Sunday, 28 December 2014


The 1982 film Annie holds a unique place in the story of our family.

After a year of several Social Worker's scrutiny, three Panel days, 10 days of introductions and most of it being filmed by the BBC the moment finally arrived that we shut the door on them all and we were alone with Sarah, Gracie and Ginger. The palpable feeling of relief and sense of arrival was profound and as I savoured the moment the kids en mass approached me and asked if they could watch a film. Of course I thought, it would be our first unscrutinised and observed  'family moment'.

"Can we watch Annie" they asked

I was genuinely lost for words, the hours of preparation had not prepared me for this, my mind raced trying to comprehend the potential for irreparable harm.  A tale of loss and orphans just seemed inappropriate for this moment.
I sought wisdom from a higher power and she said it was fine, I was being stupid and anyway they had watched it dozens of times with their foster carers.

They went on to watch it dozens of more times, as did I, and as a result song's and scenes are hardwired into my brain and permanently linked to those fledgling moments as a family. Ginger at 20 months had uncannily 'Anniesque' curly ginger hair and the anecdotes of him singing 'the sun will come out tomorrow' at the top of his voice at every opportunity is a cornerstone of most family gatherings.

So to the new film.

In light of my history with the original I am clearly the wrong person to review this film. Furthermore, I'm a total film snob and don't approve of remakes at the best of times. Consequently, I have cast dispersions on the remake and flippantly dismissed it with limited knowledge.

But I thought I should go and Flossy and Lotty were up for it, so after the usual fighty shouty stuff we set off.

I have to say I loved it, this version felt like a contemporary fairy tale. Of course it's not realistic by any stretch of the imagination but I don't watch Jack and the beanstalk for horticultural advice.

Like all good films we watch it through the lens of our own experience. I saw a man who needed to prioritise his life and grab hold of what is important.

Flossy, when asked, described it as a film about a girl that needed to learn to trust.

Lotty just loved it, there aren't many films with characters and heroines that reflect the person she sees in the mirror.

It is non comparable to the 1982 version, that one is a classic musical with outstanding song and dance routines. However, this version had an air of magic that I was surprised at and perhaps the '82 version did not.

Perhaps I'm growing sentimental, on several occasions I stoically held back tears for fear of needing to be stretchered out due to emotional collapse. It pressed my buttons, but as a man of a certain age I am increasingly sentimental and this film hit the mark for me the adoptive father of six.
But I did enjoy it, the music was not great but I forgave it's shortcomings in light of the strong performances from the leads.

Would I recommend it? Yes.

And hello to Jason Isaaks.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

2014: A review of the year.

It has without doubt been a most interesting year. High highs and low lows.

A few days into the new year and Gracie returned herself to the system that had passed her to us 15 years earlier. Looking back now it seems surreal, the events leading up to it and the act itself both laden with strong emotions and difficult experiences. We continue to wrestle with the what has happened and I'm sure we will for many year to come.

Days later we went en mass to the court for the celebration hearing to finalise Peanut's joining us. A great and remarkable day.
The high and low point of the year already set within the first weeks of January 2014.

The rest of the years has been the usual roller coaster of events with managing increasingly challenging behaviour being the constant underlying theme. We've broadened our range of theraputic support, without any assistance from Post Adoption Support services, more through conventional and unconventional means (Equine therapy). We will try anything, we have to.

I was nominated, with Mrs C, for the Happy list. We attended the subsequent event the most remarkable party I've ever been to, a room full of the most inspiring and humble people you'd wish to meet. I have spent the year clarifying that I did not have to 'be' happy to be on the list as I had not nominated myself, thanks BAAF.

Opportunities to share my experience of adoption have come through social media and blogging. However, my personal views on adoption have shifted more this year than I would ave anticipated. I still believe in adoption but increasingly I see orthodoxies in practice, thought and ethics that sit uncomfortably with me. I'm ruminating on how, where and if I should express them.

As the year draws to a close we watch the joyful, painful and delicate steps of reintroduction for our older children to siblings unfairly cast adrift 15 years previously. As we watch we consider our role in this new landscape and reflect on unexpected feelings and thoughts.

So that's our year in the vague.

Best TV: House of Cards (2nd year running).

Best Album: Ozzy Osbourne - Tribute (it wins every year).

Best book: Ruthless Trust (it wins every year).

Favourite colour: Red

All the best for 2015

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Just a word of advice

'Just a word of advice'

It's an expression that fills my heart with dread. It usually means that someone is going to offload their opinion about what I'm doing wrong or how I should at least do it their way.

I much prefer advice that I've asked for than advice that's offered unsolicited. I don't take well to the tutting pensioner in the food isles offering wisdom whilst one of my offspring has a freakout over the lack of Peppa Pig shaped ham or some such.

A recent twitter thread highlighted the 'interesting' advice that was being given and how it was being received.

We all come to this adoption malarky on the back foot, our Social Workers are 'experts' and every suggestion or piece of advice is loaded. It's loaded with the bureaucratic authority they hold,  the unspoken reality that they are gatekeepers to what we want and need. So we nod politely and take on board what is said, after all they're the 'experts'. In different circumstances we wouldn't feel so amenable to advice offered but in this case we are.

If we chose not to follow the advice then we perhaps 'hide' what we intend to do.

The experiences and knowledge of others is invaluable but we must weigh it and measure it against our lives, our knowledge of ourselves and our gut instincts. In social work parlance we are experts of ourselves and our own experience. The approval process should lead us to this understanding so we can use it effectively.

Advice and guidance can be life changing and at times has been essential to us as individuals and as a family. But the spirit that the advice was offered and received seemed to be the essential factor. And not just professionals, family friends and pensioners, the same applies to you.

If you want to listen to me, get to know me and have a conversation then you've got a chance of being asked for advice.

We've been given a truckload of advice but standard' advice trotted out from 'standard' professionals is for 'standard' families and 'standard' children.
I don't know about you but I'm many things but it's increasingly clear that I'm not 'standard'.

For the record:

If anyone ever advises me  to 'relax' cos my child is 'picking up' on my anxiety, I will become the embodiment of the exact opposite of relaxed.

If you advise I use a 'star chart' to help her focus on not being 'angry', I might staple said star chart to your forehead.

If you advise that Flossy 'twangs' an elastic band around her wrist if she feels angry to distract her then I'll let her 'twang' it off your wrist to distract you.

And finally, if you advise Mrs C that she has 'control' issues, I WILL NOT restrain her. You were warned.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


For this to make any sense you need to be familiar with Chief Inspector Dreyfus of the Pink Panther films

P (Peanut): Daddy?

Me: Yes.

P: What time is it?

Me: Errrr.......(Thinking she is 3 and has no concept of time), 10 o'clock.

P: Thank you......................... Why?
Me: Well(Not sure where to start) just is.

P: Why?

Me: (Slightly perplexed) Do you really want to know?

P: Yes.

Me: Well, the world spins. (Smart arse patronising voice)

P: Ok. (Sincere voice)

Me: So, a long time ago people divided up how long it took for the world to spin one full turn. (Getting into it now)

P: Ok. (Interested voice)

Me: The people decided that they would divide it into 24 bits and that how we measure the time.
(I am über dad,  and she is going to be a genius)

P: Ok. (Understanding voice)

Me: So that's why it's 10 o'clock.

P: Ok, (Smiling).....................Daddy?

Me: Yes.

P: What time is it?

Me: 10 o'clock (Hoping this will be the end of it)

P: Ok,....................................Daddy?

Me: Yes. (This is wearing thin)

P: What time is it?

Me: I've just told you, you tell me. ( I can feel my inner Dreyfus rise)

P: 10 o'clock?

Me: Yes, I've just told you! (Dreyfus has arrived)

P: Ok (Smiling).................... Daddy?

Me: Yes.

P: What time is it?

Me: (Sobs)

I am broken, defeated and owned. I am Dreyfus, thwarted, destroyed and outwitted by a by a lesser intellect.

Throughout my parenting years I've been bitten, punched and kicked, insulted, slapped and wedgied, laughed at, offended and sabataged.

But this takes the biscuit.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Dark nights

Today it never seemed to get light, wet grey clouds hung low over the dark North East townscapes.

New job this week, with all the pressures and tribulations. The high hopes competing against new systems, procedures and policies. Not bad just hard.

Our good old people carrier died today. Yes, it's a financial and logistical pain and challenge. But I feel sad, to the point of crying because it has been such a blessing, a great price at the right time. It carried the 8 of us round when everyone was little. Puked and pooped in, fought and cried in laughed and shouted and shouted in. RIP purple slug.

Tonight the Xbox died. Nuff said.

It's that time of the year, Christmas isn't here but the summer is a distant memory.
We feel constrained by the dark nights. Through the spring, summer and early autumn normally we'll be busy outside til 7, 8 or 9 but now we're struggling to get home from school before it's dark.
Arriving home from my dark winter commute  I almost inevitably walk into 'something' happening or its aftermath.
My negotiation and conflict resolution skills would make Ban Ki Moon weep with admiration.

Entering the house the steamed up kitchen windows evoke my own childhood, but we are non comparable to the nuclear family I grew up in. We accept conflict, negotiation and challenge as our daily work. Emotions constantly running high linked to events out of our control or jurisdiction.

We all feel caged, restricted and mourn the light.

It's our hardest time of the year, the days are still getting shorter and the hope of spring is a long way off.

We enjoy Christmas,  but for Mrs C it is a mountain of work and it holds no great religious significance for us as a family. Though we classify ourselves as believers religious festivals and associated traditions are not part of our journey to or through faith and have held limited meaning to us.

This week on Twitter I read a seasonal faith comment that I'd heard a 100 times over

"the light draws near in the darkness"

But this time it filled me with hope.

Spring will be here soon.