Very few of you will understand just how difficult a decision it was to go on the long lost family show. I really want limited publicity but I also want others to learn and get some hope about the incredibly positive outcomes that can be had by an adoption that, for me, was handled in all the right ways.
Both sides had spent years trying to find each other, only to have twists of fate block it again and again.
There is a twist to my story that wasn't mentioned and I only found out about it because I was found. Those who are looking for the story behind the show we were on and the twist, will find it here. There are also lots of pictures below, from the meets we've had since we were reunited.
I have always known I was adopted, from before I can even remember. I knew I was almost a year old before my mum and dad adopted me and I knew my birth parents had kept me for several months before giving me up. That made me quite sure there was a sad story behind my adoption.
The day I was adopted
It wasn't until I had my own children that I realised just how strong a bond I had with them when they were 7 months old. I had always known there was something sad and possibly tragic behind the adoption and I had always had a strong suspicion that they never wanted to put me up for adoption. I knew I needed to find a way to tell them I was safe, I was okay and most importantly, I was happy.
I started to seriously think about finding my birth parents back in 1992 (I was 22 then) and I had the full support of both my mum and dad. The main focus of my wanting to locate them was to tell them I was okay. If they didn't want to meet me it didn't matter as much as them knowing I went to a good home.
The 1980's and early 1990's was a happy time for me. I had moved down to Torquay in 1986 and I discovered my love of fishing during this time.
I had the adoption interview in the late 1990's. This was a requirement for anyone adopted before 1978, which I was. I passed this with flying colours and they were happy for me to have the records I needed.
The problem was it wasn't made clear to me during the adoption interview what happens next so it was at this point it all started going horribly wrong.
I thought I was automatically put on the adoption list so if my birth parents ever tried to find me they could. It turned out I never went on that list and I had to do it myself. This was not made clear in my interview! Fast forward a few years and during a clear out of my office ALL documentation I had on my adoption and birth parents was accidentally thrown out. I had nothing left to try again.
I had lost everything to pick it up again 😰
The only thing left I could do was put up a page on Google so if any of them had ever put any kind of combination in Google, like my full birth name and date of birth, name and birth town, even just my name and the word adoption, it would have been the first result in Google. That page has been up for so many years I had pretty much given up all hope.
If you're looking for your child may I suggest you search Google but put in their FULL birth name (not just first and last name, the results are too many) and their date of birth... or various combinations around that. It isn't common but I know I did it in the hope I'd find my birth parents. I had also posted in several adoption website message boards and my birth name and date of birth used to also show up on them. It really is worth a try and I'll be keeping all my fingers and toes crossed for you all!
I've always known I was adopted but a part of the documents my adoptive mum had kept for me was a letter from my birth mum. In this letter it gave some information about both birth parents, what they were doing at college and it also gave the reasons for the adoption. It also said that James, my birth dad, didn't want me and had left Marion.
During the filming the big curve ball was James. I had no idea he was still around, or how much this meant to him. When I read his letter on camera I wasn't retaining the words. I had so many emotions I honestly couldn't think straight, I was reading for the camera but not a single word was sinking in at all.
The problem is Marion, my birth mother, never wrote me a letter and none of the information in the letter is correct, especially about James.
It was a few hours later, when the film crew had gone, that I reread his letter and realised how important this was for him. I was focusing on Marion only because I thought only she was looking for me.
I feel so guilty now that I didn't see it while I was being filmed. I wish I had been filmed once I understood how much this meant to James. I'm so sorry James!
I'm not sure who wrote the letter and I doubt now I will ever find out for sure. I have lived my entire life thinking I had all the answers. No matter how that letter came to be, Apart from the father leaving bit, I have no regrets I had it. Without the letter it is possible my life would have been different. It made my life a happy one so how I can regret it now?
Every parent that has been forced into giving up their child for adoption, know that you will forever have my utmost respect and admiration for having to do something so incredibly difficult to do!
The people on the Long Lost Family show were ALL amazing! There are no sneaky tactics, no slight of hand, no anything that would cause the company behind the show any kind of embarrassment or scandal. What you saw was real and raw emotion coming from me as I discovered the bombshell after bombshell.
I'll mention a few things that I have been asked a lot...
Because of the letter I had growing up, I wasn't sure they had found the right people. I kept thinking "Is it possible they have made a mistake?". They kept saying things like "No question, we are really sure". I couldn't understand how they could be so sure... until Nicky handed me the photo of James. The huge smile you see on the show as I hold his picture is because at that moment, I KNEW how they could be SO sure. Damn, we really do look so much alike :)
I was filmed at the Grand Hotel in Torquay with Nicky Campbell. It was almost empty when the filming started but by the end the whole room was packed. A friend came with me for support and she said people who had watched the show before could be heard saying things like "Oh my god, this is where he gets the letter" and "This is it! This is where he gets the photos". Not a single person posted anything on social media about it. Everyone there knew how important this was and no-one spoiled it. A HUGE thank you to everyone in the Grand Hotel that day for not posting about it and for the staff there for looking after us so well!
The filming on the day of the meeting lasted several hours. We had the filming getting ready, the walk to the meeting place and then the filming of the meet. The Pier Point Restaurant was a fantastic place to hold the meet. You genuinely don't get to see each other. They had to film both parties walking in at different times while also keeping us out of sight of each other.
There was a fair bit of filming that morning but all the emotions went into overdrive once the filming of me walking towards the restaurant begun. At that point I already knew that James and Marion would have been filmed entering the restaurant and they would be kept out of sight now that I was now walking towards the restaurant. I knew I wouldn't catch a glimpse of them but that didn't stop me looking as I was being filmed opening the restaurant door at various angles.
It was such an incredible and emotional feeling to know that they were in there. I was starting to feel sick. I deliberately hadn't eaten that day but it made no difference. When I was moved outside of the building and around the corner, I knew they were being sat down, ready for me to walk in. At that point I really felt like I was going to be sick. One of the crew stayed with me while I was waiting. I could see I was losing the colour in my face.
When I was I told everything was ready I only had to walk 14 steps. After 5 steps I could see inside the restaurant and I saw both of them through the window sat there waiting for me. As I walked through the door I was not only battling the raw emotion from all these years, I was also trying not to throw up all over them because of the nerves. I don't think that would have made an ideal first impression of their son.
We instantly clicked. Within just a minute or two I felt better, much less nervous and I was no longer worried about any projectile vomit heading in their direction. It's weird but we all totally forgot the cameras were there. The crew kept themselves way at the back and the cameras were discreet and not in our faces.
When I read James's letter after the Nicky filming I knew how big a deal this was for him. When I saw him talking it came across even more just how much this meant to him. I could also, for the first time, see how emotional Marion was and how much pain she had over the whole adoption. Letters and photos never convey the raw emotional loss and regret. I was determined to let them know I had no guilt, no regrets and for the most part, had a happy life. It was so important for me to portray this as much as I could and I think it did help them.
I think we must have been chatting for at least an hour or two (I lost all track of time!) before I was told Suzie and Stacy were coming. As the adoptive person, there on their own, you are never sure how all of them will react. I now knew how James and Marion truly felt but I still didn't know how Suzie or Stacy would be with me. Would they accept me? Were there any misgivings? Would they like me? The nerves started building up again but the second I looked into their eyes through the window, before they had even walked through the door, I instantly knew everything was going to be okay. Before anyone said a single word, before we even hugged, I already knew this was going to work out and how much it meant to all of them and to me.
The film crew barely bothered us. We were not directed to say anything or do anything. Everything you see was just us. I had to hold up the photos for the camera a couple of times towards the end but that was it. We were left alone and everything you see is exactly how it happened, with no interference from the crew.
So to answer some of the questions I have been asked by the few who know…
This reminds me…
Before the filming dates had been set I had a meeting arranged with a new client and we had chosen the costa coffee shop down by Torquay seafront. The date of the meeting turned out to be the day before the filming of the meet. When the crew phoned me on that day before the filming to see how I was doing I told them I was keeping busy by meeting a new client. When I told them 'where' I was meeting I think they had kittens. All the family had arrived that day and were staying at the Grand hotel, just down the road from where I was meeting the client. I was asked to moved the meeting place as a matter of urgency in case any of them fancied a walk along the sea front and saw me :)
I couldn't get hold of the client so I had to go there, meet them (they had just sat down with drinks) and ask them to move to a new meeting place urgently. As we were walking to a different place I explained why and what was happening. I think it was possibly the most strangest and craziest meeting I've ever had but they were SO understanding and I still landed the job :)
The crew allowed me to take a photo of them with me. They are also the stars of the show, so professional and caring!
We planned between us to go back to the Grand Hotel to catch up further. James, Marion, Suzie and Stacy were so sweet. As the filming was wrapping up at Pier Point they asked me if it was okay to meet their partners when we got to the Grand Hotel. They were desperate not to put me under any pressure and told me I didn't have to meet anyone else if I didn't want to. I honestly didn't feel under any pressure and I straight away said I'd love to meet them. Their faces when I said that was a picture, huge beaming smiles 😄
So we all we went back to the Grand Hotel and I met the husbands and wives of James, Marion, Stacy and Suzie. They also met my children and we had a meal there. I think four billion photos were taken that night 😄
Talk about two peas in a pod!
A WhatsApp group was started on the evening we met and we keep in touch pretty much every day. They called it "We Found Simon". When they started talking about how huge the family is, I cheekily suggestion it should be renamed to "Simon just found half of the UK and Ireland" :) The "We Found Simon" group is still going today and it is still very active.
We are all also friends on Facebook but we have to limit what we say and post on there. We were asked not to post the photos or mention the show on social media. We mostly chat on WhatsApp and we exchange all our photos on there, away from public eyes… until the show aired.
I've met them all several times since the filming. It had been impossible for me to leave Devon, even for a day, but they have been driving down here to see me any time they have a spare day or two.
James at the spot I used to think about them the most often, making this the most surreal photo I've ever taken!
We all feel like we've known each other forever. I cannot even begin to explain how this is even possible. I've seen people say that in the past and I thought it was nonsense. How wrong I was!
It is all going really well and we are all a big part in each others lives. It still feels unreal that we've finally found each other!
My mum (the one I grew up with) was diagnosed with terminal cancer right in the middle of all the filming and she was given a few weeks left to live. She also had been suffering from dementia for many months so I had been helping care for her at home with my StepDad Dave. It meant it had been impossible for me to leave Devon, even for a day. She sadly passed away on the 8th April. We are always open about the adoption. Her one wish had been to meet Marion and James, give them a huge hug and tell them how grateful she was for having me. She sadly deteriorated too quickly, just before our first meet and sadly passed before it could happen.
It was a very difficult time for me but their support and understanding has been incredible, above and beyond all my hopes and dreams. As each day passes we are all getting closer and closer and the bond is growing stronger.
A few weeks after my mum passed away I went up there with my kids and we stayed at James's house. We've been up there a couple of times since and we are all going on a holiday to North Devon in the summer. My kids and all their kids are getting on SO well. They also have a WhatsApp group that even now, can have a hundred messages a day!
Here is a small selection from some of the meet ups we've had since the filming…
My daughters with my sisters and their partners at Nando's in Exeter.
Me and my sisters at Goodrington beach in Paignton.
Marion also at the spot I thought about them the most.
Lunch at Pier Point 4 weeks later. This was the table it all started on!
When I was adopted, the birth family medical history was kept hidden so I could never know what health problems ran in the family.
I was already on tablets for heart problems but if it wasn't for my newly discovered birth family all pushing for me to have it checked again, I would never have known how bad the coronary heart disease (rampant problem in the family!) had become.
Just last week I had an emergency quadruple heart bypass because my arteries had deteriorated so badly and so quickly. Finding them has quite literally just saved my life!
There was no way my (birth) Dad James could contact me to warn me of the serious risk I had for heart disease. He had stressed and worried for years, the stress increasing as the years went by. I went through medical tests and delays because I didn't know what was wrong with me.
Simply put; I should be dead. Long Lost Family was my birth families last resort. If our story had not been picked by the show I would not be alive now typing this. How many deaths are there each year because people like me have no access to medical records? The process for getting them is long, tedious and requires both sides to have initiated the adoption register process.
The fathers back then were often not put on the adoption register. My (birth) Dad James was one of those who was not on my birth certificate. He had no chance at all of being allowed to go on the adoption register.
I have spoken to my local MP, Kevin Foster. He thought there should be some kind of access to the medical records but Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister for Children disagrees and thinks everything is working as intended. I am sure many others have died with the way things are now and I'm 100% positive there will be many more in the future. Having access to your medical history should be a right. If children who are adopted now have those rights why can't the older generation of adopted babies have the same rights?
Please, someone pick this up and let's try and get the law tweaked so fewer adopted children from prior decades die...
Marion and James will never have to say sorry to me. I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for them both. I don't know what the outcome of all of this will be but the single most important part for me has been completed, they know how I feel about them and their decision. I would have hated for them to pass away with any guilt or regret when there was no need for either.
When I was watching some of the shows I saw people saying that they felt instantly connected to them. I never understood that. How could strangers feel that much connection so quickly? Now I get it. When I look at their photos, or their faces when we meet, I feel that bond so strongly. It is a really strange feeling indeed!
I didn't understand just how brave they were until I had my first child. I was adopted at around 7 months old. When my daughter reached 7 months old I vividly remember holding her in my arms and picturing what I would feel like if someone came in the room and took my daughter from my arms and she was then gone forever. It was the strongest emotions I've ever felt and my daughter had the biggest, most loving hug I've ever given her!
If Marion and James hadn't given me up for adoption I may of had other children, but they would have never been the two I have now. My two daughters make me the happiest dad in the entire world.
My mum, my sister Sadie, my step-dad Dave and my friends Gill, Kadie, Sheps and Cherry were all incredibly supportive throughout this process and I want to say a huge thank you to them all for everything they have done! Without them this would have been a struggle to get through emotionally. I would also like to also thank Katherine and Caroline from the Lost Lost Family team. Their support all through this was above and beyond what I expected from them. The show really does care and they all look after you so well! I could not have been in any safer hands because of all the names mentioned above!
I am SO glad everything in my life, both the good times and bad times, happened the way it did! I would not change a single decision I've ever made in this life because it all worked out in the end…