Huddersfield-born Nadio Granata is a chef turned marketing, PR and publishing guru who now lives on a house boat on the Thames. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He’s charting his cancer journey with a blog and we’re re-publishing some of them here. WARNING: It’s gritty and the language could be industrial..
It’s 2.30am and I’m wide awake. I’ve actually slept really well for a solid four hours. I have to be on court at 10am to compete in the club doubles tournament, semi-finals.
I had not expected to be in any position to play so win or lose, it’s a bonus just to get back on court.
If I only grab another hour or so of sleep tonight, that’s fine. I’m no Margaret Thatcher, I do need my sleep, but I do not stress about where or when I get it.
And so, I’ll use this quiet time to analyse my approach to the treatment and try to capture what it takes to retain a positive mental attitude in the face of what many would consider adversity or worse.
So let’s peel back the onion…
I guess one’s childhood has much to do with how we are shaped for the rest of our lives. Who was it that said: “Give me the child at seven and I will give you the man?”
Mine was not a ‘perfect’ childhood and though I was the only kid at St Joseph’s Junior School to wear bell bottoms, they came at a price.
Having been born in Dalton, Huddersfield, I was then brought up in a beautiful windmill converted into a hotel in northern Italy where I and my sister attended a convent school for a couple of years. Italian was my first language and nuns were my first teachers and the Romany gypsies who camped nearby, were my first fascination.
The wanderlust in me today probably came from the fear of being ‘stolen’ by the gypsies and the hidden desire to be stolen whilst witnessing the very public breakdown of my parent’s marriage.
By the age of seven, I was the first kid at St Joseph’s to be from a divorced family. A scar for life? I’ve never ‘fitted into a box’ and perhaps that was why. Or maybe coming from Dalton and being called ‘Nadio’ had something to do with it. I was never going to fit in anywhere with a name like that!
My subsequent youth was spent climbing trees, playing footy and hiding from my too frequent scoldings for having a ‘bad attitude’ … a habit that would appear to have stayed with me until now some might contest.
And so, I left home on my 16th birthday to move into an attic ‘apartment’ in a Victorian terrace house on the edge of Huddersfield town centre. It was 7th February 1980. Kenny Rogers’ Coward of the County was number one. I was freezing cold, lonely, frightened, unqualified, uneducated but free. Free. (I have to repeat it even now as I relive that adrenaline rush for one more time).
By this time, dad had already built a successful restaurant business with his business partner and my first and most cherished ‘mentor’, Mario Bortoletto. And so, I left school and embarked on a career in the only thing I knew I could do and by May I was already working in a large brigade of chefs in a hotel in northern Sardinia.
I was lost, useless, lonely and had the shits.
By the end of week two, the head chef who had utter hatred for anything or anyone English (especially the hotel guests!), uttered the words that sent me rigid with fear, “Inglese bastardo. Ci non parle Italiano al fine de questo settimana, ti mando a casa!!!”
I literally ran through the pine forest (yes, the hotel was The Pineta Beach Hotel, set in acres of beautiful pine forest) to the bungalow housing some of the senior chefs.
They took me in and promised never to speak English to me again in front of the chef and taught me Italian every spare minute of every day for the remainder of the summer season.
When the hotel closed its doors for winter, the head chef and his wife invited me, the only apprentice that season, to do the winter season with them at Cortina D’Ampezzo.
Thanks, but no thanks. Italiano bastardo!
READ MORE: Catch up on Nadio’s earlier blogs right here
I came back to Huddersfield to do a year at The Pennine President (Cedar Court) before heading to Bali (where I hung out with a certain Boris Johnson) then on to Australia for a year followed by a year cycling with my then girlfriend (and wife of 28 years) from Huddersfield to southern Egypt and back and then set up Nadio’s Pizza and Pastas in Huddersfield.
After 18 successful years, and now with three beautiful children, I decided to get those qualifications I’d missed out on by leaving school at 16 and subsequently attended night classes for three years and gained my Masters in Marketing Management. I sold my businesses to my managers and then embarked on a new career in marketing which has led me to London where I happily find myself, on my houseboat, writing this blog.
Phew, 30 years in one sentence! So, what’s the relevancy? Why am I boring you with all this?
Because, if life has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me ‘resilience’. It’s taught me to equip myself for the roughest of rides because that’s my destiny and I need to be able to take whatever comes my way.
And so, at 8.34am this Monday, when I’m next going under the mask (it’s actually seven clamps, not four as I previously blogged) … I will be ready. I hate it. But it symbolises the mountain which I must climb, alone, to get to the other side.
It’s my mountain, nobody else’s. Will the grass be any greener on the other side? Well, is it ever?
At least in this scenario there is no other route. There is only one way and it’s up and over that mountain. There are footholds and ropes, metaphorically, and you, my family, friends, acquaintances are my Sherpas. You lighten my load and steer me in the right direction and when I may stumble you will not let me fall.
Some Sherpas, like the ‘impact sub’ are not yet on the pitch. But. I KNOW you are there and I KNOW I can call on you when needed.
A steep (let’s keep the association going a tad longer) learning curve for me was when I arrived in ‘Base Camp.’
My ‘rucksack’ was weak and I’d not packed it well. It would never have coped with the rigours of the journey so it needed to be abandoned and I found a tougher, more resolute me. Out went the low grade climbing equipment and in came less, but more resilient kit.
But. I’m not there yet. We’re only beyond the tree line and to be quite honest, whilst it’s had its challenges, I’m damned sure they are nothing compared to what’s to come and so I still do not know if I have the equipment required. But it’s all I have and if for that reason alone, it’s got to be good enough.
Thank you for indulging me by reading thus far. It is cathartic to be able to write my thoughts as I proceed on this journey and any comments or thumbs up all help.
Onwards and forever upwards. Nad x
READ MORE: Catch up on Nadio’s earlier blogs right here