The Not Normal Normal by David Anderson

Fuck you’ he screamed

Is that right son,’ replied the man sardonically

Fucking right it’s right, you ugly fat bastard’

the (now) angry man shouted, ‘Restraint

Two other men promptly arrived

Pumped up and aware of the audience

They grabbed the small boy

Whose parents had just cancelled another visit

Who needed love and understanding

Even if he would reject it with teeth and nails

 

They wrestled his wriggling body to the floor

Face down, he struggled violently

The largest of the three men sat on his back

The other two sat down upon wildly kicking legs

Struggling for air, he screamed, ‘Get the fuck off me’

He told them he couldn’t breathe,

‘I can’t fucking breathe’

We’ll get off when you calm down’, panted the overweight man on his back

he repeated it several times, ‘I can’t fucking breathe’ I can’t breathe’ I can’t…’

‘When you calm down’ he repeated, with added spittle and sweat

A final panic-induced struggle left his body

He went limp before our eyes

Transfixed we watched through the window

Restraint was commonplace and compelling

It had happened to all of us

It happened every day

 

One staff member mentioned he’d turned a funny colour

The men stood up and looked at each other

They looked weak, visibly smaller, somehow older, haggard even

As if they wore a life-time’s wrong-doing on their faces

Dorian Gray paintings momentarily come to life

One left the corridor to call an ambulance

They falsified the report

Didn’t mention his final cries for breath

They were sympathetically questioned

No-one asked us, the real witnesses

 

We kicked-off later that night

The storm after the lull

Breaking things, fighting each other

When they restrained me I tried to replay the scene,

I screamed, kicked wildly, went limp,

I couldn’t die

 

Wee Tommy was really funny,

He pulled mental goofy faces,

 Was good at climbing onto roofs,

He always ate his chips with brown sauce

and hated sleeping with the light off.

Tommy never got the chance to look back on it all

To say, ‘what was that all about, it wasn’t normal after all?’

Reflections…

As someone who left care with no exams or a proper place to live being dumped by the care system I wandered through life taking small dead end jobs while caring for my children, when they became old enough for me to plan what I really wanted to do all the time thinking I could never work in children’s homes I’ve no experience and no qualifications. I was encouraged to put in an application form in and just try, she said, nothing. I sent it in and hoped with everything in me to hear something back.

The day of my interview arrived, so nervous, feeling so out of my depth, I’d never had a proper interview. I was called in and you put me at ease straight away listening to me as a person not an application form, I went home and waited…. I can still remember the call from you to say I had the job I was in my garden. When I put the phone down, I cried and cried not only had I been given the chance to totally financially provide for my children I was going to do my dream job.

You guided me through and believed in me and made me know I can do this. I’ve never told you that before, but I’d like you to know that you believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and gave me the opportunity to help other children in the position I was once in. I look in my memory box at cards and trinkets young people have given me over the years and know I did help I was there when they needed someone but if you had never believed in me I would never have had that memory box to look in.

Gillian Walsh 

Ready for the Bookshops

Proudly announcing that the first YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY inspired book Oi You F*cker has been rebranded and is ready for sale in bookshops. If you have a copy of the first edition hang on to it and watch this space.

Proceeds from first edition book sales have been generously donated by the author to YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY 2019 the third annual care leavers week event that brings care experienced adults and caregivers together with published authors, poets and exhibited artists to learn the techniques of storytelling through the arts. 

Free places are available to care experienced adults and caregivers with artistic and literary aspirations and YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY welcomes contributions from new authors and artists for publication on this website.

For more information contact the editor amanda@ylys.org.uk  

 

 

 

 

The Panel Hearing by David Anderson

Plush carpet versus plimsole shoes

Large antique desk and me in short trews

Crew cut hair and snotty nose

Scabby knees and raggedy clothes

Lay people sitting down

Caring, yet put-on frowns

A social worker reads her report

Anxiety begins its choke

They talk as if they know me well

I send them all to an imaginary hell

It’s fight or flight that’s in my mind

Oh, why oh why is life unkind

So, I stand and shout and shout and swear

Scatter their desk and throw my chair

‘Fuck you all, you don’t know me’

From grabbing hands, I try to break free

I wriggle and turn and squirm and struggle

Is it life or me that’s nowt but trouble

So it’s off to the residential home I go

To which end I could not know

A new beginning is what they said

A complete mess is what they made

 

 

YLYS welcomes new author David Anderson

As a child I resided in a wide range of so-called ‘care’ settings then went on to experience homelessness and prison before managing to get myself on a more positive trajectory – in no small part due to positive relationships based on true care and love. Following a return to education I worked as a youth worker before completing a Social Work Master. More recently, I completed a research degree with a focus on improving educational services for young people experiencing care and am currently working towards designing a relationship-based training course for this purpose. At the moment, I teach Social Work students and Social Educators and my wife and I are in the process of setting up a farm so we can offer a space to people to experience time with animals and nature within a safe place. I also volunteer with Who Cares? Scotland, a charity that pushes for real and lasting change to the care system.

I love to read and write and am in awe of the power words have to change lives for the better. I believe sharing our experiences of care through the written word can encourage understanding of the prevalent issues and provoke change in the minds of those who need it. By taking ownership of our stories we can control the narrative.

National Poetry Day 3 October 2019

The theme is TRUTH….

It was my duty to report but I could

Not foresee

When whistleblowing met closed ranks

Detriment would silence me

That individuals entrusted to

Prevent harm

Courting vested interest

Would fail to raise alarm

As I reflect on experience

Justice denied

Determination rises in me

It’s time to set aside

Fear that forces compliance to

Silence TRUTH

Designed without a qualm for

Victims of epidemic abuse

We have the strength to

Defeat injustice

Stories shared will validate

Abuse that was corrupted

Then our amplified voices

Will influence

Change needed

To prevent future offence

So, we can live in hope

Of no more trauma

Suffered from the consequence

Of power inflicted drama

Amanda Knowles MBE

September 2018

Our Care Family

 

Your Life Your Story 2017 brought care experienced adults and are givers together with published authors to learn the techniques of storytelling. What happened was much more than that…. connections were made and RELATIONSHIPS flourished and a sense of family emerged. The soundtrack to this video written and performed by Tasha Rowe celebrates those present at that first event. It is the perfect accompaniment.

Stories Shared with Amanda Knowles MBE

When Janet Rich, founder of The Care Leavers Foundation, approached me about running a writing event for care leavers during National Care Leavers Week 2017, I jumped at the opportunity.  My business partner and I were long-time supporters of The Care Leavers Foundation and the year previously, at Janet’s request, I had organised the National Care Leavers Week Conference.

I had, by this time, already met Rosie Canning, co-organiser of Your Life Your Story 2017 and 2018.  Rosie was raising funds to finance her research into the representation of orphans and care experience in literature.  I made a small donation to her cause and suggested she apply to The Care Leavers Foundation for a grant as I had wrongly assumed her to be a young person, not a woman near to my own age who had lived a life beyond the care system.  Our separate journeys had brought us to this meeting place in 2015 and as soon as we began talking, I knew we were on the same page…. Go to Orphans & Care Experience in Literature. .https://careleaversinfiction.wordpress.com/2019/09/22/stories-shared-with-amanda-knowles/

 

National Diversity Awards

Team YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY  2019 will be shining a light on the event at the National Diversity Awards in Liverpool on Friday 20th September. The event is supported by ITV and will be live streamed on https://www.youtube.com/ITVNews from 9pm. It was an opportunity, not to be missed, to raise awareness and promote this unique free event that brings care experienced adults and caregivers together with published authors, poets and exhibited artists in a ‘safe’ space to learn the techniques of storytelling through the arts. Whether writing for cathartic reasons, to share with family or to be published YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY unleashes the power of relationships and the untold story… in the famous words of Maya Angelou, “There is no greater burden than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Participants at YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY 2019 will be welcomed by care experienced, Rosie Canning, author and researcher from Oxford University. The programme includes an audience with David Jackson author of the first YOUR LIFE YOUR STORY inspired book  ‘Oi You..”, workshops with Artifacts and Taz Trevorrow and a masterclass delivered by award winning poet Joelle Taylor.