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Thursday, 10 May 2012

About The Weather….



Apologies for the lack of posts. First it was the Easter holidays. Then things got busy because I started the two very part time jobs that enable me to earn the £100 a week I can get and still receive the carers benefit for my lad. And at some point in all of that I was lent an Xbox; and now weeks have passed and I’m deep in Skyrim, and haven’t washed or moved from my chair. I’m dressed in plastic armour as well.

Me, after 11pm

 Oh, and some muppet hacked my Twitter account. So if you were offered Viagra, Im afraid you’ll have to stop pestering me. Who buys Viagra from a badly spelt, out of character Twitter post, anyway? If you’re like me, if it isn’t prescribed, you’d go into a chemist and buy the Viagra, and then the random selection of other things to explain the cashier that we’re just regular guys, really there for other less embarrasing things- I don’t know, some Kleenex, some Farleys Rusks, one of the bizarre hair products chemists sell. I suppose similar to the way we would buy porn from a BP garage back in the day- you’d take a copy of Men Only to the till with a tow rope, some canned peas, and a Topic. Well, so Ive heard.

(Plus one day I want to buy the smell chemists smell of. It’s the only smell- well, that and dentists- that hasn’t changed since I were a lad. It’s not a nice smell, but its not noxious either- noxious in the way a Virgin train toilet or a decomposing skunk with constipation smells, anyway)

Damn. I've written loads and I'm not even on track. Although I have mentioned Viagra and porn so I’ll have a lot of hits.

We went to the yearly Adoption UK camp. This is not an official event run by that body, but it is very well attended and extremely beneficial to all who go. Although beneficial in this example is a subtle thing.

But I have to share our journey there. It was hard. What should have taken 2.5 hours took 4. We had to wait for the kids to finish school, and then had to spend the next hour arguing about the TARRIP. Its not a misper. The TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space but TARRIP stands for Time And Relative Room In the Peugeot.

Thats right, folks. For some reason, as a family of five with a bouncy dog, and a one eyed cat who doesn’t count, we own a Peugeot 107. They’re great cars- fun to drive, nippy, with nice retro metal interior trim and a pod like rev counter that sticks out. But no good for long journeys if youre 6.1 feet and you have taken more belongings than Abraham did leaving Ur of the Chaldees. Ive been to Cumbria like that, and sworn then never to repeat it, but we did. With two arguing children.

I always find the anticipation of the argument is worse than when it begins, being an irritable fat person. One of the children does something that puts in in "an advantage" to the other. It need only be something innocuous, but to a child with insecure attachments and an almost certain diagnosis of ADHD, that thing takes them places. So, one child finds a mouldy banana, or delves into the mountains of crap we have taken and finds the Nintendo DS. And so begins a resource war similar in brutality and length to an African conflict. As we were waiting at traffic lights, the kids were yelling and attempting to punch each other (with those angry, bite down on the tongue punch faces little kids do), and I’m trying to separete them but cant because the density of packing has rendered my arms as useless as the forearms of a T Rex, so all I can do is swivel my head and shout. To the point other cars start backing up and a resting Police cruiser copper lowers his bacon sandwich, does a number plate check, chokes, and reverses out of sight behind the wheelie bins of Little Chef. Im not exaggering much, either- heres the proof……

Expertly packed

 We got there and somebody had helpfully saved us some dinner. That was a cold, congealed paper plate of corporate pasta bake- the type with cucumber and tuna in it. Yes, the type outlawed by the Geneva Convention. We quickly moved the contents of the car to the tent we had hired, a World War 2 era patrol tent, and then went over to the firepit which by now was festooned with camp chairs and people drinking wine from mugs.

The camp brings together all the people who post in the Adoption UK forums under pseudonyms (my wife is called Pepper, and we mix with people like TinkyWinky, Greywolf, Bagpuss et al). We spend the time swapping updates on the children and our experiences. The camp works so well because it is the only place on earth where the kids can play without a constant chaperone and we don’t have to fear peoples comments or reactions. My kids aren’t even the most funky - although they were once. My kids played nicely and it was somebodies elses child running past naked wearing a traffic cone and smeared in Maltesters.

You either get adopted kids, or you don’t.

I was moved by what I saw. I was moved by the way the children looked and were. With so many of them you see faces ravaged by past abuse or haunted by birth parent dysfunction. I could almost visualise the faces of the parents as the chidren ran past- angry , broken, defiant, anti social, unloved, unaffirmed, unwanted faces. If I had been brought into life into the circumdtances of these birth parents, my children would also have been removed.

I looked at the faces and bodies of the adoptive parents. Almost without exception, we are  overweight, or with twitches. Those without physical phenomena  have worse issues. Some of the men- and it is only the men- can only be heard, not seen, like poltergeists. Heard shouting at the children in the tents (“Abigail, you’ve just woken the whole campsite!” “Peter- put it dowwwwwwwn! Put it dowwwwwwwwwwnn!”). One bloke I met on the Saturday I thought had just arrived- but he had been lurking in the tent, hiding, since lunchtime Friday. And most of the men who actually emerged from the tents and were around didn’t interact with their children. They sat looking out at more than the view, or making origami, or reading papers. It was the women who engaged with the children.

I found it sobering because whilst I don’t play with my children much (as in, get on the floor and move cars or dolls around) or invest fully in their waking hours like I should, and I swear I will improve on this, at least I was “there”. In fact M was a little bit under the weather and she sat with me and went into Hereford with me, and it was nice Daddy/ little girl time.

Magazine, the seminal band sang a song called “About the Weather” (see above) which was poignant to this weekend in a number of ways. In the song there is this loaded line; “You dislike the climate but you like the place…I hope you learn to live with what you choose” and for so many of us, that is our adoption story. But for these men, they were trapped. I have felt (notice the tense here) that trapped- trapped because you want out of the adoption, you want the children to “go back”, and you want what you once had. But you are truly trapped because if the children go back, they are destroyed. You wont be able to live with yourself, at least without a massive alcohol or drug problem, and yet you don’t want to live in the present. So you have a choice to make- stay miserable, irritable and distant, leave your wife with the children, or try and change. All options are agony and seemingly impossible. And so you sing along with another Magazine song “Look what fear has done to my body” (from "Because You're Frightened"). Welcome, Tramadol and Citalapram. Welcome massive weight gain. Welcome forced career change. Welcome the slow erosion of sanity and changes.

Now, all of this is solvable. Partly through attendance at this very camp. There were people from Glasgow there, which I found very moving- for them to come all that way, to need that understanding and love. And moving that they were from Glasgow, naturally.

People need support. They need understanding. They need fellowship with people who know the score. Hearing their stories you see why most of us were in, or had been in, agony. We have to fight Total War with social care and all local authority bodies. The amount of helpful or understanding statutory services is depressingly low. I heard stories of children refused an assessmnt of special educational needs (SEN) by their schools, and yet they were shunted off into side rooms and allowed to read all day so their challenging behaviour coud be hidden and lazily controlled. The lies about how well the child read put in school reports.... and the children could barely read. The years lost. And this behaviour is prolific.

Adopters need support. We need it from each other, but we also need it from families who haven’t necessarily adopted. We are excited to be part of a venture for Care For the Family and Evangelical Alliance in the UK where their vision is to raise up an adoptive family in every Jesus focused church in the land , and in doing so they would destroy the waiting list of children in care looking for a “forever family”. Our passion is that that family would have at least one- maybe two- other families standing side by side with them, sharing the pain and the joy, offering respite, pampering , advice and fellowship to these people. Because you cant do it alone, as a general rule. Adopted children have massive issues and the fallout from managing these, often without any real professinal help, is beyond human endurance. 

And this lack of help seems so pronounced in the UK. In Europe I’ve heard jaw dropping tales of how the state supports its people. One lady in Switzerland had a Downs Syndrome baby. She said that when she came back home from the hospital, a social worker was waiting (note- waiting, physically waiting at the house) with a sheaf of forms and said “I'm going to sort all your help today” and from that day on this family didn’t have to fight for all the operations, input and organisation that was neeed for the little one. Im sick of hearing about how the UK social care services and education have no money. They do have money. They spend it on reactive services, buildings, and utter bollocks- as well as over paid, fat cat, visionless managerialist losers who run the service from the top. And frankly, for arguments sake, if there is no money, pack up and piss off home. Let the army do social care or something. Don’t create some child harvesting, toxic bullshit machine that has enough money to start a process but none to finish it.


This is angry. I am aware that there are huge numbers of social workers with compassion, integrity and massive ability. But these people, with few exceptions, work in departments and departmental systems that are toxic. What is worse, the leaders of those departments could have the minerals to change things, but don't. Heads of social care and councils like to do change when they come into office, and the misery and fall out has just about been rectified when a new one comes in and repeats the process. Millions are spent simply changing the logo on council letterheads. Hell, the mayor of Bedford (who I have met, and is a really nice bloke) wears ceremonial garb and gubbins worth a million- I worked it out with another worker (about to loose his job via council cuts) at an event we took part in.


 When I was both a social worker and later a manager, I did try and change things for the good, but theres an interface problem. Im not deluded enough to think I'm "the only true voice" but UK social care suffers from the "elephant in the room" problem. Nobody dares name the fact its abusive, and messed up. Not social work as a profession or concept, mind- just the way it is translated- for service users and workers alike. I will never compromise on this view, because coming to see it was one of the most liberating things I ever did. I mean it, maaaaaaaan.

The night in the tent was an experience. Ive slept in survival sleeping bags on the shores of Cumbrian lakes in midwinter so I know cold- but that night in the patrol tent re defined cold. It started out OK. I like a cold bedroom and warm bed, I find it aids sleep. I love the elements, especially wind and rain when I sleep. So at first the wind ripping through the door and out the other door and rustling the trees was great. I went off to sleep with it. But at about 2/3am the cold woke me. The cold rising through the ground through the airbed was immense. I didn't know ground cold would penetrate an airbed like that. I didn’t know there was a point, in this hemisphere, where cold could penetrate a thick duvet so completely I might as well have had clingfilm over me. I tossed and turned til 6am and then had to move- or die. I spent the rest of the day with a low internal core temperature, and no matter what  did, I couldn't warm up. I sat in the car. I drove to Hereford with the heater on. I put my daughter on my knee and tried to absorb her heat like a vampire. I was so cold my intestines felt like coiled ice pops and my teeth felt icy inside my head.


I forgot to mention, a visionary social worker sent a prospective adoptive couple to the camp to se what they could be taking on. What a great idea- so great, in fact, it should be a rite of passage. You wont understand adopters you hang with adopters. You could tell they hadnt taken the plunge because they were dressed in lovely clothes, and responded quickly to conversation. We tend to marinate answers a long time in memory banks via a series of "is this too scary?" filters when we are asked about experiences.

We came home early, in the last big journey in the 107 because a kind friend has gifted us a massive 7 seater people carrier. Our talk en route home (the childre had fallen asleep, thanfully) was on the encouragements and lows of the camp. I had been encouraged because one of the women running it came up to me and said I looked happy and I had engaged this year. The last times I had come I hadn’t, I was so, so unhappy. We saw how our children had grown and were so proud at how well they had played (D even pulled a girlfriend, and spent the day walking around hand in hand with her, grinning). We were just sad that children, some with less issues than ours, had been given diagnoses and medication we so desparately need and as a result the parents were almost back to normal.

There was a journey ahead. There is a journey ahead.

Storms coming, Ani..........

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