Woolhouse Boys road trip.

You may have spotted that I’m a Twin Peaks fan, you might even have noticed my recent obsession with a certain item of garish knitwear, due to my membership of The Woolhouse Boys, the best group on the internet. If so, then hopefully you’ll be up to date enough with the story to appreciate this seasonal tale of goodwill and friendship.

First, a little background.

Back in March, while the frenzy surrounding Twin Peaks: The Return was still building to fever pitch, I became friends with a very interesting chap with the unlikely name of Kneel Downe.

As an author and fellow Twin Peaks fanatic from the North of England, with whom I share a birthday, along with many other common interests, it was inevitable that Kneel and I would get along like the proverbial house on fire and I subsequently invited him to join the Woolhouse Boys.

To my total lack of surprise, that warm and friendly group of kindred spirits took to Kneel as quickly as I had and it wasn’t long before he became one of the inner circle of genuinely close friends we have all made in the last few months.

So it was just as unsurprising that, when he was going through a really tough few weeks, the Woolhouse rallied round to help.

Kneel suffers from MS and his health can vary wildly from one day to the next, especially when dealing with stressful situations, but despite this, he is always concerned about the welfare of other people and is one of the most compassionate people I know. He was caring for his father, who was seriously ill, meaning Kneel’s health also deteriorated and there were many days that we didn’t hear from him at all, the stress was clearly taking its toll.

Then, on November 6th, we got the sad news that Kneel’s father had passed away.

Which was when the Woolhouse swung into action.

Within minutes of hearing of his loss, Joel and I were getting messages from members all around the world; from here in the UK to all over America, from Europe and even from Australia, everyone wanted to do something for Kneel.

Now, sending round a card for everyone to sign was obviously impractical, given the distances involved, so I suggested anyone wanting to contribute could PayPal me donations, which I would gladly take and present to Kneel, along with all the love and condolences of the boys and girls in the Woolhouse.

Needless to say, donations came in from many of Kneel’s friends and, after the funeral had taken place, I arranged to go up and meet him for the first time last Saturday, taking Audrey with me for company, (because it’s almost impossible to feel down when she’s around) but not before we had another brilliant idea.

Joel and I had been working on a new shirt design, which we were about to roll out to any interested group members, and I’d only just picked up the first prototype when we heard Kneel’s sad news. It immediately seemed obvious that, along with the generous donations from his friends, I should also present him with this small token of our affection.

But how could we make it that little bit more personal, a completely unique gift?

Then I had a flash of inspiration; if I got everyone to send a nice clear photo of their name, black on a white background, I could compile them onto one sheet, invert the colour and have the resulting white signatures printed on the shirt, as if we’d all signed it for him.

That was easy enough to accomplish (although I left the technical stuff to Joel, who works with computer graphics) and I’d have been happy with that, but Joel had other plans afoot.

While I was still on the phone to him, ironing out the fine details, Joel was e-mailing one or two of his famous Twin Peaks cast member friends, asking if they’d be happy to add their names to ours for a good cause.

I can’t, I’m afraid, reveal the three names he delivered to us, but rest assured you would be amazed at who he managed to get to send us an autograph. On top of that, I contacted the wonderful John “Chad” Pirruccello from the show, who had previously been such a good sport about our daft shenanigans and he instantly sent us his name.

{I should point out that all of this happened on Thanksgiving, so I am eternally grateful to all of you who spared the time to get involved, you’re all awesome}

So at six thirty on Saturday morning, Audrey and I set off on an 800 mile round trip to Lancashire, arriving at Kneel’s around lunchtime and presenting him with his extraordinary gift, along with a few baked goodies from Rhonda and all the best wishes of The Woolhouse Boys.

Kneel’s home is a veritable shrine to Dr Who and you can’t turn round without coming face to face with one of the dozens of daleks that adorn almost every flat surface, not to mention the hundreds of DVDs, a Cyberman head on top of a hat stand in the hall and all manner of other memorabilia throughout the house.

I filmed little clips of our journey, editing them together into a short travelogue, WHICH YOU CAN WATCH HERE, including our first meeting with Kneel and, although the actual presentation of his gifts will remain private, here is a redacted version of that fabulous shirt and a shot of us toasting our friendship (a condition impressed upon me by Joel was that I must get a photo of Kneel and I having a pint together and who am I to refuse such a request?).

Please excuse my peculiar eyewear, I wear my varifocal glasses from work for driving and forgot to take them off for the photo.

It was a real pleasure to finally meet Kneel and to see his reaction to the kindness of his global network of new friends, it made me truly proud to be a part of something so positive and supportive.

But I’ve found that this is what The Woolhouse does, it brings people together from all walks of life and it makes them into lifelong friends, I see it happen every day and it is good to know that we have helped one of our own in some small way, by showing him that there is always someone who cares enough to make a difference.

*****

You can explore Kneel’s amazing Virulent Blurb universe AT THIS LINK.

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