Continuing my drive to restore old artwork from many moons ago I’ve just opened a new page called ‘Silence is (not always) golden. I produced this booklet in 1993 in support of a Development Worker for Deaf People and it wasn’t until I had done this work that I realised how difficult life could be for people without hearing. In some ways it was something of a wake-up call for me because the message conveyed in the booklet seemed to resonate in my own day job of working with vulnerable adults and children. Today I get the feeling there is still something contemporary about it which I think is another good reason to republish.
Life is like a piano. The white keys represent happiness, the black keys show sadness; and as I’ve travelled life's journey I'm so thankful that the black keys make music too. She was 44 when she took me, a very damaged 7 year old, out of care and in 1962 that took some balls. Social Services in the North East in those days were a disgrace, I don't think I ever saw the same social worker twice in years and their main agenda was to put foster parents through as many indignities as they could with weapons ranging from criticising the contents of the pantry to openly suggesting there may be a better placement for the child in question. Not surprising that as an adult when I requested my case notes from Durham Social Services the hapless authority couldn't find them and so from where I'm sitting nothing much has changed - has it Durham? If readers (or Durham Social Services) detect a note of anger here they're right. Having worked in Social Services for the past 28 years they're welcome have a master class course from me any time on the importance of keeping good professional case notes, writing them knowing that the child is entitled to see them and respecting the incredible people that become foster parents. She was 56 when she died of cancer of the larynx by which time I was an 18 year old in the Royal Navy; they flew me home from Mombasa and for the next 17 years I made an annual pilgrimage to the cemetery to see the book of remembrance in its little glass box. I'm nearly 59 now and have already outlived my incredible foster Mam who passed away 40 years ago on 27 February 1974 - that same parent who put up with the criticism, sarcasm and interrogation of the social services; the same social services who had the audacity to suggest I would be better placed with other carers. As an artist I believe every picture tells a story and the three photos I've chosen for this post show my own personal journey; I suppose you could say they show my life. They show (1) me before I was placed in foster care (2) as a young adult in the RN after 12 years with my foster Mam and then finally (3) as I am today. To imagine what picture 3 would look like had picture 2 been different is unthinkable. On Thursday 27 February 2014 I will again make my pilgrimage to the cemetery to view the book of remembrance and say thank you with love to my remarkable Mam.
A few new readers asked if I would republish my memoirs of life in a children’s home and through foster care. I had taken them off to do a sort of final edit but have put them back on line because of the recent interest. There are four chapters which detail the breakdown of my family, life in a children’s home and my subsequent move into foster care. They were difficult memoirs to write and there have been times when I’ve questioned why I wrote them. I think initially, as a displaced child, I had a great need to make some sort of sense of my life and put things in their proper place. Having worked in the social care profession for 25 years I now know how important life story work is and how healing it can be. I think I somehow had the idea too that my writings might be helpful to others brought up in similar situations and be a catalyst giving them courage to face their own demons, although I afterwards felt that to be patronising and arrogant.
These days it isn’t unusual to see dozens of books on sale written by people who have had dreadfully abusive childhoods and it’s very easy to become cynical or fed up with hearing people bleating on – and I can equate with that. Readers of this post (or those who read my memoirs) are very welcome to express whatever they feel about my writings; I’m a big boy now, far removed from the vulnerable little man in the photograph. I’m also incredibly strong mentally; probably due in part to having the balls to stare pain straight in the eye because if I’ve learned anything I know that’s what takes it’s power away.
ManBoy Geordie chapters 1 to 4 are here on my website and readers are very welcome to read and comment as they wish