My Foster Mother Calls Out Of The Blue

Today I stay home.  There’s shed loads of admin to do.  Part of the process of being an artist is being able to deal with the administrative responsibility. I do have agents and project managers but there is still administration.  I could do with a PA and will in future employ one. Half of the sklill of administration is about letting go, the other half is about getting stuff done.  I’m on it. The office is cleared and piles of A4 paper is assembled in neat military piles. It dawns that this is a two day job rather than one.  I push the troublesome  tasks  back into the second day as far as they will go.   

A curious  event occurs in early afternoon.  I have a friend request on facebook.  It’s Mrs  Catherine Greenwood, my foster mother of the first eleven years.  It’s a bolt from the
blue. She calls on the phone and and I walk in the garden as we speak.  It’s the first time in many years .  I am, as I have ever been, interested to hear anything  Catherine
has to say about the eleven year old boy who she and her husband placed into

With no one to discuss or clarify or remember,  the  time (of then) is frozen inside me rather than thawed.  She says she would like to meet to talk and has in fact been coming to Waterloo for years. Waterloo is  right next to The Southbank Centre.  So on saying goodbye I m left waiting for that  call. She is very emotional and tells me she may cry. I understand crying and suggest that if she come see me she may want to make sure she sees someone afterwards.

35 thoughts on “My Foster Mother Calls Out Of The Blue

  1. Now look what has come out of the wood work. When things like this happen I usually say “I can't believe its not butter”.
    Tears. What are these tears for? Is this the part of the story where forgiveness is asked on bending knees and the task of removing scars is easily fulfilled.
    Oops I've been watching too many pictures.
    On a serious note it would be interesting to know what she really has to say to you and if she has the courage to meet you. I am sure she has heard how successful you have become and how you have overcome so many obstacles (still overcomming them).
    If these events did not occur in your life would you be the person you are today? I believe not. You found an avenue to channel your pain, hurt and frustration into and this has developed you into a prolific writer.
    I believe your step-mom no longer considers you the 'devil's spawn'.
    Hoping for the best
    Barbie b

  2. When i found this blog,before i commenced reading,
    My memory threw at me Aswad Gutter Cleaning,
    I know this verse is poor i assure its my last,
    Just sayin well done bud, you done good,it is cast,
    So i will return now to my place in your past

  3. Hi sissai to day is the first time I heard you taking on bbc radio what life and what strong man you’re proud of forgiving you are thank you for sharing your life.

  4. I work with young people, many of them have been in care – it is appalling how we treat the child of the state, not just us, many other countries have this problem. I wonder how we can really help the child of the state though Lemn – I will use your poetry and ask my leaners to consider what you have said as part of their attempt to pass their GCSE. I HAVE ALSO SIGNED UP TO YOUR BLOG – any thoughts you have will be appreciated.

    • Thanks. My thoughts are often aired in the blog but also if you go to the guardian online you can find many articles I’ve written too. Thanks

  5. has anyone ever subjected your poetry to a serious unbiased honest criticism? “….the aged Ethiopian man’s THRILLED OUTSTRETCHED ARMS…”???? Banal or what? In “Invisible kisses” you have the words”… If ever there was someone to whom you could cry… ON THE MOUNTAINS OF TIME…” What???!!! You often mix up “who” and “Whom”. Does it matter? You are PUBLISHED. and have NINE books of this stuff. What hold do you have over your publisher? I see diamante not diamonds.

    • has anyone ever subjected your poetry to serious unbiased honest criticism? You have the line “…the aged ethiopian man’s THRILLED OUTSTRETCHED ARMS..” What?? banal or what? And you often mix up “who” and “whom”. In “invisible kisses” you have the line, “if ever… ON THE MOUNTAINS OF TIME…”
      My WORD!!!! What hold do you have over your publisher? You’ve NINE books of this stuff!. I see diamante not diamonds.

      • You are absolutely right Tim. You could (and should if its your will) tear it apart. Expose it. My grammar is terrible. I find it difficult to hold down a sentence. Please go ahead. Diamonds or diamante? I raise (or lower) your metaphor.I prefer coal. Dirty but warm. I am not hiding behind a veil here. It’s there for you to comment upon.

    • You are absolutely right Tim. You could (and should if its your will) tear it apart. Expose it. My grammar is terrible. I find it difficult to hold down a sentence. Please go ahead. Diamonds or diamante? I raise (or lower) your metaphor.I prefer coal. Dirty but warm. I am not hiding behind a veil here. It’s there for you to comment upon.

  6. hi lemn do you fancy meeting up for a chat, my friend michelle is in the same situation as you,however a lot of it has been recorded in her care file. let me know if you want to meet and talk. It would be great to meet you in manchester.

    love and regards


  7. Oh my goodness. I am refraining from allowing my anger at Tim’s comments about whether you use” who or whom “etc.
    I watched you on tv five mins ago and was so so moved. I googled you immediately. The amazing warmth that oozes from your incredible character needs no one to be pulling you or your honest emotional accounts or poetry apart. I am rambling but have so much admiration for you I want you to know. You made my heart sing and my tears flow all at once. Long may you spread such raw rare emotion. You are a beautiful soul.

  8. I whole heartedly agree with the last comment. You are indeed a beautiful soul. I have just listened to your story on the radio and feel deeply moved by what you experienced and how you coped with everything that was thrown at you. You are testament to the innocence of the child and the heart breaking inability of adults, to step into a child’s world and see what the truth of that world is.

    I am sure you have made people think and as a result will, in the long term, improve the lives and happiness of countless children.


  9. Hi Lemn, did you ever get an explanation / apology from your foster mother? All best to you. An amazing story, and thank goodness you continued to keep your light shining so brightly. I guess on an energetic level, you always sensed deep down that your true mum was rooting for you x

    • There re many MANY brilliant foster parents out there in the world. We need them and we need to support them. I am not looking for an apology frmo my foster parents. I have received one in a kind of way. But which one of us as parents can apologise to our child for ruining their childhood. I would say there are more parents whose family is together who can not make that apology than there are foster parents. 🙂

  10. My mum bought me your memoir for my birthday and I have read it over the course of one day. Profoundly moving and emotionally raw writing Lemn which moved me to tears. I’ll give my two young boys an extra hug tonight – something that all young children deserve. I am so glad to subsequently read that you found your mum when you were 21. Love and respect to you, Cassie

  11. Hi Lemn

    I have just finished reading ‘My Name is Why’. I am starting the Step Up to Social Work course in January and the organisers recommended your book to us all. I am so glad I’ve read it; it has given me so much to think about and take with me into my future work. I am horrified at what you experienced, but profoundly moved by how you survived and built your life upon a start that must have broken so many.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. Dear Lemn,
    I have just watched your memories on BBC1 and want to thank you for continuing to share your very moving story and your stunning poetry. You are an inspiration and an incredible human being. The world is a better place for having your wonderful spirit in it and the poetry that you write. Thank you

  13. Hi Lemn,

    I too loved the programme with Alan Yentob. I particularly liked the way you could feel the warmth from the people in your home town – I’m a Northerner myself and always found people to be very warm and friendly up North, apart from a few exceptions. That last home you were in – don’t understand how it could be allowed – it was the 1980’s already! Loved seeing the visit to Ethiopia – your family there must be very proud of you! Don’t know how you survived what you went through, but so glad you did – keep writing and keep your light shining!xxx

  14. Lemn, your book and your poetry has moved me to tears. You write so passionately and have managed to turn turmoil into triumph through your writing. I can’t imagine how hard that has been. We shall be studying your poetry in class next week. I hope my pupils are as inspired as I have been. Keep being the wonderful soul that your are. The world needs more Lemns.

  15. I have listened and watched you over the years on television, podcasts and radio. Reading your memoir is moving and troubling in equal measures. This year I graduated as a social worker, I am echoing the sentiments I hear in your book. See the child, hear the child, show care – real care, keep trying, don’t give up. I will be accountable and transparent, not make promises but try my best. I want to make the effort I would for my own children so that the children I see in my work know they matter and that their voice is the melody we all need to listen to.
    I hope you have joy in your life, and I am sorry that for so long that was lost for you- or tainted and damaged.
    You are an inspiration Lemn x

  16. I am moved to have read your story Lemn.
    Eager to read your works.
    You would have been my friend and your « beautiful soul » shines through the description of your childhood years.
    Your emotional intelligence was somehow nurtured in these traumatic years and what a gift you return to the world that gave you none.
    Thankyou for this life lesson.

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