ITS OKAY TO BE SAD by Ian Ackley of the Save Association

I’ve got holes in my underwear,

and in my socks too,

t-shirts deodorant stained,

and the soles of my shoes worn through.

 

That’s totally fine though,

Because no one can see,

Under my jumper and jeans,

And see what’s beneath.

 

The discomfort and embarrassment,

That’s invariably me,

As long as I smile, engage and distract,

All will be fine, well that’s what I keep telling myself.

 

But as time passes by,

Jumper, jeans become threadbare,

Revealing beneath,

what I’m embarrassed to share.

 

I desperately need,

some help and support,

To help to replace,

The things I cannot afford.

 

Before the jeans and the jumper have holes in them too,

Leaving me exposed to the underlying truth,

I’ve been falling apart bit by bit,

Unravelling slowly stich by stich.

 

Feeling useless, ashamed,

dishevelled and small,

Is humiliating and painful,

leaving no feelings at all.

 

If I allow myself,

to accept helping hands,

It might not feel,

as if I’m standing in sand.

 

Believe that I’m worth it,

And step slowly on ground,

That holds my weight firmly,

So I can take stock, look around.

 

I can peel away,

The old tattered rags,

I’ll be exposing myself but in part I’ll be glad,

As I NOW know its ok to be sad.

 

One sock at a time,

Ill repair or replace,

And over time,

I’ll shed the disgrace.

 

Until once again,

I can stand tall and true,

Knowing there are no holes,

In the soles of my shoes.

 

But from now on I WILL look,

Observe and keep watch,

To prevent holes from appearing,

In my pants and my socks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oi You F*cker’ Book Review by Jonah Calkin ” 12th February 2019

To those of my generation, mention foster care and the world of Tracy Beaker comes to mind. Tracy has to deal with her share of hardships of course, but everything turns out well in the end, right? Oi You Fucker is a far cry from Elaine the Pain and the Dumping Ground, instead, it exposes the childcare system as

“a system of brutally horrific regimes, founded upon extraordinary levels of inhumanity, cruelty, violence, fear and intimidation, propagated against some of the most vulnerable people in society”.

The story of Snowball, the protagonist of this brutally shocking memoir, is a hard one to stomach. Removed from his abusive, drug-addled mother at an early age during the 1960s, he makes a miraculous recovery against all the odds. Moved into foster-care, he ends up on the Fylde Coast with a loving family and the life that you’d associate with a picture-postcard seaside town. But after an incident with a foster sibling, he is ripped from his parents’ care, and taken to Melbourne House, an abysmal foster home run by the positively evil Mr and Mrs Rivers. Mrs Rivers makes Miss Trunchbull look like a loving, caring woman.

A sadist of the highest degree, she beats children to within an inch of their lives, and her evil is matched only by her husband, who is a sexual predator, and Snowball’s anecdotes of the young girls he abuses hit particularly hard. Managing to survive the unsurvivable, Snowball is moved to a family group home in Stockport, where conditions are far better. However, I found sections such as these hardest to read. Despite the glimmers of hope, you know that something terrible is around the corner (in this case it’s a prison-like foster home called the Manors in Manchester), and often, because of the narrative style, you have to keep reminding yourself that it is not fiction. Even when it seems like Snowball seems at least temporarily safe, you can see the profound impact of such a broken system on such a young, vulnerable person. When talking about Aunty Beryl and Aunty Anne, his carers in Stockport, I was almost moved to tears when he confesses that “there were times when he wanted them to hit him, to abuse him”, so entrenched in abuse is he. The punishing detail of Snowball’s suffering never lets up and is needed in order to convey truly just how endemic abuse was and is within the childcare system. The only thing that the book needs at points is an edit. Punishing detail sometimes turns into meandering trails of thought, but despite this, Snowball’s often witty tales of the children he grew up with make you laugh out loud at points. My favourite depiction in the entire book was that of the Smithers twins, who
are described as

“the human manifestation of mumps and measles”.

One thing is present throughout the book. Hope. In defiance of all the times he falls, Snowball picks himself up and continues to fight against the ‘fuckers’ time and time again. Bleak though his world is, he keeps going, never giving up, never be broken. Oi You Fucker is a much-needed tale of resilience in the face of adversity, and although it leaves you feeling sick at times, you cannot help but join Snowball in saying
“fuck you” to his oppressors. But this was the 1960s! Surely things have changed! Although the constant headlines of sexual abuse were rife in that era have faded, a different problem faces the British childcare system, one that may even lead to a relapse into the past. Cuts to foster care mean that there are less social workers to visit more children, and more and more quality childcare professionals are jumping ship to private agencies. Although Oi You Fucker may be a cautionary tale from decades ago, reading between the lines, it is an essential call for change.

From small acorns….

Your Life Your Story
Posted on October 27, 2017 by Rosie Canning

Home! Hiraeth! A fantastic few days running Your Life Your Story as part of National Care Leavers Week 2017. A trauma informed writing workshop with Lisa Cherry and organised by Amanda Knowles, Trustee and Director of The Consortium for Therapeutic Communities and Richard Rollinson, The Barns Centre Executive Director, in Toddington.

We had 14 care-experienced adults with an age range from 18-59. They were described as: “…extraordinary, and courageous people”. They were this and much more. Inspiring and inspirational. Warm and funny. Resilient. Beautiful human beings giving to the world and living truly exceptional lives.
It was a strange feeling running a workshop for care experienced individuals in a building that was once a children’s home. This was our Hiraeth, we had come home and the air was filled with expectation.
Writing our personal stories is the most vulnerable kind of writing we can do. We fear being laughed at, rejected, or that our words will be met with silence. And in turn, we ourselves remain silent.
There are a lot of care-experienced people who want to share their stories, for all sorts of reasons. Personal, therapeutic, for family, for history and publication.
When I started the PhD, looking at the representation of care leavers in fiction, there was very little published about care leavers, but over the last few years there has been an explosion of new stories, new voices, often finally being heard after years of being invisible.
Some of the books I used or referenced in no particular order, included:
Novels:
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
Island by Jane Rogers
The Panoptican by Jenni Fagan
All the Good Things by Clare Fisher
When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
The Seven Sister by Alex Wheatle
Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
Memoir:
Plot 29 by Allan Jenkins
Autobiography:
The Looked After Kid by Paolo Hewitt
Fifty-One Moves by Ben Ashcroft
Non-fiction or Informational Text:
The Brightness of Stars by Lisa Cherry
Books about writing:
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
A Novel in a Year by Doughty, Louise

We tell bits of our story in order to have relationships. It would be difficult to have relationships and friendships without having some version of a life story floating around. The act of telling our story acts as a framing method or even a re-framing of previous life experience. YLYS
I’m interested in re-framing, whether that is fictional, autobiographical, memoir, or nonfictional. It gives a semblance of making sense of the chaos left behind. Stories are life, life is stories.

A life story is written in pencil, not ink and can be rubbed out and changed. You’re both the narrator and the main character of your story.

It’s also important to realize that you’re not just living out your story, you’re actually in charge of it. Even if it is a terrible story, which is hard to share; the act of sharing, writing and rewriting gives a new realisation and possible resolution. That awful sense of being unable to change what went before can suddenly be lifted. For example, a simple act of changing point of view, can suddenly release a narrator and give them a distance and freedom to write their story.
We can take control of our narratives – our stories, by how they are told, what’s included, what’s left out. We can change the ‘single story’, the single narrative. And the truly exciting thing about this is that you can put out a new version of yourself and live your way into it.
Moments:
A young man who didn’t want to hold a pen, let alone write his story, transformed into a confident person who stood up and read out his writing.
Watching people change their ‘I’ into ‘he’ or ‘she’, third person narratives and finding their voices and freedom from their pasts.
Hearing a woman and mother, give herself the words that meant she finally found the words to write about her inability to honour her mother’s tragic death.
Seeing a man who could only doodle his thoughts and feelings suddenly break through and not only put together sentences, but paragraphs, chapters and is now half way through a novel.
#NCLW2017 Your Life Your Story. The story starts now and is written in chalk not ink. Changing the narrative.

We are Different but we are One

We came from different places, different people, different faces; from the roots of different beginnings, different trees.
We walked on different paths, trod different trails.
We all had different things that have bought us to our knees.
But we had dreams!!

We’ve all known the inner workings of life struggles.
We’ve jumped hurdles and climbed mountains abound.
We’ve pulled ourselves up from our bootstraps.
When kindness, love and safety were nowhere to be found; it’s in this darkness we embraced ourselves.

We have known loneliness and rejection.
We have known hatred, abuse and disaffection
We have known heartless processes and being denied affection.
Despite us all growing from different directions; but we got through.

We have known lost identities and missing parts, about records with redactions; about judgements from the start.
We have known abandonment, fear and isolation.
You blame US, our ways, our behaviour.
This is your mitigation!!

We have known the dark alleyways of exploitation, vice and corruption
We have journeyed down paths of complete self destruction
We have known that you need to tow the line, remain silent, compliant; becoming frozen trapped in time. But our voices still there, screaming silently from inside.

We have known the pain of speaking out, of uttering a sound and then taking a clout. Of saying too much and then wishing you hadn’t even opened your mouth.
Of being caught with a sideways glance or when those bubbling words spilled out…faster than you had a chance… to anticipate the consequences.

We have known heartbreak and how to keep our eyes to the floor, to avert our gaze from anything human; we’re not people anymore – Or so they thought!!

We have known separation not just from others but ourselves, compartmentalised in boxes that we’re too afraid to open out.

We have known that spark that keeps us going. The ember deep inside us that is barely glowing; waiting to be fanned into a flame.

We are the people who have known the cold not only on our flesh but in our hearts. We have known opinions and aspirations. We have strived for second chances, new beginnings and fresh starts.

We have hidden in the shadows, been scared stiff of them too. We’ve run, we’ve fought, we’ve battled and we’ve kept on breaking through.

We have eyes that have seen things they never should have seen.
We have known hands in places that they never should have been, words spoken in our ears now etched into our brains; the touch of our oppressors, our abusers it runs within our veins.

We have known the insidious the callous cruel and wicked.
We have witnessed the deranged, cold-hearted and simply twisted; but somehow We were to blame!?

Now we are the powerful one’s we know our minds.
No-one can edit our futures, chop bits out, reduce or minimise.
Our history will always be a reminder, it’s our past.
Our strength…our passions…our determination will be what defines our journeys now.

We know the truths unspoken, the stories behind our smiles, within our eyes
We know that once we were lost, fragmented and broken
But together, different and one, we shall rise.

Saira-Jayne @ Your Life Your Story
6 July 2019