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> > > > Proud - by Allan Sutherland from the words of Jennifer Taylor

21 November 2011

In the sequence of transcription poems ‘Proud’ we learn how Jennifer Taylor survived rejection - as a person with a learning disability - to go on to live independently.

Getting on with life

I was a happy baby,
very smiley and cheerful and
getting on with life and
looking forward to having a life,
having all that.
And just being myself.

And then me and my mum
and my brothers were um
wasn’t getting on
so my mum and my family
decided to split because
they weren’t getting on anyway,
like families do and er.

Cause my mum wanted
to move out of London anyway
and left the kids over here
to defend for themselves.
And that’s when I wanted
to have my life as well,
on my own
and defend for myself
which I did.

My childhood

I enjoyed my childhood
so much
because it gets me out,
it stops me thinking about
things and, you know.
And it makes me want
to be myself.
Which I am. And even though
I’ve got learning difficulties,
so what?
You know, this is me.
I’m here now,
this is my life,
being happy,
I haven’t got nothing against life at all.
Apart from that. Um.
You know.
I go to church,
read my bible
and things like that.
So I’ve been a happy child since then.
Haven’t got nothing against life at all.
And now I’m a adult now,
I’m still happy.
Yeah. And proud.

Living with my mum

I can remember
living with my mum.
When my mum and dad
wasn’t getting on..
as parents. And,
my mum and dad had a big argument.
My dad left my mum
to go and live somewhere else.

Then she left the kids.
And then went to United States
to go and live over there.
I decided to defend for myself.
Which I did.

She um she thought
that I wasn’t going to have,
she thought that I wasn’t going
to live my life
and defend for myself
as a human being
with learning difficulties
and I proved her wrong.

Going away

My mum,
my mum sent me away
to live with my grandmother
and she, she,
she didn’t want me to live with her.

And she,
she just dropped me,
on my grandmother,
just like a piece of dirt

kind of, you know.

And I still can remember it.
And I feel like,
I feel like I’m not part,
I’m not her daughter no more.
I feel like I’m a stranger
to my mother,
the way she speaks to me
and all this
and writes me nasty letters
and all of this.
I feel like I’m nothing to her no more,
kind of,
because I’ve got learning difficulties.

My grandmother

She was very kind
and generous
and she was the one
that brought me up
and taught me the facts of life
because she was a Christian
like myself.
She looked after me,
cared about me,
brung me up,
took me to school
and everything.

She looked after me
and she’s part of my life as well
and she’s passed away.
So now I haven’t got no-one
except for my mum.
My Mum contacts me by letters
but not on phone
to see how things getting on with me
and everything.

I haven’t forgiven my Mum
for what she said,
that she doesn’t want to know me
as her daughter any more
because I have got learning difficulties.

So now, I’m on my own,
which is good
in this kind of sense
because I can lead my own life now,
and have my own life
and do what I want to do,

And now, and now I’m happy,
you know.
As a person with learning difficulties.
She wanted me
to defend for myself
and this is what I’ve done.
So, you know,
which I’m proud of
to be here really.

Playing Out

was playing football
like kids do
with my brothers and sister
and my brother asked me
to go and get the ball
and I went to go and get the ball. 

And I think the car
just knocked me over for six,
didn’t know where he was going. 
And as I went to go and get the ball
the car just went past me
and just knocked me on the ground. 

And I couldn’t,
I couldn’t move, you know,
I couldn’t,
I didn’t know where I was at the time
and um you know
my brothers were standing outside,
outside in the road
looking at me like I’m,
like I’m dead or something,
and they were saying to my Mum,
Mum, Jennifer’s dead,
you know kind of,

and Mum came running out the house
and my Mum started crying
and everything
and (was sort of saying) to my brother,
what’s the matter with Jennifer? 
Why’s she not moving?

And that’s when she started
crying her eyes out. 
And were kind of saying to me brother
where’s Jennifer?  Jennifer’s dead. 
Jennifer’s dead.  I wasn’t dead,
just laying there, laying there.

And when the ambulance came

And when the ambulance came
the ambulance come up
and took me up in the ambulance
and drove me to the hospital
with my Mum.

And I remember
when my Mum was at the hospital
talking to the doctor,
asking the doctor
what was the matter with me
and everything.

And the doctor,
the doctor told my Mum
that I had learning difficulties.

And from there,
I thought, what,
and then I can’t be,
have learning difficulties.

And then the doctor
told my Mum
that I had learning difficulties

and my Mum turned round
and said to me
I don’t want to know you
as my daughter any more, Jennifer,
cause you’ve got learning difficulties.

And I didn’t know
where to put myself
when she said it and I was,
I don’t know what I did after that,
I just went upstairs into my bedroom
and just sat there
and said nothing.

And from then

And, you know
I just want to move on now,
in my life now.
Because I’ve achieved quite a lot
and made friends
and done what I had to do,
you know and that’s it really.

And I’m going to still achieve
quite a lot
and do what I have to do
for myself
as a person with learning difficulties.
Cause I know.
I don’t feel sad about my learning disabilities,
I don’t let my disability let me down
in the way,
even though I’m a human being,
you know.
I never let my disability let me down,
or pull me down
in any way.
That’s how I feel about my life now.

An operation

I think it was during the holidays, yeah.
I was staying with my grandmother
for Easter
or Birthday
I think it was,
in between them two I think it was.
And they called me into the hospital,
because I had one big plaster
on my leg from up to there,
plaster kind of,
and I couldn’t walk on this leg.
So I had it wrapped up to here.
And my hand the same thing up to there.
And I was in plaster.
Because this side is all,
this side of my body is all paralysed,
because of what the car did.
And this side is all not..okay.
Cause I just found out about that
from the doctors,
when the doctor told my mother,
I’m paralysed all on that side,
and the other side is all normal,
but I can still walk on my leg.
But I’m. I’m you know,
as you can see
they’ve done like a operation there,
to try and get my hand straight.
Well they couldn’t,
couldn’t straighten it out,
not this one.

Back home

My mother, well my mother
took me home,
my mother took me home
and just told me to go and,
to go and sit in one corner.

She didn’t want me
to be next to her
or anything like that.

She didn’t want me
to be near her,
talk to her
anything like that.

She wanted to,
she wanted me to be
in one corner
away from my family.
And that was it.

Not to talk to my family,
not to talk to her
or anybody,
neither my brothers
or my sister,
she didn’t want me to turn to,
to turn to them neither,
she wanted me
to sit in one corner
away from my family
and that was it.

My dad

My dad, um was,
was kind of like a sweet guy
like myself
and he understand
that I had learning difficulties.

My dad talked to me
very well actually,
he talked to me
like a person,
not, um,
not a kid,
a person with learning difficulties.

And he knew
how to talk to me properly
as a person,
you know
and cause um
me and my dad
didn’t get on that well.

And now
me and my dad
is talking now,
me and my dad’s talking,
and he understand
how I got, got this,
learning difficulties.

So I keep on seeing him
all the time and he know..

He understands how I feel.

What I know

When I left school I was um,
I was happy actually
because I knew what I wanted
and I knew what I wanted in life.
I knew how to go about things
and how to find information and stuff
and I knew how to, you know,
stand up for myself
as a person with learning difficulties.

And er I used to um you know
just go about my business
kind of as a person you know and I feel,
I feel proud of that
cause I’ve come a long long long way in my life
to be here where I am today.
And it’s a long story to tell.

I know what it’s like
to have a learning difficulty,
and I don’t want to see,
I don’t want to see people out in this society
calling people nasty names and
and things,
because it’s not nice
to call people nasty names
if they’ve got learning difficulties and, you know...


I had a brother called Paul
and he used to look after me
like a sister.  And he was
very caring,
very honest,
he knew what I wanted
and he was always looking,
he looked out for me
and you know,
he made sure that I was happy
and you know,
like brothers do. 

But anyway,
he passed away on HIV. 
So he passed away and that. 
Cause he was gay.
And er he had a gay partner
who passed away,
he wanted to be with him,
and he didn’t
he didn’t want
to lead his life any more
because of it.

I miss him so much, yeah. 
And he wanted me to be happy
and that
and he took me out to a night club
one night
before he passed away
and er he said to me
I want you to be happy, okay? 
And I said, yeah okay, Paul. 
And I don’t want no-one
taking liberties with you,
calling you nasty names
or anything like that,
I just want you to lead
your own life
the way you want to lead it. 
So that’s what I’ve done.

Looking Out

He was looking after me,
I was looking after him. 
I was looking out for my brother
because he was going through
a lot of bad patch actually
because he didn’t want to lead his life any more
and you know I had to look out for him
as a sister.  Kind of. 

Because he looked after me
when I was a kid,
I looked out for him as well,
to make sure he’s okay
and safe
and make sure people don’t
take the liberties out of him
and kind of. 
Yeah, I looked out for my brother a lot in my family. 
Yeah.  That’s what sisters do,
look out for their family.  Yeah.

So I had to go to a clinic where they,
a clinic with him to his doctor,
to go and see his doctor. 
And the doctor told him
that he had HIV. 
And when his doctor told,
told him that he had HIV,
my brother bust into tears and um,
I said to him
well don’t worry about it Paul,
that’s what, you know,
that’s what things do,
you know, kind of, so.

Weekend visit

He was taking drugs
and I didn’t like to see him taking drugs,
killing himself
and like needles
and all kinds of sorts and things.
You know.
Cause he didn’t want to lead his life,
he was only about twenty-seven.
Twenty-seven he was.
So, yeah, he felt really,
really down and he,
so I decided to stay with him
for the weekend and
so I did and
and I kept him company,
and I thought
that he was going to live longer than that,
than twenty-seven,
but he didn’t.
He had a few friends over there,
but not a lot of friends and kind of
he wanted me to be there with him.
As well.
But after that he was out cold,
he was gone. So.

And he had a cat that kept him company
as well.
And me, the cat,

well I said to Paul
where you going now Paul?
Oh, I’m going to the toilet.
And I said, oh look,
cause I wanna go.
And when I found out
he was in the toilet
with his head down like that,
then I knew that he was gone.

I ended up on the streets because

I had a ex-partner
who couldn’t get on with me
and he didn’t want to,
he was a nasty piece of work

And he didn’t care about me,
all he cared about
is taking drugs and, and all,
and all, and all of this, he,
he couldn’t care about me at all.
So I had to leave him and to dump him.

And he was calling me nasty names
and, and things like that. And er,
so I dumped him and he,
he wanted, he wanted sex off me
all the time
and I said no.
So , you know, I said no.
And that’s when
he chucked me on the streets.

And so I said to him
you ain’t going to chuck me on the streets
because you ain’t got no guts
to do that to me.
And he said oh yes I can.
It’s my flat. (This was a long time ago,
long long time ago he done this.)
And me and him wasn’t getting on anyway, so,
so he chucked me on the streets
and told me to um go
apparently because he,
he didn’t like me.
I didn’t like him.
So that’s it.


It was horrible,
it was like I didn’t have
nowhere to go,
nowhere to stay,

And it was, a cold,
it was very cold
and it was dark
and people were walking
up and down the road,
you know
and they didn’t see me,
they didn’t see me
but someone saw me on the road
and they helped me,
and they put me to the police,
saying that I was homeless for a little while
cause I had nowhere to go at the time.

I was shivering and everything I was,
no food down me,
no nothing, you know.
And that’s when the police got,
got involved in, in, in me
because I didn’t know
what was going on
at the time.

They were,
they were shocked to see me,
all wet up and everything,
wet clothes and that.
To see me all,
all, not myself. 
I ended up having a seizure
on the street
and everything kind of. 
And um, I wasn’t myself,
you know kind of,
the guy, he just told me to go,
so I went. 

So I didn’t have,
after that I didn’t have nowhere to go,
nowhere to get, to get,
if the police didn’t see me
they would have

They said are you alright, madam,
I said no I’m not
and they said, can we help you. 
I said yeah,
can you put me in a hostel please,
ëcause I’m all wet
and I’ve got nowhere to go.


I had a little bit of money on me
but not much
and I went to a restaurant
to go and have a cup of tea
and I stayed there
to get myself warm.

From there someone told me right
to come to the hostel
and um
I saw one of the staff there
and she was concerned,
she was my key worker
and said to me
you look pretty cold,
what’s your,
what’s your name,
where have you come from?
I said I come from on the street,
I’ve nowhere to go.
So from there she was concerned
about me she was,
very concerned.
And she was a nice woman,
she was. She um, got,
told me to go and have a bath
and everything,
clean myself up
and, you know
and then she would see me
the next morning.
From there she was my key worker.
And from there,
she’s left now
but I will still remember her.
And she knew
what I was going through
and everything and she um. I
stayed there for a little while
and and um
she got me into a flat
she did after,

Lead your own life!

I lived in a hostel
for people with learning difficulties
cause they wanted their own flats
to themselves, not just me
and er they wanted
to have their own lives as well
and they wanted
to lead their,
to have their own flat,
take control of their own life
and everything.

Yeah they wanted to but,
but people were stopping them
living their own lives and,
and that’s why people stop some people
with learning difficulties
to lead their own lives
because they think it’s not right
for people to lead their own lives,
just in case anything happens to them.

But for me, as a adult,
I can lead my own life anyway
because I know what I want.
And I know how to go about it,
you know,
about things like
taking control of your own life.

My flat

The flat was very nice.
Very nice it was. It was,
it’s a very nice flat with carpets,
furniture, everything in there.
Made it my own place as well.

Done some painting,
I done the decorating,
painted it up and everything, I’ve done,
made it into a home,
into a home flat where
I can be safe and go out
and do, go out when I want,
come in when I want,
you know kind of so there.
I’m proud, I’m proud,
just very proud.

And I don’t want,
I don’t want to see no-one,
a person with learning difficulties
having a life
and let people like pull them down.

Stand up for yourself,
take control of your own life,
even though you’ve got learning difficulties
you know you can do it.
That’s all I can say.
Stand up to them,
it’s a big wide world out there,
nasty people out there,
take control of your own life I say.

Delroy and Jason

My big brother Delroy,
he’s the oldest in the family
and he is the one that looks down to me.
He came up to see me
with my other brother,
at my flat
to see how things were.

I said everything’s okay, Jason,
so don’t worry,
you know what I mean?
He goes round looking
to see if everything’s okay,
you know,
looking around
to see what I’ve got
and see what I ain’t got,
you know
that’s being nosey kind of,
you know.

I proved them wrong

They thought that I was stupid,
they thought that I was crazy,
they thought that I was not myself
as a person
and all this.
And I proved them wrong.

And I’ve wrote a book
with some other people
from People First.

The book is called
‘We Are Not Stupid’
and we sold quite a lot of copies,
all around the country.

We Are Not Stupid

It was me, Maggie, Raymond,
Ian and Vanessa
who did the book.
The book is about
people with learning difficulties,
what their lives were like in the past
and what they want in the future.
And we done this book in two thousand and one.
And we got the book together,
I think it was a long time
cause we did research on it first
and then built up the book from there.
It’s about people, the society,
how society sees people with learning difficulties now.
Um and how the society treat people with learning difficulties
and how um, how they’ve been abused
and been called nasty names on the streets,
been bullied
and we decided to write a book about it.

And this is why we wrote this book
‘We Are Not Stupid’, to tell,
to tell people to stop being nasty to us,
cause we are people
and we are human beings
and we’ve got learning difficulties,
even though we’ve got learning difficulties
we are still people
and we’ve still got rights
to be part of the society as well.


We had a recording session,
an interview with other people with learning difficulties
and asked them what their life is like in a residential home,
what their lives are like in there,
are they allowed to have boyfriend and girlfriends?
are they allowed to go out during the day?
are they allowed to be themself?
And some of them don’t get a chance
to have a life like I’ve got. 
Some of them can’t go out
because of the staff. 
Because I know how it feels
not to be part of the society
and not get out in the big world
and not see places and stuff. 

And we asked quite a lot of,
we told the people,
the people with learning difficulties,
to come here and to go upstairs
and to interview them. 
And we did. 

And they told us that
they weren’t very pleased
about how they’re living now
and all this. 
They can’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend,
their boyfriends can’t see them
and stuff like that. 
They can’t even go out to a nightclub or,
or have a social life like other people. 
Some of them can’t even go to the cinema
or go to bowling once a week or, you know,
kind of, or come here to People First.
Some of them can’t have their own flats if they want. 
And they want their own flat, you know.

Standing up to bullies

People can get,
can be a be a bully
against people with learning difficulties
and they can,
they can give you nasty looks
on the street
and they, no matter who you are,
what you are,
they can be really nasty to you,
and bully you
if you’ve got a learning difficulties.
And that’s when,
that is very nasty,
you know.

And this is why
people need to stand up for themselves
against the society
and then tell them that,
that they are people
and they are allowed to get jobs,
paid jobs. And I,
for myself,
I just put my foot down
and just tell them really,
for me. I don’t care!


Sometimes people can be nasty,
or say nasty,
call people handicap or spastic.
And that’s not a nice name to use on people,
I would say because,
even though you’ve got learning difficulties,
you’re still a human being,
I reckon anyway, so.

I can still walk on it,
you know, straight,
and use my hand quite a lot,
you know with things,
do the washing,
do the ironing,
cook my own meals
and all that kind of stuff.

We need to go out there

It’s hard for people to get jobs,
for people with learning difficulties,
because some of them are on benefits
and some of them are not on benefits
and its very hard for them to get,
to get a job and to be part of the society itself.

And as myself,
as a person with a learning difficulties
and a black woman myself,
it’s hard to get,
it’s hard to get a job
for people with learning difficulties.
And they want a job,
a paid job, but
they can’t get it.

We need to go out there
and tell these people
that we’ve got a right to have a paid job.
Cause your life is not better than us,
our life is better than your life really.
Even though you’ve got high paid jobs.
And it’s hard for people to get out there
and get paid jobs.
And I say to them
just get a paid job really.
If you’ve got learning difficulties.
But don’t, just stand up to people
if they’re going to be nasty to you.
Some people don’t know how,
don’t know their human rights
as a person with learning difficulties.

When I go down Brixton

When I go down Brixton,
like Argos or W.H.Smith
or go to the post office,
sometimes I get looks a bit,
but not much for me,
because they know don’t cross me.
That’s what I say,
don’t cross me.
I just walk past them
and just take no notice really.

I got pregnant

I got pregnant
and he didn’t want to know me any more.
When he got me pregnant,
he just left me like I was nothing.
And he, then I had Sam, Sam,
Sam was a baby and his, he,
he walked out on me and the baby.
And then I, and I, I, and then, and then um
Sam, Sam and me was left in hospital
on my own,
with no responsibility of his own,
just me and the baby.
He didn’t come to see me and the baby,
he just wanted to get me pregnant
and just, and just dumped me.
And then walked off and left me
and the baby on our own.
So I had to bring up Sam
on my own, without a Dad.
And he, he didn’t want to know me,
he didn’t want to come and see me
and, so the social services got involved.
And, and took, took Sam away from me.

Foster care

There was a big court case over, over it.
I had to go to court to get Sam,
Sam adopted to a new,
a new family. And I was,
I was in tears because I wanted,
because I was,
I was the mother of Sam.
I wanted to have my son living with me.
And they decided,
they decided that they wanted Sam
to live with new foster care.
Which was not far away from me,
just up Thornton Heath
in Surrey. And it’s been a long time
I haven’t seen my son.
He was, he was, he was,
playing with, playing,
you know how kids play about
and they wanted to see their real Mum
and how their Mum’s coping with life
and everything.
They wanted the best out of my son,
to keep him away, away from me,
because I was, because I didn’t
have Sam’s Dad living with me and the baby,
that was the reasons
why they got the residence order.
And got my son living with them
instead of me.
And I feel okay about it,
I just wanted to find out
if they’re going to look after my son properly
and bring him up properly
and tell him about life.

They explained to me

They explained to me about
what’s going to happen
with my son
and and everything and..
Because I’ve got a learning difficulties,
they just wanted to,
because my son didn’t know
that I had learning difficulties
when I had him,
so they had to tell him
what learning difficulty is,
because he was only a baby.
He was, he was about, about,
about two, two years old
he was at the time
and I know how it feels now,
without seeing my son,
I feel upset and disappointed
why they done this to me.

I feel like a stranger

Any time I see
other people with their kids
it makes me feel like you know,
they’re looking at me like I’m, you know,
how comes you ain’t got your kids with you.
And ask me questions and you know
and I feel, I feel upset about it
and they shouldn’t have done it
in the first place. I know
they wanted the best for my son,
but they were, were, they were
forcing me right, to write, to write,
to write my name on a
the foster care piece of paper, to
to give my son right to a new family.
So, I just felt, you know,
I wasn’t myself,
I wasn’t a mother any more,
I feel like a stranger,
I feel like, you know,
I feel like I’m nothing to my son.

But now he’s all grown up now
and I know where he’s living,
I’ve got his phone number
and his address and,
and that’s about it,
all I’ve, all I’ve got from him.
And the, and the thought of him
when he was a baby.


But they won’t let him
come down and see me.
They won’t let him
come down and see me
or spend weekends with me
or spend time with me
or anything like that.
I wanted him to stay with me
for the weekend
and they said, they said,
no, we can’t do that.
And I felt, I just felt, you know,
so terrible you know.
And I’ve, I’ve been, I’ve been,
I’ve had the kids for nine years
and they’re telling me that
I can’t have my kid
coming down for the weekends with me
and see how I am
and you know
I feel like I’m just nothing to them no more

I know they were doing their job

I know they were doing their job,
but I didn’t want him in foster care
in the first place,
I wanted him to sort of live with me. 
And er. That’s what I wanted.
They said, no, we can’t,
I’m afraid we can’t do that, Jennifer,
we can’t do that,
you’re his mother and everything
but we can’t do that. 
Once he’s been put in foster care
he’s there for life.  And er,
and I said okay, you know. 
So, and that was it. 
So I, I, I just , I just want to get it off my mind,
and just stop thinking about it and .. you know,
just get on with my life now really.


I was in a room in families
and young families social department,
I was in there,
just waiting for my son to come up
with his foster parents. And he didn’t,
he saw me and he brought me
a big bunch of red flowers for me.
And that made me happy,
he was so happy to see me and, you know,
and I gave him a big cuddle
and a kiss on the cheek.
And I said how are you Sam.
And he said I’m fine, Mum,
how’s life treating you? Oh, Mum,
I’ve gone to university now.
And I’m studying and um, he’s doing,
he’s doing okay for himself now. Yeah.
Really proud of him.
Yeah, very proud of him.
And er, and, and, I, I am,
I said are you, are you,
are you looking after yourself, Sam?
And he said yees Mum. And then he said,
he said to me um how are you keeping Mum,
I said I’m fine, looking after myself,
carrying on with life, you know, l
the way it is now. And, he wanted, to
to um he wanted me to give him a ring.
So I asked him for his phone number
and his address where he’s living
and his foster parents wrote it down for me
to contact them any time I want,
but not for him to come down and see me.


My other son,
my younger son, Jim,
I haven’t seen him since,
since he was a baby,
and now he’s sixteen now.
And he lives all the way down Kent
with my other sister-in law
and her partner. And
he hasn’t seen me since,
he hasn’t seen me since,
since I’ve had him. And,
and they’ve been telling me that he,
he, he um, he’s sixteen
and he’s doing, leading his life
the way he wants to lead it.

Anytime they mention my name
to him he gets upset
because he hasn’t seen me
for a long time. And er, you know
since like, that upsets him so much,
you know. And he’s saying to them that,
that he wants to see me
and they’re saying no to him
So, he, he must be feeling upset about it
and hurts him so much.
Because it’s not fair on the mother,
after nine months I’ve had him as well,
they took, they took him away from me
for a reason, not because of me
but because of my disability.

Did they help you keep in touch?

Not even a phone call.
Or a letter to tell me he’s okay
or anything like that.
Or anything. You know. They’re,
they’re still not telling me nothing, you know.
And I, and I feel really upset about that.
And I feel unhappy about that,
because they should contact me
to tell me how he is
and what he’s doing,
what’s he up to. Um and just
tell me how he is in life, you know.
Is he going to college or university
or is he just playing about, you know.
Everybody’s got a right
to know how their kids are.
And you know. And I feel,
I just feel pushed underneath the carpet
because they should have
written a letter to me
to tell me how he is,
and they should have let me know
what he’s up to, what’s he doing now
with his life now and to tell you
what’s he going to do in the future,
when he grows over, you know.
Will he be coming down to see me if I’m,
will he be coming to see me or not
or contact me or anything like that
but they just don’t want him
to come and see me or contact me.
And I feel really hurt inside here.
Because, you know,
I don’t know what to say, really,
because, you know, he’s my son
and I’ve got a right to know how he is
and they’re just you know cause he’s,
they got a residence order as well,
so they can take him anywhere
out of the country, or anywhere, you know,
so really I just want to get it off my mind
and not think about it too much, you know
because I think it’s really sad
for a mother to go through that
and I just feel disappointed
and upset about it
but I feel disappointed here
and upset about it
because it’s my flesh and blood
and I love him so much as a son.
And you know, you know it is hard,
it is really hard, it is hard.
But my other son,
my first son I can see, Sam,
I can contact him,
but not my younger son, Jim.
And that is hard for me as well.
Not to see them both, you know.

If I looked after them myself

If I looked after them myself
I would have fed them, clothed them,
you know, take them out,
looked after them like a mother
should look after her kids, you know.
But I didn’t get that choice.
I just wanted to look after my son,
they didn’t want me to look after my son.
You know.

Sometimes they call me Mum
and sometimes they call me Jennifer.
And, you know, it just hurts, you know.
You know, I’ve got, I think all mothers have got
a right to see their kids
and to see how their kids are.

But I just want to clear it out of my head
and not think about it too much.
Because if I think about it,
it’s going to upset me more, really.
And I just want the whole world to know
how it feels to lose two, two,
two sons and let them know
how a mother should feel about it, really.

Social Workers

I hate the social workers, I tell you,
because they have done wrong to me.
They have done wrong to me
and they know they shouldn’t have
done this to me.
I’ve got every right to see my kids,
to see how they are and, you know,
I just don’t like charity workers.
Anyone talks about charity workers to me,
I don’t want to know.
They’ve done a bad job, really,
towards a mother like me,
done a bad job, really bad job.
They should have come down to my house
and talked to me
and tell me how my son is and,
but no I don’t want to be nearby none of them.
So I don’t want nothing to do
with social workers no more,
they’re crap as far as I’m concerned, you know.
But, you know
every social worker who’s listening to this,
everybody who knows about this
should know about it .
I should let everybody know about this,
because it’s so hurtful,
it’s all hurtful, you know.

They shouldn’t have done it in the first place,
really, you know, because that is denigration
to a mother like me, with learning difficulties.
And I just feel right now,
some of it is saying to me,
half of me is saying, Jennifer
you should have your son back with you.
But it’s not that easy
to have your son back with you,
it’s not that easy.
But, you know, it’s so hard. I
would like to have my son living with me,
but it is hard as well.
So hard to go through that
You know, as a mother,
young mother, you know.

They should have asked me

They should have asked me,
what would you like for your sons, Jennifer,
Jennifer, Jennifer.
I would like my sons to live with me,
not to be put into care or anything like that,
but they just didn’t want to know.
They just wanted me to sign the paper
and done with it, you know. And I think,
like I said before,
I feel like a stranger now, you know.
I maybe got my sons photos at home, you know,
and, and I’m looking at him thinking to myself
I wish I did have my son to look, here with me.
But life is not that easy, you know.
I mean,
Jim lives all the way down Kent, my,
my first son Sam is living down at Thornton Heath.
It’s alright to have his phone number
and his address where he’s living
and to contact me,
but it’s not alright for him
to stay with me for the weekend and that
and holidays, like birthdays,
Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas,
anything like that, it’s not, you know,
it’s just that they’ve done a,
they’ve done a bad job,
social services, as far my kids.
I don’t know what else, I
don’t know what else to say to them.
I just don’t want to know
about social workers or social services,
cause they, they just get me, you know.
What they’ve, what they’ve done to me in the past
was wrong, was very wrong, you know
and they shouldn’t have done it, you know,
because I can think for myself
and stand up for myself and talk for myself,
so there’s no reasons
why they should take my kids off me like that.
and didn’t ask my permission first.
You know, because it’s all wrong
what they’ve done.
Now I feel really sad,
really really sad what they’ve done.

I want every mother to know

The way I see the future now
for me as a person with,
a mother with learning difficulties,
really I, I feel I want every mother
whose got learning difficulties,
I want every mother to know,
with learning difficulties,
how it feels to take your kids off you,
you know, be strong,
don’t think about it too much,
keep living your life to the full.
If you’re going to get upset,
don’t try, try to not think about it too much
and just carry on leading your life really..
That’s what I did, I’m doing now.

And I, I, I would like to say again
to end this tape,
please do not upset yourself,
because life is hard out there.
Keep your spirits up, I say, you know.
Try not to think about it, you know.
I know life is too short but there you go,
what can you do, you know.

Baby pictures

They were so cute.
Two of my sons,
Sam and Jim, looked like me,
they’ve got my smile, they’ve got my looks,
every time I look at my photo
they look like me. And em, you know,
big smile, big cheeks,
It seems like they want to be with their Mum, you know,
I just feel happy for them,
you know cause Sam,
actually no he’s gone to university
and I’m very proud of him
and Jim, he’s gone college,
he wants to do other things like his brother.
Cause Sam and Jim are brothers
and they see each other now and again.
To keep in touch, to tell, to tell each,
Sam tells Jim how I’m doing and everything.
So he keeps in touch with his brother, you know.
And Jim’s saying I want to see Mum,
I want to see Mum, cause I’ve miss her so long.
You know,. It does hurt him so much.

Jennifer’s message

Life is too short,
you have to carry on with life.
Don’t thinking about it,
and you know one day
one day we will be together
and fight this of the social workers
and fight this as mothers.
That’s what I say.

Looking forward

I just want to move on now,
in my life now.
Because I’ve achieved quite a lot
and made friends
and done what I had to do,
you know and that’s it really.

And I’m going to still achieve
quite a lot
and do what I have to do
for myself
as a person with learning difficulties.
Cause I know.
I don’t feel sad about my learning disabilities,
I don’t let my disability let me down
in the way,
even though I’m a human being,
you know.
I never let my disability let me down,
or pull me down
in any way.
That’s how I feel about my life now.


Marjorie Aunos

15 September 2012

Hi jennifer,

I have read your story, in particular from the time you got pregnant. I am a mother. A mother with disability, a physical disability. And i want to say that you are amazing. Thank you for sharing your story!

My son was 18 months when inhad my car accident and he had to live with my parents. And so, i know. I really know what it feels like to feel like a stranger. But even though we feel like strangers, the reality, what people maybe dont understand, is that we stay their mums. I am thomas mom and you are sam and jim mom. I say they should let you see your sons, because your sons want to see you. Cause you are their mum. Only you. Nobody else.

I thank you again jennifer. For being strong and for telling us how it is.

Allan Sutherland

29 November 2011

Colin is correct. The poems are based on the story that Jennifer told me. One of the reasons I chose Jennifer as an interviewee was that I knew she was good at setting boundaries, making clear decisions about what she would and wouldn't talk about.

If this were an academic study, or a piece of journalistic reportage, of course it would be appropriate to look at all sides of the story.

I've interviewed Jennifer three times, and I still don't know what really happened between her and her mother. It's clear that she has a great deal of anger about it, and that needed to be one part of Jennifer’s story. One of the things I worked hardest at in creating this particular cycle of poems was in getting that balance right; the first draft showed far more of that anger.

This particular poem has a pivotal role in signalling to the reader that Jennifer, or the version of Jennifer that is presented in ‘Proud’, is what is technically known as an 'unreliable narrator'. (See the last section of my article on transcription poetry on this for more discussion of this concept.)

In this particular poem she describes a conversation she almost certainly couldn’t have heard, given that she was probably lying unconscious, and that probably wouldn’t have happened at that time. Then, from lying on a hospital trolley, she goes upstairs to her bedroom.

So this poem works a little like a cubist painting. It brings together things that can not in reality have happened at the same time. The reader has to decide for themselves how to fit the pieces together.

JLowe's comments on the potential difficulties are all valid ones. But that doesn't mean they belong on the page. They’re the sort of thing a reader should be thinking about.

Colin Hambrook

29 November 2011

The point of this cycle of poems is that it is Jennifer's story, told in her words. Jennifer's eventual way through towards independence despite feelings of rejection by her mother are pivotal to her story. The collection is called 'Neglected Voices' for the very reason that it is the parents and the authorities whose voices we hear represented in the media; in social work policy etc. etc.


25 November 2011

Anyone reading this would think that this person was very neglected. You have not approached this giving thought or opinion from the mothers side. Maybe she could not cope with other siblings as well as someone with SpLD. She may have been a single parent; working; running a house. The child in this story appears to require a lot of looking after, being placed with a grandparent was probably all the mother could do, as there is no social help for situations like this. try capturing an alternative side?


7 November 2011

Wow!!!! This is really inspiring and moving. Thank you very much for sharing this. Can I please read your methodology paper? I find it very relevant to my research and particularly for a project I did with school students in which I used comic strips as a form of data representation and analysis.

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