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Cruel and unusual punishments

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I helped Babs organise Christmas shows which were meant to be voluntary but this was nonsense, as she would be writing their Children's Panel Reports and put a lot of pressure on the children to perform. If they did not, she would have them sent to a more stringent residential school. Some chose to go rather than take part.

I am embroidering here, but only a little because even the Texans, who execute children, would have not subjected them to one of Babs' shows. They were cruel and unusual punishments that are now specified and excluded under Children's Rights legislation.

Babs actually knew how these were viewed calling the Xmas pantomime her "tantrumime" but she would still only hand out their cigarettes after most rehearsals. Rehearsals started in August. I did the music and drama and Babs did the glowering and the smoking. It was a fair division of the work.

Jim was discovered to be a gifted singer and was a shoe-in as Peter Pan. It should have been a girl, of course and it was planned that way originally. However it did not work out. Isa was also from Ballochry. It was not unusual to get a rush of youngsters from the same district and the same family members was also common.

Some parents would fight to keep their children at home. Those who themselves had been in Care and had experienced it as a nightmare thought little would have changed. Some, however, sent them off as teenagers, at the first F word. Not Isa though, she was instructing others in the art such speech as a toddler. Isa had been arrested for stealing 20 from a shop.

Now it cost 20 just for the school shoes we had to buy her, so Care might have seemed a gross waste of public money. But in Isa's case it was different. The 20 was in pennies from a charity shop and she was spotted dragging a canvas sack home. When caught, she swung the bag at the same Ballochry bobby from the brick incident, P.C. Ben Nevis.

She was a year younger than Jim but there was no contest. She shouted "You are a big shot here 'Jum', but you were nothing in Ballochry" She punched him and it took 2 members of staff to remove her. She blew the audition. The only other half decent singer was Jim so he got the part. Call my mother a c*w but don't say say she is "Nothing in Ballochry."

Jim was brilliant as Pan in rehearsals. Hook was George, a member of staff who volunteered for the bad guy/ugly sister type roles and asked if Hook could wear a dress! We would have reported him to the manager, but he was in the crocodile kilt. That's when I learned to ensure that every part had an emergency stand in. As the big day approached the tension was palpable. Babs was smoking even more aggressively. We were on eggshells.

I had asked for a witches costume to be made and forgot to cancel it when Monica, the girl who was meant to have been the fairy had been sent to a secure unit.( Anything to avoid the show!) Because of this two normally biddable girls who had spent a week in class making it were threatening to run away. I asked Babs if she would wear it for the role. I should have asked George. The cigarettes were smoked in my direction for a whole day.

However I was saved because the Lost Boys did really get lost. Babs' anger focus changed. I should have known that fate would ensure they would abscond. There were 3 jokes about the lost boys running away in the show. Then, two new boys were brought in by the Police. They should have been shown round the unit and gradually introduced to everyone.

Instead, they found themselves reading lines from a poster on stage in front of two hundred strangers, within an hour of coming into Care. At their Hearing the next day, they promised the Children's Panel that they would be good in future and that they had totally learned their lesson.


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'Hamish ' is an antiwar writer socialist- scientist and musician living in Scotland.

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