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

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.
Yeah.
So I’ve been a happy child since then.
Haven’t got nothing against life at all.
Really.
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,
dropped,
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...

Paul

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. 
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.

Homeless

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.

Hostel

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,
yeah.

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.
Yeah.
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,
Dom,
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,
Jason
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.

Interviews

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.