Ten Year Old Michael

Throughout this crazy year otherwise known as 2020 I have been amazed at all the amazing acts of kindness, work ethic and overall determination of everyday people in this country. From people like Captain Sir Tom Moore who raised over £30 million for the NHS to all the NHS, Social Care, emergency services, teachers, shop workers and many more who have kept the country going during this pandemic. You have all shown why we are living in Great Britain.

Normally in December I write a post reflecting on the current year, what I have achieved and how it has developed me as a person. This year will be different. During the first lockdown I was listening to the radio when a segment really struck me. It was an interview with a teacher who had written a letter to his ten-year-old self and what the next eighteen years would bring him. Then on Wednesday when England’s second lockdown ended Liam Payne who was in the band One Direction was on the radio for the same reason, writing to his ten-year-old self to let himself know what the next seventeen years would bring. As I was listening to both, I started thinking about what I was like at ten years old, what has happened to me in the twenty-six years to make shape me into who I am at thirty-six. Below is what I managed.

Dear Michael,

I wish I could tell you that the next twenty-six years will be easy and that all your dreams have come true, but I would be lying to you. What I can tell you is that at thirty-six you have overcome many challenges both personally and professionally. Some of these challenges will be easy, others will take many years to overcome, however I can guarantee you that you will overcome them all and become a better person because of them. It is the challenges in life that teach us the most about ourselves.

Already your life has changed. You are ten years old and you have moved from your home- town of Weston- Super- Mare to Swindon. You are about to start at a new Primary school for year Six. In a year’s- time you will move on to Secondary School. For now, you are the new kid in school, it is not easy however you also have your older sister with you in the same position, so you already know one person.  You started learning how to play the guitar when you were nine which gives you something to talk about when making new friends. You also try getting into football as another way of making friends. It works however by the end of the school year you realise that football is not for you. Do not worry about it, although football is England’s most popular sport there are plenty of people who are not interested in it. As you get older you take an interest in individual sports over team sports anyway.

At eleven years old your life is about to change again and in a big way. You move on from Primary school and begin Secondary school. In Primary school you have one teacher and one class for all subjects. In Secondary school you have a different teacher for each subject and change rooms for each subject. You also have to make new groups of friends again as some of the friends you made the year before went to a different Secondary school. In Secondary school your Introverted nature becomes more dominant although by fifteen you begin to over-come this. One constant through this time is your guitar lessons, which you keep up with all the way through school. The same year you started Secondary school; the Music teacher started putting on concerts for students to perform in. There were three concerts a year at the end of each term and you play guitar for at least one song in each one of the concerts before the new Deputy Head cancels them in 1999. Two big events happen to you in year Ten. You find your passion for weight training when you start circuit training in the school gym. You always had an interest in weight training from a young age watching Olympic Weightlifting, boxing, and professional wrestling. You start lifting weights to help improve your swimming ability, however you soon realise that weightlifting is what you really enjoy. Secondly you go on two family holidays. You spend a week in Portugal and then spend two weeks in Florida. In Florida you go to all the Disney parks, Universal Studios, the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral and finally you go to the Everglades.

During your last year of school some more events occur which bring with them new challenges. You reconnect with family members you previously have not seen much since moving to Swindon. You leave school with average grades before going to College and in the summer holidays you get a weekend job at the leisure centre your favourite band name themselves after.

It is during the five years you work at The Oasis that you form friendships with people you remain friends with for life. Besides your best friend from Primary school and family friends, the people you meet in this time frame are the people you have the longest friendships with. At the Oasis you start off working in the café on weekends while you are at College, then become a full time Lifeguard while studying to become a Fitness Instructor. Shortly after you began weight training you find what you want to do as a career. Working at the Oasis your gym training changes from circuit training to bodybuilding training. When you are twenty you train for a Natural Bodybuilding competition. In the end you do not compete though as your mental health begins to struggle in the last four weeks before the show. As good as people around you are saying you look, you realise your mental health is more important. At twenty-one you make a life changing decision. You qualify as a Fitness Instructor, however there are not any positions in the gym at the Oasis for you to apply for. For you to pursue your dream job you make the decision to move back to your place of birth.

At twenty-one you move to York, your place of birth and soon realise that qualifying as a Fitness Instructor was the easy part. Finding somebody willing to give you a job is the hard part as all the gyms you apply for jobs at want instructors with experience and have no response when you point out that as a newly qualified instructor you need people willing to give you the job to gain experience. It is not completely hopeless though. On your second day in York, you visit the local leisure centre near your Dad’s house and enquire about any vacancies in their gym. They inform you that they had recently taken on a new Fitness Instructor however they did have Lifeguard vacancies. Although it is not what you wanted you accept the Lifeguard job and work in the gym when you can. You apply two more times to work in the gym at the leisure centre you are working as a Lifeguard at when a vacancy becomes available. Both times the job is given to an external candidate who later leaves. Do not be discouraged as they eventually offer you a full- time temporary contract in the gym for maternity cover which you accept.

Four months before your twenty-third birthday two important events happen in your life. You book and pay for plane tickets to Japan taking you closer to your dream of traveling Japan, and you meet an amazing woman who you have a five- year relationship with. Although it does not work out, she helps you in more ways than I can describe, and you will always be grateful for that help. Three weeks before your twenty-third birthday you land in Tokyo. At thirty-six I can assure you it is the most amazing city you have visited. You spend four day’s in Tokyo before riding the Bullet Train to Hiroshima. In Hiroshima you visit the Peace Park, a war memorial and museum built on the spot where America dropped the first Atomic bomb. There is still one building left that barely survived the attack. What astonishes you the most is the fact that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a prototype. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki afterwards was the real one. After three days in Hiroshima, you move on to Kyoto for five days, then Osaka for another five days in which you take day trips to Kobe and Nara before returning to Tokyo for the remaining two weeks of your month in Japan. Two nights before your twenty-third birthday you climb Mount Fuji. You climb through the night and reach the top ten minutes before sun rise, allowing you to see the event.

On your return to England after achieving your dream of visiting Japan you continue to work at the local leisure centre which leads to you getting the temporary full-time contract in the gym for maternity cover. Your last two years in York will test you mentally, at times you begin to question if moving to York was the right thing to do. You do not realise it at the time, however moving to York allowed you to travel Japan, gave you the chance to work your dream job even if it was by covering sickness, annual leave, and maternity cover. It also allowed you to reconnect with your younger brother, see your younger sister when she joined the gym you were working in and form life- long friendships with your older brother’s friends.

At twenty-six you move to Lincolnshire when you successfully apply to study a Foundation Degree at the University Centre Grimsby. It is at University where you discover that you have Dyslexia and Scopic Sensitivity. All through school you think you are thick, however now you understand why you found reading and writing difficult. You initially move to the small market town of Louth where you work in the gym of the Best Western Hotel chain. This leads to you getting a part time position as a Fitness Instructor in the then brand-new council leisure centre, however you move to Grimsby for the last year of your Foundation Degree. The last year of University proves to be the most difficult as you juggle a full time University course, virtually full-time job at the gym you are working in as well as work placement. This leads to you not really having a day off and the five-year relationship you were in comes to an end. The end of your relationship forces you to come to terms with the struggles you have had with Anxiety and Depression since Secondary school. You settle down in Louth where you are officially made full-time at the gym you are working in. The next four years you gain more experience as a Fitness Instructor and begin to help the Exercise Referral Instructor with his clients. You help two members who are recovering from having a Stroke. Both had the second highest categories of Stroke and both taught you more about the human body then any course could. You also start training as a professional wrestler and shortly before your thirtieth birthday you wrestle in a local show, achieving another dream. You also meet your favourite wrestler when your Mum purchase two tickets for his latest tour of England. Despite the saying, “Never meet your hero’s” you are not disappointed. Despite his reputation for being bitter he takes the time to talk to everybody who came to see him. People say he is bitter because he speaks honestly about is career and always seems to be asked the same questions about one incident. Out of all the people involved in the, “Montreal Screw Job” Bret Hart is the only person whose version of events is consistent.

At thirty-two your life changes again. The county council cut the funding for the Exercise Referral program leading to you being made redundant. At the time you will be frustrated as you know how hard you have worked, however with time you understand that the Management had to make difficult decisions and it was not personal. You take a temporary job as a Care Worker for six months before being offered a Sales job in Swindon for a private gym chain. There is one issue though, they want you to start in a week’s- time. This means you have one week to move 230 miles and start a new job. Luckily, your older sister is still living in Swindon and lets you stay with her while you find your own place to live. 2017 proves to be another challenging year. The week before Christmas 2016 you started a new job and moved 230 miles on a weeks’ notice only to be let go when the gym fails to reach its January sales target. Again, you are frustrated as you made the most sales, selling more memberships on your own then the rest of the sales team put together. You begin to wonder why you even bother moving back to Swindon after eleven years away. You take a series of temporary jobs however in 2018 it all changes. You take a part time job as a Fitness Instructor working in the leisure centre you spent most weekends at when you were in school. This leads to a full-time position and you get nominated for the customer service award. In 2018 your older sister moves to Barcelona, where she still lives today. In 2019 you get promoted to Duty Manager and transfer to another leisure centre in Swindon and still work their today. In 2018 you are an Usher and Witness at your older brother’s wedding and use your original sir name again. When you are eight you take on your then Stepdad’s sir name, even when your Mum and Stepdad’s marriage ends in 2008 you continue to use his name for a further ten years, however you now feel the time is right when you change back to your birth name. The person you feared telling is also the most understanding.

Michael you will face many challenges throughout your life. You raise over £500 for Alzheimer’s Society when you shave all your shoulder length hair and beard in 2015. You also raise a further £100 for the same charity when you and your older brother complete a twenty-six mile walk that same year. In 2019 you take part in your first Olympic Weightlifting competition. You will have professional, social, and personal challenges which you overcome and become a better person for them. People will doubt you at every stage of your career and life. That is fine as the more people doubt you the more determined you will be to prove them wrong, which you will.

Always remember to be confident but not arrogant. Always tell the truth even if it gets you in trouble. Be kind but not a push over. Stand up for your self without being a bully. Be true to yourself and ignore the doubters. It does not matter how long it takes you to achieve your dreams. So long as you learn from your mistakes you will achieve all your dreams. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.

End of an Era

This week an important part of my life came to an end when it was announced that the first leisure centre I worked in, The Oasis will not be re-opening when England’s second lockdown comes to an end on December 2nd 2020. The leisure industry has been heavily affected by the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis along with the hospitality and tourism industries. Sadly, many more businesses will find themselves in a position where they simply are unable to survive.  

The Oasis will always have a special place for me, not just because it was my first job after leaving school, but for the many fantastic memories I have working there. What started off as a weekend job in the café while I was in college became my second home for my teenage years and start of my 20’s. I started working at The Oasis in September 2000 when I was 16 and left in October 2005 when I was 21. In that time, I worked as a Catering Assistant, General Assistant, (Cleaner) and Activities Assistant, (Lifeguard). All three of those roles helped shape me into who I am today, and all three roles had their own challenges. While all three of the roles were fun, I would say that the most fun was my Lifeguard role as it was the role that shaped me the most while working there. It did not matter which shift you were assigned too we were all one family, from staff nights out in Swindon to weekend’s away to Newquay we all had fun. If you worked a shift with out one person taking the micky out of you, you would have thought you had upset somebody.

Reading the previous paragraph, you might be asking yourself why I left if I liked working at The Oasis so much? The reason is simply that there were no hours in the gym available for me to work when I qualified as a Fitness Instructor. Some of the Fitness Instructors also worked as Lifeguards so I was able to develop positive working relationships with all of them, most of which have moved on to other careers.

Although I left The Oasis fifteen years ago, some of the people I worked with are still working there. I wish all of them well and am thankful for the memories shared. Working at The Oasis gave me the confidence to move to York in 2005 and to realise my ambition of traveling Japan in 2007. It helped me to begin developing coping strategies for my depression and anxiety which have certainly been tested many times. I also fondly remember the many pranks played on me on my last day working at The Oasis which started as soon as I arrived and did not stop till I left for the last time.

Lockdown Round 2

Once again England has been placed in lockdown. From November 5th till December 2nd, 2020 we have been told to stay home and to only leave for specific reasons such as food shopping and outdoor exercise. Unlike the first lockdown these restrictions only apply to England. Wales is coming out of a two-week lockdown; Scotland has a five-tier system and Northern Ireland has its own restrictions in place.

Politically this lockdown is harder for the government for many reasons. The first lockdown had universal support as the government was doing what it said it would do, which is follow the scientific advice to form policy. This time round they are unable to say this with any credibility. This is because it emerged last month that the governments scientific advisory group SAGE advised them in September that a short two-week lockdown was needed slow down the second wave of infections. Instead the government went ahead with a three- tier system which SAGE said would not work. The three- tier system was designed to deal with rises in Covid-19 infections at a local level. This approach did have some logic to it. I live in the South West of England, which has some of the lowest infection rates in the country, where as the North West has some of the highest, so why should a large increase in the North West force businesses in the South West to close? One of the problems with the three- tier system is three- tier system is that it leads to confusion for many people. Also, Covid- 19 does not care where abouts in the country a person lives or your social class. If it can infect a person, it will.

It is not my place or intention to criticise the Prime Minister on what he should or should not have done. He will have SAGE advising him on the scientific evidence, the Department of Health advising him on how to deal with the medical impact of the virus, business advisors, the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer  advising him on how to deal the economic impact of the virus. If the economy crashes there will be no money left to fund the NHS, education systems and everything else we all depend on to live our lives. The Prime Minister has endured a lot of criticism on how he has dealt with Covid-19. Currently he has no good choices, only bad choices to make and he has to do his best to pick the least damaging decision.

I repeat it is not my place or intention to criticise the Prime Minister on what he should or should not have done. I am not here to defend the government or to say what I would have done differently. Until the issues with Track and Trace are fixed and a safe vaccine is found we are likely to be living under some form of restrictions for the foreseeable future. I will continue to do the best I can to follow the guidance and stay safe.

The Legion of Doom

Earlier this month I was saddened to learn of the death of Joe Laurinaitis, better known to wrestling fans as Road Warrior Animal and one half of one of the greatest tag teams the Road Warriors/ Legion of Doom. Animal was sixty years old. Animal was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1960 and grew up in Minneapolis Minnesota. Animal stood an impressive six feet, one inch/ 185 cm and weighed 285 pounds/ 129 kg. His wrestling career began in 1982 as a singles competitor. He was simply known as the Road Warrior and portrayed a biker gimmick. In 1983 he signed with Georgia Championship Wrestling which was a territory of the National Wrestling Alliance, NWA. It was in GCW that he teamed up with his childhood friend Mike Hegstrand, better known as Hawk and The Road Warriors were born. Managed by Precious Paul Ellering The Road Warriors were part of the wrestling stable Legion of Doom, which consisted of The Road Warriors, Jake the Snake Roberts  The Spoiler, Matt Borne, King Kong Bundy, Arn Anderson, The Iron Sheik and the original Sheik.

Throughout their wrestling career The Road Warriors were no nonsense tough guys who looked like that they could legitimately hurt you. This was not hard for them to pull off, not just because of their size and strength but because they worked as Bouncers before becoming wrestlers. On the WWE DVD about their careers Animal talks about how along with Ravishing Rick Rude and Barry Darsow better known as Smash, Hawk and Animal worked as Bouncers at a bar in Minneapolis called Gramma B’s. It was there that all four were spotted by Eddie Sharkey who trained them all to become wrestlers. All four were very successful, working through the various wrestling territory’s before signing with the then World Wrestling Federation, now WWE. In 1990 The Road Warriors signed with WWE and their name was changed from The Road Warriors to The Legion of Doom.

Tag team wrestling was at its peak in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. It was during this period that the most famous and successful tag teams were together, and all wrestling championship belts were important as they did not change hands as much and there were fewer titles to win. If the wrestling promotor you worked for made you their champion it meant that they had enough confidence in your work to put that responsibility on you. It was during this period that The Road Warriors wrestled for every major promotion and won every tag team title that mattered. For me to talk about every championship The Legion of Doom won would take all day however below you will find some of them:

  • All Japan Pro Wrestling: NWA International Tag Team Championship
  • American Wrestling Association: AWA World Tag Team Championship
  • Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling: World Japan Tag Team Championship
  • Georgia Championship Wrestling: NWA National Tag Team Championship (3 times) NWA National Tag Team Championship Tournament
  • International Wrestling Superstars: IWS World Tag Team Championship
  • i-Generation Superstars of Wrestling: i-Generation Tag Team Championship (3 times)
  • Independent Pro Wrestling: IPW Tag Team Championship (1 time)
  • Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling: NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Dusty Rhodes and Genichiro Tenryu, NWA World Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic version) Iron Team Tournament (1989), Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup (1986)
  • Super World of Sports: One Night Tag Team Tournament (1991)
  • World Wrestling Federation/WWE: WWF Tag Team Championship (2 times)
  • New Japan Pro Wrestling: IWGP Tag Team Championship (2 times) Working as The Hell Raisers
  • Toryumon Mexico: UWA World Tag Team Championship, working as The Hell Warriors

In 2003 Hawk sadly died. Hawk had a long and well-known battle with drugs and alcohol. Although he had been clean and sober for a long time when he passed, some people suspected that the long-term effects of his battles may have played a factor. In 2011 The Road Warriors and Precious Paul Ellering took their rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. They are also members of the Quebec Wrestling Hall of Fame, NWA Hall of Fame, NWA Legends Hall of Fame, Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame, and Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Museum.

Animal is survived by his brother, former wrestler, and WWE producer Jonny Ace, three children including NFL Star James Laurinaitis, his nieces Brie and Niki Bella and his wife Kim Laurinaitis.

The Road Warrior’s had something very few wrestlers achieve. That is the ability to simply stand in the ring, say nothing and get a twenty- minute standing ovation. Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin all developed this ability, however, “The Road Warrior Pop” was the greatest of them all. The first main event tag team and one of the greatest tag teams ever. “Oh What a Rush”