Life is a lesson don't wait 'til you're through

The story of me is a long and complex one, and there's a reason why I'm packed to the brim with life experience at 31. I've been through a lot. A serious amount. And the things I say have substance and are backed up. I've learnt that if I'm not right I should keep my trap shut, so if I pipe up about something you should absolutely take it as given that I'm right. Where do I begin? 10 years ago I was in South Africa. Living there. 12 years ago I got married. The fact that I'm divorced is something that regularly crops up with people I'm close with who never knew. Friends often react to it with shock. But it happened. Look...

That's Imarie. We met in Brixton. I was running pubs. The story behind that adds further to my history. When I left school I took the experience I had gained whilst studying my A levels of running kids clubs, kids classes, summer camps, and various other kids sports related bits and pieces. I went and worked in a David Lloyd gym running kids classes and then working behind the bar to bulk the hours up to full time. I had a speciality - autism. Before the gym I worked on an autism buddy scheme whereby autistic kids had regular contact with individuals they could get used to which helped them with their education and interaction. This helped in the gym where I did classes for autistic kids. One of the dads, Simon, of one of the autistic kids, Declan, offered me a job. He owned a bar in town and needed a new assistant manager. It was a 300 capacity nightclub called The Toad, and I started working there. The money was better and it looked at the time like a career with opportunities. I ran the bar, picked up some major management and bar skills, and learned to flair (yeah, that's right, I can do the stuff Tom Cruise does in Cocktail and the stuff they do in TGI Fridays.) I was quite happily learning my way around the industry, got trained by Diageo, and then all of a sudden someone bought the place and sacked everyone. Simon and I contemplated what to do for a few days and then, leaving Hein, Neill and Neil behind, the two of us were approached by James, a guy who was regional manager for Pubs N Bars ltd. At the time my only tie was my girlfriend, Ania, so when he offered me a job as a troubleshoot manager to fix his troubled bars I ran it by her and accepted. We were living together but I needed to move around the country to fix bars as necessary. I spent the next few years (starting in 2004) moving all over the place spending various amounts of time in bars, living in them and making huge amounts of money. I was moving in, sacking everyone, resetting the stock and cash, making the place turn a profit, and then moving on with a new manager left behind to keep it going. It was a challenge and each place had it's own issue. I was burgled twice. It was hard weighing up the pros and cons. But the thing that kept me going was the promise of development and the cash. One of the bars I went to was in Brixton. It's in Brixton that I met Imarie, who came in one day looking for a job. She got one but it wasn't for quite a while that we realised we like each other. We started seeing each other, but it took ages for anything to happen because of the issue that I was the boss and she was the staff. But Ania was still there, visiting regularly and I was visiting her. She'd been visiting me all the time at all the bars. This was the first difficult relationship issue for me since my first girlfriend when I was 18. I now had the problem of being with 2 people. I didn't know what to do but I knew one thing for certain - if I was meant to be with Ania I wouldn't have cheated on her, and I had to stop the cheating the right way and the right way is to cut the wrong one. Before anything went too far with Imarie I spoke to Ania and we broke up. Here's a photo doing nothing more than breaking up the text... it's me in one of my bars.

Immie and I were together a few months but she was due to go back to South Africa when her visa expired. We were torn about what to do - we knew we wanted to be together but there was no way. Well, there was one way. To get married. We sat in Hyde Park in the sun talking about it, going over all the options and all the possibilities, all the logistics, everything. We'd made up our minds. So the time came, she left the country. We spoke again and again and again, and it had to happen. We arranged everything, her uncle (a diamond miner) paid, and it was all set to happen. And that's where this photo comes in....

I specifically remember all the details about this. This is the night before the wedding at the hotel in Witsand. We were playing pool and I was sad. My mum and dad disagreed with what was going on, rightly or wrongly, and didn't come. After this game of pool I rang my mum and completely broke down. I wanted her to give her blessing and she didn't. Afterwards it was her who regretted it and she wishes she'd come, but she didn't and it put me on the floor that night in floods of tears after speaking to her. I had to man the fuck up and get on with things knowing that I was all alone in South Africa, family wise, doing what I needed to do.

This is where I lived - Franskraal, Western Cape

The wedding passed and a future started. A future I thought would be the entire future. But things aren't always what we think they are and sometimes they change so gradually that we don't notice. Immie and I started our life soon after, but first I went back to the UK and visited a few times, busy building up the funds to support us. We discussed all the options again, now that we could both get citizenship in either country, and first I got South African citizenship and moved there. I'd marked out an elaborate path to riches as there was no work there for either of us. I set up, with Simon, a holiday company. Adrenaline Rush Holidays. Whilst in London I went to the CAA and met with the board to get an ATOL licence, and got one! I'd spoken with hotels, activity companies, airlines, it was all going great and we were busy building the packages. The costings were on track and we were set to make some good money by having people come to South Africa and get overland tours guided by moi. I had to research everything and so I lived a pretty epic life getting free hotels, free safaris, free activities, free food, free everything!

I went on whale cruises, shark cage diving (twice), safaris, stayed in 5 star tents, game lodges, went on quad bikes, met meerkats in the wild, went flying, I did so many cool things getting suppliers signed up to my new company. But then Simon disappeared. His marriage broke down and he stopped paying the bills in the UK and the whole thing collapsed. I had just a couple of months cash left and had to come up with a plan quick. But it didn't happen. None of the jobs I applied for resulted in anything. I was stuck and everything dried up. I was left on my knees and had to get back to the to start again. But I couldn't. I had to beg and my parents got me home with a little help from my grandparents.

But the reason I'm writing this post is because I am committed to something. It's tainted with circumstance, but I'm absolutely certain about it. And with it comes some hinderance, and I want to address that with the things I've learned and the reasons why I'm right to be putting my time and attention in. So here goes. Everyone's guilty of it. It’s been said, knowledge is power. Unfortunately, many people like to spread damaging information or intimate details about others, whether true or not. People use gossip to hurt people, in order to feel good about themselves, and to feel like they have power over others. Take what you hear about people with a pinch of salt. People like to think they know something about people and they exaggerate to make things sound interesting. To the detriment of others. And that means that those unlucky enough to be the subject have their lives unjustly disturbed. The most dangerous part about gossip is that it steals another person’s reputation. A reputation is very fragile. When you gossip, you are helping to destroy something extremely valuable.

If you know something juicy someone did over the weekend, it’s easy to feel like you have to tell others. We especially like it when we hear something that makes someone look bad. Celebrity bloggers and gossip magazines make millions of dollars off of this unfortunate reality. I’m sure you’ve encountered gossip. Some people seem to thrive on it. People manipulate the situation against you and sadly people believe what they hear. If you're a decent person, be a decent person and people will see through it. And if you're thinking that there's no smoke without fire, just remember that fire's burn wildly out of control very quickly. Actions speak louder than words. Be there. Take a step back, but still be there. I'm still there.

So here's something I've heard a lot - blaming alcohol. Alcohol doesn't change you, it only makes you more of what you are. It doesn't change your morals, it makes you change your behaviour. It drops the walls and allows you less inhibition to be able to do what you want to do. It's been studied and it's fact. Being drunk doesn't change your personality, it merely lowers your inhibitions. It can boost your confidence or render you to tears much more easily, if you are predisposed to such things. If you have aggressive tendencies, they will become more prominent after drinking. If you're attracted to someone or not attracted to someone, that will be amplified. But those things have to be pre-existing. Being drunk doesn't absolve you of responsibility for the things you do - they're already there and the booze made it easier to do.

If you miss someone, tell them. Life's too short. You can't go back into the past, and sometimes things from the past that are still present change so gradually over such a long period of time that it's hard to tell whether it's still the same thing or not. But here's a clue. If there's been no progress, it's not carried itself into the present and certainly isn't worth having in the future. Cherish the past, but don't live in it. Don’t fall into the nostalgia trap that things were always better in the past. Things are different now. What worked once up a time, may not be relevant to the way things work for your happy ever after. Today is all about building a better path to the future. What you do today will determine your future. Your hopes and dreams are yours to make happen. If something comes into your life, no matter how scary or how much it breaks up the status quo, embrace it. Particularly if it's giving you good things! Roses and penguin pebbles are good things. Be open, honest, hide nothing, and build your relationships on friendship, trust and love. So there it is. A little piece of my past, and my thoughts on arming yourself with the right information for the future. And some photos, of course! I'm still here. It's worth it. And you, Emma Wastell, the love of my life, my heart's desire, my perfect little spoon, are the only person who can see this post. I love you x


Dave loves Emma x

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