Shining Brightly

I stumbled upon a news article about a best friend I haven’t seen for a very long time. It turns out that our life journeys continue to share similarities, even though our paths split. 

I read about the support he had put in place for his parents during their ill health, and his brilliant fund-raising for the charity that provided the support. He was always a brilliant shining star who lit up every room. Reading about him reminded me why I gravitated to him in the first place. It was a welcome reminder of the qualities in all of my friends, those still in my life and those that aren’t.

Looking at the photos in the news article, my friend hasn’t changed. There are signs of his continuous re-invention: a handle-bar moustache and spectacles that illustrate his tastes and interests, but it’s still recognisably him.  

I wondered if he still wore a hearing aid.  Being diagnosed with hearing loss at a relatively young age (no surprise considering the night-clubbing we did), he shrugged off the fear that a lot of us would have felt and decided instead to fully embrace it; make a feature of the new addition to his body; turn it into a talking point.

It was comforting to read that he hadn’t lost that determination to turn adversity and fear into hope. A brilliant shining example to us when going through similar life events.

My reminiscing ended on a less serious note as I chuckled about a one-night stand my friend once recalled, on the theme of hearing aids.  He had taken a member of the Deaf community home, only to be reduced to fits of laughter every time the lad got close to him, as the lad’s hearing aid emitted a high-pitched whistling caused by interference from the multiple metal piercings in my friend’s ears, nose and tongue.

333 Cowbridge Road East and Sophie Rogan

Sophie Jennie Frances Rogan was the Head Teacher at Lansdowne School while my mum and her siblings were there in the 1940s and 50s. Sophie was living at 333 Cowbridge Road at the time, having moved there sometime between 1921 and 1939 with her widowed mother Julia Phebe Rogan. Their live-in domestic service Phyllis M Suchecks (Sheppard) also lived there.

Sophie was born in Brighton in 1893 to Julia and Alfred John Rogan. Alred was a Marine Engineer whose work took him to Cardiff. The family moved to 289 Cowbridge Road in time to have a second daughter Margaret Dora in 1897

Alfred was out of work at age 60 and the family spent some time at 9 Grosvenor Street before moving to 333 Cowbridge Road. Alfred died aged 76 in 1937 and Julia died ten years later.

Sophie spent her career teaching at various schools in Canton and achieved the position of chair of the Cardiff Head Teachers’ Association before retiring in 1959 aged 66. She spent the next two decades living at 333 Cowbridge Road before moving out in the 1970s and spending her remaining time at Ty Gwyn Nursing Home in Penarth until December 1981

Margaret Dora had become Cowburn through marriage and died in Blackpool in 1978

333 Cowbridge Road was built in the late 1880s on what was formerly Ely Road. The occupiers before Sophie Rogan were families with the names Davies, Stephens, Hann, Jones and Lock. Following Sophie, the house was occupied by families with the names Champion and Hill.

Cowbridge Road around 1915, showing 333 on the left
Cowbridge Road East, August 2023, showing 333 on the left
Canton – A Winter Scene by Charles Byrd, showing the rear of Cowbridge Road East

My Dad – An Introduction

My dad can do anything. He created the house I’m sat in right now. He didn’t build it, but he gradually over three decades and shifting trends removed each wall, each ceiling and each floor, replaced them or moved them, sometimes by just inches. The mid-eighties ground floor had an uninterupted view from the front to the rear via archways and a worrying absence of load-bearing walls.

No wall or floor in the house is level, but that’s no surprise as it’s a late Victorian-period house without foundations and it moves regularly.

My dad worked with – in fact relished – these quirks. He was constantly changing and extending out of a passion for doing, or maybe just boredom. It wasn’t his profession but he could construct, demolish and plumb water, gas and electric.

My passion for electrics came from him. He made me a plug-board to play with at the age of 18 months to stop me toddling around the house plugging in appliances. The final straw was my mum waking up boiling hot because I’d plugged in the electric blanket while she slept.

Back to the quirks of this house. I have professionals in replacing the bathroom. In the process of correcting a far from straight wall, they are battening and boarding and shaving a few inches of precious space away, but I understand. The previous incarnation of the bathroom was fascinating in the tiles arrangement due to my dad working with what he had. Hind leg of a dog more than plumb line.

The work under way will take two weeks, and rightly so, it will be a professional and quality job. I joked with my dad as the team clocked off at the end of the first day of work, at 2:30pm I have a stream of memories of dad working on the house until midnight. Once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. I walked into the kitchen one Sunday evening at the age of twelve to see dad in the bathroom above, balancing carefully on the joists because the floor-boards had been removed. “Just replacing the floor, won’t be long, you’ll still have your Sunday bath.”

As we joked about the 2:30pm finish, dad got his serious face on and said to me: “Make sure they use marine ply in that bathroom. It must be marine to withstand moisture. That’s what I used.” Through the early stage of dementia comes recollection, good sense, experience and care. Lots of care.

Chance Encounter

A chance encounter or an apparition?
You’d been on my mind that very day,
Long wondering if I’d recognise you.

The dearest of friends that fell off the stage.
The voice of reason and common sense.
Caring, oh so caring.
And yet daring.

You wondered
How you could be lonely sat next to the one you’ve loved.
How two could become so different,
Divided by screens, alcohol and concrete.
Divided by the hours, the days and the years.

You took control and acted, painfully.
Still raw.
Yet new hope dawning.
Seeds sown.

This rare encounter but familiar tale
Brought on through my own will, perhaps.
A message.
An apparition.
A chance encounter.

Husband fell police came

You damaged more than your head and your ego this weekend.
Control has become a topic and an accusation.
Audience has been invited.
Tick, tock.
Narrative played out over a long weekend.
Cause and the cure become all mine.
Tick, tock.
Fall, and the fault becomes mine.
New audience arrives, front row seats.
It was only a test, but you pushed too far this time.
Time bomb.
You damaged more than yourself this weekend.


I recently read an article in Adoption Today1 that could be life changing, if there is still time. The article stated that not being allowed the time to grieve a loss can lead to anxiety and depression. Whether this is based on research or not, I’d not heard it before. The stages of grief, yes. The consequence of not being allowed to grieve, no.

In the context of having a family, particularly through adoption where expectations are voiced and set from the start, there can be many opportunities for loss. The loss of a previous life is well acknowledged; the ‘thinning’ of friendships and social networks is now written about. Other losses are less obvious or acknowledged. The loss of high expectations as the challenges of parenting children with trauma become clear and real. And then, to crown it all, as your children grow at an alarming rate, the loss of the early years with them, the time you spent together learning about each other. The teenage years throw marked contrast here.

In the context of my own family, and the support we’ve received, there has rarely been an opportunity to explore our losses. Is it a British characteristic of social support services that we are encouraged to keep going, show a stiff upper lip and get through?

The concept of getting through is also something I’ve been exploring. This is personal to my childhood experiences and adult-hood, and I’ve recently learned to start living in the day, not an imagined other world or some end-goal. It’s about now, the day, the journey, not the destination2

Sometimes plans and end-goals can overshadow, particularly if you are in a profession that is achievement driven. I am having to reprogram myself from ‘if we can just get to…’

I can now see the losses and the missed opportunities to grieve, and the impact on my family. Anxiety and depression are very real. I’m wondering if there is still time to be open and honest about our losses with each other, to grieve retrospectively, to have the time to do that without an end-goal in mind. Maybe I can let you know how that goes.

1 Adoption Today is published by Adoption UK

2 There is a well known poster about dancing in the rain that springs to mind.

Other Worlds

The terrestrial mass of elements that we call our world has over time been shaped into something of physical and spiritual significance.  As a part of that mass, we are beginning to develop an understanding of this.  We like to think we are unique in this, yet we also cling to the idea that we are not, and that there are more like us somewhere, albeit within the constraints of our comprehension.  But we’ve not yet developed the additional layer of brain that could enable us to comprehend the entirety of that within which we exist.  Our inability to comprehend is physical.  The next leap will be as massive as the first, another point on a line.

My Worlds

My journey into the depths of my childhood continues. There is a lot of guess work about the events and patterns that have shaped my behaviour, but I know when I hit gold. I get a feeling of realisation. I pull at a thread that unravels the metaphorical piece of knit-wear that represents my neatly defined and packaged life.  Before my eyes, fleetingly, the knit-wear is replaced by a mass of connected knotted threads that are strangely familiar and hold keys to my character.  Things momentarily make a bit more sense.

My current hypothesis is about socialising.  I don’t think I was taught how to play with other children my age.  The concept of friendship was alien to me until my teenage years when I became self-taught.  There is no doubt that this didn’t help my transition from primary to secondary school.  The very few friends that I’d managed to make disappeared overnight.  Along with a change of home town and school, I became a fish out of water and a prime target for bullying. 

Bullying wasn’t recognised in the schools I went to.  Zero-tolerance policies are the norm now, but back then bullying just didn’t exist; was not a problem; no policies needed.  The first bully I encountered was clever.  It was subtle bullying, and she made herself popular with the teachers so the eventual complaint from my parents was dismissed by the Head of School.  The problem was with me, not the other pupil.

More of a certainty than a hypothesis is the fact that this drove me into withdrawing from the real world and into creating my own worlds.  I feel this today.  I inadvertently create worlds still.  And I have very recently – at last – linked this to my feelings of resent when someone tries to enter one of my worlds without being invited, whether the world is physical or virtual.

It partly explains my constant rush to return to some kind of status quo.  Clearing the kitchen after a gathering.  Resetting the lounge after the Christmas decorations.  Getting home.  Everyone in their place, safely.  Retreating and even withdrawing to the worlds I’ve created. 

This is a strong and powerful realisation and I suspect the road to managing it will be one of the longer roads, but it has started.

Fathers’ Day

Today I will allow myself to feel sad. I will indulge the negative thoughts. This will take effort. Suspending the continuous analysis and justification, the reframing and positioning, the milestone checking and progress reminders. Going with a new groove and consciously not being stuck on repeat.

I will grieve the absence of things that don’t usually matter, but somehow today do. I won’t question this.

I’m human. Only by being human can I hope to respond to those that I love around me as humans, in a human way, more empathically. I’m not a robust machine that rolls with the blows and rewires. Well, not today, anyway.

The whip, but not the walnut

My nanna choked on the walnut from a Walnut Whip. My dad dislodged the walnut and saved her from death, but she was never allowed a walnut again. The whip, but not the walnut.

Mists and Frameworks

I got dragged back into my amygdala this week. Kicking and screaming, which is a good thing because it means I recognised it immediately. I managed to drag myself back out quick sharp. While I was there, I wanted to curl up and hide. Being able to consciously bring myself back out was the most liberating thing I’ve done in a long time.

In practical terms, what this means is the following sequence of events. D wore his brother’s clothes without asking (the natural consequence of D not doing his own laundry is that he has no clean clothes; the behaviour this drives is taking his brother’s clothes). His brother spotted this, alerted me, and after a phone call from me, D returned and changed. On leaving the house, his brother spotted that D had actually swapped one pair of foot wear for another that wasn’t his. Another phone call, but this time, clearly frustrated by a further interruption to his planned adventures, D refused to return and ignored my phone calls. At this stage, my red mist descended and I blocked D’s phone, justifying it to myself that there is no point me paying for a phone that doesn’t serve my purpose. I was well and truly engulfed in red mist: seething with rage and hitting out with punitive retaliation.

Here is the turning point. Within 30 minutes, a growing feeling of regret began to outweigh my rage, and a calm voice starting asking me three things: was I happy severing this vital means of emergency communication with one of my sons; what example did my behaviour set; what behaviour would it drive in my son as a result? I reversed the changes before anyone noticed. Even though it felt I was giving something up, I could feel a stronger sense of relief. I was out of my amygdala, I could breathe, and I could get on with other things.

Two hours later, D called me to apologise for missing my calls and explained that he’d returned his brother’s shoes and sorted things out with him.

This is a major development for me. I can’t remember the last time my red mist stifled me, which in itself is good, but more importantly, for the first time, I got myself out before any damage was done.

So this morning I’m over the moon with myself for parenting therapeutically more than I have ever, in my humble opinion (pats self on the back). The boys argued over a job this morning. One beat the other to it. In the process of the argument taking place between the front garden and a bedroom window, I learned that D has been using the bathroom window and porch roof to come and go as he pleases during the early hours of the mornings. I didn’t respond, but continued on my dog walk and used the walk to think things through.

The immediate natural consequence of D’s action is a risk to his safety. The porch roof is not designed to be an exit point. I would rather he wake me if he needs to leave the house. An inconvenience for us both, but safer for him and not as much hassle for me as fixing the porch roof when it’s damaged. I will lock the bathroom window at night in future to remove this risk. I called D and explained this from a position of genuine care, and he responded calmly and without any feeling of threat.

Maybe having to wake me up will make D think twice about this, or he will plan his nights better. I make no apology for this compromise. Our framework of safety, security and nurture says that we should all be in our beds at night, and that hasn’t changed. But nearing the age of eighteen, we flex around the framework to minimise risks from driving unintended behaviours, and we are open and honest about it. The expectation is there, but the battles are carefully chosen and the risks weighed up.

On reflection, the scripts from early childhood are still there, whatever you want to call them. Theft? Absconding? Deceit? We know about the scripts. Borrowing because they don’t have things. Taking to survive. Warped versions of reality. Disassociation: “It wasn’t me, really it wasn’t. I saw it happen, it wasn’t me.” The scripts are much more manageable when they operate on teenage things like foot wear, being out with friends and jobs, although I wonder if the scripts are here for life.

Balancing Forces

He is the disruptor.
I am the peace keeper.

His driving force for change
competes with my sustaining steadfastness.

I am so rigid, dogs pee on my ankles
if I stay in one place for too long.

I must keep myself moving.
I must not dampen his dreams.

The extremities.
The complimentary poles.
Coffee with milk.
Bitter and sweet.

No Sex

I came late to a lot of things in life. Alcohol. Trust me, it took years of training by my life-friend Liz to learn to love Whiskey, and just as long for close friends Paul and Geoff in London to train me to become an accomplished Guinness drinker.

Sex was another. For a long time, I just wasn’t interested. My close friend Paul had great fun with this. He loved a joke. We used to meet outside HMV on Cardiff’s Queen Street each Saturday mid-day – after ITV’s Chart Show had finished – to buy records and clothes, and he would hold onto my sleeve and drag his feet behind me at the most inopportune moment and make it look like I was his carer.

So, Paul had immense fun with the no-sex thing. He took it upon himself to try and set me up with men when we were out clubbing, determined to cause mischief. He would try anything. “He doesn’t do sex. He has an inverted penis. You should go on a date with him.” he whispered to me during one attempt, about a butcher from the valleys.

His most successful joke with the no-sex thing was his discrete declaration – while we were at the bar – that a lad I was talking to was a Christian and therefore didn’t do sex. Being of a Christian upbringing myself, this was music to my ears. I relaxed, rejoined the lad and invited him back to my place to continue our pleasant conversation when the club closed. Imagine my surprise when – back at my place and offering him a cup of tea – he was all over me like a rash, hands and tongue everywhere. An embarrassing phone call for a taxi later, I took myself to bed and prepared to give Paul a good telling off the following evening. But not too much of a telling off, chuckling to myself.


This morning, while staring at a wall doing something mundane that we all do, I had a realisation. At the age of fifty-two, I have finally stopped muttering the word ‘toilet’ under my breath every time I leave a room of people to head for – you guessed it – the toilet.

This realisation has only arrived with the ending of a habit. Until now, I hadn’t really been aware of the habit. Since I was able to take myself to the toilet, I have announced my intention whenever I left a room. That room was usually the lounge, inhabited by my immediate family. I have no idea why I felt the need to do this, or even if I was encouraged to by my parents, but I have always done it and gradually over the years it became reduced to a single word, then muttered, then dropped. I gradually sub-consciously got rid of the habit that made no apparent sense.

Maybe this deeply rooted habit of mine, playing out each time like a script, has its background in the same experiences that sub-consiously trigger my anxiety if I’m not in complete control and oversight of my children at home. Maybe I should ask my mother, or maybe not.

This is a great example of something that we learn as parents of children with Adverse Childhood Experiences. We all have scripts, but our children are more likely to have scripts that don’t immediately make sense to us or even them. Squirreling away food in bedrooms is a more obvious one but we wonder about the need to scan every room in the house for the smallest of changes.

Our children are unlikely to recognise their scripts, especially when they are younger. Scripts are subconscious until our attention is drawn to them. Some scripts are for life, or at least into your fifties when you are left to work these things out for yourself. It is never too early to acknowledge scripts. It needs to be done positively and with support, and ideally linked to the underlying experience or unmet need, if it can be identified. Time to put the detective hat on.

Bringing attention to something can be the first step to acknowledging, owning and changing a script. Becoming an observer of yourself can help identify scripts and embark on making a change. Left unobserved, scripts may eventually change with the passing of time, and hopefully change for the better, but this could take decades, or in my case into my fifties.

The View From Here

Entering our tenth year as a family, a strange calm has settled on us. The disruption to what should have been a transition to College has turned out to be a welcome respite. Secondary school was damaging. It took exclusions before we inadvertently found the environments and attitudes in which our twin teenage boys could breathe, and eventually thrive.

I’ve written off any hope of educational attainment this year. I’ve used my trusty skill of reframing to see this as an opportunity to indulge their teenage brains. They can catch up with friends online late into the night, cook meals when their stomachs dictate (our kitchen sometimes resembles a 24 hour cafe), belly-laugh with us at corny 80s comedies and sleep when their bodies chose.  It feels like their emotional development gets a chance to catch up.

I refuse to feel guilty for this relaxation. We are in exceptional times and the pressures of education and employment will be back upon us soon enough.

Time to disinvest

Today we had a blip. Blip is the word used by a colleague in a moment of genuine comfort, except today it felt more like a slap than a blip. A slap in the face that left me speechless. The usual mantra of professional explanation and justification had left the building.

What really brought me down was why today felt different to yesterday. I managed yesterday’s family challenge beautifully, even if I say so myself. For once it didn’t impact my other job. I managed to give my other job parity with the family job, and it worked. Maybe that’s why today felt different. I was complacent, caught off-guard. I knew my happiness on the bus to work this morning was premature on some cosmic scale. Maybe allowing happiness was foolish.

Having picked myself and my thoughts up by the end of the day, I concluded that I am too invested. This shocked me, as some time ago I was the would-be parent that planned to take it in their stride – much like a day job – and integrate parenthood into their life framework of career, society and interests. But family life has consumed me. Maybe too much? Maybe I need to disinvest. That’s an interesting word, and is different to divest. Both words have currency in my job at the moment. And in the family context, I see it this way: I need to stop putting so much in, because it is draining me and upsetting for me when we suffer a blip. This is disinvesting. To divest would be to deprive: I’m not going to do that. I still need to parent and to be a family member, but I also need to be me and to protect me. We call it self-care in therapeutic parenting circles.


In the process of learning what triggers our children, we learn what triggers us. This hasn’t been a natural process for me. I didn’t find it easy to be open to it, but the triggers that secondary trauma can unavoidably give us as parents of children who have experienced trauma are a good starter to identifying those that we have held from our own childhoods.

Being ignored is my major trigger. Especially via the phone. I can feel all reason evapourate when I get no reply calling one of my sons. Frustration becomes rage. I’ve started using breathing to try and manage this but it’s not easy. How much harder is it for my sons to manage their own rage, if I struggle to do it, with my insights and awareness?

Control is the other. I find it hard to cope with not having everyone safely in the places they are planned to be, such as school.

These particular two triggers have led to me screaming at the top of my voice in the street at S that I was “shutting you down, fella” like Joan Crawford on a budget. Poor S was trying to make sense of my actions. I was visiting a number of his hang-outs to warn the occupants off harbouring him, and he was trying to make it easier for me by pointing me at the addresses I’d been given, but my rage had blocked all reason and his offer of help, and I strode my own path and made things much harder.

Genuine Goods

This evening we started planning this year’s Christmas presents over a perfect pint in the Crafty Devil bar on Llandaff Road. It was our monthly two hours in Cardiff when the boys attend the youth group run by Talk Adoption. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with my family, although that usually boils down to my house-bound parents as everyone else is out on a Saturday evening.

Jon has found a web site that sells cheap alternatives to expensive brands, covering more or less everything you could want, and certainly everything on the boys’ wish-lists. This worries me. It brings to mind one of my very early Christmas’s. At the age of four or five, I wanted a toy Hoover vacuum cleaner. And I mean a Hoover. The Green Shield Stamps shop sold genuine imitation Hoovers. I guess they were expensive, and beyond the reach of Father Christmas, as that year I was given a multi-coloured plastic vacuum cleaner that lit up when it was used. This may sound like fun for a toddler, but I didn’t want fun, I wanted genuine imitation, and I wanted to imitate the thousands of housewives who used a Hoover vacuum. That need seemed to be lost on Father Christmas, and I’m determined that it isn’t lost on us as parents.

Rediscovering DJ Andre

I rarely see my DJ friend Andre these days. Our lives that were once so intertwined have taken on different paths, much as they started, although I understand he adopts dogs that need forever families.

Andre’s DJ sets were the best. He struck a perfact balance of house music and techno. He knew his dance floor, played it for hours on end, and developed a most loyal following. My favourite weekends were spent in London, dancing our way around the Market Tavern, Turnmills and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern until the next morning, and chilling later to recordings of Andre’s deeper personal sets that he recorded at home when no one saw him.

I witnessed Andre raid the record boxes of friends, pulling out twelve inch records that on the surface appeared main-stream, but homing in on unplayed dub mixes and remixes that strung together perfectly to make an Andre set, seemingly out of nowhere.

Years went by as I returned from London to focus on my career. I lost touch with where my friends were. When one afternoon, browsing the newly opened John Lewis store in Cardiff, I felt the deep thud of a bass drum, and I caught the flashes of bright colours coming from the lighting department. I had to investigate. The music got louder, the lights brighter, and guess who was there with a name badge behind the counter… DJ Andre, spreading some of his magic across his new path and mine.

Collecting Glasses

Kristian was a happy accident courtesy of my mum. Puzzled at my lack of enthusiasm for a night out one Friday evening, mum resorted to her drug of choice and encouraged me out of my shell with a Valium. It had kicked in by the time I was in Club X, and gave me an assured and confident air in a way that alcohol could not sustain.

I was introduced to Kristian through friends of my friend Wayne, ‘down from London’ for the weekend, with Kristian in tow. We formed a large group but for some reason Kristian talked with me and we hit it off. Not that I was into casual encounters, but being in an assured and confident mood, and enjoying his company, I told Kristian that he should stay at my place that night.

When mum brought me my cup of tea the next morning, and saw Kristian in the bed next to me, she barely skipped a breath before saying “Would you like one too?” I guess she felt at least partly responsible for this inaugural sleep-over.

Soon after, Kristian returned the favour by having me for a sleep-over at his place. I caught the train to Woodley in Berkshire to spend the Friday night with him. He settled me down to read the latest issue of The Grocer while he got changed, then drove us into London as it was only 20 minutes away and I would love a pub called the Royal Oak.

He bought me a pint and disappeared, leaving me to stand alone feeling slightly exposed. But no fear, he soon returned, collecting glasses. When I challenged him, he brushed it off saying he was just doing a few hours for some extra cash, and told me to talk to people.

I was still painfully shy back then, and it wasn’t long before my natural shyness attracted an Irish lad, who introduced himself as Kyle and offered to buy me a drink. I was naturally mortified at the thought of a stranger approaching me (note the absence of Valium). I made my excuses, found a payphone and called my good friend Abner to complain about the situation I was in. Abner did what Abner does best. He told me to stop moaning, get back to the Irish lad and go for it.

Being easily influenced by good advice, I got myself back to Kyle and got him to buy me a large whiskey, following which I got him to give me a good snog near the payphone. Half way through the snog and nearing closing time, he asked me to go back to his place with him. But I couldn’t, I would need to leave as soon as Kristian had cleared all the glasses. Kyle reassured me that it was no problem, he lived on the next street and therefore it wouldn’t take long. I made my excuses but was sure to finish the snog first.

Managing Truancy

I had a really helpful chat with T about S’s fifth week of truancy, the excuses he is making, and his difficulty communicating with anyone. His truanting is a reaction to his trauma-related anxiety and has reached the stage where he doesn’t know what it is (the sick feeling he describes) and is flailing around trying to explain it, resulting in excuses.

T reassured me that we are doing the right thing by stepping back, ensuring his safety and giving him the space to work things through while at the same time continuing to assure him of our love and continuing to keep a dialogue going about attending school and needing a solution to the problem. I.e., “we love you and we will always be here for you but it’s important that you are in school and we all need to think of a way that you can be in school.”

On top of the trauma-related anxiety, S will now also be feeling guilt and shame for his behaviour and its impact on us so we need to avoid putting any more pressure on him (rewards, punishments).

The truancy is now moving from what could be a rebellious phase into something known as ‘school refusal’ which T has experience of. The school has a significant role in this, and T will work with them on their proposed next steps. They will have a policy and it will likely involve a referral to the Education Welfare Service. We will work jointly across all agencies and the school, and explore with S ways in which he can be in school, including compromises, without putting further pressure on anyone.

In parallel it is time to get an appropriate therapist to work with S on a long term basis. This will be someone who understands adoption and attachment. T will get some names and prepare a funding request for the Vale. If we want to arrange something privately in the meantime, that’s up to us, but it has to be someone appropriate and we have to understand this has been a long time building and will take a long time to fix, not a couple of sessions.

What They Don’t Prepare You For

It’s a job.
It’s rubbish.
It will bring external influences into your home and life.
It is largely thankless.
It will be destructive.
It will take you to your lowest.
You will be known, looked at and judged.
You will know the police.
It will impact your day job.
Your children will be disliked.
You will be continually lied to.
Your things will be stolen.
They will break your heart.

Coping Mechanisms

There is no beginning to this, and realistically there will be no end. So I’ll dive straight into it and try to paint the fuller picture and fill in the background as we go.

I’m compelled to take to written words today of all days because we are just over five years into this, and while I know there has been progress, today is one of those days that remind me just how much damage there is, and how readily that clouds my judgement.

What makes today of all days even more difficult is my questioning my partner’s actions and approach. Is it hindering our family? Slowing things down? Making things worse even? Are we as parents being manipulated: divided and now finally conquered?

So this morning after I’d left the house for work, it transpires world war three kicked off. And for me, the worse thing is not being there to play my part, to reassure myself that everything that can be done is being done, and is being done appropriately, that mistakes aren’t being made. I default to finding and claiming the guilt every time.

I’ve learned that everything I desire is a reaction to the things that happen to me and make me feel out of control. The simple-seeming bird guardian on Country File that I suddenly and inexplicably fall for is a reaction to the complexity of my day that day. The simple life calls to me through every available lens.

I’ve decided that I’m a control freak and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s been instrumental in my career.

I like to be prepared for all eventualities but this is unrealistic.

It’s ok to feel happy, excited and disappointed. Don’t suppress the feelings for risk of getting hurt.

I over analyse the same things and totally miss others. I need to be more decisive and then move on. Maybe mindfulness will help me do this.

I’ve decided to dedicate the next two years to helping my family be safe, heal and grow as close as possible util our boys are young men.

I can’t fix every relationship and I need to get better at knowing when to intervene, when to coach and when to back away.

I take things too seriously. Maybe if I can be more relaxed and fun, those around me can be too.

Maybe my reflection will help you. That would be nice.


As I write off the rest of my working day and appear at the school my partner works in, I notice the Restorative Justice aide memoirs hanging on a lanyard around his neck. The irony isn’t lost on me. Being a practitioner and professional in a particular field doesn’t mean that managing the behaviours of your own children is any easier than for other parents.

The next day, and my finely crafted plan to get everyone to their respective places of study and work has failed. I’m a twin down. During these scenarios I use a risk assessment approach. What is the worse that could happen? He’s thirteen now. Chronologically anyway. Still eleven in many aspects. And positively primeval when things aren’t going his way. He has an over developed amygdala and I mustn’t forget that. So he’s not going to wander into the road and get killed. He could get picked up by the police and brought back to me, waiting for him in the house where I’ve told him I will be when he’s ready. He returns ten minutes later. He tries to take his school bag and phone. I distract him with the offer of a cuppa. Ten minutes later his head lifts and his eyes open, and for the first time in about 30 minutes (feels like a day) he can see and hear me.

While I’ve been waiting, checking and adjusting my body language to be open to him when he is ready, I’ve been running through my contingency plan and selecting the option that best matches this scenario. It’s part of my risk management approach that stops me feeling panicked and helpless. I know that today of all days I can afford to reschedule things in work. In that alone lies a silver lining: he has chosen a good day for a melt-down. It’s one I can work with.

Finding Jon John

I’d spotted Jonathan John some time before introducing myself to him. He’d been standing in the Golden Cross with a likely looking bunch of older chaps whom I immediately assumed to be in some kind of group thing with him. My head on a Saturday night: not a savoury place to be.

I must have been with Blanche and Phil because I discussed Jon with them, rating him out of ten. But that’s another story.

At the next sighting, I was stood in Exit with some piece of trailer trash in a white vest hanging off my right arm and swaying to the music because I’d made the mistake of smiling at her at the precise same moment her pill kicked in. I had immediately become her new best friend and had to do something drastic to reverse the situation. Jon came swanning past with a chap that turned out to be his Sister Paul, and I made eye contact. A flash of inspiration later, and Jon became my perfect excuse to get rid of the trash.  I told her something along the lines of having to excuse me because I needed to go and chat to that gorgeous bit of stuff in the corner if it was the last thing I ever did.

With that, I walked over to Jon, put on my best pulling smile (it never failed), and issued the immortal killer line that gets them every time: “Hi, I’m Scott.” As if he had spent all his life trying to find out who I was. It was the most important thing he could acquire knowledge of. Jon returned the introductions. Having successfully dumped the trash, I had to follow through with what I’d started, so I asked if Paul was his boyfriend. Jon politely informed me that he wasn’t, and that he didn’t have a boyfriend. So all that was left for me to do was to ask if he would go on a date with me sometime.  The date offer is a safe bet too, and this occasion was no exception I’m pleased to say.

Following Pete Burns

I think we’d been to see Pete Burns do two or three songs at the Red Cap in Camden, the night I met Rob Dakin. We were certainly at the Red Cap, but I’m struggling with the performer. It may have been Lola Lasagne but I think she came later. So let’s go with Pete Burns because at that time Martin and I were following him around London via Ministry of Sound and G.A.Y, forming a part of his very loyal fan base, which amounted to about 20 people in total back then.

Pete had done a set consisting of a handful of songs, which was short but something, and we were about to leave as we were all due in work the next day, so it must have been a Thursday night and the weekend had just started. I’d made eye contact with Rob during the performance. A few pints later, as we were about to leave, that old devil called lust rose in me and I strode back towards Rob at the stage, and invited him on a date. The good old fashioned date offer. It works every time.

We only lasted a few weeks through December 1995. Rob wanted something I couldn’t give him. At least that’s what he said when he was crying down the phone to me one night, drunk and drugged up. It was the night after I’d been to the Daniel Poole album launch party at Mr C.’s new club The End on West Central Street with Martin, and therefore I was very hung over and very embarrassed and had some apologising to do to the girls up the road, so I took what Rob had to say quite easily and said a polite goodbye.

Incidentally, I’d also just discovered Commander Tom’s Are Am Eye on the promo CD that they’d given us as we left The End (me in Martin’s arms, prior to projectile vomiting up an escalator at Liverpool Street Station). Martin had been trying to find out what that track was for weeks, so it my finding it helped with my apology. Although I don’t think it made up fully for my displays at The End, including security having to drag me off the dance floor, but it went someway, I’m sure.

Talking of Pete Burns, his autobiography angers me. He is full of bull! Having personally witnessed him slagging off Debbie Harry at the Ministry of Sound as an introduction to singing her song Picture This – “Has anyone seen the state on Debbie Harry lately?!” – I find it hard to swallow him coming over so nice about her in his book, saying no-one understands her.

Meeting Rollo

The night I met Rollo was so unlikely that I’m amazed to this day it happened. It was a Monday night, Faithless were booked to play their first live gig at the Camden Jazz Cafe, and I’d bought my ticket about four weeks prior. Come the Monday night, of course I was feeling ill because Martin and I had been caning it in FF the night before. But more than usual, I actually had the flu.

When I got back to the flat that evening, I really wasn’t up to going out again, but Martin convinced me. So I dragged myself to Camden for the advertised 7pm start, only to find that Faithless weren’t going to be on until at least 9pm. I had a choice: go home, which is what I felt like doing, or make like fish and hang around for Faithless. So I ended up in Comptons, supping Guiness and enjoying being eyed up by the tourists. Some pints of guiness later and my flu in remission, I headed back to Camden and took my place at the back of the venue, hoping to avoid the onslaught.

Regardless of what history tells us, there was no onslaught, and when Rollo strolled past me on his way to hide at the back of the venue, I grabbed him and told him how fabulous I thought he was, and we got chatting. He took umbrage at the amount of money I was paying for the promo versions of his records, and promised to put me on his record label’s mailing list. Then he introduced me to Sister Bliss.

Rollo made his excuses and hid at the back of the venue as his band came on. The gig was intimate and beautiful.  When I caught up with Rollo afterwards, I commented on the singers who had joined Maxi Jazz, and he proudly explained that his sister Dido had joined the band for the night (Dido famously was paid a curry for her work that night).

Meanwhile, I had been doing my usual ‘making eye contact’ with some guy who turned out to be one of Rollo’s best mates, and we ended up arranging a date before Rolle took me to the band for autographs.

The date happened but, unfortunatelty, didn’t go anywhere, mainly because I was so in awe of someone who was not only best mates with Rollo but also had shared a squat with Boy George and was best friends with Leigh Bowery… that I felt like I’d arrived at a party two hours too late and the best thing was to go home. So I did. Happy times though.

The First Rebirth

Jones & Stephenson – The First Rebirth. I must admit that I can’t remember actually hearing this in Club X one Friday night, but I must have loved it because the next morning Andre the DJ dragged me into Spillers Records and gave me a list of records that I had to have because I’d insisted the night before, and this was one of them.

I took it home and, having admired the simplicity of the Prolekult house sleeve, put it on the decks that Andre had loaned me, and listened to it over and over with a bottle of poppers up one nostril, and my boyfriend Buzz watching TV in the next room. Buzz kept checking I was alright. I didn’t bother trying to mix the record in with anything else that evening. Not only did I not know how to mix yet, but nothing else that I had would have justified it. It just opened up a whole new world of techno for me.

The twelve inch record that I got has mixes by Red Jerry and Baby Doc & The Dentist, and these artists were to influence my record buying for the next few years, and well into the London scene. That twelve inch is precious to me.

The Flowers In Your Garden

Your garden on the corner
sits and waits to alure
to lead astray
innocent passers by.
You cannot live the scents
you won’t survive without the roses
the blossoms around you.
They must smother you
and others
are drawn in through the
red bushes and the yellow bushes
scattered in your Heaven.
Flowers surveying the wind
and sending out “love” and “peace”
and “be what you want”
“who you are.”
Like alcohol it works everytime.
For why not? Led in drawn into your garden.
Deeper and further on the grass
through the stalks
fresh the smell of Vermouth
in my mouth and my mind.
Hitting and tickling
“Come on! Come further! Come in!” said the spider…
I believe in me
and all I do
I have confidence
these beautiful flowers all around me
tell of cool things and nice tunes
and wonderful things like those…
then I draw I too am led astray
one more sip and I’ll be away
but am stopped.
Your garden triumphs once again
on the corner
down the road and full of pretty flowers.

Frozen Ices

Blind I am, and
Deaf I am, and
Dumb though I trip go
The smells get over,
No odour more spelling
Than that rumaging
In your empty stomache.
The boy you never knew
Rushes past and pushes
Foreign jellied smells
Upon your memory
You never knew,
But now you do
And you never shall forget
The beauty. The want.
Day alleys down wander
Stunned and stenches
Made niceties by powder
Muffling the horrid odour
And weaning it to your
Tase. How nice it is,
Frozen ices.

Left Evidence


Curl Up And Die

2 nights running
the bird with the cobalt blue
beak and neck which this family
had acquired as new
sat in the north-west corner
of whichever room we chose
to inhabit, so it couldn’t run
or escape to its fatal foes.

but the bird who couldn’t run
as long as it was sat
in a northern westerly corner
looked grim, sad and flat.

I loved the thing so unknown
that I shouted at my world
and upon the first acceptable thing
I loved, myself I hurled…
“I love you, don’t go”
but it was cruelty
and only the blindness of charity
is too stuborn to see.

so I put it in a Southern corner
to see if it could fly.
the following morning I cried
to see the bird curl up and die.


down here is close and stale
and egg-like, my head is
small and tense and tight.
down near by you is
dense with breath filled air,
loud ambience upon my ears.
of what line of fault did
you become to keep me here,
my kept head fears this dark
lit brown – your presence –
I would not see by choice.
sat tucked and tired, my
ear drums ache with dread
for final death, the crumble and
approach that is your voice.


what will I wear,
what shall I wear,
what shall I do with my hair?
I’ll wear my black,
my sweet, and we’ll smoke
’til the smoke comes
out our ears. we will

clamber out of the valley,
climb up the mountain,
my feet will drink the grass
and our breath will evaporate.

you tie a bow
so it sits on your head,
then we’ll dance ’til
the steam rises
from our feet and evaporates.

Raindown The Window

He peed against the trough
like rain against the roof.
Take me there.
Newspaper cutting walls
and drunken acoustic balls.
Take me anywhere.
She smiled so sweetly
whilst pursing her lips, neatly.
Her head nodded once
and twice, four times,
rotating, my head followed
while my inners swallowed.
The walls nodded; bottles bowed;
the ceiling too; all joined in.
Speak deep – speak in my head,
grind your tones in my throat.
Too hot. Sleeves
too long – cast aside my coat.
Rain down the window
like steam on my showered forehead.
Body odours killed and dead
but still the toilet stinks.
It’s all too dirty – he thinks,
and slams the door out of there.
Take me anywhere.
Bum perched, in training,
she sat, legs curled under the pinning
of her piece of skirt.
Yet who when it’s she
who believes that I’m empty?
I am full of alcohol –
my veins injected pure and full.
She is the original angry young cat
and she hates me!


the movement in my arm from warm
to gradual chilled existence as the
nerves begin to wake and regain sense.
both limbs recapture consciousness as
I again can breath, under flourescence.
lights, above my body, show me tense.
pinned down like an insect but not beautiful,
not similar to a butterfly,
but still, it is of course my own fault.
I should hide and not exist – be numb,
no blood, just dumb, or dead, my curse
that I am made of flesh instead of salt.

Little Things

little things please little minds
if you can get them up,
if you can find a mouth to fit
your dreams tonight.
chase the length and
breadth of me,
cut the wires in my back,
and waken me tonight.

Spontaneous Human Combustion

explosive character – you ruined my night!
I bought you a drink and you went and combusted.
clever tricks like that aren’t perfected overnight,
your love for cabaret has made you lusted.
attention seeker, in death as in life,
as ever, you left ’em crying for more.

One More Taste

don’t look at me,
I’ll only laugh;
you’ll say I’m such a waste.
don’t touch my tongue,
when I say stop,
don’t ask for one more taste.
just one more drop,
you’ll have to stop…
great errors made in haste.