The Unit. Day 5

LB seemed a bit odd when we visited. A mix of unusually cheerful and slightly different mannerisms. He was in his room where he spends his time when he’s not in the bath. His eyes seemed small and his face a bit puffy. I suppose he’s coming up to the best part of a week now without daylight or any exercise.

Rich tidied his room up while I drew him an Irish lorry from County Mayo.

“Where’s County Mayo Mum?”
“I dunno whereabouts it is. Hey, let’s look at the map K brought you and see.”

Silence.

“Where’s your map, LB?”
“I threw it away Mum.”
“Eh??? Why did you throw it away?!”
“I threw it away Mum.”
“Oh. Did it get torn or something?”
“Yes Mum, it got torn.”

The bath and the bell

One of my birthday presents was a bell so I could ring for ‘service’ (wine, newspaper, clean towel, etc)  when in the bath. I know. It’s a laugh riot in our gaff. On Sunday, LB was about to get in the bath when I realised the full potential of the new, shiny bell. LB loves baths but has quite a way to go to mastering effective tap control (heat and quantity). We run it for him and leave him to soak. Trouble is, it’s tricky to decipher general chatter from a help request (or outright alarm). This means he doesn’t get much privacy.  Dinging the bell could resolve this.

“So LB, if you want anything ding the bell. Like this…” DING!
“Yes Mum.”
“Ok? If the water gets too cold or you need anything, just ding.”
“Yes Mum.”
“Ok, I’m going in the other room.”
“Yes Mum.”
DING!
“Wow. That was quick. What do you want?”
“I love Irish lorries Mum.”

ryan5-45

A letter to the woman in the restaurant

Dear woman in the restaurant,

We were the people you spent your meal staring at. Or was it glaring? I’m not sure. It was fixed and unwavering which ever it was. And it made the situation so much worse. I’m not going to apologise for LB’s behaviour. He was stressed from the start (getting stuck in the revolving doors on the way in probably didn’t help), but for the most part he managed to keep a lid on it. He muttered to himself a lot, and tensed his body regularly, but only a couple of times did he actually do anything that could have disturbed your meal. Two, possibly three, very brief shout-outs about his fear of Irish lorries being stolen.

As you were staring so hard, you may have noticed that the three of us, Rich, Tom and I, were all working hard to try to keep him calm. There was a lot of talk of the security arrangements at Irish lorry companies and attempts to distract him with a running commentary of the Oxford buses driving past the restaurant. A lot of remedial work, as Erving Goffman, would call it. To be honest, this work was largely try to stop LB experiencing such stress rather than concern about other diners.

I’ve sat in plenty of places and had to listen to other people’s conversations because they talked so loud, I’ve listened to people shouting on mobile phones, sat near parties of people being drunkenly cheerful and excessively noisy. These people don’t get stared at. These behaviours are tolerated.

I’m not sure what you were hoping to achieve with your staring. To let us know some social rules were being broken? To let us know that young people like LB are not welcome in public places? Or to demonstrate that your meal was ruined? The latter would be peculiar. You were sitting far enough away not to look at him, and, as I said, other than the quick shouts, he was pretty quiet.

It was my birthday lunch. I wanted LB to be there (obviously), and don’t think it is (or should be) a big ask for you to just get on with your meal and ignore the odd disruption. Anyway, we got the bill before we’d finished our main course. And left. Staring, or glaring, like that, can sometimes make a difficult situation unmanageable.

Maybe next time, you could just take a few seconds to try to imagine what it must be like to  experience that distress, or have to try to manage it. It ain’t rocket science, it’s that thing known as empathy.

Yours,

Sara

Making puttanesca sauce

“OK LB. I’m going to make some puttanesca sauce. You like that, don’t you? Very posh n’ Nigella.”
“Who looks after buses Mum?”
“Mechanics?”
“Mechanics Mum?”
“Yes..”
“And London buses Mum?”
“Yep, mechanics look after London buses.”
“Why Mum?”
“Because they have to stay roadworthy. Keep the passengers safe.”
“Yes Mum.”
“Now I need to find some olives…”
“Who looks after lorries Mum?”
“Mechanics.”
“Mechanics Mum?”
“Yes…”
“Mum? Who looks after coaches Mum?”
“Mechanics… Crap the olives have gone mouldy…”
“Mum?”
YES?
“Who looks after settattas Mum?”
“Settattas?”
“Settattas Mum. Who looks after settattas?”
“I can’t understand you LB. Say it clearly.”
SET. TAT. TAS.”
“I don’t understand. Say it clearly. Mouldy.bloody.olives.”
SETTICTANKS MUM.”
“Septic tanks???”
“Yes Mum. Who looks after settictanks?”
“Mechanics.”
“Mum?”
“Yes LB?”
“I wish I was a Londoner Mum.”

LB’s support plan

So the dreaded visit from LB’s Care Manager passed off painlessly today.

LB sat very patiently while she gave information, apologised for using jargon and went through his support plan. Then she got to the big question:

“What three things are most important to you in your life?” [these can relate to any aspect of your life – aspirations, outcomes you wish to achieve or things you are keen to maintain or be able to do again.]
[silence]
“LB what things are important to you? …”
[silence]
“What is important to you? It can be anything at all… Have a think…Is it your mum and dad? Or your family?”
[silence]
“Can you think of one thing to start off with?”
“Bus spotting.”
“Ah. That’s good. Can you think of anything else that’s important to you?”
“Lorry spotting.”
“Brilliant. One more thing…”
“Coach spotting.”
“Fantastic.”

The why? question

LB has become adept at answering most questions “Yes“, “No“, “Don’t know” or “All of them” in typical teenager fashion. We’ve been pushing him on this recently (not least because it’s pretty boring).

This morning (as with so, so many mornings);

“Mum? I love lorries Mum.”
“I know.”
“Mum? I love lorries Mum…”

Usually at this point I say “I know LB. Do you know how I know?
And he answers “Because I’ve told you 25,000 times, Mum.

This morning I mixed it up a bit;

“Mum? I love lorries Mum.”
“I know.”
“Mum? I love lorries Mum…”

“Why do you love them?”
“Dunno Mum.”
“No, think of why you love them.”
“Dunno Mum.”
“C’mon LB. Try to explain to me why you love lorries.”
“Because. Because…… Because of me, Mum.”

Love him.

Shunned

“Who did you share a room with LB?”
“Nicky.”
“Ah. Did you get on with him?”
“No Mum.”
“Why not?”
“He was very loud Mum. He scared me.”
“What do you mean? How did he scare you?”
“He told me to stop talking Mum.”
“Ah. Was this at night time?”
“Yes Mum.”
“Well you know you can’t chatter on all night when you’re sharing a room, don’t you?”
“He shoved me Mum.”
“Shoved you? Whaddaya mean?!”
“SHUNNED ME Mum, HE.SHUNNED.ME.”
“Wow. Why’d he do that?”
“Dunno Mum.”
“Did you talk to him?”
“Yes Mum.”
“What did you say to him?”
“‘Do you like lorries?’ Mum.”
“Ah. What did he say?”
“No Mum.”

Lorry heaven and teatime

“…. and there’s two! Two Scania’s… Ahhhhh.. lorry heaven. I’m in lorry heaven. Oh my god! It’s got my name on it!!!”
“LB, can we talk about something else at teatime? Something me and Tom are interested in?”
“But I love lorries Mum. I’m in lorry heaven Mum.”
“I know. But just while you eat your tea. Talk about something else to be sociable.”
“Sociable Mum? I don’t want to be sociable Mum.”
“Why not? You were obviously sociable last week on your school trip.”
“I know Mum. But that’s because there were people to talk to Mum. People to be sociable with Mum.”
“Well be sociable with us!”
“Ok Mum. Sorry Mum. I’ll be sociable Mum.”
“Good.”
“Do you like lorries Mum?”

LB’s speech

LB was a school camping trip* last week. He’d prepared a speech but I had to get him just before the end presentations. So here it is;

I liked talking to Becki.
I really liked telling everyone jokes.
My favourite part of the week was looking at the lorries in Dover. I was in lorry heaven.
Thank you and goodbye.

A cracking speech.

*Thanks Amy, Alex, Rachel, Kane and Vicki! Camping in torrential rain all week (and a 4am start for a day trip to France) is way beyond the call of duty. As usual.