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Stabbed by his father over a slice of bread. But Mike is determined to find a way over every hurdle life throws his way ...


Mike Coatesworth

Mike Coatesworth

Mike at the local day centre

Mike at the local day centre


Mike Coatesworth

Although I can only type at around 15 words a minute, I’ve managed to write nine novels and have started my tenth.

To anyone who knew me as a child, they would find this completely strange as when I was a boy I hated learning and spent most of my time playing truant from school.

My troubled lifestyle began when I was aged two and my birth mother deserted me and my four siblings.

I had to quickly learn to overcome any obstacles that came my way, although in the initial stages of my life I was saved from too much abuse by my deaf, blind, aunt Chrissie, who protected me whenever she could.

However there were times when she was not around and I was completely vulnerable.

I think that I first began noticing pain when I was stabbed by my father for trying to help myself to a slice of bread and if it hadn’t been for my aunt Chrissie’s quick reactions and nursing I’m not sure whether I would have been around now to write my stories.

Over the following years, although I did have happy times and a laugh and a joke with my siblings, I did have to learn how to “duck and dive” when around certain adults and I became quite adept at it.

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However, sometimes I was caught off guard and felt the brunt of my stepmother’s temper as she laid into me with a long wooden hand brush just because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was the last child in the house to leave when I was thrown out on to the streets by my dad when I was just 13-years-old.

My dad did not want me around as I was in the way when he wanted to move in with his new girlfriend. I lived rough on the streets, just travelling up and down the country, and at one stage joined a travelling commune and soon learned that I would have to work if I wanted to eat.

Several years later, on the verge of suicide, I was saved by my older brother Alan who helped me to take stock of my life and looked after me. It was he who suggested that I join the army.

After a little thought I took my brother’s advice and joined the Duke of Wellington's Regiment.

After my training, I joined my regiment and it was like I had a new family and it was my new home. In my time in the military, on many occasions I had to put my experiences of “ducking and diving” into practice to survive. Despite being one of five children I never really felt part of a family until I joined the army.

Tragically, while I was serving in the army in 1974 I was told the devastating news that Alan had been murdered. He had been stabbed to death by an intruder in his home.

I was shocked, and devastated. It took me a long while to get over that.

One thing that I had promised Alan was that if anything ever happened to him, I would continue with the search for our birth mother — who we had not seen since the day she left in 1950.

Another emotional setback was when my aunt Chrissie suddenly passed away after a heart attack in 1980. She had been like a mother to me and was one of the most kind and loving people you could ever have met. She put herself out for others, especially me and my siblings.

She had never been blessed with her own children, but she always classed us as “her children” and treated us with kindness and love.

I served the military in 22 different countries, including a tour with the United Nations in Cyprus when the Turkish army invaded the country. I finally left the army after 13 years, where I went from job to job to put food on the table for me and Betty and our three children.

One night as I was working as a security guard, tragedy struck and I was knocked down by a car and received a head injury which left me partially paralysed for life. I don't really remember much about that time as I had such a bad head injury that over a period of seven or so years I had to learn everything again.

I spent most of my time in day centres and was taken out on day trips and given swimming lessons. Carers were constantly trying to stimulate my brain in an attempt to make me learn how to live again.

Eventually I was introduced to computers during my recovery time at Clifford Brook Day Centre in Leeds. The tutors had asked me if I wanted to use a computer and something just clicked. I loved it and they had a hard job getting me off it.

The tutors noticed how quickly I was picking up the basics and brought in a tutor from a local college. He was so impressed that he suggested I should take an entrance exam to enrol in the college ... and I passed.

I couldn't believe it. I thought I'd never pass. The doctors had said that during the accident a part of my brain that makes me want to learn had been triggered and it became an obsession.

I couldn't stop myself and began a basic computing course at the Thomas Danby College in Leeds — a college for students with learning disabilities.

One day an English tutor at the college asked me if I wanted to enter a writing competition to win a computer. I remember stating that I would enter anything they wanted me to.

Anyway I entered the competition and I won a state of the arts computer plus a year’s free internet connection. I remember the tutor saying I had a really active imagination. My writing just took off from there. I also learnt how to make my own albeit simple web page.

When I finally left the college I graduated with no less than 17 diplomas in word processing, database methods and desktop publishing.

I even got a City and Guilds in maths and a Mensa certificate of merit.

I'm a romantic at heart and not all of my stories focus on the struggles we faced as youngsters. I have a lot of happy memories as well. There were times when we had a good laugh together.

Nowadays, my aim is to show the world that people with head injuries and other disabilities can lead full and normal lives, and I want people to know that having a head injury need not be the end of your life.

Over 20 years on I have written hundreds of short stories and I’m working on my 10th novel. I just love writing; it's my passion in life.

During my recovery I had been unable to continue looking for my biological mother. But as I got better and learnt more about the wonders of technology, I began searching for her on the Internet.

I sent letters right across the world and finally, an advert placed in a magazine in America brought me to her. But she was reluctant to introduce herself as my mother. She denied it at first. I think so much had happened during her life that she wanted to forget about everything. But with the help of my sister Jean we finally got her to admit that she was our birth mother.

She now lives in England but things are not as rosy as I had hoped. My mother knows I wanted to write the book about my search for her, but she is still not prepared to talk about what happened and has told me that it is nobody's business but her own.

So I completed the book on my findings during the search and it is now with my publisher for consideration. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I’m hoping that if I can get it published and she reads what I have written she will want to give her side to the story but the issue has caused tension between us and although we talk on the phone occasionally, she is very reserved.

My sister Jean had been suffering cancer for a couple of years and spent her remaining days in a hospice.

One day I was having my afternoon tea, when the phone rang, and it was my brother-in-law, Pete. I heard the stifled sob, followed by “I’m sorry Mike.”

The next voice I heard was Jean’s. “Mike, I haven’t got long to go now and I just wanted to say goodbye.”

With the tears falling around me, I uttered the only words that I could. “Jean, please don’t go yet, I’m coming, hold on for a while longer.” She passed away on August 13, 2000 but I still have not got over her passing. I still miss her.

My immediate family are very close and have been an enormous support to me. My wife Betty and children Tina (35), Stephen (33) and Lesley (29), are brilliant and we go out and have a good laugh.

As the children were growing up my wife and I never placed any restrictions on them. As long as they were happy that's all that mattered, and they are happy if I am in good health

After living in Yorkshire most of my life, my wife Betty and I talked it over and decided to retire to Northern Ireland.

When we told our children, they said they were not going to be left behind. My two daughters sold up and moved over here too. My son would love to move over here with us also, but his wife has commitments in Bradford, so he makes do with coming over for holidays. I now live in the picturesque countryside of Newtownabbey, with my wife Betty. Our two daughters and two of our beautiful grandchildren live nearby.

I personally think that the people of Northern Ireland are fantastic. They have had to put up with a lot of flak over the years, but still manage to come up smiling.

I see that they have a similar attitude to myself and when an obstacle blocks their path in life, they try to find a way around it.

I go to a local day centre and I’ve made a lot of friends, and the people around where I live are wonderful and friendly. To be honest, I feel a lot safer here in Northern Ireland than I ever did on the streets of Bradford.

On a sad note, unfortunately a few weeks ago I suffered a stroke and I’m doing my best to recover. This is just another obstacle in my life and I’m doing my best to find a way around it.

Find A Soft Spot to Land On, Michael Coatesworth, Vanguard Press, £9.99

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