During 1999 I had also begun to have my sons friends back to ours on a Friday night because I did not want him out on the streets late at night so opened our home up to them all. I got a lot out of it too, the girls would watch videos or come and chat to me and the boys would generally go upstairs to play computer games and I would occasionally give them something to eat and it meant they were safer. They were 14 years old and hanging out on the streets was just boring as it was cold and generally wet.
I also began to have a few of his friends home after school whose parents were working and would invariably give them supper, a couple of them had never seen a red pepper before which I found really sad, they were left with the choice of chicken nuggets and chips or pizza, so would come over to ours. This is a reality of both parents having to work, and the children really wanted company and someone to sit with them and talk about their day or attempt to get them to do their homework.
As a single-parent I lived on welfare because making ends meet was proving to be impossible and unbeknown to me, my depression was creeping up on me thick and fast, which was making it very difficult for me to function consistantly. The combined stress of trying to find a job that paid enough for me to come off welfare and still see my son and the underlying problems I had that were bubbling away was all proving too much for me. I was brilliant as putting on a smile to the world and pretending it was all ok and screaming inside would someone please come and help me……….somehow the words just did not make it to my mouth. I was trapped in a prison of hell. Terrified of telling anyone how I felt because I was desperate to be a good mother and if I told the doctor I believed they would take my son away. I had also begun therapy and was struggling with all the stuff that was coming up, and did not know what to do. No longer able to use the booze to numb it out it was all getting a big scary for me.
On top of this, my son was really struggling at school. I look back now and can see why, but at the time none of the dots joined up. The school was not really catering for his needs, he was slipping through the gaps and I was really scared. He was diagnosed with ADD and was put with a support worker which he found totally humiliating. He was also losing interest and I was fighting them regularly. To give an example of what I mean. He took a Science test in the class room and got 48% approx, and when given the same test in a quiet room with the door and curtains closed he got 98%. The school were not listening to me and I was so desperate that my son would not slip into some great big back hole when he has so much potential. Parents evenings became a real problem for me and I found some of the teachers just unwilling to listen. I booked to see the head of Science and talked to him but there was little that could be done for some reason, I still don’t understand it. Sorry for the rant about the education system but it was failing my son. I know he is not perfect and messed around and all the rest of it, but he needed a lot of help that he was not getting. And this of course just compounds the problem.
Several of his friends who were in similar positions were going to private school and we just did not have the resources. I had tried to get him into a couple of schools on a bursary but nothing ever came of it. I was doing a cleaning job to pay for extra maths lessons as I was allowed to earn £15.00 a week on benefits so that paid for it. I felt so trapped in our life and could not see a way out. I felt totally desperate.
The man from the Bradshaw group had been around to our house and seen what I was doing with my sons friends, having them over for supper, having them all round on a Friday night, and unbeknown to me he was pretty impressed. He was also impressed, he told me later at what an amazing mother I was. How my relationship with my son was and how close we were, against all the odds. And that my son had such impeccable table matters! How funny is it that some people think poor means crap, it never ceases to amaze me.
In contrast to this life on welfare, I was to go to a Ball at my old boarding school, thank goodness I had something to wear and a friend lent me her car. Later that December a film of mine was showing at a private view at BAFTA. I had to borrow the train fare and something to wear. It was such a strange conflict, and I would always feel so sad whenever I went to London and anything to do with the film world because it was as though somehow I could not have it……….and I hated it.
The following January, 2000, I was collected as normal to go to the workgroup and an envelope was put into my hand, with £1,000 in it. This was a spiritual gift to help with my bills, a little extra to make the world an easier place and it was incredible. I was so blown away by it and not really sure how to handle this. I also found out that the man was no longer married and that his wife had left him. We became friends and for me that was as far as it would ever go.
January was a whole lot easier until the landlady told me she was selling the house and I could have first refusal on it but I would have to be out by September whatever happened………………………….