Friday, 30 November 2007

Days of contrasts

It's funny how days contrast each other.

The last few stand alone.

Today was to be a quiet day, no chain saw means no wood cutting and so we had a quiet leisurely one in prospect.

It would of course have been a help had one of us bothered to read the letter from the little school, we would have known about the inset day for the teachers and the closed school.

That would have good to include in plans..

So this morning we fell out the door on firewood bent, not cutting but bringing into the house and stacking in the dry ready for the forecast rain.

Then it was out for the day shopping.

An 8 and 10 year old in tow did nothing to enhance the experience.

There is some clown out there who says inflation is 2-3%; they are telling porkies.

Our food bill has really climbed this year and it was starting to hurt.

So it was into the wholesaler this morning and clear the shelves of stuff that was on end of life discount.

Ten loaves of bread for 21p each all destined for the freezer, far preferable to over a pound at Tesco.

2 percent?

You having a laugh?

Bread has really jumped this year!

Catering packs of short date chicken and turkey for under ten pounds.

Enough to deliver a lot of meals for not a lot of money.

There is a kind of inverse logic to this.

When food was relatively cheap we ate a lot more processed and prepared food.

Now it is dear we cook food and the quality of the menu has gone through the ceiling.

Even burgers are far nicer if you make them than if you buy them.

Today, it was big slices of chicken breast rolled around cheese with smoked bacon on the outside.

All held together with a skewer lightly coated with olive oil (French import) and baked in the Aga.

Set off with roast potatoes (5 pounds a bag) and

Fried shallots and mushrooms completed the meal and frankly; wow, it was great.

This was, of course the managements contribution.

I have a few recipes of my own, we used to holiday working in a restaurant in Brittany and I would commend that to all.

The ability to cook is a priceless skill and an endless pleasure.

Something we would both observe though.

Go to your local supermarket tomorrow and set out to cook a meal.

Oh yes chicken ding you can do:

Five minute microwave - ding and done.

Go to your supermarket to get ingredients to cook a meal and I bet you will find the range limited and selection poor.

We are headed for factory food.

Depressing eh??

Depressing too that our Vic was again remanded.

She is remanded til just before crimbo, no chance she will be out before the yule being realistic.

How the system works, or rather does not.

Not so depressing the weather.

There are people who live for hot weather.

Tonight the gale crashes into our house dumping it's rain to batter my bedroom velux.

A rattle of rain will light my night.

Off to watch the Tudors on beeb one.


Thursday, 29 November 2007

bedsteads and broomhandles.

There are doubtless great charms to living in the country on top of a hill.

Summer sunshine dances in through the door and invites us to walk out and partake of the view which is truly breathtaking.

The house is for sale too by the way.....

Winters offer a far more savage beauty yesterday winter rain hurled itself viciously against the patio doors driven by a brutal gale.

Management, bless her had abandoned me, off to trudge mountains, fell trees and brave the wild elements.

This in turn left me in charge of housework of which I took great care to do neither too much nor too well. After all I could not have her thinking she was not indispensable.

And of course my main function, keeping the home fires burning in the log stove.

This in turn meant a frantic break from cover to fill the wood basket a feat achieved at no small cost in the getting wet and windswept stakes.

Still as I sat there basking in warmth, I spared a thought for her on top of her woody hill near Cardigan, felling mighty oaks and enjoying the breeze.

I did consider phoning her to tell her of some crisis that required her immediate attendance but thought that would just spoil her fun.

Teatime came and hot on collecting the childer, cold home came management.

I have heard of people having the blues but the mistress of all we owe money on truly was blue.

Several hours in a hot bath were indicated so several hours of hither and thither around the family were done instead.

Today is a different day' a lovely crisp midwinter sun day.

Getting the firewood was a brave T shirt wearing affair, I almost envy her the woodland.

Me? I get to demolish our old bed.

A heroic divan that has defied many trampolining children over the years Until last week when Gwion and Tiger managed what none before had done. They broke it.

Now, I am a natural recycler and, being not much over 3o years old I suggested repair, but profligate management would had none of it and a brand new bed and mattress have been delivered this very minute.

Still ours is not to reason, certainly not with the MD it isn't......

And I have put the cordless on charge ready for when I get back from town fetching her axe.


Yes full of the spirit of romance I bought my beloved a felling axe as an early Xmas present, to go with the shovel and the jigsaw I bought her on previous years.

Xmas is a long way off, but it is time to cast about for a suitably romantic yultetide token of love, I was thinking about a cement mixer......

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Mundane day in store.

It is great sometimes to have a day you know will be fairly quiet.

The weeks travails have taken their toll and the chainsaw is refusing to.

Refusing to saw that is, the continuous unfeasably hard oak cutting has blunted it to a point where chain file might be a better name, so in the interests of interest me and er are off this morning to arrange a sharpening.

Whilst I was outside yesterday waving an axe about management managed to get an update on the Vic.

She is in court again on Friday, or not, as maybe there will be no psychiatric reports that the judge ordered for him to look at.

Personally, I have a bad feeling about this. I think he will just pot her anyway.

The baby remains with his dad amid "increasing concerns" due to dad having more form than ladbrookes.

The leaving care SW had that tone of detachment which says it won't be her decision and she will make sure everyone knows it wasn't...

But of course "increasing concerns" are natural, babies can be taken into care and easily adopted and that is a number on the annual tick box report of Children's Services.

Or put another way whiping this child out and having him adopted will look good on paper.

Do his best interests figure in there any where?

You tell me......


Monday, 26 November 2007

The times they are a changing.....

Now for many years I have lived with the notion of step kids.

Foster kids are hard work but well at the end of the day you can always deliver them back to the district office and their world with them.

Step kids are a different matter they are still there in the morning.

To be fair,

With her Git, Serenity delivered hours of amusement.

Perfecto had been perfect entertainment.

But alas all has changed.

Serenity has a new boyfriend who sounds like he would not turn up at your house only because there is no beer at his.

Perfecto's girlfriend is a really nice girl.

Though I must say, since he has had a girlfriend the local sheep look a lot more relaxed.

Far be it for me to suggest.......


Caring society

We live as we all know in a caring society.

Let me introduce you to D

At age 12 his mum took up with a child sex offender, lots of people seem to have known this at the time but no one had 20 p so they could not pick up the fone.

4 years went on and this CHILD kept himself and his sister safe, he was truly heroic.

Came 16 and, very much traumatised the young person bails out from home and comes up as homeless. The caring services leave him in a B&B where he rapidly sinks into a life of drugs and petty crime which duly results in a call to explain himself to the magistrates.

This in turn means a supervised living placement with two elderly people, for the first time in years he feels safe, engages and begins to be the person he could be.

So of course soon his probation order ends, and back to B&B he goes.

One wonders when the abuse will end....


Thursday, 22 November 2007

Fun days......

So anyway having chopped up a forest of oak for firewood the management went off for her weekly rest days in the forestry.

As she arrived they announced her task for the day would be:

To fell a couple of oak trees........

She did not actually burst into tears but....

Much later she came home and was like a corpse walking.

Today she has gone again, apparently they need a few more trees chopping down....

This has left me alone to face the onslaught of social workers on statutory review bent.

Naturally, the wind has changed direction and neither log stove is particularly keen to play.

So instead of welcoming warmth they will be greeted by smoking sulkiness.

So I am fighting to keep them going whilst at the same time clearing up and of course dealing with da man who went outside this morning and was there maybe a touch too long as he now seems to need significant reassurance.


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

endangered species

Now, global warming has put at risk many native species around the globe.

But now I introduce another source of danger, the new UK Children's Act.

This act will send to extinction the out of county foster carer, people just like me.

Traditionally thinking about children in care has wavered and vascilated blown hither and thither on the winds of care fashion.

Huge barracks, little barracks, adoption, fostering, all have been in and out of vogue.

The thinking for distance foster care was the concept of a new start, a clean break.

Now there is a mythology around care, Social Work with problem families improves outcome for children. There is prescious little evidence to support this.

But the great and the good have had their thought and, for the future, the practice of moving kids round the country will cease.

Everyone will be brought up in the same neighborhood as they were taken into care from.

Whether another one size fits all policy will work only time will tell.

And me? Like the dodo and the dinosaur, I will be extinct......


pain in muscles I never knew were there

There is a saying, no pain no gain.

Well there must be serious gain because am I ever in pain.....

Two days on the chain saw, with wood lugging axe waving and general slogging to keep us from being bored and I have pains in muscles I was not aware I had.

We also have loads of really good wood just before it is set to turn cold.

But goodness me my everywhere hurts.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Lovely days

So with the weather on the business side of brr, it was outside and up firing the chain saw.

Loads of waving it about later and we were left with an impressive pile of wood.

I find the chainsaw is particularly good just after a planning meeting or a particularly idiotic phone call from some well meaning agency.

But I digress, naturally you cannot burn the wood as it comes from the chainsaw, no sir it needs splitting.

This is where the Green goddess excells, about time my green goddesses made it into my blog.

They come with a serious amount of kit most of it dating from the 1950's.

This is so much better than having modern tools.

This wood is seasoned oak and splitting it is so much easier with these old tools than the modern stuff I have.

My particular favourite is a little fire fighters hand axe by Elwell, this is a wonderfully balanced little device. With this in hand and backed up with a full size fire axe and a sledge hammer we made short work of the wood.

Getting oak to light is a bit of a struggle but with both log stoves going the house is wonderfully warm.


cynicism is us........

There is a part of me that is for ever open to new experiences.

Now today another new one, a suprise, a plop on the mat (no it wasn't da man) delivered a letter from none other than the Vic.

Vic of course also being a generic medicine used to treat nasal problems and traveling under the moto Vic gets up your nose.

Yes quite.

Actually it was a charming little note, what could not fail to impress was serious progress in the writing department। I suspect someone might have been helping her with her grammer as well.

All in all I was very impressed.

Of course the cynic in me was awakened.

Apparently, Vic has had enough of her old chaotic life. Translation - she wants to run away and she wants me and er to sort her out.

Not a problem, will involve copious tuff luv but we will help her do that.

She has told the SW a few facts and it turns out the baby dad has more form than red rum. Funny that, it was about the second thing I said after they said he was looking after the baby.

The first thing I said being rather less than polite and implying he was a devoted follower of Onan.

She imparted the glad tidings that her parents and numerous relatives will be in court for her on the day. "Now that should be interesting" I thought, knowing her familly there is bound to be major theatricals possibly even a good old wild west style fracas. "That should add a year to the sentence" my brain mused.

Then when she had been freed, she would collect her baby and come down to west Wales with us.

Sounded alarm bells in the distance.....

Ahh yes, the next time she went off one, we would be left holding the baby......

I can see it now.

Now, management mused that with P moving on, as one a door closes another opens.

Or as I put it a door closes, someone comes through the wall

in a tank.....

Friday, 16 November 2007

Who needs children in need....

Every year here in the OK we get a serious outbreak of charity.

Children in need.

Now, per se, looking out for each other is not such a bad thing, in fact life would be a damn sight more sensible.

But is children in need about children or need for that matter.

I really really wonder what purpose these things serve.

Personally, I have worked with needy children for a rather long time.

I am not sure that having a beano fest once a year for which sir tel probably gets paid a fair whack is really helping me do my job.

I would go further, not a penny that I can remember has made it to me.

Then lets go a bit further, I would not really want charity money because someone is ready to give it.

I think i would rather have money because I need it to do my job.

And often I really need it to do my job and I can't have it.

That makes me wonder.

What we know about donations to charities is that those with less tend to give proportionately more.

What we know about tax is that those with lots object to paying anything. But will argue, at the same time that the tear drop benefit fraud is a blight on the sea of tax evasion.

We need to develop real and proper mind sets.

Kids need, they have.

Whats so hard about that?

Children in need is about the rich encouraging the less rich to feel good about giving money to a fund which might eventually give the money to children who need it.

How about a different approach:

From each according to their means to each according to their need.

Simple and might even work .


Thursday, 15 November 2007

But of course the day was not over......

Meeting over, well if you could grace it with the title.

We pointed the trusty Rover towards England the nick and Vic.

Now our gps gave me a puzzling arrival time which would call for all the MD's considerable mad driving skills to bring back to the time we were supposed to arrive. This was odd but the MD put the pedal to the metal and we went for it.

Thinking that was a hell of a long time to get to where we were going, a suspiscion formed. I checked the time on the GPS, oh dear, it was still set on European time. The speed crazed MD was trying to make up an hour to get there, when I could make make it up by pushing a few buttons....

Eventually we arrived and the ritual depersonalisation of the prison system began. Through locked gate into inner cordon, empty all our lives into a locker and wait for first gate to lock before second opens. Then into a crammed waiting area jammed with the crowd, on into a dismal day centre with chairs and tables that were modern once lined in regiments and bolted to the floor.

Sitting in the corner looking in her element was the Vic. She almost looked at home regimented and arranged, cared for if not about, not a care in the world.

My heart sank.

Words are a really clumsy tool but the discourse was the same old drivel the continuous harping and lack of reflection. The devoted mother who walked off and left her child with a man who had beaten the Vic. The not going back for two whole weeks, no checking no nothing.

He was nothing but a useless druggie but he was a useless druggie with her baby and all the work all the time we had devoted hadn't made her think of anyone past herself.

I remembered what I really disliked about her at 12, this wasn't the Vic who left at 16, I wanted the 16 year old, my 16 yo the girl we grew to love, back.

The terrible thing, every pore of P's mum oozes love for her son, but she could not manage to care for him. You felt nothing from Vic, none of that, she had just walked away . Serenity has had it really rough but she has never walked away from her kids.

Vic was up for a really serious charge and all she could talk about was the police being rough with her.

She had run away from life at 9 she did it again every couple of months all the way to nearly 16.

She was running away now, well, seemed like it to me.

We felt back then maybe she had turned a corner. Had we been wrong?

Were we expecting too much?


We sat silent a long time in the car on the way home.

Then in the morning I was one to her solicitor, Had he realised she was on Citalopram and that all the behaviour she had been arrested for was quite consistent with drug withdrawal?

He had the basis of a good defence, yes, we would see him in court on the 30th......

one of those days part the one.

Fostering is an odd old game, most of the time you just blunder on doing your best. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it hopelessly wrong.

P is a relative success story , he came to us about 4 years ago as a young man of 7 . He was moved miles from Daycastle precisely because his mum stuck with him. The SW didn't like mum because she had Mental Health issues and was usually dirty and always lousy.

But the years have passed he has largely caught up in school and is showing himself to be a very bright lad.

Mum always said that when she recovers she will have him back and the day is rapidly approaching.

So anyway, the big plans are rumbling on. I should add this is not the first time he has returned home each time mum has had a relapse and he ended up back in care. The last time, the matter ended in court and the judge ordered that, before he would issue a care order, she needed support at home to see if she could manage with help. We will never know really since the various services amused themselves fighting over who paid for what and in the midst of this she failed again and P came into care.

Eventually he ended up with us and has really thrived.

But here comes the abuse inside the care system, P is really well settled here, has friends in the locality, is well liked and fits in well with his new family.

Really he needs to spend more time with his mum and continue to live here keep his friends keep his school - shared care.

That looks firmly off the agenda as his mum really wants him home. we could cope with that actually.

But of course there is more. Should he go home and it all go wrong he will not return here, in fact the plan is that he never comes back again. So four years is just a line drawn in the sand he has gone - forget him.

But of course there will be help for mum won't there, there needs to be something called a service level agreement before he leaves. Silence, ahh so there are no plans to help her, but I bet they won't forget to blame is she cannot cope. He is dumped in a new area with a new school and no we don't have him going back to his mum for a week initially no apparently that will be setting her up to fail.

So mum sinks or swims and either way this 11 year old gets ripped from the community he knows and understands and gets dropped back in a poorer part of daycastle.

Go's from modest affluence to poverty, goes from a safe rural house with it's own bike course to urban car ridden streets, from holidays in Brittany to no holidays at all.

No one would call that abuse would they......


Sunday, 11 November 2007

Happy Sunday

After all the travails of the last week today started gently and well.

I was awoken from sleep, gently by the loud purring of a a da man who has now conquered 3 legged stair climbing and mastered on the bed jumping.

He had come to display affection and wake me to fuss him, something which i found very sweet.

Waking me by biting my nose was maybe not quite the best but well who cares....

Then of course, there was a further sound. Management had forgotten, or failed to switch the alarm off.

This meant it was 7 am on Sunday morning and the bloody kitten had woken me....

So, off I drifted, back to peaceful slumber, I was raised by a fearful blood curdling series of screams.

It was "murder on the west wales express", something I needed to deal with, and now.

Staggering to the landing I looked down on carnage.

My 15 yo daughter was cowering on the chair in terror .

Well OK maybe not quite.

Da man was attacking anything with feet and everything with feet was stood on chairs out of the way.

Not in any sense of malice but in that very appealing young cat way.

The Fredian in me was saying this was obviously "right number of legs envy" from the three legged cat.

Last day, Deimund the 2 yo tom was his target.

Da man da tricycle was mock fighting and deimund was coming second every time.

I am concerned for his mental health.

Look out it's da psycho kitten.....

He's lovely really.


Saturday, 10 November 2007

there's more.....

OK lets add some more.

What I just wrote did not happen today, court open on Saturdays? Don't make me laugh....


No it was Wednesday

No what happened today was the jail phoned asking if they could try and get the judges ruling overturned as Vic was really not in the right place, she needed to be moved.

Would we still take her, if so,they would try and get her bailed themselves.


Took management a hell of a long time to answer that question.....

We are off to see her next week.


Bloody hell who ever would get involved with them....


Judge Jefferies is alive and well.

Those who read my notes will know that I am a big fan of Horace Rumpole who in turn would write
about the old hanging judges who would cheerfully order muffins in their club having just sentenced a man to hang.

Now, Rumpole is some character but at the end of the day he is just a creation, big Vee of course is not.

Lets give her a better name, lets call her Vic.

Well I met Vic when she was about 12 and she was a right little madam. Life had dealt her cards from the middle and bottom of the pack and really she didn't know what it was all about poor lass.

Frankly, as 12 she was quite a bitch and not an easy person to lice at all.

But years passed and my family stuck with her. Management would give her regular doses of reality therapy her Social Worker was the best and by the time she was about 15 she really was someone to be proud of knowing.

I remember she turned 16 and said that she could not wait to be 21 so she could apply to be a foster carer like er and me, it filled me with pride, as did the thought that should anything happen to me and the boss Vic would be the very person we would want looking out for her "brothers and sisters".

Of course 16 is not a good time for children in the system and she was handed over to the "leaving care " team. Never was a name more apt.

She was at this stage lined up to do a number of GCSE's and there were several people out there cuing up to offer her a job based on the times she had previously worked for them.

Things were looking good.

But of course leaving care changed all that.

I am not going to detail the exact mess, but suffice it to say that by this July the wheels were off her cart big style, she was 19 homeless jobless and literally holding the baby for a boyfriend who regularly used her as a punch bag.

We had been sporadically in touch and then she vanished.

Fast forward a few months and it's leaving care, who have not of course spoken to her for months and they want to know if we have a clue where she is.

She had taken off leaving the baby and they wanted to know who was to look after him.

Now, maybe I was a bit harsh on the boyfriend since he seems to have stepped in and has been delivering parenting for the baby at a level where at least they are not looking to take him away anyway.

But of course let look see, young Vic has been deprived of the one thing she had to keep her stable, the baby and presumably has gone over the edge a bit.

Some weeks ago some of Daycastles finest were about their business early one morning when they happened to notice young Vic a wandering down the street.

Hard to miss really as at the time she was waving a meat clever about in a most alarming manner, threatening to do all sorts to the B/F and leaking blood all over the street from where she had been practising slashing him by cutting herself.

Despite all the agitation she rapidly put the knife down and got in the Police car for a little ride to central.

All things cleared and she was not charged but was bailed to appear at some stage in the future.

She had obviously enjoyed all of this because not that many days later she was at it again. a group of party goers came across her in the middle of town in the early hours waving a carving knife.

They were worried enough to point this out to a couple of old bill who duly went to check and indeed found our Vic slumped in a shop doorway threatening ill harm to all and sundry something the effect of which was diminished by her throwing the knife away as the officers approached and rolling herself into a wailing foetal ball.

Now, one thing lead to another and in due course she was hauled before the magistrates and her social worker summoned too. SW duly tried to raise us and quickly discovered that we were not there, out in France as it happens.

This was important stuff so we phoned leaving care who quite happily let us pay for the international call and asked if we would have her bailed to us. though of course they did not want this to happen enough to put their hands in their pockets.

Not that money would ever be a bar to her since she is one of ours now.

And this is not the first time since she left we have dropped everything and gone and done what any parent would do for their child.

But I digress, not having anywhere to give as an address young Vic was invited by her Maj to stay at her place, one of her prisons in fact.

This week she was shipped back into court and with kids in skool and management off ripping down trees I duly turned up in court to collect the body or so I thought..

Well, wrong is us, I had of course only gone there to collect so I looked like the dog's breakfast and a long way for the smart well presented person I normally am, well OK so I lie.

But anyway I found she had a solicitor and this guy seemed relaxed and pretty confident we would spring her.

The only fly in the ointment being the judge. I am not naming names but he is known as SCUD, he is known for going off in any direction.

Taking my seat in the back of court I settled to watch the great British justice system in action.

I quickly concluded that the judge was really judge Jefferey's re incarnate and was out to dispense justice to an unjust world. I don't know what he gets off on but clearly whoever was supposed to have whipped him the night before had not been trying hard enough or maybe there were no pineapples for sale in Tescos and he had to go to bed without one inserted up his bum.

A series of bizarre statements in other cases later and it was "our" turn.

Vic was brought up from her cell, looking every inch the hard girl.

Well until she saw me sitting at the back of the court and the little glance, the look of relief and dare I say hope, told a different tale.

The vulnerable little girl she always hid so well popped out for a second. The little scared 9 year old replaced the tough looking 19 year old for the briefest of seconds.

Then the act was back on and you know act it was.

Because really young Vic was just doing more of what she does.

She is the toughest kid on the block, you ask her she will tell you. Faced with a fight you had better have a big army to hold her back because if she gets her hands on you there's going to be trouble. Shame she only ever does things like this when there are people there to hold her back.....

So a Vic with a knife is about as frightening and threatening as a kid with an ice cream.

Knives for her are not weapons in a war but props in an act.

Of course I know that because I know my Vic.

But of course, "judge Jefferies" was having none of it, he was concerned about her wandering about with knives. A little tussle over the facts did nothing to change his view;

Yes she might have used the knives on no one bar herself.

Yes, the Police took her in quietly

Yes the members of the public said they were concerned for her not scared of her.

Yes I would take her 100 miles away.

No he did not want to see the psychiatric reports.

No he did not want to talk to me.

This was justice by numbers

She was going down, whats more she was coming back to crown court so they could really give her a proper decent sentence.

He looked longingly round for a birch I reckon and then not seeing one decided he could not make a start right then.

Now I am not a bleeding heart and not going to deny she was tooled up.

And i definitely believe in people carrying the can for what they have done.

But this is an incredibly vulnerable young person whose life was screwed by a system.

And the judge was going to blindly keep it going.

I nearly got to my feet then thought that me being in the cell for contempt of a contemptible court in a contemptible system was going to help not at all.

Instead I clean forgot to bow to the judge on my way out of court, as gestures go not a lot but I saw the judge note the gesture.

I left the court and came home.

Going to have to work out how to spring her.....


Sunday, 4 November 2007

What a strange week.

Now when we go away it's not supposed to be like this...

Last week I pointed the trustee IVECO South and nothing but nothing went wrong.

We made Plymouth with time to take the kids to see ratawotsit the new Pixar film.

A film that got mixed reviews from the kids.

Then on to the ferry which sailed on time and arrived on time.

On to our house in Brittany and frankly a good disaster free week was enjoyed by all.

To top it all. We arrived back admittedly after a long day yesterday and this morning, down in the rugby field the under 15's took on the arguably the best of the local teams and beat them in a grueling match.

Of course there was a social work event to intrude.

That can be another posting for tomorrow.