I had first started staying with Sylvie and her family around mid-to late 1966. My adoption was handled as a private one, and although dealt with through the courts, it did require a social services report. After I had been living with Sylvie for about ten months, a social worker visited on a few occasions, and a report was duly produced for the court, giving its recommendations in regard to my future.
Sylvie resented this social services input, the visits to her home and the fact that she had to toe the line. With her greasy hair, baggy clothes and Jesus sandals, the social worker Jane was something of Hippie type. Sylvie always described Jane as “Dolly f*****g daydream! I never saw such a scruffy looking f****r in all my life!”
For the visits Sylvie had obviously schemed and worked her magic, displaying great hospitality and creating the right impression. The house was scrubbed and polished from top to bottom, the best china tea set making a rare appearance, and the home made cakes offered. Stan had been made to have a bath and to shave, ordered into a clean shirt and a tie, the kids into their Sundays best, with their hairs brushed and gleaming. All of them had been given stern warnings about what to say and how to behave.
Having been bathed and dressed in my finest, I was placed in the garden in the Silver Cross pram, to get some healthy fresh air, as was considered best at that time. However, this was the one time that Sylvie’s treasured pram was not to serve her as well as she had planned.
Jane had arrived, this time to finalise the report, and after offers of tea and cake and polite chat, she had requested to see me. Sylvie happily led her through the kitchen, but looking through the window to the pram at the bottom of the garden, she let out a scream, “Oh my god, where is she?” and flew out of the door and down the garden.
On reaching the pram she was able to see me plonked down in the bottom of the deep well of the pram, playing with my feet. “You little git!” she uttered. Whilst the social worker and Sylvie’s daughters had hesitated, surprised by Sylvie’s sudden flight down the garden, it took them a few moments to follow her.
By the time they had caught up with Sylvie and came into earshot, the words ‘you little git’ had magically transformed into a sweet “Oh you little angel, you gave me such a fright.”
The carriage body of the pram had a deep well, with boards that slotted over the cavity, to provide a base for the mattress. I somehow had been able to get my fingers under the boards and remove them, meaning that I dropped down into the well and out of sight. Along with the blankets, sheets and pillows, the boards were strewn on the lawn where I had discarded them, ruining the image that Sylvie had wanted to present of me beautifully bedecked in the lovely pram.
Jane had picked up the boards and questioned the safety of the pram. Reassuring Jane that she would get Stan to fix it, Sylvie turned her back to her and said through gritted teeth to the girls, “Could you please ask your father to look at the pram for me,” in the sweetest voice she was able to manage.
Quickly realising she needed to rescue the situation, Sylvie turned on the charm. Leading Jane back into the house she commented, “Jane you do look lovely today, is that a new skirt you’re wearing?” whilst secretly grimacing at the bright orange, frayed hem and ankle length hippie type garment.
Jane had apparently lapped up this, and several other compliments, that Sylvie bestowed upon her. Sylvie found this hilarious and would often declare, “The dozy mare, she lapped it up. Nice skirt my arse! F**k me! I’ve seen better dressed scarecrows,” Or another favourite was, “I wouldn’t have used that bleeding skirt to wipe my arse!”