Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Lost - Something Dark

It was tough watching ‘Philomena’. I’d seen the trailers on TV and it looked like a good film. Judi Dench always gives a first class performance and I like Steve Coogan’s straight acting style.  With the exception of his cringe-worthy character Alan Partridge, I like Steve Coogan in anything.  Life must have passed me by for a while, or maybe I’d been under a large stone, but I was completely ignorant of Martin Sixsmith’s book ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’, a true story of an unmarried pregnant girl forced into the care of nuns in an Irish convent and her baby taken away and adopted in America.  I sat in the cinema stifling sobs as one horrid deception followed another and I felt sickened by the behaviour of supposedly caring, Christian people.  It’s a well-written and superbly acted film.  The content disturbed me immensely and still does.  I can’t bring myself to read the book. Philomena Lee is one of many to suffer for bringing ‘shame’ on her intolerant family.  Where is the love? Where is the support?  So many lives broken, family connections lost because a daughter ‘sinned’ and was denied her child.  No forgiveness, either, then?
The TV programme ‘Long Lost Families’ shares many similar stories.  Babies born to single women who are influenced or pressured by their family to give up their child for adoption, then spend decades grieving for their ‘lost’ child.  And the child, now an adult, searching for the birth mother, the missing piece of life’s jigsaw.  I watch the happy reconciliations and new beginnings take shape on ‘Long Lost Families’, often through a veil of tears and I hope that adoptive parents, if still alive, are supportive and included.  There’s a feel-good factor in the positive result of a happy ending which is what ‘Long Lost Families’ concentrates on.  I feel for those who are waiting to be found, those whose searches for answers reach a dead end and those who struggle with authorities as they try to find information about who they are.
Imagine spending the first eighteen years of your life in the care system.  Everything about you is contained in your files and documents compiled by Social Services, or other responsible authority.  Then, at age eighteen, when you leave the care system and you are legally entitled to take possession of your files, they are lost.
This is what happened to Lemn Sissay.  His files were eventually found and given to him only two years ago. He turned fifty this year. Lost files for thirty-odd years?
Last Wednesday I went to see Lemn reading his autobiographical play, ‘Something Dark’ at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal.  I’m familiar with his poetry and his life story so I wasn’t in for the shock that ‘Philomena’ gave me.  However, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I anticipated feeling sorrow and kept tissues to hand.  I’m smiling at the thought of it now. Generally speaking, people go to the theatre to experience an entertaining evening and have a nice time.  There was I, prepared for heart-break, but no, this was Lemn Sissay, full of positive vibes, humour, a massive smile and I just listened intently to the wit and intelligence he pours into his story.  There was lots of direct interaction with his audience and at the end he spent time doing Q & A.
Lemn Sissay, MBE, an inspiration to all.  Lost hopes, lost dreams, never.
And not a single tear from me.
She Read As She Cradled
You part of me
Every day your history
Every tomorrow your destiny
Every growth your mystery
Every mother wants a baby
Like you
Every laugh your personality
Every look your clarity
Every word your stability
Every mother wants a baby
Like you
Every hiccup a comedy
Every fall a catastrophe
Every worry my worry
Every step you’re beside me
Every sight you’re pure beauty
Every mother wants a baby
Like you
Every tear wiped carefully
Every word spoke lovingly
Every meal fed silently
every cloth washed caringly
Every song sung sweetly
Every day I whisper quietly
Every mother wants a baby
Like you
© Lemn Sissay

Thanks for reading, Pam x



Steve Rowland said...

Pam, I thought this was a beautifully-written blog - one of your best to date - and truly affecting.

I first came across Lemn Sissay as an angry young twenty-something performing his poem 'This Time' backed by the jazz ensemble Working Week. (I think it's on their album Fire In The Mountain circa 1989.) I didn't know about Lemn's 'lost files' until reading your blog.

Thank you for the insight and for sharing 'She Read As She Cradled'. Fantastic stuff.

Adele said...

Just lovely Pam. A heart-warming read.