Saturday, 29 November 2014

If You Go

If you go to Kendal, you might meet Anne and Bernard. They're a couple. Anne has the eyes of an owl that are full of tough love and she knows exactly what kind of knee-length skirt she likes to wear. Bernard wears his black polyester trousers high, high up on his waist. In the morning, at breakfast, Bernard will ask you questions about this and that. Afterwards, there might be an early morning silence that lasts for seven or eight seconds. And then Bernard might say, right, I'd better go and help Anne with the toast then. The thing about Anne and Bernard is that once, a man stayed in their house who kept screaming at night and they didn't know what to do about it.

If you go to Carlisle, you might meet Christine. She's got a huge TV in her lounge and she watches Don't Tell the Bride while she does the ironing. When you first meet Christine, you might think she's too tired and angry to talk to you, but that's not true; she's just thinking about her kids, that's all. And as soon as you say, thanks, Christine, she'll make an expression on her face that's embarrassed and teenagery and quite beautiful. The thing about Christine is that the people around her steal her share of the deep breaths and it's not fair.

If you go to Stornoway, you might meet David. David doesn't know where to stand or where to look or who he is. You might mistake his depression for laziness. And you might get cross with him for things like his mumbling voice or his lack of motivation. But then, he might do a really small, human thing. For example, he might want to shake your hand and say sorry with his eyes, and then you'll picture him eating a sandwich on his own and you'll feel the kind of pity for him that you feel towards your parents sometimes. The thing about David is that he's got to remember that what he doesn't do is as much his responsibility as what he does do. 

If you go to Stranraer, you might meet Ellen and Fred. Ellen has a lovely smell and likes a chat and Fred is the kind of person whose kindness makes your neck ache. They live with their son and his laptop. Fred is recovering from a bad accident at work and Ellen can't wait to go to Lanzarote. Their house is surrounded by grey concrete and grey sky, and the grey sea is just down the road. The thing about Ellen and Fred is that they've definitely thought about compensation, but, truth be told, they just don't really want to go down that road for the time being and that's that.

If you go to Greenock, you might meet Georgina. If you ask Georgina one small, polite question, all sorts of things will come out of her mouth in response, and you won't be allowed to move. You might be forgiven for thinking that Georgina's tears are fake, even though you know they're not. It's hard to explain. When Georgina's about, you might become a human shield for the other people in the room. The thing about Georgina, is that she probably needed someone to be a human shield for her once but, for one reason or another, it just didn't work.

If you go to Ullapool, you might meet Fran. You might sit down and make her a cup of tea and ask her about herself. And she'll tell you the peripheral things. And then, she might suddenly think of a piece of music, and one of those silences might happen where everything feels delicate and breakable and breath-held. And you might touch her arm and give it a soft squeeze because you know that she's weeping. And she'll be weeping in a way that only a heartbroken mother can weep. The thing about Fran is that she'll always turn up, no matter how painful it might be.

If you go to Findhorn, you might meet Gerry. You'll meet his wife, too, and Gerry will patronise her and lie to her face in front of you. Gerry thinks he's super chilled and super in touch with nature but he is super neither of these things. Gerry is full of information and facts that are, inadvertently, all about him and how good he is at his job. He thinks that his job is the most important job in Findhorn and that he is the boss of all the jobs around including your job. The thing about Gerry is that he doesn't know what his job is or how to do it.

If you go to Inverness, you might meet Hal. He lives in a house full of notices that he's stenciled himself and stuck to the walls, and there's a tiny water feature in his lounge that makes a batteries-about-to-run-out noise. Hal practices classical guitar and talks to the news and goes to church with a cap on. You might imagine Hal standing in front of the mirror in his room, striking the poses of various super heroes and screaming at his mother and feeling incredibly powerful. You might think that he does all of this before he's even had breakfast. The thing about Hal is that he's been on the verge of breaking through it all and smashing the place up since he was nine years old.

If you go to Hawick, you might meet Iris. You might be told all sorts of things about Iris by other people while Iris is sitting right next to you. And then, you might turn to look at Iris and give her a smile and a wink and she might burst into song. And after that, Iris might be very quiet again. And you might look at her again and think who did you used to be, Iris? And, quite soon after you've realised it's none of your business, Iris might tell you a story about her favourite person. The thing about Iris is that she's learned how to sit with her coat on in a really hot room and not make a fuss.

If you go to Ayr, you might meet James. It's difficult to know how old James is because of his flawless complexion. James looks haunted by pain and racked with guilt. Sometimes, James tells you that he's a bad man and that he deserves to be dead. You can imagine him playing a saxophone on a train in America, but not for money. Or, you can imagine him standing by a window, looking out at the woman he loves finally leaving him for good. The thing about James is that he could crush a man to death with fierce, fierce love and not say sorry about it for years.

If you go to Peterlee, you might meet Kelly. At first, she might look at you a bit funny and, actually, it'll be fair enough, because you might be rearranging things in her bar without asking. Kelly drinks a bit too much and doesn't eat properly. She doesn't ask questions very often but if you talk to her about something you've done, you'll notice that she listens with her eyes, and not a lot of people do that. The thing about Kelly is that when you say goodbye to her after having known her for about an hour, she'll give you one of the most honest and unassuming hugs of your life.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Any Day Now

When Julie is nine years old, it gets to be the winter. And it's the kind of winter where the darkness is all the time, and not just outside. The darkness is everywhere, all around everything, and in the spirit and the bones and the blood of things. All the sounds are dark, all the silences are dark. And it's dark inside Julie, too. And she imagines this darkness inside her and she can picture it and she can feel how big and important it is and she knows that it didn't even start off small. 

And Julie realises that this dark winter is the time she'll die. And so this is what she thinks about every day. And it doesn't go away. And Julie lies in her bed at night, in her dark room during this dark winter and, quite often, she brings her hands up to her face and her hands look frighteningly big. And Julie tells herself that this is happening because her brain is preparing for death by disconnecting from her body. And her body knows it and her brain knows it and Julie knows it. She just absolutely knows it. And she decides not to take deep breaths because she'll jinx it. So she breathes small, shallow breaths that make her lips feel fuzzy.

And Julie doesn't tell anybody apart from God.

And, during this winter, where everything all around is too dark, and where car journeys feel like a flu-dream, and the characters in tv cartoons look like they're silent-screaming from a million miles away, Julie finds that she can walk just outside of herself. And while she's doing this, she looks closely at her mother and her brother and her sister, and her teachers and her friends and her non-friends. She looks really closely, even though her body feels far away from all of their bodies. And she doesn't tell anyone that she's going to die but she wants and also doesn't want them to know.

And sometimes, during very quiet indeed times, Julie sees a picture in her own head. And in the picture, there are two things happening at once. And one half of the picture is of herself in the hospital just before the moment of her death, and the other half is of her mother at home thinking about Julie in the hospital just before the moment of her death. And these two halves of the picture flit between each other quite slowly, back and forth and back and forth and Julie feels the feelings of the picture until it's so palpable that she can't bear it anymore. So she snaps herself out of it by doing a jerky movement. But then the picture seeps into her mind again and again and again until somebody interrupts her or until the phone rings.

And Julie doesn't tell anybody, apart from God.

And, during this winter, where everything all around is too dark and her body is a cold, delicate temple of symptoms, and where all the things that happen and all the things that are said are definitely an omen, Julie sometimes walks into a room where her mother is crying. And Julie can see the bulging, grief-filled veins on her mother's head, full of stubborn, tenacious blood. And Julie stays very still and quiet and she watches and listens. And she wonders if the blood in those veins on her mother's head is travelling to her heart or away from it. And she thinks about her mother's heart, her actual, real life heart; about what it might feel like to touch that heart, about what the heart might do if Julie shouted at it, about whether or not the heart is going to be ok. And then she hears her own heart, beating in her ears, like a drum wrapped in a dirty blanket. And Julie thinks that she can hear her heart whispering to her, any day now, any day now, any day now.

And Julie remembers to not breathe deeply. Because of jinxing it.

And sometimes, at school, after a whole morning of shallow breathing and prodding at her body to check for clues and thinking about dying in hospital, Julie has to go and sit by the sink with a helper. And when this happens, Julie doesn't want to talk to the helper. So she talks to God instead. Not out loud though. And she's careful not to ask God for too much because she's been told to be careful what you wish for which means omens.

And, during this winter, where everything all around is too dark, and her thumbs are cracked and bleeding from nerves, and where visits to the doctor end in sentences like, but, Julie you really don't look like you're dying, Julie dies. Right on her own doorstep. With a cup of milk in her hand. And it's such a surprise. Even though she knew it was going to happen. She just stops breathing. Just like that. Just as she's about to knock on her own front door to be let back in after going over the road to borrow some milk from a neighbour. And after she completely stops breathing, Julie thinks, oh, it's now.

And she doesn't even think about God.

Or anything.

And then some seconds pass.

And then she collapses.

And then it hurts.

And then it's real.

And then it's terrifying.

And then the door opens.

And then, Julie has one of those moments when she feels a new feeling for the first time, even though she's died. But the feeling isn't just one thing, it's an awful amount of things. And a deep, wild sound like a bellow comes out of Julie's mouth from inside her body and the sound is terrific and frightening and has other sounds attached to it. And Julie's arms shake from the vibrations of it all and she's lifted up from the ground and carried in soft arms to a soft chair and laid down gently on her trembling back. And a cool hand is pressed to her face which is a very hot face for someone who's just died, and a pair of strong, friendly thumbs wipe away Julie's sticky tears. And then eight, careful fingers team up with the thumbs to make a pair of grown-up hands, and the hands travel down the back of Julie's little neck to her pointy shoulder blades. And the grown-up hands gently push Julie onto her side. And the sweet smelling arms that the hands belong to wrap themselves around Julie's shivering bones and start to push and pull and push and pull, slowly and without too much fuss. And a sound that says, shhhh comes out of the mouth of this human rocking chair and the slow, tired, heartbroken voice of her mother whispers into Julie's bright red ear, what are we going to do with you, hmmm?

Monday, 18 August 2014


Being pregnant when you don't want to be is grim

You want it gone

Right away

You feel out of control


And isolated

Even if you're going out with a nice, supportive guy

And all the doctors you speak to are kind

And great at their jobs

And your mum is with you every step of the way

And you live in England

Where all you really have to say to the professionals

In order for an abortion to be granted

Is that you don't want a baby right now

Despite all that

It's still grim

You feel alone

And scared

And impatient

And nervous of the procedure

And, despite all your privilege

And education

And liberal parenting

And articulacy

And assertiveness

And friends who are there for you

You might still think, in the few weeks leading up to your termination

While you're standing at the top of the stairs one day

'If I just jumped...'

Or, while you're riding your bike along a busy road one day

'If I was just knocked off...'

And if it's possible for a young woman

With so much privilege

And so much support

To have such dark thoughts

Think about what it must be like

For a teenager in the Republic of Ireland

Where the laws around abortion are abusive and violent

Who becomes pregnant as a result of being raped

Who becomes pregnant as a result of being raped

And who asks for an abortion eight weeks into her pregnancy

And who is found, by experts, to be suicidal

But who is refused permission to terminate her pregnancy

Even though the law in Ireland says

That an abortion can be granted if the woman's life is at risk

What must it be like for this woman?

This woman, whose English is poor

And whose immigration status restricts her from travelling

To a place of safety

Where an abortion would be granted

And who has been described by the BBC as 'very vulnerable'

This is what she says it was like for her:

Medical staff refused to terminate her pregnancy

Until the foetus was 'viable'

A foetus that she never wanted

She told medical staff that she was suicidal

And a panel comprising three experts agreed with her

But she was still refused an abortion

She went on hunger strike

And an emergency Cesarean section was performed

Which is a major operation

25 weeks into her unwanted pregnancy

And her unwanted baby was immediately taken into care

The state of Ireland has committed an act of violence towards this woman

This woman, who has already been the victim of shocking violence

Imagine how different it could have been for her

Imagine if, all she needed to say in order to be granted an abortion was 

'I don't want a baby'

Imagine that

Because then, even in her darkest moments

Those times when she might be standing at the top of the stairs

Or riding a bike along a busy road

She would know that, despite all her suffering

And fear

And loneliness

There was a light at the end of the tunnel

And that the law would do right by her

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Summing Up

Judge Michael Mettyear said the following to a man who was recently convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for raping a woman:

It's sad to see a man of generally good character in the dock for such a serious offence.

I do not regard you as a classic rapist. I do not think you are a general danger to strangers. You are not the type who goes searching for a woman to rape.This was a case where you just lost control of normal restraint.

It was almost out of the blue that two girls turned up late at night, very, very drunk, at your home.
The victim was the worst for drink out of the two of them. She was completely out of it. I accept that evidence.
She was a pretty girl who you fancied. You simply could not resist. You had sex with her.
She was clearly upset at the time. The consequences continued. She was unable to work for a while. She has had to take anti-depressants.
She has lost her cheerfulness and outgoing spirit.
It is a great shame you did not have the courage to say, 'I have made a terrible mistake and I am sorry'.
That would have made it much easier for her and I could have passed a lighter sentence.

Imagine if the Judge had said the following instead:
It's sad to see a woman who's life has been seriously damaged having to give evidence for such a serious offence against her. I don't care what a good bloke your employer thinks you are; a man of 'generally good character' does not rape women. 
Men who don't hate women don't need to think about not 'losing control of normal restraint'. A man who needs to think about not 'losing control of normal restraint' around women needs to seek help immediately. Also, I'm a judge which means I know a thing or two; I know that rape isn't about sex, really. I know that rape is about power, control and misogyny. So, I know that talking about 'losing control' in this case doesn't make any sense because the reason men rape women is to gain control.
I regard you as a rapist. You are a classic rapist. You are a classic rapist because a classic rapist is someone who rapes someone else and that's what you did. End of story.
You're clearly a danger to strangers because you raped a vulnerable woman you don't know. 
Had two girls turned up late at night at your house, you should have called their parents. Or Social Services. In fact, two women turned up late at night at your house. They were very, very drunk which is only relevant due to the following: if two very, very drunk women turned up late at my house, I probably would have called them a taxi or made them go to sleep in my bed while I slept on the sofa because I'm not a disturbed individual.
Your victim was even more drunk than her friend. Maybe this is why you decided to rape her instead of her friend who was less drunk? That speaks volumes about your lack of respect for women and for consent.
You've told the Court that your victim was a pretty girl woman who you fancied. This is irrelevant because, as I said earlier, rape isn't about sex or about fancying people. And also, if your lawyer advised you to rely on that fact as evidence to the Court as part of your your defence, he or she should probably have a good look at his or her attitude to women. 
Apparently, you simply could not resist having sex with your victim. I refer you to the above paragraph.
Your victim was 'upset' at the time. I feel like this might be a monumental understatement. I was going to say that she has lost her 'bubbly nature' but instead I'll say this: she has lost her cheerfulness and outgoing spirit.
It is a great shame that you are a rapist. If you had said something like, 'I made a terrible mistake and I am sorry', it probably wouldn't have made any difference to your victim's suffering, either at the time or in the years to come. This is because the impact of rape on a woman usually lasts for the rest of her life. She will be depressed and anxious. She might well suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She will probably feel guilty and ashamed.  She may well find it hard to form close relationships. Her existing relationships might break down. She might self-harm or attempt suicide. She might not be able to continue working. That kind of thing. Also, nobody rapes someone by mistake; people do it on purpose, because they want to, because they want power over someone else. So, if you were to have said, 'I'm sorry, I made a terrible mistake' it would have been a statement of such despicable disrespect and poverty of insight that I might have held you in contempt of court.
To sum up, there is one thing that would have made it easier for your victim and that thing is you not raping her. 

Monday, 26 May 2014


It doesn't really matter if this conversation happened or not; that's not the point:

Did you enjoy the show?

Yeah, I really did, I thought it was awesome.

Did it make you angry?

Yeah, it did make me angry. I mean I was angry before and I spent a long time feeling really angry about all these things, and yes, the show brought that up again. But, actually...


I'm not sure how to say it

Go on

Well, I was really moved, too. Like, some of those words were so completely disgusting; that speech about troubled families - it's so fucking violent. But watching the way that it was performed, and looking at Lucy Ellinson's face, especially after the minute of rage for Paul Reekie. It was kind of beautiful, too. And really sad and upsetting. But...


I don't know, I don't know how to say it

Go on

I just can't help thinking that there might be people in this room - people who saw the show - who would say that they thought it was really powerful and necessary but who would also, when pushed, reveal some pretty dubious political views about some things. That's what makes me angry about this stuff. Do you know what I mean?


Definitely. Do you not think so?

I don't know. I mean most of the people here are artists

So? Tracey Emin's  an artist


I'm not necessarily saying that there are people here who are openly right wing. I mean, maybe there are, but that's not the point I'm making; I'm just saying that often, when you get down to the bare bones of stuff, people tend to reveal what they really think, don't they? I mean, I've had lots of conversations with people who have told me that they hate the government and that they identify as left wing and that they're passionate about equality and justice. But then, some of those people, when questioned beyond a certain point, have said stuff about welfare and immigration and women and education and the poor that completely goes against the politics they say that they identify with. And I'm talking about people who call themselves left wing artists. And the worst thing about it is that it doesn't really surprise me. And, yeah, I'm probably being judgemental, and maybe I'm wrong, but one of the things I was thinking when I was watching the show tonight was, I wonder how many people here might just be a bit of a Tory underneath it all. Maybe not people in this particular room, but in rooms like this. You know?

I don't know about that, dude. Do you really think that? In a room full of people like this?

Yeah, I really do. But I also think - and maybe this is arrogant and patronising - that a lot of the time, these views come from a place of genuine ignorance and fear

What do you mean?

Well, I've had quite a few conversations with people who say they identify as left wing but who have then displayed right wing views around immigration, for example, and then it becomes clear, as the conversation has developed, that they literally don't know what they're talking about and their facts are completely wrong and that they're just saying the things they're saying because it seems to make sense in a kind of A to B sort of way. The same goes for conversations about welfare and race and feminism. People are afraid to say, 'actually, I don't know what I think about that' so they just start talking without thinking things through. And I reckon that there will have been people who watched the show tonight who will tell you that they thought it was brilliant but who might, on another day, in a conversation about social policy, tell you that they think the Human Rights Act should be scrapped

I don't know. I think that's pretty negative. It's a pretty negative thing to say about the show as well, no?

Yeah, It is negative. It's really negative. But, the negativity isn't about the show. It's a thing that I think happens a lot in all sorts of contexts. And I think it happens for loads of reasons like propaganda and laziness and the fact that people are easily influenced and scared to challenge and be challenged and all that stuff. But I think one of the main Tory hooks is the language that's used in all the rhetoric; like 'hardworking people' and all the weird stuff they say about 'fairness'. I was talking to one of the performers earlier about that 'problem family speech' and we were talking about how the phrase 'problem family' is just another way of saying 'scum'. And these are people who have nothing; they're completely disenfranchised. That speech was like an act of violence against those people because they can't fight back. And the reason they can't fight back is because they don't have a fucking voice.

I'm getting a drink now.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Food Banks

It's SUCH A LAUGH having to use a food bank. Here is why:

Your benefits stop for a reason you don't understand. You don't even get a letter about it so you don't find out that this has happened until you realise that you can't get any money out to buy food. So, you decide to go to an advice centre for help.

You walk through the door of the advice centre and wait in the waiting area to talk to the receptionist but the receptionist is really busy trying to help someone in crisis who is screaming so you end up waiting for about an hour. You probably have a little cry.

When it's your turn to talk to the receptionist, you're told that, unfortunately, because the advice centre is so busy, you can't be seen that day and that you should come back the day after tomorrow when there is another drop-in. But, you're also told that, in order to have a good chance of being seen when you next attend, it would be better for you to turn up about an hour before the advice centre opens.

So, the next time you go to the advice centre, you get there at half past eight in the morning and wait outside in the cold and rain feeling a bit  humiliated as people on their way to work stare at you. You have another little cry.

When the advice centre opens at ten o'clock, you get given a slot to see an adviser. But you still have to wait quite a while to be seen because, even though you arrived at the advice centre really early, there were other people who were even earlier than you. Your slot with the adviser is at about half past eleven. You could go and buy yourself a cup of tea while you wait but, actually, you can't do that because you haven't got any money.

The adviser, who's a really nice woman, asks you some questions about your situation. She doesn't ask you for any ID because that's not her job and she's not the police and because why does she need to? You're just a person in a bad situation getting advice from a local advice centre, just like most people who go to advice centres (sometimes people go to advice centres for other reasons, like confusion or just pure loneliness; but people don't really go to advice centres to get free stuff that they're not entitled to, so that's why the people who work in them don't ask for ID. Oh, and because most people tend to just, you know, tell the truth). You answer the woman's questions honestly and thoroughly but some of the things you're asked about are really hard to answer because you feel a bit ashamed. You have another little cry. The nice woman gives you a tissue. 

You tell the woman that your benefits have stopped and she calls the benefits department to try to find out why it's happened. But, when she gets through, she's told that it's all a bit complicated so a manager will call her back within five working days.

The woman tells you that there isn't an answer to your problem right now but that she'll keep in touch with you and let you know as soon as she's heard anything.

You tell the woman that you're worried about how you're going to eat. She says that there's a food bank a few miles down the road. This makes you feel a bit funny because you're not sure that you feel comfortable using one of those. But the woman is really nice to you and tells you that she understands that you might feel a bit weird about it but that you really should use the food bank if you need to because that's what it's there for. And then she gives you a voucher to use when you get there. She also gives you another tissue because you're crying again.

That afternoon, you go to the food bank and get given a few bags of food that should hopefully see you through the week. While you're at the food bank waiting to be seen (it takes a few hours to see someone because it's really busy), you pick up a copy of the Mail on Sunday and read an article about a reporter who went under cover to get food from a food bank. This is what what the article says:

Staff at Nottingham’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau handed out a food bank voucher to an undercover Mail on Sunday reporter entitling him to a generous three days' worth of shopping – without even asking for any identification.
Our reporter Ross Slater ... arrived at the CAB office near the city’s railway station to enquire about food vouchers. After filling out a form giving his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for the visit, the reporter was told to wait for an assessor to interview him.
The woman, called Katherine, who was in her 60s, asked our reporter a series of questions about why the food bank vouchers were needed.
He explained he had been unemployed for a few months and had been caught out by higher than expected winter fuel bills and was strapped for cash and food. He added that his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children to care for. After asking for details of how much Jobseekers’ Allowance was received, the assessor’s questions turned to the dietary requirements of the reporter and his family.
Katherine asked our man  to wait while she found out which food bank would be able to help him and then returned with an official voucher signed by the centre’s manager, Sarah Webber.
From there the reporter  was sent to the Trussell Trust-run food bank at St Philip’s Church in Bulwell, Nottingham, where he presented the voucher to  one of several helpers.
Within minutes he was given four shopping bags bursting with essentials – about £40 worth of groceries.
These included basics such as bread, sugar and pasta, as well as less essential items such chocolate pudding.
After inviting the reporter  to help himself to the soap, toothpaste and hot dog rolls they had spare, the volunteers wished him a Happy Easter and he staggered out of the church with his bags. He later returned the goods.
Last night the Trussell Trust said any distributor found to be providing vouchers to people not in genuine need would receive extra training.

And then, you get quite confused because, apart from the stuff about the wife and kids, the story that the reporter in this article gave about himself is almost exactly the same as yours. And, you don't think you're stupid but you're pretty sure that everything you said about yourself means that you're entitled to a food bank voucher. And you're also pretty sure that the people who work at advice centres are supposed to just believe what their clients tell them because, surely somebody who didn't really need a food bank voucher wouldn't spend three days trying to see an adviser at an advice centre, spend quite a long time filling in forms, walk for five miles to queue up at a food bank and then wait for another two hours to be given a few bags of food that they didn't need? Nobody would do that just for a bit of a jolly, would they?

T H A T     W O U L D     B E     C R A Z Y !

So, you don't really GET what this article is TRYING TO DO.

So, you try to dismiss it. But it's hard to do that because the article has made you feel ashamed, guilty, paranoid, judged and demonised.

But mostly, you just feel hungry, so you put the paper down and pick up your bags of food.

And you thank the people at the food bank very much and start the long walk home.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Eavesdrop #14

A young woman is on a bus, talking on her phone



Just had a orange for breakfast


Yeah, just a orange


Well, my diet's quite high in sugar anyway so, I just thought, fruit's supposed to make you feel better, isn't it? So I just thought I'd have a orange instead of other sugary stuff.




But I'm really craving fruit at the moment anyway


Yeah, I'm craving it loads. What fruit do you think I should I eat?




Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries


What's that other one?


No, I haven't heard of that


Anyway, I'm really craving fruit, I can't stop thinking about it




No way


I mean, if you forced me to eat one, I probably would but...








Robbie told his parents yesterday


They were really happy

Saturday, 1 March 2014


Think back

Go on

How old are you?

About eight?

Yeah, about eight

And you're ok, you are

All in all

It's probably the summer

That's why it's still light at 7pm

You've just got out of the car

And there are two peacocks in the car park

The ones with all the coloured feathers

Man ones

You're holding three bags of doughnuts

For the doghnut eating competition

(Where you have to eat a whole doughnut without licking your lips) 

At the youth club for kids in care where your mum works

You're not really supposed to be here

But your mum's boss has turned a blind eye

Because of what your mum's been through recently

Oh, look

There's Samantha

You don't know her yet

She comes to talk to you as soon as she sees you

She tells you she's 14

(Wow, you think)

And that she's been coming here for two years

And that she has Down's Syndrome

And that she's been in 12 foster homes

And that the reason she's been in so many

Is that people can't cope with her

They couldn't cope with me, says Samantha

I have aggression

What kind? You ask

Just the normal kind, she says

Samantha looks at you quite a lot

And you look back at her just as much

She asks you why you're here

And you don't know what to say

Samantha says, are you in care?

And after about five seconds

You shake your head

Samantha holds your hand

And takes you inside

And makes you a Ribena

And she says, you're really kind to me

As she passes it to you

And you win the doughnut eating competition

Even though you cheat


Fast forward about 15 years

You're eating a school dinner

In a school hall

You've just performed a show for some of the kids

Oh, look

There's Amy

You don't know her yet

But she comes to talk to you as soon as she sees you

She tells you that she's 12

And that she's been at this school since September

And that there's a girl on her bus who wants to beat her up

And that she's been in about seven different foster homes

And that she's never met her dad

And that she really liked the show

You ask her what her favourite part of the show was

She says she liked the whole thing

She tells you that the reason she's been in so many foster homes

Is that people can't cope with her

They couldn't cope with me, she says

Because of aggression and anger

She tells you all about it

The words that she uses to describe herself

Are words that she's heard adults using about her



Attention seeking

Difficulty bonding

Acting out

She tells you that she misses her mum

But that her mum had to give her up

For loads of reasons

And that she only sees her every now and again

She tells you that she's been told she'd be a good social worker

You ask her if that's what she wants to be

And she laughs in your face

And says, no way

And she pulls her tights right up to her waist

And asks you if you can come and do a show every week

She doesn't really look at you when she's speaking to you

But that's ok

You get it