Category Archives: Random thoughts.

General blogs about current affairs.

I am an anarchist!

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As many of my readers know, I am employed with the Alzheimer`s Society as a Dementia Support kind of a person and as such, I get to visit lots of the various workshops we put on for our service users and their carers. One of the more popular ones is called “Singing for the Brain.” The local group near where I work in Solihull often entertains as many as fifty people and the facilitator arrives with his guitar and strums us through about an hour`s worth of songs from the mid nineteen hundreds upwards, through the century. We still sing It`s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Roll Out the Barrel” occasionally interspersed with “Yellow Submarine, Rhinestone Cowboy and When I`m 64.”  Songs of their eras.  Everyone is linked together by bunting, which is passed around the circle as our strummer sings hello to each participant by their first name. It`s a really successful, sociable occasion and it helps people to feel they are still part of their community, even if they are quite far along the path of dementia.

I was pondering, how will the Singing for the Brain groups change and adapt as we move further into the 21st Century?

I find it hard to imagine a whole group of OAP`s singing “Smack my Bitch Up” or “Anarchy in the UK,” but it is a possibility. Personally I shall be singing, “Georgia On My Mind, California and whole mix of Sarah Bareilles, especially “Gravity,” which I love.

What will you be singing if you develop dementia?

Globally, dementia is one of the world`s biggest killers and we currently have 850,000 people diagnosed in the UK. It is so prevalent that many people think it is a natural part of ageing but it isn`t. It is a disease that kills the brain and it can be a devastating illness, which is why groups like Singing for the Brain are so important in making life more bearable for people with dementia, their families and carers. It is still possible to have a life when you are diagnosed with dementia.

On the 21st of September, it is World Dementia Day. You can help by ringing your local branch of Alzheimer`s Society which is present all over the globe, and becoming a Dementia Friend.

Together we can and we will, create a world without dementia. The number to ring if you are in the UK is:

0300 222 1122

It`s free.

 

 

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Chewing it over.

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The other day I was recalling the time when I worked as an advocate for parents with learning disabilities. I often accompanied families to court as almost all of them were heavily embroiled in child protection proceedings.  Over time I got to know many of the judges and some of them had a fearsome and quite deserved reputation.  Some of them were lovely characters and warm, one in particular liked the barristers and me to bring in home made cup cakes and sausage rolls to court and she would enjoy them in her private rooms.

One day I turned up and all the courts were full, they were spilling over actually so this particular hearing was held in some rooms at the back of the building. As is my habit, I was chewing on some Wrigleys that morning, you can sometimes sit about for hours waiting to be heard and my mouth gets so dry. I don`t know what made me think it was ok to keep my Wrigleys in my mouth when we were called in but that is what I did. I took a seat at the back of the court and looked at the judge. I had not met her before.  To put it politely, she was a very large lady and she had the most enormous bosom I have ever seen in my life. Her breasts were at least twice the size of her head and were swathed in her very capacious black silks.  As she moved about shuffling papers around, her enormous boobs hung and swung like big, soft pendulums, over the polished wood of her desk. So mesmerised was I by this fascinating site, when she asked me for my name I quite forgot where I was and answered her quite naturally with a smile.

It all happened so quickly, for a moment I was confused as to exactly what was unfolding. Raising her billowy arm and pointing at me with a great, long finger nail, her deep voice boomed out over the court room, “ARE YOU CHEWING GUM?”

I immediately turned into a quivering five year old and meekly replied in a tiny voice which is most unlike me, “Yes m`am.”

“WELL GET OUT OF MY COURT AND DON`T COME BACK UNTIL YOU HAVE DISPOSED OF IT!” She yelled at me.

Red faced I got up to make my way to the door when suddenly, all hell was let loose.  The court alarm started to ring out in an even more deafening fashion than the judge`s voice.  It all became a bit shambolic, barristers ran hither and thither, security people with worried expressions appeared as if from nowhere and other people in the room did not know what to do.  When it had quietened down and everyone was settled again and I had disposed of the offending gum, I was told that in raising her arm to oust me, one of the judge`s enormous mammaries had hit the court alarm button, situated on the top of her desk.

I don`t think I have laughed so much in ages. Discreetly. With no chewing gum!

 

 

 

 

Yes we have no bananas!

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It`s no secret, I`ve told most of my family and close friends, I had a couple of biopsies earlier this week for small lumps in my left breast, undetected by me yet discovered by a mammogram, I get the results next Monday. DON`T EVER FORGET TO GO FOR YOUR MAMMOGRAM LADIES!  Very important.

My mum had breast cancer and so did my gran` so it`s been in the back of my mind that I might also get it one day although several nurses have told me over the years that I am at no more significant risk than any other member of the population.  Honestly, I have always found that hard to believe and I`m still going to ask for genetic counselling I think, to satisfy my curiosity.

So in a strange way, I felt almost a sense of relief when I was shown my mammogram because now at last I can face it, whatever it is and deal with it. I know it might be nothing at all to worry about but I have seen the ultra sound and I`m one third of a nurse so I`m pretty sure what the results will be.  I`m only facing what thousands of women in the UK and millions all over the world face every day, united in sisterhood and occasionally, brotherhood as men can get breast cancer too.

If I have cancer then I have decided to rename it banana. In my mind this disempowers it and anyway, it makes me smile.  No offence bananas.

Some members of my family (you know who you are) have already begun singing to me;  “All my life, I`ve been a-kissing, your right breast `cos the left one`s missing…. “   which my mother also put up with when she was first diagnosed at around the same age as me. Mum continued to live out her life, minus one breast (“I was so disappointed Helen, I`ve only lost two pounds!”) irreverently, with much laughter and always surrounded by good friends and family who loved her very much so if it`s not very good news and I find out I`ve got banana, I s`pect I shall do the same. As my dear mum used to say to me, I have no intention of popping off just yet.

So – all prayers are welcome here. Any crass comments or politically incorrect jokes will not be found at all offensive, I could do with a laugh. Fingers crossed and I`ll keep you posted.

 

 

I`m going like Elsie.

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There are few feelings so sad and so difficult to manage as the awful ones we experience when the love of our life falls out of love with us.  It can take years to recover and our hearts remain forever wounded by the past. It`s a struggle to place aside the time when the relationship was still real and images of our lost love appear unsolicited again and again in our thoughts and our dreams.  It`s enough to drive you over the edge and in my case, it very nearly did.  I wanted to write this piece to offer some hope for those of us who are struggling, I`m still here in spite of the madness that engulfed my every moment of every day when I lost my love and to reassure anyone who may be in the place where I was a decade ago, that it`s possible to survive and move on with your life.   It hits me again from time to time and I have to employ all I have learned over the years, not to indulge or I would surely drive myself crazy. So that`s my first suggestion; do not drown yourself in thinking about the past!

Easier said than done.

Having spent some months gradually dying from the emotional fallout, I woke up one morning and thought,  “I must do something about this.”  I purchased a book by Paul McKenna called `I can Mend Your Broken Heart` which helped tremendously.  It`s full of exercises that help to change the way that you think. It taught me how to stop dwelling on my lost love and honestly, it was a life saver so thank you for that Mr. McKenna.  Once I was on a more even keel, I joined a dating site, Plenty of Fish.  I met plenty, many of them shocking liars. I dated a few, became friends with two one of whom was to the far right but I think I educated him. Slept with several, I have enough stories I am writing the book. Can you imagine being in bed with someone who keeps repeating, “oh dear, oh dear.”?  I did. Or getting in to bed with someone who looks like Jabba the Hut?  I did.  Or watching someone pumping up their erection with a plastic contraption because he has cardio vascular disease? I did. For a short while I became a charity fuck.  Some of the men I met were truly sad and some were wonderful, as in “Hello it`s only me.”  A man who liked to dress up as a Viking and who wanted me to be his wench, a lovely man but I am no man`s wench.  I learned aromatherapy and a few men from POF regularly came to my house for their free massage. I really enjoyed that and there was no sex involved but the neighbours must have thought I was running a knocking shop. Not that I care.  And then I met a man who I really liked and moved in with him. Hey ho, it didn`t work out but it doesn`t matter because when we finally parted ways, we parted amicably which is by far the best way.

I`m 62 now and I don`t know if I will meet anyone who will ever return to me the passion, the insanity, the beautiful intimacy or the depth of love that I felt then but I`ve had a lot of laughs and a few tears on my way to finding out so do not despair. I reckon there are two ways in which we might leave this life, the first is Peggy Lee singing “ Is that all there is?”   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sWTnsemkIs

The second is Liza Minelli singing Cabaret

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moOamKxW844

So it`s up to you dear reader if you are feeling sad. I know which way I`m going.  I`m going like Elsie.

Good old Fucking Fred!

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My dad was a real gent. Raised modestly by quite staid parents he was always a courteous man. The most I ever head him swear in my entire life was to say “hell`s bells and buckets of blood.” Honestly. My father never swore.

Dad used to wear a cap while out walking with his dog Dinah. He would think nothing of doffing his cap to any person he felt to be of superior social standing to himself. This included the vicar who was at that time enjoying a full blooded affair with a married parishioner, the local primary school teachers some of whom were horrible, racist people who didn`t like children very much and our GP Dr. Hernan, who was a chronic alcoholic and whose wife had massive hoarding problems. My mother said that Dr. Hernan`s wife had newspapers going back to the dawn of time standing in huge, impassable columns all over their flat above the surgery on the Warwick Road.

My dad`s subserviant attitude used to infuriate my mother along with the myriad of other things that infuriated my mum about dad.  My father attended grammar school until he was 14 and was a clever man, he spoke fluent French and was a good all round academic yet he never felt comfortable with his peers. He much preferred to spend his time with working class men who smoked Park Drive, drank pints and called their missis “the wife”. Mum never understood this, she was not a frequent fan of live and let live, she was a huge social snob, intolerant in some situations and often referred to dad`s mates as `the peasants.`  Imagine what trouble she would have been in today!  I think mum thought that my dad`s friends took advantage of his soft nature, which they probably did, but hey, it`s a free world.

When dad was 65 he suffered a major heart attack which floored him.  After he had recovered he took a sedentary job as a telephonist in a local printing factory called Morcats. It was at Morcats that dad became great friends with a man called Fred, or Fucking Fred as my mother always referred to him.  People often accessed our flat around the back and I still have clear images in my head of my mother standing at the kitchen sink and gazing up the garden path muttering, “Here comes FF” as she angrily piled the dishes on to the draining board.

Dad had a need to be liked and in order to meet this need he would go out of his way to help people like Fucking Fred while sometimes neglecting the needs of his family, especially my ma!  They say we marry people who remind us of our parents. Apparently we do this in order to try and unravel the complicated relationships our parents had and make some kind of sense of them. In that case – I definitely married my dad. My ex old man has many friends who remind me of Fucking Fred. There`s Fucking Dick, Fucking Edward and Fucking Patricia to name but a few. Recently my ex cooked seventy curries for Fucking Dick. It took him three days to prepare them ready for a big birthday party. F.D. said thank you, apparently. My ex also does a fair bit for Fucking Edward including taking his flea ridden dog for long walks around Elmdon Park. Does F.E. ever take my dog Alfie for a long walk? Not bloody likely. As for Fucking Patricia, two years ago Tony rented her an allotment next to his. He pays £75 a year for her to enjoy the pleasure of sitting in the summer sun with him, drinking beer. I imagine that every now and then a happy sigh escapes her lips as they gaze at the weeds and brambles inhabiting their joint allotments and never grow a bloody thing. I view the arrangement he has with F.P. a bit like a horticultural escort service for OAP`s.

Who am I to make a judgement on the people my ex old man chooses to be his friends?  He`s a grown up. Yesterday I got quite cross and said so. I`d asked him if he felt like a mooch around all the charity shops and he turned my suggestion down saying that he was too hot and too tired. Half an hour later he had been beguiled sufficiently creatively by Fucking Patricia to go and pick her up and give her a lift down to the allotments. Then I realised how daft I was being. If that`s what he wants to do with his time why should I be offended? We`ve been divorced for twelve years now, we have our own separate lives and our own separate circle of close friends. Later, I apologised to him for being so grumpy, I explained that old habits die hard and that is all my responses are usually based on – old habits. He didn`t seem to mind and there is so much about him to care for and love.

I adored both my parents, I loved my pa`s gentle humour and I loved my mother`s ascerbic wit and her acid tongue that`d thin slice ham at a hundred paces but I don`t want to become bitter as I grow older like my mother did. So God give me the wisdom to keep my opinions to myself and let my ex old man enjoy being comfortable with himself, having a laugh and feeling at peace with just whoever he likes. That`s what it`s all about. 🙂

The day I toasted Helen Redstone`s cossie.

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When I was a gal, I went to a posh school in Birmingham. Lots of the girls who attended were from really wealthy families and lived in great big mansions of houses in Moseley, Edgbaston and Harborne. Helen Redstone was one such a girl and her family had a beautiful, double fronted, plumptious house in Moseley, all decked out with deep red velvet curtains, soft carpets and expensive furnishings, it was indeed a lovely house and I occasionally accompanied Helen to her home after school, like friends do. On one such occasion I had gone to Helen`s pad specifically to borrow her posh black swimsuit as I hadn`t got one. I had swimming the next day at school and I didn`t want to miss it. More of that in a bit……

My family were not at all wealthy. Dad was a greengrocer until he was struck down with a massive heart attack in his sixties and had to find much more sedentary work. Our family flat which was situated over the shop, was large and rambling and I loved living there. We never had posh furniture, we never had gorgeous carpets but what we did have in abundance in our home, was masses and masses of love so I didn`t ever feel lacking, it didn`t occur to me how much my mum and dad struggled sometimes, to make ends meet.

I never really felt like I fitted in at my old school, lots of the kids at my school took drugs, especially speed and LSD which were de rigeur in the nineteen sixties. I never really got into drugs when I was at school, I smoked a bit of pot, I tried speed once. I wouldn`t have been able to afford a drug enhanced lifestyle even if I`d wanted it which I didn`t.

The day after swimming, my dad and I were in the kitchen. Dad was at the sink washing up and singing old army songs, (“her father came home late one night,” etc. etc.) . I was busy making myself some beans on toast. At that time I lived on beans on toast with great chunks of Lurpack butter melting into the bean juice and masses of salt sprinkled over the top. I never ditched the Lurpack but I have at least moved on to Lo-salt which is a bit of an improvement.

Anyways, unbenownst to me dad had draped Helen Redstone`s very expensive swimming costume over the grill. It was an eye level grill and being a titch, I didn`t spot it. I finally smelt something singeing and looking up with a cry of horror, I snatched the costume down from the grill – too late, the cossie was toasted to buggery and had a giant, melted hole bang in the middle of it.

Mrs. Redstone was none too pleased and immediately got on the phone to my mother. She demanded, in a rather uneccessarily rude fashion I have to say, that my mum reimburse her pronto for the cost of the cossie. It was a designer costume and had been purchased from Rackhams. It cost a whopping £12.50 which was about a week`s wages in those days. Mum scraped the money together and placing it in an envelope she penned a note to Mrs. R on her best Basildon Bond writing paper…….

Dear Mrs. Redstone,

I am so sorry to hear that you and your family are going through a difficult time financially. I do hope that things improve generally and meanwhile, please let me reimburse you for the cost of Helen`s swimsuit. I hope the money will see you through until you and your family meet with better times.

Kind regards,

Bess Pitt.

Sometimes my mum could be so embarrassing and now guess what? I am just like her! Seriously Helen, if you should ever stumble upon this blog, I was mortified the day I toasted your cossie, do you recall the incident?

This is a Birmingham park in 2014.

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013 The pictures you see here are of a Birmingham park in 2014….. In 2006 I visited southern India.  It was a most magical and wonderful place as anyone who has back packed across India, will tell you.  One of the areas I visited was the state of Tamil Nadu where there is a large city called Madurai which sits on the banks of the river Vaigai.  It was here that I realised how shockingly filthy India`s waterways can be and I stopped to photograph a part of the river where a lot of rubbish had been allowed to gather and pollute the water. I am attaching here, some more pictures that I took today.  Not of southern India but of Fox Hollies Park near where I live.  The water running through it is a (mostly underground) culvert called Westley Brook.  The brook is a feeder to the river Cole and runs all the way up to Bacons End , next door to Chelmsley Wood.  It shocks and saddens me to see how filthy the brook has become and it reminded me of my visit to India. 016 In the sixteen hundreds the land where the park sits was owned by the Holley family and much later by the Fox family who farmed there until until 1869 so the site was a former country estate acquired by Birmingham city council in 1929.  Fox Hollies Hall was a manor house situated in Acocks Green and belonged to the Walker family.  The hall stood until it was demolished to make way for several large housing estates at Gospel, Edenbridge and Pool Farm.  The remains of the great gates are still to be seen on Fox Hollies Road. Westley Brook runs through the middle of the landscape and Broomhall Mill was built here where corn was milled until sadly, the building was demolished in 1890. There is a Bronze Age burnt mound to see in the park as well as a deep pool which I think must have been the mill pond.   Ancient carp swim lazily around there, some of them must be forty or fifty years old. In 1989, 3,000 new trees were planted to enhance the land so it is particularly sad to see the brook and the parkland in such a sorry state when once it was so grand. 017 You can see for yourself the amount of litter that now strews the ground and the amount of stuff that kids and grown ups regularly chuck into the brook.  A burnt out motor bike is the latest addition, it isn`t uncommon to find motorbike wrecks in this park.  Kids steal them to have burn ups where they race up and down churning up the grass and terrorising people like me out walking their dogs.  You won`t find families picnicking here in the summer, it just isn`t safe.   God alone knows what infection a child or a much loved family pet would wind up with if they fell into that toxic water, the thought alarms and concerns me every time I walk there. 019 Well…….  I`ve had enough and I feel it is high time for ACTION!  The local elections are coming up in May.  I intend e-mailing this blog to all of the councillors who represent my ward and asking them, “What do you intend to do to clean up this park and make it once more a safe and beautiful place to visit?  If you read this on Face Book, please do me a favour and share it.  I know there are many people in Birmingham, Fox Hollies and Acocks Green who agree with me and who maybe might join the protest. Thank you!

In Flagrante Delicto…..

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How shall I put this now let me see……   I shall say a friend of mine told me the following tale…..

She said, “My daughter was coming over our way last night to see a friend.  I won`t stay long mum,  she said,  I`ll just say hello and then I`ll come and stay at yours overnight.   So I said, lovely, the spare bed is made up and you can join me and Ed for lunch on Sunday, we`re having a posh nosh.”

My friend had drunk some wine, had a little doze on the settee and woke up at about ten thinking her daughter must have changed her mind and gone home. So she said goodnight to her teenage grandson who was also stopping over and then she went to bed.

My friend continued…..  “As is my way, I woke up the following day at around 7am and went downstairs to make myself a cup of tea.  Co-incidentally, I could hear my daughter trying to unlock the front door.  I went to open it for her, it`s a bit fiddly.  Having stayed up with her mates all night, she was a little the worse for wear, a little bit wobbly as she stepped into the hall. Noticing the door to the sitting room was shut, which is unusual, I pushed it open and poked my head around the door.”

I nodded enthusiastically to encourage my friend to continue,  “Go on,”  I said.

“Well, I thought it was my grandson of course, so I was somewhat surprised to find a naked girl and a male friend of my grandson also naked, having sex on my sofa, mind you, I wasn`t as surprised and horrified as they were.  Being me and brought up to be polite I said, “Oh hello, followed by, ooops and I`ll be back in a bit,” as they scrambled to put their clothes on.  My daughter said, “who`s that?”  I tried to distract her. “Oh, just a friend of Jason`s,” I said. I knew how my daughter would react if she cottoned on to what had happened and to be honest, it was a bit early in the morning for verbal fireworks. “Come into the kitchen sweetheart I said, and have a cup of tea.” “But my daughter was having none of it – alas my diversionary tactics were too late to save the naked youngsters.”  In she strode to the front room.

My friend went on…..

“It was unfortunate timing for the poor young people having sex on my sofa that my daughter had chosen that precise moment to come home. Indeed, it was even more unfortunate that she had also enjoyed a drink whilst visiting her own friends because anyone who knows her will know that my daughter does like to make the point, and especially after she has enjoyed a glass or two of wine.

Well! You would have thought all hell had broken loose.   Taking stock of the naked scenery my daughter went absolutely ballistic at the pair of them. They were by now scrabbling around to get their clothes on looking like they wanted the ground to swallow them up. I realise their actions were very cheeky (pardon the pun) to say the least but it isn`t the first time and nor will it be the last, that kids have been caught in this way. I felt quite sorry for them.   She absolutely let rip and after much railing on about   how bleep bleep dare you   and   you should have more bleep bleep respect   and   is that the way you behave in your own bleep bleep house   etc. etc. she gave them one final disgusted look as they cowered beneath her contemptuous gaze, then in her most theatrical voice and reminding me of Catherine Tate`s foul mouthed nan, Joanie Taylor, she swept her hands out towards the front door and said, “I think you`d better leave!”

“Blimey!” I said, “Poor things…. at that time in the morning too.”

“I know,” said my friend. “As they sidled past me looking terribly ashamed, I picked up a pair of pale blue boxer shorts and handing them to the young man I gently commented, I think these must be yours…..

After they had left my daughter dusted her hands together and said in an slightly smug way, “There now, they won`t be doing that again in a hurry, that`s the last time they get their end away in my parent`s house!” and I said, “My dear girl, after the verbal dressing down you`ve just given that young man I doubt if he will ever get another erection again, never mind trying it out on someone`s sofa!”

Later that day my friend told me that her daughter had texted her, “I`m sorry, I was rather harsh wasn`t I.”  Her mother replied, “You are like a beautiful rainbow,” and smiled at the thought.

Up on the roof ma!

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Some years ago when I was still in my thirties, a lovely man called Mick moved in next door with his two sweet little girls Dutch and Beccy.  Mick was a handsome geezer in a Clint Eastwood, crinkly faced, sun burned skin and silver haired sort of a way and he and I got on a treat.  Mick would play my old man up something rotten flirting with me, telling me what a lovely arse I had and making wicked innuendos around the kitchen table, where he would often join us after the pub for songs, sung by my daughter Rebecca and accompanied by my pretty bad guitar playing.  He was great fun and I loved him lots, I still do.

Mick was having his house renovated and a new roof was being put on, so there was scaffolding all around the building.  I don`t recall how much we`d all had to drink that night but anyway we decided it would be a great idea to climb up on to the roof.  We duly went out into the cold night air; it was autumn.  My breath was frozen as we rather unsteadily climbed up the scaffolding and eventually made it to the relative safety of the roof.  We all sat giggling on the apex of the roof.  (That`s quite a good word for a Saturday –  apex…) The night was black, the stars were all out in fine and sparkling array and we began to sing James Taylor`s version of Up on the Roof.

At this point, the vicar who lived next door,  (well at least we all referred to John as the vicar, he was actually a Methodist Church Minister,)  anyway, John came out because I suppose it was late and he could hear the singing and wondered what was going on.  We could see him walking the length of his garden looking for the source and being unable to find it, went back indoors in a rather bemused state.  We laughed, not at him, we`d had too much to drink.  Eventually we all realised that the cold was settling nicely into our bones and that perhaps we should all go down and get back into the warmth of my kitchen.  Now here`s where it got tricky…..

Mick had been a roofer for some of his life so he swung down that scaffolding like an orangutan on amphetamine.  He moved with the speed of light and the vigour of a young man and was down on the ground in seconds.  My old man was the second next to go, he was slim in those days and he also happily descended in under two minutes.  Then it was my turn……

I realised that I was REALLY high up, I mean REALLY high up!   I stood up and clung to the top of the scaffolding and recall even to this day thinking, “Oh s**t, I am ever so really high up.”   The men below thought it hugely funny to start singing, “Dont jump off the roof Ma,” to me as I gingerly placed my foot on the first bar of the scaffolding and tentatively, one baby step at a time, made my way down to the safety of my garden.  It took me a good few minutes but by golly – I made it! My old man says that he and Mick came back up to help me down but I don’t recall them ebing that chivalrous!

Mick moved away from us in the nineteen nineties to settle in pastures anew.  I was lucky enough to still catch up with him from time to time in those days and now I would like to say, thanks Mick, for enriching my life with your funny, clever, entertaining and warm company but if ever you had tried to persuade me to do something like climb up on a roof ever again…… no chance!

 

 

Parents` Advocacy. An Important Matter.

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Question: “What`s the difference between a social worker and a Rottweiler?”

Answer: “You get your children back from a Rottweiler.”

I`m a parent`s advocate.  I support parents with learning disabilities who are going through child protection proceedings. Vulnerable people are disadvantaged because they are unable to make their voices heard and for parents with learning disabilities, advocacy becomes even more urgent because children are involved.

The parents I work with tell me they are reluctant to attend ante-natal or parenting classes because they feel so `different` or they are already worried that their baby may be taken off them. Organisations often don`t look at how they might creatively improve their services and make themselves more accessible and as a result, the parents are later judged or penalised for not attending classes. Family anxiety is not without foundation as research shows that parents with learning disabilities are disproportionately represented in child protection cases.  Approximately 50% of parents with learning disabilities have their children removed into care and statistics show that this figure has increased following the death of Baby P in 2007.  In fact one of the Independent Reviewing Officers for child protection conferences commented to me recently that in the borough where I work, once your child has been placed on a Child Protection Plan, it is practically impossible to get them off it.

To be fair, I do understand  first -hand how difficult the task of the children`s social worker is.  My brother was a children`s team manager for 25 years, some of the tales he could tell you would break your heart.  It`s also true to say that I have worked with some wonderful social workers who put their everything into supporting families, they go above and beyond the call of duty. Sometimes families don`t help themselves but the point I want to make is that frequently families are instructed at case conferences to “go on an anger management course,” or “go to Relate and get some counselling,” and then find that such a course doesn`t exist or that Relate have a twelve week waiting list.

Advocacy recognises that if offered the right kinds of support, many adults with a learning difficulty make very good parents.  Unfortunately the right kinds of support are non-existent, or in very short supply. We are committed to finding, creating and accessing support to enable parents to look after their own family to the best of their ability.  We assist parents who may already be in court proceedings and speak up for them on their behalf.  We explain to parents what their legal and human rights are and represent their views and wishes at all stages of Child Protection Proceedings.

Recently a solicitor described me as her client`s “security blanket.”  I was pretty cross to be so patronised because that isn`t what I am at all, I am her client`s voice in court.  The client and I are equal partners in an advocacy working relationship.  Many people don`t really understand the power of advocacy or the significant difference it can make, or perhaps they do and we don`t fit in with the `professionals` views and wishes for the possible outcomes, who knows?   Social workers will often call us in at the last minute, just as a court hearing is about to recommend a child or children be removed into care.  This no good to us at all, or to our clients, for the advocate and their client it just becomes a hand holding exercise, it is tokenism, it is a transparent attempt to tick all the boxes.

If you are a social worker, a lawyer, a midwife, a health visitor, a child care practitioner and you know someone with a learning disability is getting into a mess, call upon an advocacy service immediately.  The earlier we can begin working with someone, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Here are some important things some of our families have said to us…….

`I don`t know what I would have done without advocacy, I would have been lost, my advocate has given me the confidence to speak up for myself.`

`thank you so much for supporting my sister through this very difficult time, it is very reassuring to know that there is someone there for her because I live so far away.`

`advocacy has helped me to understand what is happening.  It makes me want to go out and help someone else in need.`

If you are a parent, or know anyone who is pregnant and about to become a parent, if they are vulnerable in some way or have a learning disability then please put them in touch with an advocate so that they talk about any issues they may have.