I’d been a driver all my life — it’s what I always wanted to do ever since I was a little boy. Deliveries, then ambulance driving. I loved joking with passengers and making them feel at ease. I retired at 70 and was looking forwards to spending some quality time with my family.
I’ve always been quite creative and so started doing some drawings and writing down stories that came into my head. I’d take myself off in the dining room and sit and write down whatever I was thinking of. My family didn’t want to disturb me so they just left me to it. I think they thought they’d interrupt my thought process and interfere; which maybe they would. It meant that I didn’t have anyone to share my stuff with though.
I was really proud of what I’d done and wanted to get it noticed; maybe by someone on the radio or in television. I started sending it to people and taking it along to Yorkshire TV and things but nobody was interested. I tried to get people to help me type my work up, or have a read through, but I just felt like I was hitting a brick wall. Nobody wanted to know. There was nobody to listen.
Everything I write is straight from the heart; it’s a part of me. My thoughts, my worries and my feelings. So when I kept getting these knock-backs I really took it to heart. I felt redundant, unwanted and alone. With hindsight I should have talked to my family, but I’d gotten so down I didn’t want to bother them. I lost confidence in myself and felt as though I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t go out, didn’t speak to anybody. I felt like I was trapped in a room that was getting smaller and smaller.
I wrote my own suicide note. I don’t like to talk about that really, but that’s how low I felt. I felt it wasn’t worth carrying on.
What turned it around for me was luck really. I’d written a script about a plumbers merchant and as a last ditch attempt at getting something read I thought I’d take it down to the playhouse and see if there was anybody there that would help me. I was introduced to a lovely lady who told me about a group happening called Heydays. She said they did creative writing and things and that I should go along.
I went along but I wasn’t sure. For starters the room was full of old folk. I thought it was going to be a knitting group or something! I don’t think of myself as old. I’m still a teddy boy in my head. I really didn’t think it was for me. But I thought, ‘Come on Ted, be brave. Break the barrier down and see how it goes.’
It was great. The group really encouraged me and really helped build me back up. They liked my work and laughed at my sketches. They gave me contacts that would help me get my work typed up so I could send it off. They made me feel good in my heart and in my head. I felt appreciated and like I was worth something.
After that I started to push myself more. SGT I say: Stand Up, Get out and Talk to somebody. I make myself speak to everybody — just a hello or good morning or nice weather. Some people ignore me but I don’t let it put me off, I just go on to the next person. Eventually someone will stop and chat and that’s what makes me feel better. Now I go to all kinds of groups: writing, movement, dance. I’ve had poems written about me and had my photo in the Yorkshire post. I feel like a new man.
But I know I could fall back into that place. I could go back to that small lonely room if I’m not careful. I’ve got to keep pushing myself; got to keep talking to people and not taking knock-backs personally.
I’ve only got one life and I’m determined to live it.