Women approve of shared parenting.

I was delighted to find this initiative on-line: “Leading women for shared parenting” as made known to me by QV, to whom I am grateful and with her permission credit most of the following to.

http://lw4sp.org/about/whyastatement/

“A growing number of children are being raised without the benefit of meaningful engagement with both parents. As contemporary research conclusively demonstrates, a child who effectively loses one of his or her parents through a custody decision, usually the father, is a child at risk for a number of negative personal and social outcomes.

Research also proves that, although children want a relationship with both their parents regardless of marital status, healthy bonding with a non-residential parent is impossible without a substantial amount of time spent in that parent’s physical presence.

Consequently, LW4SP is sending our elected representatives, the judiciary and policy-makers the clear message that substantive changes in family law must be implemented: changes that will ensure children the opportunity to remain fully engaged with both their parents into adulthood.

The women endorsing this statement know that not all children can have full access to both parents, and we know that not all parents are fit to raise their children. But we also know that far too many good, willing and fit parents are pushed to the margins of their children’s lives by unfriendly family courts, government policies and laws that undermine family integrity and autonomy.

It should be alarming to women everywhere to know, as they look at their son’s, there is a significant likelihood our government will turn him into a visitor to his children in the event he no longer resides with his kids’ mother.

Parental separation should not spell the end of a relationship between a child and one of its parents.

Forced separation from one’s own flesh and blood in the absence of abuse is morally wrong and socially irresponsible. That is why LW4SP supports equally shared parenting as the default arrangement for separating parents of minor children.”

“Leading Women for Shared Parenting was founded to dispel the widespread myth that it is only – or even mainly – disgruntled fathers with limited access to their children who promote equal shared parenting as the default model for separating parents. This is simply not the truth!

Polls in the United States, Canada and other western countries consistently demonstrate overwhelming support in the general population for equally shared parenting. Both fair-minded men and women across all social and cultural lines understand that mothers and fathers are equally important in the lives of their children.

For some years a number of prominent women in media and politics have been championing this issue in the public forum of ideas and in policy-making circles. Eventually they sought a common platform from which they could bring their support for equal shared parenting to effective attention and positive legislative action.

Thus LW4SP came into being, with more than 150 influential women lending their names in support of the equal shared parenting principle.”

Much has been written, debated, discussed and argued about the benefits of shared parenting to children and to parents. The benefits of such are obvious for all to see as listed here:

1. It ensures continuation of family life for the child, with the advantage of nurture from both parents rather than just one.

2. It reassures the child that he has two parents, and although they live in separate places, he definitely has a home with both of them.

3. It dispels the notion that only one parent is “caring” and that the other is “errant” or “absent”.

4. It ensures that one parent is not unfairly burdened with the responsibility of discipline whilst the other is relegated to (or marginalised as) the fun or contact parent.

5. It provides the opportunity for children and parents to develop meaningful and lasting relationships – in place of the artificiality and frustrations of contact .

6. It affirms the parents in their belief that they both have an ongoing role in their child’s life.

7. It places both parents on an equal footing with schools, doctors and the world at large – who might otherwise only want to deal with the residential parent.

8. It confirms that no matter what, each parent wants to, and is able to, provide a home for their child.

9. It reassures the child that in the event of one parent dying he still has a home to go to.

10. Without a Shared Parenting order, if one parent dies, the child would not automatically go to live with the other parent, but would be left with whomever they were living with at the time or handed over to a guardian – a poor substitute for a natural parent.

In his article in Psychology Today , Edward Kruk, Ph.D. puts forward 16 arguments in support of shared parenting:

1. Shared parenting preserves children’s relationships with both parents

2. Shared parenting preserves parents’ relationships with their children

3. Shared parenting decreases parental conflict and prevents family violence

4. Shared parenting reflects children’s preferences and views about their needs and best interests

5. Shared parenting reflects parents’ preferences and views about their children’s needs and best interests

6. Shared parenting reflects child caregiving arrangements before divorce

7. Shared parenting enhances the quality of parent-child relationships

8. Shared parenting decreases parental focus on “mathematizing time” and reduces litigation

9. Shared parenting provides an incentive for inter-parental negotiation, mediation and the development of parenting plans

10. Shared parenting provides a clear and consistent guideline for judicial decision-making

11. Shared parenting reduces the risk and incidence of parental alienation

12. Shared parenting enables enforcement of parenting orders, as parents are more likely to abide by an equal parental responsibility order

13. Shared parenting addresses social justice imperatives regarding protection of children’s rights

14. Shared parenting addresses social justice imperatives regarding parental authority, autonomy, equality, rights and responsibilities

15. The discretionary best interests of the child / sole custody model is NOT empirically supported

16. A rebuttable legal presumption of shared parenting responsibility IS empirically supported

All this makes undeniable sense to any reasoning person and cannot be refuted by anyone with an ounce of sense, that the best parent is not just one… but BOTH parents ARE!

 “Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence”   (A true story, written by Paul Manning)

Aside

 “Follow the rabbit proof fence”   (A true story, written by Paul Manning.)

The longest fence in the world runs for well over 2000 miles and is to be found in Western Australia, it is called “The Rabbit proof fence”, and runs from the northern coast right down to the southern.  Its erection took six years and was completed in 1907, at a cost of £337,841, an absolute fortune in those days. It was built to separate and protect the more arable lands that grew valuable crops and grains and therefore from the millions of rabbits that consumed the crops year in year out, something had to be done to prevent this.

Thousands of laborers, 350 camels, 250 horses and 41 donkeys, many of which perished under the constant strain of work, were employed to carry out the exhausting task. This was amidst the most barren, inhospitable and water-less terrain possibly imaginable. Many workers succumbed to the heat and died of sunstroke or exhaustion as they pushed themselves in a race to complete their section of the fence in a quest to gain their share of the money up for grabs.

The wire meshing had to be buried 6 inches below ground, to prevent the rabbits from tunneling under it, and projected above by over 3 feet along its full course. This was not found sufficiently high enough, as the rabbits were able to jump over it, so a further 6 inches of barbed wire was later added to the top. This meant excavation of ground that was hard and rocky and impervious to the hand tools of the day. It was a slow and tedious process, so much so that many workers went insane due to the monotony of the work and of course the unending scorching heat.  

The fence needed constant maintenance and replacement as over the years whole stretches of it wore out and collapsed. The Aborigines resented the fence deeply and regarded it as some sort of prison and an affront to their belief that the land was a living thing and that they were a literal part of it. Because of this whenever they came across it, in their wanderings, they by design, or by supposed accident, made sure it was damaged in parts.   

There is something very symbolic and powerful about this fence something that will absolutely astonish you all. It is not the fact that the fence was an absolute waste of time and money and of life, because inevitably it failed miserably to keep any of the vermin rabbit out, no! It is that fact that 3 indigenous Aboriginal children followed it all the way and walked over 1500 miles back to their homeland and to their mother and families whom they had been forcibly taken from by the white man and by his unjust Australian laws at the time. I shall explain….

 In those days there was not so much contact between the Aborigines and the whites as there was  later on and today, and so interbreeding was not so common and was frowned upon by most white people anyway. However, come the rabbit proof fence and all that was about to change, because due to its erection it brought the two races into closer contact and proximity like never before.

At a place called “Jigalong”, that ran right along by the fence, a party of white men had been busy sweating their guts out maintaining it. Eventually Jigalong became a regular staging post for the white men, many small wooden huts for storage were built and it became a place where the “Blacks” could get food and rations that was handed out to them under government policy and by the same men that worked on the fence. Inevitably many of these white men consorted with the aboriginal women that came to collect their supplies there, the resulting offspring were termed as “half-castes”.

Very few who fathered these children stood by them or by the poor women that gave birth to them and usually they disappeared back to their distant white towns after their fence work was accomplished. Many of these irresponsible men didn’t even know that they had fathered a child, nor did they care. Under such circumstances thousands of children came into the world, all of them considered by the white men as half-castes and by the OZ government as an unwanted new race, a problem that had to be dealt with in some way or other.

 And so 3 such mixed race children were born at Jigalong to their respective mothers and grew to adolescence.  There were the two sisters, 14-year-old Molly Craig and 8-year-old Daisy Kadibil, and their 10 year old cousin Gracie Fields. Meanwhile thousands of miles away, in 1930, the appointed ‘Protector of Western Australian Aborigines’ (A. O. Neville) signs an order to relocate the three girls to his re-education camp, this was the law of the day. The children are referred to by Neville as “half-castes”, because they have one white and one aboriginal parent.

Neville’s reasoning is portrayed as being that the Aboriginal peoples of Australia are a danger to themselves, and that the “half-castes” must be bred out of existence. He plans to place them in a camp where they, along with all half-castes of that age range, will grow up. They will then presumably become labourers and servants to white families, regarded as a ‘good’ situation for them in life. Eventually if they later marry, it will be to white people and thus the Aboriginal ‘blood’ is to become less and less, until it is bred out over time, this was the plan anyway. As such, Molly, Daisy and Gracie are forcibly taken from Jigalong from their families and removed to a camp at the ‘Moore River Settlement’, which is over 15 hundred miles to the south.

After many months Molly, Gracie, and Daisy decide to escape the camp and decide to walk back home to Jigalong at first they have no idea how, but they are going to damn well try! An Aboriginal tracker, Moodoo, is called in to find them. However, the girls are well trained in disguising their tracks. They evade Moodoo several times, receiving aid from strangers in the harsh Australian country they travel in. After many weeks evading capture and suffering hunger and exposure they eventually find the rabbit-proof fence, knowing that they can follow it north to Jigalong, but Jigalong is fifteen hundred miles away! Neville soon figures out their strategy and sends Moodoo and a local Constable, Mr Riggs, after them. Although he is an experienced tracker, Moodoo is unable to find them and gives up.

Sadly one of the girls, Gracie, is captured as she waits to sneak aboard a train after being separated from her 2 friends and presumably she is sent back to the ‘Moore River Settlement.’  After nearly making it home and after trekking for many hundreds of miles Gracie is never heard of ever again. Finally Molly and Daisy after many, many months of captivity and walking are reunited with their mother and families after a remarkable journey of 1500 miles, step by step and sometimes carrying each other.

Mr Neville was to later write to Constable Riggs, the police officer in charge of the recovery of the 3 girls, the following: 

“At present we lack the funds to pursue the missing ‘half-caste’ girls, Molly and Daisy. I would ask to be kept informed of their whereabouts so that at some future date they may indeed be recovered. We face an uphill battle with these people, especially the ‘bush natives’, who have to be protected against themselves. If only they would understand what we are trying to do for them.”   

And this wicked man was meant to be protecting the Aborigines his mind was obviously warped by predjudice to write such a patronising letter as this.

This is a true story and the lessons our own UK government can learn from it are wasted upon them, because they continue, even today, to snatch innocent children from their loving parents by the use of the evils of the Social Services, the modern day “Moodoo” child catchers. The modern day counterparts of Molly and Daisy are OUR children that have been illegally taken from us and tortured along the way, by injustice and by evil laws that have no mercy or proper foundation, just as the cruel Australian government applied to the Aboriginal peoples back then, nothing has changed.

 In time I hope that everyone of your, of our lost children, will find their way back home to us by following the illustrative “rabbit proof fence”. It is a fence that cannot be broken down. It is the fence that I hope all our lost children will follow back to us. It is our bond of love for each other and we must all keep following it no matter what. “Follow the rabbit proof fence” till we are all home together and united.

I dedicate this to my dear son Elliott, who I know will follow that same fence back to me.

“The Rabbit Hole”. By Paul Manning.

Many deep thinking and learned people, scientists, astrophysicists and cosmologists believe in a strange concept which is called “The infinite Universe Probability.” To try to explain this is a very hard thing to do, however I shall try to do that by way of simple illustrations that might just make it clearer, so here we go: Time and space is so unending and so vast that it’s probable that more than one Universe exists, in fact maybe countless trillions do. The chances are that many of them, given time, have replicated each other over and over again like 2 mirrors facing each other. In this way their reflection never ever stops, just as long as the 2 mirrors remain in proximity. Given that this logic may be true then it’s also probable and possible that we, as humans, have countless copies of ourselves out there in the other parallel Universes. Could it be that each one of us are not as unique as we might like to think we are? Taking the theory a step further it is likely then that the same human occurrences have happened over and over again with regularity, at any given time, either in the present, past, or even the future. Conversely however, there is a strange paradox to this, it is this: Due to each individual having the freedom of choice within those many parallel Universes, then of course our doppelgänger or clone will probably be making different choices to the ones we MIGHT make here, or to the ones we HAVE made here, or WILL make, or ARE making. Therefore this will result in trillions of possible differing outcomes and endings for all of the scenarios that WE or They, could possibly bring about. But then again, applying the same rule and odds, it is obvious that exactly the same outcomes have occurred, and indeed will occur again. The chances of diversity are so vast and numerous that all possibilities have indeed come about, and yet again they have not come about. (Work that one out). Depending upon which Universe a particular person exists in and their replicant and the choices each make…then somewhere out there it is possible that a happier “YOU” exists, or could they be a sadder “YOU?” Who knows, because it’s all a “Rabbit hole?”

For example, to enlarge on this theory: Suppose you had not chosen to have that extra piece of toast this morning, or suppose you had forgotten to feed the cat before going out to work, small things yes, but the consequences of them could result in life or death to you or someone else, or could mean happiness or unhappiness for someone or yourself. Had you NOT spent those 5 minutes eating that extra piece of toast, or indeed HAD taken the time to feed that cat then you probably wouldn’t have been around to see that plane fall from the sky and been able to report what you saw as it hit the ground. In not taking those 2 minutes in feeding the cat it prevented you from bumping into your future husband at the super market cash out, who knows? However, in the other parallel universe those choices, (toast and cat) worked out differently for the ones who made them and that is why Edith decided to marry Joe who she met at Tesco’s, you guessed it… she indeed fed the cat! Paul spent the next five years of his life being called to attend at the C.A.A. (Civil Aviation Authority) where they were trying to work out why 550 people died on a jumbo jet while on their way to Spain on holiday. He was the only witness to its crashing, and now has had his life disrupted by it, having to meet all those grieving relatives at those endless crash investigations…. And all this because Paul chose NOT to have that extra slice of toast before he left for work in the morning.

Danny Elliott was no rocket scientist or physicist, but somehow he had the hunch that an alternative Universe existed, he liked the idea of it anyway. He also liked the idea that somewhere out there, there were, (is,) many us’s and ‘we’s’, doing the same, if not different things, allowing for a whole host of cosmic consequences and outcomes. Danny was still at high school and his grades showed great potential for his future, he was eager to learn and was popular and well liked by the other students. He was a modest and quiet kind of guy, little to say, but when he did speak others listened, and usually what he said made sense. Danny was just about ok and liked life well enough, but there was one thing that didn’t go away, as if he was carrying a brick around in his pocket wherever he went. It loaded him down when he had a mind to think of it from time to time. His thoughts were dwelling on it more and more lately… and that was his father, just where had he gone to?

Danny was up late that morning and was in a rush. On his way out he grabbed some apples and a ripe banana so he had something to eat for lunch that day. He got into his old heap, a 1979 V8 Chevvy, pointy, sleek and heavy. He started it up and the huge engine roared into life, he drove out onto the road heading for “Preston High”. He was conscious that he was in a rush, but was persuaded not to speed. In fact he kept to the zone limit as he drove along. He remembered his father who had once said to him, “Son, if you ever get that old heap on the road, you mind to keep to the speed limit, you hear me now son?”

He decided to take a short cut that would avoid the busy intersection, known as “bumper to bumper Boulevard”. He turned right off the main highway and through the leafy glades of upper class “Henry Avenue”, where all the houses were set out on their own grassy plots of land and where the kids got Ice cream, just by asking their Mum’s for it. He passed a sign that read “Drive safely here”, it was a neat sign, well painted, tidy and clean, as if it had just been posted there.

He looked down at his speedometer gauge, he took note that he was doing 31 mph. By the time he had looked up again a snappy little dog was running out, from the left, and right out in front of his car. Danny hit the brakes, but knew that if he didn’t swerve to avoid the pesky hound he was going to hit it square on and flatten it. He pulled the wheel hard over to the left to avoid it. To his astonishment Danny could see that a small boy was chasing the dog and had run out into the road after his pal, by this time it was all just too late.

Just as the heavy car had come to a sliding stop the wing came into contact with the Childs head, It was just a glancing blow against the pointy chrome headlight that was just set at the exact height as the child’s ear, had it not been at this exact height it would have missed the boy completely. Time had stopped for Danny, he froze in fear and in severe shock. His body sank deep into the easy leather of the cars bench seat, as if it would swallow him up and hide him, somehow hoping that all this wasn’t true and that any second he would wake up from his nightmare. He rolled the window down, glancing down at the grassy verge to which his tyre had made a deep rut as it slid to a halt. He was expecting to see the kid get to his feet and go running to his mamma in tears, perhaps holding his hand to a small bruise on his forehead. Danny stayed seated and waited for a few seconds, praying for the child to stir, but he just lay there motionless. Sure, a bruise to the kids head would have been the most Danny could have hoped for because then the kid would still be alive at least… but this wasn’t going to be the case. Tragically the poor kid was as dead as dead could be, at least he didn’t see it coming, it was over in the blink of an eye and thankfully he didn’t suffer.

Nancy propped open the fly screen door at the back of the house and then went to the kitchen to collect the basket of linen that had just come out of the washing machine. She then headed out back taking hold of some pegs that she kept in a big plastic candy jar and then through the screen door to the rear garden to hang the bed sheets out to dry on the line. Bruce, the dog, came lapping round her ankles as she crossed the lawn. He was whining and whimpering over something. Nancy scolded him and with exasperation ordered him to skedaddle out from under her feet, but he continued with his whining and yapping. ‘Look, why don’t you go and play with your best pal?’ referring to her son, Luke… ‘Shoo, just git!’ She took hold of one of the sheets and tossed it over the line, pulled it straight and then pegged it down. She moved on further down the line to hang more of her laundry. Luke’s tricycle was in her way so she nudged it with her sandaled foot, its pedals turned as it ran on down the path bumping into Bruce’s Kennel to a halt. She glanced on over to the tree house, where Luke spent a lot of his time, usually trying to get Bruce to join in with some imaginary game, “happy puppy families”, or the like. Nancy called out to him, ‘Hey, Luke! You want some ice cream? I got your favourite in the freezer, chocolate with crunchy nuts! There was no reply. She called out again only louder, but still no answer from the boy.

The wailing siren of the police car was a deafening and confusing sound to Danny’s ears. The black and white whirred to a droning stop, pulling up by the Chevvy; it was quickly followed by an ambulance. A lazy looking cop got out of his police car and glanced on over at the guy that was slumped over the steering wheel, Danny was in tears and his face was whiter than the bed sheets that were blowing dry just a hundred yards away. A small crowd had gathered, a lady was on her knees near the ground holding Luke’s lifeless body in her arms and caressing his forehead, weeping as she did so.

It’s hard to describe the sheer horror of a certain type of piercing scream, the scream of a mother for her son. A scream so grief stricken, so unforgettable, that it’s best not heard. Nancy came running down the grassy verge and out onto the road and towards her son with a look on her face of desperation and grief. The cop caught her as she fell to her knees by Luke’s side. Hysterically she kept on pleading and screaming as loud as her lungs would allow her… ‘Oh no! Dear God! Oh no, no, please no!’

Officer Davies did what he could to console Nancy, but he could do little. He walked her back to the house past some sheets that were scattered about by the tree house, and then on through the fly screen door which he shut after going in with her. Meanwhile, Danny had been arrested and put in the back seat of the police car, where he was being grilled by two other cops who looked like they wanted to kick the shit out of him. Through his tears he explained as best he could, that there was no way he could have avoided the kid and he wasn’t speeding. That he was so very sorry, and to the very deepest heart of him… Danny really was deeply profoundly sorry.

Mrs Wilson, one of Nancy’s neighbours, had seen the whole sorry thing, how the dog had run out, her version of the accident was crystal clear. She visited the police station later on and was interviewed by Officer Davies. She made it clear in her statement that Danny wasn’t to blame and that it had happened so fast that no one could have prevented it, that it was just one of those things. Six months later the whole investigation came to an end and Danny’s worries were over.

No charges were brought and he tried to carry on as best he could, but Danny wasn’t the type to forget the loss of a young life so easily, his death was another brick in his pocket to carry around to weigh him down even more now. After the inquest Luke was buried, all his best school pals and many of his teachers came to send him off with as much love as they could. Nancy and Brad, Luke’s parents, just couldn’t let go of each other as they watched their son slip into the ground and out of their lives. He had been their only son and they had waited so long for him to come along after trying for 8 years to start a family. Luke was so very special and his parents doted on him. Hiding at the far end of the cemetery was Danny, all alone, weeping and watching from afar. Wishing that all this was just, well NOT SO, and feeling that he could never ever make amends for what he felt he had done.

Nancy and Brad’s lives came to a stop that day they both felt that all their love was bound up together in their son, and now they had no one to give it to, no one except each other. Nancy visited a bereavement counsellor to try to get over her loss, while Brad seemed to deal with his by working at the office more and more, as if to distract his mind from dwelling on his grief. Inevitably their relationship suffered, communication became a problem, and yet without a word both knew how each other felt. Behind all their problems both knew their love was still very much alive in their marriage, but was it strong enough to see them through this dark night? Only time would tell.

A year passed and another summer came around again. All the male students at “Preston High” wore their T-shirts emblazoned with their favourite rock bands, and often fights broke out as to which one was best, Led Zeppelin or ZZ Top? But guys will be guys. The girls wore their skirts short along with tight-fitting blouses and this was the only thing that distracted the boys from their fighting, well sometimes. Danny was never part of the school “In Scene” watching the others strut their stuff, to impress others, was never a part of his character and it amused him to watch them. He had noticed that since the accident that many of his ‘so called friends’ had withdrawn from him. Rumours of ‘kiddie Killer’ and ‘Danny, Darko of death’ were whispered down the school corridors. Yes, kids can be cruel at times and thoughtless, as if Danny didn’t have enough to deal with in his life without that crap?

Since the day of Luke’s death, and out of respect for what happened, Danny had not driven the Chevvy at all, even on that fateful day he had asked Officer Davies to arrange to get it home for him. So, there it stood, in the garage, quiet, silent and mean, with a dust sheet over the roof as if hiding away. Danny’s mother, Marie, complained that it was in the way and that she needed the space, but Danny knew that she had little interest in what he liked in life, and she never did. All she ever did was bad mouth his father and that Dougie was never any good anyway. That she hoped he would never come back to her. Danny remembered the days when he and his father had worked on the car together, and how they really talked with each other. Dad had always been there for him whenever problems arose and instilled a kind of peace in him, and that Danny should realise that life is not always a rose garden, but it brings its thorns too and he ought to prepare for them if he wanted to get through life. They talked about science and the Cosmos, about Astronomy and space and time, both offering their theories to each other and often joking. Both would like to expand each other’s minds as to the mysteries of life, of what was still hidden and yet to be discovered. He remembered his father saying that the whole thing was like a huge warren of tunnels, all interconnected, like some vast “Rabbit hole” but that it made sense if we try to understand it, if we ponder on it long enough.

All that Danny knew was that one night he had heard his parents squabbling and rowing over something and Marie had thrown some dishes at the wall, losing her temper at Dougie. The next thing Danny knew was that by morning his father had disappeared without a trace, when he asked his mother about it, she refused to explain. Danny missed his father deeply and wondered why he wasn’t contacting him or even writing, but Danny was no Judge and there was more to his dad’s story and disappearance, he felt sure about that.

On sunny days Nancy had taken to going for walks on her own to the park. She would bring a sandwich or two and sit on a bench while eating them, watching the kids play ball, always thinking of Little Luke. On this particular day she had been to her local library to pick up a book before going to her usual spot in the park. Walking through the ornate gates she headed down the path and under the trees that stood watch over a circular fountain that had numerous nickels and dimes in it, each coin someone’s wish.

Approaching her usual bench by the playing fields, there sitting at the next bench along, was a young guy with his nose deep in a book. Nancy smiled politely and then quietly took her seat. She reached into her bag taking out the library book and began to read. For some reason or other, unknown to Nancy herself, she had impulsively chosen a book called “Infinite Universes”, not ordinarily a subject that took her interest, but she took the book on a whim. The book was large and full of colourful images of galaxies and far off stars and diagrams with explanations she didn’t understand. For a moment Nancy thoughtfully glanced up at the sky as if it would give her some answers to what she was reading. Then her gaze took her to the guy who was reading his own book, on the next bench. She could just make out the title on its cover: “Rabbit Hole Universe”, written over a repeated image of Planet Earth. ‘Well now, such a coincidence’ Nancy thought to herself… ‘But I guess he knows more than I do on the subject.’

Just then a group of excited kids, dressed in yellow Yankee outfits, were setting out the running bases for a game of Baseball out on the field. Then the tall one, wearing a leather catch glove over his hand, called out: ‘Hey Danny! You wanna be the referee for us?’ Danny looked up from his book and called back: ‘I don’t think so, maybe next time’. Nancy slowly lowered her book down onto her lap and turned away in her seat from the person next to her, with the realisation of just who it was, she felt uncomfortable. Nancy stood to go, but as she did so the large book slid off her lap and onto the ground with a slap. As the Gentleman he was Danny quickly got up to retrieve it for her, its colourful pages were flapping open, he couldn’t help but note their contents. He picked it up and offered it back to the woman and said: “Hey that’s a great book, you should be more careful with the Universe’. He smiled at her as she tentatively took the book from his hand. Their eyes met and they stared for some seconds at each other. It was then, and only then, that Danny recognised who she was as she had recognized him. His voice trembling, he spoke very softly… ‘I’m sorry, ‘I’m so very sorry’. They stood there in silence looking at each other.

Brad was on his break, he poured himself another cup of black coffee that was always on supply in the back room at his office. From the 45th floor he had a great view of the whole city and could see the huge green area of the city’s park in the distance, much of it shrouded in tall trees. Reaching into his breast pocket he took out his wallet where he kept a photo, it was taken some 6 years ago. It was of the three of them together, Luke was the centre of attention, Brad and Nancy smiling and all hugging each other. As he looked at it he wondered how Nancy was getting along right at that moment, he knew she spent a lot of time at the park it gave her space and time to think. He knew she was having a hard time coming to terms with what had happened, with her loss, both were. How does any parent come to terms with having their heart ripped out and then trying to go on with life? The fact is you don’t! All you can do is live with it and struggle on as best you can and just hope that something is going to give you the grace to go forward. Brad was a caring and sensitive man although lately he had isolated himself and his feelings from Nancy. As he looked at the photo he knew that this had to change right away and a pang of conscience came to him for how he’d let Nancy cope on her own. He determined right then and there that things were not right between them, so he had an idea. Finishing his coffee he then went back to his desk, he picked up the phone and dialled: ‘Hi… is that Manfredo’s restaurant?… Ok, Id’ like to book a table for tonight, for two.’ The manager came back with a reply: ‘certainly sir, let me just check the reservations, hold if you will please… yes that’s fine sir, we have a table free at eight.’… ‘Wonderful!’, said Brad, ‘see you then.’ He put the phone down and thought of Nancy while looking at the view across the city, his eyes homed in on a green area there that was shrouded in trees.

One thing that we humans are not very good at, that thing is ‘forgiveness’. To forgive is beautiful it shows humanity, and yet it is so hard to apply. The tendency is to remember our own hurt, to go over and over what some person has done to US. So, we relive it in our minds until it becomes firmly entrenched and cast in stone. No one can force us to forgive another we have to do that from our own free wills and from our hearts. The thing is though no one can expect forgiveness either, we can’t take it for granted, and why should we? Yet to apply it can heal our own souls as much as it can for the one forgiven, and that’s what’s so remarkable about it, if only we can bring ourselves to do it. I guess it would go a long way in healing society, but there are certain things that just can’t possibly be forgiven, each of us have the right to decide whether we will or won’t.

Nancy reached the park gates and was on her way out. Pausing, she thought about the young man she had just left behind, the guy who had brought so much pain into her life. His eyes had been full of something she couldn’t get out of her mind, something she found hard to ignore. A look of someone yearning and in pain deep within themselves, who needed understanding. Nancy turned around and headed back past the fountain and towards the playing fields. Still there, sitting on the park bench, was Danny his elbows on his knees with his head in his hands. Nancy couldn’t help feeling sorry for him as she stood there motionless watching him from behind a tree. Getting up the courage to walk over and speak to him was going to be difficult, but something in her spirit was compelling her on and to go back.

Nancy stood before him, but sensing he wasn’t aware of her presence, his head still buried low in his hands, she spoke: ‘Have you eaten yet Danny, I mean Lunch? Do you mind if I sit? Nancy spoke softly she didn’t want to startle him. He looked up at her his eyes all moist and red as though he had been weeping: ‘You came back, but why? You should hate me.’ Nancy sat down at his side: ‘I don’t hate you, but for a time I thought I did, but no I can’t hate you, what good will that do for either of us?’ She reached into her bag and took out a plastic box, there was a sandwich left over from lunch, she offered it to him: ’Go on eat this and I have an apple for you too’. Danny hadn’t eaten all day, but something was telling him that he couldn’t accept. Maybe it was his conscience, why should she show kindness to him of all people? ‘No, I can’t accept your kindness, why are you doing this? It’s not right.’ She quickly replied: ‘All I know is that if you don’t eat it, well it’s going in the trash-can when I get home, so you might as well eh?’ Danny reached out and took the box, opened it and began to eat, ‘thanks’, he said. She poured some coffee into a cup from a flask and set it by his side. ‘Tell me about that day?’ she asked, ‘I need to know for my own peace of mind, I guess for my own sanity too.’ Danny was nervous, but she had the right to know. He went on to explain how he never drove through ‘Henry Avenue’, where she lived, that it was a one-off and that he had been late that day for school. How the dog had run out in front of him, just at that moment, followed by Luke chasing him. Nancy reacted to that: ‘Yes, Luke loved that dog too much, wherever Bruce went, Luke was sure to follow’ she said regretfully.

Glassy eyed Danny turned to her and said: ‘But I have a confession to make to you, I was going too fast, I was doing 31 MPH, and I shouldn’t have been’. Nancy smiled, ‘You mean you were going just ONE mile over the speed limit? And you think that would have made a difference? How do you know that your speedometer is accurate, I mean few are you know?’ Danny was bowled over by her reaction and her reasonable forgiving attitude: ‘But that one thing could have saved his life, that ONE mile an hour could have made the difference, don’t you see?’ Nancy sipped her coffee, and replied: ‘Danny, how many other factors could we also make mention of that played a part in Luke’s death? Could we go on all day about the fact that Luke loved his pet dog and at that very moment chased him out into the road? Perhaps I should have been watching both of them, but I was too busy. So, it could be that it’s ME to blame and not you?’

Danny couldn’t help thinking that Nancy was some kind of special person. At this moment he knew he had never met anyone like her, that she was kind and forgiving, but at the same time he still had this terrible feeling of guilt. ‘Nancy leaned forward putting her hand on his shoulder: ‘Look Danny, I was gonna walk out of this park, I was going to leave you alone, I didn’t want to know you. But then I had some sort of light go on in my head, so I came back. I want to say this… the accident wasn’t your fault and you have to get on with your life, we can’t bring Luke back, so you have to forgive yourself. You know as I do that shit happens in this sorry world?’

Danny couldn’t hold back his emotions any longer and burst into a flood of tears: ‘I’m so sorry, I don’t know how to make it up to you, how will I ever forgive myself for what I did?’ His sincerity and remorse were plain to see, and Nancy realised that she had to make it better. She answered him firmly: ‘You look here Danny Elliott! I’m going to tell you how you’re going to make it up to me and Luke as well, in fact to us all. You’re going to forgive yourself right now! And you can do that knowing one thing’… she stopped looking into his eyes with their puzzled expression in them. Danny reached into his jacket pocket for a Kleenex to wipe his eyes: ‘And what one thing is that?’ Danny asked. Nancy took him by the shoulders looked him square in the eyes and said: ‘That you know that I forgive you that you ARE forgiven for whatever you think you’ve done.’ They both embraced each other and cried like no two other wonderful human beings have ever cried before. Yes, to truly forgive is a very beautiful thing.

Nancy and Danny spent the next 2 hours talking about their lives. Danny told her how much he missed his father and that he wished he could see him again. That Marie, his Mum, was really making things hard on him. Nancy spoke about Brad and how much he had wanted a son and how long they had waited to have a child, how hard they had tried. Danny even managed to discuss and get across to her his understanding of what he now called his: “Rabbit hole theory”, as his father liked to call it. That perhaps everything that happens has a reason and led to other outcomes, like them talking right now and getting to know each other. She found this enlightening and somehow gave her some solace. It was time to go and Nancy had to get dinner ready in preparation for Brad coming home from the office.

They both walked past the fountain on their way out, Nancy paused and reached into her purse taking out two quarters, giving one to Danny. ‘Come on’ she said, ‘let’s make a wish. They both made their way over, closed their eyes and tossed the coins into the water and then opened them again and watched as the coins sparkled, sinking to the bottom. ‘What did you wish for Danny?’ Nancy asked. ‘I made 2 wishes’, Danny replied. Nancy chuckled, ‘But that’s cheating Danny, one coin, one wish.’ Danny opened his hand to show her that he still had her coin left. ‘I didn’t cheat Nancy, I used two coins of my own and I still have yours here, look! I wished that somehow you could have Luke back’… ‘And what was your other wish?’ She asked. Danny didn’t speak at first, but then sadly said: ‘I wished that my father would come back to me.’  But then to change the mood he said: ‘And by the way I’m keeping the quarter you gave me to remember you by’, he said cheerfully.

They reached the exit gate and in parting Nancy spoke: ‘Danny Elliott, I want you to know that you are a fine boy, that you have something special about you. That you are intelligent and you are going to make something very fine of yourself, that you are a good person with a good heart and soul. You should always remember this and never forget it.’ By this time Danny was full of smiles and felt a sense of release, he was happy. He shook her hand and said: ‘Nancy, if I can call you that? I want to thank you for helping me feel so much better, you are special too. I can’t express in words how I feel. You are some kind of unique Mum to me, if you know what I mean?’ They walked away in opposite directions, and then Nancy turned to wave and then called out: ‘Hey Danny! Do you like ice cream?’ Danny thought for a second and called back: ‘For sure I like ice cream, I mean who doesn’t? But why you ask?’ Nancy smiled to herself: ‘Oh you’ll see, you’ll see, Bye!’

As Danny walked home he had a constant grin on his face, he was feeling better than he had felt for a long, long time. He couldn’t help saying hello to everyone he passed, even to traffic wardens who he normally disparaged. On arriving home, as was his habit, he threw his keys on the bureau that stood in the hallway by the front door. It was an old piece of quality furniture, something his father had picked up from a house sale down the street. It had 3 tiers of small drawers on either side of a central mirror and since dad had modified it there was a row of brass coat hooks and even a place to put your umbrellas too. Danny took off his denim jacket and hung it up, he was about to go into the kitchen when he noticed the corner of an envelope poking out from under one of the small drawers. He opened the drawer to force the envelope back in, but just then he noticed something written on it: “To Danny Elliott”, yes it was addressed to him and he also recognised the hand writing too. Danny opened the envelope, but there was nothing inside, it had been sent by his father and going by the post mark it had been posted some months ago. Danny’s smile now turned into a firm grimace and he felt his heart rate increasing as his anger grew: ‘The rotten cow!’, he blurted out loud…’How the hell could she!’

Marie, Danny’s mother, was in the garage stacking some empty peanut butter jars on the shelves that ran the length of the wall. So that she could reach up she stood on a step-ladder while steadying herself with one hand on the roof of the Chevvy. Just then Danny burst in through the adjoining door that ran from the kitchen, making Marie jump and nearly falling off the ladder. Two peanut butter jars hit the concrete floor as the glass smashed, scattering under the car: ‘Lord! Now look what you made me do son! You frightened the shit out of me! What you wanna do that for?’ Marie climbed on down, holding her chest while catching her breath from her scare. Danny erupted: ‘Where the Hell are they?’ he demanded, ‘Where are what?’ replied Marie sternly. Danny drew closer to her: ‘Don’t play innocent with me mum, you know damn well what I mean, the letters from Dad! What right do you have to do that, to withhold them from me?’

Marie knew full well what he was talking about, but pretended to be ignorant: ‘Look Danny, I got no idea what you’re talking about, so you better be careful with that big mouth of yours.’ Danny reached into his pocket and took out the screwed up envelope. He straightened it out and then pushing it into her face, with both hands holding each edge, he hollered: ‘So, what the hell is this then? Where ARE Dads letters to me? You better tell me Mom, and quick!’ Marie turned on her heels and ran out through the kitchen and then on upstairs, slamming her bedroom door behind her and then locking it. Danny quickly followed, he was not going to let go of the matter. Banging on the door he shouted: ‘Mum give me the letters, they belong to me, so hand them over!’ Marie punched the bed pillow, she was in tears of frustration, they were not tears of sorrow or remorse, but ones of being discovered, of being found out. With bitterness in her voice she called out to him: ‘I don’t have them anymore, I threw them away in the trash can. I’m sorry Danny I truly am’, but she wasn’t, not at all.

Danny stood there trembling with anger and a sense of complete disbelief, of utter injustice that his mother could be so mean, so hateful ,not only to him, but also to his father. They say that love is stronger than hate, that in the end love will win out, I’m not so sure that this is always the case. Because when one’s hate is stronger than their love, then they are destined to a life of obsession unto the grave. In the end hate will have won them over, it will inevitably take its spoils from them … and for Marie the battle to love was indeed lost. Instinctively Danny knew his mother was telling the truth, that she really HAD thrown out the letters, she would not have kept a single one. How sad it is when ones hate is stronger than ones love, even at the cost of hurting one’s own son. Yes, there are those who want their children to hate too, to be just like themselves. It was obvious that Marie was to some degree ill, in some way or another.

Brad was putting on his favourite suit and tie while Nancy was taking a shower. Looking at himself in the mirror he called out to her: ‘You look happier today Nance, hope you don’t mind me saying so, but I noticed you smiling broadly when you came home.’ She was just rinsing the shampoo out of her hair: ‘no, I don’t mind you saying so, but its true I haven’t done much smiling lately, but today was a good day. By the way… its good of you to take me out to dinner tonight, you couldn’t have chosen a better time Brad, thanks so much hunny’. Brad was struggling tying a knot in his tie, he was never very good at it, he caught his own reflection grinning broadly back at him, brought on by Nancy’s words. He went on: ‘We deserve a good night out, and it’s about time we started to live again and had some fun, so I took the chance to book a table at your favourite restaurant.’ Nancy walked into the bedroom with a towel wrapped around her waist she kissed him on the cheek and said: ‘I’m so glad you did.’ Brad eventually managed his tie and then winked at himself in the mirror. Nancy put on her sexiest red dress that she hadn’t worn for quite some time.

Swanky” and “classy” are obvious understatements in describing Manfredo’s restaurant, a place you feel so good to be in and somehow so special because of its style and ambience, like you were the only person there being treated like a king or a queen. After a genuine warm welcome from the manager himself, Manfredo, he went on to show the couple to their table and lit the candle that stood in a circle of roses at the centre of the table: ‘I shall personally see to your needs tonight, I am at your service as your waiter’… he said in that distinctive Milanese accent of his: ‘Madam, Sir, may I present you with the wine list, I would suggest the 1971 St. Es’Steph, Bordeaux. Or perhaps you would prefer Italian vino?’ Brad handed the wine list back to Manfredo without as much as a mere glance at it, and said: ‘I know exactly what we want to drink Manfredo, bring me a bottle… err no, a magnum of Champagne, 1957 Dom Perignon, in a bucket with lots of ice.’

Manfredo responded: ‘certainly sir, a fine choice if I may say so, at once sir’. And with the swagger of a good manager he clicked his fingers at two waiters who jumped into action ready and eager to deliver the nectar of the Gods in a Champagne glass. Discreetly, Nancy leaned over the table and whispered into Brad’s ear: ‘Brad, you do know that stuff is $700 a bottle, don’t you? And you’ve ordered a magnum at that!’ Brad appeared totally unconcerned and unmoved by her remarks: ‘Nance my dear, YOU, we, are worth it, don’t you worry about a single thing. Let’s just enjoy it and relax into our evening together’. Nancy smiled at him as a tear of joy formed in her eye, she used her napkin to remove it, and Brad smiled back. ‘What’s come over you Brad?’ she asked. ‘Oh nothing’ he replied… it’s just that today I realised how lucky I am to have you in my life, and I should have realised it well before’.

Danny was slumped over the couch in the living room trying to make sense of the sounds coming from the TV, but even “The Fonz” was talking garbage to his ears, and that was his favourite TV show too. He was feeling low and after all the happiness he had experienced that day he just couldn’t understand it. ‘Sure, shit happens’ he said to himself, ‘but not like this, because right now it’s raining shit and it aint gonna stop!’ He hit the remote switch, the TV dimmed into silence. He needed air so he went outside and sat under the tree that was at the front of the house. He could hear distant voices coming from the down town streets. The voices of kids arguing with their Dads and Mums or siblings. Voices of drug pushers swearing while plying their trade to whoever walked or drove by. The sounds of dogs barking at passing police cars whose sirens blared into the night while some poor schmuck was being mugged of his last few Dollars.

After an hour it was getting dark and cold and Danny’s denim jacket was still hanging on the bureau, so a short-sleeved shirt wasn’t gonna cut it to keep him warm. He got up to head back inside, but just then he noticed his mother peering at him from the bedroom window with a worried look on her face. Danny stopped and looked up at her, he motioned with a gesture of his hand for her to open the window, and she did so leaning out slightly on the window sill. Danny spoke softly his anger had subsided somewhat: ‘Mum, I know you hate Dad, I think that’s plain to see, but I know it’s not in HIS heart to hate you back, that’s because I know him too well. What you need to know is that I love him, he’s my Father. Whatever passed between you is for you and he to deal with, but for you to do what you did with his letters is hard to forgive. I’ll always love you Mum, but you got to know that I need to love Dad too. You hear me?’ Marie answered: ‘Ok son, I hear you, but it’s going to be hard for me to cope with, and memories linger a long time. I guess I have to work on forgiving your Dad, for your sake at least’. Then she eased the window handle up tight again closing out the cold night air.

Danny went back into the garage to clear up the glass that was on the floor and under the car. He took a broom and started cleaning the mess up, but couldn’t quite reach under the Chevvy. He took hold of the car keys that were hanging from a hook and opened the door with one, and then started her up with another. He reversed the car towards the garage door behind, now he could get at the broken glass beneath. Just as he was getting out he thought he’d put on the car radio, so he reached over and turned the knob and the whole radio lit up green, with that warm contented glow you get in the background. He tuned it in until he got to a familiar sound, Jim Reeves, singing “Make the world go away”. He sang along to the sad song and as he did so he opened the glove box just to see what was there. Amongst the old broken head light bulbs and discarded cigarette packets he found a slip of paper, it was a note from his Father that he had secreted there the day he left, Danny had no idea of its existence until that moment. He opened it up and with great interest he began to read:

“Dear son, I hope you find this, I figured the best place to leave it was in the Chevvy, Mum always hated the car, so she won’t look here. I’m not leaving you son, but I just got to leave your momma. Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, you know that Danny. Like I always said, Life is like a “Rabbit hole” and who knows which way the tunnels will run, depends on the universe we are in and the choices we all make I guess. I promise to write you every week, you can be sure of that son, look out for my letters. We’ll make plans to meet and maybe go to the ball game and then burgers after, eh Son? I’m sorry for leaving I knew it was gonna happen someday. But know this for sure Danny… I love you with all my heart and soul, I will always be here for you, no matter what you are told, you must know that by now. Tell Marie I’m sorry, maybe one day she will forgive me and we can talk, maybe over a coffee and a cigarette, give her my love if you can. Mind how you go now in that car of yours. One day we will head for the beach in the old heap, just you and me. See you soon my boy, all my love to you son, From Dad.”

With tears streaming down his face Danny continued to sing along with the song that was still playing on the radio “Make the world go away get it off of my shoulder say the things you used to say, but make the world go away.” At least Danny had some hope now, maybe HIS world was just about to come right and his world wouldn’t have to go away.

Danny was up early he hadn’t slept to well, he made himself some coffee and brought some up to his mum, along with some toast, she was still fast asleep, a rarity for Marie because of late she was always up first. The phone rang, Danny picked it up, thinking who it could be at this God forsaken hour: ‘Hello, Danny Elliott speaking’ who is that?’ A soft female voice whispered back into his ear: ‘Danny, it’s me, Nancy, sorry for ringing at this early time, but I hoped I’d get you and not your mother, I guess I was right in my hunch’. Danny was pleased to hear from her again and didn’t seem to mind the hour at all: ‘It’s ok Nancy mum is still asleep, good to hear from you’. Just then the paper boy rode past on his bike and threw the “Weekly Gazette” onto the front porch. ‘I was wondering if you’d like to meet up in town for a coffee or something later on, I have something I want to say to you, something good’. Danny agreed and wanted to confide in her anyway about the letters he hadn’t been getting from his dad, and wondered what advice she might give him on the issue. ‘Ok Nancy, see you at 2 pm, I’ll look forward to it, bye’.

Danny opened the front door to retrieve the newspaper, letting in the cold early morning air, it made him shiver. He picked up the paper, quickly closing the door. There on the door mat was a small pile of letters, the early morning postman had made his delivery. Looking through them there was mostly bills and circulars, and then to his delight there was one that had his name on it, he knew it was from his father. Now he realised why his mother had not gotten up so early today, what was the point? She knew the game was up, so, no point in being the first to pick up the mail from the mat today eh? He thought to himself. He went back into the warmth of the living room and sat down on the sofa to read his letter:

“Dear son.

I hope you are ok and doing well. I just heard about what happened to you with the car some time ago, I read about it in the papers and about that poor kid. I aint judging you for that, I know that it wasn’t your fault and it could have happened to anyone. I know that this is not really a welcoming start to my letter to talk about this, but I just wanted you to be sure that you knew I wouldn’t be making judgments over an accident that couldn’t be helped. So, don’t be thinking that I got you condemned, you know me better than that son, I hope this puts your mind at rest. But I guess it’s gonna dwell on your mind, being the sensitive kid that you are. Those “Rabbit holes” can run where ever they like son, remember that, so try to forgive yourself.

I get the impression you aren’t getting my mail because if you had I know for sure you would have written back to me, I’m not even sure if you’ll be reading this one either, I have to trust to luck on that score. I’m praying that you are ok and that you are doing well at school, I hope so son. You know I love you and we are close, so don’t think you won’t be ever seeing me again, you will!

By the way, you’ll have to change the oil soon on the Chevvy, it’s about time. Get the good stuff and make sure you get the right filter: Part no 7401678 filter type, if you know what I mean? Ok son you take care now. See you soon, I promise. Love from Dad”

Danny was relieved that his dad knew about the accident and had wondered what he would think to him. He was worried about the shame of it all but he needn’t have worried it was off his chest now. He read the letter again and again, and after a while he became puzzled at his dad reminding him about the oil change, especially the filter type, as though he wouldn’t know about that himself, he thought it was kind of funny? Danny had a good supply of oil filters already and his dad knew that, because they’d bought a dozen or so of them when they saw them cheap on offer down at the motor mart, enough to keep the car going for years. Danny put it out of his mind and was content that at last he had managed to at least receive one letter before his mother intercepted it. He had one up on her in that.

Just then Marie came down the stairs and into the living room, dressed in a green night-gown. She immediately saw the pile of letters on the coffee table where Danny had left them, all except one that is. She spoke: ‘I guess you got your Pa’s letter this time eh?’ Danny smiled at her: ‘Yep, I sure did, and I’m going to get all the rest he sends from now on, cause I’m going to be first up in future, so you might as well take a good long lie in mom’. Marie sighed, she knew she was beaten and there would be no point in playing a cat and mouse game with her own son: ‘Ok son, you win, I promise I won’t ever take your letters again, you have my word. Danny stood up and walked over to her: ‘I appreciate that Mum, but that don’t excuse what you did, I guess I’m going to have to forgive you’. He gave her a small kiss on the cheek and said: ‘There’s more coffee on the stove if you want it. By the way, I’m going into town later on’.

Nancy was already seated and had a hot chocolate placed before her on the table brought by the waitress. “Drisscolls” was a regular haunt for many people in the town, for those who prized drinking real ground coffee and for sipping fine old brews of China tea. It was the kind of place where old friends would meet and somehow gave them that old world charm comfort, reassuring and homely. A place that also specialised in wonderful arrays of ice creams, with as many toppings that your heart could desire, and kids loved coming there too, obviously so. The perfect place to put anyone at rest and Nancy was sure that it would do the same for Danny. A warm Sun was out and a pleasant change from the miserable cold start of the morning. Danny was again his cheerful self, even after all that he had been through the days before. It was a relief to him that matters were getting settled and so he was in a good frame of mind to be meeting with Nancy.

He walked in and greeted Nancy warmly, taking the seat opposite to her at her invitation. ‘You ok Danny?’ she asked, He replied: ‘I wasn’t so good yesterday, but I got a letter from Dad today, so I guess it’s cheered me up a little, a lot in fact’. Nancy attracted the waitress’s attention: ‘What you having Danny?’ He looked at the deep froth on the hot chocolate that was already on the table: ‘I think that looks good, I’ll have what you’re having’, Nancy ordered the same again. ‘Ok, so what’s this you want to tell me, “something good” so you said on the phone this morning’? The waitress carefully set the drink by Danny’s elbows that were resting on the table. ‘Sure,’ Nancy replied… ‘I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but I don’t want you to worry about what I’m going to tell you right now’. Danny gave a slight look of concern: ‘I thought you said it was something good!’. Nancy sipped her drink wiping some froth from her lips: ‘I assure you Danny, it is good, though at first you might think it’s not, but I can assure you it is’. Danny was beginning to think that this sounded like some kind of conundrum or riddle. ‘Ok, out with it then, I’m curious, just out with it!’

The sun was beaming in through an open window and in turn onto Nancy’s face it lit her countenance up as though she was an angel of light. ‘Ok, but don’t speak till I have finished Danny ok… Brad and I went out for a meal the other night and we talked about what has happened to us, how we have had to pull through this and get on with our lives. He really opened up and we began to understand each other more than we ever have before. Getting to the point, I told him that you and I had met at the park and talked about Luke and how the accident happened.’ Danny wasn’t sure where Nancy was heading with this he was itching to interrupt her. She went on: ‘Anyway at first Brad would have gladly seen you run down by a bus Danny, that was how he felt towards you while he was still in shock and anger at what had happened to our dear son. In time I think he has managed to come to terms with it though and the way the accident occurred. At our meal the other night I was able to convince him of this further and that you had been forgiven by me personally and that you were not to blame, that I thought that you were a decent guy. I thought at first Brad would be fuming that I had spoken with you Danny, that I had even seen you, but I was wrong. Brad is more of a man than I realised. The point is Danny… he wants to meet with you, if you are willing that is.’

Danny couldn’t believe his ears; he would have not believed that this mother before him could have ever been this gracious to him either, until he met her that is. Danny felt his emotions rising and began to think that he didn’t really deserve all this. After all he had inadvertently been partly responsible for taking a child away from two loving parents. ‘I’m not sure Nancy, what if it goes wrong and Brad see’s something bad in me that you don’t see, perhaps he might lose it?’ Nancy smiled wryly: “Danny Elliott you haven’t a bad bone in your body, I knew that after 5 minutes of talking to you in the park, there is nothing bad in you to see, that’s what I think, so stop putting yourself down!’

Danny had quickly come to trust Nancy and was prepared to take a chance and on second thoughts he knew he had little right to deny Brad, after all Luke had been his son and maybe he had things to say to him at their meeting: ‘Ok, I’m not so sure, but I’ll give it a go, but be it upon your head Nancy and not mine. When do we meet anyway?’ Nancy gave a huge grin of relief and then said in reply: When do you meet? Well now I would say in the next 2 seconds because he’s sitting right behind you’. Brad turned around in his chair and gently placed his hand upon Danny’s shoulder: ’I’ve heard all about you Danny, and I’m very pleased to meet you’. He held his hand out for Danny to shake: ‘Danny I don’t want you to worry about a thing, ok? Let’s talk shall we?’

Danny’s father, Dougie, had found a new place to live, be it only in a modest apartment building on the 2nd floor, this was just 20 miles down the road from where he lived before with Danny and Marie. He had also found himself a new job as a mechanic, For 30 years he had worked as an engineer at the same company, but was recently forced to take redundancy due to cut backs in staffing. Hence the step down the ladder to a mechanics job and on less pay, but this was a job he knew well and found easy, but interesting to carry out. He hadn’t worked there too long just 2 months, but had established a good rapport with the owner, Clarence, who knew of his circumstances and how he was missing his son. At the moment Dougie found himself up to his elbows in axle grease, he was under a 1978 Lincoln sedan endeavouring to change the prop shaft and axle housing, which had cracked. Clarence was busy working on the engine of a Lexus LS 400, as the pistons rings had burnt out and needed replacing. He kept interrupting Dougie to ask for advice, because these Japanese cars were a world away from your average American Chrysler or Ford, cars that Clarence knew well like the back of his hand, but Dougie had a broader knowledge of most cars, wherever on the planet they were manufactured.

‘So I need to contact Toyota for these Lexus parts?’ asked Clarence. Dougie wiped the grease from his hands with a rag and replied: ‘Yes, look them up in the book I’m sure there is a dealer somewhere within 50 miles of here, they might deliver too’. Clarence went to his small untidy make shift office to make the call, he then went back to what he was doing. Ten Minutes later the phone rang and instantly Dougie sprang out from under the car he was working on, and raced over to answer it: ‘Yes, Dougie Elliott speaking, who is this?… Oh I see, Toyota calling back?’ Dougie hollered to Clarence to let him know that Toyota was returning his call, Clarence came over and took it, hanging up the receiver after finishing. He then walked back over the oily garage floor to get back to the job in hand, as he did so he paused for a moment: ‘You expecting a phone call Dougie?’ asked Clarence, ‘never seen you move so quickly, like a greyhound out of its trap’. Dougie hesitated before he answered: “err, well no not exactly, just thought that one was for me, err that’s all’. Clarence looked puzzled: ‘Since when have you ever received a call to here Doug? you expecting a call from your new lover then?’ Clarence laughed and went back to working on the Lexus.

Brad and Danny were getting on like a house on fire and this confirmed Nancy’s suspicions that they would, she was thrilled that they were able to communicate so freely. ‘So Danny, we want you to know that Nancy and I want you to get on with your life and put this whole thing behind you, I can’t hold what happened against you and I refuse to do so, and especially not against a pleasant modest guy like you.’ Danny felt deeply humbled by his words and moved by their sentiments: ‘I don’t know what to say to you both, I can’t find the words to say thank you enough for releasing me from those feelings of guilt. How can you be so kind and generous? I guess you must be genuine people and you have really put me to shame’. Brad had ordered some fresh drinks and some donuts; they appeared fresh from the deep fryer, the three of them tucked into them with gusto. ‘So, Danny, we want you to ring us whenever you want, and come to the house whenever you want, you’re family now, that’s right isn’t it Nancy?’ Nancy responded: ‘Sure, you can come for tea as if you were our own son and we can be like your second Ma and Pa, if that’s ok with you Danny’. Danny was licking the sugar from his lips: ‘I would like that very much, but just one thing, I don’t mind having a second dad, but you have to know that no one can ever replace my real dad, as long as you know that’.

Brad realised that they had strayed onto sensitive ground here: ‘That was thoughtless of me Danny, I know that you are close to your father, I take that back, and your right, no one can replace the father you love, no one!’. Danny took from his pocket the letter he got from his father early that morning and passed it to Brad to read and then onto Nancy. On reading it both were moved, Nancy spoke up: ‘Your Father sounds like a really caring and thoughtful man, he obviously loves you greatly. I guess he’s saying that you’re going to be part of his life no matter what. And by the sound of it he’s coming to see you and soon’. Danny put the letter on the table: ‘Yes I get that too, but I don’t know where he is or how to get to him. I just can’t figure out the oil filter business he goes on about. He knows I don’t need any, that I got plenty to keep the car running for fifty years’. Brad took the letter in his hand once again, but this time scrutinized it closely. After a moment or two he said: ‘This aint right Danny, I mean this long part number for the oil Filter? No oil filter has that many numbers. I should know I work in an office that deals with classifications and how manufactures allocate patterns and codes to productions’. Danny quickly grabbed the letter back… ‘Sorry Brad,’ he again noted the invented part number, Brad was right it didn’t make sense.

He then realised what his dad was trying to say because he wrote straight after the part number the words: “if you know what I mean?” At this moment the waitress came over enquiring if they wanted anything else. Danny quickly answered her: ‘Yes, do you have a phone I can use please, its urgent’. The waitress said: Not normally, but I’ll ask the manager for you, just wait a moment’. And in no time at all the waitress had managed to get the phone cable to reach to the front of house putting it on the counter. Enthusiastically Danny rose to his feet and ran over to the counter, followed by Brad and Nancy. Danny took the phone and dialled 7401678; the number rang and continued for some time, but no one answered.

Dougie had washed his hands and face and had eventually succeeded in removing the ingrained grease with a scrubbing-brush and had taken off his dirty overalls and changed into his other cloths. He had said goodnight to Clarence, while he was switching off the garage lights to close up, Dougie said that he would see him early in the morning. Dougie climbed into his car put the key in the ignition and turned it, but it wouldn’t start, it was cold. Eventually the Mustang growled into life, Dougie selected first gear and began to drive away, spluttering and chugging. He had only covered a hundred yards or so when suddenly the engine stalled. ‘Damn Car!’ Dougie remonstrated…’ why are you always like this when you’ve been stood cold all day?’ as if the Mustang could answer him back. He restarted it, Just as the engine was warming up and Dougie was about to drive away again, an out of breath Clarence appeared at his screen. He began to mouth something at him; Dougie wasn’t clear what he was trying to say beyond the noise of the engine. He wound the window down: ‘There’s a phone call for you Dougie’… Clarence shouted at the top of his voice… ‘and by the sound of it it’s not that new lover of yours either.’ Dougie rammed the car onto reverse letting the clutch up and screeching the tyres, a black stream of smoke stormed into the air. He missed crashing through the locked garage doors behind by only a matter of millimetres. ‘This Is Dougie Elliott speaking, is that you Danny?’ “Yes it is, Dad” came the excited reply.

Danny had his father come over to meet with them at “Drisscolls” cafe; he arrived with a beaming smile on his face. Danny ran over to him and embraced him warmly and then introduced him to his friends, Brad and Nancy. They sat there talking as if they had all been good pals for years, laughing and slapping each other on the back. Nancy asked for silence: ‘This calls for a celebration, don’t you think so brad?’ And came back the reply: ‘Sure does Nancy, go for it!’ Nancy once again called for the waitress: “we’d like four Luke special ice creams with all the toppings please and don’t forget the cherry brandy sauce’. Danny looked at his father with tears in his eyes and his father looked back with tears in his. They all embraced each other as good friends and continued to celebrate with ice cream, all downed in honour of Luke a child that was so very special and yet in his death had brought about so much goodness in people. Dougie took from his brief case a bundle of letters all tied up with purple ribbon and handed them over to Danny: ‘I kept copies son and I knew I would have to, just so you would know how much I love you. And just so you know that the “rabbit hole” can appear wherever it chooses and that maybe out there in the big huge universe people exactly like us are making the right choices, but then again maybe not. For who knows that down the Rabbit Hole maybe another Luke or the same Luke is happy and playing in his tree house with his pet dog?

Mike Prysner a soldier who realised he didn’t want to be a soldier anymore. My hero.

This powerful historic speech has to be read and listened to, read it here and on YouTube:

“My name is Mike Prysner. I joined the Army and went for basic training on my eighteenth birthday in June of 2001. I was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division and in March of 2003 I was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed to norther Iraq.

So when I first joined the Army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called the ‘Equal Opportunity Program. We would sit through mandatory classes and every unit had this EO representative to ensure that no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism. And then September 11th happened and I began to hear new words like ‘towel head’ and ‘camel jockey’ and the most disturbing: ‘sand nigger.’ And these words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers but from my superiors: my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command these terms, these viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

And I noticed that the most overt racism came from veterans of the first Gulf War. And those were the words they used when incinerating civilian convoys. Those were the words they used when this government delivered any target(ing) of civilian infrastructure; bombing water supplies knowing it would kill hundreds of thousands of children. Those are the words the American people used when they allowed this government to sanction Iraq. And this is something many people forget. And we can’t forget.

We’ve just learned that we’ve killed over a million Iraqis since the invasion. But we already killed a million Iraqis in the ’90s through sanctions and bombings prior to this invasion. But the number is truly much higher.

When I got to Iraq in 2003 I learned a new word and that word was “Hajji”. Hajji was the enemy. Hajji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, a father, a teacher, or a worker. And it’s important, we’ve heard this word a lot during Winter Soldier but it’s important to understand where this word came from and to Muslims the most important thing is to take a pilgrimage to Mecca. It’s the Haj. And taking this pilgrimage is the Hajji. And, it’s something in traditional Islam that is the highest calling in their religion. So we took the best thing from Muslim and made it into the worst thing.

But, history did not start with us and since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. The Native Americans were called savages. The Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery. And Vietnam veterans know of the multitude of words used to justify that imperialist war. So, Hajji was the word we used…it was the word we used on this particular mission I’m going to talk about and we’ve heard a lot about different raids and kicking down doors of people’s houses and ransacking their houses. But this mission was a different kind of raid. I never got any explanation for these orders. We were only told that this group of houses, of five or six houses, were now property of the U.S. military and we had to go in and make those families leave those houses.

So, we went to these houses and informed the families that those homes were no longer their homes. We provided them no alternative, nowhere to go, no compensation. And they were very confused and very scared and did not know what to do, would not leave, so we had to remove them from those houses. One family in particular, a woman with two small girls, very elderly man and two middle-aged men, we dragged them out of their houses and threw them onto the street and arrested the men because they refused to leave. Uh, arrested the old man and sent them off to prison. And, at that time I didn’t know what happened to people when we tied their hands behind their back and put a sandbag over their head.

Unfortunately, a few months later, I had to find out. We were short interrogators so I was assigned to work as an interrogator. I oversaw and participated in hundreds of interrogations, one in particular I’m going to share with was a moment for me that really showed me the nature of this occupation. This particular detainee…when I was sent to interrogate him he was stripped down to his underwear, hands behind his back, and sandbag on his head. I never actually saw this man’s face. My job was to take this metal folding chair and just smash it against the wall next to his head, he was faced against the wall with his nose touching the wall while a fellow soldier asked the same questions over and over again, no matter what his answer, my job was to slam this chair against the wall.

We did this until, basically, we got tired. And, I was told to make sure he stood against the wall for however long and I was guarding this prisoner and my job was to make sure he kept standing up. But I noticed that there was something wrong with his leg and he was injured and he kept, like, falling to the ground. And the Sargeant in charge would come and tell me to get him up on his feet so I’d have to pick him up and put him against the wall and he kept going down and I’d have to keep pulling him up and putting him against the wall. And my Sargeant came around and he was upset with me for not, you know, continue making him to stand. He picked him up and slammed him against the wall several times and then he left and when the man went down on the ground again I notice blood pouring down from under the sandbag. And so I let him sit and I noticed my Sargeant coming again and I would tell him quickly to stand up and I realized that I was supposed to be guarding my unit from this detainee and I realized at that moment that I was guarding the detainee from my unit.

And I tried hard to be proud of my service but all I could feel was shame and racism could no longer mask the occupation. These were people. There were human beings. I’ve since been plagued by guilt anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk and we rolled onto a stretcher, told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists, but the real terrorist was me and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon deployed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile. While all of those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them.

Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round. They do not have to fight the war. They merely have to sell the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way and they need soldiers who are willing to kill or be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb, but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight, and the ruling class: the billionaires who profit from human suffering care only about expanding their wealth, controlling the world economy, understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interests. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, have nothing to gain from this occupation.

The vast majority of people living in the US have nothing to gain from this occupation. In fact, not only do we have nothing to gain, but we suffer more because of it. We lose limbs, endure trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without healthcare, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $450 million a day on this occupation. Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country to make the rich richer, and without racism soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war

I threw families onto the street in Iraq only to come home and find families thrown onto the street in this country in this tragic, tragic and unneccessary foreclosure crisis; only to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land. But not people whose names we don’t know, and cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know very well and people we can identify. The enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable. The enemy is the CEOs who lay us off our jobs when it’s profitable; it’s the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; it’s the banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our enemies are not 5000 miles away, they are right here at home. If we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers, we can stop this war, we can stop this government, and we can create a better world.”

Name and shame a professional, do it!

The following I wrote on the name and shame FB page, link below:

“Thank you for accepting my request to be a member here, it is a great privilege. So, while I’m here I might as well get on with my naming and shaming some Social workers and some so-called ‘professional experts’ that are regularly used in the Courts of our land and those who also purport to represent the interests of our children, mine included, but I assure you they do not!

First off is: “Michelle Randle”, of Doncaster Cafcass, the most egotistical and fabricating South African woman who it has been my misfortune to meet. A woman who made up a fabricated episode, a Lie, that I had caused a disruption at a contact centre here In Sheffield, that I was “asked to leave by staff and refused to do so” that this “caused my son stress and also his mother.” When I contacted Ms Randle, to ask why she had not consulted with me over this alleged insinuation and slur, she said: “I was told this by your Ex, and presumed it was true, so I put it in my report to court.” Of course I was so outraged that she would be so biased in favour of my Ex that she just “presumed it was true”, that I complained to Cafcass. They took a whole year to investigate it, they admitted it was not true and wrote apologizing for this, this was after I got the contact centre manager to write to them. He stated that as far as he “was concerned he had no knowledge of the alleged incident and on checking with his staff, nor did they”. Ms Randle refused to retract her fabricated statement from the court record. However, she eventually did, but only after my final hearing had been and gone. How convenient that the Judge had by then seen a false fabricated statement that she had acted upon, alas it was all too late for me by then to send the letter of apology from Cafcass to the court. Ms Randle, of Cafcass, knew what she was doing and didn’t care, nor did her conscience bother her at all that she knowingly lied, just to side and support my Ex partner in her lies to remove my son from my life.

Social worker No 2, “Ms Sally Jackson” also of Cafcass. She appeared on the scene and took over from the fabricating Ms Randle, who after I appealed to the Royal Courts Of Justice was discredited, and therefore was replaced by Ms Jackson. Of course both were Cafcass colleagues and in contact with each other, I knew I didn’t stand a chance, even though I had now won my appeal. Ms Jackson appeared as an angel of light at first and presented as initially fair, I was to learn that she was just as corrupt as Ms Randle was. Ms Jackson was informed by me that her former colleague had lied under oath and that I had a letter from Cafcass to prove it, why was she still in her job I enquired? She was not concerned at all about this, although she wanted my permission to contact Ms Randle, at this I smelt a rat, and knew that they would get their heads together, because once you have had the effrontery to make one of their own look bad, you are in for it… And big time! You have to know that Cafcass do not, NEVER EVER, make mistakes, and if you try to prove they do, God help you!

Ms Jackson suggested to me that she had not prevented me from obtaining “Parental Responsibility”, (which I had asked the court to give me) even though in so many words she had basically hinted that I should not have it. Ms Jackson lied to me face to face and said “I have NOT said to the court that you shouldn’t have PR”. She is now seen in her true colors because it transpires in her latest statement to court that she categorically says and states she does not recommend it, a total contradiction of what she stated to me personally, (with that sweet innocent smile of hers). Ms Jackson is as unprofessional as her former conscienceless partner Ms Randle, but that comes as no surprise to me.

No 3. Ms “Justine Croxen” (Psychological Consulting Services Ltd, Po Box 14189, Birmingham B13 3FW) Cafcass appointed psychologist. She, in her lengthy report to court, was able to state in detail the nature of my relationship with my son even though she had not met him nor had she seen us together at any time. She admitted, under oath, that she had not read any of the numerous independent positive contact reports that plainly suggested a wonderful relationship between my son and me. Yes, she claimed that she was able to make an opinion on this even in the face of never having discussed him with me at any time, nor had she discussed me with my son. However, and highly suspicious, she DID discuss my relationship with my son, but only in speaking to my former partner on the issue, and of course formed her biased opinions on that basis ALONE, yes from my hostile EX! Is this fair? Well of course not! On the basis of Ms Croxen’s spurious report she recommended to the court that I should not see my son and was a threat to him, even though there was no evidence of such, but I could be in the future, or so she stated in court. Ms Croxen was paid over £10,000 for her report, she even had the audacity to apply to court for more, and the Judge gave it to her, what a money spinner I ask you? I had wisely recorded the whole psychological interviews that I had with Ms Croxen, I was able to prove that she at no time mentioned my son to me or had even mentioned his name. I was able to prove that she never talked about my son at all with me… and yet even though I could prove it (you guessed it) the judge was not prepared to listen to the recording, but acted on Croxen’s ridiculous crystal ball advice on possible future events, how can one fight these I wonder? You just can’t!

We all know this is not justice, we all know that the courts are as corrupt as hell, we all know that this goes on all the time. We all know that the Family courts are there to debase you and to drive you insane with anger and frustration, and if you have the temerity to show it, we all know you are doomed! We all know that somehow my words here will be used against me and that if my Ex see’s this she can score some more points with her lies, but you know what, the truth is the truth! I will return with more exposures of those that are corrupt. If it is used against me, then so be it. I am fed up of sitting on my ass and losing my son over lies, it is time “to publish or be damned”, I know it will be the latter. You have my oath that all I write here is the truth, so help me God!”

https://www.facebook.com/groups/341030399320027/

“The bedroom tax” a heartless crime inflicted on the poor.

The bedroom tax does what it says on the tin, yes it certainly is a TAX, and only on the poorest in our society! We are in this national economic mess due to the decisions of the rich, of greedy bankers and shortsighted politicians who knew that the bubble was going to burst. The blame does not rest with the working classes nor on the poor, and yet it seems these unfeeling monsters who have brought about this tax, our MP’s, want to make the poor pay for the mistakes of the rich… after all “we are in this together” so Cameron has so badly put. My God it makes me seethe with anger, the heartlessness of it and their sheer inhumanity is beyond belief.
 
Let me put a scenario to you all illustrating just how unfair the bedroom tax is:
 
Bill is married to Jenny and they have 3 children, 2 sons and one daughter, who were brought up in the 3 bed-roomed happy family home where mum and dad have lived for many years since they were married. Mum and dad shared a bedroom while the 2 boys also did the same leaving the daughter a room to herself. This was the happy and content situation until all the children grew up and left home when they were all in their late teens to early twenties. All the grown up children, who were all by now married themselves and with their own kids, visited mum and dad weekly for dinner to talk about old times in a familiar place which they considered THE FAMILY HOME, not just a house.
 
All were getting along fine and happily, until Bill lost his job, being made redundant at the age of 57, he’d worked all his life, but now Bill was forced to apply for benefits, “the dole”, as some would put it. Also mum, Jenny, well her health was not so good lately due to her chronic fatigue syndrome, which the doctor couldn’t help her with. Bill and Jenny had lived in the family home all these years and were very attached to it as were all the grown up children who visited home often, the family home they identified with. Bill and Jenny had spent a small fortune in making the home a pleasant place to live in and had spent thousands on interior decorations, not to mention the wonderful garden they had happily worked on together. To them it was their little paradise and they loved the area that they lived in. It was close to the river, the place they had often gone for walks while holding hands and the place the kids knew so well and had happy memories of.
 
The day came when the Government brought in what was called the “bedroom tax”. This meant that Bill and Jenny could not afford to pay the extra money for their rented home that the local council were asking for because of having to many bedrooms that were not being used, (or so the council maintained). Yes to the government they were just simply “rooms” just meaningless empty rooms, rooms that Bill and Jenny as parents would have little attachment for and no happy memories of, or did they? Bill and Jenny loved their home, it wasn’t just a house to them, of bricks and mortar, it was part of their life and marital history together and part of their children’s lives too even though they had their own respective homes now.
 
Sadly Bill and jenny were told that they had to move out and to find another house to live in, or else pay the extra rent the council were now demanding as well as some council tax that thankfully they had not paid since Bill had lost his job. There was no financial way out for them and they were already in debt with the energy companies as well as a loan they took out when Bill was working so he could pay it back. In April of 2013 bill and jenny finally said goodbye to their family home and to their neighbours that they were so very close to and extremely fond of. Most of the furniture they had was sold as were all the beds their children had slept in, there was no room in the new council house for all their treasures and their familiar odds and ends.Their new house was on the estate over the other side of town where they had heard much talk of vandalism and disharmony between the different ethnic groups who lived there.
 
Meanwhile a new family of six were moving in to a house that looked like it had been cared for and had a fine tidy garden that looked like someone had put a great deal of care into. There was no need for much change or repair to this new place, it had all been done for for them by someone. This family were very grateful that they now had a place to call their own. Yes the Ahmeds from Croatia could now settle down to a new life near the river… but at whose expense and painful emotional loss had this been possible?
 
So, Bill and Jenny were forced out of their home, all they had was their happy memories of it, perhaps they could take solace from them? But things were not the same in this new area where the kids played out on the streets till midnight getting into all sorts of trouble. It was a tight squeeze when the family came along with the grand kids to visit them, they could hardly get round the table in the small dining room to eat and there was little point in going out in the garden as it was the size of a postage stamp.
 
Jenny and Bill huddled together while in bed in their tiny bedroom. Jenny leant over to kiss her husband goodnight, she then switched off the bedside lamp. With a tear in her eye she spoke: “Bill I miss my home, I really do, this one is just a house to me.” Bill turned around and hugged her, and said: “I know love, I know, sweet dreams my dear”.
 
Cameron and his cronies have little idea of the pain they are going to inflict upon ordinary people, nor do they know the difference between a “house” and a “home”! All I can say is that this is a crime inflicted on the poorest in our society and the politicians have no right nor place to be making laws such as this over and above that our local councils might have made to cover their running costs. Shame on you Cameron, shame on all of you who have voted for this evil law of a bedroom tax, you heartless unfeeling monsters that you are!

Men as fathers do shed tears after all.

My name is Paul Manning, this is my story and what I’m about to tell you is totally true. The following movie comparison may not be, however I use it here to emphasize and illustrate the injustices and pain perpetrated upon many parents, but particularly upon fathers especially so since I am one myself. I feel the comparison is apt and fitting although you may think it’s a little over the top, but with respect I think you would be wrong.

The comparison.

One of my all time favourite films is “Schindler’s List” It is the story of a brave and courageous German business, ‘Oscar Schindler’ a man who during the 2nd war endeavored to save the lives of hundreds of Jews from their fate of being gassed to death by the Nazis. It is not possible for me to forget a particular poignant scene in the film where a lone forlorn blonde haired little girl, dressed in her tidy red coat, is seen scurrying down the street terrified by the horrors that surround her. She is lost and shaken, she is without the protection of her father to make her feel safe and secure and she has no idea where she is going as she seeks to find her father.

Countless children were being systematically separated from their Jewish parents by a Nazi regime that was hell-bent on exterminating them all, along with any bonds of hope and love they might still have remaining for each other. A regime that was empowered by sheepish cowardly people, by the masses, by your average upstanding voting citizen who mostly supported what was going on, all be it blindly. The law and authority of the day took children from their parents and off they went to Auschwitz or Belsen, concentration camps set up to butcher them. The parents were directed one way and their tearful petrified children went another, but all, equally, to their horrible deaths. I distinctly remember that movie and through clever use of colour on black and white, your eye is directed to the only colour seen on the screen up to then. It is at this point you discover what has been the little girl’s fate. Her red coat is the only color you see and there she is laying dead on the top of a heap of bloody bodies on the back of a horse-drawn cart. I have to tell you that my feelings were such that I just couldn’t prevent myself shedding tears at this point in the scene.

Sometimes when we face and watch such horror as this it can sensitive us even more to the suffering of others. Ok it is sad and harrowing to watch, but somehow it will make you a better human being because your tears are full of empathy and of anger at the injustices taking place. That intense emotional feeling can make you act in ways for good that you never thought possible. As an example, Sir Bob Geldof (a hero of mine) was so moved and angered by the sight of starving African pot-bellied children, that it led him to forcefully demand on TV, in that Dublin brogue of his, “Give us your fucking money and now!” He didn’t quite manage to feed the world, but he had a damn good try, and probably saved thousands from starvation. Yes he cared, but that care was brought about by what he observed and his feelings of rage, and so he found it impossible to ignore the terrible injustice that was taking place to others less fortunate than himself.

So, why am I telling you all this and what is the little girls plight comparable to in my own story? I shall tell you, because in many ways such a situation is still taking place today, yes right here in the good old United Kingdom, that’s why! Every day of every week the authority and perverted family courts of our own country is separating hundreds of sons and daughters from their fathers and starving them of the love and protection they deserve from their dads. It is happening right under your very noses and with seeming legality. Ok our children are not being shipped off to concentration camps or being gassed, but did you know that many fathers have been imprisoned for their demonstrations against the cruelty of the state towards them, just for trying to get back to the ones they love so that they can see them again, their own flesh and blood, their children. I ask you, Is this so wrong that they deserve to be incarcerated?

The severe emotional pain of fathers, who are not in a position to protect or even see their loved ones, is exactly the same pain and emotion as that experienced by a fearful father who had lost his little red-coated precious daughter as depicted in the film. He had lost her and was beside himself with worry, how on Earth was he expected to deal with such pain as this, indeed how can any parent? The circumstances are different yes, but the pain and bereavement of losing a child is the same. Unless you have experienced it you cannot possibly know how it feels. It is a chasm of darkness void of even a flickering candle of hope, but somehow it is the love of your child in your heart that keeps you going and you hang on to that thin strand of hope, it is all you have.

I am not telling you all this to obtain your sympathy, but that very same pain is in my heart every minute of the day, it is a pain that will not go away. It eats away at me and makes me angry and confused. I constantly ask myself… ‘why is this happening to me and my child, what have I done that is so wrong? What have I done to deserve the emotional pain of separation from a son I truly love?’ And you know what?…Not a soul or a Family court Judge has ever been able to give me the answer.

How it all started.

At the age of 45 I never dreamt that I would get the chance to have another child, but thankfully I did. My previous children had all grown up and in many ways I had some regrets that I had not spent more time with them or gotten to know them better. I stupidly thought that to work every hour God sent was the wise course, and I admit that I made some terrible mistakes in bringing them up strictly within the regime of our religion at the time, God I was so wrong and have many regrets! But now this time things were going to be different, I had another chance to give all my time and love to the son of my maturing age, and I was so happy to do it too.

And so Elliott was born in the midst of a great swell of love between his mother and me, she and I were never ever going to part, it just couldn’t happen. On the day she bought that pregnancy test and it showed positive, well that was one of the happiest days of my life and she knew it. I was determined to support her as much as I could. I attended all the ante-natal classes with her at the hospital, every nuance of Elliott’s development and growth I wanted to know about. The day came when I lifted Elliott out of his mother’s womb and out of the warm waters of the birthing pool, yes he was born at home. The midwife had seen how intent I was and emotionally involved, so with her guiding hand close by she had allowed me to lift my son out of the waters and to hold him while he took his first breath of life. I cried tears of happiness as I looked into his eyes and then into the eyes of his exhausted mother that I truly loved. I remember those tears so much, so very much in love we were and so happy to have our special son, Elliott.

After Maria’s maternity leave expired she was eager to get back to work and to enhance her career as a teacher and reflexologist. She had loosely talked about getting a child-minder so that we could both keep working, I was self-employed with a small timber and laminate flooring concern. Maria was not prepared to give up work, but there was no way I was going to let someone else look after Elliott, indeed I insisted that I stayed at home to be his main carer. And so I shelved my business and eagerly took up being a full-time dad while Maria worked.

I bonded with Elliott in the most remarkable way, I loved to watch him sleep and to feed him was a fun time for us both. I remember that he loved splashing about in the tub and giggling with such glee. Elliott became old enough to go to nursery school, so I took him on his first day. It was the first time we had been apart and I cried more than he did when I left him in the care of a stranger.

He eventually grew to like nursery, but he was always in a rush to get back home to his dad. So, I had become Elliott’s main carer and was fully involved in his education. When he moved on in to junior school I was picking him up most days and getting to know all the staff and teachers there, I was well-known by all there. Elliott was now six and was keen to learn football and cricket; we spent hours together at the park with some of his pals from school, knocking a ball about. After we would go back to mum and I would do the normal thing of making dinner, yes I even did all the cooking and doing the house choirs too. Looking back now I realise that I had made a huge mistake in giving up to much of my personal life, my friends, my pastimes, my pub quiz and playing in the snooker team, but now it was all gone. All this so I could be with Maria and Elliott, I loved them too much I guess, is that possible to do? I realise now that I had lost my own identity. In all this time I had not noticed that I had become fully domesticated and kind of house bound because my World revolved around Elliott.

I don’t know what happened, but the time came when Maria voiced the opinion that the spark had gone out of our relationship, I couldn’t understand how it had come to this, all I know was that most of my time was spent caring for our son and for Maria and for her 2 daughters as well. I was so disappointed, foolishly I thought everything was fine between us, but evidently I was wrong. Maria craved excitement and her French ways were very demanding, she always got what she wanted in the end. After I had made her home a palace and fit to live in, much of which was at my own expense, eventually we broke up. I was heartbroken and it made me very sad and to some degree depressed, my doctor prescribed prozac to cheer me up, it didn’t work.

So, I went back to my own dilapidated house that I had rented out to students so as to raise some extra cash to help along with Maria’s finances. She knew that I loved Elliott dearly so she agreed to draw up a written agreement where we would share Elliott’s care 50/50. He had his own bedroom at my home and all his own things that I had acquired for him. Fortunately Maria’s house was only just over the garden wall, so Elliott didn’t feel much of a change or any upheaval. I had always trusted Maria even though we were not married and therefore never saw the need to apply for, PR, “parental responsibility” why would I? However, I now realise that I didn’t really know Maria at all, because she flatly refused to give me that PR. From this point on I worried greatly and I realised that Maria was a total controlling egotist, it’s often the French way to exert their characters in this manner.

After 2 years of separation the day came when Maria emailed me to say that she had met someone else and for some reason or other that I should stop picking Elliott up from school, a thing I cherished doing. I emailed back to calmly say that it was ok; that I would rather keep doing it and it would upset Elli if I wasn’t there to get him from school. No! she ordered, “I want you to stop picking him up altogether” I politely refused. I contacted a solicitor who advised me that she had no right to unilaterally change the written agreement we had drawn up together, that had been in force over the past 2 years after our separation. Apprehensively on the following Wednesday I went to school, as was normal, to get Elliott, there was no fuss and for Elliott it was just a routine time with his father. We then went to a play centre with one of my friends and his two kids who are pals with Elliott.

While there I received a call on my mobile from the police accusing me of abducting Elliott from his mother and that I should return him and at once. I was deeply shocked and tried to explain to them that it was nonsense and not to believe a word she said. Elliott was not party to what was happening or to what was said, for him my concern was shielding him from any pain or harm. Under these circumstances I decided to accept the invite to go to tea with my friend’s family. While there I received another call from the police ordering me to take Elliott back to his mother, this unnerved me and I was deeply worried. I told them I would be taking Elliott to school as normal the following day and that everything was fine. We stayed at my friend’s house over night to avoid any distress to Elliott should I go back to my own home and find the police waiting for me, also Maria spitting lies everywhere while waiting for me to return home, I wanted to avoid that likely scenario. The following day I dropped Elliott off at school as promised. I hugged him and said goodbye wondering if this was the start of a battle to continue to have my son in my life.

Little did I know that police had battered down my door during the night, I found it laying on the garden lawn as I arrived home. Under close police supervision I spent the next 6 hours under police custody at my home although not arrested. I was released without charge or even a caution following my interview. The interviewing officer could see I was a reasonable man, not the lunatic Maria had now portrayed me to be. The police eventually realized what was going on here and expressed their annoyance at spending thousands of pounds in man hours in searching for my car with a police helicopter assisting the night before.

The next day and unknown to me Maria had been able to secure an ex-parte emergency family court hearing. She was granted an injunction barring me from going anywhere near Elliott’s school or her home. I was not even allowed a chance to defend myself to her crazy made up allegations, all done in secret without prior notice given to me. Thus began an ongoing nightmare of family court hearings that have wiped out most of my savings and restricted Elliott of any contact with his father during these (presently) 4 years of court hearings.

After a year of hearings at the family courts I was allowed access to Elliott who was by now 8 years of age. An interim order was made giving me contact for 6 hours a week, but supervised by friends. Why the supervision? I had no idea, but was forced to accept it as I was told that it was the only way I would get to see the son I loved. After some time and with Cafcass’s fabricating involvement the contact arrangement was halted based upon a total lie, giving me no access to Elliott at all. After a further 6 months battling through the courts eventually I was allowed contact again, but this time at a local private contact centre, having to personally finance the arrangement myself to the tune of some £80 for each visit lasting for just 2 hours a month. If that wasn’t enough, Cafcass had arranged for contact to be supervised by two ‘bouncers’ from ‘Core children’s services’, invoicing me for over £700 for the service and possibly rising to £800 if contact reports are required. I was outraged by this and I knew then that Cafcass were siding entirely with my Ex. The longer this has gone on the angrier I became and the more anger and distress I showed the more Cafcass wanted me out of Elliott’s life, it was a catch 22 situation for me, with no way out.

And the reason I am so closely supervised? Following advice from my solicitor, yes I had indeed collected Elliott from school that day as was normal with the shared care arrangement we had made together, Post separation. We had sat down and had both signed up to that written agreement to share parenting of Elliott. A contract I thought superseded any individual parent being able to trump the other, I had that in writing and it was signed by both of us. Only the day came when Maria unilaterally decided to break the agreement and withhold all access forthwith, but certainly this had nothing to do with me being a bad father or that I have ever harmed my son in any way. I love him with all my heart and he feels the same way towards me.

Just 2 hours a month supervised contact with my son, God! even prisoners get more visitation rights! For some strange reason now I am prevented any of Elliott’s school reports and ordered not to talk to him about his education or about anything remotely connected with his mother. Despite the false surroundings, Elliott asks for more time with me and gets upset when our short time together comes to an end each month. The independent supervisors report well and their feedback has always been positive and accurate. They have written many fine reports for the Cafcass officer to read on how happy Elliott is to see me and how I am more than a capable father. However, Cafcass and the courts have not listened and the close supervision has remained in place.

Recently, due to problems fabricated by Maria the manager of the contact centre informed me he would not be able to continue supplying a facility for contact for Elliott and me, it seems that I am not paying enough for him to be bothered with handling extra issues thrown up by my ex, which are many, she has to fabricate some complaint or other to make me look bad and has done this at every contact. And so once again the inevitable visits back to court making for more delays and more separation from Elliott while this Hell goes on.

Due to the stress of all this I have finally lost my business, the last 4 years have devastated me and funds are nonexistent. My attending endless court hearings and related appointments has left me feeling hopeless and debased. Now I have had to seek medical help to deal with the stress and this in turn has been used against me to suggest that I am ill in some way and not fit to care for my son, a thing I was well able to do and happily did before my ex brought these proceedings. I know that things are stacked purposely against me It leaves me with a stark choice of going into debt, or giving up what little contact I have. Sometimes I have felt suicidal, without hope, debased and made to feel like I am a terrible father, yet in my heart I know I am a good dad. Someone who has stood by my son since the very day he was born. I was his main carer, I was his play mate, his security and I love him to bits.

I have faced many allegations that seem to be regularly plucked out of thin air, the Cafcass officer believes every word my ex says and reports them to the court as facts without any investigation or reference back to me. My ex can say whatever she wants and it is given credence and my side of the story is never sought and my efforts to toe the line in this process go unnoticed and ignored. My life is on hold while this process goes on. I cannot turn my back on my son, yet cannot afford to pay further huge financial demands to see him each month.

Last year (March 14th2012) I won my appeal at the high court in London, the Judges sympathised at the rough deal I had been offered and said that little attention had been given to what Elliott wanted which was more contact and more time with me. I am still traumatized by what has happened and feel deeply apprehensive about further future hearings in the biased family courts. I know that I might possibly have to go through the same hell again, to see another psychologist again who will report whatever negatives are pre-loaded into the court bundle that she receives about me. I am presently complaining to the appropriate authorities about this so-called expert’s evidence. I find it distressing and tiresome, but I love Elliott enough to carry on with my fight for justice, it is not just for me, but for the son that loves his father.

I have not seen my son for 14 months now, I am eager to get back to court before Maria alienates him completely, so that contact can be re-established. I do not want to take Elliott from his mother, I have always made that clear to all. I know that he loves her and I would not do anything to change that, in fact I would encourage it. However, I write often to Elliott, but don’t know if the letters are forwarded to him. Recently Maria has moved house and I have no idea where to, she will not agree to allow me to know of her new residence so I can write to Elliott there. All contact has now been severed from Elliott I know nothing at all about his life, NOTHING! The courts have all the information in this regard, but see fit to allow this situation to continue. And the courts are there for the welfare of our children? This is a huge joke to me! I believe they do more damage to families than good, I am sure of it. I wait to go back to the hell of the family courts to fight on in the world of total bias in favour of mothers, where fathers have to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that they are good fathers fit to see their own flesh and blood. This is not the case for mothers, they are looked upon with sympathy, and surely mothers don’t lie do they, or do they?

Support for each other and tears.

On June the 16th 2012 I attended a rally with many other fathers desperate to see their children again. It was organised by Fathers 4 Justice and took place in London at Trafalgar Square. I observed the same sad look in many of those fathers’ eyes as I have in my own, but because of my own experience of being excluded from my son’s life I felt true understanding and compassion for them. We were able to strengthen each other’s resolve to carry on with the fight to seek justice for our children. We embraced each other without shame and listened with empathy to each other’s stories. To take upon yourself the weight of a strangers load while still bearing your own seems to me to be the loving and right thing to do. Many hundreds of fathers all of which brought along their missing children’s photos and shoes placing them all together in a show of unity and grieving. Yes many of us shed tears for each other and openly, are not our children worth the tears of their fathers? I think so, don’t you? So, real men do cry and fathers who live everyday thinking about those they love and miss cry even more.

  (Elliott is the little blond-haired smiling boy in the brown framed picture at the bottom. His white shoes are seen just above tied in a bow of purple ribbon in remembrance of him. (click to enlarge photo)

So, the next time you watch “Schindler’s List” spare a thought for that little girl in the red coat and also for her father bereaved and grieving at heart for the love he has for his lost child. Then be sure to shed a tear for all children missing their dads, I do every day and for my son Elliott. I will say in conclusion that something truly evil exists within the Family courts, it is my duty to try to change it for all good fathers out there that are heartlessly cut out of their children’s lives. Until the day I die I will always love you my dear son. May God bless you Elliott and all those who have taken the time to read my story here. On my oath it is the truth.

Image

(Click to enlarge photo)

The snow globe. A story composed by Paul Manning.

I remember being really small, to small to see over the edge of a table. My father had this glass snow globe and I remember who lived inside the globe, two snowmen, the small one was me and the other was my father, and we were holding hands. We had red scarves around our necks and we were smiling as the pretend snow fell on our heads. Well, my father told me this story whenever he allowed me to hold the snow globe. I would shake it until a swirl of snow would appear, and I would watch it with fascination as it settled again, it always made me smile to see me and my dad in the globe together. Since the first day I saw it dad had always said it was us inside, and at that age I believed in magic and happy fairy tales and so I believed what he said to me… well, in my own child like way. “As long as we had that globe”, he would say, then we would always be together.

As I grew a little older I came to love my father more and more, but somehow I felt that things were not the same now, because he and mum were not getting along and he was forced to move out and I only saw him on weekends, this made me sad. I heard mum talk of going to court over me and that dad wasn’t to be around us anymore and that I would have a new dad.. how can I have a new one? I don’t want two, I want my real one.

At school today the other boys poked fun at me and said that I didn’t have a father, their dads sometimes picked them up to take them home in their cars, but now my dad didn’t anymore. I thought of my dad as I walked home alone and wondered about the snow globe that he had given me when he had left, and his promise to me, a promise of togetherness. As time passed dad wasn’t allowed to come to see me anymore and he disappeared at the weekends too. I am confused now and mom doesn’t tell me anything about dad, and yet I still love him very much.

It was late and time for bed and tomorrow was another day. Before I switched off the light I took hold of the snow globe, I always kept it at my bedside. I looked at dad and me inside holding hands, I gave it a good shake as the snow flurried up inside and I began to cry, because it always made me think him. I held it close to my eyes, so I could see all the beautiful sparkling details. And then something magical happened, my dad the bigger snowman with his broad grin, seemed to wink at me reassuringly, I’m sure he did? I woke early in the morning and as I looked out of my window I could see that outside it was all white with snow all around, for me this had special meaning and was no coincidence, so I like to think. I took hold of the snow globe, as I always did first thing in the morning, but now strangely, just one snowman was inside without his smile, he was all alone with no-one to hold his hand. I was mystified by his disappearance.

I am all grown up now, and to this day I keep my mysterious snow globe with me and I still have it by my bed. Hoping that when I shake it that my father will come back to me and reappear inside after the snow settles. The two of us together again… Just as it was before…  in the snow globe, dad and me. I’d like to take him for a pint after our walk in the snow, we always loved to go walking in the snow.

BBC film “kids in the middle” confirms that in truth mum has all the power.

On the 4th of April 2012 the BBC broadcast a programme called “kids in the middle”, I watched it with some sadness ,but it also confirmed to me that mums have all the power and dad’s have very little. link below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01fkc7s/Kids_in_the_Middle/

It is the bittersweet story of Keith and Dawn who have three children, from the start you quickly come to realise that both parents equally and genuinely love their children with all their hearts. However, it soon becomes apparent that Dawn’s love is given greater attention and consideration, by the Family courts, than Keith’s love for his kids. Keith is not accused of harming his children he seems to be a kind and gentle father who is stricken with the fear of losing contact with his children, so fearful in fact he seems quite willing to be debased and belittled by a system, that evidently, is giving Dawn all the power over him and to suggest how often and in what circumstances Keith has contact with the ones he loves.

The level of contact Keith is given is derisory and ultimately will be damaging to the relationships he has with his 3 children. He sees his children in a contact centre once hour every 2 weeks for one hour where he is closely observed by the staff. In one scene a staff member questions Keith in front of his children about what he is doing with a computer he is showing to his children.  Like a child he is firmly informed that it will be alright on the condition that he doesn’t go on the internet and to be careful about what he does with it, he is humiliated as though he couldn’t be trusted to be with his kids and to be a good father for them. I found this shocking and cruel, but I know that such lack of attention and care is afforded to fathers in some of these contact centres, I have been to some.

The programme suggests that the reason as to why these contact centres need to be used is when parents cannot reach agreement about the children, and so in these circumstances dad, and not mum, will need to go to a contact centre. Therefore, it would seem then that the default position in these circumstances ,when parents can’t agree, is that mum gets what she wants! After all she is the resident parent and her rights seem to take precedent in the courts when disagreement takes place, and dads will have to take the back seat, humble themselves and accept the dregs of whatever is handed to them. Keith was in a no-win situation and he knew it too, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him.

Yes I am a man and father, you could suggest I am biased in favour of fathers, but after seeing this film it would be impossible to suggest that fathers have equal rights to that of mothers, how could we have when 93% of custody awards are given to the mother and this surely gives mothers all the power to do as they please. I admit it is a great shame that I mention the word “power” in such a context as children as though that was the holy grail to obtain for either parent, it isn’t, but unfortunately when a father knows that they don’t have one ounce of say in their children’s lives, you just come to know that you are indeed powerless to do a thing about it!