Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Twas the night before Xmas

As we march our way into our 20th Xmas here it feels really quite odd.

We well OK the management has managed all the presants, it's all under the tree and it's not yet 9 pm, a normal Xmas would be a 2 am rush of parcels and paper.

This year, it is not yet nine and everything is done, we have watched a shed load of I player and retired, we are having a quiet night.

 20 years ago we had a telly, now we watch everything online.

She is reading a book, I am writing, well I suspect you guessed that one.

Think we might have an early night, we have a St Emillion Grand Cru to keep us company for lunch tomorrow, 2007 was an OK year too.

I probably paid about 10€ for it - lot of money for a bottle of wine.

Lots of things have changed this year.

We thought fostering was over and now we have G - here for at least a year.

Little D is gone, things have really unravelled for him, but you can only do so much.

We bid a sad farewell to Citroen C5 estates, they have been a big part of this last couple of years. But after a too long absence back into the fleet came a Solihull product. A Land Rover Discovery with the 3.9 V8, automatic box and LPG. I am a bit of a petrol head at heart and I love that toy.

It fits brilliantly into our needs, we have a mega fun AX for flitting back and fore into town. For practical stuff we have the VW T4 van. If we need to move 6 people we now have the Discovery, if the weather turns all horrid we now have the dircovery, actually, we discovered this week that, running on LPG, the disco is not bad for long trips either. On locals it's horrendous like pouring fuel into the floor.

I love it though, the distant muted V8 noise.

Starting to sound like Jeremy Clarkson so it's time to stop driveling



Monday, 23 December 2013

It was twenty years ago today

It was twenty years ago today, Sargent Pepper taught the band to play.

Aside from such Sargent Pepper type comments.

20 years ago today we loaded up our lives in the house my parents died in, it took a 1957 Bedford RL truck I bought for 600 pounds - with 1000 miles on the clock

A rather dodgy Renault Traffic with my mate Chopper Charlie at the wheel.

The management driving a Land Rover 110 with 3 baby seats in the back.

The amount of gear that bedford just swallowed up was bewildering.

We drove on down to Penole 120 miles on. The house my mother was born in, something we learnt a year or two later.

It was vile rain blasting wind hurling weather and as we left the A roads the undulations set the Bedford body a flexing and soon had the ropes holding down the tarp twanging.

Lots of stuff was wet but it all came off the truck

By about 7 the fire, an elderly coal fired Parkray was struggling to make the place warm.

It was 3 degrees in the living room with the fire lit

We had not realised that the previous owners had drained the oil tank, so the AGA would run out in the morning.

The children, all babies were in their cot in ski suits.

I was sat on the settee in a puffer jacket with my hat on wrapped in a duvet.

I wondered if this moving to West Wales lark really had been such a good idea.

Trefigin Oil were about to leave for their Xmas do when we called them, heard the babies crying in the background  and one of their drivers came down to fill our tank instead of going down the pub.

The local coal merchant delivered half a ton of anthracite also

It took me till boxing day afternoon to get the living room up to 20 degrees.

Over the last 20 years we have put a bit of a stamp on the place, as one of the locals said, within living memory no one has lived here this long.

We have done the research on the place and actually, no one has been daft enough to live here for 20 years in quite a long time.

And we are still here,





Friday, 1 November 2013

Time to ourselves

 The student, well no nowadays she is the graduate, does not do Armani or any of these here off the shelf clothes from prestigious brands. Only tailor made is good enough, put another way, every so often she makes herself some clothes, sounds a well posh if you say everything is individually styled and made to measure..

The cause for all this sewing machienery and cutting of cloth? For a change, we are going out tonight, when /i say for a change, I mean it too. Of course we could only be going out for a few minutes as it's not clear if the organisers tonight have a security firm booked (in which case I get the night off) or not (in which case....)

Everything has been a bit all over the place, last weekend we were due to head on out to sunny Brittany. Of course those of you based in this continent will know last weekend it was well windy Brittany and all the ferries were cancelled. Now, we did this one about the same time last year, 24 hours turned into 9 days, so this time we cancelled in good time.

Leaving us a week to spend at home achieving very little as the weather has pretty much cancelled everything. No chainsawing, means no wood axing, means no stacking, means trailer still loaded, means no more wood fetched.

So going out tonight could be a good thing. 

On the plus side, i did another day in university last week which will be good for the exchequer in a month or two when they get round to paying me, just in time for the January "WE SPENT HOW MUCH" Xmas post mortem.

With a bit of luck and a fair wind we might get out to Brittany before then too...


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday sunday......

It has been a very long time, quite uncharacteristic in fact since I got myself organised to post on here.

Life, as it has a habit of doing has filled the empty void that would normally be blogposting.

Health has been a bit of an issue, my knees going on strike and rendering me fairly immobile.

Also of course the agency, young G gawd bless her has declined to go to school. Now the Education Act is pretty exacting, any parent who has let their child go without schooling for as long as this young one would be getting some pretty heavy threats and visits from attendance officers. Of course if the parent is responsible for scrutinising their own conduct all that tends to go by the board. She has sat here since September with precious little by way of education, getting under our feet and into our hair. Discussions are taking place at a very senior level, discussions however do not educate children, schools do that!

The positive though has been a post bad knee flurry of activity, our Rayburn is in. I thought someone had tattooed a silly grin on to the graduates face, she has been just delighted. It's a strange old thing a Rayburn, delivering sufficient heat to warm the whole house whilst using very little fuel indeed. The downside being that it runs best on coal, hardly green and not terribly cheap, but it uses barely a bucket a day which is very little indeed.

There has also been an auction - never a good idea to let herself loose with a bidders number. She did however get some very very nice arts and crafts corner cupboards for not a great deal of money - another result there then. Of course all good news is tempered and this was no different. I had spotted a very useful looking towrope sat in the corner. So of course herself was duly tasked with bidding on this whilst i went off and saw to some child care issues. Meanwhile, herself was all in the bidding so when the "car puller" came up, naturally (??) she assumed that was a tow rope and bid until she won it. Now, I am not going to suggest her hearing is suffering from age but "Car puller" and "calf puller" are two very different items, well in my book they are. In case you are wondering; a calf puller is some medieval torture device looking tool for use by vets and farmers, and, we now posses one.

We also have a whole load of firewood waiting to be processed, which is good in a playing catch up sort of way, we are still way behind on the firewood front. i dare say today will be given over to chainsaw and axe. What with it being of a non rainy if a bit windy disposition.

Another success story has been our wood stove, well it's always been a success really but there have been issues around the flue and proper sealing thereof. Yesterday was a full on  living room full of soot day at the end of which the flue system has been completely reconfigured. The fire is working far better - much to the cats delight.     


Saturday, 28 September 2013

time flies when you are having fun

Well, time has just whizzed past, lots has been going on especially around young G.

Fair play, she is not as other school refusers we have known, she does her school work. She has also impressed a local riding school enough to be offered an NVQ in horseology which she has got really stuck into.

That's the good news, she should be getting 25 hours of education based activity, which is not being provided by the LA.

So of course the graduate, decided enough was enough and phoned to ask about some funding for this here education m'lady is getting.

And of course here comes the standard response, they were very happy with her education but not happy enough to discharge their lawful duty to fund it.

Some years ago, we were in a similar position, young person is out of education, sadly no plans around funding some. Out of generosity we offered to commission some education, what a good idea came the reply. And we would bill them, ahh, they said almost gleefully, we could send all the bills we liked, they would simply not pay them. We never thought they would we answered with equal levity, we had always expected to have to recover the costs via the courts, if the duty to provide education was not statutory, they would win their case, if on the other hand we were providing education because they were neglecting a statutory duty a judge would be bound to find in our favour.

Suddenly they seemed to think we were not very nice people....

How dare anyone put children's needs before their balance sheet.

We are back to that part of the country...

From being fantastic people to Satan in half a day.

Funny though that the conversation that took the line that we would do what is in fact a job of work for nothing when the social work staff did likewise. There is a bit of a background debate as to whether foster carers should do their jobs out of love or for money.

I love my job, but without money I cannot afford to do it.

G is at home, all day every day, she is making more progress than she has in years. She is stopping us "working" because we are "working" with her. When you "work" you get paid. Simples really....


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Time to ourselves....

Everyone is back in school or college except of course G who has decided to refuse to go.

It's turning properly complex as she had thought this would be the issue where she would get conflict, and she hasn't

She has done some work we set her and she's academically not daft. Hard to see how she thinks this is working for her. 

Today has been another day where no one expected her to go to school she is finding that a bit difficult.

We have amused ourselves on the home front with things like chain saws and axes and firewood.

It's late in the seasons to be cutting and very hard work thrown in. The wood is wonderful, well seasoned oak, if you know wood, you will also know that oak needs to  be processed just when it's felled no when it's dry. A new chain has been needed to equalise things a bit and this really is a job for my 50 year old axes, modern stuff will not cope.

To cap it all the student has been thinking, never a good thing, she has decided she is not after all doing her masters or PHD next year. Not next year, but maybe the year after, am I too old to join the foreign legion??

Monday, 2 September 2013

Getting back to normal

A summer of kids and young adults kicking round grinds to a halt.

As from tomorrow the first go back to school.

Our trip to Brittany went  a bit better than planned. The run down was achieved in indecently short time and we sailed happily into the night.

G had tried a bit of drama, announcing on the day we were to leave that she wasn't going. The student in due course producing her master stroke.  All was fine G could stay with Serenity for a week, neatly cutting off her power to disrupt. Faced with that choice, she chose get in the car.

Brittany was a mass of  holiday type activities like strimming, chopping down trees and cutting hedges back. Oh yes, we really know how to have a good time.

Unfortunately, I got things a bit wrong and   became quite seriously dehydrated, not a good thing to do when the temperature soars, and soar it did 41 C was seen on our thermometer once. It was well into the high 20's even at night. The result of this was a seriously bad knee. Not at the time, it waited till we got home then went on strike.

This in turn means lots of nasty pain killers and anti inflammatory.

Still all that is done, the kids go back to school and college tomorrow, all is well with the world.

Just need the students exam marks and we are sorted.

Then we are on to serious wood cutting ready for winter which is not quite upon us but won't be too long in arriving.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Interesting times

When you are a foster carer you sort of get used to things being a bit off the wall.

It has been three years of off the wallness with students doing studenty things and little D being a bit of an all round pain.

All that is over, Little D has gone and the last essay submitted.

I think the student though is suffering post academic stress disorder. She keeps waking up in the night with ideas for alterations to her essays, something else that should have gone in a dissertation. Sometimes she even has to look things up at about 5 in the morning.

This cannot go on, I will have to send her back to university......

Either that or take her to a ferry, that sounds a better plan. We have run out of coffee, we have run out of wine, better point the van South.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Tis over - tis done

She got everything in at last yesterday. Essays dissertation and sat a exam.

Which is a precis of days of printers and editing and proofing and writing and references AAAAHHHHH
It has been a roller coaster couple of weeks.

I have learnt so much about housing ageing and inequality and stuff - phew.

We had a lovely night last night - went to the Ancient Briton pub up the Tawe Valley from Swansea, had a fantastic meal.  

Today, the skies have been weeping and we have done pretty much nothing.

Staggered along in a kind of post game exaustion. 

Then we found that big D who wants to come to Brittany with us next week  passport has expired.

This is turning really interesting.




Saturday, 10 August 2013

Friday nights allright for.....

Actually I am not what Firday nights are all right for.

Saturdays are good days to spend underneath a Green Goddess fitting electronic ignition. The GG is parked right outside the house (not good) and currently is refusing to make brum brum noises, something which might get herself a harrumphing if i cannot sort it soon.

It's so easy to work on though, how on earth can something be so basiclly right in design terms.

G the new girl is turning into some sort of horsey monster, she loves the riding and the stable manager is superb with her. Giving her responsibility, assuming she can do, it's great in this over protective check till you can check no more world.

She was galloping while not holding the reins today, I suspect I don't want to know what that is. I suspect even more that it would bring her social worker out in hives if he knew about it.

It has been a tough few weeks though, herself has STILL not finished her university work. Everything is nearly there though.

It turns out that she has to be in university Wednesday not Tuesday as she thought, so we might even get to do a lunch at  one of our all time favourite restauraunts close to uni.

I hope so, then it's  maelstrom days getting ready to go to Brittany. I think it's a real can't wait to go situation, we need the down time, even with taking our work with us.



Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Zero hours, it's a contrick

Unlike, I suspect most of you I have actually worked a Zero hours contract, you might be surprised who the employer was, it was actually a labour controlled authority and this was in the heady early days of community living. The key things here are, I was pretty good at what I did, and there were not a lot of people able to do the job I was doing.

It worked for me as I could do 8 hour shift backing into 4 hour shift somewhere else backing into a 10 hour shift with a sleepover somewhere else 60 - 80 hours a week At something around the current minimum wage,except this was 30 years ago, so it was good money.

What I was paid was set to take account of the fact that I got no sick pay or holiday pay, not a minimum wage based on  an assumption that I get both.

It really worked for me as I worked my derriere  off waiting for the call to say that something "interesting" was in the offing in a few weeks time meaning I would just refuse all offers of work in that time and away I would go.

Also, having skills that were in short supply, those project managers who were in the habit of not treating their staff well, struggled to find staff. Those who had good professional ethics were never struggling to cover shifts.

Last year, in the big sports day I was also on a Zero hours contract.  I worked a good few hours because I simply turned up, not on a roster but they were so short of staff they needed all hands at the pump.

Then their rotas kicked in, I was scheduled to work these hours in this location, except of course the location had been taken off them by the Police. So I was told, these are your hours but don't turn up. I was available to work the hours as they commissioned but they said don't go. Under any form of proper contract I would have been paid, after all I was available for the hours they wanted me to work, their mess up, theirs to pay for.

Zero hours though meant zero pay.

Annoying though as I reckon if I had turned up at the allocation office I would have got as much work as I wanted.     



Thursday, 1 August 2013

Sometimes it really is festering times...

I do sometimes get asked if i make things up I write on here, and sometimes I wonder myself.

Yesterday the student went off like a missile, a ballistic missile, I had a bit of an eventful morning out doing a few chores and finding that the car was not in fact running right. I got to spend 45 minutes in the rain refitting the little valve under the bonnet a right fiddly little job that, if I dropped one of the screws would have meant garages and call outs and things like that.

Arriving in the house the tell tale signs were all there, she had retired to our utility room with the walk about phone and her voice had that little edge in it. I picked up the gunfire, the explosions and the general someone is getting some from the student situation.

When she came off the phone, I think it was my turn, not to cop for it but to express a little unhappiness.

It turns out that as far as little D going is concerned, we are the bad guys.

The student had told him to pack his stuff and leave.

I had disobeyed a direct instruction to prevent him from getting the train.

The student had taken him to the station then refused his request for a goodbye hug.

We are a pretty heartless bunch I am sure you agree.

Now lets put some meat on the bones.

Yes the student had told him to pack his stuff. She told him that if he was hell bent on leaving it was unreasonable of him to leave his room like a tip, so he could clean that up Unreasonable also to expect her to pack his bags and possessions for him, that was his to do as part of his decision to move on.

It is indeed true that I did not stop him getting on the train. It is not true that I was told to do so. Had anyone told me such a thing I would have pointed out that preventing him leaving here either in a car or a taxi would have been a breach of article 5 of the Human Rights Act, as such I would have pointed out it was both an illegal instruction and the SW was committing a deregistration level breach of the code of practice for social care.

And yes the student had refused to hug him when he left. She said: "No I am not going to hug you, you are making the biggest mistake you will ever make, I am far too upset and worried for you to hug you"

With the train in the station she was still trying to persuade him not to do it.

Blimey though this one is going to run and run.

Lets review:

At 16 it was a legal requirement he had a full assessment of his needs - not done.Leaving Care Act

At 16 he must have a "personal adviser"  - not done Leaving Care Act.

Of course with no needs assessment, his Pathway Plan is going to be a bit of a joke. There is of course case law on that one.

Making sure all this happens is the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer, note the first word there, more case law around that. The IRO has been smack on the ball playing hell about him not having been to the dentist for 6 months, on the matter of things that are legal requirements there has been a deafening silence.

This is of course the very edited highlights, in actuality it's a situation where there is an audit trail from us dating back several years, a litany of failure to engage and put his needs first.

I wondered a while back if he really had the mental capacity to make the decision he has just made under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act. Something which should have triggered an assessment but which didn't.

Then again it also seems to me that he has had a very inferior service due mainly to the difficulties he presents due to his cognitive impairments. He has had an inferior service because he has a learning disability ohhh now lets see Equality  Act 2010 anyone.....

Thinking about it, I must be making this up, it could not possibly be true could it..... 



A car possesed

I think I spoke too soon when I waxed too fulsome about our new C5 estate, the bonnet has been up heads have been scratched and the dashboard has lit itself up like the star ship enterprise.

The electronic brain was quizzed and apparently a little valve that exists to ensure there are no serious leaks in the diesel system thinks that there is a leak of epic proportions meaning it has periodically sounded a red alert meaning the engine management systems brings the engine to a grinding halt.

Replacing the Valve was not one of those jobs needing a degree in engineering though  it's a fiddly one which I duly succeeded in doing. Well sort of, my first go resulted in a genuine fuel leak, cue that little valve switching the engine off.

Sorted that and the car drives like a dream again, reservations in progress for the ferry and all was well with the world. A new fridge was delivered and the student went to the super market to fill it, or, rather she didn't.  Couple of miles up the road car came grinding to a halt and the dashboard was like a light show of error and warning messages.

Eventually home she limped and it was bonnet up. I could see nothing untoward, not that there is on these modern cars, it's usually the case that you have to plug in a laptop and the car itself tells you what it thinks is wrong. Sometimes it can even get it right too!!!

Soo puzzled I got in the car, the engine started, no lights or warnings - nothing. So I drove it round the block which in our case is about 5 miles, still nothing. Got the student and I drove the car about 10 miles and still the car drove like a dream.

So off we went, the full monty, off to the supermarket, drove like a dream there, drove like a dream back.

So the only obvious and logical conclusion can be, the car is possessed by demons and they don't like the student or maybe the way she drives. They do have a point mind, not that I would ever even think that not in public any way.



Monday, 29 July 2013

Another one bites the dust

One of the things you know as a foster carer even as each young person comes through the door, there will come a time when they go. Some become like a child of your own and have permanent visiting rights When the Students mum died one of our ex kids was there and i can think of another two who would have been there had they known.

Other young people go and that's it.

Sometimes that's something that makes you sad, other times it's relief.

So anyway not far off 10 years after he came little D has gone, not in a planed sort of way either but on a whim and a dream of a family that does not exist in the way he fantisizes it does and have no intention of being there for him

Over the last year he has not so much as burnt a boat but burnt a fleet and reversed himself into a corner from which there were no escapes

The Student is down, I am sad too, but I'd become bored with all the game playing and  "I'll stay so long as I can do anything I want anytime and you won't have any expectation that I do anything for myself or others"

Now we just wait and see how long it lasts before they won't take the nonsense from him at home.

Then he truly will be on his own.

It is both sad and scary but sometimes people have to hit the bottom before they can start to change


The big sports day part the next

Last year, Britain was lost in a wave of excitement, we were having a great big sports day. Rejoice and be glad. Long time readers will remember I was part of this little adventure working for a private security firm whose name will immediately spring to your mind. Of course with all my passes and badges complete I was expecting the call any day. Nothing happened.

Then with the company already deployed and questions already being asked I got told I needed to go and learn something called "guarding". This it turned out was a very worrying course for people who guard buildings when they are empty, night watchmen in old parlance.

It did get me all worried, did people really need a course that told them if a vehicle turns up at the gate they go and check the vehicle driver credentials then let the vehicle in closing the gate again after in entered? If that's the level of the staff I  think you have a problem before you start....

Actually, thinking outside the box, if there are two vehicles you check both of them then let them both in together. Gosh that WAS rocket science. 

Then in the afternoon it was the radio course, well not really, they had none of the model of radio being used available so we had to look at pictures of one and note how to turn it on, how to turn it off, how to push the button to transmit and remember to let go when we had finished. Even more challenging rocket science stuff

Then we had to pretend our mobile phones were radios and talk to each other using their version of radio procedure which was pretty cumbersome in use and involved a lot of repeating of call signs. In practise everywhere I actually worked ditched the system and used assigned simple call signs, and  military radio procedure.

Next up, we had to learn the phonetic alphabet, virtually everyone on the course was ex military, ex police, ex fire service or like myself radio experienced. Eyes were rolling all round the room.

During our last tea break some strangers arrived these, it turned out were the admin team and to say they were interested in us would be a mild understatement. Would we be interested in seeing the set up they asked? To a person we agreed and wandered over to their HQ after the day ended.

HQ turned out to be a dingy building, screaming neglect where a variety of people were coming and going. There wasn't even a telephone, they could not speak to personnel and personnel could not speak to them.

I, of course had a Door Persons badge and Olympic security accreditation. As soon as they was that they pounced. Did I want to work, well, OK. Could I start now, well err no I had not actually arranged anything like that with the student. How about tomorrow? Tomorrow my step daughter was getting married, of course I would work if they guaranteed the ensuing legal fees around the separation, the chief organiser, a young Irish chap laughed. We would get on OK then.

Of course I didn't have anything by way of uniform, no worries just turn up.

So turn up I did, what a revelation, in the past I had worked in a lot of settings, this was something new.

I had agreed to do nights as nights were a problem, no one would do nights.

The first night with nothing bar our badges to say who we were we were deployed to guard one of the Olympic venues; this was  a major sporting stadium  with a big capacity and there were 18 of us.

Already the Police were in, there were Police on all the entrances and our rag tag army looked shoddy next to them.

What you won't know is that the police were everywhere the public could see. If you could not see it it probably wasn't being watched. The Police are pros though, so when a minibus turned up at our gate and we checked all their warrants they were more impressed than irritated.

"You checked my car when I came in an hour ago" said an Olympic official,  ""and we have to check every car as it comes in, that's security"   "But I'm...."  "going to be treated like everyone else as we don't know that a bunch of terrorists don't have you family hostage making you smuggle in a dirty bomb". This wasn't what Olympics man wanted to hear so he got hold of the duty security manager. Shortly after we got a visit on the gate to find out what it was all about. This duty manager was Para, lets call him that, went everywhere in jeans and a pullover, had an air of quiet authority, said he had been an NCO in the Parachute Regiment and that when he left the army he had set up home in Hereford. Now there was a clue to what unit he had actually been in if ever there was one!!  He told us we should not really let Olympic man in through our gate at all, next time send him to the next gate where the proper search grew were located, every time he came in they could give his car a proper search unload everything out of it and put it through the X ray scanner, all said with a perfectly straight face. Good man!!

 Security at a huge venue like that with less than 20 people was always going to be a joke. Except it wasn't funny, with 20 of us on, at least 7 would be on break at any time, meaning we were really 14. At about 2 am I was given a shift in the media centre, this was a sprawling yard outlying the stadium. When I walked in I nearly fainted, there was literally about 30 tons of copper wire in reels and aluminium everywhere.  It was like a metal thieves wet dream in there. The previous guards were from a sub contractor and  had set themselves up a little den in the big catering tent with a comfy chair and a transistor radio. It was also an obvious feature with limited routes in and out and not much of a view of the approaches of which there were several, a couple of them being attractively dark.

Para came to see what I was up to about 30 minutes later, went into the office and emerged looking puzzled.  I stepped out of the shadows, told him there was no way I was sitting in there waiting for a bunch of neer do wells to whack me over the head with a brick. I had made myself a little den in the darkest bit of the site where I could see pretty much everything but I was pretty difficult to spot. If someone was going to case the place they might as well think there was no one there as there was just one bloke they could smack on the head before nicking everything. If they came in mob handed I could count them in, radio them in then get the hell out of there. That seemed to be  the right answer for him, we were getting on well.

Dawn came and the shift ended, all the shifts started and ended at 6 am and 6 pm - bad practice, if I had been up to no good I would have been timing my attack for a time like a  shift change.

During the day things started to unravel as it became crystal clear just how few staff the company had. LOCOG put their foot down and got the  Police in to run the stadium. Officers were bussed in from all over and the company unceremoniously kicked out.

There was an element of cynicism to this, the Police were very public in their presence. In the background and kept out of sight of the public a small number of guards from the firm that normally secures the stadium were in place.  In public it was horses, fire arms officers and hordes of cheery Police Officers, of course they were cheery, they were on double time the lot of them!!!

The company still had charge of the two hotels used for athlete accommodation, for my second night shift i was draughted over there. The security managers were on rotating shifts and the first hotel was run by "wooden top" a retired Police Officer, who was dressed in something just short of a morning  suit, it was like being a guard at Buckingham Palace, on your feet, stand to attention, back straight, this was going to be some 12 hour shift!! Of course being resourceful sorts we quickly worked out that wooden top spent most of the night in his office. His office of course needed a guard and very soon the guard was doing a grand job. Every time the wooden top or a minion set out on a tour of the office guard would press the transmit button on his radio. This would cause every radio in the building to "click", everywhere there would be people jumping up off chairs hurriedly putting their book away. So by the time they came round the place was gleaming. Para popped over for a visit and a look around, it took him a whole 5 minutes to work out what was going on. Wooden top was sat with him in the canteen  telling him what a tight ship he was running here,  a load of us sat at the next table looking innocent. Para tried to conceal quite obvious amusement.

It really was daft though, there were three lifts in the building controlling access to the various floors. All three had to be guarded, including the one with a big sign saying "out of order".  Of course there weren't really three, there were four, when he did his security plan he didn't think to ask anyone about layout so the 4th lift was untended until someone had a "whats behind this door" moment and found it.

The security staff were a curious mix of ex services and public service together with people pulled off the street or from unemployment, with some very strange sorts thrown in. On night one, one of these types who was a bit of a self styled unarmed combat guru decided to show me how dangerous our uniform was, how it was a strangulation tool. He did this by demonstration, lunged at me when I was not expecting it and tried to strangle me with my ID lanyard, he looked really surprised as I did breakaway.

But enough of him for now, in the next episode he reveals himself as really dangerous.






Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The student - still essaying

The student is still locked in essay mode, long after the end of term she is still playing catch up, largely due to the excitements that little D produced in spades over the year. Tonight essaying is still on hold as she is researching G the new girls parentage, as she had asked her to do so. A terribly tangled web is assembling itself, is anyone going to tell her there might be some connection with little D? - Looks like there could be.

Of course earlier she who did not approve of purchasing a Citroen C5 estate, a huge car which my American readers might call a compact, had to go and get tea. Traditional Fish and chips for you stateside folks and collect D the littler.

Did she go for the little go cart AX?

Did she go for the trendy T4 Volksvan?

Or did I hear the C5 fire up, the car she said that was more than we needed?

She is a star really.

Of course she would still prefer it in black.

Actually the C5 estate would look awesome in black.  


The C5 is dead, long live the C5

The student of course cannot understand any fascination with cars, for her they are just tools to use and discard. So of course the demise of Bihan her big old C5 estate registered not at all on her radar. Her faithful companion of 3 years went to the scrap yard with no regrets or sadness, the tears were for something completely unrelated.

She, she assured me loved her C5 but she didn't want or need another one. Taliesins failed dalliance with second hand car sales yielded a Saxo which she duly took over and was very happy with. Of course it's summer and summer means Brittany which would in olden times have meant minibus but nowadays means both car and van to carry every one who is going.

The Saxo is fine but not really a car for motorway runs or the continent when it is reasonably too hot and a cramped Saxo might be a bit of a nightmare really.

As fate would have it a C5 estate popped up on eBay last week and was being bid for resolutely at around the 60 quid mark. Now, Bihan went for 200 pounds scrap so I had the sniff of an earner here. This car had a bit of tax and a bit of MOT so when I bought it for 205 pounds I could see a couple of months free motoring plus a good vehicle to take to Brittany in prospect.

Driving to get it the student was quietly fuming at spending money "we did not need to spend" and then we got to where the car was parked. A sprightly pensioner explained that he had recently bought the car and that it was just to large for him to cope with. There was an element of sense in that, the C5  Estate is a bit like sticking a wheel on each corner of the Albert Hall!

He had described the car as "rough" as the student walked round it her face betrayed that her vision of a rough car was a long way past his. The bumpers were held on by bolts not zip ties, there were no multiple combat marks down the sides, no battle scars on the tail gate, in fact it was pretty straight as these things go. Internally all the door handles and winders were still there, the seates were clean unripped and unstained neither was there half a skip load of rubbish on the floor

The front tyres did indeed need replacing, but only one of them was totally illegal. The spare we were told was OK, but more of that later.

130,000 miles is actually not a lot for a modern diesel, providing it's been serviced and the same garage had serviced this car at 10,000 mile intervals for the last 100,000 miles with Citroen main agents doing the job before that. Pretty good provenience then!

Drove it home and changed the relevant very dodgy tyre for the spare which was a brand new never been on the car Michelin as put in the boot when the car was made. Of course this was done the trick Citroen way, suspension on high, jack under the car, suspension on low and change the wheel once it's off the floor. 

The car drives as you would expect and she who was not very happy has grudgingly come to think it's "OK". She did say she would have preferred it in black, but then she could never admit to being happy could she?

Just glided silently to Carmarthen and back, I had forgotten what a dream car the C5 is on the motorway and dual carriageways.

The trip to Carmathen was not without purpose. Having driven Branwen to the dentist last week I stopped in the assembly office to register the holding we have here as a first step to getting grant aid to plant a small woodland.

So far so complicated, put in the forms last week together with a map and went for a mapping meeting this morning. Thankfully it was me and not her, dear god where do they find some people. The very nice man was very nice but, he explained patiently as if to a small child Wales was a big place and he could not find our place without a map showing him. Which of course was why I had included one with my application form I explained patiently. Ah but he did not have the form he replied to the child, I wondered if maybe he should have had the form then, I countered patiently.  Did I know my post code he asked, Yes I did, it was on the other piece of paperwork I had just handed him, was that my post code? Yes, what was it again, as far as I knew it had not changed since I had completed either form,  the last of which had been given to him to write down 5 minutes ago, I hissed. Oh that was the post code of the property, bright lad, he got it.

Up came a satellite image, which showed our land very clearly, was this feature a track leading to the main road? Resisting the temptation to say no, we always arrive by helicopter, I said yes. A lot huffing puffing and  computer mousing and he had delineated our drive. What was this other feature? I looks a bit like a house to me, says I. Ohh was that the house where we lived. Resisting the temptation to say: no it's where the cats live and we live under the tree over there (tree would probably have been very complicated for him to understand) I said yes. Then there was a concrete pad where there had been a barn, my was that a dilemma as apparently concrete pads have a different statistical code to barns and I had to decide which it was. Now, our barn departed in a big storm about 12 years ago, we never did work out where it went as no one saw it ever again, too much information, he didn't need to know that.              

Moving quickly on we were able to identify a number of other features, Green Goddess fire pumps actually, now here was a real quandary, there was no statistical number for those, well they are vehicles and therefore not technically buildings or land features. Whats more they had all moved since 2009 and they were parked in other places now. After a pause, he said he probably didn't need to enter those in his data base then, it took me a few second to realise he was actually serious. Dear god he was so lucky the student hadn't gone, There might have been a felony, as it was we applied for the original paperwork a month ago, it had been in the post the day we phoned up. 3 times it had been the post, it was only when i turned up and indulged in a spot of counter banging last week that  the forms were produced and filled in.

Now it has all gone to another department for them to look at - goodness knows why, all I wanted is to plant some bleedin trees after all.  

I should have added the new car is called Robdale or Shinny - according to Bruce that is


Monday, 15 July 2013

Sunset into the mist

The view from my bedroom window now - I love living here.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

I survived an attempt on my life!!!

It has been a fraught few days, the daughter driving lessons have been a bit of a trip to terror.

Yesterday, we had a lovely night out, took the canoes that have been too idle too long, to the beach and with new fosling and big D had an hour of paddling out.

This in turn was a head changer and we decided to go for it this morning and be a bit selfish, no kids about, just me and the student take the canoes out.

So off we went to a nice little cove, which features a pub. My original suggestion, (also features a pub) having been turned down. Soo anyway out to sea we went, and she said why didn't we head for this other cove (no pub) as "it's just round the headland".  To be fair I have seen an map or two in my life and I knew it was round a few headlands. Breaking all the rules I would have set as a responsible lifeguard type off we set. Now, my local knowledge is - not a lot so it was quite exciting pioneering stuff.

Actually, I was loving this as it was all the old skills I had learnt over the years, read the sea, read the waves, oh yes even though it was close to millpond there was an Atlantic swell arriving. Did I need to lay seaward of that rock or could I cut inside it?

Of course not having done the research I didn't know that we were fighting the tidal run, nasty thing about that, if you are making 3 knots and the tide is 2 knots you are not moving a lot. Rest for 10 minutes and you have lost 20 minutes progress.

It was dig in time with swell, look at currents choosing the best line.

So out we went, I was looking for nice little coves where we could land and chill for a bit and there were precisely - none.

So on we went, digging in  my love of all this excitement was falling quickly

We got further and further on and of course, turning back ceased to be an option.

I was moving towards worried.

There was nowhere to go to shore, just rocks.

It was just keep going time, every point we came round, just revealed the next.

Maybe it was still my inner lifeguard but I could not see our "outs" if it went wrong.

But we eventually rounded the last point and it was full on for the beach.

Now, we could have simply  turned round and gone back.

It was she who was trying to kill me's change point.

She decided 

We walked the km or so of footpath to the van, drove back and collected the canoes and we went home got changed.

By this stage I was a bit errrh relaxed in the cream of crackered sense. 

Then, it was town and lunch then.

Oh dear proper terror

Lunch was great, then daughter finished work and she had to practise driving home

She is getting there, as in she is getting more confident, so that means the near misses happen at higher speed.

I don't scream any more. mainly because I can only squeak.




Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Human Rights Act

I do a bit of teaching occasionally and not that long ago I was doing a course about equality and diversity.

I started the course by asking if people thought the Abu Quatada chap should be chucked out of the country and, everyone including me had their hands in the air.

I then asked who thought torture was an OK thing - of course no one was up for that.

So who would vote for someone to be deported to a country where torture is routine, I asked.

And of course no one would.

Abu Qatada might be a odious little chap but where do our values fall, would we rather him here or condone torture I asked

Even Sun readers tended to prefer the non torture option.

So of course we look at today's ruling from Strasbourg which has been descended on with glee by the right wing.

The court of human rights has ruled that anyone can change, can become a person who sees what they did was wrong, feel remorse and change.

This government has prescribed that they cannot, that change is impossible.

That's not true, even Ian Duncan Smith might one day  learn empathy and compassion.

I doubt it, but I would never support a measure that condemns him because he is the person he is today.



Saturday, 6 July 2013

Summer time and the weather is errrr unpredictable.

There's something really weird to the weather, Thursday off I went of a morning to interview some students for the degree. I left here in grim misty drizzle more reminiscent of March that the summer.I returned to brilliant blazing sunshine, the temperature has shot up a whole 10 degrees in a day or so. Very strange.

Mr Foxy Woxy has been to call, now, I know a lot of rural types are against hunting, actually both my neighbour and I have refused the hunt permission to cross our land. Hunt people are quite incredible, they don't ask permission, they come and tell you a bunch of hoorays is about to come onto your fields for their horses to tear them apart and knock the fences down in ways that they would get very annoyed about if it was being done by ramblers or (perish the thought ) the likes of me in my 4x4. They seem even more affronted when you tell the little angels that actually this is your land and they are not  coming on to it.

But anyway Mr Foxy Woxy is not your friend, over the winter he decided to help himself to a chicken dinner, raiding our hen house, we had thought because he had not been round that the Cats must have seen him off. Unfortunately not, this week the remaining two chickens seem to have disappeared, first we could not find where they were laying now we just can't find them at all. 

The student would be upset but she is essaying furiously something to do with gerontology which requires a contrast between post modernist and structuralist perspectives. No I am not sure what that's all about either, I know Foucault is involved in the argument which of course makes sense as she rather likes Foucault.

I digress though, Thursday was spent in the hallowed towers of academe where a foster carer fits in like a very square peg in a perfectly round hole. Interesting that one of the lecturers has a friend who has just taken up foster care and she is appalled at how her friend is getting treated. Now, when my mate Alan and i have recalled some of the things done to us in the past they have been listened to politely but not treated as a possible scandal When it's her mate who is I am guessing also a SW, things are all different.

It's a weird thing about SW's they don't believe anything until they see it themselves. Little D's behaviour could not possibly be as we described it, but when his SW saw how he behaves it was some new revelation of great import.

Interviews in Uni are a welcome break from the life at Penole, I do wonder sometimes how the committed young things end up as the sort of factory fodder that seem to populate most SW departments. interesting this year, against a back ground of anti asylum anti immigration that seems to be sweeping the country. The two outstanding applicants, had both fled to the UK to escape grinding poverty and oppression in Africa.

They were head an shoulders above anyone I had interviewed this year - in the last couple of years actually.


Saturday, 29 June 2013

A house in Grey

The last few years have seen a few changes here the place changing shape as we moved from a B&B through fostering then turning the B&B into a house and now comes phase the next.

With the bit down the far end of the house set up to be a little self contained flat, our end is falling under the beady stare of management. What had been the farm milk cooling room had become the B&B's kitchen and utility area. This ended up as our utility room boiler room and where the big old Aga cooker lived. The AGA has since died the boiler been made redundant and the kitchen units for the B&B were looking every second of 20 years old.   As usual the student had a plan and one damp drizzly day we set too with sledge hammers and ripped everything out. When I say Everything there should be a not quite in there in the mix somewhere. 

Anyone who has ever even seen a photo of an AGA is likely to realise that AGA moving is not for the weak limbed or faint hearted. So the plan is to remove the AGA through the wall, now as a Green Goddess owner few things sound more fun. Small hole in the wall pass a chain in and round the AGA, attach rope to GG with about 20 foot of slack. Drive off briskly and out comes the AGA. No need to waste time on that sledge hammer and chisel stuff, out it comes making as big a hole as it needs. Would look brilliant on you tube.

Unfortunately this didn't pass muster with the student.

So we have to tediously make some hole in the wall and swear and heave it through.

But enough of that, that's the future, for now the room needs to be cleared.

Out came everything and then in went Taliesin with the SDS Clouds of grey filled the house. Barrows of render were taken away and dumped up the drive. Every day for the last three the ritual has been repeated.

So of course, yesterday we had a big social worker visit, to the house of grey. We started preparations early,  there was a major paperwork sort out. Good Lord where did all these receipts and bills come from? Thank goodness I strimmed round our fire pit  after I had put the mower through acre that is the bottom field - not a day of idleness then.....

Hettie the hoover was used to try and remove the grey patina followed by lots of washing and wiping.

This came at the end of a week which started with Bethan completing her training for Door Supervisor registration. The last day is the day they learn practical pain infliction and dad was wheeled in as crash test dummy, spent the whole day being battered and thrown around, the system they use is very simple and effective - my does it hurt too.

There was also THE driving lesson, there are too many anecdotes written by parents of teaching their offspring to drive to write an essay here. I think Bethan has excelled over her mother, never has her mothers driving terrified me to such an extent. It was some little time of bewilderment at her random signalling that I realised she was trying to use the indicators to change gear.

There are some people who should simply be told driving is not for them. 




Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Citron is not always a lemon.

Cars have always been an important hobby to me and it's also been a source of amazement how fickle the trade can be. Range rovers have always been well thought of even when they were a collection of panels thrown together with gaps around the panels you could almost walk through.

Oh yes, when it was new it was revolutionary but 20 years later it was a 20 year old design surrounded by thoroughly modern cars built with jigs and precision tools. So really it was an unreliable, backward, outdated design which turned to powder almost as soon as it was delivered and the trade loved it.

Fast forward a bit and Rover teamed up with Honda and were making the 200 series, a lovely little car which was built like a Swiss watch. The trade hated it, we had a 214 SEi, for which we payed next to nothing. It was a truly lovely car, a delight to drive.

So of course we come to one of the trades permanent pariahs Citroen. I have to admit I was a bit of a sceptic too. Citroen always pushed the boundaries of what was do able, this usually meant something so technically complex that no common mechanic could grasp it and that in turn resulted in cars whose value was set by what you could get for weighing them in.

Things have come on a bit since then, but Citroens are still the cheap cars as far as the trade is concerned. Outside we have a 8 year old AX, the other end of the Citroen stable, the inheritor of the 2CV legacy motoring for the masses.  1 owner from new 60 thousand miles dealer serviced and 400 pounds to buy. An equivalent Golf would cost 4 times as much. And the Golf would not have holders so each passenger could keep their bottle of wine upright!!

Recently though we disposed of our C5 Estate, bought 3 years ago for 900 pounds 85 thousand miles later we got 200 for it.

Whatever way you look at it that was cheap motoring

But it was cheap motoring with bells and whistles.

Arrive at crisis, stand on the centre pedal and the car would take over, stop you automatically in the shortest distance whilst switching the hazards on. Whether you would love this as much if the car behind you was a 38 ton artic and the driver was so locked into radio  one he missed the incident is not quite clear. You might be under the third axle before he realised what was going on.

Then you had the stability programme, drive along the motorway and it would lower the suspension to improve the aerodynamics.

Off the motorway and play fast and loose with the throttle, the handling would be totally remapped the engine management too gets a wake up call.       

It was like driving another car, taught and responsive

Meant you would be carrying another 30 MPH as you went through the hedge.

But at least the hazards would be flashing.    




Sunday, 16 June 2013

The voice of eggspierience

Last year the student made one of her many executive  decisions: life at Penole would be better and more fulfilled if we had our own chickens. Mine is not to question why so in due course a large shed arrived followed closely by all sorts of paraphernalia and finally 4 chickens were installed in the run.

We have been at times inundated with eggs quiches have been made on an industrial scale.  Then of course winter, winter is the time when feed is short and Mr Foxy Woxy at his hungriest. First one then another chicken "disappeared". Still at least we have two left and two are a lot easier to keep up with than one.

That of course implies they are co operative chickens who lay in the coop and not belligerent buggers who have a safe laying spot somewhere else.

They are still demanding food and bullying the cats away from cat food. But  eggs have been off the menu  for weeks, today, herself was seen in the Co-op buying er eggs actually.....

Going to be a bit of a war this one, I cannot see her winning it either..


Fathers day

Those who know me well know that I am quite the romantic at heart and i never cease trying to find new and interesting gifts for my beloved.

You might also know that, since the big log burner went in we have stopped using our tumble drier I seem to recall there were some issues with it just before we stopped.

But anyway, Fathers day and rain pouring from the sky, herself somewhat concerned that drying is not possible outside and not practical inside as it would render the living room somewhat like a tropical rain forest in terms of heat and moisture.

So it was tumble drier to go then, what a romantic thought for fathers day - I would buy her a tumble drier.

I cannot say she looked impressed, in fact I sensed a bit of danger in the look she gave me.

But anyway before getting the money out it might be worth having a look at the old one. With a little attention we have got it running and it seems to work.

Well when  I say "work" I am perhaps being a bit too optimistic.  It does seem to be drying clothes but in doing so makes a continuous squeaking noise that is hard to identify, every so often it stops  squeaking, begining instead to rumble, sounding like the clothes have been removed and replaced with bricks.

But, with weather promising to be fine for the rest of the week, that's 200 pounds saved on a tumble drier 200 pounds than can be added to the budget for her new C5.



Saturday, 15 June 2013

For the love of cars

Herself of course is not a car person. Big old Bihan the Citroen C5 Estate was not really the apple of her eye and when it expired in a cloud of steam and oil she wasn't really upset. The car was taken away and she didn't  shed one single tear. Of course not.

Not electing to pay the 1000 pound to rebuild the car really felt like you were letting an old friend down. With our changed circumstances there was no real need to replace like with like and so we settled on a new look  fleet. The VW would do all the motorway stuff while the little AX did all the locals.

Of course you need to factor in that Taliesin has decided to set himself up as a car dealer and so we have two Saxos here as well.

But anyway young G arrived and that has changed things, maybe, I argued there might be room for something a bit more car like on the fleet.  She took no persuading at all, so now, I am online searching for a replacement  for her C5.

She has been doing the research, scanning all the available cars and all the available models, she has come up with a shortlist - Citroen C5 Estate.

I have scanned the websites and I think i have  found a couple of likely candidates.

We could be out tomorrow.


Saturday, 8 June 2013

Fire in the Mountain Festival

It's not like me to break cover and say explicitly where we have been or what we have done.

 A week ago we were at the above festival and what a good one it turned out to be. For a start it's not some commercial mega operation, 1000 tickets get printed and that's it. So it's not pack em in till they squeak.

It's also run by humans not people out to squeeze every last penny out of you. The festival food is not a series of dodgy burger vans and overpriced noodle stalls. There is a communal kitchen which conjours up meals sourced from local sources. They had a festival pig, reared on the site slaughtered locally and the meat went through the festival. £5 bought you a decent plate of food, I was getting by on one meal a day, and I was working there.

This year a weekend ticket was 80 pounds for which you got: bands all night Friday, bands all day and night Saturday, bands all day and night Sunday. 3 whole days - it was stonkin. Thursday I did a 12 hour shift which meant that by Friday night (12 hours more) I was ready to sleep. My head hit the pillow and a band started on stage, they sounded good so I got back up and had a listen. They finished and I went to bed, only the next band was pretty damn good too, well worth sitting up and listening to. So it went on, at 3 am I eventually went to sleep as the very lively jam session in the cafe tent was far enough away to ignore.

I worked Midday Saturday till 2 AM Sunday, finished work and went for a pint in the bar. Did I mention the bar? £3 a pint and 28 different real ales taped over the weekend.

 OK so when the festi finished I was on my knees in a way I had not been for about 20 years. This year it was a festival I had never heard of, next year it will be a festival not to be missed.


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Festering times back in business

A month is a pretty unheard of silence for festering times. It's down to me though, lots been going on some of it good too.

It seems an age since Lil's death, so much going on and and a "where to start" situation.

When I last posted things were looking a bit poor for little D, someone seems to have hit the wake up button at social services and they are actually trying. He has a range of options with which he seems to be engaging.

We are just back from two festivals and, unlike previous events D has been a big part of the team.

As most of you know, we are foster carers and with little D turning 18 we would cease to be foster carers. Our agency has indicated very firmly that the services of a long distance out of county carer is no longer needed and that we would be finished as carers for them. We have over the years realised that we are, to them a bit of a pain, holding them to best practice or even insisting they act lawfully are viewed negatively, or at least so it seemed.  

This has lead to us looking at other options and me developing my profile as a trainer. This part of life has been really exciting for me, long time since I delivered training and having people compare my training packages very favourably compared to others has been a big confidence boost.

We are just back from working two festivals, the second of which I was working as security. Someone came up to me at the end and thanked us (security) for being there, it made him feel safe. Another plus, old style security was a pretty heavy and often threatening business.

But anyway as I said fostering in Daycastle have said we are surplus to their requirements. This all makes the presence of the 14 year old who arrived yesterday with an instruction to get her into school as soon as possible and to keep her till she is 18 all the more puzzling

What was nice was hearing how her SW had struggled to meet her needs and keep her safe. He sits opposite big D's SW who suggested he ask for a placement in West Wales and see what he gets offered.

She is a bloody brilliant SW and that kind of back handed recommendation has to be taken as the huge compliment that it is.

~Of course the wheels could all fall off the cart overnight......

We shall see.



Friday, 10 May 2013

The Big party when she wasn't there

Yesterday  was an odd old day, a huge party for Lil when the one person who would have been it's life and soul was not there.

She really has gone now, of course our day was a normal one of complete manic 3 figure speed runs up the M4 to be there on time whilst dropping young people off all over the place.

Not to mention picking up  that blast from the past Victoria, one of our previous placements who has her life back on track. She insisted on being at the funeral, being back in our family after too long outside it.

A lot of last times, last time in the yacht club, last link to the town where she was born severed for the student.

To provide a complete contrast the afternoon was a social work crisis meeting for little D, someone seemed to have woken up, lots of the right people were there.  Decisions got made, shame it's so late, possibly too late, who knows?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Mow mow mow your field...

The winter here is a time of sort of quiet calm. Trips out to the woodshed aside and episodes of digging our way out aside it's quite quiet of a winter.

Now of course we go into out action phase, the Hayter Condor - superb machine has been fettled with lots of technical fiddling.

This meant our acre of party field which has been mowed regularly - got done over the weekend.

Then the rough orchard half an acre got done yesterday, then today the top field, about an acre of our woodland  got done today.

Now, bear in mind this has not been mowed for about ten years and it was manouvering the big old hayter round the young trees - it wasn't easy.

I was soo glad when it ran out of petrol.

Now we go off to social things around funerals and stuff

But you still  need to mow the lawn.


Friday, 3 May 2013

All change

The students mum has gone - life has gone very complex as there is a family with a range of agendas.

The little D situation is further along, I think, than anyone realises, college have no intention of offering him a course next year, well, so I reckon, this means, leaving care will drop him also. He will get a minimal service.

His fostering allowances will stop which will be OK as we will not be expected to support him, meaning we can go out to work or do other things.

Trouble is without that support he will not manage at all, without us on the end of the phone to the Police or college it will fall to Social Services who will make sure they are not answering the phone or making decisions.

So things will fall apart for the lad, unless we step up to the mark which we will only be able to do if Social Services support us to do so.

We don't do it for the money but we can't afford to do it without the money.

I think their thinking is, if he is pulled back into county it will be easier, when things go wrong he will not have two seriously stroppy advocates to take them to task. That's very true, but actually we have a back up plan for ourselves and they might not be dealing with strong advocates but loose cannons.

The sad thing is that this has made the ending of the students  mums life so much more traumatic, D's behaviour, has simply not touched him in terms of what it means more than 5 minutes ahead. It has stopped the student having that space to reform.

Spelt out yesterday he was scared and horrified, but, sadly there are tipping points, the law they have ignored themselves says that post 16 he must......

They have totally failed to deliver what the law requires them to do but are pretty confident in what the law says that at this stage in his life they can stop doing. 

So it's one law for them and one law for him.


Tuesday, 30 April 2013

End of times

It has been a hard few weeks.

The students mum who had all agreed informally was immortal fell out of bed a little while ago and snapped her femur.

The other one, not the one she snapped when she was 100 and survived and went home to live in her own house.

So she went down for a fairly serious procedure aged 101 - she survived the major surgery and was frail but OK.

Unlike the last time she broke her hip she did not manage to get back on her feet.

Things slowly went down from there.

Last Tuesday she had a series of really big strokes and went into a coma.

Now, any normal being would have been dead on the day - not  her.

She held out till this morning, she has gone, the force was strong in her as they might say in Star Wars.



Monday, 29 April 2013

The Big Sports day part the two

I have been a bit remiss, neglectful even in that nothing much has happened on here since the greatest leader of the free world ever died (yeah right)

I have had a whole range of issues ongoing, the students mum becoming seriously ill and now sitting at deaths door being one of them.

Recording part the two of the big sports day needs to happen and it will make it to the top of my to do list soon. It's very important to share this in an environment where the perceived wisdom is that the private sector does it better and cheaper.

Unless your measure is that those at the top get more and those at the bottom get less.

Thatcherism in it's purest form.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Death of an icon

I feel very ambivalent about where we are today

We are being encouraged to celebrate the life of Maggie Hilda Thatcher who was born in the same year as my father.

He was the son of a union organiser in West Wales who stood up for the poorest and least able.

A local landlord spoke out against universal education as it would create a shortage of people to labour in his fields

I wonder if she acquired a hatred and contempt of working people in her fathers shop.

Actually she was just an actor on a stage so we should not hate her for what she did.

She got swept up in a process.

It gave us all the social housing sold off - crisis in housing today.

Deregulation of the banks -  enough said

She inherited pretty much full employment but concealed her catastrophic mismanagement by pushing people on to sickness benefits - ohh and now we seem to have lots of people who could work claiming sickness benefit?  Hoo humm

Of course there need to be jobs there for them to apply for - oops.

She sold our socially provided utilities into the free market at a fraction of their value.

And we bought into the "easy money" culture. 
She changed socially provided homes into assets you bought way under the  market price 

And we bought into that "easy money" culture too

What she did was change us from people who looked out for each other to people who looked out for ourselves

Made us clones of them who won't pay for an NHS they won't use or a benefit scheme they will never need.

Take the whole country back a century and more.

And we are supposed to rejoice??

Carry on you lot.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

This could be the end

Festering times has been a part of my life for a while - you will have to look up entry one for yourselves dear reader.

Basically I have been a foster carer for a long time and a long time before I landed on here.

Fostering officially ends in October when the last fosling turns 18 and either we continue to support him at a vastly reduced rate, or the service supports him at the current rate or something else

So basically whatever happens - we will not be foster carers any more

I have been shortlisted for that strangest of things - a job.

The Student has a application in also.

Could be a good one.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Festering away

Little D has gone off into town today, the flat his little mates and him were taking over has gone ad now the big plan is a room in another shared house. His SW finally emerged from the woodwork today and was suitably horrified. She seems to think he will never cope, we were more concerned with the maths of it all and how he was going to afford to live there. The 60 pounds a week rent, he announced, was inclusive, it covered everything. A quick call to the letting agent confirmed his story, 60 pounds covered everything, except gas, or electricity, or food.

All looking good there then! 

We have only been asking for a proper planning meeting for two years. The Pathway Plan should have been started when he was 15. The hilarious suggestion at the moment is that we can simply not bother with an assessment of needs (case law says not) and proceed to a plan to meet the needs we have not bothered to assess. Great stuff, then the little ditty for the SW that she is off back to doing hospital SW as she does not like how things are shaping up in the Child Health team. Now, personally I don't blame her for going, but it would appear this is just a ploy to force leaving care to take on the case. This is a young persons life we are on about here not some little petty game of politics.      

The student and big D and I spent  a happy half hour being blinded by sawdust this morning as the chain saw tore a load of firewood apart. After half an hour or so I had gotten properly bored so retired to the house.

Next job, over to the Greasy Garage and fit some parts to the little Citroen AX.   

It's funny in life, one of the things you have to live with is that in 5 seconds you could be dead. On the way back I was driving a narrow twisty limited visibility country lane when, round the corner exploded a windscreen full of truck. No where to go i was pretty sure this thing was going to hit the AX which would fall apart as he ran over it. Good afternoon to the grim reaper.

How we managed to stop without a nasty head to head incident I am still trying to figure out

He then went on, when I reversed into a passing place to try and remove the back end of the car, in reality he was not properly able to see what his truck was doing. I couldn't get mad, I was too busy being gad to be alive 

The upshot was some scratches on Dave, Bethans car and a promise of lots of telegraph poles so we can build, at last our shed for all the trucks

This could even be viewed as a bit of a result!!

Less of a result is the news from the hospital, The students mum has taken a turn and not for the better. Her son was called in today and it looks like her kidneys are giving out. 101 is a damn good outing, but it looks like her systems are shutting down. I could say lots of things about her but at the end of her riotous 101 st birthday party I said - "do it again next year" and she said "yes" with a wicked gleam in her eye.

She was 96 when she went to Australia and 98 when she gave up country dancing.

Last time she spoke to Gwion she told him life wasn't fun any more.

At the end of the day, maybe   when it isn't fun it's time to go.






Monday, 1 April 2013

Working 4 the big company

I think the big sports day is far enough gone now for me to share my experiences of working for the big company that kept everyone safe on the big event

When the call went out for people to provide security on the big sports day i quite fancied the sound of that. It looked interesting and so I filled in the form and waited to see what happened. Now many years back I used to run the door on a large nightclub. Nightclub was often nightmare as in the unregulated world of private security going into a situation  I was often more scared of what the guys behind me might do than what the guys in front of me were doing.    

Thankfully all that has gone and I passed the application stages and got an interview. The interview went well and I was promised I would be put forward for a team leader post - my was that a lucky escape as i was later to find.

Weeks passed and they called me up for training, 2 days notice on a week when I had a full diary so I could not do it. Months the passed and I got the call to go for training in a town 120 miles away. This was a bit impractical so I asked about expenses only to be told they didn't pay any.

Cosmic, booked myself into a B&B in the  town  I used to live in before we moved here OK truth and honesty time I actually booked myself a room in what had been my regular watering hole before we moved down here. This was looking to be a seriously expensive week then!

So, day one in to the training venue that offered no parking and day one of the course. It was a bit of a culture shock coming to somewhere that has public transport, a train that left every 15 minutes for town.

The training venue itself was a pretty low rent sort of place with not a lot to recommend it. Social Services use some pretty crummy venues but this was pretty grim. Neither had the big company thought much about it's trainees, tea and coffee could be had if you went outside and bought it. we only got water when the instructors kicked up a fuss.

The training though, it has to be said was good. Good to the point where I thought this would be really useful to new foster carers, especially the bits about managing confrontation.

There has been some criticism in the media from some journo who got inside the training, I can only speak as I found, we had three trainers, local girl, man in black and little ninja. (Names changed to protect the guilty).

Man in black was an astonishing trainer though you got this bad gut feeling that he might have avery exotic past. Local girl was the lead trainer on physical intervention and you really would not want to mess with her.

The group were very diverse from  university students to unemployed people - the sort the government would try to portray to you as feckless. The unemployed  were the people I ended up feeling most sorry for, the big firm had plucked them off the dole cue, offered them a door supervisor qualification and said it was a pathway to work.

Thing was these people needed support, 4.50 a day rail fare was a bit of a nuisance to me, but, 4.50 was nearly 10% of  these peoples dole every week

The job centre would not help, the big company would not help, these people were really struggling.

I got through the week and actually I really loved the course - it was seriously good.

Only one tiny little fly in the ointment, little Ninja runs this course in Further Education institution just down the road from me, so rather than doing the course 120 miles away I could have done it close to home.

The next step was accreditation, issuing of licences by LOCOG, I got a summons that told me I had to present myself at Games Day HQ in Stafford with only 48 hours notice. How would the guys off the dole cue have found the money for that?

Not something the big company seemed to care about.  

This was another reality check, having driven to the capital, parked up and taken the underground across town, the student and I arrived at the screening centre. When I was there I thought the place was Al Quaida heaven. The front of the building was pretty security solid but, as I stood in a long line of people all waiting to be processed. I could see so many uncovered ways and routes in that is was simply frightening.

It was scary stuff, having waited in line for an hour I spent 5 minutes being checked and got issued with papers.

Terry Taliban could have minced us up to nothing and walked in through gaps you could drive a bus through. 

Having gone up there on a mission I was told that uniform was not there for me - even though lots of others got it.

Then again what I did not know was that there was a issuing point just up the road from me, well ok maybe not next door, but in the place I eventually went on to work in. A lot closer than the capital. It turned out lucky for me that I went all the way up the motorway....         

To be continued... 



Friday, 29 March 2013

Being LOGcal WOOD be good

Branwen Demonstrates why it is a good idea to wear goggles and a face mask

If you are going to lay waste to the woodpile with the big Stihl Chainsaw.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Looking to the future.

We were  out all day yesterday clearing up after the National Parks - several tons of firewood collected and brought home. Taliesin god bless him found some big lumps of tree to bring home as well.

This is all very well, in December it will be really good wood. The stuff I have stacked behind the stove might even be dry in a month.

Fortunately we sourced a couple of bales of reasonably dry wood today. I should have been here cutting it but sadly I had to be in university. Shame really.

Got a bit done before tea and she has visibly cheered up. She is less cold and this is good.

Tomorrow will be seriously cool here but it's have chainsaw will cut wood for us!!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Ice Cold In Penole

I think it has finally got to the student. This winter has set new standards for cold.

When you live somewhere lovely, like we do you get all these people being jealous of our life in some sort of rural idyll frame.

Thing is though that in rural idyll some of those things you just take for granted are just not there.

No mains gas, No mains water, There are even some places where electricity does not reach.

We do at least have electric  on the mains, but anyway
I know other parts of the UK have fared far worse than us but it has been -8 for night after night now, just when spring should be cutting in and we should be easing back on the fires - we are running them harder then we were in December.

Firewood, cut for September October has been coming out of the shed. The stuff we will be cutting soon is the stuff we should be putting out to dry over the summer so it's ready for  November December.

 Last week has seen off our stock of remaining wood. We are going to be cutting stuff to burn in the next week. This is really bad, you get far less heat and far more ash.

Unless of course you are actually burning ash which can be pretty much burnt the day you cut it.

This burning wood thing is quite scientific which is why I suppose a lot of people went over to gas and oil which requires no more brains than the ability to operate a switch. 

The end result for us though has been a house far colder than the student has become used to.

We have gone back to where we were 20 years ago, 2 13.5 tog duvets on the bed.

On the positive, today big D was in work with the national parks clearing some wood and doing some fencing.  They were left with a huge pile of waste that they just stacked, what would happen to that asked D, well it's just going to be left he was told. Would it be OK if we went down there later and took it away?  That would be great, they told him, thank you very much for taking it away.

Now don't get me wrong, this is not firewood  to burn now,  but we took a ton out tonight and we are going back in the morning with the 2 ton trailer  tomorrow afternoon we will go back again.

So that bit is good - in about 12 months we will have some lovely wood.

Does not help us today though.  

But the house is about OK on the warm front.






Saturday, 23 March 2013

Not getting it

When you are a foster carer you are locked in a day to day routine of schools children social workers and meetings. Despite this you do need to have an objective ahead. A where we need to be in 5 years time.

Now the objective with looked after kids is that they will at some stage want to move on.

Young P got to about 13 his mum was well enough and he went home, by all accounts he is doing OK.

Bethan my own daughter, went through a bit of a patch but sorted herself out in the end.

Big D is aware of the need to move on but he is pretty determined he is not going anywhere near there for as long as possible. He looked over the wall and didn't like what he saw.

Little D on the other hand is well on the way to moving out. The grand plan is still the flat in town. Despite a bit of a housing shortage the place sits there unnlet and unwanted. Sooo asked the student in the car how was this all going to work. What did she mean, who was paying for what and how. Everyone would be chipping in their rent each week. That was good, how much was the deposit? No idea Where was it coming from? No idea. Was the place furnished, did it have a cooker and a washing machine? No idea. How would he cope if it did not, no idea. Was the place furnished at all? What if there was no bed. D already had a bed, No D slept in our bed on our mattress using our bedding, what if the flat had none of these? He had a television and a PS3 he said. And??? Was he planning to sleep on those?

Would it not be an idea to look at some of these issues if he intended to be living there in a few months?

Had he really thought this through? This was a private landlord, he was moving in with a group with a bit of a reputation. What if 6 months down the line there had been one party too many, one thing broken too  much and he got thrown out.      

What he would be offered would be a hostel, which would mean sharing, maybe with drunk people, maybe with violent people maybe with people who were mentally ill. A scary place.

I really had to sit and think - why is none of this touching him, does none of it enter his world.

I wonder if he has had too much done for him. From the earliest age for the LAC there is the foster carer with a duty of care, the social worker to sort out the problem with contact. I wonder if in the mess of "you have rights" stuff he actually get so used to being done for he never acquired the skill to do.

I am going to pull back from that point, a good few of our LAC have gone on to take control of their life. Little D seems stuck at a point where if he doesn't do it for long enough he thinks someone will step in.

A dangerous strategy.


Blown away by the weather.

I suppose it could be worse, at least there is no snow. 

It's incredible though, now we are officially in spring the weather outside is simply awful. We have used a simply vast amount of wood this winter and are already using the wood allocated for September.

This morning it was freeze outside selling some land rover parts and this afternoon looking at the wood that needs bringing into the house whilst noting it's not warm out there.

There old 1800's houses are notoriously hard to heat, it's fine when it's calm but any sort of a breeze simply sucks the heat out of the building. It still costs us a damn sight less to heat the house than many of our fossil fuel guzzling neighbours.

Going to be a blitz on wood in the next few weeks.

Peace in the house today both the D's in town, Branwen home tomorrow - oh dear.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Saintly patience required

It's a bit of a tell tale really, if i am here bashing a couple of messages  a week - it means I have too much time on my hands. If there are great chunks of time with no posts, it's probably kicking off big style.

Over the years she and I have fostered rather a lot of young people, would take me a good while to list them but we could pretty much name them all. Well except him who was here for tea. Literally, came put his stuff in the room had his tea climbed out the window and vanished into the night.

Then you get the others like Big D who came at 7 asked a week later if he could stay till he grew up. Has grown up and is showing no signs of moving on 12 years later.

Then of course we have D the littler the rest of this message will be about him and so he'll just be D from now on.

D's mum has been a one woman job creation scheme for social workers 7 children 3 adopted 4 fostered. D came from what could be described as a pretty chaotic background and came into care aged about 7, 10 years ago.

He has always tried to keep us entertained but i really think he is excelling himself at the moment. 17, staring leaving care in the face he is really struggling to get it. At 17 of course he can expect greater independence which he thinks is great, he can also expect to have to contribute more around the house and to become more self reliant ready to move into the flat he wants when he is 18.

Without prompts to go in the bath he is dealing with personal hygiene by not bothering. Clothes washing is another challenge he has to face which he also deals with by not bothering.

The game has really been upped the last few weeks as a bewildering series of narratives are starting to emerge. Naturally as a normal 17 year old he got himself a girlfriend about 6 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago she had his baby, all fairly miraculous I'm sure you would agree. Sadly the baby died within the hour of it's birth, a event which took place in half a dozen different hospitals, depending on when he was asked. I should add that none of the hospitals listed knew anything about a baby and a couple did not even have maternity units.

The tragic dead baby incident didn't last long, a couple of days later the baby had apparently come back to life and D was caring for it at night and we, so everyone was told had charge of it during the day. The student was particularly impressed with this, caring for an imaginary baby being so much easier than dealing with a very real D!

Things really got out of hand on Facebook when people started to "bully" him.  It turns out there were two groups of people, one taken in by the Walter Mitty narrative, offering sympathy and asking to be kept up to date with all the latest twists and turns of the story. There was a second nasty group of bullies who kept saying horrible things like - he was making it all up.

Nastiest of all was the person who said he knew  D's alleged girlfriend, knew for a fact she had not been pregnant, knew for a fact she was not pregnant and knew for a fact there was no baby.

When this first came to us we took the bullying claim at face value and so suggested  D take the whole sordid business to the Police who are very keen on this sort of thing, and since it was all on FB it could simply be printed off and everyone get charged.

When he declined, we took matters into our own hands went on FB to do some investigating and discovered the whole story. You miss so much if you are not on FB every hour!!

Of course this was against a backdrop of a D who desperately wants to be living independently. Now, you might have a view of whether someone who can't manage his laundry can manage his  whole life. The student was very supportive, offered him a cot we have going spare for the baby too. Last week D and a bunch of friends were going to set up home in a large flat in the middle of town. All well and good. The whole deal looked too good to be true, the flat was to rent for £450 per calender month, which for a 5 bed property was for nothing. Time for a bit of research, first off five bed flats in multiple occupancy fall under fire and other regulations and would need fire certificates electrical tests and meet a lot of standards. A check with the letting agent revealed this was not being let as 5 beds, rather is would be let to an individual. That person would need a bank account, credit and police checks (something that would rule out pretty much everyone D knows) before they could take a tenancy on the whole building. Then of course they could deal with the 4 spare bedrooms they had by subletting them to other people. These subletees would need to sign tenancy agreements, to do which they would need to be 18 and of sound mind. A typical room in a shared house round here is about 60 pounds a week so we are looking at a nice little earner for someone.

Chances of D and his little mates with their extensive collection of convictions and ASBOs with none of them in work ticking all the boxes - pretty much zero.

Un daunted D is marching on.  D is not as badly off as other young people having access to Disability Living Allowance.  He was briefly in charge of this at 16, when records were set for the speed at which he could empty his account. In one frenzy he had cleared 300 pounds in 48 hours with no idea what he had done with it. This couldn't go on, so we set up a system whereby his DLA went into a deposit account, D had a reasonable weekly sum put in his current account. This meant he usually had money  in his pocket and he was accruing a nice sum which he had to spend if he wanted a new laptop or decided to learn to drive. This was not to his liking and last week he decided to raid his own savings in fact in 14 days he got through 1100 pounds on precisely what we are not sure.

There was yet more excitement to come,  on the day he want to get another 200 pounds from his savings only to find he had but 90 pounds left things took an altogether more alarming turn. Mid afternoon, we got an urgent phone call from college, they had credible intelligence that a group of young gentlemen from college town intended to visit the ourtown youth club that night  to settle a few differences with D and a couple of his mates. The differences would be settled it seems by a generous dose of fisticuffs.

So of course off to town we went arriving moments before a senior youth worker who had received the same message. Youth club was closed for the day and the police invited along in case there was any kind of disturbance. I'll say one thing for the Police round here they do good lockdown and, by the time events were due to unfold the centre of town was like the Marie Celeste.

We never really got to the bottom of why a bunch of people were prepared to drive no little distannce to have an altercation with D. I could not help but notice this was the day when he was going to get 200 pounds but only walked away with 90. Was someone perhaps looking for their 110 pounds??

What would he need 200 pounds for anyway - none of the answers that sprang to mind were good ones or perhaps it was for something for his baby!!

Of course the fact there was no 200 pounds has been an act of major distress, where had all his money gone he demanded, he had spent it, he was told. Why was there not more Educational Maintainence Allowance being paid, EMA is paid to young people who turn up at their  education establishments not ones who frequently bunk off into town, futhermore if on those days they do turn up they chose not to behave in class they also risk their EMA. Did he want us to take it up with college on his behalf, he changed his mind.    

Of course things have further tightened for the poor angel, as I said at the very top, at 17 things are a bit diferent to when you are 7, particularly in respect of pulling your weight around the house. This has been another of his master strokes D has two strategies for chores, strategy one pretend there arn't any.  Strategy two, start an argument about it.

Things have rather come to a head as he sits in his little flat created down the end surrounded by landry  rubbish and dirty crockery. The student has decided to apply D's own methods to his principal benefit of living here, that is a lift into town when he needs it. This has been a cause of much hilarity and totally messed up his social life.  We don't use strategy two just strategy one, why would we be going in to town when we don't need to? Working of course on the real life principal, if you put nothing in you can take nothing out. D is putting nothing in so thats what he has to take out.

We are, apparently most unreasonable people. I can't wait to see the tale he makes up to put on FB

Fostering ahhh - all you foster carers out there - whateverh they pay you it ain't enough...