#TeamDuke, the journey aka don’t stop believing


“Let’s make this the best year yet” – Me and then Ben, and then Liv!!!! – 01 January 2017 and beyond.

Hold on to that feeling, indeed.

Welcome to #TeamDuke taking a view from the 2017 ground to date. This follows on from the latest blog. Well, I wouldn’t call it a blog. ‘Ben speaks’ was so much more. Truly heartfelt words which, in reality, should never have needed to be written.

“Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family”.

You know what, I’ve started nearly all of this year’s blogs with a quote. So, let’s shake it up.

“Where do animals go when their tails fall off? ………………………. The retail store”

Perhaps, I’ll stick to the quotes.

As those close to me, I like to reflect. In fact, anyone who has the misfortune to enter into any kind of conversation with me will know I like to reflect. Perhaps I should do a blog – Mirror Man. Hold that thought.

But, for a whole host of reasons, I have been reflecting on 2017, and unlike my reflection in the mirror, it made me smile.

Strangely enough, Ben was commenting about how good things are and how we are now at a point where, if we look back over, let’s say, a year, we can see development. We are also at a place of enjoying the day and looking forward. Such words are music to my ears and emphasised why it is important that you don’t stop believing and that you certainly should hold on to that feeling.

I know I have already charted the course of #TeamDuke through the waters of the year so far. But, in reflecting through my rear view mirror, it has been so heart lifting to understand the changes that have occurred. And through that understanding, then to be able to see clearly through the windscreen to the road ahead. There’s no doubt that there will be unexpected turns in the road, a few unwanted bumps. But, I feel we can see where we are going as we head forwards.

From a person perspective, to see how Ben and Liv have grown throughout the year. To see how they have been strong, for themselves, for each other, for us as #TeamDuke, and for others when they falter.

To see Ben, with a new job which has given him confidence in himself and gives him real opportunity to develop in a media related role. I’m so proud of him. As he starts a relationship with the wonderful Gaby. He’s a tower of strength and a beacon of love. Always there for others, always there for a chat, always there with that twinkle in his eye as he lines up the latest wind up. There’s no doubt that the year has brought its challenges for Ben, but he’s faced them and won. Ben brings a smile into any room!

And, then there’s Liv and her development. Getting ready to relaunch her university life. The way that Liv has grown throughout the year is an inspiration to anyone. Her bounce back ability has been incredible. I have provided a backdrop of the challenges that Liv has faced – but have wanted to maintain privacy on the true pain she has suffered – but this blog is a celebration of where we are now. Liv has been surrounded by some awesome friends and she has shown incredible strength and maturity and I am proud of her.

Ben and Liv have been my inspiration and light through this journey that we have been on. There’s no doubt I have lost my way on occasion, but Ben and Liv have taken my hand to bring me back onto the right path.

And then there has been the welcoming of Audrey into #TeamDuke. I know I have said it before, but Audrey wears the term ‘unconditional love’ like an invisible badge. She’s there for everyone and anyone who needs her. A real quality of Audrey is that she doesn’t know how special she is – and fen though I try to remind her every day. I am blessed – yes, blessed – to have her in my life. And #TeamDuke is all the better for her been with us (not forgetting her priorities are Eilidh and Liam).

I’ve already written about our animal house. The house bossed by a cat – Zeekee – and cared for by a dog – Ringo. When I say cared for, I mean the ‘spiritual’ care that only an animal could bring.

When one of us is getting wound up, upset, or angry about something, Ringo, without any prompting, just wanders over and plonks his head on your leg giving you those eyes that say ‘what’s up buddy?’. Awesome.

Over the last few days, I’ve come up with the phrase ‘be like Ringo’ – to be applied when things feel a little crazy, a little frustrating. If you’d have told me this time last year that I would have such love for and such understanding of a dog, I’d have barked myself silly. And let’s not forget bum wiggling Susie – Audrey’s dog. Again, the love she gives is incredible.

Of course, Zeekee has been with us for nearly 2 years now and she’s seen her share of ups and downs and ups again. A beautiful cat, and a perfect pal for Ringo. She’s definitely the boss – but then I’m bound to say that. As we do with all females in our lives, we let them feel like they’re the boss. 😀😱

Love, love, love. Yes, as Messrs Lennon and McCartney said, ‘all you need is love’. A subject that I have covered many times before and will cover many times again. Love can pick you up, and it can help you to understand how totally lucky you are. Love is the touchstone of life.

And love has been the feast upon which #TeamDuke has fed at a time when it could have felt that we were starved of it. When you’ve had love and then it turns out that the love was a lie, at least in the way you believed it was shared, that hits you in the pit of your soul.

But, when true love, unconditional love, is fed to you, the taste stays with you even when you are feeling uncertain about your situation.

Emotionally, there have still being times when this year has felt like riding a stormy sea but, in the main, it’s been a river cruise (all these water references are effecting my bladder). I’ve chartered our well navigated journey over the course of the blogs this year and to all of the many, many stars of our show, thank you, thank you, thank you (last year, 3 was a concept introduced to me as being significant. Nah, I just like repeating myself).

‘Ben Speaks’ gave thanks to our family / families and friends. There’s also The Ramsden family who I have name checked before. But I will always be indebted to the light that they brought in the dark times of #TeamDuke. And now our lives are full of light Steve and Susan join in with our good times.

There are the many, many people who have reached out to us on Facebook. We are so lucky to have such support.

I should also mention Liv’s gaming friends – in Belgium, in Denmark, in the USA and everywhere else in between. You will never know just how grateful I am for the belief that you showed Liv. You are truly wonderful people.

And, so, there it is. Our journey so far. As we sit here and look in awe at where we are, one of our learnings has been to always, always accept offers of support and love. That support and love is the water that helps our roots and strength to grow and flourish. With that growth and that strength, we can the, always be willing and able to give.

Never doubt it, love will find you. Let it happen, and when it does don’t forget to share it.

So, as I bring another humble blog to a close, I have to admit to being in awe of Liv and Ben for their recent postings – ‘An open letter from Liv’ and ‘Ben speaks’. The responses have been quite overwhelming. Both postings were written with love, not anger. They were written from the heart. They were written with the intention of reconciliation, not to divide or isolate. These are 2 young adults who had their worlds ripped apart through an act purely self focussed, self absorbed, and with no thought for their feelings. An act which continues to hit them in the pit of their emotional make up. And yet, no response or acknowledgement from the person they are appealing to. The person who out poured on Facebook due to something read that caused reflection, and who then records a message criticising those who challenge her and her soulless partner. If that sounds harsh, sorry. As I said, the posts from a Liv and Ben were filled with love, but the response to their attempts to reach out – nothing. Whilst I understand she is not now on Facebook, perhaps if one of her ‘followers’ read this (and, yes thank you, my emotional well being is still intact – although that may be questioned if they know where I’m writing this. Please learn to differentiate between parental frustration and irrational comments), please let Ben and Liv’s mum know they say ‘hi, how about getting in touch, we love you’.

Having said all of the above paragraph , we don’t stop believing in #TeamDuke, we continue to hold on to that feeling because all you need is love. And we have an abundance of love, love, love.




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