Black Fax/ Born Sandy Devotional

Before I begin, I just want to thank you all for the encouragements so far! I want to remind you all this blog will blog about therapeutically flavoured smallholding primarily- as soon as we move. We are currently in limbo, waiting for solicitors to finish an exciting right of access document, that appears to need 34 trillion years.


So. Not everybody has diffcult adoptions, if by difficult you mean so impossible there have to be massive changes and evasive red alert shenanigans to keep the adoption alive, and the adopters sane enough to have any quality of life.

Ours has been, and currently still is, a hard adoption. But things are changing, we are changing, and we are pursuing a hope and future. Hang in there, make the necessary big changes, and you will too.

I worked at an adoption charity support department once, and some of the stories were so sad, bleak and unjust they still haunt me.  Such adopters would contact the charity by various means, and one popular contact was via the message boards.


The message boards were the wild west. Few would go in there.

Some threads had become  a monument to pain and fury, and subjects were ruled by snarling Titans, who sent a perpetual emotional black fax of doom out to the world- using up people’s resources, resolve, and hope.

The Titans would often bully, insult and crush vulnerable people, if they dared to resist agreement with their doomy pronouncements and opinions. The moderators had to get medieval on occasion, and banish the Titans back to their lair.

But such people were rare. Most people in the message boards enduring dreadful situations and screaming for help/ out in pain were doing their very best. They received incredible emotional and practical support from fellow travellers. When you read the response “have PM’d you” you just knew somebody, somewhere, was climbing into a car with a bottle of vodka, tissues, a cooked meal and plans to give the adopter a weekend off.

In our darkest days, my wife used the boards to get advice and wisdom- especially on attachment, and behaviour. She is very clued up about those subjects now. I just went on a zombie video games. I’m very good at completing every level on Left 4 Dead 2 now.

The “painful subject boards” were a significant part of the whole charity. So was the helpline and support department. Thats the point. The majority of the boards were about really difficult stuff, that for a lot of people wasn’t really resolving quickly enough.

But the charity was there to promote and support adoption. Being brutally honest- or even  just honest- about adoption would put people off. Therefore the “front of house” was light and appealing. You may have had the feeling that adoption never got harder than the Simpsons, and the expert help you could receive was like all the nice professors in Harry Potter popping round your rose-covered cottage for a cup of tea.

Also, this charity was evolving (by management choice) away from the grassroots movement it had started in, into playing with the national big boy charities. This choice had a host of plus and minus factors, although two undountable benefits were increased influence in the nation, and an excellent therapeutic focus.

Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean (I can’t seem to discuss anything without analogy- I must have annoyed my wife on our first dates- or brackets, which annoys myself)

Social care doesn’t run adverts like this:

Fancy facepalming into a bottle of wine every night? Like to give stressed half attention to every case, so no child or family ever gets the skilled help they need? Want a boss who is either a white collar sociopath, or criminally weird and inept? Like to remove a child from a toxic family, and then get slaughtered in the witness box and made out to be a negligent, vindictive monster by the parents defence lawyer?

Whilst this has been my story very often, without any hint of exaggeration,  I love social work. Where else can you be a civil servant dressed in a leather jacket and T shirt? Where else can you interpret law, and helping a family, with complete creativity? Where else can you work at the coal face of the human condition without their threat of arrest, restraint, or medical procedure?

I have made a difference for good, I have an amazing boss and team at present, and its worth it.

But you get my drift. People selling social work aren’t fully honest, and often they aren’t honest at all.

When people tell me they want to be a social worker (like when people say they want to adopt) I have an internal reaction. Its part recoil, part yearning to bomb them with encouragement, part needing to laugh, part needing to soberly warn them and show them my waistline now, compared to before the kids came and I comfort ate for Britain, and part  gush of respect.

How do you balance truth and recruitment to a complex job or life choice ? How honest can you be, when you met people in the early stages of exploring a possible adoption, about your journey? How do you say it?


Born Sandy Devotional is a classic seminal album from a band (The Triffids) who imploded before they ever received the fame and respect they deserved. Buy it, and see what I mean.

The reason I’m including it here, is that the album is often about pain and loss, and that the band have somehow managed to make those things into a beautiful experience that inspires and moves you- to deeper and better things… could argue the sense of emotional journey and intensity is seen in later mainstream bands like Mumford and Sons.

Maybe the adoption experience is a good, rich album. Not easy listening or lightweight, but something we develop an acquired taste on. All kinds of songs, some happy, some sad, some single material, some definitely B sides. Maybe we need to slip people our mix tape, rather than a greatest hits compilation when they ask.

Hope thats all clear, then.




























The Great Silence/ Noodles


We sold our house in the bleak midwinter as a kind of prophetic intentional statement.

It had taken about a year to rebuild the carnage D made (it looked like the battle for Saddam’s Palace), and we couldn’t face another destructive Christmas in the old house, once repaired. We had an amazing lodger who instead of paying rent, fixed stuff and remodelled the bathroom. You can’t really charge a lodger to live in Fraggle Rock.

There’s no obtaining new things without forward momentum.

I mean these early posts describe a lot of intentions, but who knows what can happen or where we will end up. But we won’t get there just by reading Smallholder magazine, and watching Hugh Fernly- Whittingstall. We have to make a start, be intentional.

We figured we could save money by having no mortgage or council tax- and we would totally own the buyers market for seasonal caravan purchases. When I wrote this we were living in a small caravan behind a village pub (we are at another site now- with heated toilets- life changing).

We bought an old LPG Range Rover to tow it (that was randomly immobilising itself- thigh slapping fun, I have to tell you), and with our indestructible Toyota Corolla, we have Phase 1 under control. Not sexy, but under control.

It’s “I see dead people” cold, and washing up and cooking is a nightmare. In case you were wondering, we shower at the gym and people’s houses. I physically can’t use the caravan shower, as it appears to have been designed for the smaller Bushman gentleman. But we are all together, with our lovely Lab, Moby.


Prior to the caravan we were staying at friends, at hotels, at our respective mothers houses, often separated. It wasn’t good for our little one, M, who is highly anxious. She was always asking where we were sleeping that night. Now we are all together- but have to sleep in one überbed (a la Charlie Buckets family) because somehow we bought a two berth caravan. Don’t ask me how. We even got in a bidding war!

So. Just prior to Christmas we went on a long awaited family holiday. It was the first one over the Christmas period where D was at his new school. Because we weren’t having to factor in melt downs and danger, we focused on rest and fun, and it was great. Big and little sister came.

I’m a social worker (don’t you start, madam). Just before we went away, a judge wanted me to testify at some awful contested private law hearing- in the middle of my holiday. I hurriedly asked legal to get me out of it, and then after my last day of work turned off my work phone, and my personal phone, so there was actually no way anybody bar God could contact me.

Doing that takes you back to 1988. It was incredibly liberating, and strangely moving.

I grabbed a few hours away from the girls, and we had to plan to meet using geographical markers, and set in stone times. I couldn’t actually remember the last time I did that. I vaguely remember it being in Brighton in 1983, separating from my Grandmother to buy Stranglers albums…..

I suddenly had what felt like huge tracts of time I could fill with adventure and coffee. The pace of life slowed down, and there was no more white noise- no social media, no calls to speed up or down the meet.

You got on with an uneditable day. You can be intentional.

This kind of illustrates why I went part time recently, as part of the run up to the small holding dream. I want to have time for my family, and the animals, and the pace.

Pace and rhythm is something I want to talk about.

In going slow –and making sacrifices- you have time to see stuff and understand things, subtle and sometimes hidden things. They are simple life enhancers. In fact, they are life.

Our first caravan site was behind an old pub, in a strip of land of about an acre. There were eight caravans on site, with only three of them (us included) connected to electricity. Two of the caravans – including one hooked up to power- were permanently sealed, and nobody knows who lived there. Spooky, eh?


But among the other residents were a couple building a house, and saving up for it by having no mortgage. They had been here 2 years already and building hadn’t began- they just have the land and the dream.

There was a Scottish coach driver who used to do safaris years ago. Now he has a coach being refitted into a sleeper, and he wants to take people to remote Scottish islands and build up to African trips again.

Another couple sold up and bought a custom made Landcruiser camper. They are on a world tour, having being to Nepal and South America. They came back to the UK due to a bereavement, leaving the Landcruiser in a hanger in Uruguay, ready for the next instalment .

I used to miss these stories, living in suburbia, working crazy hours while my family fell apart. Why do we accept this kind of script?

I mean, we really struggle financially with my reduced hours, but you can’t put a cost on what we gained. You suddenly realize how much of your day, a week, and life, you pour out on people and situations and stuff that isn’t worth it- or, perhaps in a social workers case, are worth it, but actually my family are way more important, and I will make no apology for that.

Before you know it you could be retired- and you missed it. As Rabbi Harold Kushner once said “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

So-we want to identify more closely with the “slow movement” and aspects of Celtic Christianity to embed this kind of vibe.

You also believe a lot of wrong things, living life at light speed.

I met some amazing farmers recently. They have invested in completely organic animals with organic diets, and only invest in rare breeds because they fear the most used breeds in intensive farming will wipe the original breeds- deemed not cost effective- off the face of the Earth.

They told me how our food chain is ostensibly poisoned. Calves and other animals are taken off their mothers too young, so yields can be maximised, and among other things this means they don’t get enough of the nutrients in their mothers milk to be immune to a lot of livestock diseases. But modern farming doesn’t care- it pumps them full of antibiotics and other chemicals to “make them better”. That’s half the reason we have so few strains of antibiotics left, because many farmers snaffle up the stocks and ram it into animals. They (vegetarian animals) are often fed on animal products, including guano.

The whole food chain is pumped full of similar crap. In another life, I was a catering student. My major coursework project discussed Pot Noodles (boom!), then a major part of my diet. Back in 1991, one of the flavours contained Ponceau 4R (which needs an award for just sounding sinister) It was known to be carcinogenic, but they kept on using it.

When I drive past a convenience store, now I just see a gaudy cave full of evil calories and fake, processed food. That’s where a lot of us- certainly those doing insano hours at work- buy our food! The meat in the chilled section is pumped with water and preservatives. The shelves are full of tinned food that could last 100 years and be could eaten if brought up from a shipwreck. The rest is chocolate and cakes, apart from a phone booth sized snood of sprayed fruit. I have certainly eaten my share of the calories, and I am taking action to loose the beef by going to the gym. But most of being fit and healthy is in the food we eat.

So on the smallholding we want to live organically and eat seasonally, where possible. We aim to forage, grow a limited amount of organic crops, and try and buy as much seasonal stuff as we can. There’s no direct link to therapy here, but living this way will consolidate thoughtful, slow lane living.

We have bought loads of books, and my mother in law bought me a subscription to Country Smallholding magazine. We are desperate to get there- every day we pray the solicitor calls with a proposed exchange date…….