Anger – Week 46 of the 52 week short story challenge

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For the purged

‘So,’ he said, ‘What makes you feel angry?’

I looked at him with the kind of face you pull when you really can’t believe that someone has asked you such a silly question.

‘You know better than anyone what makes me feel angry.’

He laughs. ‘I know what I think makes you feel angry but I don’t know if they are the same things. Tell me? I really want to know.’

I shrug and take a deep breath. I hate these word games but we have to play them so I might as well get it over with.

‘Child abuse, adult abuse, domestic violence, abuse of power – particularly when it is well-paid MPs and greedy members of officialdom taking money and services away from those who desperately need them. Let’s face it – abuse makes me angry – in any form.’

He nods calmly, infuriatingly calm in fact.

‘So how does it feel when someone who doesn’t even know you accuses you of ‘abusive behaviour’ then?’

That makes my hackles rise.

‘The alleged ‘abusive behaviour’ was accidental and it was not aimed at any individual, and doesn’t meet any prescribed criteria of abuse anyway.’

I can feel my face getting hot and red.

He nods. Still calm.

‘But somebody felt offended by that behaviour. Somebody felt strongly enough about the abusive behaviour to complain about it, didn’t they?’

‘No. It wasn’t like that and you know it wasn’t. The powers that be were after us because they disagreed with us. They were frightened of the power that we held due to our numbers and so they sought to cut those numbers down – by using underhand – and I think illegal methods.’

He frowns. ‘Illegal? How do you mean?’

‘I never gave anyone permission to go trawling through my social media accounts. I only gave them the details because they said that the information was needed to communicate with me. I don’t think that the person who originally made the form thought that the data would be used in such an underhand way. That kind of Machiavellian process comes from someone with a particularly devious and hateful mind.’

He is still frowning and I can see that I have him on uncomfortable ground. So do I press him or back off? I look over at my lovely friend; the one who supported me when I had to battle against authority before. She gives a very slight shake of her head and I back off. He looks down at his sheaf of papers again.

‘I need to ascertain whether or not you feel any regret over your actions – and whether you would be likely to make this kind of comment again.’

This really makes my blood boil. My friend is desperately trying to catch my eye and calm me down.

‘All I did was retweet something that someone else said – and unfortunately that same person added hash tags on the end of the tweet that I hadn’t even noticed. I subsequently found out that the words in those hash tags were banned from use three weeks later. I regret not noticing those words now but as they were banned after they had been used, I had no control over the action. Would I be likely to make that kind of comment again? No. Nor would I be so foolish as to allow anyone to have access to my social media accounts.’

‘That wasn’t quite what I was asking for.’

‘That is all you are going to get from me. I am the person whose reputation has been defamed, I lost my vote as a consequence of this underhand behaviour and now you expect me to grovel and apologise? Forget it mate!’

It is at this point that my friend puts her hand on my arm and turns to the young man.

‘Please don’t take it personally, we both know that you are trying to sort things out but I don’t think the people who started this realise how much harm has been done – or what a horrible position you are being put in having to go round and sort out issues that are of someone else’s causing.’

Although I am angry, I know that she is right. This earnest young man is not responsible for causing my anger. The people who did that are too frightened to face us because they know what damage they have done. It was intentional. All part of a noxious plan to put the wrong person back in power. I am still seething but I am back to a simmer rather than a boil.

‘I can offer you membership but this incident will stay on file.’

This is not fair but there is a bigger picture here. This ‘staying on file’ is intended to insult me and make me feel so angry that I stand up and walk away – if you don’t want me then I don’t want you. But that is exactly what they want. They failed to get rid of enough of us to win at the first attempt, so now they are trying to alienate us with this additional slight.

I look across at my friend and she nods.

‘Okay. Do what you want. I want to be a member so that I can help to get rid of the people who are attacking the vulnerable people and making them suffer.’

His shoulders slowly sink back down to a normal level and he seems surprised that I have capitulated so easily.

‘It isn’t just about me you see. I have to remember that there is a bigger picture. I really don’t care about what your boss and his deluded friends think of me. My thoughts are my own and will stay that way if there is any chance that they’ll be used against me again. There is one thing though…’

My friend looks worried and so does the young man.

‘Not only do I love the Foo Fighters, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the Stranglers, but Lemmy from Motorhead will always be my hero. So ner.’

It ends in laughter and more than a little relief. I don’t see it as stepping down. There is work to be done and I need my freedom in order to support others.

And then I stepped out of the shower.

 

 

 

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A Small Political Intervention – Week 31 of the 52 week short story challenge

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I’ve always liked people who have a twinkle in their eyes. A wry smile rather than an ear-splitting guffaw. A sense that there is more going on behind those eyes than you might think.

I’ve already written about my renewed interest in political matters (Week 29 ‘To Thine Own Self Be True‘) but recent developments require a small updating.

I am officially a registered supporter of the Labour party – having forked out my 25 quids and refrained from using threats, bad language or failing to support the aims and objectives of the Labour party.

Twitter has become a bit of an obsession and I am sure that I retweet far more than I should but I haven’t had any rude comments – so far.  I follow quite a few comedians and writers, organisations dedicated to preserving wildlife, the Green party (I promised the  young Master of Science and all things Green that I would – although I don’t follow him on principle in case I see something that a mother shouldn’t.) I also follow my wonderful cousin Ali Sparkes who writes brilliant children’s books and my friend Mark who runs a business cleaning ovens, houses and offices.

The number of people I follow – and who follow me – has increased threefold in the last couple of weeks. The bulk of my Twitter acquaintance has come about because of Jeremy Corbyn. I have also discovered the joys of muting and blocking – the Twitter equivalents of Pacman – and a satisfying way of getting rid of Twitterers who are rude, threatening or trying desperately to get other people into trouble.

As a new Labour party member, I took it upon myself to find out who the MPs were, who they represented, those that were brave enough to sign up for Twitter, and what kind of tweets they put on.

My conclusions are:

  • some Labour MPs are exceptionally hard-working and use their Twitter accounts to publicise events and good works in their constituency areas. They don’t put negative tweets on. You can learn about them as people and MPs from what they write.
  • some Labour MPs use their Twitter accounts as a weapon to disrespect other members of their own party  – and other Twitterers. They moan about bullying and abuse but are quick to make threats, abusive comments and tell HUGE great porkie pies in order to whip their supporters up into a frenzy. You can learn about them as people and MPs from what they write.

I do my best not to retweet stuff with lots of bad language; I know that tempers run high and there are times when a good swear helps but not in writing and not in a place where it can be used against you.

Fellow Twitterers that resort to personal insults get blocked (after I’ve had a sneaky peek at their profiles). Someone had a look at mine and commented that I wasn’t worth bothering with – phew!

Apologies to the nice chaps out there but most of the really aggressive and abusive Twitterers do seem to be ‘ bully boys’ of a certain age who have little else to do but make nasty comments and cause trouble. Block!

I like Jeremy Corbyn because he doesn’t do nasty. Even when faced with the most biased interviewer or Cruella de May herself, he remains calm, reasonable and polite.  People complain that he doesn’t defend himself in PMQs but this is merely because he doesn’t have to stoop to the personal insults, cackling and hectoring of Cameron, May and their supporters. The silly Labour boys and girls who join in with juvenile and disruptive behaviour fail to understand that they are making themselves look stupid. Who wants to elect an MP who behaves like a spoilt child and a bully?

I certainly don’t.

The trouble is, we have become so used to politicians being arrogant, rude, insulting, lying, claiming ‘honours’ for friends, and being totally out of touch with their constituents, that when an honest man appears, a man who doesn’t wear Savile Row suits, uses public transport or rides his bike, AND is a vegetarian, we don’t know what to do.

We don’t believe him.

Politicians are not allowed to be honest and trustworthy. They are supposed to have deep dark secrets concerning the source of their wealth, their illicit affairs and their unsavoury habits. We have been overtaken by career and hereditary politicians who are looking for fame, glory and power. Especially power.

No.

Enough now.

There are good politicians out there. People who have gone into politics because they want to make changes for the good. Because they want to help disabled people, disenfranchised youth, immigrants, people living below the poverty line – anyone who needs them really.

People like Jo Cox MP.

She may not have agreed with everything the leader of her party did and said, but she would not have sworn at him, accused him of persecuting her or threatened violence to him. She tried to achieve change through positive words and actions. Other MPs would do well to look back on her works and learn from them.

Aggression, violence, lies and threats solve nothing. Using them to try to harm Jeremy Corbyn is pointless; he shrugs off such behaviour like the impotent drops of poison that they are. We give people the power to hurt us and somehow, Jeremy has has the skill of diminishing that power – wherever it comes from.

I shall continue to Tweet and Retweet. I don’t know if Jeremy will win the leadership election – I really hope he does and that the Labour party pulls itself together and upholds the aims and the objectives that it so keen for the rest of us to uphold. I hope that the silly boys and girls on the back benches stop squabbling,  work for their constituents and support their leader as they should – he was democratically elected after all and the Labour party embraces democracy – doesn’t it?

The Referendum has already caused hurt and harm throughout the land – and I don’t care what the Brexiteers say – they had no idea of the devastation that a Leave vote would cause for all of us.

Now is the time for the Labour party to unify behind their leader, not indulge in petty fights and name-calling. Time to earn trust and expect nothing more than respect for good works.

It is a time to be honest, to understand the meaning of integrity.

It may not be Jeremy Corbyn who leads Labour into a General Election in 2020; there are other MPs in the wings who are not ready to lead just yet but given time…

They are the MPs that listen and learn, that fight against discrimination and prejudice, that put themselves out to combat injustice.

No more nastiness please?

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To Thine Own Self Be True – Week 29 of the 52 week short story challenge

 

 

 

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This week’s title was actually F*** You but I thought that might be construed as being a little aggressive so I amended it a bit. This isn’t really a story as such – a bit of a rant maybe so skip on out of here if you aren’t interested in what I have to say.

I was raised in an atmosphere of mild politics. My Dad was a shop steward for the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW) when he worked for Sainsburys, and my Mum was secretary to her branch of the Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) when she worked for British Rail (before privatisation). At that time men working for BR had four free rail tickets per year and discounted tickets for themselves, their wives and families. Women working for BR only got these perks for themselves and not their families. My Mum fought for parity and my Mum won.

When the Social Democrat Party was formed, Mum was one of the first people to join because she didn’t like the way Labour was heading. After seven years the SDP merged with the Liberal party and Mum reverted to her Labour roots. She was very involved in social security tribunals and managed to overturn many unfair and arbitrary decisions made by other more ‘qualified’ panel members. She had a strong sense of justice and remained interested in politics all her life.

Her legacy to me was ‘To thine own self be true‘.

In my teens, my own dalliance with politics was more than a little mercenary. I joined the Southampton International Socialist group when I was fifteen. I was studying modern history and like so many other teenagers, thought that communism was the answer – for a very short while. SIS was quite glamorous; they were all older than me, bought me lager and lime in the pub and tried in vain to get me to stand in the precinct in town and sell ‘Socialist Worker’.

I had expressed a desire at the time to be a journalist – or a social worker.

By the time I had left school and started on ‘A’ levels, my interests had moved  dramatically, and to the NUS and the local students’ union. I participated in events and activities and by the time I was in my final year I was elected (unopposed) as Entertainments Secretary. Not that any of my events ever made much of a profit – some of them made an outstanding loss – but they were always entertaining.

I attended the Blackpool NUS conference in 1979. I met the Goodies and was present when Keith Joseph was discovered lurking up in the balcony. We stood up as one and hissed at him, refusing to go on until he left. It was all rather exciting at the time.

Politics were put on hold for a couple of years as I dallied with speech training and dramatic art, and a close encounter or two with my local pub.

A twist of fate and a couple of soda siphons led me back to social work and a job on the lowest rung of the ladder as a houseparent.

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On my first day at work, the deputy officer in charge stopped me as he was leaving.

‘I need to have a word with you – tomorrow.’

Panic!

What had I done wrong?

I barely slept that night and could cheerfully have thumped him when I discovered that he just wanted to ask me about joining the union – NALGO (National Union of Local Government Officers – later absorbed into Unison). I joined. More out of relief than anything else.

In 1984 we went on strike. It was almost as exciting as going to conference. We were out for three months in total and there was an atmosphere of camaraderie as we sat outside on picket lines with our tents and camping chairs. I was working in a children’s home and whilst agency staff were employed to ‘look after’ the children, in reality the children spent more time out on the picket line with us.

NALGO paid our wages and we thought we were making an impact.

We weren’t.

The strike fizzled out when the weather turned bad. We returned to work without realising how much damage had been done. Homes were closed. Junior staff like me were redeployed but senior staff found themselves passed over for promotion because of their disloyalty in going out on strike.

The cost was high; a lovely man who had been a driving force in our protests became so depressed by his demotion and lack of prospects, that he took his wife and son out for a drive in the country, drugged them both and rigged up a hosepipe to the exhaust.

All three of them died.

They weren’t the only ones who died as a consequence of the strike. I promised myself that I would never go out on strike again.

Life moved on and I managed to avoid union membership or too much political involvement bar voting in local and national elections. I usually voted Labour – except for the year when I didn’t like the candidate and was persuaded by my eldest son to vote Green. My husband has his own preferences but we decided a long time ago not to argue over politics – so we don’t.

Then I came across Jeremy Corbyn. I liked him. Compared to the glossy, posh-suited politicians he was a breath of fresh air – although he had been around for a long time apparently – quietly rebelling against the Blairite MPs who were only a step away from the tories.

My sons introduced me to social media; the eldest to Twitter and the youngest to FaceAche – although he unfriended me very quickly.

‘Mum! Stop liking my posts!’

We use FaceAche now to keep in contact with friends and family mostly. My husband and I share a page so it is an eclectic mix of both our interests.

I came off Twitter for a while because it was becoming my favourite waste of time.

I don’t always like what I see on FaceAche. I skip over or hide anything that I find unacceptable and I expect others to do the same if they see anything they don’t like amongst my posts.

It came as something of a shock when a family member disowned me because of poor Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently she saw him as the spawn of the devil and responsible for all that is bad in the world. I was given a choice. Stop putting my thoughts and opinions on FaceAche or be unfriended.

It hurts when someone you have known all your life turns their back on you.

To thine own self be true.

I am in my 50s now and have many years of social work under my belt. It’s a shame if others are upset because I won’t do as I’m told just to make them happy, but I think I have earned the right to know my own mind by now.

Then came the Referendum.

My eldest son is a Master of Science and a PhD student. He spoke very eloquently in defence of staying in the EU, knowing that EU funding is responsible for most of the research carried out in this country. He showed me where to find information on the possible effects of leaving the EU and I posted them on my page – with the proviso that no one HAD to read it if they didn’t want to.

Scroll – scroll on.

Most of our friends and family were of the same mind. There were more casualties though; a friend who felt that it was her role in life to put opposing posts on my page in order to give more ‘balance’. The posts were totally subjective and not well researched so they were deleted. And reposted. And deleted. I had to block and unfriend in the end to save my sanity. It was not a decision I took lightly.

To thine own self be true.

The murder of Jo Cox MP was shocking and showed so clearly how easy it is for political hatred to influence the most vulnerable in society so that they can commit such heinous crimes and believe that they are doing the right thing.

Such a waste of a life.

The Brexiteers won.

There was an increase in racist attacks almost immediately – as if the outcome was an excuse to persecute and harass anyone with a different skin colour, accent or surname.

I was accused by another family member of being a bad loser because I wasn’t happy about the outcome. I didn’t feel that those who had voted to leave on the grounds that it would stop us being ‘over run’ by immigrants and ruled by the EU had really looked into the possible economic and environmental impact.

I was getting very fed up with being told to ‘get over it’ by people who had caused chaos without knowing fully what they had done.

Said family member stated that ALL remain campaigners were being horrible (by pointing out that leaving the EU wasn’t going to happen overnight and that there were going to be a lot of casualties). I dared to argue and was told that I should stop playing the victim and that I was full of hatred.

To thine own self be true.

Block and unfriend.

I have never felt myself to be a victim of anyone or anything. My Mum taught me to stand up for myself and the things that matter to me.

There have been times in my life when the strength of opposition has been huge – but never totally overwhelming – due largely to the support of my husband, friends and family.

I don’t hate anyone or anything – except maybe spiders. And Brussels’ sprouts.

To hate you have to want to kill – it takes quite an effort for me to exterminate a spider so I couldn’t kill a fellow human being however repellent their behaviour is. I certainly don’t hate anyone just because we see things differently.

The current Labour situation angers me. I despise bullying and the abuse of power. Liars and arrogant politicians who ignore their electorate are equally despicable.

The behaviour of certain Labour MPs, the Parliamentary Labour Party  and Labour NEC goes beyond despicable.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t bitch about his fellow MPs or about the opposition. It drives them mad and they do their best to goad him into a response that can be spread around the media like wildfire.

I’m back on Twitter.

I joined Labour to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Labour NEC changed the rules.

I joined Unite so I could vote as an affiliated member and vote for Jeremy Corbyn.  Labour NEC changed the rules. I will stay with Unite though, I like their policies.

I joined Labour as a registered member and paid my twenty-five quid so that I could vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Labour NEC set a timescale of forty-eight hours to register and used a woefully inadequate website that constantly crashed due to the huge numbers of people trying to register.

It took me eight goes but I got through in the end and I have the email to prove it.

Many of the people who became registered voters are on low incomes and are having to go without to pay their twenty-five quids.

I feel humbled by those who have made this sacrifice in order to see that justice is done.

A nice woman set up a crowdfunding site to for those who couldn’t afford it. She raised over fourteen thousand pounds but the NEC have told her that she has to shut it down because it is ‘buying’ memberships and against the rules.

Not sure how you can buy memberships for people who have already joined the Labour party but needed to stump up and extra twenty-five quid in order to vote.

I have learnt much from Twitter.

I have learnt that it is better to block than to bicker with people who are out to cause trouble. Using the ‘Mute’ option on Twitter is also very satisfying.

I now know the truth about the Blairites who are doing their damnedest to distract people from the Chilcot Report – and who are behind the whole ‘get rid of Jeremy Corbyn‘ campaign because they know that he will not defend the part they played in the Iraq war.

I have witnessed the arrogance of people who spread lies about death threats, bricks through windows, homophobia and anti-semitism – without realising that they will get found out in the end.

The media (most of which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch) has forgotten the meaning of impartial reporting – especially the BBC.

The total lack of compassion shown by those who will vote for nuclear missiles that cost billions of pounds but jeer at the poor and the disabled.

I hope that Jeremy Corbyn overcomes the obstacles; that he remains leader of the  Labour party, that the NEC and PLP finally realise that it is the members that they answer to – not to the media, big business or Blair and his acolytes.

I hope that those who choose to support Jeremy Corbyn have the opportunity to serve their constituents well. There are many more bright stars waiting in the wings.

Jeremy Corbyn is an honest man; a man of integrity, a rare thing in a world of lies and political spin.

To thine own self be true.

 

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2nd Person Perspective – Week 20 of the 52 week short story challenge

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This is for you. Leeroy, Ray, Chris, Nicky, Sarah, Kim and Mark.

In ten years of residential social work I came to know hundreds of children and young people.

The actual list is a very long one.

When I started work as a twenty-one year old volunteer in a small group children’s home, I was very naive.

I learned about bullying.

I learned that the abuse of children didn’t just occur within families.

I learned that whilst telling the truth was important to me, it wasn’t important to others who were older and in positions of power.

I met you Leeroy, and I won’t forget you. You were a small ginger-haired boy whose mother was too confused by her mental health issues to look after you. Plucked from your familiar but disorganised home and thrust into a huge, rambling house full of loud and angry children. You might just as well have had ‘victim’ printed on your forehead.

You bore the brunt of the fury of a family of six children. They aged from four to fourteen and had been taken into care due to their parents drug and alcohol dependencies and chaotic lifestyle. They were very protective of each other and had quickly learned to store up grievances to tell their parents when they visited every other Saturday afternoon.

Their parents were quite happy that their children were in care. They had no food or clothing bills to pay, no having to get up to take the children to school and no responsibility – which left them free to drink and party – provided that they were sober enough to turn up once a fortnight for the visit.

Although I was only a volunteer, I did my best to look out for you when I was in the house Leeroy.

I couldn’t be there all the time though, and I would often arrive to find you in tears having been set upon by your tormentors. I complained to the manager. He was too afraid of the family and their parents to do anything.

In the end I phoned your social worker and told her what was going on.

Of course there was no mention of the bullying in the log book – a work of total fiction.

Your social worker listened to me and a foster home was found for you, possibly because it was easier to move one small victim of bullying whose mother couldn’t fight for him, than to challenge the warped but effective dynamics of a family who had learned to manipulate the system so well.

You were eight years old then and you would be a grown man of forty-four now.

I never found out what had happened to you; I got a real job in another children’s home after three months of being a volunteer.

This job couldn’t have been more different. The home was modern; purpose-built to house up to sixteen boys and girls. The staff – including the officer-in-charge – were young and enthusiastic.

I was allocated two boys  – Ray and Chris – to ‘keywork’. You were rather scary Ray; coming up to your sixteenth birthday and about to move into the ‘Leaving Care’ programme which would see you moved into a bedsit and kitted out with the means to look after yourself. The material means that is. You were always very volatile Ray and whilst I learned quite quickly that you were also easily distracted, I found myself on the receiving end of your anger too many times. I tried to form some kind of a relationship with you but there had already been a family who rejected you and too many earnest key workers by the time we met, and there was a collective sigh of relief when we sent you off into the big bad world.

Oh but Chris, you couldn’t have been more different. You had started at senior school; a sweet-faced tubby boy who could have been another victim if it hadn’t been for a strong and united staff attitude toward bullying. Like Leeroy, you had a mother who couldn’t cope with life and you had been brought into care in order to relieve you of the responsibility of looking after her.

My job was to teach you how to play, to be less serious, to focus on your own needs and to leave others to deal with your mother’s demands.

Whilst Ray taught me about violence and aggression Chris, you reminded me that children in care need to be given the opportunity to be children. We had fun. We went to the Isle of Wight on the ferry, and spent the day on the beach watching the boats and eating sandwiches and ice cream. I introduced you to the library and to Roald Dahl.

I read ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ to you and your two roommates – into the early hours. You didn’t want me to stop and stayed awake whilst the other two were snoring. When I finished the book and left the room I found Ray and another older boy asleep in the corridor outside. They had been listening too.

You did well Chris; at school and in the foster home that we found you. We were never encouraged to keep in touch though, in case it prevented you settling into your new life.

It was one aspect of the job that I found hard.

Turn the time forward ten years; my husband and I are in an electrical store looking for our first CD player. My husband is talking to the manager – who looks a little familiar. Tall, slim and immaculately dressed.

Chris.

Chris who found it much easier to recognise me. Chris who is now the manager of this store, a husband and a father of a baby girl.

So proud of you Chris.

Completely humbled by the fact that you are so grateful to me for doing my job.

And you gave us a very good discount on the CD player.

Nicky, you were the never to be forgotten enigma. A strange boy who had come home from school one day to find that his mother had died, in front of the TV with an empty whisky bottle by her side.

One of the few real orphans I had ever looked after. You were quirky; you had suitcases of your mother’s clothes that you couldn’t be parted from. You were bright – too bright for some of the staff – and I had some of my most challenging moments with you.

Five sets of foster parents did their best to give you a home, and each time you came back to us, more angry and confused.

Officialdom shut the home down, together with several others, and one last set of foster parents had to be found for you. They were almost as quirky as you Nick, and they seemed to be dealing with your behaviour quite well.

I moved on with my life.

I qualified as a social worker and got promoted.

My new workplace was an observation and assessment centre – short-stay allegedly – and with education on the premises, and a secure unit.

Not long after I’d bumped into Chris in the electrical shop, you turned up at my new place of work.

A new admission they said. You might remember him from your previous place; his name is Nick. He is odd.

So you were sent to us because no one knew what to do with you. There were no other foster parents for you now that you were a six-foot seventeen-year old – who had an interest in hairdressing and whose personality had achieved full-blown camp. I found you delightful.

You were no easier to deal with; age and experience had given you to ability to wind up staff and other young people alike. You went through social workers like a dose of salts – especially the young and newly qualified who thought that they could make something of you.

Only you could do that.

You left us after a couple of months and moved into a boys’ residential home that specialised in settling those who were leaving care.

Years on, and the manager of that home is being prosecuted for abusing boys in his care. I would lay money on it that he didn’t try it on with you Nick.

I came across several Sarah’s over the years, but you were the most important Sarah to me.

Neither you nor Kim were easy to look after but then I always tended to have more empathy with the young people who presented a challenge.

Together with Kim, you came to my engagement party, and were extremely elegant in posh frocks and hats at my wedding. Friends and family were asking who you were and how I knew you both. I didn’t tell them you were looked-after children. You were far too composed and assured for that.

You had become friends.

I have no doubt that you sorted out life for yourselves.

Mark – you marked the end of the line for residential childcare for me.

You were so damaged at ten years old, that no end of therapy and one-to-one work could make a difference. We spent time together; we cooked, repaired an old rocking horse, went for long walks and I read bedtime stories to you but nothing I did could break through.

The other staff tried but found you impenetrable. Some of them blamed me because it was easier than admitting defeat.

I took a great many kicks and punches from you and one day it was all too much.

I was married to a man who loved me and hated seeing the split lips, the bruises, the black eyes.

It was time for a change – because I had to admit that I couldn’t help you – and because I had someone who cared about me too much to see me hurt myself anymore.

I’m sorry Mark.

I remember so many more of you from those ten years of working in children’s homes.

We laughed together; and we cried. We went to Butlins and giggled at the wrestling and the knobbly knees contests. We camped in the New Forest and got soaked, played Spotlight up at the Sports Centre and on one memorable occasion all sixteen children I had responsibility for absconded.

Ah, but fifteen of you came back before midnight, so we watched unsuitable TV and cooked fish and chips to celebrate.

From you, I learned how to deal with my own roaring boys.

How to let them know that they were loved – even if their behaviour was horrible.

I read them bedtime stories; we went to the beach, we camped out and got soaked.

My own roaring boys are in their twenties now and to me at least, seem to be quite well-balanced and confident.

So thank you; Leeroy, Chris, Ray, Nicky, Sarah, Kim, Mark – and all the others who touched my life.

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