Monthly Archives: July 2012

The egg and spoon race

Frances writes:

hey len hope use are all good, thanx again for the picture if it wasnt for you i wouldn’t have many pictures of mia so thanx. we had a good day today there was an olympic event at mine today bit like sports day mia was playing in the paddling pool all day and eating bbq i won a few things i played pepper pig snakes and ladders and won a chocolate bar for mia. i won a egg and spoon race to and won a clock for mia’s bed room. mia has been so good we are having such a great time doing mother and daughter bondin its so fun and so enjoable i love my little princess she is the best thing in my world we have had are little family time to going out for walks and watching movies together. my mum is ok to she is at home still and on the mend thank god, i do worry about my mum sometimes im scared of anything extreamly bad happening. going to start going to mother and toddler groups at the community center near me and going to take mia swimming too soon she loves water she sould play in it all day. im still not having no look with housing i keep bidding but not had nothing yet 3 people in here that i have got to no pritty well are moving out in the next month or so but they have been her 2/3 years. im trying to find a nice place to go on holiday in wales i can get a grant off jane for a holiday so im looking. it will be nice to go on our first family holiday and get some fresh air and new cenary evenif it is still in england.
p.s hopefully catch up soon take care all off use

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Good days and bad days


After the photo shoot Frances, Mia and I go back up to her flat. Mia needs her bottle and I’ve been offered a cuppa. While her mum is brewing up, Mia sits on the floor sucking at the plastic teat. Her eyelids flicker and then close and she slowly keels over, her head touching the floor. “Ah Mia, you sleepy?” exclaims Frances, picking her up and whisking her off to the bedroom.

With Mia in her cot I can sit and talk to Frances without any interruptions.

“How do you feel about the responsibility? A 17-year-old with a young daughter. You make it look easy.”

“Do I? That’s not good. It is how it is. You get your good days and your bad days. The good days are twice as good as the bad days so you don’t worry. You know they will be a good day along soon.

“But, you know, I shouldn’t have done it too soon. I should have waited a bit. But I didn’t want to wait. If I waited I would’ve been more grown-up and able to do more stuff without thinking too much about it.”

I remind Frances that had she not got pregnant she might still have been living with her mother.

“And I might have not grown up as quickly as I have. I’ve matured, and yeah it’s Mia who’s matured me. I used to think I knew everything. Don’t worry about me I’ll be fine, I used to say. Looking back I didn’t know what I was talking about. I didn’t know anything. There were that many people who were saying don’t do this, don’t do that, wait until you get older. There were that many people, I should have just listened. But I did it anyway. I like to do the opposite of what people say. I like to prove people wrong.”

“But that’s just about being young.”

“But,” she says, laughing, “if Mia tries to prove me wrong there’ll be big trouble.”

Frances has got plans to keep Mia on a short rein so she doesn’t turn out ‘bad’.

“How do you think you have turned out?”

“I’ve turned out all right,” she says, “compared to the way I thought I might turn out.”

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“Hiya Gorgeous”

“She likes playing with the toy kitchen,” says Frances. “Are you cooking Mummy something to eat? Are you?” They have the lounge to themselves, no other residents are about and the staff are all behind the closed office door.

“Peek-a-boo,” she says to Mia, “peek-a-boo, where’s he gone?”

The forecast today is badly wrong. Had it predicted blue skies and white clouds I might have gone instead to photograph for some of my commissioned projects. So I’m feeling vaguely guilty that I should be somewhere else.

“Shall we go outside?” I suggest.

“Shall we go outside?” Frances repeats to Mia in a sort of singing voice. “Shall we?”

“What happened about the £200?” I ask as we make our way across the patio.

“The police haven’t been to pick up the tape yet,” says Frances. Probably not high on their priorities.

Mia is yelping as Frances leads her onto the lawn. She plonks herself down and starts pulling at the grass which needed mowing last week. “Have you picked a nice flower for your mummy?” asks Frances.

We are off on holiday in a couple of weeks and this will be the last time I’ll see Frances for a while. As far as I know, she has no plans for a break.

“When you were a kid, did you ever go on holiday?”

“There were days out with my mum and sometimes my brother. On the train or the coach to North Wales. Prestatyn or Rhyl. You have to be careful, there are red ants on here,” she says as I settle myself on the grass. “But we never stayed overnight. I can never remember much about those days out.”

“You don’t have any fond memories of it?”


“Hiya Mia. Hiya Gorgeous.” One of Frances’ neighbours is calling to us from an upstairs window. “Shall I bring Joshua down?” the young woman asks.

“Joshua is like Mia’s boyfriend,” Frances explains. “Him and his mum live next door and Mia is always knocking on. They have a love-hate relationship: robbing each other’s crisps and stuff.”

Within a few minutes four or five young mums are outside with their children. All the toddlers are girls apart from Joshua, he is the only boy in the whole place.

I realise that, for the last nine months of calling round, I have barely seen any of Frances’ neighbours in this supported accommodation for young mums. Now it all comes thick and fast. I’m soon trying to match the names of the mums and their children as I get introduced.

Jasmine is desperate to get hold of my camera. “Mine, mine,” she says each time I put it up to my eye, refusing to allow me to point the camera anywhere other than in her direction.

“Would you like me to take a photo of you all together?” I suggest, thinking that this group of new parents will, before long, be split up and all go in different directions. “I can make some prints and send them over.”

“Will you?” someone says.

They all sit together on the grass, some more enthusiastic than others. “Smile, look at the man’s camera,” one of the mums says.

continued in ‘Good days and bad days’…

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What she never had

… continued

Mia is dressed and now I’m keeping an eye on her as her mum and dad get ready. Frances is in the kitchenette, straightening her hair and brewing up, and Hassan is in the bedroom.

“You don’t take sugar do you?”

“No thanks. And quite milky please.”

I’ve picked Mia up. She’s getting really quite heavy now. “Shall we have a look out of the window? What can we see? Can we see some blue sky. Can we? Can we?”

Mia’s first birthday party is a big deal for Frances. The Reclaim team are helping out, finding a venue, possibly somewhere in Moss Side. She wants lots of people. She’s even going to invite readers of this blog.

“Tell me about birthday parties when you were younger,” I ask once Mia is playing on the floor.

“I never had any birthday parties,” she says, matter-of-factly.



“You don’t remember one birthday party? What about your siblings? Did they ever have parties?”

“We never had parties. We never went out.”

“Was your birthday acknowledged? Did you get a card or a present?”

“Yeah, we’d get a present from the pound shop,” she says, laughing. “Some perfume or a bit of make-up.”

“Did you ever go to your friends’ birthday parties?”

“No. I never got invited.”


“I don’t know. I probably wasn’t liked.”

“So were birthdays a time of sadness for you?”

“No one bothered.”

“And Christmas?”

“No one bothered. My mum brought us up to not really care about stuff like that. But I’d always make decorations from bits of things, maybe buy stuff with my pocket money. We did make a Christmas dinner but there was nothing else.

“Last Christmas I invited all my family down here so we could actually have Christmas together but only Joanne and her children came. She’s the same as me, she wants to give her kids what she never had. And that’s what I want for Mia.”

Hassan comes out of the bedroom, smartly dressed as usual. “Now that you are both here,” I say, “come and sit down, I’ve got something to tell you. Don’t worry, it’s exciting news.”

I tell them both about the email I’ve had from the Guardian. That they want to do a feature in the Weekend Magazine. I’ve brought last Saturday’s to show them: “Four to six pages,” I’m saying, “with pictures and words from the blog and some sort of introduction from one of their journalists. Some time at the end of September. You okay with that?”

“Wicked,” says Frances. “I’ll be famous. More famous.”

Once Hassan has had some noodles and everyone is ready, we all get into my car and I give them a lift into town. They are going to see her mum who is still in hospital, although, Frances thinks, she may be coming home today.

On our way in we pass some brand new flag poles in the middle of the dual carriageway. There must be 20 or more with colourful, vertical banners promoting the London Olympics. ‘Inspire a generation’.

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Four or five pictures

There’s a bread war in Wythenshawe. Three shops in the row near Dunbar Street each has a hand-made sign in the window advertising their bread prices. The newsagents is offering Kingsmill for 85p; it’s £1.25 for a Warburtons at the pound shop and the post office is asking £1.20 for an unspecified brand. Life’s getting tougher.

Frances comes downstairs to let me in and on the way to her flat I ask her about the theft of her ‘piggy bank’. She and Hassan had already saved £200 for Mia’s birthday party in September.

“Sometimes I leave the door open a bit if I’m nipping downstairs,” she says, “so if could have been one of my neighbours. Or it could have been my friend [she tells me her name] who was here last week.”

“Are you happy for me to write about that?”

“Yeah. It’s either her or somebody in here. And if it’s her… she’s not stealing it from me, she’s stealing it from Mia and I will put her to shame.”

Frances points out the security camera in the corridor outside her flat. “The staff downstairs have passed the film to the police. They’re looking through it and will tell us if they see anyone going in who hasn’t been described to them.”

Inside the flat I can hear yelping from the bathroom. “Hassan and Mia are having a bath,” Frances explains. The window in the living room is wide open and some other tenants are sitting on the lawn below, enjoying the first glimpse of sunshine we have had for days.

“What’s that?” I ask as Frances wanders through the room with a smoking cauldron. “It’s like incense,” she says, “it’s an African thing we use instead of air freshener. It lasts longer than those fresh air sprays… and smells nicer.”

Mia and her father emerge wrapped in towels. She looks at me blankly. “Hello Mia, here’s your personal photographer again, come to see you.”

“And how are you, Hassan? You okay with having a picture of you topless in the blog?”

Frances answers for him, “He’s not bothered, he’s okay with it!” Hassan smiles, passes his daughter to Frances and goes into the bedroom to get dressed.

As Mia, still yelping, is put on her mum’s knee for a new nappy, I tell Frances what I have planned for a birthday present.

“I’m going to make a one-off book of pictures from the whole of her first year. But I want to include the birthday party, you know… have everthing. So you won’t get it until later. Is that okay?”

“Oh, wicked,” she says and then, looking down to Mia, “now don’t try and climb off me. What are you doing?”

“There are only about four maybe five pictures that got taken of me when I was growing up,” says Frances abruptly. “I don’t have any pictures of me as a baby. There’s a picture of me when I was about four, and one of my brothers has got one of us all together. And I’ve got one of me when I’m about seven, sat with my brother.”

I find that incredible. Again I think of our own daughter, practically the same age as Frances, and the hundreds of pictures we took of her as a baby. Some are still fading on the dining room wall, others catalogued in those self-adhesive albums and yet more are stacked away, about to be re-visited for the embarrassing 18th birthday party slideshow.

“Have you got any of those here with you?” I ask.

“I think so, I’ll have to check.”

“Maybe you can dig them out for next time,” I suggest.

“And I’ve got one sat with Father Christmas, you know, when you go to the grotto. But,” she says, still with Mia wriggling on her knee. “I want her to have millions of pictures.”

“Why did you never have any photographs taken in your house? Was there never a camera?”

“No, we never had a camera. My mum never even bought my school pictures. I remember, when I got into Year Six I thought, enough is enough. I’d always wanted one and, do you know the ones they put in the classroom window so all the parents can see, well I waited until after school and I nicked them because I didn’t have one single picture of me in that school.”

…to be continued

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Saving up

Frances writes:

just been a bit peed off this week and stressed my mum wasnt well again but she is ok now she is at home still. the bank has been messing me around disabling my online accound and freezing my card till i confirmed the transactions i have made. im waiting for loads of repairs to be done at mine that i have been waiting for for a long time i need a new bath, my toilet is leeking, i have a hole in the wall bihind the door, my hot water goes cold after you wash a set of pots, need new carpets. the list goes on and on im still waiting to be ofered a house i keep biding but not heard nothing back i might just go privet but i cant find 1 where i want it. mia is good she is practicing her walking. i was saving up for her birthday had about £200 and someone came and stole it so i have to start again and i only have a couple of months. hassan is good to but still has’nt been offered any jobs he has applied for.

…and a message to me:

p.s i’m not sure what i’m doing this week got no money to go anywhere so i will proply be stuck in but feel free to come and see me if i decide to go out or have money to i will let u no so you can come along

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