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The Care Vortex

The Care Vortex

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The Care Vortex

236 Seiten
3 Stunden
16. Aug. 2015


Previously published by BeWrite Books, now sadly no more, this is what was said of The Care Vortex on its first outing:- 'Now and then a book comes along that can never be forgotten, a book whose characters touch you deeply and remain in your memory. A story that shocks you into thinking about something you had never considered or completely changing your previous perceptions. The Care Vortex by Sam Smith is such a book.... If you want to read a book that will lull you to sleep at night, this book is not for you. It is no Little Orphan Annie with pretty pig-tailed children and fairy tale endings. Those trapped in the Care Vortex are damaged, the details harrowing. But for all that, it is a story of heroism, of people reaching out to each other and trying to overcome what has been done.' Gillian Davis

'... a no-holds-barred account of one day and night in a care home for disturbed young girls. At times, it reads more like non-fiction than fiction and therein lies the roots of its success... You cannot help but be drawn into the lives of the characters.... This is the real world and it grabs you by the throat and forces you to bite on the harsh reality of life for these maladjusted girls. To finish reading this book is to come out wiser and more understanding about the problems of damaged young people...' David Hough

‘The Care Vortex is a vitally important book. It should be read by anyone who has responsibility for children and young adults, whether they be parents, teachers, care workers, police, administrators ... it's all too easy in environments of near-isolation — family homes, care institutions, schools — to sweep the truth (and the children) under the carpet." Neil Marr: author of 'Bullycide: Death at Playtime'

16. Aug. 2015

Über den Autor

Editor of The Journal (once 'of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry')and publisher of Original Plus books, I was born Blackpool 1946, have ended up living in a Welsh valley. Prior to picking up my state pension I almost made a living as a freelance writer/publisher/editor. My last day job was as an amusement arcade cashier, I have also been a psychiatric nurse, residential social worker, milkman, plumber, laboratory analyst, groundsman, sailor, computer operator, scaffolder, gardener, painter & decorator........ working at anything, in fact, which has paid the rent, enabled me to raise my three daughters and which hasn't got too much in the way of my writing. I now have several poetry collections and novels to my name.

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The Care Vortex - Sam Smith

Chapter One

Where The Principal Protagonist Is Introduced

Not yet. Not till the next turning.

Along this road he can yet kid himself that he isn’t bound for work. Work thoughts are therefore not permitted inside his morning mind.

As agreed, he is late. Kate had to be dropped off at gym. Helen will collect her. If Sue could drive there’d be no need for Her to self-importantly collect Kate, and then stay on all day saying How Good She Is To Us. If She hadn’t been that good to Sue then maybe Sue would have learned to drive. Barry feels a linear kinship with Sue’s ex-husband in their loathing of Sue’s mother. (Ergo: circumstances create emotion.)

Leisurely late. Legitimately late. Diane will give him a handover. He can take his time. Negative work thoughts.

He could – unlikely, but he could – along this road, be bound elsewhere. This road of itself doesn’t end in work. Along this road he can take his time – time to look beyond the line of weeping willows to the water meadow, pretend an interest in the nesting swans, ape pleasure in a glimpse of their snowy sinewy necks. In this, his own car, he can pretend to be listening to his own jazz tape … before his day is irrevocably overtaken by pop.

Not yet.

On this road he can yet give in to the temptation to drive on, take an arbitrary right, left; and go on until he comes to some hills … To wander there the daylong under the sky ... And should a child be murdered in those hills, how to explain his being there? On impulse he took a right, then a left…

Past the corrugated barn, past the overgrown garage of asbestos panels. Next, on the bend, is the low stone wall around the white cottage, perspex conservatory, garden of delphiniums and hollyhocks. A life separate from his.

He signals, slows and turns.

Now he is on the road into the village. Now he is driving between dense hedges of clipped hawthorn, a blinkered track into a trap. Only one feasible direction now. Onward to Bridge.

The name acknowledged, his heart rate increases. Here the first house of the village with its meadow prospect and over-trimmed lawn, illegally watered at night by sprinkler via electric pump – another public-minded citizen.

Other houses properly rustic, wooden tubs with plants. Anywhere houses, neat and tidy. Slow for the bend by the shop. Telephone box. Last shift, Crystal phoning from there demanding to be collected and, being refused, walking through the village shouting. Followed by the egg battle. Handover jokes – yolk was on him, girls eggstatic, eggciting shift… another work shift without cause or consequence – eggsistantial. A shift now two days old and overlaid (overlaid!), ancient history.

A whole new world awaits him. What plans are afoot for this Saturday night? The very thought has tiredness threading itself through his teeth.

Into the narrow bit by the stream, iron railings through concrete posts.

Now the farm entrance with its shit and straw and the long grey wall of the barn. Brake, signal left, and park. Two cars and the minibus. Only Diane’s here. Good.

Collect his stuff from around the inside of the car. Delay.

He tells himself that he’ll listen to the end of this Ian Carr number.

The bridge across the ditched stream is a wooden suspension bridge. At either end are tall, twin uprights. Bolted timbers descend and ascend in green-brown wood to the two pillars on the far side. Barry expects, always, to find it burnt down on his arrival. No more job.

But the bridge is intact. No reprieve today. No pardon. No escape.

He pushes open the car door.

site: Bridge House

c.v.: Barry Geoffrey Gresham

previous surname(s): –

age: 38

ethnic origin: British

siblings: 2 brothers, both older

marital status : twice married, second current

children (sex & ages) : boy(8) girl(10)

driving license: yes, 1 endorsement current

passport holder: yes

police check: yes

o-levels/GCSE(No.): 5

a-levels: –

degree : –

previous places of employment (in descending order, most recent first, no. of years in each, position held.)

The Firs. Leics. RH for EBD boys, 12-18. RSW. 3 yrs.

The Place. Walsall. Independence Training Unit. 16+ Both sexes. RSW. 4 yrs.

Four Ways. Herts. Therapy Unit. Both sexes. RSW. 4 yrs.

Culeway School. Peterb’gh. Mentally & physically h’cap. 12-18. Care Worker. 5 yrs.

Pharmacon. Peterb’gh. Pill factory. Quality Control. 2 yrs.

Mrs Barton’s Kitchen. Peterb’gh. Quality Control. 3 yrs.

Mills & Baker. Peterb’gh. Wine Merchant. Driver. 1 yr.

present position: Senior Care Worker

time with RETURN: 3 yrs

comments: Experienced. Steady. Unambitious.

Enjoys outdoor pursuits – mountain walking, etc.

Chapter Two

The Place – A Presumed History

(Taken from ‘A Place In The Country’ by Rosie Bronnura. Blair & Dickinson)

Nearby we have Bridge House, which was built in 1861. This was the creation of Gilbert Fonteynu Dewson, the entrepreneur and notorious gambler who, in his late fifties, became besotted by a young sculptress named Elisabeth May Straker. Funded by Dewson, led by Straker, ‘Bridge House’ was first called the ‘Isis Commune’.

The only two statues by Elisabeth May Straker extant are two busts, almost identical, in the local museum. What, however, Elisabeth May Straker may have lacked in artistic ability, she certainly made up for in organisational drive. Unable to find any suitable properties ready built she prevailed upon Gilbert Dewson to commission a house to her design. He, through some other deals, already owned the land at White Farm. Thus did the foundations for Isis House come to be laid.

Once built, the most outstanding feature of the house, its basic ‘H’ shape aside, was the pair of North-West facing walls which are both made, from ground to guttering, of glass bricks. In Isis days, of course, behind these glass walls were four artist studios. The remainder of the house comprised then the working and living quarters of artists, save for the ground floor of the West wing, which was given over to a salon/gallery. Here exhibitions were held; and any musicians resident in Isis were prevailed upon to perform. Two low barrack-like living quarters were later erected to the right of the building to house other artists.

The wooden bridge came to be built in 1868. Bad blood already existed between the then owners of White Farm and Dewson over the initial dubious land deal. This was exacerbated by the ‘unnatural dress and demeanour’ of the Isis Commune. The only track to Isis House led through White Farm. This track the farmer frequently blocked with carts of hay, once even with a bull ‘given overmuch to snorting’. Dewson responded not with litigation, nor by selling up, but by building a bridge over the small stream between the house and the lane. By-laws then forbade him making the bridge wide enough for a carriage. Those by-laws said nothing about height.

Although locals are wont to claim that Mr Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed this footbridge, the evidence is, to say the least, slim. For a start Brunel had already been dead 9 years, had been dead 2 years when the house was built. Thus, despite what all previous guide books may claim, even Brunel’s visionary genius cannot have foreseen the need for a bridge to a nonexistent house. What is beyond question is that Dewson was a shareholder in Brunel’s engineering firm, but not a major shareholder. The most probable explanation for the over-the-top construction is that Dewson himself designed it in emulation of the great man.

Gilbert Fonteynu Dewson died, officially bankrupt, in 1874. Elisabeth May Straker had wisely, however, previously prevailed upon Dewson to generously underwrite the Straker Foundation, which became The Straker Trust after her own death in 1923. Without her drive, though, The Trust could only struggle on, home to a few mediocre talents. Indeed, during this period, the house became better known for its garden produce than for its artistic endeavours.

The Trust sank without trace during the Second World War, when Bridge House, as it had already become known locally, was used for the duration as a convalescent hospital for wounded airmen. After the war the house entered private ownership, first as a horticultural enterprise, then as a stables, and, lastly, as a private school.

One can easily see the bridge and the house from the village road. But closer inspection, which is required to view the North-West facing glass walls, requires advance notice and permission from the current owners. Should you manage to gain access, note the bas-relief of Isis, wings outspread, above the main entrance door, which is set back between the two glass walls ...

Chapter Three

Introducing The First Of The Girls

Barry leans backwards as he walks. Compensatory fat man posture. When he gets out of the bath these days he can slap his hands on the sides of his stomach. It doesn’t hurt. He does it to test it … all his flesh feels remote from him, padded out by deadening layers of fat. His personality is the bouncy smaller man he once was, not this ponderous roly-poly.

The bridge gate is a small picket with a pull-back latch. He has to rest his underbelly on the gate’s spikes to open it. Curtains of all the bedrooms are drawn. No broken windows.

Everything he is doing makes significant noise, draws attention to himself – tinkle of the latch, his tread on the boards. This is the smell he associates with work. Dry creosoted timber and weedy damp rising off the sluggish stream.

Una is crouched among a clump of irises on the bank. She, of course, would be up.

Her bent spine knuckles out the white t-shirt. Crudely cut and crudely red-dyed hair flops down about her face.

Hi Una! he calls.

Her white face rotates towards him. She looks at him with eyes of stone.

Nice morning, Barry says, neutral, not too loud to wake the others. He passes above her. She turns slowly back to the irises.

What’s she got hidden there? Aerosols? Booze for the others? Whatever it is, it’ll be moved now that he’s seen her.

Inside his trouser pocket he exchanges his car key bunch for the office bunch.

Behind the flat iris stems, beyond the white fleshy underparts of other streamside plants, something darkly moves.

Hi Una!

All goes still, waiting. The voice has stilled even the shadows.

Reluctantly, and with effort, Una makes herself look around.

Fat Barry is crossing the bridge, a double echo in each of his steps. Drum drum. Drum drum. He says something else. Then Drum drum. Drum drum.

The light is behind him. The light is therefore behind her. She looks back into the iris thicket.

Deep in the thicket, between the green sword blades and the rounded stems, something has darkly moved.

profile : Una Davenport

age: 13

mother: Cynthia Green

father: Roger Davenport

siblings: Brothers(11)(9) Stepsister(15)

ethnic origin: Anglo/Italian

history: Una phys. abused by her natural father, Roger Davenport, from birth until age 8. Mother & brothers also beaten by him. Mother put herself and children in refuge. Roger Davenport shot himself. When Una 10, m. remarried – Stephen Green, a divorcee with custody of his daughter, Helen. 1 yr after marriage Helen disclosed sexual abuse by her father. Una too had been sexually abused by Stephen Green. Mother, Cynthia Green, committed suicide, overdose. Una was reported for truancy prior to mother’s marriage to Stephen Green. Also twice cautioned for shoplifting. Taken into care after mother’s suicide. In foster home repeatedly cut arms & face, took od. Paracetamol, absconded x 2, was found 2nd time living in flat of Adam Trison. Pornographic photographs and video of Una found. Una is also known to sniff. Moved out-of-county after suspected arson at last children’s home.

considerations: Una sees herself as victim. (Was bullied by 2 younger brothers.) Early treatment by father consolidated role. Self-esteem low, little insight. Blames herself for mother’s death and for brothers being in Care. She doesn’t seek contact with them. Maternal g’parents are in Italy – don’t want contact. Helen, in a stable foster placement, tries to keep in touch. Una doesn’t respond. Has difficulty forming or sustaining relationships.

cautions: Loner, sniffer, cutter; arson, suicide risk. No contact with Stephen Green or Adam Trison. (Court cases against Stephen Green and Adam Trison pending.)

Chapter Four

A Philosophy. And An Introduction to Another Member Of Staff


At Bridge House we hold to the belief that there is no such thing as independence. Our total philosophy is based on the notion of interdependence. We, every last one of us, need each other. So, here at Bridge House, we don’t depend solely on the plush therapeutic surroundings, nor solely on our committed Care and Education teams. Here we have both hardware and dedicated software.

All parts equal the whole; and it is whole individuals that we at Bridge House seek to create. If, for instance, a child in our care is not doing well at school, we will look at the whole of that child’s life to understand why; and, if it is within our power, we will correct any deficit, endeavour to make that child whole.

To pursue this notion of interdependence, all girls at Bridge House share a bedroom with one other girl. All girls also share a keyworker with one other girl. Likewise they share the chores around the house. The prime task of all the adults working with the girls in our care is to impress upon them the effect of their actions (or inactions) upon others, and their responsibility to others.

Here, we offer discipline only to redress any imbalance created by a possible previous lack of discipline. (The adults in their life, for instance, who may have been too soft and left the child confused by an absence of rules).

Mostly we offer care – in its real sense – to cherish those children who have known a past too tough, or one that damaged them, or one that simply neglected their existence.

Our aim is to bring consistency to their view of life. That does not mean that here we produce subdued children, nor even children in our own image. Our goal, our ideal, is to teach our children to differentiate between passion and obsession; to cultivate character, not mediocrity; to encourage differences and not quash them; to boost pride and erase self-negation; to produce real people and not timid candidates for suburbia.

In that vein we, at Bridge House, do not expect our Education Team to solely compensate for any child’s lack of education. Our aim is to fulfil every child’s potential. Whatever it takes. Whatever the child’s needs. Whatever the child’s abilities.

In children whose existence so far has seemed aimed at destroying their idea of themselves, the first step to seeing themselves as a respected unity may be in the caring for another, in helping another. Part of our software includes pets of all descriptions. By giving, they receive, by accepting they give. It is this concept of mutually beneficent interchange that we strive to create, and from it, growing within the child, a respect for herself as a separate entity, a worthwhile entity. And from

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