Peace and Love

[… continued]

Hassan had been wondering where she was. He needs to go out. Frances assures him she’ll be back soon. I’m giving her a lift.

In the car Frances passes on her good news. Her social worker has closed her case. No more ‘case conferences’, no more having to justify herself to strangers. I’ve quizzed her a number of times about the circumstances of her being ‘on their radar’ and Frances herself has never been quite sure. Which, in itself, is revealing: why has Social Services not made it clear enough for Frances to understand this unwanted intrusion. Was it because of the family past, or even her choice of partner? It no longer matters.

I’ve been wanting to come and see Hassan’s place. Before Christmas they were thinking of giving up on Dunbar Street and going back to Moss Side. This is where they have friends and family. It’s familiar.

I’ve been past here a million times. It’s on Princess Road, the main road through Moss Side, one of my routes from home to town. Frances and I walk past an internet cafe, the Jerk ‘n’ Spice café and a worldwide money transfer shop. Hassan’s flat is just near Mohammed Ali’s Peace and Love Barber Shop.

“The place is a mess,” warns Frances as we get to the top of a second flight of stairs. Inside, the buggy reminds me how much they will have to carry up and down those stairs each time they go out.

Frances is right. The place is a mess. To spare embarrassment for us all I restrict my picture-taking to Mia who is lying on the double bed apparently enjoying her four-month birthday. Hassan suspended his tidying duties this morning to take Mia to the local health centre for her BCG injection. Frances is now examining the puncture mark.

Despite them feeling comfortable here, I can’t imagine it being ideal when Mia is a little older. Fine now, while she is immobile – Frances demonstrates how she can now sit up, another milestone surely celebrated by parents everywhere – but it will be different again when she starts crawling, toddling.

Today Frances has been telling me how she has started playing the lottery and what she might do with her ‘big win’. If it doesn’t happen any time soon she concedes that she’ll have to wait until March when the support workers at Dunbar Street will give her ‘positive notice’. She’ll get preferential treatment on the council’s housing waiting list and maybe get somewhere close to the places she knows in Moss Side.

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