Saturday, 24 September 2016

Billy Franks RIP

2016 has been a year when so many well know faces have been taken from us. For me it was particularly sad to learn of the passing of the wonderful Billy Franks a few months back. Billy was a lovely man, a hugely underestimated songwriter and musician. I saw Billy's band The Faith Brothers support The Alarm back in the 1980s and they were without doubt the best support band I ever saw. Much more than that they became one of my favourite bands and it was always a mystery how commercial chart success just eluded them. I was reacquainted with Billy's music through the joys of social media and the internet. It was over the last 15 years or so that I got to know him through his wonderful live gigs and solo albums. He always had time for his small, but loyal band of fans and would always have a hug for you and he knew everyone at his gigs by their first names. 

The news of Billy's passing came during the week thatwe had my Mum's funeral after she lost her 4 year battle with bowel cancer, so hearing the news about Billy was another terrible blow. Billy had recently completed the Camino Frances 780km from France across the Pyrenees into Spain. When I donated to his crowdfunding appeal for the walk he returned my donation. Knowing at that time how poorly my Mum was he said that there were more important things in life. It was a measure of the man and something now that I will never forget. 

For some chapters in the Lives & Times bowel cancer fundraising book I was able to combine business (not that I considered the book as work) with pleasure. One such chapter was photographing Billy at The Union Chapel in London. He was a keen a supporter of my fundraising efforts and more than happy to meet up to be photographed for the book. The original idea we came up with for the book photo was to photograph Billy in Fulham, doing a now and then type idea with present day Billy versus Billy from the 1980s. However when the concert at The Union Chapel was announced it was too good an opportunity to miss. For the first time in his career Billy played an acoustic show back by a gospel choir. To see his songs performed in such a way was truly magical and The Gospel Touch Choir were magnificent. It made for a wonderful chapter in the book, and all proceeds I receive are donated to Beating Bowel Cancer.

Only a few months ago Billy released his latest offering, A Far Cry From Sunset, which is a wonderful collection of beautifully crafted songs. I can't believe that we have lost such a diamond.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Charity Vote

I have recently been in contact with Christine Foley on Twitter and I was wondering if anyone reading this would be kind enough to vote online to support their charitable work.

Ayllah-Beau is their 22 year old daughter. Sadly at the age of just 16 following a trip to India to help school children, she became unwell with intestinal failure. Her health has deteriorated since and as a result she is fed artificially. This is done wither directly via her blood stream or directly into her bowel. The result of that is high infection risks, and she has suffered five bouts of septicemia in the last two years, the last episode in April nearly too her life.

Two years ago her parents, Christine & Neil decided to dedicate their lives to fundraising for the specialist unit in London that have saved her life "St Marks Hospital Foundation"  reg charity number : 1140930. To date they have raised over £46,000!  This money is going directly to a tissue engineering project, using patients own stem cells to grow replacement tissue. We hope to help create a future free from the fear of bowel disease for everyone. They hope this will see a way forward for bowel cancer, crohns colitis and intestinal failure. They are second in a competition to win £10000! They are 2000 behind at the moment, so can you help them make it to number by the time the vote closes on Sept 25th.

Please vote in the Mountain Warehouse Charity Challenge. Free to vote doesn't cost a penny, just takes a moment of your time.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

An Idea For My Next Book

I have been thinking long and hard over recent months about whether or not to do a third fundraising book for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. I got so much pleasure out of doing Lives & Times I knew the chances are that I would want to do another book. Now that we have sadly lost Mum to this most awful disease I think that it is only fitting that I do a book dedicated to her memory and her long battle with bowel cancer.

But of course what to do? I think that the idea of meeting and photographing people is a winner and has great universal appeal. So my thinking is that I will once again do the same thing. However this time the book will have a theme running through each chapter. I am thinking possibly asking the people I meet to tell me about their first or favourite record they bought perhaps? Or their favourite book?

Now I fully appreciate that everyone who has bought Beating Bowel Cancer and Lives & Times might be thinking "not again already...". I understand this and I wouldn't want people to feel under any pressure to support me yet again anytime soon. So another book will take me a good 2-3 years giving everyone a rest! Hopefully by the time I come to publish everyone will once again be happy to support me. Of course the other thing is to get people on board a new book. To date I have tried sending out a some feelers to a few new celebrities and I have had no luck with positive replies yet! So that might scupper the idea too! So if anyone has ideas of who I might approach for the new book please let me know...

And remember if you want to buy any of my fundraising items, including the books and screen prints, head to

Monday, 12 September 2016

Seeing Mum in the Chapel of Rest

Today we got the opportunity to pay our respects to Mum at the Chapel of Rest. Most importantly, for me, it was the opportunity to take away a final image of her completely at peace. Watching Mum pass away was a very difficult thing to do, something I am glad I was able to do, but it left a pretty raw final image of her. To see Mum peacefully at rest today was quite beautiful and gave me that wonderful final image to take with me. She was simply fast asleep and no longer in pain. 

The last 2 weeks since Mum died have been full of differing emotions. I think my sister hit the nail on the head when she said she felt like she was kind of acting. It's very difficult to know what is right way to feel and behave. Ali my sister, Noel my brother and myself have very different ways of coping and getting through each day. I firmly believe that there is no right way or wrong way and we each must do what works for us. For myself I seem to have blocked out a lot of memories which I have put down to my body's way of self preservation and protection. What happened today was very emotional and it stirred up a lot of feelings inside of me. Over the last 2 weeks I have felt a sense of relief that Mum is now finally at peace, but today the complete sense of loss certainly came very much to the fore again. 

The funeral is the next big hurdle on September 21st. I believe we could be looking at a church packed out which would be a lovely way to say goodbye to Mum.

Mum's four and a half year battle with bowel cancer came to the end we never wanted to see. Bowel cancer is a horrible disease and takes away far too many people unnecessarily. I will continue to try and raise funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity and do whatever I can to help raise awareness about this awful illness. If you would like to support my fundraising please take a look at my fundraising website.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Mum on the Phone

It's now almost 2 weeks since Mum passed away. Her brave and courageous fight with bowel cancer lasted four and a half years and it goes without saying that it is a devastating loss. The grieving process has only just begun, and I am already finding it hard to remember stuff as I have gone into self protection mode to help with through this initial grieving period. 

So I am going to use this blog to put down some memories, so when I do have trouble remembering I will be able to come here and find those memories. 

My Dad passed away in 2009, and Mum decided very quickly that she wanted to remian in the family home and keep the happy memories of him close to her. It's quite a big house, but she was happy being there on her own. I would usually stay over once a week and my brother lived with her when he was not driving to all four corners of the globe. So what I would do once a day usually around 5pm was to ring Mum for a quick catch up on the days events, and of course to make sure she was OK. Her stock answer when she knew it was me was "Hello Timmy". It's something that I am going to miss, but just remembering the sound of her voice saying those words brings a smile to my face. Yes very sad that it will not happen again, but a happy, treasured memory that I can hold on to.

Tomorrow,September 12th, is going to be a big day as we are going to see Mum one final time in the Chapel of Rest. I am pretty confident that it is going to be a beautiful experience.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Lives & Times Bowel Cancer Charity Book. What's It All About?

On the back cover of the Lives & Times bowel cancer charity book I use the following description, "Over the course of 18 months I met and photographed people from all walks of life to form the chapters of Lives & Times. Every single person taking part has given up their own time to do it and all funds raised go to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity." And that's it really, but how can I entice anyone reading this buy the book.

Inside the book there are over 100 photographs and over 40,000 words. I met Olympians Sir Steve Redgrave and Katherine Grainger. From the world of entertainment I met Gabby Logan, Lorraine Kelly, Alan Davies, Christopher Biggins and Matthew Wright.

There was always something interested to write having met people. Sometimes it was because they had an interesting story to tell or sometimes it was because something unexpected would happen. In the case of Clare Grogan from Altered Images I managed to get thrown out of the photo pit at the concert I was at! 

With Gail Porter I had a highly entertaining hour or so with her at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. She managed to get me on a loop-the-loop roller coaster! But Gail was typical of so many who responded immediately to my request with a yes, and took a leap of faith in this complete stranger who was on a mission to produce a charity book supporting Beating Bowel Cancer.

Music plays a big part in my life and it was not surprising that the book contains quite a few bands and musicians. For example there are chapters on The Wonder Stuff, Dodgy, The Alarm, Stiff Little Fingers, Billy Franks from The Faith Brothers, Horace Panter from The Specials, The Stranglers, Tim Wheeler from Ash, Dave Fenton from The Vapors, and Status Quo. In fact Quo were the very first band I approached and a few weeks later I was in the photo pit at the Hammersmith Apollo photographing the band. The evening had a strange ending...

Sport features in the book and as well footballing heroes such as Charlie Nicholas, Mick Channon and Phil Parkes, cricket features quite heavily. I spent months chasing BBC commentator Jonathan Agnew, and I finally got to meet him at Lords. I also got to meet David Lloyd, Melinda Farrell, Henry Blofeld, Michael Holding and Steve Harmison.

The book is entertaining, warm and I hope inspiring. I did not shy away from bowel cancer. In fact on a number of occasions the subject came up without me having any prior knowledge. I only found out the day before I met Clare Grogan that her husband has suffered from bowel cancer. I suppose this would help explain why some people were happy and keen to come on board and support the book. Some people have a personal connection with bowel cancer. MP Nadine Dorries lost a friend to bowel cancer and I ended up photographing her at Westminster. Author Freya North, who is an ambassador for the charity, lost a close friend to bowel cancer.

Actor Ben Richards has recovered from bowel cancer as has photographer David Levenson. Matthew Wright and Graham Fellows aka John Shuttleworth have both lost parents to bowel cancer.

The book is also full of normal everyday people. They may not be household names, but they all have a story to tell, and make up a vital part of the book. Norma de Bidaph in remission from bowel cancer, Rachel Chadwick author of 60 Postcards, publicans, the local football club, a translator from Brazil, an artist, and many more.

Last but not least the book features a chapter on my Mum, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012, and sadly passed away on August 29th, 2016 after a long four and a half years brave courageous battle.

So what can you expect in the book...
  • Sir Steve Redgrave CBE
  • Katherine Grainger CBE
  • Phil Parkes
  • Mick Channon
  • Jonathan Agnew
  • Henry Blofeld
  • Lorraine Kelly
  • Christopher Biggins
  • Matthew Wright
  • Freya North
  • Ben Richards
  • Carrie Grant
  • Gail Porter
  • Alan Davies
  • Shaun Keaveny
  • Mike Read
  • John Shuttleworth
  • Tom Rosenathal
  • Antonia Mariconda
  • Status Quo
  • The Stranglers
  • The Alarm
  • Clare Grogan
  • Mikes Hunt& Erica Nockalls
  • Horace Panter
  • My Mum!
And so very much more....

So many fascinating experiences all put together in one book. Available in paperback, hardback and digital eBook. There are many ways you can order Lives & Times. Please support this book and every penny I receive is donated to the charity. Over £3250 has been raised so far.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Friendships Formed On The Bowel Cancer Journey

Bowel cancer is the most awful disease that is still taking far too many people from us. My mother lost her long battle with bowel cancer at the end of August. It remains the second highest cancer killer in the UK, even though it can be successfully in over 90% of cases if detected early. One of the really positive aspects of the journey that I have been on over the last four and a half years throughout mum's illness has been the friendships made with so many wonderful people who have also been on their own journeys associated with bowel cancer.

Two such people are Alan Hardy and Lisa Dunn. Alan made contact with me after I published the Lives & Times book. His mother had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and she was having an operation to remove the tumour and a section of her bowel. Alan wanted to give his Mum a copy of the book. His partner Lisa also wanted a copy of the book and they sent me this great photo of themselves with the book. Like with so many of the people I have met on social media we haven't yet had an opportunity to meet up in person as we live hundreds of miles apart, but this does not diminish the friendship in any way and I am sure we will meet up at some stage.

They were also the first people to order the print, and this was all the more poignant as very sadly Alan's mother recently passed away. They wanted to make a contribution to a bowel cancer charity in memory of his Mum. Their print looks terrific in its new frame.

I am always really touched by the support and friendship of people, who are also going through difficult times. The Lives & Times Screen Prints produced by Reigate artist Adam Green are making a great additional contribution to the fundraising effort on top of the book sales. The books and screen prints can be purchased on my website. All proceeds raised are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity.

Mum's 80th Birthday

We were so glad that we got to see Mum celebrate her 80th birthday on August 22nd just one week before she passed away. She made it out to lunch at The Bird In Hand at Knowl Hill, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. The pub's landlady Caroline Shone had helped us order the food in advance so it was all ready for when we arrived. The disabled taxi waited while we were there so once Mum was ready to go she was able to get back to the nursing home without delay. We later regathered back at the nursing home in the early evening for a special birthday cake and wine sitting. Mum was a real legend as just the effort of getting out of bed was too much really by this point and her health was beginning to fade.

Sadly over the course of the next few days Mum's health deteriorated quite rapidly and by the bank holiday weekend she had finally began to take morphine for the pain. The staff at the nursing home were brilliant and did everything possible to make Mum as comfortable as possible in her last few hours. She passed peacefully away on the 29th and the funeral will be on September 21st.

Please support the Lives & Times book and Lives & Times screen print raising funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012 and bravely fought this awful illness for over 4 years. 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Lives & Times Available at The Grove Bookshop in Ilkley

I am really pleased to announce that the paperback edition of the Lives & Times book is now on sale at the Grove Bookshop in Ilkley, the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales. It is one of the best known independent bookshops in the North of England. They are another independent retailer who have come on board and agreed to sell the book for me. The book will retail at £10 in the shop, so the profits from each sale will be donated to Beating Bowel Cancer. So for anyone who lives in Ilkley or is visiting the area and wants to get hold of the book, this is a great way to get hold of a copy. The photo shows Lives & Times on display in some great company.