Welcome to episode 6 of Blondy’s people. Once again….we have a Queen walking among us …. and I am not sure you are ready . This episode is a deep one for me. This episode is dedicated to my Mumsy. In both Blondy’s world and mine, associating anything or anyone with my mother is a massive thing. She is and always will be the first love of my life.
My mum…where do I start with this one. Just starting to type this morning I am already wiping tears away. Because often when I think of my mum I cry. Not just because I miss her. Because of how life treated her.
My farther spent most of my childhood in prison. He spent much of his own life in prison. My mum married him when she was 16 and they were still together when he died aged 59. My mum adored him. My farther was a bad husband. The worst. Something I will never and have never forgiven him for. He was not a good dad. But he was a good grandfather and for that, and only that, I do not have hate for him.
All my early memories of my dad are to do with prison. I didn’t know it was prison at the time. But that is what it was. When I was about 4-5, I was taken to see my dad “At work”. My mum took me. We travelled for hours and hours and then we arrived at an old church. My dad was “Working” in the graveyard with los of other men. It looked like they were gardening. They all had the same clothes on. I remember saying to my mum on the way home “why did they all have the same clothes on” and she said it was the uniform. She wasn’t lying…. On this trip to see my dad on my birthday mum said we couldn’t hug him or callout to him. That it was a game. And that I would get a secret gift at the end. So, we travelled all this way and sat at a bus stop opposite what looked like a churchyard. And we waited. And then all these men came out to “work” and after a bit I could see my Dad. He was walking around. I shouted “Dad” and my mum hushed me. After a few minutes he looked over and gave a little wave. I was so happy. After a bit all the men gathered by the fence for lunch, I guess. Me and mum hurried over, and all the men stood up and dad crouched down, and we crouched down. And all the men were talking very loudly…. too loud. And me and dad hugged through this fence and he said he loved me and he gave me a boiled egg from his lunch (Which was my fav) And then he told my mum off for what she was wearing and she put her head down. Then mum left me for a moment with dad and went to the end of the road and then came back. Then it was time for dad to go. Mum said, “Daddy has left you a present for your birthday hidden in a bush at the end of the street” Then he and the men all left. We walked to the end of the street and there was a big bush and mum told me to look under it. I saw something wrapped in a blue carrier bag and when I pulled I out it was a Victoria Plum doll!!!!! I was so happy. Mum said it was from Dad and I was so happy that Daddy did that. Because Mummy had not got me much. But good old dad…. he always came through. My mum cried all the way home. The whole way. When I asked her why she said she did not feel well. Then when we got home, she laid on the sofa and stayed there for a good few days….
Later…I found out that on that particular day we had visited where my dad had been taken out for some kind of programme that would reduce his sentence. Like a community service activity to make him look like a good person and help towards his case. He was removing graffiti from a church. How word got to my mum about how and when we should go there, I don’t know. When we crouched down and were speaking, the other men were being loud and standing so that the officers didn’t clock. And obviously my mum had got me the doll. He didn’t say happy birthday once. Not that I can remember. He spent the time mostly telling my mum how bad she looked.
That’s just one of my memories of living with a parent in prison. I have many. We visited at least once a fortnight. From the age of 2 until 11 when I refused to go anymore. My mum told me he worked in the places we went too. But we will talk about that another time. The long trips. The searchers when we lined up to go in. They once broke the head off my doll to look inside and just handed it back to me with the head off. That has stuck with me for years. Well….I am 40 and it still hurts. My mum had no support. Nothing. And then as I got older there were times when my mum thought I would go to prison. No support. And now I work with families and young people who have parents in prison, children in prison and such. And many are searching for support. Of course, I now understand the impact prison had on my dad. I leaned a lot about the real him in the short space of time we spent together and now see that he was also let down by many people over the years. When I look back on the day, I have mentioned above…. I feel angry and sad. But I also know that my dad gave me part of his lunch knowing that he would not eat again until later that day…. But this is about my mum. This is her time.
I would now like to introduce you to someone. Her name is Diane Curry…… and among all the other things I am going to tell you, she is the person who may have been able to help my mum. To support her not only through the prison process, but I think also to ask her “Is this good enough Helen?, is he good enough for you ?…….is this good enough for your child ?” …… I wonder what my mum would have said if ever asked that question. But no one cared enough to ask her.
Diane curry is a woman who represents strength in women. Strength in people. For me, she is the symbol of hope. Hope for change. When you hear Diane speak you will safe. Her voice sounds like…. Home… is the word I will use. She makes you feel like its all gonna be OK and even if it is not…that is OK as well.
Diane Curry is the CEO of a Manchester based charity that was founded 32 years ago by prisoners’ families for prisoners’ families and it has gone from strength to strength. Partners of Prisoners or POPS as it so lovingly known is a user led charity supporting families through their contact with the Criminal Justice system as a result of their loved one’s convictions. POPS focus on strengthening relationships within families and between families and their communities. They aim to help individuals overcome stigma and build confidence by offering non-judgemental advice and information plus emotional support They achieve this through a range of prison based and community focused support services including a visitor centre based services at 11 prisons across the North west and into Yorkshire. Through the grate support in Greater Manchester and community-based services for women (Oldham)as part of the Greater Manchester Women’s Support Alliance.
However, Diane is not someone who came into this by chance. This Queen has walked the walk and talks the talk. She is someones mum. She has stood in line with her children to visit someone in prison. She has asked herself “Is this good enough” She knows my mothers pain…..thank fuck someone knows my mothers pain. She is not doing what she does because its a job. She does it because it is what she wants to do. She fights because she wants to fight. She is the voice of many. And we are not worthy…..just know that!
My mother did not live a nice life. Well…. she did when I could make it so. And I tried daily. I love my mum very much, but I was a child and could not support her being a partner of a prisoner.
Diane Curry and POPS are part of Blondy’s people because if they had been involved life would have been different for my mum. For me. For Blondy.
Diane Curry is one of Blondy’s people because she makes me feel safe and she would have made my mum feel safe.
Because she is out here fighting for all those that have loved ones in prison.
Because this one is for my Mum x
You can follow Diane on Twitter HERE
Follow POPS on Twitter HERE
POPs Head Office: 01617021000
National Prisoners families helpline: 0808 808 2003