Saturday, 1 November 2014

What is normal? And why don't I like it?

I have always been interested in the life and work of Vivian Stanshall. If you don't know anything about him, follow the link on his name. He was one of those guys from the 60s and beyond that a comparatively select few people have heard of. But everyone who has, was almost certainly affected or influenced by him in some way. One of life's one offs. A true renegade, an individual, he ploughed his own furrow, not to be 'hip', but just by being himself.

Of late, I have found myself in a place where I am becoming more myself, the person I want be (about friggin' time, I'm 42!), not the person that (I feel) is expected of me, or forced upon me. My wife Becca and I have had a truly horrendous 18 months, having lost our first daughter Maeve, aged 18 months, in April 2013. Life continues to be hard as nails, but is frequently softened by our beautiful 2nd daughter Rosa.

Maeve was born with a some challenges which I'm not going to go into, but as a result, you could perhaps have said that her life wasn't 'normal'. It didn't conform to platitudes and tick boxes. Becca and I have also always been people who do not give in to the well-walked paths (never have). a simple example of this would be that we have no telly (since 2008...gasp!!), and consequently no idea what or who is on Strictly or the X-factor (and we don't care).

I have recently re-established my Twitter addiction. I have talked to SO many fascinating people on this social media phenomenon. I have learned SO much, been called out on stupid things I've said. And made a couple of genuine friends too. Recently BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcast a lengthy and amazing documentary about Vivian. This led me to chat briefly to its producer, Laura Baron on Twitter, and then to Rupert Stanshall, Vivian's son. Now, I'm not a celeb worshipper, and frankly cannot stand that kind of crap. But Rupert's twitter feed was amusing enough for me to follow him. Then he started selling some rather glorious Bonzos memorabilia on eBay. So in the course of buying a few pics, I got chatting with him about this n that, and a picture he put up of his Dad (left) struck me. "This is my normal Dad". Now its is simply none of my business, but my general impression is that Viv was an incredibly unconventional guy, but a perfectly loving Dad. But was seen as 'not normal' by so many people. And parents almost certainly kept their kids away from him, and therefore Rupert. Which is just, so much more abnormal.

I was briefly tweeting Rupert about this, and he said something which really stayed in my mind. Just an off the cuff remark, nothing earth shattering or heaven sent....(aren't most of the best things?)

"Best shut the door and keep the normals out".

I asked Rupert to write it out in his handwriting and post it with the pics I had bought. And yesterday this happened.

Rupert, and lots of you, probably think I'm off my crock. But it just speaks to me. My only other tattoo is of Maeve's hand print. So, I don't do a tattoo lightly. But the phrase is what we strive for. I think my interpretation is less about insulting 'normal' or 'regular' folk, more about guarding oneself against an attack of the 'normals'. i.e. You can have an attack of the jitters, right? So an attack of the normals, to me, just means, be yourself, stop following the well-trodden path. That's all. I love it.

Thanks Rupert for being so game. It didn't hurt that much. Thanks to Jenna and Helen at Skullduggery Tattoo in Belfast too, They're amazing.


  1. I had no idea what you had been through. I'm so sorry.
    Mandi x

  2. I didn't know you blogged and had no idea what you had been through. What a strong family you are, am very pleased to have 'met' you!

    1. Thanks Em. The feeling is mutual xxx