Darren and Craig
Could you start by telling me about the original photograph?
My name is Darren, and the photo was taken on a family walk. We used to go on a few walks, nothing mega, but that one always stood out because of this bridge. My great grandma used to live around here, so we always used to visit her every 3 or 4 weeks and it was always a bit weird as a kid cos she was dead old and in this really old fashioned house, but that walk was always something that we did that was different to that experience really.
What sort of age were you around that time?
Probably around about 9 to 13 or so.
Do you remember anything specifically about the day the photograph was taken?
No, I remember more about the photo, because it was always on the wall at home. Things like wearing those anoraks. It's the photo that's in my memory a lot more than the walk, and singly the bridge, because it was a bit of a stand out occasion to go across that bridge.
What was special about the bridge?
Just that it was a bit hair-raising for me as a kid. It's quite a big bridge, and you always used to have the sensation that it was moving!
Can you describe the photograph for me?
Just before you cross the bridge, there's this style that I'm sat on with my brother Craig. At that point you go over it, turn right and then go across the bridge to complete the circular route really.
"I think the weird thing is that when I look at it I sort of think about the fact that you're so unaware of the world when you're that age. It's just you and yours. It's weird, it's just your little world and when are you next gonna have something to eat and when can you go out and play."
If you don't mind me saying, you look like a proper pair in the photo, matching anoraks, similar haircuts. Did you feel you were quite similar as brothers?
Yeah, because my brother grew quicker than me, so by the time he was 11 he was as tall as me at 13. We hung around and did a lot of stuff together all the time really. Where we lived we had a wood behind our house, so we'd always play in the garden or go through the wood on to the park behind. We shared a bedroom, for a while, for a long time, so yeah, we were very close. We always did stuff together. We had similar interests, both loved playing football and lots of sports really.
Did you support the same team?
No! No, because I had a friend of mine at school who supported Blackburn and he took me to a match, so we started following Blackburn and I got my dad engaged with it as well then. But my brother had friends at school who went to watch Preston North End, so he was a season ticket holder there and we were season ticket holders at Blackburn, but we never went to a match, there was never a game crossed between us, because we were in different leagues, and we were never drawn together in the cup.
So was there a bit of rivalry there?
Yeah, not too much. We all sort of followed Preston a bit as well. I was always a bit envious of him actually, because he just sort of went with his mates. He'd get on the train and he always had the odd story where they'd got involved with a bit of trouble or a bit of wrong business went on, well, that didn't happen with me and me dad of course at Blackburn, too polite a club, because we were Premier League.
So as a pair, was there much mischief?
Yeah! Although my brother got in more trouble than me, so he smoked and he'd do a few not so legal things, but I was quite straight. I've got children and I see that with mine, they're influenced by the older one and do those things earlier than the older one did, so they get on and push the boundaries more.
I was wondering if you could tell me what Craig was like?
You can get a bit tagged with the cliches can't you, the nicest person who's always smiling, and he did smile a lot and was very positive. He worked as a joiner, he got an apprenticeship with the council, which was much sought after, and then he started working for a window firm, and he had this great relationship with my dad through that, because my dad likes doing all that, he's quite skilled with all that. Those last couple of years when he was working, he got himself into a position where he was almost living the dream. He had a great life, he was really carefree, but he was achieving good things, almost certainly where he would have bought and renovated somewhere. You sort of really felt there was a really good future.
He'd just been on holiday with his mate, it was sort of funny cos he kind of took my mates off me in a way, because I'd met my wife, we all mucked around together, all of us, and I went off as I was a married man at that point, but I used to see all my friends and they were all mucking around with him. So he'd gone off with one of my old friends on holiday and there's this great picture of him laying on this bed all pink and red. He was doing everything he wanted really, if he was my son, I'd be chuffed to bits with him, thinking, ah, yeah, he's on the right path.
So he had a fairly happy life at that point?
Yeah, dead happy.
He was doing alright?
Yeah, he'd had a couple of girlfriends but nothing dead serious. Just before he died, he'd gone on this stag do to Newcastle, but he hadn't gone to Newcastle at all, he'd just told everybody that, because he didn't wan his girlfriend at the time to know they were going to Amsterdam. I suppose, in his mind to maintain the story and the viability of it, he'd just tell everybody it was Newcastle!
So he whisked her away to Amsterdam?
No no, the stag do was in Amsterdam! It was just less hassle to say, 'I'm off to Newcastle love!'
Do you have any routines, places or anniversaries that help you remember Craig?
We go to the grave, that's at the church that my family is associated with, he used to be a bell ringer as well, because my dad rings the bells, so Craig would ring the bells there. So, I go there. Soon after he died, I used to go there every Friday, I had two young children then and my wife worked in the morning and I would go to work in the afternoon, so I would have the kids in the morning and I'd drop them off at my mother-in-laws, so I always had a routine then of going on Friday. We'd sit down on the grass and have something to eat.
But now, and it's the saddest thing, I do look back at that time and think we were still quite close then, but you do move on and in a way you don't want to, because I think about him now on odd occasions. There might be a song that I associate with him, but certainly his birthday, that's the 4th of April, there's always a text or two that I'll send to my mum and dad and he's in my thoughts that day. Then the 29th of April, that was the day he died.
I don't particularly go anywhere of any note, and when we lived in Cornwall we didn't come up or do anything significant then. We had one of our friends who organised a get together at the pub when it was the 10 year anniversary, so we came up for that, and just drank Guinness all afternoon, because that was the drink we both got on to at the time.
Ten years is quite a significant marker, especially to have a lot of people who are going to come together to remember you, that's feels significant to me, does it to you?
Yeah, I mean we heard about it, maybe through Facebook or something, it was 2012, and they were doing this thing, I messaged him to say we were coming and we drove up and had a weekend in Leyland. There was a pub we always went in and I remember the day of the funeral they closed the pub, we saw all the people there, it was like the busiest pub in the town, I just thought, wow, they've closed the pub for him! So we just went there and drank Guinness. We started drinking Guinness for a funny reason actually. They used to run these Guinness nights in pubs, freebies handed out, we'd never drunk it before, but dad had, so the three of us went up and drank Guinness and we just carried on!
It sounds to me like there are a lot of people that miss him, that have fond memories of him, who want to celebrate who he was. He obviously had a significant impact on people's lives.
Yeah, I think so, because he was sort of, well he wasn't busy with his own stuff, he was everybody's go to in a way. So, he'd put windows at people's houses, at mine, my aunties, my mother and father-in-laws, but also if someone was going for a drink they'd just ring him first because he was always around and up for going out! He was just, at that point, because a couple of years later it would have probably changed, he would have been busy with other stuff, but right then, at that point everybody lost out and felt that gap.
What was it like when I asked you to find a photograph? Did you know which one straight away or were there a few to choose from?
When he died I collated some photos together and made this album up, there were some words that I had at the time as well, things like, well, I got married the year before, so I had his best man speech, and the eulogy I gave, some poems, song lyrics, stuff I was scribbling whilst I was dealing with the experience. So I collated all that together in the album, and when I read about what you were doing I just straight away thought there's some pictures there. I think you talk about it in your article, but since he died, death affects me much more now, and so it can really hit.
That photo stands out, there's another one or two of us and hanging out, but I suppose its them anoraks with the hoods up, just quite quirky!
It's a great picture and for me, it really typifies a moment in Time. Often in this sort of landscape, the fence, the style, it could be anytime, it could be fifty years ago or yesterday and you'd maybe be able to tell from the type of photograph, but it's the style of both of you in your coats and your haircuts that puts the age on the image. It doesn't feel like a typical picture, it's a lovely family image.
I think the weird thing is that when I look at it I sort of think about the fact that you're so unaware of the world when you're that age. It's just you and yours. I wasn't listening to pop music, I wasn't aware of anything happening in the news, now, you know what was going on in the world in the mid-80's, you think, wow, I mean, Berlin Wall, I knew about it when they knocked it down but I didn't know anything about it until then. It's weird, it's just your little world and when are you next going to have something to eat and when can you go out and play.
Times were simple!
"I just wish more and more people people knew that when you're in that situation, you want people to talk to you, but most people steer clear. My best friend lost his mum at junior school and I haven't talked to him about it, it's a massive regret of mine, that I never just said to him, 'Are you ok?'. You want people to come and talk to you don't you, but people don't."
What was it like going back there today, with me asking you to stand there again and take the picture?
Yeah, it was nice. I've thought about it over the years, going back there with my family and having a walk, because we like to go out for walks, and it was disappointing to find out the bridge had been damaged, I was unaware of it, so it'll be somewhere I'll head to next year when they've got it open again. I just remember it being a really nice walk, because it wasn't boring, or 'hold my hand now' or 'stay away from the edge', you just walk and run free really.
I think there's a lot of people who'll be able to relate that at, as a kid, it's usually up a hill or trudging through mud, getting wet, so to have that happy memory is nice.
You talked a bit about gathering things together. Have photographs been important in remembering Craig?
Yeah, and I think you always have a few sort of articles of theirs. There's some insignificant stuff, like a watch that broke soon after he had it, a mobile phone, one of those Samsung ones with the flip open lid and he'd saved up to buy that and it was the swaggest thing when he go it, and then a friend bought the same one and he was livid about it! So I've still got that phone.
Pictures, yeah, there's two or three pictures, I like to take pictures, and they stand out because they're not very good pictures really! There's one in our very first house where he's just joking around with a piece of pizza in hand and knocking back this lager straight from the can and the tree's there with tinsel on it. So they are good. I've got him on a couple of videos, but I haven't watched them in years now, probably don't dare to watch those back now. The pictures are good to show to my kids to talk about him, because my eldest was one and a bit then, so they haven't got any living memory of him at all.
So is it nice for you to tell them about Craig?
Yeah, it's always been good. I'm sure everyone experiences that, they talk about the person. I remember talking to people at work after he died, who didn't know him and a guy saying to me, 'Does it make you feel better to talk about it?', and until he asked me that, I didn't realise that it did. It is nice to talk to them about him, but it's bittersweet.
I've certainly found that the best thing for me to do, probably just even in terms of understanding how I was feeling about it was to talk about it with people. It's a case of trying to find those times, finding the right people to talk to. A lot of people didn't know what to ask, or didn't really want to know cos they thought it would make me upset, but there are certain people that I found I could speak to that would just happily sit and listen, and it was the best thing to do for me, to talk about dad, who he was, what he meant to me. Someone would tell a joke and I'd think to myself, 'Dad would have found that really funny', but if I'd said that out loud it would have been strange for everybody, but definitely that's better than anything else is talking about him, what we shared, enjoyed, I don't know if there's anything better than that for helping you understand how you're feeling about it and the way that that evolves over time.
Yeah, I completely found it the same. I found the most healing in talking to someone who'd never met him. Rather than, well, it is nice when you just talk about stuff, with my wife, she knew him well, and we can talk a bit. When I've moved jobs I've felt it's this thing that I'm hiding, I want somebody to broach the subject, I want somebody to know. It's like I want them to know that I had a brother but he's died and they can say, 'Oh, I'm sorry' and that's it. It's important to me that, I don't know why it is, it's just important that people know. Maybe it'll come less and less as time goes on.
In that sense, do you feel it's an important part of you, of who you are?
I suppose it's him. It's about him, because otherwise he's disappeared hasn't he.
So it's about keeping him in your mind and making sure other people don't forget him as well?
If nobody asks me at work, because I've been there two years now, so I've got colleagues who are friends, if they didn't know I had this brother, suddenly I don't have a brother and it's non-existent anymore. They're not aware of it, I don't know, in some ways it makes sense, in some ways it's irrelevant isn't it.
I think it makes perfect sense for you. That's part of the reason for me asking about anniversaries or places. It's a totally normal thing to do to revisit a place or mark an occasion, or open a box of keepsakes. There's a reason you've kept his old phone, you're not using it, but they're things that keep close by, keep him in mind, because otherwise there's this niggling feeling that it you forget, then everyone else will forget and it's you feel like it's not right that people would forget, it's important to remember.
"I think you're sort of clinging to a hope that it isn't real, and if I could write a book I'd love to write a fictional book about somebody who almost becomes in another world, because you can't take it in and can't believe it, because it just felt so unreal."
Is there anything else you wanted to add, or stories you wanted to share?
I think the really tough thing, for us, for me, but for everybody, was that it was sudden, we didn't expect it. I'm sure people have had a shared experience, but I went through a period of time where it was so shocking that I almost felt like it wasn't real. I seriously thought I was going to wake up, weeks and weeks after, I seriously thought I'd wake up and it hadn't happened.
It's funny how people talk about those stages of grief, cos I did have a bitter stage. One of my good friends has a couple of brothers and they don't get on and they've all gone their ways and I thought, he's got two brothers, and I've only got one and we were really close, so I went through that.
It felt as well, the last time I saw him, he couldn't stop and I said two or three times, 'Are you having a brew?' and he said 'Sorry, can't stop', and it felt like everyone else saw him after that and it's all those little things were a big deal. I think you just, well, you know, I do expect that my parents are going to die at some point, you don't expect your children to, so they struggled with that, and I didn't expect my brother to, so you sort of bank on it. My parents are still here, I don't expect them to die soon, but that could happen and I know for you that happened a lot sooner than you'd expected.
He was super reliable, emotionally, you could call on him. Me and my wife, we moved about two miles away, bought a little flat, downstairs flat with a garden and he used to be our regular stay over, he'd come, have a few beers and sleep the night. We always had this tradition where we'd always watch The Grand National, have a drink and have a bet. We still do that with our kids, they have a pound or two and we always put a bet on for Craig, but that was a day that he'd come round our house and be together. We were married and starting a family but we was still very much a contemporary of his.
So he was an integral part of your life, day-to-day he was there?
Yeah, we'd share a ride to work. I used to pick him up and there was a time when I was taking Catherine into work in Preston and I'd take him and then I'd pick up a colleague, so four of us in the car. When he first started working for the council, I'd finish work half an hour before him, so I'd drive over to where he works, sit and read for a bit and give him a lift home. We had a spell when I didn't think I was gonna keep the car, so we'd ride the bus together.
After he passed away, was there a point where it did start feeling real?
I think you're sort of clinging to a hope that it isn't real, and if I could write a book I'd love to write a fictional book about somebody who almost becomes in another world, because you can't take it in and can't believe it, because it just felt so unreal. You can understand why. I work with somebody who's brother had died and their other brother committed suicide, because of the grief and I totally understand that. The pain, the grief was so much that you thought you could just get rid of it, but it never stayed in my mind more than a millisecond cos I had a family myself and you can see the grief that everyone is already struggling with, but God it felt like the easy option.
I got frustrated with how close we are as human beings, I just thought, it's so rotten that we are so close that we have to deal with this parting, I thought it was wrong, I thought f*** you mother nature, you know!
"We always had this tradition where we'd always watch The Grand National, have a drink and have a bet. We still do that with our kids, they have a pound or two and we always put a bet on for Craig, but that was a day that he'd come round our house and be together."
I remember, there's a long period of trying to make sense of it, searching for a reason or understanding it. The whole reason for me doing this project is that I'm trying to make something good from something that was really painful, it feels like it was unjust, too soon, however you want to phrase it, this is me trying to make something good of a bad situation, which a lot of people find themselves doing. We've all got our own way of processing it and taking it on.
I think we've both touched on this, I just wish more and more people people knew that when you're in that situation, you want people to talk to you, but most people steer clear. My best friend lost his mum at junior school and I haven't talked to him about it, it's a massive regret of mine, that I never just said to him, 'Are you ok?' and you know, I knew him mum, I used to go round for tea and I never talked to him about it. You want people to come and talk to you don't you, but people don't.
It's hard to know where to start, but just something simple like 'I'm really sorry, I hope you're ok, let me know if I can help', it doesn't have to be a grand gesture or anything fancy.
I think it might be something I get involved with in a bit, do something with grief charities. I've written a few cards to people now and sort of holding out a hand of support if they want it, and it's not been taken up, but I'd like to do that, because I would feel good doing it.