Friday, 27 May 2016

More on the "Care Kids Hard Core"

Yesterday Ella got a phone call from Mike S who hasn't been in touch for nearly 4 years. He lives down in South Wales and at one time he was one of the most active people in the former care kids community.

It was quite a surprise to hear from him after so long but it seems as if he came across our blog during a Google search and when he read the entry for Nov 5th 2014 that mentioned him he thought he would have a chat!

He is still with the same girl friend that he had when we last heard from him. She is more "mainstream" than him because she comes from a "proper" family who only live about 20 minutes away from the two bedroomed house that Mike S and Maggie share. Maggie's family have been lovely towards him and having a family to turn to has made a big difference to how he now feels about himself and the world in general.

He explained to us what went wrong with the Cardiff Conference that he started to organise. There were supposed to be 4, including him, on the organising committee. At the first meeting 3 turned up, at the second meeting only two and at the third and fourth meetings Mike S was there on his own. At which point he gave up on the whole idea! And who could blame him! There is always a mismatch between the large number of people who would like something to happen and the small number of people prepared to do all the work required to make something happen.

What with work and family life he has fallen out of contact with many of his former foster care friends. The only person he sees regularly is Paul E who he seems to bump into quite frequently in and around Barry Island. Mike S seems happy with the way his life is moving on and so he must be thought of as one of the real success stories in our wide circle of friends.

Friday, 20 May 2016

From major influence to no influence

Big Boss Lady or BBL was the owner of the business where I worked after I graduated. For several years she was one of my closest grown-up friends and I had enormous respect for her both as a person and as a professional scientist. She was one of the major influences in my life for quite a while.

She and I had some memorable times together, most especially during our second trip to New Zealand. It was during this trip that the first cracks started to appear in our relationship. BBL was usually so nice to me but several times in New Zealand she was quite rude and aggressive. We hardly ever ate together in the evening and it isn't much fun dining on your own in a strange town. I don't have any idea where she went or what she did when she "disappeared". I did ask her once but she just changed the subject. I never did understand why I was asked to go overseas with her except for company and moral support. But then why did she go off on her own so often?

Not too long afterwards both Ella (by then BBL's PA) and I became pregnant. Pretty much everything to do with our maternity leave was mishandled by BBL and in the end we both got the absolute legal minimum time off and money paid to us. We had both given her miles more that our contracts required but when it came to her showing us some appreciation she just didn't want to know.

When we returned after our maternity leave things got even worse. At the end of our first week back the Big Boss Lady called us into the office to let us know that she wanted us to work in New Zealand for her. BBL would have liked me to run the scientific side of her new venture near Christchurch with Ella as the Administrative Manager. The salary and perks would have been excellent, at least twice what we are on in England but of course everything comes with a price attached. BBL must have been planning this for ages and we felt a bit ambushed by her. After a lot of thinking we said a firm no and our relationship with BBL never recovered.

Things quickly came to a final crisis when BBL was told Ella that she was going to have to leave the business to save money. Then BBL said she could stay but only part time and on a "zero hours" contract. Unsurprisingly Ella said no. So BBL said she could stay full time but on a reduced salary. Still unsurprisingly Ella said no again. Ella then went out and got a job working in a law practice 3 days a week but on about 80% of what she was earning full-time when she was working for BBL. 

I didn’t want to work for BBL after Ella had been treated so badly so I started looking round for alternative employment which I found with no trouble. And there the story ends and it makes me feel quite sad. 




Friday, 13 May 2016

A monthly magazine for care-leavers?

This week I received a flyer seeking my support for the publication of a monthly electronic magazine targeted at care-leavers. The editorial team seem to be bursting with enthusiasm at the "new" business model they have come up with and they seem convinced that a subscription paying readership of 250 is achievable within 12 months.

When I first read it I assumed it was a wind-up spoof written by Ella or Didi but now I think they are serious. Oh dear! Quite a few of us have been down the monthly magazine route before - unsuccessfully - and I think the editorial team have seriously under-estimated how much hard work is going to be required to generate the proposed 16-20 pages of content per issue.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of this proposal is that potential readers will have to pay £12.00 per annum to receive the magazine. This, of course, makes its success even less likely. None of the ideas for regular content are original and my immediate concern is that once the initial energy and enthusiasm has drained away the magazine will quietly fold. For a freebie that wouldn't matter overmuch but once you start accepting paid subscribers then non-delivery of paid-for issues is quite serious. Any subscriber is going to expect around 200 pages of content (16 pages x 12 issues) for their money and creating that isn't going to be either quick or easy.

I know Theo, the #2 in the organisation, who was last seen by me tied to a lamp-post in Manchester (don't ask, it is a long story!) but the other names on the flyer are unknown. That isn't either a good thing or a bad thing but it is interesting. I have often wondered if there are many organised groups of care-leavers scattered around the country totally ignorant of the existence of other similar groups?

I cannot believe with all the thousands of care leavers in a place like London there isn't somebody with the drive to set up a self-help group. But none of my circle of friends have ever seen proof that such a group exists. If they do they must be operating in semi-secret, perhaps by invitation only?

I emailed the promoters to wish the new magazine well but also explaining why I wouldn't be subscribing. I wasn't even slightly surprised not to get a reply!

Friday, 6 May 2016

A quiet wedding - and a noisy reception

Obviously the most important event of the year so far was the marriage between 38DD and Charlotte up in Blackpool. The two of them had shared a flat for several years - just as friends - but as time went by they decided that the feelings they had needed to be acknowledged and so they got engaged and then married.
The six of us went up to Blackpool in two cars. Nicola and Alice (the youngsters ) travelled up with their two Dad's leaving Ella and I to go up on our own. We were all booked into a Premier Inn in Blackpool for the Friday and Saturday nights and that worked well. Didi and Magda came up early on Saturday morning and just stayed for one night in the same hotel as us.

The ceremony was held at a venue that was too small for anybody other than close family to attend so for most of us the celebrations started when the happy couple arrived at the hotel. As usual the photographs took far too long but the photographer had a list of what he wanted to do and nothing was going to speed him up!

The reception after the ceremony was a great success. The hotel where 38DD works gave a very generous discount on the usual price for the venue and the catering company that employs Charlotte provided the food and drink at pretty much cost price. Well done to both employers for being so generous and kind!

There were lots of people there that we knew well so a memorable afternoon and evening was pretty much guaranteed. Almost all the Blackpool "gang" were there for part, most or all of the reception.  The most notable absentee was Di from Leeds (who actually lives in Preston) who was out of the country on holiday - she missed a treat.  We were particularly pleased to see North Pier I who looked particularly smart in his 3-piece suit.

One thing that weddings teach me is how little overlap there is between some of my circles of friends. It can come as quite a shock to realise that although I know 38DD very well I have other equally close friends who have never met her and wouldn't even recognise her name. Ella pointed this out to me, not for the first time, when I wondered aloud why none of the Penarth and Barry group had been invited to the reception!

The husbands and little ones had had a lovely time without us but it was still something of an anti-climax for all of us to have to drive back home on Sunday.