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After handing in the house keys we boarded the coach for Newcastle; it would nearly nine years before I had a driving licence and so coaches and buses would become our main source of travel. When we arrived it was lovely to see my sister again; even though
we had been separated and
brought up hundreds of miles apart as children we had reattached as adults and I was so thankful for that. I think that experience very much fed into my current concerns of being separated from my family and the need to ensure it was as short as possible.

For many years now I’ve worked in children’s services and over that time have become increasingly aware of not just the importance of attachment between children to their primary care givers (usually their parents) but also some of the perinatal issues that new mothers experience (e.g severe depression). At 20, I knew nothing of such things but if I had I would not have left my daughter at ten days old or indeed my wife so soon after having given birth. I’m sorry if some of that sounds a bit clinical, it isn’t my intention to be so or repeat similar writing; it’s just something I felt the need to include in order to explain my feelings.

Whilst in the North East I was able to take Carol and the children to meet my foster Dad, Billy, who was (by now) resident at Hunters Moor Hospital, Spittal Tongues, Newcastle following (as mentioned in Chapter 1) three strokes. The last time I saw him was about a year previous when I went north on leave to try to encourage him with his physio but he was having none of it. Whenever I tried to help him with his exercises to straighten his leg he would use foul language and lash out at me; he wasn’t one of those people who wanted to get back up into life again and so the hospital had moved their focus and energies on to people who did. As a result he had now become wheelchair bound and dependent on others for most of his needs. 

What was awesome though was that he loved the children and really took to them, in particular Tracey and made a lot of effort with her which I loved. There was something really delightful seeing them happily interacting with each other; seeing him in his grandad role almost let me forgive the fact that he was pretty emotionally absent as a dad. As the of day visiting my Dad came to a close so too did the week and after really difficult goodbyes to my family it wasn’t long before I found myself sitting on a plane which was preparing to take off. 

I don’t remember which airport I left from but (as always) I do remember the thoughts going round in my head….’they’re all safe and being looked after, they will be back with me before I know it, I’ll start looking for a flat as soon as I land….’. As the plane’s engines revved higher and higher Bowie’s Space Oddity began taking over my thoughts (and still does today whenever I board a plane); ‘Ground control to Major Tom…’. 

When the revving had got to the point that I thought the plane would explode it felt as though the pilot just let the clutch out and sent us hurtling down the runway and up into the air. A few hours later our touch down in Gibraltar (after a sharp turn to stay out of Spanish air space) felt like we were landing in a ploughed field