As always this article is written to help people not to brag. It is written to acknowledge negativity but tip my cap toward positivity and it is written in the hope to inspire not to gain favour with readers. Also, despite its title and implications, this is not a football story or a glorification of my beloved Liverpool Reds so angry Madchester lads and the Blue people of Merseyside can put down their pens in anger. There is no need for letters of complaint as this is a true tale of failings, dreams and triumphs, the three constants we have in our lives.
As a young man I harboured ambition but lacked courage. Ambition without said courage is like a car without an engine…nowhere fast. Knocked about by bullies and with a dad who mocked ambition (who are you to?…insert as appropriate) ambition was futile. The worm almost turned as a teenager with my discovery of Martial Arts and Boxing. I was, so I was told ‘talented and could go far.’ That disappeared as quickly as it came when my Karate Instructor beat me up in a factory carpark. For beat me up read punched me to the floor, kicked me, and dragged me back up again only so he could knock me back down. Such a proud international Karate man he was.
As Karate went by the wayside then the drums called to me, literally as I was given a five piece kit and joined a rock ‘n’ roll band. ‘I know your mama she don’t like me, ‘cos I play in a rock ‘n’ roll band…’ A quick succession of gigs bought about talks of a full time occupation in music and the bright lights of London. Pretty naive for three 17 year olds but ambition will not be thwarted, that is until my father stepped in and screamed at me to ‘stop being stupid, get back to the factory.’ That was the end of that then.
As a weak young man I gave up far too easily but that was about to change. I knew why the change came about. The change was a beautiful blonde girl with a sensitive soul but a ferocious fighting spirit. She instilled in me my own spirit and it grew. It grew so big that years later on Geoff Thompson would say with a kind laugh “You don’t know how to give up, do you Si?” My reply was swift, with an equal laugh. “I spent the first part of my life giving up Geoff. I didn’t like it very much. I intend to spend the second part of my life not giving up and chasing my dreams.” And this I did with more knocks on the way than a busy door but the knocks no longer stop me. I attacked life with a grimace and a grin.
First up was the little matter of a return to Karate and a Black Belt, my key to the door. Each step back, each fall only served to strengthen my back bone and at the grand old age of 27 I fulfilled that dream on an emotional Saturday afternoon in Manchester in a test under a man who was to become a good friend, Mr Alfie Lewis.
Black Belt firmly tied around my hips I was determined to build on the success and a haunting from my childhood returned; writing. As a child I possessed an old typewriter and a vivid imagination and channelled this into my first book ‘From Bullied to Black Belt.’
Father; “Who are you to write a book?” Me; “Me, that is who I am.” A storm was brewing and the book was published followed by interviews on the BBC, in major magazines and letters from around the globe. Proved you wrong Pa.
America burned deeply in my heart, a land I had loved for so many years and yearned to live there. My work ethic (and that of my family’s) would appear to be paying dividends as out of the blue I received an email from a lady in a lovely part of the States. Having read my articles and books she was, so she proclaimed ‘a fan with more than a passing interest.’ Intrigued I responded and after many a dance back and forth she came clean; would I be prepared to pack up my troubles and relocate to her sunny state? She would put up the money and I would head a purpose built MMA academy there. The email came through at 3am and after reading this I dozed back off to sleep. Waking the next day I recalled it, checked my emails and leapt out of bed to tell Julie. We were U.S.A. bound.
Negotiations moved swiftly along. She and her husband were ‘powerful and wealthy people’ and a green card would be no trouble. “What type of house would we like? A car? What colour? Your children will love the schools here and as for the beaches.”
With an optimism like never before we set about making moving plans and the task continued. “Simon I have spoken to lawyers and finance people, they are putting the paperwork together. Simon we have found the ideal location for the dojo. Simon I have been to a manufacturer today and they have started the uniforms. We went for the black.”
Before I knew if our bags were packed and boxes filled. What we couldn’t carry we would leave behind, hell I even sold all my CDs and cherished collection of Stephen King books.
Then radio silence. As time approached for our move the airways went quiet and so naturally worry set in until a devastating email informing me the couple were having trouble with their marriage. “Get back to me in a couple of months Simon. I need space. I’ll let you know what we will do.”
With notice given on the lease on or home and a van driving away with my books, we desperately searched for new living accommodation and put the kids back in school. It would be a long wait to find out the final outcome and it wasn’t good. You could even say bizarre. I waited the requested two months and then put in an email for an update. Shocked at her response, anger and disappointment fought for head space. “I’ve moved on Simon, I no longer have any interest in martial arts. If you contact me again I will call the police.” Did I mention she was a law enforcement and he a powerful District Attorney? I cut my loses.
America was now firmly in my sights and I set about chasing the dream myself. We searched for a book agent in the U.S.A. and were delighted to be offered a contract with a top New York agency named W.L. and headed by a professional named Robert Fletcher. As was expected another bout of email table tennis took place and we were we eventually informed that six major publishing houses were interested in my work. All we had to do was pay a small fee to have the book critiqued. What the hell, nobody does anything for free, why should they? So the fee was paid.
A month passed by and two of the houses rejected the book. Mr Fletcher suggested another critique at a better company for another fee. You could hear the alarm bells from many a mile away and I listened to them. We refused to pay another fee and requested our original one back. Our emails went ignored so we set out finding more about Mr Fletcher. That wasn’t even his real name and he was wanted worldwide for many offenses including human trafficking. Score? Tricksters two-us nil.
With delight a ‘friend’ said “I suppose you are giving up on it all now aren’t you? Sticking around here?”
“No,” I said with conviction.” We are having From Bullied to Black Belt made into a film. His jaw dropped at such a cheeky ambition. “Who are…” he stuttered before I cut him off. “…to have a film made? I am me. You should try it someday.” I said. He never spoke to me again.
So we searched for a producer and after several meetings settled upon an up and coming film maker full of fight, ambition and it turned out shit. Two years the script took to write between us and at times my energy was so low I was ill but the contract we signed would give us enough funds to finally relocate to what we call ‘our home’. Florida.
With an arrogant energy the producer declared the script ‘fit for an Oscar’ and submitted it for funding. On our first go around at submission we got knocked back but were offered some great advice to build on. Sadly said producer deflated like a bouncy castle at the end of the children’s party and said “am out.”
I was incredulous at such a quick surrender but realised it was for the best when his emails turned abusive, childish and unprofessional. I had dodged a bullet with this one but there was still the matter of the £10,000 his company owed me in unpaid fees. “Write it off,” I was advised.
Of course I didn’t as ‘writing things off’ is just another way of spelling ‘giving up.’ Ten months later a Judge in a court of law awarded us judgment against said film company. What did they say about giving up?
I took a couple of weeks rest and to the joy of my family and the despair of my nay-doers I was perusing my dream again. Much research on the internet and we again looked toward New York and this time a top PR who promised to make me a massive star in the States. After a year with no results he pretty much conceded he was a con man and out of his depth. Trawling through his emails we could, by the start of the end, see though his lies and deceit. After all, we were getting used to it and he was dispatched forthwith, quickly and with no mercy.
I still believed, we still believed and our ever growing pack of fans, friends and followers still believed in the dream but my tenacity was to take its toll and I succumbed, spending 12 days in Intensive Care at an American Hospital, five of these days on life support. Stress had bought on acute pneumonia and my life hung in the balance. “He won’t give up,” a tearful Julie told a concerned nurse.
Twelve days later that nurse, Patty, entered my room and found me sat up reading a new Stephen King book, breathing without the aid of a machine “Simon!” she screamed a threw herself at me, hugging me and laughing. “What has happened?”
I grinned, “I got better.”
A lengthy break, rest and a stock take. “That then end then Si?” asked a saddened friend.
“End of what?” I asked as I sought out a fresh look at our American Land. With enough money for a short holiday I gazed westward and instead set the money aside for more investment in From Bullied to Black Belt, both the book and film and with the belief in me from my family moved forward.
Gullible or brave? Brave I am proud to say. Brave and now a bit wiser but still with a hope in my heart and a determination that I will see this through. Crooks, thieves and a stay on my potential death bed did not, will not put out my fire. On my wall I have a photo of the car I will drive in America, the house I will live in, the dojo I will own and the pool my children will swim in, all with the back drop of the American flag. The words from Springsteen himself accompany the photo; ‘Dream Baby Dream.’
Which is why a tenacity born from adversity sees three script writers reviewing my work at the moment and their keen interest in working with me refreshers and keeps said fires lit. That same tenacity is the reason a genuine U.S.A. PR company with a proven record, will launch a massive marketing campaign for my second book An Everyday Warrior in my beloved America early in 2015. The tenacity within is the reason whilst a U.S.A. film company are keen to make my story into a feature film. A tenacity within keeps hope in my heart.
Please do the same. Take on board the good but listen to the knocks, the mistakes, the people that ask us “who the hell are we?” and inform us “you can’t do that, it is time to give up.” They are wrong, they are so beautifully wrong because if we want it bad enough and dig into the well that is inside us all we can do it.
Never give in, dream baby dream and most of all walk With Hope in your Heart, please walk With Hope in your Heart.
Thank you for reading. Simon Morrell, looking westward with a smile on his face and determination in his soul, January 2015.
From Bullied to Black Belt is available in paperback worldwide by here