'Nothing really went through my mind - it was more that my mind was going through my windscreen'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

How do you know when you've hit rock bottom? 

When he suffered a life threatening accident which almost took his life and that of his son, Lee Skeet thought he had, but his predicament was going to get a lot worse before getting better. 

The ex-Hedone chef had plans to open his own restaurant when he and his son were run over. 

"I was pushing him along in the pram walking along the pavement. My partner was pregnant, she was just behind us, and a lorry swerved on the wrong side of the road, came up the pavement at us.

"I saw it at the last second, I tried to shove my son out of the way, he was on wheels in his pram so I shoved him as far as I could out of the way and I just got mowed down by the lorry. 

"The next thing I knew, I was just on the floor, covered in rubble and blood.

'It changed everything'

Immobilised and unable to work, the chef lost his passion. He moved to Cardiff, which left him in a state of isolation, and didn't think about cooking for years.

Describing this as the catalyst for all of the negative things that happened to him since, he said, "everything is a 'before my accident' and 'after my accident.' From the second that happened - it changed everything completely." 

In the process of his physical rehabilitation, Lee turned to alcohol.

"I just didn't have anything to do," he said.

"For a couple of months I couldn't walk at all - or like meters. When I could walk, I could only walk to the shop. 

"It took me an hour to walk fifty metres, so I'd stop and have a beer. 

"I got in a bit of a bad cycle of not being able to work, physically, not having anything to do and no focus and feeling sorry for myself." 

One night, things took a turn for the worst. 

"I went out, drank too much, got in a stupid fight in the pub, stupidly got in my car because I was an idiot and crashed my car. Really badly. 

"I lost control completely. I had no control to start with. I went off a thirty foot drop and flipped the car, no seatbelt on or anything, just being completely stupid." 

Asked what crossed his mind at that point, he said: "Nothing really went through my mind - it was more that my mind was going through my windscreen, so I didn't really think about anything else.

"I just sat there in shock until I got arrested.

Social media's vengeance

The chef was spared the worst - he was indicted for the accident and sentenced to prison, but having taken the right steps to turn his life around, his lawyer overturned the sentence. 

"I didn't realise I was in as much trouble as I was to be fair. I thought I was going to get a little warning."

"I got taken to the hold-in to go to prison, it got that far, and then my solicitor carried on arguing."

"I'd brought drink and drugs tests with me that showed how long I'd been sober for, I could show that I've moved away and sorted myself out and built a relationship with my children and just turned everything around as much as I possibly could." 

However, the law may have witnessed his redemption, but others have not been so forgiving.

Lee is often targeted by individuals on his social media accounts.

"People will take something from it that's untrue and say it to someone else and before you know it again you're this scumbag who hasn't done anything to make himself better," he said. 

The implication being that he got into trouble and fled the police, "that was completely untrue, so I just responded and say 'no, actually, if you knew what happened - I messed up completely, I've always owned up to it, I've gone to court, I handed myself in at the time, I've got my punishment and I'm doing it at the moment." 

And while he is able to forgive the resentment that people feel, the hardest part is how harsh the digital medium can be - amplifying people's rage with the confidence a screen affords us.

"It sucks. I can cope, I'm a big guy, I can take a bit of criticism but when you see something negative and that's wrong - at least say something negative about me that's true, because there's enough. It just ruins my week, it makes me feel awful and I just feel like all the positive stuff is tarnished." 

Moving on

The chef has climbed back up the steepest of slopes, and his love for food has come back with a vengeance. Strange as it might sound, lockdown was the turning point for him. 

"One morning, I woke up. I never watched TV or kept up with the news so I didn't know what was going on. One morning I went to the pub and the pub was shut.

"I thought, 'ugh, 'bout time I start watching the news I think.'" 

"The first week or two I had nothing to do, living by myself and feeling sorry for myself, drinking. 

Whilst he can't pinpoint a specific point where everything changed, he said: "I just woke up one day and was like, 'I'm just going to stop all this' and just stopped that day." 

"I started running. The first day - I was fat as, by the way, I was so fat. Like some fat, bloated, bearded mess trying to get my arse out for a run. I ran about 100 metres and I was exhausted.

'I'm not the Dalai Lama. I don't know what I'm talking about.'

Though he insists that he isn't dependant on alcohol, Lee has decided that it was better for him not to drink at all, because of how it makes him feel - physically and mentally. 

"It's like - I'm drinking to get away from my actual problems. I'm not in the pub to drink, I'm in the pub to hide. 

His supper clubs have been fully booked throughout the lockdown, and he believes he is one of - if not the only chef - to run such events in Cardiff.

Despite everything that he has overcome, either out of humility or a lack of self-confidence, the chef doesn't see himself as being able to offer anyone advice on how to see difficulties through.

But twist his arm, and he does let a few words of counsel escape his lips.

"I don't know if I'm the best at giving advice. I just know that what worked for me was trying to spin things around.

I had a lot of negative things in front of me that were stopping me from doing anything," he continued - citing thoughts like "'I could do something positive today, or I could sit here and have a pint.'" 

"I just made every excuse I could possibly think of because there were so many things in front of me. 

"This sounds really lame, I know I'm not some kind of motivational speaker but the thing for me is that I really like a challenge or a battle." 

Envisioning the obstacles in his way, and deciding how to take them on one-by-one, he said, "I'm just going to see it as a fight.

"And once I've put that one down I'm going to go for the next one and try and attack things rather than let them stop me is what has helped me, but like I said, I'm not the Dalai Lama. I don't know what I'm talking about." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 10th December 2020

'Nothing really went through my mind - it was more that my mind was going through my windscreen'