Thursday, February 16, 2006

Iris... Early years

Iris had a disturbed early childhood. She was the youngest of four children and at the age of seven, she was put into care.
Her father had died two years previously and her mother was a semi-invalid and unable to cope with her children. It was during the austerity years after the war; food was still rationed and the house was to be demolished in a slum-clearance programme.
Iris and one of her brothers were taken into care by the local authority. Iris went to an all-girls care home; she never saw her brothers or her sister for several years.
The care home was run by “House mothers” who looked after different age-groups. She soon settled down and she told me that she had been much happier there than at home. Her school was in a rural area on the outskirts of the city and was a vast improvement to the one she had been attending. Over the next few years, she proved to be a bright pupil and often helped younger children with their learning.
At twelve years old, she went to a secondary modern school where she continued her education. This was a pity, because had she not been in care, she would have easily made it to grammar school.
The school wasn’t far away so she could easily walk there and back without transport. She was a quiet type of girl and found that she made friends very quickly and was accepted by other children even though they knew she was living in a care home. She soon began to spend more and more time there in extra-curricular activities such as drama groups and choir practice. It was around this time that she began to learn tap and ballroom dancing although she soon gave up tap-dancing in favour of more ballroom dancing lessons. There wasn’t much opportunity for dancing with boy partners though, as it was an all-girls school. She said later that her school days were among the happiest she could remember. For the first time in her life, she had found a place where she could belong.
A close friend of Iris told her that she had always wanted to ride in a police car for some reason. It was one of those things that children often fantasise about and one day, they decided to “escape.” They reasoned that they would be soon hunted down, caught, and brought back in a police car. One evening around ten, Iris and her friend slipped out of the dormitory and through the village onto the main road. They walked what seemed like miles and miles and by this time, some of the attraction had worn off!
They were cold, tired and a little afraid. It wasn’t long before they reached the outskirts of the city and they saw a police station. They went right in and “surrendered!”
Very soon, they were returned to the home where they received a stern lecture and loss of privileges for a couple of weeks but as Iris said, “We did get a ride in a police car!”

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