Reasons To Smile – January Blues

Are you having a dry month? Chocolate and Turkish delight overload? Feeling a little bloated? Got the January blues? Paying too much for your car insurance? Chin up, duck! After winter must come spring. In these difficult times we should savour every smile, every laugh, and cherish every life.

In November last year my uncle took his own life, and with him all of the future smiles and laughs we may have shared. This piece is the least I could do to raise awareness to the taboo plagues of depression, anxiety, and PTSD from claiming more of our loved ones. So, I thought I’d take up this space with some reminders and reasons to smile.

My uncle had a chequered history, and clearly no idea how loved he was. Hundreds attended his funeral, many of them ‘wharfies’ from the docks in Perth WA where he worked. Every shift stood for a minutes silence as a sign of love and respect for their fallen comrade. Even the local Mayor was there. 

A couple of years previously the teetotaller Mayor had picked up my on-the-turps uncle in town and given him a lift home in the Mayoral car! To the horror of the family he staggered out the car and rolled down the driveway, with a wry smile and wave from one of the towns most senior politicians. 

At four years old, on holiday in a coastal Sussex town, he took it upon himself to exact revenge upon a neighbour who refused to give his ball back. As the car pulled out down the road he muttered, “That’ll show her”, and calmly informed everyone he’d posted a dead mouse through her letterbox. Even from a young age he had impeccable timing. 

He was not a God-fearing man. In fact, he possessed within him a complete and utter disregard for all unaccountable authority in whatever form it took. I suppose it’s fitting for his funeral to have been directed by an incredibly flamboyant celebrant in full Australian fashion. I believe it took precisely eleven minutes before the first expletive slipped out from behind the lectern.

My uncle got kicked out of various Christian boarding schools across the globe. An admirable achievement for even the most accomplished of troublemakers. My favourite story is the time he got caught with his classmate under the Chapel altar drinking the altar wine. With Jesus watching!

A proper Southern boy, he had no clue about anything north of Watford! Constantly teasing me about my accent he was, calling me a Northerner and such. I’m from Nott’num! Being in Australia for so long his own accent had a distinct Ozzie twang, which of course is equally mockable.

He was truly a sun-worshipper and loved the beach. Particularly in the summer he had a very dark leathery tan. At the funeral my cousin described him as a “giant chocolate teddy bear”, to which the celebrant expressed his own passionate preoccupation with giant chocolate teddy bears. If you catch my drift.

He was a good looking man. I’ll always remember him as my hilarious, hedonistic, and debonair uncle. He was a wonderful father and loved his wife dearly. He was the most mischievous, but beloved brother, and a great friend to so many.

It’s been a difficult few years for everyone. I hope you’ve found a reason to smile today, and I beg you to please reach out when you’re feeling low. If you want to help then keep an eye on those you know – be there, turn up, and listen. If you can spare the money this winter donate to charities like Mind, LGBT Foundation, and Mermaids.

Originally published in Only In Brighton magazine.

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