Sunday, 25 January 2015

Guest post by Didi - Magda and I are back together!

2014 is a year that I will always remember.

Back in late 2013 Magda and I split up after two years together. It all happened so suddenly that even now I can hardly bear to think about it. I wanted a more public, more permanent if you prefer it, recognition of our joint status but Magda didn’t and we went our separate ways. December 2013 passed in a horrid blur and although we had a short lived reconciliation over Christmas that only “worked” because we didn’t ever discuss the issue that was dividing us!

Magda went back to Norway and she and I exchanged emails for a few months but these messages were causing both of us great distress so in the summer even that stopped. For a few months I switched the emotional part of my brain off. I did my job as best I could and I kept in touch with my various friends both in the town and throughout the UK but it wasn’t really me doing these things. I was just an actress playing a role in some second-rate play. I kept hoping that something would happen to change the sadness I was feeling inside me but nothing did.

As I wrote in July “I have felt surrounded by grey clouds for much of the time and I've been aware, all too painfully aware, that I have been a source of much worry to my friends and foster parents alike. Believe me that wasn't through my own choice!”

The death of “Boy who will not be named” hit me quite hard. I didn’t know him that well in terms of recent  face-to-face contact but he was in my friendship group and his sudden death was a nasty shock.

In late September Magda got in touch with Eve and Ella and then a couple of days later Magda wrote to me. She told the three of us that she had a "Didi shaped hole" in her life. What Eve and Ella didn’t know until later was that Magda then made a promise to me that she would be coming back to England in November or December 2014. This was to be a secret between the two of us!

Meeting her at the airport was one of the great emotional moments of my life and I couldn’t share it with anybody because her return was to remain unknown - just in case. We haven’t put the clock back but luckily neither of us had ever said things that couldn’t be unsaid so there wasn’t too much damage to be repaired. Our master plan fell apart when Magda was seen in the town by our mutual friend Grace. Word spread as it was bound to and so we had to confess to lots of people!

So many of you, both blog readers and friends from other social networks, have supported Magda and I during this enormously difficult time which is why Magda and I agreed that this “soap opera drama script” needed to be written. Now you are all up to speed!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A very positive review of our book!

Not enough is known about how it feels to be fostered.

So a book that starts like this:

"I wrote this book to repay a debt. Not a financial debt, although money does come into the story, but an emotional debt to two groups of people. Those who helped me survive 18 years of living in foster care or in a Children's Home and those who subsequently helped me to recover from those difficult times."

Is gold.

The author is Eve Higgins. She was abandoned as a baby and went through a series of foster placements before ending up in a Children's Home as being impossible to place. 

If you don't know, the word "place" means be put into a foster home. 

The book contains a number of carefully observed home truths. For example, the author notes that;

"The average quality of foster care declines as the age of the child increases"

You could probably write a book about that observation alone, it gives you an idea of how sharply some foster children see what's happening around them.

The book isn't structured like a conventional book, it's built along the lines of how the world must seem to children whose lives are fractured. That's the genius.

You get to read the conscious musings of a young lady who has been somewhere we foster carers need to know about, as well as a sense of her swirling emotions and the clutching at relationships to make up for the massive absences of good parenting and a solid home. Clutching at relationships with other young people who have also endured.

These young people come and go, people called Angel, Queen of the World, Twinkle, Goodie Two Shoes, Miss Peanut and Tiger Tim. The author uses the psuedonyms partly to protect people who, she says, don't want anyone from their past to be able to track them down.

I think the names she has for them speak volumes of lost childhoods.

A big gist of Eve's book is tied up in the fact that all the attempts to bind her into a foster family didn't work, and she was moved to a Home. To read her words is a great chance to up your game as a foster carer. 

She had plenty of good fostering experiences, but always felt different. I think, it seems to me, she wanted to build a piece of her own family rather than be given a strange one on a plate, one which had already formed before she arrived. She wanted to create a piece of family for herself.

In the Children's Home she clicked with the girl in the next door room, Ella.

There's stuff every foster carer should know, just for background. Do you know where a foster child might hide contraband in their room? I do now.

But the book offers much much more than tips and hints. It's a precious insight into how coming into care is for the child, and how we carers have to be at the top of our game, with all our love and strength and powers of understanding and intuition, kindness and humanity. 

Having read the book the new thing I have to bring to my future fostering is that the child wants and needs to build her corner of family. She needs and deserves to be the creator, the constructor, the developer of relationships that she finds rewarding because they help the other person. She, or he, wants to be useful, like we all do.


It's called "How I survived in and out of Care" by Eve Higgins. 

It's not available on Kindle, at least I couldn't find it, but Amazon had a copy.

I'm of a mind to ask Blue Sky to invite her to give a lecture to us carers on the things she knows that we should know, that only someone who has been in care would know.

I'll plug it here if it happens.

Meantime, I'd like to thank Eve for her book and for all she has done for the people she cares about, and has helped in so many ways.

And I'd like to let her know it wasn't fair or just that someone with so much to offer had to start from such a bad place that she would have been a success if she'd simply got by, never mind about becoming a university graduate and now a school teacher. Best wishes to your husband and child Eve.

And I'd like to say to Ella what a great stroke of luck for Eve to find someone wonderful like you in the next door room, and how much respect you too deserve. I hope your marriage is flourishing, as is your child, and your work at a Law centre.

The book should be a movie, by the way. Seriously.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Life after Romulus and Remus

Life goes on I suppose. The few good days, the whole mass of ordinary days and the few bad days. Coping with the loss of our cats has added to the bad day column in a way that a non-pet-owner could never imagine.

We have put the bed they shared for so long down in the cellar. We don't have any immediate plans to visit the refuge to get another cat or cats but it is certainly something we might consider doing when our initial pain has gone away and we are able to make a calmer, more rational decision.

To balance the sadness about Romulus and Remus we have the happiness that Didi and Magda are back together. Well nearly back together. Magda is living in a bed-sit in town rather than sharing Didi's staff flat in the hotel but I think it is just a matter of time! :)

We haven't seen Magda yet although we have spoken on the phone. Nicola and Alice spoke to her as well - in as far as any 2 year old can conduct a conversation!

My life as a teacher is rather more difficult to place into a neat position on the good to bad scale. It would score 6 or 7 out of 10 I suppose. I think it is the lack of colleagues who are the same age as me that is the biggest single issue. I don't seem to have that much in common with ladies in 40s or 50s because most of the people I have known in the past who have been that age have either been a foster parent to me or a social worker or an employee in the Children's Home. None of these three groups inspire many happy or loving memories.

Finally there are the homophobic emails I have been receiving. The police have been become involved so I cannot write too much. The campaign leader of the senders is an evangelical American whose name is known to me from previous "interactions"!