Wigwam "One of my Martial Art students recently read British Warrior and approach me after class. With absolute respect he asked me "How on earth are you still alive?" Good question. My traumas have been many and to this day, I am plagued with almost nightly nightmares and terrors. I sometimes wake up screaming and drenched in sweat, Julie rubbing my back as I recall to her that the people who haunted my past still visit me today. It has been suggested I have PTSD and I wouldn't argue with that.
However life has also been incredibly kind to me so I try and look at the horrors as tests to see if I deserve my beautiful rewards. Wigwam was just one of those tests.
At just seven years old I found myself dressed as Peter Pan, parading around a local park in, what I remember to be a Cub Scout organised jamboree. Fun was to be had that day for the pirates, the Indians, the cowboys and they very like of. A world full of imaginary sword fights, competitions and delightful wigwams to hide in.
Ahh yes, the wigwams for the lost boys. I had no idea at the time I would eventually become a lost boy for real. It is funny, the things we see in our childhood and youth that may well come back to visit us again in the most of extraordinary circumstances.
My teen years were traumatic in that I had a father so disinterested in me and what I did that he once sneered at me “I don’t like you very much Simon so that must make you a pretty lousy son. For a dad not to like his own son…” He didn’t finish the sentence, just shook his head and walked away as I made my way upstairs to my room. Best not forget to take the rubbish out then, if that is the consequence. And so I immersed myself in books and film, captivated by John Hurt’s The Elephant Man, both print and visual.
As I grew into a young man my ‘pa’ would try and enlighten me with tales of his jail time and assure me I would follow in his footsteps. “Wait until the lads in Liverpool Jail get hold of you. You know what happens in jail don’t you?” I’m guessing he meant the violence and rape, not the gym and library.
So I plodded along, weirdly desperate to make him proud, consistently failing him. Media and the written word called to me but no, I was to stay in his factory where I belonged. And belong I did because the biggest mistake of my life was caused by that building, the building that still causes me nightmares to this day as PTSD plays a big role in my life. You see in an effort to save my parent’s retirement I bought said business, bricks and mortar but looking back, it was more to please my dad more than anything. Bad move.
The business was haunted by the people he had taken from. The people he had relieved of thousands of pounds and then denied goods or repayment. It would seem that their repayment would be left to me to satisfy, except there was very little business left to draw from. My siblings and parents headed for the hills and left me to it as the bad men came looking for a return on their investment. When I struggled to provide it I was left in no uncertain terms what would happen to me. Not a warm wigwam to live in, rather a session at the hands of a torture expert and then buried in foothills somewhere.
This was just one of the many violent delights I was to face from the seemingly endless stream of people waiting to meet me. It became daily. Drink was inevitable. Too much drink it would seem and in an effort to stop upsetting my own wife and children I decided to stop immediately. It would prove to be a foolish yet life changing decision.
Withdrawing too quickly, I sat quietly in the hospital room, chatting to an elderly couple as we waited for the doctor. Upon his arrival he looked at me concerned and asked me whom I was talking to. Turning back to the elderly couple I was greeted with the site of empty chairs but I still couldn’t grasp what I was or wasn’t seeing.
It didn’t matter as I was distracted by noise and movement from outside the window. Again the doctor watched in silence as I saw my former friends. The lost boys (and now girls). Peter Pan and his buddies had returned from the park of long ago and now sat laughing and playing in the wigwam. A structure that looked soundly built, thought the canvas looked a bit worse for wear, hung over the branches that held it upright.
A former colleague, a newspaper reporter took photographs and I assumed it was for an article. “I know him,” I said turning back to the doctor. “Who Simon? Who do you know?” He asked as he gazed past me through the window. I turned to follow his stare only to find that like the elderly couple, my photographer friend, Peter Pan, his lost boys and the wigwam had disappeared to be replaced with the cold concrete of a grim yard. Oh where, oh where had they gone? The days that followed were like a trip back in time.
There he was, John Merrick in the flesh. The Elephant Man himself in the bed opposite me. I laughed to see a figure from days gone by but he seemed distressed and I suddenly saw why. Just as my father had predicted, inmates from Liverpool Jail had come to see me and not only see me but kill me. My throat was to be slit, blood was to be split. I begged the jailer (who’s real job was hospital Porter) to banish them, get rid of them but all he could do was direct me to the maternity ward where men gave birth. A horrifying site of blood everywhere, a horrifying sound of screams of agony. Desperate to make a run for it I found myself outside the Mersey tunnel, the very same one that led from my captivity in the city of Liverpool to the safety of home in North Wales, to the love of a family that might just have forgiven me. I came around with a scream as a nurse threatened me with security guards and a stay at a local mental health care unit. It sobered me.
It sobered me and I slept and when I woke the next day my wife and children were sat at my bedside waiting. After much talking, much treatment and much acceptance that I must distance myself from my father I went home. Home was a warm place, a loving place. Home was a place filled with tender people who cared for me, protected me. Home was a place I belonged. Home was wigwam.
Simon writes mostly true stories based on adversity and triumph.