A Cowley Man
This is just going to be a factual narrative of the last two days – I’m too exhausted to write any other way (I’m slightly worried that I’m knackered and we haven’t even started yet.
Yesterday afternoon, I spent the best part of two hours in the Civic Centre signing a mountain of forms and contracts. I was given the keys, parted with the first month’s rent and wished all the best for Steven’s new home.
So, on arriving home, for the first time since this all blew up last September, I was able to give Steven some concrete information. He was over the moon and danced around the room for about 10 minutes. I was cooking tea when his support worker returned for the evening shift and I heard Steven tell him:
“Uncle Wayne’s a Cowley man.
David is a Cowley man
Lee is a Cowley man
Dave is a Cowley man
Patrick is a Cowley man
STEVEN NEARY IS A COWLEY MAN NOW”
This morning I arrived at the house early with my sister to open up for Steven’s first viewing. They only gave me one key yesterday which turned out to be the back door key. I must have tried the front lock over a dozen times and for a split second, entertained the thought that perhaps squatters had moved in. My sister phoned David, her son and announced “me and Uncle Mark are too old to climb over the wall” and David arrived to save the day ten minutes later.
It was good to look round the house without all the housing people present and I started to visualise where everything would go. The state of the living room carpet became all too apparent – our feet kept sticking to it! The whole house needs decorating quite frankly but there is time to do that before we have to vacate the flat. The first week in November started to show up in my head for the actual move. My sister has assembled a decorating team and it should look beautiful in two weeks time.
Steven and the support workers turned up and he was really engaged and jolly as we went from room to room. Steven is a lazy buggar and I think he’d been pinning his hopes that he’d have a maisonette like Uncle Wayne – the stairs were the only things that didn’t impress him.
After they left, we went off to buy the cooker, fridge and washing machine and all the paint (another £900 of the damages bites the dust).
Home an hour later than I would normally on a Tuesday, Steven was on edge and that has continued since. Lots of changes. Routines broken. Uncertainty now for the next two and a half weeks. It’s going to be a very hairy fortnight. I tried to go upstairs to phone the electricity people (there is no gas or electric at the moment) but couldn’t get anywhere for the meltdown taking place downstairs. I think this is why I already feel worn out – there is so much to do but I get so little time (about 6 hours per week) when I’m either not working or caring for Steven. I’ve tried to do a list of priorities but even that looks too much to do in the short space of time I get free.
In amongst all this, I’ve been trying to deal with several phone calls and emails. Victoria Derbyshire wants to interview me about the move on Radio 5 Live tomorrow, so as well as the pre interview questions, they were having to arrange a radio car to come to the flat (there is no way I could travel up to Oxford Circus with so much going on). It’s odd because it will be nearly three years to the day since Victoria interviewed me the day after Steven made his escape from the positive behaviour unit. And it’s almost a year to the day since she interviewed me as I sat in my pants in a Leeds’ hotel room after we received the news of my housing benefit stopping. I’ve been invited to speak at the House of Lords Committee looking into the Mental Capacity Act, so tried to arrange the dates for that. Plus, I’ve had two speaking engagement offers and need to book hotel and travel for those.
The support worker clocked off at 6pm and Steven has settled into his regular 2 hour Tuesday night music DVD session. Except he keeps calling me downstairs every five minutes to check out the latest anxious thought that pops into his head:
“Dad – put The Beautiful South CDs in a box?”
“Dad – put trunks in the holiday suitcase?”
“Dad – still have steak in the Cowley house?”
“Dad – not going back to M house (the unit) – Cowley house is forever and ever?”
Thankfully, I can answer “yes” to all those questions. And between now and the first week in November, I expect to have to answer the same questions and a thousand like it many times.
I had a big thought yesterday. Three years ago Hillingdon were planning on moving Steven to a hospital in Wales for “further assessment” as to why his behaviour was so challenging at the unit. Three years on, after three court hearings, many more battles, Steven has got a home of his home. It’s chilling to know that Steven came within a breath of, as Justice Peter Jackson put it, “facing a life in care that he does not want or does not need”.