Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Letter to my Father from a Child of the State*

Dear Father,

I realise we've not had contact for many years, thirty-eight to be precise. Though I did see you twice after I left home at sixteen, so it's more like forty years really. 

Do you remember my eighteenth birthday?
(Of course, I understand, you've dealt with thousands and thousands of 18th birthdays, yes okay, you're right, I understand. No! I'm not upset.)
You gave me a cheque for 15/- (that's 75p in new money) and a tea set.
(No, I don't know what happened to the tea set. I moved around too much)

I thought you might at least write and ask how I was doing. 
Well, I'll tell you:

I've always worked apart from the odd occasion when I was homeless. I regret to say I was on benefits for a while but to be honest, I saw this as you supporting me from a distance, even though you never signed any of the letters yourself.

There was one in particular, the one where all my benefits were stopped and that week the children really did starve. It was signed by somebody called Harry something-or-other. I've racked my brains going through all the aunts and uncles I met during my 16 years in your care but cannot remember him. Was that really you? Using a pseudonym?

(I certainly don't hold you responsible for me being homeless and pregnant at seventeen.)
I guess it was about six months after I left Blueberry Road, I'd been living in a bedsit, well that's what it was called. I got behind with my rent and was asked to leave. I stayed on a friend's sofa for a few nights but after a while, I just felt awkward.

I did phone but you were busy decorating my old bedroom for somebody new. 
I have managed, not always very well, and I do remember people commenting on how skinny I'd become. It's not as if I didn't know how to cook but I couldn't afford to buy the food, so I ate custard creams instead.

I don't want you to feel sorry for me, I'm just trying to explain how difficult life was. It's not difficult now. I'm a successful member of society. In fact, I'm notorius. I have become a campaigner for children in your care and care leavers like myself. I'm not sure if you're proud of me or not. In fact, I'm going to parliament this Thursday; to visit the home of your father, my grandfather. I imagine he won't be able to hear what I say because of course, he never invested in a hearing aid. Whatever is said, will probably fall on death, I mean deaf ears.

I imagine you read about my antics in the local newspaper. (Yes you do read the papers. I remember seeing piles of them on your desk when I visited you at the Town Hall. Remember, we sat in silence for hours. You wouldn't speak to me because you thought it would force me to talk about my feelings.) 

I'm still here. If I had moved away, I would have missed you more than I already do. Have you missed me?

We could meet for tea like we used to. In the Wimpy Bar in Muswell Hill. Remember? You never had anything to eat. It was a game we played. I always had the same thing, bender, beans and egg. (No, I never had the tomato)

I suppose you're wondering why I'm writing to you after all this time. It's not easy you know, writing this letter. But I have nobody else to ask. My real parents (yes, I found out), my real parents are dead.

Anyway I will just finish this letter very quickly by...it's such a difficult thing to do - to ask for help. I want to go back to university. I want to investigate what happens when children leave your care and how that is portrayed in fiction. I’m also going to write an autobiographical novel, like the social novels of Charlotte Brontë or Charles Dickens, possibly challenge your ‘state’ quo. I want to illuminate the voiceless, the marginalized children of society. The research has a literary purpose, a social purpose, which will comment on what happened to us in the seventies and is still happening in society now; it is an important story that needs to be told.

(You say that changes things, if I'm writing autobiographical stuff?)

Well, I just thought I'd drop you a line.

If you do want to help, even at this late stage, you can find out more about my research here.

Yours sincerely,
A child of the state


*A child of the state was first mentioned by Lemn Sissay at the event TedxHousesofParliament.

4 comments:

Alison Summers said...

powerful

knowingchristie said...

Thank you from making me feel so grateful to my parents. Thank you.

Rosie Canning said...

Knowingchristie - you are very welcome.

Rosie Canning said...

Alison, thankyou!!