15-17/07/13 Reeling them in…

Had I mentioned it was hot?

We’d been wandering through this unseasonably wonderful weather – I’d been receiving regular phone calls, texts and Facebook messages from Bobby, a chap who’d stumbled across walk a mile on one of the online forums he…attended (?) used (?) frequented (?) … no, the last one definitely sounds a little too seedy…

The messages were almost exclusively of a hospitable vein – offers of sirloin steak – er, is it ok if my friend joins us? – more sirloin steak; cold cans of Coors; lying back in a hammock while resting my weary feet…Derek could lie in the road for all I care…

It was great to have these regular prompts, nudges, enthusiastic pokes as we walked…I had images of cold lager dangling in front of me as I rambled…

He was gently landing us like a pair of gasping halibut… Ok, me like some swollen puffer fish – Derek like a lithe er, puffer fish – before inflation…he’s in training don’t you know…

Bobby’s hospitality was every bit as hospitable as he’d promised – bearing in mind he’d never met either of us, it truly felt like he’d slaughtered the fatted calf…or fatted Tofu if you like.

He’d even chilled the glasses…

We chatted about our lives – the walk – the fact that I was out of clean clothes and how I’d need to go to the laundry tomorrow…

In the morning Derek sped off on the bus to retrieve his car – still rocking from the antisocial experience of the post Blackpool folk.

I went to the launderette – my clothes wouldn’t be ready until the evening – and took Bobby up on the offer of a rest day…

So, just who is this Bobby character?

Back in the day, young Bobby joined the RAF – he passed whatever exams they put in front of him with flying colours. He was promised a meteoric rise through the ranks.

One day though, he got a message through that his sister had become very ill – she’d suffered an aneurysm on her brain – her condition was critical.

Bobby’s sergeant told him they could get a driver to deliver him to the hospital within an hour…they just needed the officer in charge to sign it off…

‘It’s only his sister,’ Bobby recounted the words of the officer with incredulity, ‘We can give him a train pass…’

The driver was furious, the sergeant was furious…

Bobby waited for that train for 2 hours – 5am until 7am on a rainy platform – alone with his thoughts – a journey that should have taken an hour took 4.

Although he saw his sister in intensive care, she died shortly afterwards.

This was Bobby’s ground zero.

A point that started with the shock of the death of his sister and the blatant disregard for his emotional needs that culminated in a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress syndrome and bipolar disorder in 2008.

A journey that led to his dismissal from the airforce – a removal that appeared not to take into account his mental health issues since he received and continues to receive no pension from them.

After the death of his sister things gradually began to disintegrate – at first work didn’t suffer – but he began drinking to escape the pain.

He was sent, at great expense, to a private psychiatric facility for assessment – Bobby told me his treatment came to an abrupt halt when the unit closed.

He was left with no diagnosis – he was discharged from the RAF with nothing.

He got married – he and his wife had children – with time it transpired he and his partner both had mental health issues – they split up amid accusations of domestic violence against him – completely without foundation he tells me – he told me that her allegations were exact replicas of the abuse he’d witnessed his mother experience at the hands of his father as a boy…

She got custody of the children – without any evidence of wrongdoing on his part he tells me – and, with that, they lost contact.

A few years later he received a call from the social work solicitor – his ex and her new partner were to be imprisoned for child abuse – specifically levelled against his son.

This was truly horrific – it was reported in the national press – I can’t share any more of that here – but the impact on Bobby is obvious for anyone to see.

A social worker visited him to see if there was anything from his son’s life that could help him on his road to recovery…

Bobby gave the social worker a bunch of photos from happier times when he was younger…when things were altogether more normal…

A few months later, Bobby contacted the social work department…

They told him the social worker had moved on and there was no record of the photographs at all.

His son was put into specialist care following his trauma, his daughter was placed with foster carers.

It all feels so desperate – so sad – I don’t really have the words…

Bobby is now kicking out against the system – writing letters to the social work department, the RAF, his MP among others.

As can be the case in situations like this, Bobby has been labelled as obsessive and threatening by the very organisations from whom he’s demanding answers.

Which makes it kind of easy for them…

He’s mental and dangerous – we don’t need to reply to his concerns.

He’s now publishing his letters on his Facebook page just to show how threatening and dangerous he is.

He’s being open and honest.

I was amazed at how a man with all this going on for him – a man who has suffered significant pain at the hands of his fellow man – a man who has seen the people he loves suffer at the hands of others – just welcomed us into his home – pushed the boat out giving us – giving me his time and energy all with a smile and great humour.

I hope his story has reeled you in as it did me.

Walk a mile


This entry was posted in economy, fostering, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, walking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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