Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Season's Greetings

I've spent most of today in bed again, having spent half the night trying not to be sick.

I am determined nevertheless to keep my resolution to do one thing every day this week by way of direct action.

So, today, it was last posting day for Christmas. Time to make sure I got my cards posted.

CAFCASS, the CSA, and every District Judge who has heard your case this year, have got a card.

I have written on behalf of all the children who, like you, but unlike them, will be spending Christmas separated from their families - many of whom, like you, don't get to see their Dads at all.

That is the fruit of their labours this year, and I hope they are proud of themselves. I have no intention of letting them forget about the lives they decimate all year round. Why should they not be troubled at Christmas by the realisation that they are in such a distasteful line of work?

I quoted Luke 18:2 to the Judges, and Proverbs 19:22 to the others. The latter is one of those quotes that just sparkles from the Message paraphrase, (not universally the case!):

"It’s only human to want to make a buck, but it’s better to be poor than a liar."

And on that bombshell of wisdom, time for paracetamol and another attempt at sleep.

Love from Daddy

Monday, 20 December 2010

A right handy Mick

An open letter to the (possibly) imaginary Mick Hancock of the child support agency typed from my sick bed...

Dear Mick,

I am in receipt of your letters of 16 December (from Belfast) and 17 December (posted by your Crewe office but again bearing the address of the Birmingham one), received Saturday and Monday respectively. I'm particularly struck by your travelling prowess at a time of national transport chaos.

You never did explain to me, last time I asked, why you write so many letters to me, from three geographically disparate locations, why you never sign any of them, or why you never write me personal replies when I respond.

We didn't exactly hit it off at the outset, did we. I rang your lot to ask to set up maintenance payments, because my ex-wife was blackmailing me and demanding cash, and you responded with a letter telling me you had been told to make me cough up and threatening me with all sorts.

When I had the temerity to point out that your calculations were wrong, and that it is perfectly possible to set up a four-weekly direct debit, you hit me with a 'deduction from earnings order', without warning. You ignored my correspondence even when it was sent recorded delivery and signed for by your offices, and whilst I was on half pay, signed off work with depression caused by the woman you were raising money for, you saw to it that the majority of my reduced net income disappeared before I even received it. I continue to have to pay my employer a pound every pay day for this 'privilege'.

When I was blowing hundreds of pounds a month on train fare to see my son, receiving not a penny (contrary to court orders) from his mother towards this burden, you not only refused to exercise your right to net these costs off my maintenance burden but offered me a mere £7 a week off for having him to stay.

And so to the latest joke, your letters of this week.

The first, at three pages long, contains just five bespoke words that are not either case references, my address, the date, or standard content.

"Please confirm shared care details"

The second contained no free-form content whatsoever.

Now, you only know about a change because my ex-wife, or more likely her delightful Miss Piggy-lookalike solicitor, has rung you up to claim that I will be seeing less of my son and therefore should be paying more for the privilege. So why not come clean? Why not tell me what you think is the case, who told you, and when? Why not quote the court order that precipitated this request?

As usual, most of the standard content, of which I have lost count of the number of copies in my possession, is just about threatening me. Oh, and you gave me a total of three working days to comply. I am lucky to get a reply at all to my letters, and yet you threaten me with penalties up to and including imprisonment if I don't do as I'm told immediately.

Just as I was thinking of a suitable response to this, along comes your geographically-challenged second letter, saying that the day before, ie the day of the first letter, in which you asked me to confirm what was going on because you 'needed some further information' from me, you had 'considered' the matter and decided that things should stay the same. Where did this 'consideration' take place, since you were clearly on the way from Belfast to Crewe. Somewhere on the A55?

I have no doubt that if I take this to mean the matter is closed, I am likely to get in trouble, and you will start stealing extra money from me again, without warning.

So, by special delivery, so I can prove you recevied it, (because otherwise I might never know!) I attach a copy of District Judge Moon's order of 9 December for your edification. I can offer no further elucidation as to the practical manifestation of the order that my ex-wife 'shall' arrange contact, because whilst she has found the time to come cap in hand to you, she has not found the time to offer me any opportunity whatsoever to see my little boy. A bit like you guys, it's all about the money. In fact, you probably know more than I do. Isn't that lovely.

I can also tell you that as of this week, I am back to full time hours at work. I don't know the details, but you have gone behind my back to my employers in the past and I am not wasting my time finding out when I know you will do so again anyway.

I can hear your cash register jingling already.

I am now amongst the ranks of those whose MP is party to their dealings with the CSA. I am also now publishing your letters on the internet, so that the collective conscience of those who are not on your books might be stirred.

The ridiculous thing is, you had no reason whatsoever to give me a hard time, not least since I came to you in the first place - but I know that CSA isn't about facilitating fair payments, you are all about going for the Dads who pay and squeezing them for all you can get, in order to boost your figures and justify your own sordid existence.

Your dishonesty, incompetence, profligacy and rudeness will come back to bite you, and the women you act as menaces to demand money for.

Perhaps, 'Mick', you would like to give me a personal reply, signed by your own hand, to explain the existence of these two letters and the ridiculous waste of my time and taxpayers' money. I can think of a few more Dads who would like to join with me to meet with you to share our views of your disgraceful organisation. Your place(s) or ours?

Love from Daddy.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

No let up

I'm huddled up on the settee under your little duvet, with a stinking headache.

It's been a busy weekend, exacerbated by appalling weather conditions which have seen one of the street lamps on our road felled by an errant car and left me relying on every last shred of driving talent to avoid binning the little red car on the way to Tesco. I am shot to pieces now.

The Carol service this afternoon was difficult. As ever behind the camera in addition to musical responsibilities, it brought a lump to my throat watching the children with whom you were until lately attending 'mini praise' singing 'Away in a Manger' without you.

It's at such times when instinct tells me I am a father and then the realisation that the facts are now otherwise slaps me in the face.

I am reaching the conclusion that our enforced separation is worse than a bereavement - not least because this is all so cruel and yet so utterly needless.

Beyond that, it is so very difficult to get on with life as there is never any closure for 'we that are left', nor will we rest over the years ahead. We are determined that you will know the truth, that your Daddy loves and misses you. We owe you that.

Neither, it is becoming painfully clear, will Mummy rest until she has destroyed any prospect of me ever being in your life again.

We arrived home yesterday to a familiar standard form letter with a Belfast postmark - the vultures from the CSA are once again circling over the carcass of a father and son's relationship.

In the week after she was awarded an order which despite destroying me stipulated that she must facilitate contact between us, Mummy has been silent towards me on that score.

She has, however, already found the time to contact the CSA to tell them you won't be seeing me and to ask them to squeeze an extra £7 a week out of me.

That sums up how evil your Mummy is. There is no other word for a woman who behaves like that.

We feel so very sorry for her - such inhuman acts betray someone who has deep-seated problems which remain unaddressed for as long as the courts pipe to her tune.

It is very hard to forgive someone for something so profoundly awful when they are still doing it - and not just to you. One day you, as a man, will face the challenge of doing that for yourself.

Unlike, say, Gordon Wilson, who famously forgave his daughter's killers in the Enniskillen bombing, I can't say that nothing can bring you back, because many things patently could. Being angry about all this is therefore rather more logical, because I dare not ever become numbed to what continues to be done to children like you and families like ours when there remains the opportunity to fight for justice and save the children and families of the future from pain and suffering.

Scripture teaches us that Jesus himself showed anger when he turned over the tables in the synagogue, and yet days later as they were crucifying him, he pleaded 'Father, forgive'

It is therefore important that all of those of us wronged with you be not only 'as cunning as serpents' (Matt 10:16, ISV) in challenging evil, but continue to pray for reconciliation and brighter days ahead - for everyone.

That way, I pray that none of us may be chewed up and spat out by our own rancour, but may do right by you and by God.

Love from Daddy.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Bleak Mid-Winter

We've been out carolling this morning.

Circumstances have seen to it that this is the first Saturday we've done this Christmas, and sure enough, we picked the coldest, wettest, snowiest day for a while.

Eventually we had to call it quits, as the snow not only soaked us but totally obliterated the music!

I so wish I could take you out to play in the snow. We never ever got the chance. Hopefully you will have some fun wherever you are today.

Love from Daddy.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Dads 0 - 1 Criminal Asylum Seekers

So, let's get this straight. If you kill a child in a hit-and-run, whilst disqualified, both criminal acts, you escape deportation from the country where you were seeking asylum on accout of your right to family life under human rights law.

How can we justify failing to extend this right to our own citizens, who have done nothing criminally wrong?

Who is standing up for my human rights, or yours?

We will both spend this Christmas denied family life together for no good reason whatsoever - perhaps Mr Cameron, you would like to get as angry about that.

Perhaps, sir, you would like to look at the heart-rending pages of Christmas messages being left for lost children on Fathers 4 Justice's message board, by parents and grandparents who haven't seen their children for years.

Perhaps, sir, you could have showed your concern by replying to Step-Mum's letter to you, rather than passing it to the Department for Education, whose response indicated that it was filed in the bin.

We're trying, son. Nobody seems to want to listen, though.

Love from Daddy.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Somebody should have told him

As we find today that the Rushden and Diamonds goalkeeper took his own life, you might well be shocked at my turning to Alan Partridge for wisdom. Stick with me...

Alan: So, who’s your favourite singer, then?

Ben: Oh, anything, really, you know. Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain.

Alan: Who’s he?

Ben: Nirvana. Blew his head off with a gun?

Alan: Why?

Ben: He was depressed.

Alan: Why, were they not very good?

Ben: No, they were great.

Alan: Oh. Someone should’ve told him!

Suicide and it's 'causes' is a well documented subject, indeed in my own industry we have some pretty derailed statistics.

It's something I've been exposed to, at work, both before and after the event - and something that has touched my own extended family.

I want to consider the three places where, to my mind, the cause lies.

The first is the disposition of the person concerned, and their ability to cope with a given situation - often related to the other two factors.

The second is those responsible for that stimulus which has driven the victim to this point. That's one for another day.

The third, most contentious, and most interesting to me, is society at large, and societal attitudes towards people who are suffering or struggling.

How often do we ask of another "How are you" quite without expecting or seeking a reply other than a short, positive one?

How often do we fail to seize an opportunity to speak affirming words to someone's face?

Years ago, I was talking to my workplace chaplain. I mentioned a particular colleague whom I respected greatly.

"Have you ever told him?" the chaplain enquired. I had to concede that I hadn't. It struck me as a profound challenge to ensure that he didn't go to his grave never hearing my appreciation.

Of all the kindly words that will be spoken of Dale Roberts in the next few days, I am left to wonder how many of those things were said to him by those people when he was still alive, and how often those people offered him the opportunity to talk freely about how he really was.

The fact is, suicide is the decision of a person, however cursory, flawed or damaged their reasoning, that no longer being around is the best option.

Whilst my industry throws money at stopping people throwing themselves under trains, we could all make a difference, for free - by throwing caution to the wind, overcoming our own inhibitions and vulnerability and reminding each other we are valued.

Go and find someone you appreciate and tell them so. They might need to hear it more than you know.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Believe it or not

I was at the Palace of Westminster again yesterday - my first day back at work for three weeks.

Regrettably, there were no sausages on sticks, it being the 'afternoon tea' menu of sandwiches and scones. It was, however, an opportunity for the first time in a while to meet lots of my counterparts from across my industry, many of whom had been wondering what had happened to me over the last twelve months.

It is notable how different people handle the information you give them. A fairly senior Labour politician whom I know through previous work engagements, said to me as kindly as he could that, with all due respect, the story I tell is 'unbelievable'. I can't do anything but agree. It is. I wouldn't have believed it myself a few months ago, but I can only offer my personal testimony as to what has happened. It's impossible to give a thoroughly edifying account of the last year without lots of documents and even more time, which doesn't help.

I must sound like a dreadful conspiracist, but equally, who in their right mind would give up their son wilfully to fuel a conspiracy theory?

One chap in my office today told me how he had to turn off last night's edition of 'Panorama' on the case of Baby Peter, because it was upsetting. I've seen comments on this blog that suggest that my own words make uncomfortable reading for people. I sadly acknowledge, but make no apology for that, for as long as that upsetting account is a faithful rendition of the life I have been forced to live, and for so long as the system keeps condemning fathers like me to situations like mine. One day I hope my experience might simply be a historic account of a long-remedied injustice.

I want to identify, though, the Christian gentleman (and having been advised of this blog's existence, I hope he recognises himself) who took particular time and care to hear what I had to say, and prefaced his remarks by giving me the unequivocal assurance that he believed me, and believed in me. To that end, he said, I did not have to convince him of my credibility or the absence of an element of story to which I was misleadingly not alluding, but rather just to tell my story.

He and others were exceptionally kind to me during the course of the afternoon, but I cannot begin to explain what it means for someone to tell you they believe you, no matter how far-fetched your tale might sound - even, sometimes, to your own ears.

The industry I work in has always been, in one regard or another, a family to me. By extension, it is already in some respects a family to you, and untold kindnesses, many of which must remain untold for now, have come our way over time.

My counsellor suggested that many people, faced with the situation I am in, rather like when someone has suffered a bereavement, just don't know what to say. I can understand that. Until it happened to me, I wouldn't have understood, either.

Beyond telling you your Daddy's story, I hope that over time, this blog will affirm and validate the lives of fathers like me, and I hope it will open people's eyes to what, why, and how we suffer; perhaps offering them some valuable insight into how to help.

I want also to thank people like the friend I met today, whose word in season did me no end of good.

Sometimes, just being believed is the best thing in the world. When your story is 'unbelieveable', it reminds you that you are held in great esteem.

In days such as these, people like me need to know that.

Love from Daddy

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Guest post from Step-Mum

Today has been hard. We have carried on our Sunday routine as usual, only difference being that this time you aren't with us and we have no idea when you next will be.

You are an integral part of our lives-for me never more than on Sunday. You would usually wake us up and demand three things: "Train ride" "go Armies" and "go marching with the band". Today we have done all those things without you, and each has been painfully tarnished by your absence.

No one to look for "skips" with Daddy at Wembley.

No one to point out my "funny hat".

No little man cheering for the band ("good boy Daddy", "band play LOUD", "drum goes BANG") and falling asleep on my shoulder at the open air meeting.

And it's not just us- you are a popular boy, and your many friends, all the people who have loved watching you grow this year, have missed you today.

You are in our prayers, and never far from our thoughts.

Love from Step-Mum x

Saturday, 11 December 2010

DJ Moony and the Dawn Raid

Half Past Eight on a Saturday morning.

In fairness, by three weeks, that's the quickest Torquay and Newton Abbot county court has ever furnished me with a copy of one of their orders. In fact, the last one of 15 November still hasn't arrived.

The fax that we sent at 0955 on Thursday took half an hour from receipt to make it to the Judge, such is the competence of this tinpot one-man-and-his-sheep setup. We tried to ring them to chase it up, but by their own admission, they only have one telephone line in and out, and it was engaged.

What have we got? Well, the nice bailiff on the doorstep kindly explained it to me - I will upload the footage in time. Despite the news he was bearing, that's the second one I've met and they're the only people who emerge with any dignity from all this - except from the fact that he probably was told to wait until early this morning to make sure I was in.

So, what did the court do in my absence, in response to my statement?

They ordered that my application of 22 January for residence be withdrawn, despite never in that time having been heard at any of the court hearings that have taken place.

They received oral evidence from Mummy, and her barrister, although there is no record of any scrutiny or consideration of the mountains of paper-based, video and audio taped evidence of mine. I paid £300 to lodge it and nobody has ever read it after 11 months. I'm due a refund, I reckon.

I asked for a transcript - they haven't produced one. Convenient, huh?

Mummy's barrister claimed that they had not had receipt of my position statement, which was lodged with the court by email with a CC to her solicitors on the specified date, 22 November. I have read receipts for both, from the day they were sent, and correspondence with the solicitor referred to its existence in the days prior to the hearing. A nice bit of perjury from them then - paid for by the taxpayer.

That's not enough to get an order bailiff served on a Saturday morning, though. Especially since Mummy's not paying for the bailiff - we all are.

In addition to handing Mummy the right to decide for herself what, if any, contact I can have with you, (but no barring it, so I can't be that nasty - just persona non grata) comes a restraining order - that's right, because I'm such a nasty man.

My turning up to collect my own son from nursery, and dropping him back to his home, where Mummy wasn't even in at the time, (neither thing being formally banned and both being things Mummy does every day) has earned me an order that I may not go within 100 metres of either Mummy's home or any school or nursery which you attend. I'd love to have heard how she described the incidents, both of which are on film, although I've already got enough evidence to pursue her for perjury, too.

The order states that the Legal Services Commission have paid for Mummy's legal costs.

Attached to the order is a copy of my letter to the court, exerpts of which I've already published. It contained no overt criticism of Mummy, but rather an account of what the process so far had done to me, and a reminder that the CAFCASS report had not even come close to complying to the terms District Judge Andrew Moon himself ordered in September.

Well done, Sir.

You've failed to uphold your own orders from September.

You have responded to the withdrawal of a father whose spirit you have broken, by handing him an injunction.

What a brave man you are.

One day, son, this man will rue the day he met me. I promise you.

Love from Daddy, whose kitchen has flooded.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ground Zero

The house is still cold this morning.
It's still empty, too.

Your bed has nobody to sleep in it.

Your toys, several of them Christmas presents, have nobody to play with them.

At the dining table, there is a highchair but no place set for lunch.

Today is our 'Ground Zero' day.

The drama of yesterday's events is over, and despite the fact that I last spoke to you on Wednesday evening, and last saw you on Monday, today marks the first day of the chapter of our lives which we will spend apart - however long that may be.

Today also marks the start of the rebuilding process.

Mummy has laid waste to so many lives this year, with the assistance of the profiteers of the family justice system. What has been done to us is appalling, make no mistake. But today, we start to sweep up the mess, and try, with as much dignity we can muster and without self-destructive rancour, to rebuild our lives on a new paradigm.

Step-Mum and I have a life together to build, now free from the stresses and strains of constant legal threats, financial crises and most of all, free from Mummy's control. It is a year since I filed for divorce to escape that abusive control, and only now are we really free of it.

There is nothing more she can take from us now.

We have no intention of forgetting about your plight, or that of the millions of people in this country affected by the evils which we fell victim to. Rather, like the people of New York, as we quietly start the rebuilding process, we will set our sights towards the day when we will see you again, and the road of faith, hope and action that leads us there.

See you soon, Son.

Love from Daddy.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The man with the plan

 Genesis 22 

After these things God tested Abraham’s faith. God said to him, “Abraham!”
And he answered, “Here I am.”
2 Then God said, “Take your only son, Isaac, the son you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Kill him there and offer him as a whole burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
3 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took Isaac and two servants with him. After he cut the wood for the sacrifice, they went to the place God had told them to go. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey. My son and I will go over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the sacrifice and gave it to his son to carry, but he himself took the knife and the fire. So he and his son went on together.
7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!”
Abraham answered, “Yes, my son.”
Isaac said, “We have the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb we will burn as a sacrifice?”
8 Abraham answered, “God will give us the lamb for the sacrifice, my son.”
So Abraham and his son went on together 9 and came to the place God had told him about. Abraham built an altar there. He laid the wood on it and then tied up his son Isaac and laid him on the wood on the altar. 10 Then Abraham took his knife and was about to kill his son.
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!”
Abraham answered, “Yes.”
12 The angel said, “Don’t kill your son or hurt him in any way. Now I can see that you trust God and that you have not kept your son, your only son, from me.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “The Lord says, ‘Because you did not keep back your son, your only son, from me, I make you this promise by my own name: 17 I will surely bless you and give you many descendants. They will be as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, and they will capture the cities of their enemies. 18 Through your descendants all the nations on the earth will be blessed, because you obeyed me.’ ”

Abraham didn't say "God, that's ridiculous! I'm not putting my own son in harm's way. I'm not letting him go like that" - he did as he was bidden, and left the rest to his maker, who had a plan.
When you were born, I printed your first picture to go out to our families. I quoted 1 Sam 1:27-28: 

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord answered my prayer and gave him to me. Now I give him back to the Lord. He will belong to the Lord all his life.”
When you were dedicated, Mummy and I gave you back to God. You are his creation, made in his likeness. You are not my possession, neither are you anyone else's, nor a commodity to be traded.
You are not mine to do what I think is best with. You are God's, for us all to seek God's will for you, and to bring you up to seek it for yourself.
On Sunday, I prayed over you, and offered you once more into the care of your maker.
Whatever happens tomorrow, he has a plan for you, and for me. And for Mummy.
Like Abraham, we must all trust, and obey, the man with the plan.
Love from Daddy. 
Quotes from The Holy Bible : New Century Version , Containing the Old and New Testaments. Dallas, TX : Word Bibles, 1991, S. Ge 22:1