‘Normality’ – my time in care.

 

My time with foster  parents came to an end. Again the social workers visited and the next thing I knew, I had arrived  at another children’s home. This time it was a council run home,  and this was one of the homes where the infamous Frank Beck was officer-in-charge.

I never recall meeting him and cannot be sure if he was actually working there during my time, but he was employed to run this and other homes from 1973 to 1986,which fits with the time-frame of my stay there.  Beck went on to be convicted and sentenced to five life terms for physical and sexual assaults against more than one hundred children in his care. A further twenty four years for seventeen charges of abuse, including rape, at his trial in 1991.

The fact that I could well have been there at that home during his time and potentially, I could have be at risk of becoming one of his victims is something that sends shivers through me and causes a deep resentment and anger towards Larry, that he may have, albeit unknowingly, placed me at such risk. Sylvie too, for having gone along with his wishes and not protecting me.

Like the holiday children’s home and my time with foster parents, my time at the home was to seem like a great holiday.

The main house was grand and imposing, of brown brick and had a large wood paneled hall with a heavy wooded staircase. An extension extended out from a living room and this was used mainly as a tv area. I recall sitting in there and watching ‘Top of the Pops’ and Suzi Quatro, leather clad and singing ‘Devil Gate Drive.’

I slept in a separate small building from the main house, a more modern building. I was in a large room upstairs and there were four beds in there. Each of us had a small chest of draws with a small hanging space attached. We were expected to make ours beds and keep the room tidy but that was about it. There were four of us girls of varying ages and these would come and go,  as one went home or elsewhere, to be replaced by another. The care staff would sleep in their own room on the same floor.

Meals were eaten in another extension to the main house, a large dining room, with a wide serving hatch type opening through to the kitchen, from where meals where handed out. We were expected to clear the tables after meals, placing used plates and dishes back onto the serving area.

I must have been there for at least part of the summer as I recall playing on the swings in the late warm evenings with girls my own age. There was a purpose built classroom along one side of the garden and children of various junior school age where taught here.

Once again, I was allowed pocket money and we were taken in groups into town and to the market to spend our money on sweets, trinkets, records or anything else we wished, something I had never experienced at home. We were taken swimming, treated to hot chocolate afterwards and traveled back to the home on the top of a double-decker bus chatting and joking.

During my time in the homes and foster care, I felt wonderfully lucky to be allowed what I thought to be great privileges, pocket money, sweets, and the freedom to speak and say what I thought. Not having to spend my days working away in the house, grooming dogs, fearing tongue lashings and head slaps. This time had given me a glimpse of ‘normality’ and a little bit of what life should be like.

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