“You’ll never change what’s been and gone” – Noel Gallagher
It took me almost 5 years to return to the seaside town of Bournemouth in Dorset, England. It was the town I had spent most of my adult life in, and the town which kick started my journey round the globe. I first moved to Bournemouth 11 years ago, that was September 2003. But things went sour for me in Bournemouth back in 2009 and I vowed never to return. I never really wrote the reasons why, I wasn’t happy about things at the time. Something changed though and in early 2014, the time was finally right for me to venture back to the streets of this iconic English seaside resort. In this post today, I don’t share my visa tips for Iraq, nor my top 5 things to do in Asuncion, nor how to backpack your way to Antarctica, but I’m telling my real life tale. This is my travel lifestyle blog don’t forget. It is what it’s always been. But there was once upon a time when Don’t Stop Living should have became “Stop Living” and I haven’t yet written about it. Here goes my friends…these are dark days…this is my story about why I left Bournemouth in 2009, saying I’d never be back and then finally going back in 2014.
2008 had been a decent enough travel year for me up until November. I had been to Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia for the first time, I’d finally graduated, I’d lived my dream by spending 6 months working on car ferries (you can read about my Wightlink days here) and I shared a flat with 3 of my best friends, Corinne, Dan and Richard. The three of whom would play a remarkable part on my journey. We shared a flat in Southbourne, Bournemouth, Dorset. As well as working on the ferries, I was a barman in the popular Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth. I made some travel plans to hit Italy in 2009 as well as plotting my supposed route to South America. I made it to both in the end, but not the way I planned.
“Love hurts, I won’t be fooled again” – Marti Pellow
I was working a lot of hours in the Pavilion Theatre at the time and headed into work for a normal shift on the Ballroom Bar. This is the day when it all changed…
I went into work one day in late November 2008 and my life was about to turn on its head. I didn’t know it then, nor did I know it for the few months afterwards. I had a girlfriend at the time, Helen. I’d met Helen after the Oasis gig the previous month and we were having fun. But this one day, I walked from my bar in the Pavilion Theatre to get some lemons, the lemons were in the coffee shop, Costa Coffee. Costa Coffee later became Piacetto. In there that day, working in the coffee shop was a quiet yet beautiful Hungarian girl by the name of Noemi Linzenbold.
“A pretty dancer from Hungary”
This is the first time I’m properly sharing this story on here by the way – it didn’t feel right before but it seems the right time for me to do this. Things seemed weird when I met Noemi, as Northern Ireland had just played Hungary and I fell immediately in love with this pretty Debrecen lady. Back on the streets of Debrecen, this girl was a top notch Hungarian dancer. But she was sad. She was crying, while playing a game to herself in the absence of customers buying coffee. She had just split up with her boyfriend. Somehow in the circle of life, I got caught up in it all.
I spoke to her at length over the next few weeks and something inside of me changed. I wasn’t myself. I was in love with this particular girl, yet I was so naive I didn’t know it. We had a night celebrating Christmas together at work and went to the Brasshouse Pub for a beer. I was on Guinness. She wasn’t. She didn’t drink. She detested alcohol. Anyway, Noemi would work in the coffee shop in the theatre while I’d do the bar. We’d be working together almost every day. We got free tickets to shows on our nights off and we ended up watching Peter Pan together. It was just two workmates going together. I didn’t know it was to become more than I’d bargained for…
New Year 2009 came round and I visited my church and prayed for a change in the new year. I had already backpacked round the world in 2007, (taking in about 15 countries) and started this blog and knew I would head off travelling again in 2009 – I had major plans. Meanwhile, my girlfriend Helen and I lost touch, it was my fault. I ignored her. I didn’t know why. I should have worked it out but I didn’t. Helen and I had split up, but nobody really ended it – my fault completely.
“I’m what you found, I’m upside down, you’re in the air” – Michael Stipe
I had now fallen in love with this petite Hungarian dancer. Who lived just 2 streets away. We’d get the same bus together, we’d work together, we’d eat together and we got to know each other very well. It was obviously, too good to be true.
After a staff party in January 2009, she shocked me by inviting me back to hers and soon enough she was enticing me into steamy sex in the cold winter…I was smitten and yes it was her that made the first move, which is probably why I didn’t understand the situation. Early February I decided to concentrate on love and this one girl for the first time in my life. I ridiculously gave everything else up. Crazy. Everything that made me happy. I quit my stint as chief chairman, organiser and nutcase in charge of the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club. I gave up going to watch the Cherries, AFC Bournemouth. I wrote much less blog posts than normal (check my blog entries for early 2009 – few and far between). I also decided to give up alcohol completely unless I was in a new country. I changed because of this girl. She probably didn’t even notice.
“Don’t ever change” – Ian Brodie
Valentines day I cooked for her, bought her gifts and flowers and I was so enchanted. In February we went up to London and I took her sightseeing and out to some bars with my mates. In one of those bars, an Irish Pub in Soho, I had my last alcoholic drink in the UK for what would become 6 months. Times were good, but it was all a bit false somehow.
“In each and every gathering, a scapegoat falls to climb” – Michael Stipe
In early March we toured parts of Dorset, Southampton and Portsmouth together. I remember enjoying a romantic moment at the top of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. It was all bliss.
“Every day is all there is in my some kind of bliss” – Kylie Minogue
During March I also started working again for the local council in their seafront huts. It was my plan to work as many jobs and hours as I could to save for Peru. Machu Picchu had been my main dream that year. Then my grandmother, Mary Blair died in March 2009. On Mother’s Day. Noemi spent the whole day with me – we toured the New Forest and she got my mind off things while I headed back to Northern Ireland for the funeral. For once I knew I’d found the girl for me. Oh really…
“You’re not the girl you think you are” – Neil Finn
In April things got even better. We shared many more intimate moments and I was happy not be be drinking or watching football. My flatmates couldn’t believe I had missed 7-8 Cherries matches in a row. I was a big football fan, and wouldn’t miss a home game except for a major work event but now I didn’t even check the scores. April 13th was Noemi’s birthday and we had such a great night. We also headed to Hungary to visit her family. I was loving it. I was happy almost all the time. But something wasn’t right. She didn’t want me and I was too stupid not to work it out. I visited Debrecen, Budapest and Szolnok and met all her family. I even turned down new beers in Hungary to prove to her I had given up alcohol.
“Finding ways to stay sober” – Damon Albarn
In May, we headed to Venice together and I splashed out on a decent hotel – the Hotel Noemi!! I showed her how a barman can backpack through cities with ease on a budget as well. We spent days on the beach, walking round the city and being cheap. It was amazing. Truly amazing. I was also now working on the Cross Channel Car Ferries. I worked in the bar and restaurant from Poole to Cherbourg, as well as the Guernsey, Jersey and St Malo routes. Life was good, until a bombshell dropped and my fall from grace was more dramatic than that of Wimbledon FC.
“The memory of what you had and what you lost” – Fleetwood Mac
After Venice, she told me she didn’t want to see me again. I was devastated. I had given up all this stuff for her, yes stupidly but now I had nothing. At least I felt I had nothing. I just felt so bad. Noemi was even embarrassed to be with me during those few months, something she later admitted to me. I don’t know how or why we had gotten into this relationship and this situation, but she wanted out and I didn’t. When she called it quits, I decided I was finished with life. This might be hard to understand for everyone reading. I mean at the time I still had a job (actually 2 jobs), I still had my mates (I ignored them for Noemi), I still had my family (always welcome), but I was simply suicidal. I was depressed. I was unstable. I wanted to die. I had given up the whole football, travel and beer lifestyle for this girl and I was out of the game now.
“Everybody cries and everybody hurts, sometimes” – R.E.M.
One cold, windy night in early June 2009, after 11pm, after work, I drove my car to the edge of a cliff at the notorious suicide spot, Hengistbury Head on the south coast of England. I remember getting lost along the way but I found it. I parked near the edge. I got out. I stared at the sea. I stared down the cliff. I got naked. I stood right on the edge. Thinking. I was ready to die – my suicide note was in my car, I can’t remember the words but “Noemi, I love you. Family and friends, I’m sorry” was something like what I wrote. I was finished. Then in the dark night, my phone bleeped with a text message and I turned round. I headed back to the car to check the message. I’d left my phone on the driver seat. It was a quiet night and the noise of the text message was distinctive. Perhaps I only went to check as I thought it could be Noemi. It wasn’t though – it was Dan. My flatmate and fellow AFC Bournemouth football and pub buddy. To this day I can’t remember what he said, but I was cold and it was windy and I put my clothes back on after reading it. I was still alive and I knew I had just diced with death. I thought of my dreams to see Machu Picchu. I thought of my family. I thought of Dan. I knew this Hungarian girl had f##ked my life up. But I had now survived. I felt like I’d beaten something.
“Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes” – Johnny Mandel
I went home to see Dan. I spoke to him briefly, told him I wasn’t feeling good and went to bed, up for work again as normal next day as if NOTHING had happened. Around the same time I talked to my Corinne at length. She was my Swiss flatmate who leant some girly advice to me when I had lost the plot. I didn’t tell her I was suicidal, I just wanted someone to talk to.
“You can talk to me anytime that you’re feeling down” – Chris Helme
At work I pretended to be all cool and normal. It was all a pretence. I came home every night and cried my eyes out. EVERY night for the whole of June and July. But I had survived. A few months previously, Manic Street Preachers released an album called “Journal for Plague Lovers” and it was written by Richey James Edwards. The guitarist and lyricist who disappeared back in 1995 – a suspected suicide. I listened endlessly to that album and it helped keep me sane.
“Only a God can bruise, only a God can soothe” – Manic Street Preachers
To prove to myself that I had turned the corner, I booked a one way ticket to Taiwan. I knew I was getting back on the road again. I had spent almost 6 years (give or take the odd backpacking stint or trip round Europe) in Bournemouth by this point. With Noemi living round the corner and reminders of her every night I drove home, I had to leave the town behind. I vowed never to return. I just had to kill the ghost of her and of Hengistbury Head. The memories will linger forever and I can’t forget her, but 2009 was a dark dark year. By the end of the year I had new flatmates and worked in a really cool Irish Pub in Parramatta, Australia. I had also backpacked through Taiwan and met up with my best mate again.
“We’re still friends and we like each other” – Noel Gallagher
Thankfully in Antarctica in 2010 I met Panny, this sparkling travelling Hong Kong Girl. I had now lived a travel dream by visiting all seven continents and I then relocated to Hong Kong in 2011 and I was in love with the delightful Panny Yu! We have since travelled so much together – all over China and to about 25+other countries!!
“I found love so don’t fight it” – Ronan Keating
I’m at ease with my past now and felt that I could write about what went before. Panny Yu and I have a much closer relationship than anyone I’ve ever been with. In 2012, I did decide to return to England but I wasn’t yet ready for Bournemouth again emotionally and I ended up staying in Manchester at the last minute as I couldn’t face the history I’d had in Bournemouth. I met up with the lads again and went to watch Bury v. Bournemouth (an away match for my team).
“The boys are back in town” – Thin Lizzy
In early 2014, I somehow felt the time was right for me to return to the scene of the crime so I did. I arranged to meet Dan and head back to Bournemouth again last week. The fact it was a new year and the 5 year mark looming, made me think that I was finally at ease with the past. I headed to Portsmouth from London Waterloo, ticking off crazy old haunts everywhere. Dan picked me up and I got all emotional again. He drove me back on the familiar old road to Bournemouth.
“Come back to what you know” – Embrace
Life had truly gone full circle and I was back in Bournemouth. It had taken me 5 years to have the desire to head back there. It was the saddest, most emotional and most sentimental trip of my entire travel life. It was tinged with sadness but I had made it back. Alive, healthy, happy and safe.
“Search for the hero inside yourself” – M. People
I just wanted to share this story with you all and to have it in written form for myself as well, so I can understand what happened. I can’t remember every detail and there were also times that I harmed myself in my bedroom, hurting myself to get pain out.
“All we know is that we don’t know how it’s gonna be” – Noel Gallagher
On a final note, I’ve taken some stick on here particularly from arrogant travel bloggers and travel writers who deem themselves “better than me”. Nobody is better than anybody else. Nobody. I’ve survived to tell the tale. I hope to inspire others to do the same.
“Nothing’s gonna change my world” – The Beatles
If you’re suffering from mental health or depression, make sure you tell someone.
“You are not alone” – Jacko
And finally, Don’t Stop Living. This is truly the most inspirational three words you will ever hear.
“You say you want your freedom, but who am I to keep you down” – Fleetwood Mac
“I don’t cry for yesterday, there’s an ordinary world somehow I have to find” – Duran Duran
Repeat: “You’ll never change what’s been and gone” – Noel Gallagher
That my friends is my Bournemouth Story. Although this girl hurt me, I dedicate this post to the hungarian dancer and coffee shop assistant, Noemi Linzenbold. I hope you sleep in peace tonight, Noemi Tipney Linzenbold. I’ve stopped crying my heart out…
33 thoughts on “My Bournemouth Story: Why I Left in 2009 and Why it Took me until 2014 to return.”
Pretty shitty experience, Dude! Sorry that she strung you around for so long like that. Life would be so much easier if people were just more honest with each other. But, glad you didn’t go through with it.
A friend of my mine took his own life back in my second year of University. Until you have personally experienced the loss of a close friend or relative to suicide, it is rather difficult to explain how it affects us “survivors.”
My friend’s suicide just made me appreciate life so much more. I think it eventually became the catalyst in my life to try to experience as much as possible and see as much as possible while I am still here. Reading your blog is another means that allows me to have those “experiences,” even it is vicariously through you.
I hope you make more time in the future to go back to Bournemouth to visit your friends that still live there and always remember that your life is what you want to make it out to be. Panny also seems like a great match for you, so I am glad you eventually found true love for yourself!
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I got through it somehow Ray and hopefully came out the other side a better person. “You’ll never change what’s been and gone”. Safe travels. Jonny
Wow, what an emotional story. Thanks for taking the time to share such a personal chapter in your life, that must’ve taken guts, but what a great message to share.
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Thanks for the comments Sam, took me almost 5 years to put the whole thing into words, at ease with it now, more truths to come on here for sure. Mixing up my travel tips with the personal stuff a lot more now. Safe travels. Jonny
Wow Jonny, so sorry to read what happened to you. We’ve been working together, me in mobile2 and you in best break. I didn’t knew you well, but you always seem so happy and enjoying life!
I really hope that you have now find peace with yourself and wish you all the best with Panny. 🙂
Hi Elodie, Always nice to hear from you and any of the old Best Break team. I finally made it back to Bournemouth last week – a town I said I wouldn’t ever return to. Life had gone full circle and I met up with the Frog, Peppe, Massi and Ania who we all worked with. I was never that happy when I met you – all a bit of pretence to urge myself to go on. Ended up backpacking through Taiwan for a bit and life was good again. All it took was a change. I still feel really sad about things a lot of the time – it’s only natural, but we move on. I’ll be back in Bournemouth again someday – keep me updated on your travel plans and where you are. I’m organising a Best Break reunion hopefully next year!! See you there? 😉 Jonny
Touching story Jonny, you sure have been through a hell of a lot – My respect goes out to you pal, top man to come through the other side to where you are today. Have loved reading about your travels for a year or so now – very “interesting” (not sure right choice of words?) to learn something that’s so personal and meaningful to you. Keep the motto going!
Thanks for the comment Paul! It’s nice to know other people are actually reading my stuff, the main point of my blog! Safe travels. Jonny
Goodness Jonny. I’ve just found the link to this entry. What an incredibly raw and emotional blog post. Thank- you so much for sharing this. I think, of anything this demonstrates your incredible determination and strength to continue, to move on, to heal and to live your dreams. I’m glad you didn’t end things in 2009. I discovered your blog in early 2011, when I too was in a rut in my life and wanting more. You inspired me to get to this point in my life, and continue to I inspire me with your backpacking tales.
Keep living the dream.
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Thanks for the comment Abbi – I was in two minds whether to share this one or not but instinct got the better of me and I knew I had to share it. It took me 5 years though. If I had of stayed there in Bournemouth with that girl, my plan was to take her round the world with me. When I showed her pictures of Machu Picchu, China etc. she just didn’t seem at all interested but I was too blind to see it all. Taiwan in particular saved me. I toured parts of the island with no other tourists, on hot days. I sat on my own on beaches and balcony writing my plans, sipping some beers and realising life was OK again.
We all get hurt by love and we all a cross to bear.
I’ve moved on, but I won’t pretend it was easy.
Huge bravery shown here Jonny in a heart wrenching story. More power to you and so pleased you are happy and at peace with a bad time in your life. Keep her lit.
Thanks for the comment Jonathan, I had to get this written while it was fresh in my mind and glad I have put it up there now – we all have tough times and you can’t forge happiness. Safe travels. Jonny
Yeah you are a brave man to share that story!! And a brave man to come through it!! Well done!! All the the best mate..
Thanks Bernie – a load more loose ends to tie up from this story and others at some point, when life gives me time. Safe travels. Jonny