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#41 [url]

Sep 23 11 9:51 PM

Hi Ken!
Good to hear from you, and welcome to the forum!
It must have been quite an experience for you, working in the shoe shop!  Great way to get to know people, though, and get around to the houses as you say.  I'm glad you remember Sister Cora, and of course (never thought of it then of course!) she would have needed repairs on her boot.  I'm sure all of us needed your services at one time or another--I vaguely remember having loose sandal straps, losing a buckle, or something like that.  Imagine, it was you I needed to thank for fixing them! 
 I definitely remember having to polish our shoes every morning!  I remember being very proud sometimes, getting a good shine on those school shoes--but I doubt that feeling was there every morning! :-)  Mostly just a chore like the other things we had to do.  And it was a rare treat to get a new pair of shoes, for sure!
I'll post a picture of Horace B tonight.  Just wanted you to get this reply before too much time has passed.  So watch this space.  Would love to see your pics too, of course, and see if there's anyone I remember.
All the best!

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#43 [url]

Nov 28 11 1:44 PM

I was ashamed not of being in a childrens home .. but of my mothers past... so I was fairly open to a point if the person was a close friend... i never revealed my mothers past until the late 90's. Why was I ashamed of her past.  I hadnt done wrong ... It was not my fault that I was born to her.

I am proud of who I am. I was happy. I see children today that have less than I had. 
I brought up my children .... 3 of them, who I am proud of .... they were fortunate that they had lots of love, and the best I could afford. They know I was in Stelling Hall along with my 5 siblings ... the best years any child could wish for, 


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#44 [url]

Nov 28 11 3:35 PM

Hello Velvetrose,i was in Harpenden with my five siblings,i shall always remember i had this friend at school she wasnt in care, but every day i saw her i was envious of her ,she was a very pretty girl with lots off make cup on and always wore bright yellow button earings some thing we never had ,she always told me she lived in a very big posh house had her own bedroom ect,so one day i decided to find her house which i did ,i do remember feeling so sorry for her,becourse she had got nothing and i was the one that had every thing take care love judy 

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#46 [url]

Nov 29 11 10:33 PM

Hi Malc

I have just read your account of your experience with Mrs Spears @ Western School which did not surprise me, her attitude to us kids from the home was appalling for a person in her position.

However, let me tell you a true story about my experience with her. I was never ever the subject of her wrath but I hated it when she belittled other kids from Pannal Ash. One day I explained my anger to Sister Brenda from No 4. Sister Brenda was very fair and pragmatic with me. She said ' Every dog has its day Martin' which I did not understand @ the time, so I asked her to explain. In her own way she told me to bide my time and get even, but don't bring any shame to the home, end of conversation.

Cutting the story short an opportunity arose whilst I was playing football on the top floor of Western where we use to have assemblies. Mr Coward, liked us to play football in tight confinements to see what skills we had in controlling a tennis ball. 

My opportunity came one day when I was just about to kick the ball towards the gym apparatus when Mrs Spears came out of her classroom. My left plimsoll shoe was half off my foot, but I followed through and aimed my plimsoll at her. Bullseye. I knew that I had hurt her because of the way that she went to ground. but that was my way of getting even with her for the treatment she dished out to the home kids.

Thats not the end of it, Sister Brenda was waiting for me that night when I got home from school. She took me to one side and said without any anger ' Was it intentional or an accident'. She knew the truth, but I thought that I would push my luck because lying to Sister Brenda was futile and a waste of time, I said it was a pure accident. Good answer Martin, I can live with that, but keep a low profile at school, because she is going to get even with you and don't complain when she does.

Sister Brenda was spot on, because that evil lady hounded me for months which affected my studies. Mr Wright was shocked when I failed my 11 plus, but I went onto to get a degree in electrical engineering some years later. When I graduated, I wish Mrs Spears had been there, so that I could see her face.

My education was hindered for years because of my loyalty to my fellow kids from the home, but I got there in the end and was proud of my stance to help my mates from the home against that evil lady.

Martin Reid

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#48 [url]

Dec 3 12 8:57 PM

I had been in care from birth until I was 10 years old and was always very up front about my past until a friend asked me what my background was, listened to it all and then called me a liar, strangely she was not the first person to react that way. 
More recently whilst doing my hypnotherapy training, we were encouraged to open up about our past, I found myself reluctantly doing so only to get a very odd reaction and being treated with suspicion by a few of my fellow class mates. I hadn't gone into details or inferred that there was a problem or anything.
One person did ask what I had done to be in care, as their assumption was I must have been in trouble, erm I was born !
Not all people react that way of course but then the comment is always the same, "you,ve done well, ...considering your past"
Inclined these days to keep quiet, unless pushed, strangely I've not really discussed it with my daughters in any depth

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#49 [url]

Dec 5 12 4:27 PM

I know exactly what you mean, Lucy. I hated having to refer to the NCH when questioned by authority figures or even by children I knew in school. When I left Harpenden in 1960, aged 15, I was elated to be able to give a "real" address: I belonged somewhere definite, specific, and personal, that wasn't as general as The Oval, Harpenden, and which didn't require explanation. I hid from my NCH background until I was successful in my career and confident enough to talk about it without blushing self-consciously (I'd have been in my late 30s). Perhaps I avoided referring to the NCH before then to avoid patronising, but well-meant, comments of the kind you mention. Nowadays, places like Oxford University get brownie points if they take in people who have been in care, so let's hope these children take advantage of the opportunities few of us were given. Like yours, my children have never quizzed me about my upbringing. I wish they would. Les.

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#50 [url]

Dec 13 12 7:42 PM

i have never been ashamed of being stuck away in homes as we called it.i was 1 of eight children my sister got run over by a bus and mother had a nervous breakdown and she put us in care.the one regret was we were all in seperate homes been in a convent in nazareth house. st edmunds. st gabrials. bairnwaite and foster homes.going to different schools messed your mind up because you were learning different things. joe smith.

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#51 [url]

Dec 13 12 8:10 PM

Hi Les
I sort of wish my children would ask more questions too, but perhaps it is me who stops them from asking, they seem to have always known that "it's somewhere we don't go", a part of me knows the day is coming when I really need to let it go.
Very nice to talk to a fellow Harpendenite x

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#52 [url]

Dec 14 12 1:32 PM

Hi Lucy
i read your post with interest.I think we all have different experiences of living in the NCH or care homes in general.i was fortunate that my care at the NCH in Harpenden was excellent and i've had no problem talking to people about it.However my trials really began when i left the NCH to live with my mother.being an only child and having no other relatives other than my mother i felt totally helpless.As an adult now i share my childhood experiences with those who ask as it is good therapy for me and gives other people an insight to me which they would never know other wise.
 You have your own family now i pray that you can sit down with them and share your childhood with them,the good and bad. I never had any one to talk to whilst living with my mother.ChildLine wasn't around then and although some school teachers knew a little of my situation ,no one took me aside to talk to me, and although i didn't mind talking about being in care to my school friends,i couldn't talk about what i was going through at home, Only when i eventually left home at 18 did i feel free to tell the people the full story if asked ,and just talking to friends and ,work colleagues the weight started to shift for me. Even now in my mid forties i am still scarred from post care , but talking about my time at NCH and life after ,good and bad has helped me cope.

many blessings

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#53 [url]

Dec 14 12 2:10 PM

Hi Angus

The NCH harpenden was my safety net and all memories of there are good ones, sorry if I did not make that very clear. It was after leaving Highfield (but still in nch care) that the 'not so good memories' were formed.

After writing this particular thread I decided to have another go at reading my file. I started with from birth to the end of my time at Highfield Oval, so far so good. One or two things seem a little odd but for a highly strung child (their words) I did ok, was reasonably good in school although I did have the occasional tantrum, fairly high IQ and mainly was about a year above my age group in most subjects, nerd in the making albeit with a bit of attitude.
But then we come to my after the oval notes and boy do things go wrong quickly, could of been the move, I'll buy that for a while, but the descent into very disturbed teenager is fairly rapid. What is even more upsetting is reading this now all the signs are there, but were almost completely ignored, children had no voice in the 60/70's and so bad behaviour was just punished instead of looking for the root cause.

At 17 I left and went to live in a bedsit at 18 I had my first child, got married and suddenly changed from a scared child to a responsible if angry adult, slowly and I mean slowly I have learnt to be a "normal" member of society, I have three fantastic children, five grandchildren and the most caring loving husband I could ever have dreamed of.

I'm really glad you are now in a good place, sounds like you went through the mill for a while, life can be very cruel and we all deserve some peace and happiness. 

In short life is good BUT the monster is still in the cupboard, I know I need to deal with it and I will, my question to you or anyone else on here is HOW ?


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#54 [url]

Dec 14 12 2:37 PM

Hi Lucy,
                       We all have our own ways of dealing with the past and on this site you will find several different versions.   My own way  is to acknowledge that the cupboard exists but to mentally label the cupboard ' time expired, harmless'.     We are what the past has made us, that we cannot change. Nor can we change or be held accountable for the situations that we found ourselves in.   What we can do is to look at our more recent achievments, look at the families around us and ask whether we have not already killed the bogey man of that past.    Everyone's life story is in fact an adventure story, the time is now when it should be shared honestly and allow the listener to make up their own minds.  I have been very surprised at how understanding and supportive people are when trusted with our innermost worries.
So far, Lucy you seem to be well on the way to resolving your own situation, I wish you every success with the rest.

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#55 [url]

Dec 14 12 3:00 PM

Thank you Roy, 

I think you may be right but this last demon is lurking far to near to the cupboard door, thing is now do I slam the door smartly in his face OR drag the blighter out of there and deal with him once and for all.
Seems only I have the answer to that one.

On the upside I have only the tree left to put up for the fun to begin and then I'm off to a Christmas party, as I said in an earlier post life is good, lets take that into the future x


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#56 [url]

Dec 14 12 3:39 PM

Hi Lucy!
Your story sound so much like mine in many ways.  Yes, the NCH Harpenden was a safety net for me too--my family of origin being in great disarray because of mental illness, alcoholism, the war, and God knows what else!  Maybe even just the times, as they were back then!  Not terribly enlightened in my humble opinion.

I was at Harpenden from the age of somewhere between five and six--still not sure of the exact date of my admission there, although I have my files. Before arriving there, I had already been taken away from my Aunt in Yorkshire, although she was very good to me and I was very fond of her.  But she had little money, and my Dad wasn't much help, so they had to find alternative accommodations for my sister and me.   My Dad, much as I loved him, was basically a skid-row bum, in and out of work, on the dole, and a full.blown alcoholic.

 Nancy, my sister, was sent straight to the Harpenden branch, but I was placed in a foster home somewhere in Hertfordshire with completely unknown people who didn't appear to like me or understand me.  I was of course very traumatised.   They had asked for "a happy child" and were mightily disappointed, according to the records. After some months of this awful situation, it was worked out that I could be at Harpenden, where I at least saw my sister sometimes (she was in another house), and where, eventually, I woke up to some good things in life.

The stability and structure of the NCH life served me well in many ways, but I still suffered enormous inner turmoil that was never addressed except through rules, punishment, and the reliance on religious guidance. I loved the chapel and singing in the choir, but never for even a moment considered that I would ever qualify for salvation!

At twelve I was sent away to a foster home in Watford, which felt like another major abandonment, and not exactly good for one's already low self-esteem.  I did well at school, and for a while that became a safety net for me, too, but I still had few basic life skills or any sense of my worth beyond intellectual achievement.  It's now recognised that there's such a thing as "emotional intelligence", and over the years of being an adult, creating a family, making huge mistakes but learning from them, and finally seeking counselling and a path to spiritual understanding, I have found a certain measure of peace and inner wellbeing.  We all had our own way of experiencing the NCH life, and also what we have done with it since.  On the whole, I am grateful for those years in Harpenden where I could enjoy the fields and woods, learn something about getting along in a group, and enjoying at least the music in our many visits to the chapel, if not understanding the theology of it all!

Some of the things that have helped me are: 23 years of working the Twelve step program, 20 years of being a devotee of an Indian guru, 6 years of studying A Course in Miracles, on and off counselling over I don't know how many years, and currently, practising a simple breathing meditation that puts you in the moment and thus helps one let go of the past.  Here's a beautiful quote from A Course in Miracles that helps me a lot:  "All your past, except its beauty, is gone and nothing is left but a blessing."

I've even come to see some of it with amusement and humor, as well as gratitude.  But it's been a long slog to get here, and it takes a lot of courage to do so.  So I too wish you every good thing as you continue your journey to the truth and a happier life!

One last thought--my nature is more of a contemplative sort.  Perhaps you are really different--I like the fact that you said you did things "with an attitude".  Don't lose that aspect of yourself.  It could be an asset! :-)  I would have done well to have a bit more attitude, but I was much too shy.
All the best,

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#57 [url]

Dec 14 12 5:12 PM

Oh Shelagh

Everything you write is a tonic for the soul, you don't need any attitude to be heard, just the sense to say the right thing, and you do, over and over if this place is anything to go by.

Our stories are very alike, with lots of the same things resulting in us both being in the nch.

Harpenden was a lovely place and maybe did do some healing of it's own on us all, I too loved the woods, the countryside, the animals, chapel, singing and reading,, but so much was not addressed back then, I wasn't told what had happened to my parents, why they never came to visit , wrote or remembered birthdays or Christmas, I didn't know if they were dead or if they just didn't want me, I didn't even know their names, so consequently had no sense of self, I often wondered "who am I" as I'm sure many of you can relate to.
When my sister was fostered without me, my self confidence took yet another major nose dive as I thought these people didn't want me either.

I am still an addict of the great outdoors, the sea, the country and all things animal, I have a horse and two mad cats as well as my great family.

I qualified as a clinical hypnotherapist, so touched on many of the teachings you mention above, and these have been very valuable to me, and I too have found myself on more of a spiritual than religious journey.

I have not heard of emotional intelligence, will have to go see what that is all about.

Thank you again


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#58 [url]

Dec 14 12 8:37 PM

Thanks Lucy!
I just want to add that I don't blame the sisters in charge of us at the NCH.  I think they had to be very overworked and underpaid, with huge challenges with the likes of us!  I really appreciated Sister Cora's fairness in treating us all the same.  That by itself gave me some sense of belonging, and some sense of justice--whatever else may have been off.   :-)
And then, too--although this was more unconscious--the feeling that we were "all in the same boat".

Have just heard about the very sad situation with the shooting at a primary school in Connecticut!  Unbelievably sad!  Just beyond words...

But I will write more soon.
Best to you, Lucy.

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#59 [url]

Dec 15 12 7:01 PM

Hi Shelagh
So very sad to hear the terrible news about those poor children, what a terrible thing to happen, what must their parents and families be going through, devasting.

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#60 [url]

Dec 16 12 5:01 PM

Thanks Lucy.
This sort of horrific incident always brings up two issues for me--the one being how people with mental illness are treated (or not) by a very inadequate system in the U.S.  A really tricky point here is that a person has to be "proved a danger to himself or others" to be probated into mental health care, and only then with his/her agreement.  So any attempts on the part of family or loved ones to help that person if problems are seen are often thwarted by the matter of civil rights, etc.  Very difficult. I wonder how it is in the UK?

 The other issue is of course gun control.  That second constitutional amendment, allowing people to bear arms for self-protection, has to be balanced against safety measures that make it more difficult for guns to fall into the wrong hands. Alas, there is no fool-proof method.  The young fellow who killed these children was able to steal the guns that were legally obtained by his mother.  There's no way to police or control that kind of thing.

I just have to remember that human beings are capable of great kindness, goodness, and just keep aiming for that in my own life.  It's just too devastating otherwise.

Thinking of those families in Newtown.

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