'Here's the child, Rev. Brightman; he'll settle down.'
I was bawling away - who wouldn't at two years of age? This was my second passing over to a stranger - and I had never before been outside the place that was my home. It was wartime, December 1943.
'The small child slept all the way. He's had a long trip, all across Shropshire.'
'Well, thank you, Rev. Brightman. He is a sickly looking thing.' Mrs Heard took me in her arms and stood me down beside her.
The door shut on the Rev. Brightman and the outside world. It was the beginning of my incarceration: from now on, for the next nineteen years, I was a Dr. Barnardo's Boy - a "Barnardo Boy".
'You can stop your snivelling for a start - follow me.'
She was a woman, a mother figure, yet I wasn't getting a feeling of comfort from her. Strange: the pattern for my future behaviour was here being laid on me; the web I was given the task to sort out later now began to weave.
Mrs Heard's legs were large. I couldn't see further than her swirl of skirt. She moved as a mighty tank. She smelt as the kitchen we entered, musty, dank and dark. Her voice as uninviting as the cold, beige tiles of the walls.
'Get your bottom down there.' She pointed to a child-size, three-legged stool. My heart was hardening. I had to protect the precious inside of me - to keep safe the small sunshine of my lost paradise.
'You don't say much, do you? I hear you were a noisy little brat on the train. Well, we don't tolerate that sort of stuff here.' She slapped my face. I couldn't cry. Well, my first response was to holler. I held back. This was a war I was forced to enter. I learned here my first conscious lesson of survival: how to repress my feelings.
'You needn't look so shocked. You'll be getting plenty of them while you're here.'
She rustled through my documents: 'Eric Holden - huh, that's what we'll stick to here: no lovey-dovey "Eric". You're a bastard - no fancy words from me. That's what you are; and a second one too, I see! Your mother a whore; it certainly looks like it.'She slapped my face a second time. 'I'm Matron here,' she told me.
A small boy
Struggles for Personal Identity and Survival
revealing his physical, sexual and spiritual growth
passing through many Dr Barnardo Homes.
A true story as told in
Don't Come Crying Home
'A compelling read; it brought tears to my eyes.'
'A frank . . . enlightening . . . autobiography.'
What's special about it is the immediacy, the total recall of . . . early life . . . especially the way (the author) kept (his) identity and discovered ways to enjoy life, in particular nature. This is very moving.
Also special and important is the way the book shows how hard it is for a child to grow up feeling secure and connected with others without an adult or adults he or she can relate to closely.
People working with parent-less children ought to (this) book - it gives so much insight. I hope a lot of people read (it).
Myra Schneider, poet and author of The Door to Colour
and with John Killick Writing Your Self.
Don't Come Crying Home
is available as a
paperback through the internet also an e-book
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