Illustration: Hannah Blackman-Kurz / @HBkurz

Merseyside is brimming with authentic and genuine people who all of us could learn from, but we don’t always get the chance to show the gratitude we have towards them. This new series will be a regular celebration of extraordinary people, nominated by you, the other people. Is there someone in your life who you think everyone should know about?


Onion Deli: Tears are not enough

Nominated by Bernie Connor


I don’t feel good doing things like this and I really don’t like using this platform as a confessional. But something is on my mind, and this is one of the best places to get it out there. And, anyway, all the people involved will read it here.

A couple of years ago, with one thing and another, I went through a massive personal upheaval. I found myself in a space I would never have anticipated in a million years. It was dark, long and unforgiving. If it had lasted for a couple of weeks, it would have been 13 and a half days too long. My only experience of feeling this way – detached, unhappy, freaked out – was in the days following my giving up drinking and taking drugs, 13 years ago. On the unpleasant scale, it was a rocking 9.9; darkness and unhappiness were everywhere I seemed to look. Hand on my heart, I genuinely couldn’t see how the situation would ever get any better.

When the shit hits the fan in your life, it’s good to know who your friends are. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m not a very outgoing person. In my earlier years I used devices and props – people, drink, drugs – to do all my outgoing for me. It was so much easier. When I was a kid, I was horribly shy and always pushed to the back. I countered this by inventing a whole new character, one that was mouthy, opinionated, desperately trying to be funny. It masked a whole raft of difficulty and anxiety in my life. If I could just send it over there and not think about it for a bit, that would be just fine. I was far too young to deal with difficult things. That, in itself, was a truly difficult thing. Something that I feel may have come back to haunt me. Over a long period of time, the character I invented became me. I had to live with it. With the benefit of hindsight – in which I could be wrong – I never felt comfortable with it. But, to be fair, I never allowed myself any reflective moments in which I could review my situation. Everything was done for the minute, and if it wasn’t, fuck it.

So, the shit did hit the fan. All the atoms and particles of life felt like they were all moving in different directions. I felt like there was nowhere to go. It was the first crisis in my life that I’d experienced without the safety net of drink and drugs to soften the fall. I didn’t know what to do. Based on that, I became (more) grouchy, more insecure, more unpleasant to be around. I couldn’t stay at home for any length of time, the four walls were killing me. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I found a convenient table in a local café, a place where I felt safe and comfortable, and parked meself. And I didn’t move. Indeed, I haven’t moved. As it all unfolded, I found salvation in a really unusual place. I didn’t see it coming, and I wasn’t looking for it.

“I found salvation in a really unusual place. I didn’t see it coming, and I wasn’t looking for it” Bernie Connor

For this, I have to say a million thank yous to Kerry Thomas and the staff at Onion Deli. Onion is a sanctuary from the waiting world. It has been my office, social meeting point and sounding box for many years. At one time, I was a member of their staff. Had they not been there, the difficult situation I found myself in may have festered, grown and got lots worse. They have put up with my horrid, challenging moods for longer than they would care to admit. Every day they have had an open door policy to me, inviting me in and trying to lessen my load. At moments of extreme unhappiness and loneliness, I’ve felt that Miss Kerry Thomas has been my only friend. She’s like Superwoman, no matter what. She has never, ever said, ‘Aahhh, fuck off, Bernard’ – not even once. When I know for certain there have been times when she’s wanted to. This commitment to my everyday well-being cannot be underestimated. Kerry has helped me through a horrid, unbearable chapter of my life and I can never, ever forget that. And, more importantly, like the Lone Ranger, she asks for nothing in return.

To step out and hold out a helping hand to somebody she didn’t even know very well was a colossal gesture. Often, she has immersed herself in my own personal misery, when I’ve known before we started that she has shit going on in other areas she could be dealing with. The sort of kindness that you wish you could find in everybody you know. Some people are genuinely incapable; some people are genuinely unwilling to do anything to help. I can’t forget this. Ever. What Kerry has done puts her in the top bracket of people I’ve ever met. I have no idea how you go about repaying that enormous debt of gratitude. Even as I’m writing, I’m not sure how she’ll feel about this. But I hope she sees it as my saying an enormous thank you for all the help she gave me at a time in my life that I needed it so much. She’ll stay in my heart forever; everybody needs a friend like that.

Thanks, Kegs. I really mean this from the very pit of my soul. You really are Superstar-Woman, and I’d never be here to write this if it wasn’t for you. The best therapy available in the city.

Some of that magic can rub off on you. Just be there.


Onion Deli on Aigburth Road is open 8.30am to 4pm (closed on Wednesdays).


Characters is our new, regular series that is a celebration of extraordinary people. We’re asking our readers to nominate the people they love, and write something for us about how great they are. We’d like stories ranging from funny and heart-warming to shocking and sad. Is there someone in your life who you think everyone should know about? It could be somebody who is worth celebrating, whether it be for their kindness, their humour, their unpredictability, their strength, an incredible tale they were part of, or any of the other ways people are great.

This region is full of unsung heroes with attitudes and deeds that all of us could learn from – and we also think that you shouldn’t have to be a musician or an artist to be profiled in our magazine. We often only stop to consider the value of people’s lives and contributions in retrospect. They say keeping a gratitude diary improves your mental health. So how might it improve our health to spend a moment of gratitude every month on somebody from this incredible city? That’s why we’re asking for you to lend us your ideas, your affection and your pen. Who deserves to have an article written about them? What do you want everyone to know about them? Help us to find characters who matter to you. Writer or not, we’re looking for your voices. Send nominations along with an outline of what you want to write about them to with ‘Character Nomination’ in the subject line.

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