“Work out how many vulnerable children there are in this country today…Four months, 12 experts, 500 pages and four spreadsheets later, and our answer is: we don’t know.”
The report produced by the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry into the abuse of children in the Island’s care system over seven decades was published yesterday. The findings were shocking:
Having their hair forcibly cut off
Having their mouths washed out with soap
Spending long periods in an isolation room
Having fat from a frying pan poured over them
Being punched and slapped
Being sexually abused
Live electrical wires applied to legs
Being hit with a pre-war army stick with a metal end
Being beaten with nettles as a punishment for bedwetting
The “Jersey way” is a term used to describe a system where “serious issues are swept under the carpet” and “people avoid being held to account for abuses”. However, Jersey is not the only place in the world where this has been happening and still carries on.
Studies show that children and adolescents in care are at greater risk of suicide and attempting suicide than those who are not in care. Rates of suicide attempts and hospital admissions within this population were highest before entry into care and decreased thereafter. Health and social care professionals should be made aware of this research. The care home experience is a prominent risk marker for suicidal behaviour among teenagers and young adults.
I grieve for his death.
For his guilt, his shame.
His self blame.
His sadness. His silence.
Every moment of distance.
Him, all alone. Forlorn.
His thoughts, torn.
His brokenness. Hopelessness.
His lightless eyes. His vanished smiles.
His hollow form. His shadow gone.
His quite desperation. Separation.
His terror. His fright.
Night after night.
Misunderstood, behind a hood.
For this black and white Now.
For this constant ‘How?’
That wretched day I went to work.
Every time I put me first.
Words unsaid. Eyes unmet.
Jokes and Stories unshared . Games unplayed.
Songs unhummed. Beats undrummed.
Meals uncooked. Dreams unhooked.
Films unseen. Jeans uncleaned.
Hugs unheld. Incense unsmelt.
Cocktails unmixed. Good-nights unkissed.
I grieve and I am grateful
For all that was given
and all that was taken away
And all the nitty-gritty.
For it pushes me closer to Divinity.
At the Delhi International Airport, leaving home, I usually am sad to be leaving my folks. But on this occasion I felt like an uplifted version of myself. Positively happy. Buzzing. Most uncharacteristic. Something was not right, if you know what I mean. I thought back to what had gone on in the few preceding hours. Well, the only new thing was that just before leaving home, I had a glass of ice-coffee that my Mum had made for us. It was most welcome on a warm day like that. That was the first time I had coffee in more than 10 years.
Here was my answer. Saagar used to love Mocha Frappucino. I thought it was just the sugar hit he liked but now I know it is a combination of the coffee, the coolness and the calories. For some, the cream on top. I had just found a ‘back-up’ plan for my blues. It was a tried and tested remedy.
Since last weekend the temperatures have completely justified a generous dose of ice-coffee and we’ve indulged every day.
This is how we make 2 glasses :
Medium strength coffee: 200 mls
(While hot, dissolve 2 heaped teaspoons of dark muscavado sugar in it and allow to cool to room temperature)
Cold Milk: 1 glass
Ice cubes: 14-16
Blend the coffee and sugar mix in a blender.
Add the milk. Blend again
Add about 12 ice cubes. Reblend.
Pour into 2 tall glasses and add the other 1-2 ice cubes in each glass.
For extra luxury, add cream or vanilla/chocolate ice-cream to the mix.
If you drink properly, you can even get yourself a nice moustache. I am hooked. Can hardly wait till tomorrow.
(I am not going to be a numpty and post a picture of ice-coffee. I think everyone knows what it looks like.)
20 residential levels
4 mixed levels of community areas and residential flats
2016 refurbishment completed
The tower was built in 1974. It was recently made to look pretty for £8.6 million pounds. Lower 4 floors were remodelled, creating nine additional homes, better heating and communal facilities.
1 am, Wednesday, 15th June : A fire started at the 4th floor and rapidly engulfed the entire tower. Source unknown.
No alarms. No sprinklers. No warning.
40 fire engines and 200 fire fighters.
More than 24 hours to bring the blaze under control.
17 reported dead so far. Count rising. Many hospitalised. Many missing.
Heart-rending stories of people trying to save their kids and themselves in any way possible. Firemen and women traumatised by what they saw. Families distraught. Neighbourhood shattered. London shaken.
Previous warnings by residents ignored. False assurances given.
All to do with money. Cheap material used for encasing the building. Each unit not adequately isolated.
Recommendations made by inquiries into similar previous fires not implemented. All to do with money.
Our country cannot provide its citizens with proper medical care, education or housing. First world country?
This is what it must be like in countries like Syria, Yemen and Lebanon where every day, unmanned drones drop ruinous bombs on innocent unsuspecting civilians. We are all the same people.
We don’t need aliens. Thank you. We are clever enough to self-destruct.
At 26, she finally sought help. She is bright, has received fabulous education, is brought up in a stable, happy household and has travelled extensively. After graduation she got a great job in the city of London but came to realise it was not right for her.
After a tempestuous patch, she has landed on her feet. Great wisdom has come to her in abundance. She has discovered that her family is her strength. She can trust them. Her mother walks right beside her, growing with her, every step of the way. She now appreciates her dog more than ever before. A drive to the coast and a stroll by the sea with a loved one is not something she takes for granted anymore. Yoga is now a part of her daily routine. Gardening brings her peace. She spends her time colouring picture books and drawing sketches.
Her creativity is finding expression. Zaynah lives with Borderline Personality Disorder and writes a blog – Not a simple mind. Her life is not easy but it is a hundred percent authentic. She shares it generously. She is determined to help others. While Facebook constantly incites her to compare her life with that of others, she knows better. She can tell real from fake. She understands she is in recovery. It’s a zig-zag road but it’s good. Yes. All this learning at 26!
“Recovery isn’t about getting back to how you were before, it’s about building something new.” – Anonymous.
In the recording below, Zaynah talks to me about her diagnosis, her recovery and the changes in her life:
Rush hour in London is a perfect example of organised chaos. Buses, cycles, pedestrians, taxis and cars miss each other by millimetres and head purposefully towards their respective destinations. The sun shone generously this morning, throwing light on every minute detail.
He sat on the edge of a low shop window on York Road. I saw him on my way from the bus-stop to the hospital. He sat there holding his head in both his hands – the classic pose. He must have been in his mid-twenties. There was darkness in his eyes, a small blue travel bag by his right foot. Not sure if he spoke English. He didn’t look drunk. I walked past him. I wanted to stop and talk to him but I knew this could take time and I would get late for work. I kept walking. Hundred yards ahead, I turned around and looked. He was still there. Still in the same position. Something needed attention. I thought I would quickly go to work, see if I could be spared and come back asap.
I did exactly that. I came back after 40 minutes but he was gone.
What could I have done? There are so many people, each one with their own problems and stories. What difference can I make?
I can ask – Are you ok? Can I help you?
I can offer my phone if they want to make a call.
I can have a phone number handy – 0808 800 4444 (Shelter)
I can have the belief that there is something I can do.
Postponing a positive action is a sure way of missing the entire fleet.
I was unaware that every day 150 families in Britain become homeless.
Schools have counsellors. Kids can go to them to speak about their problems. The kids of counsellors don’t go to their own parents. They find someone else. What is the difference between a parent and a counsellor? Parents are judgemental. Counsellors are not judgemental.
Our neighbour’s kid comes to us when they are in trouble and we tell them, ”Nevermind. It’s ok. Let’s see what we can do now.” Do we say that to our own kids when they make a mistake? Parental default mode when in shock is – How could you do this? You can’t be my kid. You must have been swapped at the hospital and so on… We bail out all the rejection in the world to the most important person in our lives.
When one makes a mistake, what do they need at that moment? For instance, if someone slips and falls, they need support. Second thing they need is healing. Later on, softly one can say, “Careful next time. Tricky spot.”
If at the very time of the fall someone says to us,”Can’t you see? There are only two steps here and even those you can’t manage.” How are they going to feel? Is that what they need at that time? They are in severe physical or emotional pain, they are unable to take any advice on board. All they need is love and support. When we don’t pay attention to our state of mind, the smallest of mistakes upset us. In that case, how can we handle bigger problems? In fact the bigger the mistake, the more love and support needs to be given but we do the opposite – bigger the mistake, more the shame and humiliation.
A child is tempted to try a cigarette when his friends were doing the same. Is it normal for their curiosity to get the better of them? Can we understand that? Can we remember the time when we were that age and felt that way in a similar situation? Can we say to them that we understand? That it’s the habit of smoking that’s wrong. They are not wrong. Can we make them feel ok about themselves and empower them to choose what’s best for them? If yes, they might trust us with the truth.
It is not our job to discipline people or control their behaviour. It is our job to empower them to think for themselves. That power comes if they feel understood and accepted. When we can say to our friend, spouse or child that they are right, then they might think that we are right. If they constantly feel rejected by us, they will reject us too.
(Yesterday’s and today’s posts are transcripts from a counsellor speaking to a group of parents in Hindi in India. Name unknown.)
When they were little, they came and told us everything every day. They vied for our attention. We didn’t have to ask them anything. They went round and round us and wanted to tell us all about their friends, people they met, things they did, what they had at lunch time, who said what to whom and so on.
A few years later, we started going round and round them, asking – what did you do today? Who did you meet? How are your friends? What did you have at lunch time and so on… but we didn’t get much more than monosyllables in response. What happened? Same child. Same parents. When did the equation change?
When they were tiny, we looked at them and smiled at the lovely things they said. They received our appreciation. They felt our complete acceptance of who they were, our whole-hearted approval of their pure innocence.
One day they came to us and said, ”Guess what! Today I bunked school to go watch a film.” Did we smile then? Did they feel our approval, acceptance or appreciation? No. They didn’t. If we could have smiled that day, they would have come and told us each and every detail of their day. But that day they felt our rejection. That day we put a deep long distance between them and us. They came to us with an openness which we were not ready for. Our judgement got in the way. We gave them a proper telling off in their best interest. In the evening, a family meeting was held to discuss the fact that this child has gone off the rails. The child got criticism, humiliation, ridicule and a feeling that everyone was trying to control their actions.
A few days later they tell us that they were introduced to smoking cigarettes by a friend at a party. That day a big huge drama takes place at home. Slowly, they stop telling us anything. We think they have learnt their lesson and stopped doing those things. In fact they have only stopped telling us what they were doing because they don’t want to meet our disapproval, our inability to listen without judgement.
We wondered how and why this distance came about?
Because we made them feel deeply rejected.
Everyone needs appreciation, approval and acceptance to experience closeness in any relationship. That leads us to the issue of boundaries and discipline. More thoughts about that tomorrow. Of course, I am no expert.
At the end of my meditation, I don’t want to open my eyes. There is nothing more to see. I don’t want to open my mouth. There is nothing more to say. All is done. There isn’t much more. It would be ok to have a quite existence in an obscure little place that no one has heard of.
At the end of my meditation, the word ‘acceptance’ hits me like an arrow right in the middle of my forehead. What is the distinction between ‘acceptance’ and ‘resignation’? How can either be experienced without a sense of defeat?
Where is the need to wake up to an alarm every morning? Where is the need to wade through the London traffic every day? What for? There are more peaceful ways to get through time. I long for them.
The last bit of Liz Lochhead’s poem ‘Favourite Place’ written in memory of her husband:
“But tonight you are three months dead
and I must pull down the bed and lie in it alone.
Tomorrow, and every day in this place
these words of Sorley MacLean’s will echo
The world is still beautiful, though you are not in it.
And this will not be a consolation
but a further desolation.”
A picture of innocence. Beautiful big eyes. Gorgeous striations of white and grey. Perfect symmetry. Luxurious fur. Abundant agility.
Instinctively he knows the newest and best piece of furniture in the house. Very soon it belongs to him. If he finds someone else sitting on his chair, he lets them know that he is putting himself through the inconvenience of waiting for them to vacate his seat.
While perfectly capable of using the cat-flap, if we happen to be in the lounge, he expects to be let in by us. He even places his front paws on the French windows, just in-case we hadn’t noticed. I must admit that when we do open the door for him, he always obliges us with his grand entry. As the saying goes, dogs have masters and cat have staff.
One minute he is your best friend and the next he completely ignores you. The next, he goes for your toes as if they were menacing little mice. The next he wants a kiss and a cuddle and the next he claws the very fingers that caress him. Quiet the alpha male, he is often seen bullying other cats in the neighbourhood. In a jiffy he transforms into a cute little fur-ball. He doesn’t like light falling on his eyes and he assumes various shapes to block it out.