People

He tells us a paedophile targeted his daughter, and after that what he says is confusing. He put the man six feet under. He told some biker mates of his about him, and they dealt with the man, and he won’t say what they did. So I wonder if he did start off saying he killed the man then walked it back, or if I misunderstood. Is anyone else as uneasy as I am? Helen says you would do anything to protect your child. I consider that depends on how immediate the threat is, and how certain you are of the wrongdoing. I don’t trust the police in every circumstance, but that is a matter to refer to them. I thought of challenging, perhaps even telling my meeting a paedophile story, but fear it might be misconstrued. I remain silent. I thought of complaining about him. Talking nudgingly about murder is not right. I was glad when he was not there next day, but he was forty minutes late.

Before, he needed help filling out the forms. He says he was sent to a special school, and they did not get taught anything. He tells how his “work coach” mocked him, saying he was not doing enough to find work, so he complained and got a new work coach.

“So you dealt with the problem,” says Helen, who after all is here to instill confidence.

“We’re not here to help you. Go down to Evolve,” they told him. I feel there should be help for people with literacy difficulties. Evolve is an adult education centre, I am not sure about their funding or what advice or help they provide. He says he will be pulling his kids out of school, it is the worst in the county. “They hide when they see me walk through the door”. This series of stories of confronting enemies successfully disturbs me. I would like to think of schools as potential allies. I can’t tell his age, he looks too old to have teenagers. I do not like sitting beside him, he manspreads into my space.

Jill and Zoe (she does not use a diaeresis) are friendly enough, chatting away. Others are guarded. We did an icebreaker, saying something about ourselves no-one would guess, and that has not opened us all up. Helen says Newcastle people chat at bus stops, and no-one does here. I protest we do. Maybe not in Corby, where she is living. “Corby is different, that’s Scotland,” says someone.

One man when younger wrote a play, produced it, made money from it, got good reviews, thought he was The Boy. Here he is, in the town where he was born, trying to write a novel for 25 years. He went to the pub Jill worked in, and she saw him working hard in the bookie’s. None of our lives have gone as we might hope. One woman is in hostel accommodation, always noisy, not clean, not safe. She had been living with her mother, and looking after her sister’s children. She had a sales job. She seems bright and articulate.

Jill was on benefits for twelve years as a single mother. Now, you cannot claim as a single mother if your youngest is five. So she went to the jobcentre, and asked if she could go on any courses. No, because then she could not claim any benefits. That seems stupid to me, too. Perhaps she could have done courses while eligible as a lone parent, but I feel people are wasted, where a little help would let them fly. Let us fly, something.

Helen thinks English people are generally not touchy-feely, but E who likes horses is a huggy person.

I have just discovered Joan Didion, and might not have written this but for this line: “People tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. This is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.” Her italics.

There are lots of posters on the walls about the armed forces. “Ten questions you might have about Army Jobs”. They are all about training, pay and roles. “Will I have to shoot anyone?” and “Will I get shot at?” are not on the list.

Talk to me.

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