Me & Margate
Every weekend I read the upsetting posts on Facebook from Debs Evans as she sets off on the four hour journey to visit her son Eden in an ATU. Each week, Debs takes along Eden’s dog with her. Eden loves that dog and as he enters his seventh year in an ATU, I often think about what he has missed out on, particularly in relation to his relationship with his dog.
I’ve written before about all the things Steven missed out on during his year in the ATU, and although it was only a year compared to Eden’s seven years, Steven will never get that year back. I spoke at a conference on Monday and reminded myself again about the first few weeks after Steven came home and his desperate attempt to catch up on all the things he hadn’t been allowed to do in the Unit – playing on the computer, watching his favourite DVDs.
Laying in bed that night, my mind wandered to my two cousins. They are about 10 years older than me and back in the fifties, they were classified as “deaf and dumb” and were sent away for their entire childhood to a residential home in Margate. His parents, my aunt and uncle were a feisty pair and I can’t imagine they would have been too happy about this arrangement but it was a different time, and I guess the done thing. Nobody put up much resistance to these “care” arrangements. You respected your betters, who obviously knew better than you did and went along with the status quo.
I’ve got some photos of me in a buggy visiting Philip and Gordon in Margate. I have to admit, I don’t remember much about those visits but they look like proper family outings as there are several of us in the snaps. The photos tail out as my cousins hit their early teenage. I’m not sure why.
I used to spend a lot of time with Philip when he came home. He introduced me to Southall Football Club and I went with him on the team bus to all the away matches for several years in the early 70s. He told me once about how his granddad first took him to the matches when he was a toddler. That got me thinking how Philip dealt with not being able to watch his beloved team for over 10 years as he grew up. Saturday was family visiting time, so I don’t imagine he ever was allowed to go and watch Margate play as a substitute. It was great going to the game with Philip. Being deaf, he used to carry a transistor radio around with him with high volume earplugs. Whilst watching Southall, he was tuned into whatever big match the BBC were covering and would let out these almighty cheers at all the wrong times. I recall one game as we were about to take a corner and Arsenal must have scored on the radio. All the players waiting for the corner jumped out of their skins.
As well as the football, Philip used to take to the cinema. By this point, her had a girlfriend, who I don’t think was too impressed in having an 11 year old gooseberry along for the ride. Philip loved the Carry On films, as did I, so we had lots of things to share. Again, it got me thinking – was he allowed to go to the cinema in Margate?
Philip’s brother, Gordon, who was completely deaf and without speech, carved out a very successful career as a stock car racing driver. His disability not a problem. I guess the question is whether they were held back or developed by their 11 years away from their home and family?
Times change. It’s now almost fifty years on but do things change? We are meant to be more knowledgeable. More tolerant. More person centred.
I’m not sure that things have changed that much at all.
From → Social Care