out. The Labour Club at Pelsall was also pretty well packed afterwards too, although I didn’t stay long enough to hear Gareth’s good mate Richard sing for him – I read about that on Facebook today.

I feel unworthy to try to encapsulate all that he was, to so many people. I’ll give it a go though. Why “Gorgeous”? Because he kept telling me he was, and the cheeky sod was right.

I first knew Gaz around 15(?) years ago, when he was the project manager bringing Palfrey Park back to life and my colleague Vicky and I somehow ended up with the Britain in Bloom mantle. We took the judges there and Gaz was like some demented Zebedee, bounding around and making sure the judges got to talk to the all important Friends Group who were so instrumental in the park’s improvement. I thought at the time “bloody hell, HE’s enthusiastic!”.

Moving on some years, the lovely Nina pitched up at the Civic Centre to cover someone on sick leave. She was pregnant with their first child, Cole, and seemed to put all the baby weight on in her second trimester. When she needed help with an enquiry or other issue, poor Nina would struggle up to the third floor and arrive breathless at my desk. Yes, that’s why I call her Waddler. In my defence, I did used to tell her to call me and I’d come down to her.

And then Cole arrived. Gareth’s mini-me. Well, the first of three mini-me kids as it turned out. Life was perfect for them. Gareth had worked hard, taken on lots of responsibility and been promoted. Then he became unwell and was diagnosed with a rare cancer in his jawbone.

And still he did fundraising for the Teenage Cancer Trust. He was amazed to raise £7k+.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m such a crap friend I can’t recount with any accuracy the detail of the treatments, the jaw op, the treatments, more bad news, the treatments, Nina being pregnant again with Maxi, dire 12 months prognosis, BOOM they finally got married, more treatments, London treatments, this specialist, that specialist, you’re sterile now and oh! hello Evie :-)

I think Gaz was actually rather proud to still be firing live ones. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one teasing him mercilessly about having to have the snip. Man though, he took prevarication to new heights, and managed to avoid the snip!

Somewhere in there, after the first dire 12 months prognosis, which he’d fought with all his will, was the “we can’t do any more now” message. We often hear that people were “brave” and “fought cancer”. I honestly can’t think of anyone who fought like Gaz did. And I can’t think of anyone who was as brave.

I was struck at Gaz’ funeral by the huge presence of the parkies, and former parkies, of Walsall. Patricularly so by those who were pall-bearers as I’m sure their hearts were breaking. Lovely too to hear Lou and Sam talk about Gareth as their manager and colleague in such a loving way.

Gareth was one of life’s rare utterly lovely people. He gave more than he ever took out of life. Most of us just aren’t as nice as he was. All the way through his years of treatment, he carried on working. I lost count of the emails he sent in at 11.30pm or even later, which I knew he’d sent whilst in hospital. Its surreal that he isn’t here, when just a few months ago he was churning out emails and getting stuff done.

Sleep tight Gorgeous xxx

Some words from people who loved Gaz. They say it all better than I can. This is just a sample.

Words can not describe the sadness that many of us feel today on hearing this very sad news. Gaz was an inspiration and along with Nina Perrins-Seedhouse admired by so many people. Your legacy will live on through your beautiful children RIP Gaz

Words can not describe how I’m feeling today at 10.30 last night I got the news which I’d been dreading that my good friend Gareth Perrins-Seedhousehad passed away although I know his time was limited it still came as a shock I last saw him 13 days ago with Daz Heaton and he was fighting as he always had trying to stay awake as I left I took his hand and told him I’d see him soon less I was to know that would be my goodbye thoughts now are with Nina Perrins-Seedhouse and their beautiful children and to get ready to give him the send off he truly deserves a man who cared for others above himself and lived life to the full right to the end love you forever Gaz gonna miss you.

God Bless you Gareth Perrins-Seedhouse for all the hard work you have done for everything and everyone in the community. God Bless Nina Perrins-Seedhouse & your 3 children and your Mom and Dad. Xxxxx I am glad we had good times together at school and at college. We won’t forget you. The event you attended dressed up as Where’s Wally …. You always were a good sport! Miss you Gareth.

Thoughts today are with Nina Perrins-Seedhouse and her beautiful family xxxx. Gareth was such a wonderful chap, totally dedicated and full of passion for his work and his lovely family. Bless you Gareth Perrins-Seedhouse xxx

So very sorry to hear your sad news Nina. Gareth is one of those people who touched so many lives and will never be forgotten. You too are loved by so many for the wonderful person you are and admired for the tremendous strength and courage you have shown. Hug your little family tightly..they’re the legacy you and Gareth have created from the deepest love xxxx

Hearing of the passing of yet another lovely, inspirational bloke to such a devastating illness puts things into perspective. Life is about being a good person, and Gareth Perrins-Seedhouse certainly ticked all the boxes. I witness so many people who are full of their own self importance, but being selfless leaves a far bigger legacy. Gareth faced a real life issue head on, and fought it to the end like a Lion. Sleep tight now my friend, and I’m sure we’ll meet up again. x

Just heard the devastating news that a good friend has lost his courageous battle against cancer. Gareth Perrins-Seedhouse was, and always will be, one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. His ability to raise a smile in any situation, his light hearted outlook on life, the fact that when he text he’d always put a kiss on the end and tell me he loved me, and the fact that I used to look forward to playing football with him more than any other player, these are just some of the everlasting memories that he’s helped to create. I’ll miss you mate, and I’ll always be there if needed, for Nina Perrins-Seedhouse and your gorgeous children. Love you mate x

So very sad to hear of the passing of Gareth Perrins-Seedhouse. My thoughts go out to his family left behind. A great man who had a passion like no one else I know for improving our parks and open spaces. When I was cabinet member for leisure I had the great pleasure of going to Liverpool for the weekend with him and Julie Gunn, chair of the friends of Palfrey Park, to collect the green flag award. Both people are now sadly lost to us but I’m sure Gareth is working on his next project already up there. A kind, caring, funny, generous, all round nice guy, taken far too young. RIP dear friend, your memory will live on in our parks and hearts x

And from Nina – Gareth Perrins Seedhouse. I raise a glass for you my love x — with Gareth Perrins-Seedhouse.Nina glass











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Mourning in the digital age

It would have been my dear old Dad’s 77th birthday today.

This is the fifth of his birthdays where I can’t buy him a carefully chosen card, or even make one for him as i used to like to do, I can’t buy him presents that I think will make him smile, or even roll his eyes if they were jokey ones, and I can’t feel the utter, all-enveloping, warm comfort of a Dad hug. I can’t cook him the Sunday roasts he adored. I can’t do a damned thing for him now. In 2014, as in previous years, I’ve marked the occasion by taking flowers to his and my Mom’s grave and posting a status on Facebook.

Why though, do I post a status on Facebook? Why? Why do I sit looking through photos, getting more and more upset, post a photo that I’ve finally chosen that I think sums him up at the point where my nose can’t get any redder through blowing it? And then I sit watching friends and family ‘like’ it, comment on it and all the time I’m getting more and more upset. Of course family and friends will ‘like’ it, because they remember my Dad or they’re being empathetic. Possibly they’ve lost their own much loved Dad and want to let me know that they feel my pain.

There’s a pressure to lay your grief out there so that everyone knows you still grieve, in a hair shirt kind of way, on special days. In the pre-digital age, it would be the equivalent of not getting to the cemetery first with your flowers. I went last night after work, so I won that one :-) Kate Dad Bean and Tony circa 1993 or 1994

Grief doesn’t just hit on their birthdays and the anniversaries of their deaths though. We miss and think about our special people at odd times and for reasons, often quirky and known only to us, throughout each year. That’s how I’m choosing to remember my Mom and Dad, and other special people who aren’t around any more; I’ll say something about them when I have something to say.

So, I’m calling ‘time’ on the pressure for Facebook posts for people I grieve over. I will still mark certain days, but if I don’t do it on Facebook, its nobody’s business but mine.

I also probably won’t ‘like’ stuff like “if you have/had a Dad who could walk on water, share this within 5 minutes or all the pixies will die”. My Dad wouldn’t have used the word, in my hearing, but I’m sure he would have thought all that stuff was bollocks.

I’m my own judge and jury, so you can’t try me :-)


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Summer Lovin’

For the last few weeks, I’ve seen a pretty much constant stream of mentions of ‘Proms’ by friends, family and people I barely know. Its all a bit alien to me, with my school days nearly 30 years behind me, but everyone seems to be doing it so I guess it must be the norm now.

Its nice to see the photos of the kids all glammed up and looking forward to their big night out of course, but I’m staggered by the expense that seems to be involved. There’s the all important outfit of course, but then there might be hair, nails (and that’s just the boys) and a limo, and heaven knows what else. It must be a nightmare for parents who are already struggling in these austere times. Probably a nightmare for their children too, if they have to turn up in anything less than a perfect state. Probably also a nightmare for any kids who don’t feel comfortable in that kind of atmosphere because they’re porky, have weird teeth, are introverted or whatever.

I do ‘get’ that its a sort of rite of passage for those leaving school for good at 18; it maybe puts a nice full stop between childhood and becoming an adult. Ah though, it’ll never be like the Prom night in Grease, or even American Pie. On reflection, that probably isn’t a bad thing.

Whilst I appreciate the rite of passage element for the 18 year olds, I’m a bit ‘meh’ about Proms suddenly being a thing for 11 year olds. It just seems to me like more pressure on both parents and kids.

I know I’m coming across as a complete killjoy here, but this is one tradition from across the Atlantic that I’m not altogether keen on. It just seems a little forced and false to me and also, sorry, this isn’t the 1950s and the age of innocence is long gone.

What has struck me today, and it isn’t a Prom thing, is all the posts from parents of children leaving junior school today. I’ve seen pictures of kids in floods of tears and statuses detailing how all the kids are crying through their leavers’ assemblies and so on. I can understand their parents being a bit misty-eyed as their kids are about to take a huge life step, but I’m baffled by the kids being so distraught. Is it because such a big fuss is made maybe? I don’t know. As I said, I’m baffled. Do feel free to be offended, but I’m not at all sure that the Prom thing is suitable for junior school kids. Maybe they’re not mature enough to cope with all the hype and competitiveness.

I have a good memory and I don’t remember anything special about leaving junior school. We probably did what we did on the last day of any school year, namely playing games and being awestruck by the record player in a suitcase that the teacher produced. Oh come on, it WAS 1978; expectations weren’t high. I don’t remember anyone being upset. I suppose we just assumed we’d see each other again.

The leaving do from senior school was a little different. We had extremely civilised sips of wine with the teachers for an hour or two, then the hard core de-camped to what used to be the Vine pub. Its a teetotal social enterprise these days, and I hugely recommend it for lunch, but back then it was a biker pub with live bands in the yard. It wasn’t a quiet night.

For any locals reading this, the Arboretum island was just being finished and the spiky plants (I don’t know what they were, so let’s go with berberis) had been planted. I particularly remember this, because the next morning I had the pleasure of tweezing spikes out of my mate’s jacksy. Her belief in her own athleticism, fuelled by several pints of snakebite, lead her to believe she could vault the pedestrian guard rail easily. She couldn’t, but she fell ever so sweetly like a happy sack of spuds into the berberis. Funnily enough, she couldn’t do it after leaving the school (post wine) either, which lead to her skirt being somewhat indecently ripped and thus her jacksy suffering the berberis attack later on. Happily, she fell in the same spot as she’d fallen earlier and found the purse she’d thought was lost forever.

Back to the subject then. I think leaving school should be celebrated in some way, but I’m going to be an old fart and say noooooo to Prom style events and yessss to ordinary booze ups that don’t cost parents an arm and a leg.

Where do I pick up my old fart badge?




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#Commscamp14 and Bond(ing) and other stuff

This was, for various reasons, the first time I’d attended the curry night preceding the event. Whilst eating curry is always a pleasure (until the 2am cramps), it was also great to meet loads of new people, as well as catching up with some familiar faces, in a really informal way. I’d really recommend it for people attending their first event of this sort. It means you know more people the next day.

So, on to the main event.

A really huge and sincere hip hip hurrah to Emma, Dan and Darren for organising #commscamp14. You have to have organised, I think, an event of some profile, to properly understand all of the heart and soul that they put into it. Nothing went horribly wrong, yay! As an event organiser, that’s good enough, but I do think the day went exceptionally well.

I’m quite reticent in large groups, so I don’t generally enjoy the introducing yourself part of the introductory sessions at these events. I must admit to being rather buoyed by a few whoops when I introduced myself as Kate Goodall from Walsall. Even as the whoops sounded though, I was thinking “shit, people are applauding because they think I’ve come all the way from Poland”. Its a good ice-breaker, but when you have 100+ people, I’m not sure how effective it is in terms of us taking in all that info at once. I wonder if similarly brief introductions in sessions might work better instead?

I attended the event in my own time. Why? Well, I know I always learn a lot, but can I sit down with my boss the next day and say “I learned this, that and this, and here’s how I”ll apply it all and you’ll be able to measure the value of my attendance in x weeks/months because I’ll have saved £x or improved performance by y%”? No, I can’t.  I can tell him that I’m bursting with ideas and really excited about what other people are doing and I’d like to see us do some of these things. He’s interested and supportive and will give me space to try things out if he agrees they’re worth a shot.  Is it just me who feels the need to justify attending these events?

And how can we get the people who are directly responsible for providing the front line services that aren’t fluffy, happy or interesting unless you need them to embrace digital? I mean the people who empty bins, fill potholes, clear drains, deal with ASB, pick up your litter, take away the fly tipping and clear up your dog’s crap. It isn’t a happy conversation when people are being made redundant, services are being slashed and the people remaining are run ragged lurching from crisis to crisis. Bins, potholes and ASB are all, as far as I know, amongst the top reasons people contact their Council. I think these are the very people who should develop a pro-active digital presence, but I hugely sympathise with them not being able to muster any energy or enthusiasm when they get slated all the time.

#commscamp14 and other such events are pretty amazing to be a part of. Its really wow wow wow that so many people come together, with this collective BOOM of knowledge, experience and sheer audacity. That there is such a spirit of sharing the sweets is bloody great. As ever, I’ve come away full of ideas I hope I can put into practice.

And Darren? Great footwear mate :-)



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Father’s Day

A bit of a ‘meh’ day for me. For a while this morning, it seemed like every happy sod on Facebook and Twitter was wishing their still alive Dad a happy Father’s Day. I felt somewhat cheated for a wee while that my Dad (obviously a better Dad than ALL of your Dads) isn’t here to hug, kiss and generally make a fuss of.

As the day went on, my digital timelines were filled with all sorts of happiness, sadness, loveliness and hope. Mothers trying to be both Mom and Dad because the Dad has buggered off. Step-Dads being lauded by their partner’s children for being ace. Divorced Dads being publicly loved by their kids. People laying bare their anguish, bitterness and, sadly, sometimes,  a ‘don’t care’ that they have no contact with their Dads. There’s a friend who wishes her Dad had lived to walk her down the aisle. Another friend lost his Dad when he was just 14, but still looks to his values for how to live his life. There’s also a lovely friend, a Dad of three young ones, who is fighting harder than you can believe to hang on to life for them and his wife. And another, who recently lost her husband of many years and grieves for both him and her Dad. And another, who just wants her little daughter’s Dad to call her from abroad. Another dear friend is having her first Father’s Day without her lovely Dad.

And so the day carried on. I did the cemetery visit, which I don’t like at all. It was when I got home that I noticed the difference in my timeline. What had changed? I don’t know how to explain it, but it seems to me like all the happy people who have their Dads wake up, get online and go “yay, my Dad’s ace and we’re going to have a fab day”. Maybe the “I don’t have my Dad anymore” crew only come to life by the afternoon, because they can’t hold it in anymore and think their Dad deserves a mention too? I certainly noticed more people who don’t have their Dads now commented later in the day.

I had in mind today too the 600+ looked after children in Walsall. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day must be really crap days for them. A forlorn hope maybe, but I hope these young people are protected as the Government’s cuts swathe through our local services.

My day felt ‘meh’ for a while, but, although I’m sad my dear old Dad isn’t here, I know I was blessed to have had him as my Dad. Some kids don’t get the chance to know their Dads, don’t want to know them, their Dads don’t want to know them or maybe their Dads barely acknowledge them. My Dad loved me unconditionally. It doesn’t get better than that.


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May 2014

May 2014 had some highs and some lows.

A high should have been my Mom and Dad’s Golden Wedding anniversary. That day was just ‘a day’ and saw me taking a flower arrangement to their grave. They deserve a huge WHOOP, because they were two of life’s lovely people.

And then there were the local and European elections. The results saddened me. The turnout saddened me more.

Why are people so hysterical about people from European countries coming here to work? I just don’t get it. Are Spaniards frothing with rage that around 750,000 Brits are living it large on the Costa? Are Aussies frothing at all the incoming Brits? If I’m reading it right, 5.5 million Brits are living permanently abroad. WTF would we do if all the countries they live in vote to turf them all out? *gasp* 

Obviously, its OK for Brits to move abroad. We iz British, or summat. God forbid anyone else thinks that free movement is OK though.

What I find inordinately odd is the children of immigrants saying that there should be no more immigration and that the UK is full. I don’t think the UK is full. I say, if you want to come here to work, then come. We need skilled immigrants now, just as we did post WWll. Its pretty shit that people with degrees and masters degrees come here to do cleaning jobs and so on. That’s life though. Hopefully once they’ve got a foothold they’ll move on to better things, Eastern european immigrants aren’t all bag-snatching Romanians. Get over it. Oh dear.

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