Sunday, 18 September 2016


May 12th 2016

My day starts at 5.00am when my wife gets up. She is the main breadwinner right now. She is battling to save the honour of the nursing profession and to ensure it’s future by facilitating new cohorts of students into practice. She is off to Brighton today. I hear the shipping news and birdsong on the radio. I go back to sleep.

My day restarts at 6:00am when my son, M(8) gets up. He is excited by a sheet of voucher offers for McDonalds that has come through the door. He plans what he would select if we went. I have never taken him there but he has been a few times with his friend’s families.
The radio talks of the EU referendum campaigns and Trump, Clinton and Sanders in the US. The tea my wife made me has gone cold. I drink it anyway. In he end I agree to take M(8) to Mc D’s if he writes a diary for today.

I make more tea.

I wake up my daughters, M(14) and F(8).
M(8) tries to write his diary in advance, predicting what is going to happen in his day. I suggest he wait and see.

I begin to encourage everyone to get up and dressed.
I have to ask F(8), who is an avid reader and writer, not to let diary writing get in the way of all the other usual morning tasks.

M(8) can’t find any trousers.

Everyone is eating rice krispies. We don’t usually have them but planned to make krispie cakes. We don’t get round to making the cakes and the krispies keep getting eaten before we can. We are on our third box as we have al the other ingredients waiting around.
Requests are made for boiled eggs.

I go and see our hens and let them down from their roost into their run.
They seem much happier since we killed the rooster. They no longer cower submissively.
He became too aggressive, attacking the children. He was satisfyingly tasty.
I give the contented hens grain and pellets and pull them up some spinach beet that is going to seed. It has kept us in greens all winter. There are two eggs, one still warm.

I start on packed lunches.
We count to 120 for perfect soft boiled eggs.
F(8) sings all through breakfast.
I make cheese rolls. everyone has a different combination  of fillings: tomato, cucumber etc.
M(8) starts last minute homework. He uses a large felt tip pen to write out his spellings. I find him a pencil. The lead breaks.

In yesterday’s packed lunch debris only the carrot sticks I made remain, untouched.
I snap at F(8) as she hovers around M(8) doing his homework. I think she is interfering. She is great with words, he prefers numbers. She only wanted me to do her hair. A high ponytail. I apologise and brush, gather and secure with a hairband.

I clear the breakfast things. The washing up will have to wait. M(14) leaves the house.
F(8) comes in search of a multivitamins. She battles with the childproof lid and wins.
I get everyone by the door with book bags and lunches. Everyone has brushed teeth and had a wee.

M(8) wants his hair waxed and combed as is the fashion at his school. I do this for him with reluctance I try to hide, reflecting on his age and thinking of myself at his age and how I wouldn’t have ever given my hair a second thought apart from wishing it was straight. How I wanted it to be straight! Maybe I was more conscious of my appearance than I like to imagine.

The twins zoom off down the hill on their scooters and I follow, greeting the familiar faces of the morning.
Once they are safely deposited in school I walk back up the hill replying to text messages on my phone. I would prefer to just walk mindfully but can’t help thinking that I will forget to do it later if I don’t use this window of spare time.

Back at home I pour some bleach into the toilet bowls and check the cats are not in the same room as the gerbils.

I get in our car which has started making lots of strange noises. Yesterday our mechanic advised me to buy a list of parts on eBay. He may as well have been speaking Mandarin. I have forgotten them all and will need to return and get him to write them down for me.
I call my office and to suggest they place info on Hastings Speaks on our Facebook page so our clients can think about recording their day.

I drive to my first clients. They are a young homeless couple with a new baby. They left her mother’s home as they felt at risk from her lodger, who they describe as a violent schizophrenic.

There was an incident which triggered them leaving just before the baby was born. They are now staying with his parents sleeping in the living room in an already overcrowded 3 bedroom flat with 5 other adults and numerous pets. There is a very strong smell from the litter trays and the dog has a skin condition.

The baby’s father is chronically anxious. He describes being systematically bullied throughout his schooling and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from a street attack involving a weapon. The baby’s mother is trying to complete the dissertation for her degree. Normally, to me all babies look the same (my own aside) but their baby is particularly beautiful.

The estate they are staying on has a depressing reputation and appearance. There is a lot of litter lying around where black bags have been put out to be torn apart by foxes and seagulls. Broken plastic toys and bits of cheap furniture are lying around. The tenants are mostly white, many are obese and many look under-nourished. Few people seem to work. Everybody seems unwell.

At least this is my experience of the estate as a support worker. I hope it is biased by my role and there is a whole aspect to the community that I never meet.
The couple’s situation has not changed. They have had no replies to the emails and calls they have made to the council housing department. We talk about what they can do next such seek legal advice to force the council into responding.

I drive to my next client. I eat a cheese roll in the car before I go in.
He is a single young man living in a housing association flat. He wants to move as he feels he is being harassed by his neighbour upstairs and her friends in the area. He doesn’t feel safe. He has a learning disability and also has problems with his mental health. He has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following a fire in a care home where he was working. A resident he got along well with died in the fire and he was required to give evidence in court.
He has a problem with hoarding that has got out of control.

His flat is full of electronic gadgets, videos and DVDs, a lot of which are pornographic, magazines, books and comics, computer games and consoles. There is a lot wires and cables. He has bags and boxes of papers and documents that go back for years. The main focus of my involvement has been to help sort through these as a starting point. We broke his shredder with over-use.

He is the victim of of what I have no doubt is an online romance/dating site scam. He is sending money to Nigeria on a regular basis to what he thinks is a woman who has fallen in love with him.

The last time I was visiting him the police came to see him following an anonymous tip off about the regular payments being sent.
Despite the police and myself explaining to him that his situation fits the profile exactly of how these scams work he decides to continue the communication and tells me he is sure ‘she’ is genuine and will soon be flying over to the UK to be with him. My feeling is that deep down he knows he is being deceived but it has become a compulsion to continue the intimacy he is experiencing via his phone. It is almost as if he is so lonely and longs for loving so much that it doesn’t matter to him whether it is real or not.
We discuss it all some more. He has a social worker visiting later in the day and he will have to answer lots of question about it all from them. He knows what I think about it and asked me if we could not talk not it any more for today.

We sorted through some more of his stuff.

Next I go to my office for a meeting. I am not clear what the purpose is of the meeting but it involves writing things on post-it notes and flip charts. The room is very hot. I eat another cheese roll.

After the meeting I sit at a computer reading and answering emails, calling clients and putting appointments on my calendar.

I go back to school. Both twins have after school clubs. M(8) is Fencing (posh swords not posts and boards) and F(8) is in the choir. I have an appointment wth M(8)’s teacher as I missed parent’s evening due to a clash with the same thing at M(14)’s school a few weeks ago.

His teacher really likes him and he is doing really well in the class. Apparently, the government  are no longer interested in handwriting as long as the content is good which comes as a refreshing surprise.

We come home and everyone wants to watch TV as we have been without one for 4 months, only sometimes watching catch-up on laptops. The ariel fell off our roof and it took a long time to plan and put into action what we were going to do. Sometimes in this modern world when there are so many variable options it is hard to know what the right thing to do is.

We drink tea and milk and eat chocolate biscuits.
I do the breakfast washing up.

I cook them stir-fried chicken, veg and rice. I tip in a bit more fish sauce than I mean to and the smell causes lots of objections and nose-holding but it tastes fine and they eat it all up.
Unusually, I don’t eat with them as I am eating out. Even more unusually my wife and I are going out with some friends. M(14) will look after her brother and sister and put them to bed.
I rarely socialise now. I am aware that it sounds like the words of a depressive but I find it tiresome which is an antiquated sounding term but the best I can find to match how I feel. I know I will probably enjoy it when I go but the expectation of being witty and interesting and more than anything, interested, makes me weary and wary.

I rarely drink alcohol anymore, most people’s social lubricant. I did a lot of stimulants when I was younger and went to a lot of pubs and parties. I sometimes feel I filled my quota. Now, social self-sufficiency, a degree of isolation and containment seems attractive.
Still, part of marriage is compromise, considering the needs of others and not just doing what you want, locking yourself away with your paints.

We go and eat a Balinese meal in a traditional old town pub. The chef is my next door neighbour.
I choose fish curry.
The company is my wife and 3 other women I know to varying degrees which wasn’t what I was expecting. The talk is of education, health and the state of the nation. I don’t say much. The pace of the chat is too quick for me.

And so to bed. I have one last cup of tea.
I will happily start it all again in the morning.

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