15.06.14 (Day 175)
On the wax. I have a bit of a problem. I remember a long walk with that problem. Things which I write now and that I’ll look back upon in times to come and see if I sorted them out or wonder what the fuck I was thinking.
Fathers’ Day and I’m of very mixed emotions: feeling down because I won’t see my kids today (the biological ones) but at the same time happy, as I have my kids here (the adopted ones, or rather the ones who who have adopted me as a father figure). My own kids will probably be doing something with my ex-wife and her partner, who’s a step dad to them in all but official title.
I have no plans to do anything with my lot here but a few of them asked me yesterday what I’d like to do today. I replied that I had no plans and asked why the question had been raised. I was quite moved when the reply came that they see me as a dad and that to some of them I’m the nearest they have to a real dad. Most of them have foster or real adoptive parents but I’m the one they can most relate to apparently. I’m a recovering alcoholic with a criminal record who lives in a squat.: what sort of example is that, apart from one not to follow? Despite circumstances though, they look up to me because I have life experience and wisdom. They respect me. And despite the surroundings, they see my home as theirs. They certainly make it so. Mi Casa, Su casa. Before any of them even arrive, two have texted me to wish me happy Fathers’ Day.
So today will be about my kids here, especially my foster daughter-type thing: The Courts, who’s the one kid who lives with us (with the knowledge of the authorities; it’s where she wants to be and where she feels safe and secure). The rest of them look after me, run errands, help around the home and sometimes give reciprocal advice. Most of them are well beyond their years. Most have problems and some are troublesome but they all have hearts of Platinum and are misunderstood by society, as am I. Maybe that’s why I understand them. I don’t judge them and I treat them as equals: respect.
The Courts is the closest one to me and the one who wants me to become her official foster carer. I’m possibly not in the best position for that capacity but The Courts feels that I’m the best person for her. The authorities approve in principle and I’ll do all that I can for my little friend. I’m her carer in all but official title anyway. We’re still going through the motions and it may not happen but I really don’t want to lose her. She’s lived with us for about a month now and those that know her on the outside have commented on how she’s changed for the better during her tenure here. She’s generally considered to be challenging and disruptive. She’s certainly wilful, stubborn and sometimes volatile but I understand her and she rarely kicks back at me as she does others. She knows that I’m writing all of this and as with everyone else, I would never speak of The Courts as I wouldn’t be prepared to say to her. I’ll never say anything behind anyone’s back that I wouldn’t say to their face. The Courts is a beautiful person. She comes with baggage but we leave it at the door here. We look forward, not back; up, not down.
I have a stack of paperwork for The Courts (college applications, Youth Offender Team meeting dates etc.) but that can wait until next week. For now, I’m with my other daughter.
So I’ll spend today with whichever adopted kids come round but will be somewhat reclusive in my room, writing these thoughts and other things besides. I shall also resurrect an old Sunday tradition of reading a weekend broadsheet newspaper. Yesterday I treated myself to The Saturday Guardian (so much better than The Observer on a Sunday), which is plenty of reading material and which used to keep me going for a week with all of the supplement sections.
More memories though, as the weekend papers were a feature of my Sundays in bed with the ex-wife and ex-fiance (not at the same time).
I spoke to my ex-fiance the night before last. It was the usual, mostly amicable conversation and I’m always glad for having spoken to her but when the conversation ends, I’m sad. I still have very strong feelings for the love of my once-upon-a-time life. I still love her. She did so much that was good for me. I repaid her in methods of unkindness. No-one understands what we went through. It was short, it was sweet, we tried. I feel constant guilt (deservedly) over what happened and my guilt is compounded when we speak. I should sever the ties but I don’t want it to end. I know she can’t forgive me but neither can she forget the good times as well as the way that it ended. Her being so nice (as a person and to me) makes it worse: I abused and damaged a wonderful person. When I dish things out, the dishes tend to be served to my nemeses’ nearest and dearest; not to my antagonists themselves. A very effective approach. I guess I’ve given myself a dose of my own medicine by hurting the one closest to me. My guilt now is a life sentence, which I deserve.
The love of my life as was is looking forward to seeing me when I visit Bexley in a couple of weeks, after I’ve seen my children in Bromley. There’ll be hurdles to overcome in Bexley with some people but the landlord of our old local has got my back. There’s a poker game in that pub on a Saturday afternoon, so I’ll probably take The Courts as she’s quite the natural poker player: I’ve taught her well. The kids come first though.
A couple of the boys have just gone out to charge my phone and netbook up for me. That just leaves me and The Courts at home. She’s only 16 but she’s safe with me. No harm will ever come to her for as long as she’s in my care. Many will (and do) judge us but here and with me is where she feels at ease. She’s gone back to bed: teenagers!
The Dog was out last night but word on the road is that he’s due back later. I miss my number one and right-hand man; my bodyguard, brother and best friend.
We’ll all miss this place when it’s gone but we have to be ready. The provisions in place for teenage drop-in centres at churches are appreciated but this place will never be replicated. It’s unusual but unique. It’s unofficial but unofficially recognised for what it is: a safe haven. Those outside see it for what it is from the outside: a squat, where a few people live and many others visit. Better that they’re in one place? The police think so. Those people outside don’t see what goes on inside, beyond the wooden gates. They just walk past, judge, criticise and persecute. Even if they did know why the kids come here, most would ask why those kids aren’t receiving “proper” care, help and counselling; referrals and so on from official sources. Because the kids find that approach patronising. These are very intelligent young people, who don’t like being talked down to. Here they’re spoken to as equals; they’re understood. By their father figure.
Some of the others of my age group who’ve come through here have been re-homed: not me. A part of me (and others) wonders if it may be advantageous to allow me to remain. Self-delusion perhaps.
Then there’s a conversation I was involved in on Friday, down by the river where a few of us meet up. Asked how things were going, I replied that we may have to shut up shop. The response was one of incredulity: “How can they do that to your place when you do so much good work there?” That was one. Another: “You have got the best and biggest place available to people like us around here. Why do you think it’s not been taken over by others in the same position, who covet it?” I quote verbatim. These are intelligent people, just down on their luck.
“Because we all know the good work you do up there. Because you have a heart of gold and you always put others before yourself. Because you have so much protection. Because you’re you.”
I still have six pages of notes to type up but my Courts is leaving tonight. I’ve done some sort of good job I guess by talking to her and now she wants to go back to her full-time carer, partly under my advisement. It’s the best thing for her and I care about her so much that I just want what’s best for her. The others have left us alone and now she wants a game of poker. The notes can wait. My girl can’t and I’ll miss her.
She’s staying. I rinsed her at poker.
I’m back in my room, drying a wet face as I just got a Fathers’ Day card from this lot. My Pink Hearts.
Back to the notes:
Just last week I visited one of the kids’ parents. They’ve been to this place, they’re quite comfortable with their daughter being here (we always escort her home) and they understand, to the extent that the mum spoke up for us (me and this place) at a recent council meeting. The subject of redevelopment was on the agenda and concerns were expressed from my side, on my behalf by the child’s parents about their fears should this place go. Without this place, their daughter will be more of a lost soul than she already is. There’s only so much that parents can do (mine tried) but what they can’t do, we do here: Non-parental intervention which indirectly helps the parents. It’s a simple model but one which few understand. And I’ve met and spoken to many of the others’ parents too. They feel the same. And as long as they know their kids are here, they know they’re safe. At least one of the kids’ parents are doing all that they can to keep us going as and where we are. The march of commerce, lack of official recognition and funding though, means that this place will be a transitory one for the kids, as it is for me. I shall miss them when we’re gone. And they me.
We’ll get them where they need to go.
Most clouds have a silver lining. This one will have many layers.
The Courts is still asleep, taking advantage of an empty house (a rare thing here). The Jackal and Mutley are still out, charging phones and my netbook. Dog hasn’t returned yet and there are no family here; no Pink Hearts. So I continue to make the most of the quiet; to read and write. I’m at my desk, where I have a vantage point over the main entrance to this place. I’m highly visible as I’m wearing my bright orange lifeguard hoodie (justified). There may be others wishing to visit but I wouldn’t know as my mobile is on charge at a remote location. Having such a large family means that we can pull in resources, like phone charging, laundry and donations of food etc. But I’m somewhat lost without my mobile. It’s everyone’s line into here and they tend to text before they visit but without the phone I don’t get the texts. We were leeching our power but we’re lost without it. The otherwise helpful, understanding and supportive police were duty-bound to disconnect us. They’ve prevented me from speaking to my dad and are keeping me from my kids on Fathers’ Day.
The Courts is stirring, so I shall don my PokerStars.com basebell cap (which I had to play 1.2 million hands to earn) and play with my young prodigy.
Happy Fathers’ Day. My thoughts are with the other dads who are unable to see their children today.
I miss my two little priceless nuggets with a rough diamond of a dad who went off the rails.
All I want to do with all of the kids is hold their hands and let them know that everything will be okay.
The Courts fell asleep again, so the poker game is on hold. The boys are still out with the phones, so I’m cut off from the outside world. I don’t know who might be trying to contact me.
I’ve moved to the living room as for once, with no-one here, it’s actually easy to get around. I’m looking at the world from the front of the building, which I have my back to: I don’t like it. Looking forward, I see my true world: the one in here. I see this place, I see a sleeping Courts and I’m happy.
Then I look back again at those out there, behind me: judge if you wish. But only after you’ve tried life like this and are truly in a position to be judgemental.
The Courts was due to leave tonight and my heart broke. She’s still here though: decided to stay.
She’s asleep in my bed, wearing one of my hoodies. I’m watching over her. She’s warm and safe.
So judge me.