I ended that year on a high, good grades, warning gone, middle year placement to go to, sad to be leaving Winchester and Hampshire for a year, but relieved to be able to come back for weekends occasionally on the invite of my landlady, and knowing I had a placement to go to and that I would be back. I had successfully worked for the newsagent’s right until the end.
I got to the placement.
I quickly learned that it was not for me, a farmhouse on its own at the top of a hill by a remote village in Wales, the farmer had a terrible temper, not a single day went by when he didn’t shout at the other student, who persuaded him not to shout at me as I couldn’t cope with it, she would be leaving at the end of the summer and I would really start my training when she left, in the meantime I did all the grotty jobs such as strimming under miles of electric fence, because the hedges didn’t keep the sheep in, the training that the other student was getting was obviously good, the farmer’s wife trained her in theory for hours on end, while the student was out doing a tremendous amount of practical work, pretty much everything on her own during the day, she told me bluntly what the villagers nicknamed the farmer for his temper and the way he got students to do all the farm work, and I wondered how I could cope when she had gone.
JM wrote to me saying she was trying to find me a counsellor in the area near the farm, and had contacted the Archdeacon of Brecon, but there wasn’t any realistic way of me getting to a counsellor in that area, so nothing came of that.
In the meantime there was nothing to do in the house, the farmer and his wife would sit and watch TV, while me and the other student were not allowed to, we were not allowed in the TV room, only the kitchen, the other student had family, a dog, a boyfriend, money in the bank, I had nothing, we were given pocket money every week, and she was often out with her boyfriend, I took to going to the pub, initially for chocolate, but I learned to drink vodka, briefly, which made me even worse than usual, I could still close barn doors when I was drunk, so no one noticed, but I was isolated in this strange place with no phone signal and no people around, silent as I was, I did want people around, but there was only the farmer and his wife who were really cold, and the other student who decided I was not right in the head and gave up on me, likewise the farmer openly called me mad and stupid, and asked why I pretended to be stupid when I was intelligent.
I knew that I did not mean to ‘pretend to be stupid’ and I was desperate for some way to explain myself, but I could not, I did not know I was autistic, I did not know fully about trauma, I only knew I was miserable and being punished more and more for not fitting in. One day when I got my period I had no sanitary towels and the nearest shop was 8 miles away, I told the farmer that I was going to walk into town after ‘work’, he asked why, I certainly wasn’t telling him why, I said I wanted a walk, after that he raged at me saying he was going to do tractor driving with me that evening, I couldn’t get things right there however hard I tried.
I had a few driving lessons while I was there, but I was too tense to really progress and couldn’t afford them anyway.
The farmer told me one day why didn’t I just shout and swear to let off steam, instead of being silent and stewing, he said that he shouted and swore when he was annoyed, but I thought of the college and wondered why I was being told one thing by them and another by the farmer.
The famer said he was watching me and listening because that’s what he did with his students, and he thought I was weird, I knew he was watching me, I knew he was a bit of a snoop, he would sometimes be on the landing at night outside my door, which embarrassed me as I would hum and sing and chatter, beep and squeak to myself in an autistic way as I tried to relax to sleep, I get very anxious about sleeping and was scared of the dark, I think it stems from being woken up by people breaking the door down one night when I was 12 (etc, if you know what I mean), I still do this autistic routine, and I have always been a bit embarrassed in case anyone hears me when I am in someone else’s company, which is why I like to sleep alone, and also because I suck my thumb and have frequent nightmares that sometimes cause me to scream out or leap from my bed in my sleep, anyway the farmer and his wife also went in my room on the excuse of going to the cupboard in there, but I had no privacy, I was like a goldfish in a goldfish bowl.
And basically I was relieved when he said that I wasn’t suitable for the placement, it had looked promising but very basically I did not have the mettle or ability to be there with that furious tempered man, I remember one day sitting in a field exhausted, worked into the ground and thinking ‘this is no better than ***** (early childhood) I may as well die if life is going to go on being such a struggle’, that was almost my first death thought as an adult, and my first real realisation of depression. My younger brothers had got jobs without even getting their GCSE’s, and I felt stupid and useless for my struggles in an industry that even uneducated and slow people could get jobs in. But I was angry about the cruel farmer saying unhelpful things to my tutor on the phone, the tutor was the one who had already said he couldn’t see me making it through the course, and I was worried sick for my future.
In the end the tutor and another member of staff from the college came to collect me, the member of staff who came with him was a man who had befriended me earlier in my college career, he was the one who told me he was a Muslim and that he and his Muslim friend used to get drunk together, he was a man who said many many things to me in the time I knew him that could not possibly be true, including that he used to be a gamekeeper, that he was a trained psychotherapist, that he was a gamekeeper, that he was trained in shamanism by a shaman, and that he had broken his back in a 100mph car crash, that he was a college warden, sadly these things he told me were all totally believed by me, and I was very reliant on him for advice during my first years at college, he encouraged and enjoyed this reliance, though at the time I did not know that other members of staff were not happy about it, he told me things like ‘If you want to swear then do, go for it!’, and ‘get angry, it is good for you’ which is not a good thing for a mentor to tell someone who is autistic! and many many other things that were actually bad for me and helped to make college more difficult, not that I went around swearing, I swore once at the counsellor, once at another student when I was wound up, other students swore and used obscenities frequently, but I was the one who got in trouble.
Anyway, this guy encouraged me to go a bit loopy, his ideas were far out and radical and not actually helpful, he became my close friend and mentor and father figure, and people didn’t like that, but he never misbehaved, neither of us did, I think he just enjoyed being respected and mentoring and being in charge of my life so to speak, and because of my upbringing, I always though that the ‘adults knew best and were in charge’.
JM was the next ‘mentor’ to spring into my life, she was a counsellor who thrust herself upon the college as counsellor/chaplain, the old counsellor spoke to me at one point asking if I would like to see JM, who he described with prejudice as ‘The local vicar’s wife’ and ‘a bit of a livewire’, I said no, I later decided of my own accord that I wanted more help, and asked the student officer to refer me to JM, JM maintained that I was forced by the tutors to see her, which is rubbish.
(I remain puzzled as to why JM lost her position at the college a few years later, although she told me she was made to feel unwelcome, she tried to be ‘Chaplain’ as far as I know).
When JM came to meet me she rushed towards me with her arm outstretched, this was far too quick for me and I dashed backwards out of the room, then I came back. JM leaped into my life, telling me her background, family, dog etc, she was so lively and loud and she asked why my attention kept wandering, I told her ‘I think fast’, I didn’t know why my concentration wasn’t great.
JM enthusiastically took me over, she started taking me home very quickly, within weeks of meeting me she would take me home for tea or meet me for dog walks, her husband was rude about that from the start, but JM would take me to her office, where I would interact with the dog more than with her. JM had a thing about me hating women, I didn’t hate women, but maybe because I had had more male company than female, and my dad and brother being the ones who looked after me and influenced me more than my mum, maybe I was used to men more than women. (the thing with JM was, she was very opinionated, like her mother, and would form concrete opinions of people and tell everyone)
JM told me about her stepdaughter, Sally, how I was the spitting image of Sally, how Sally had been mentally ill, had passive dependent personality disorder and spent a lot of time in psychiatric care, how Sally had been a big liar, how Sally had been a 12 year old (?12)disturbed girl when JM met her, and how Sally was desperate for affection and would sit in JM’s lap and want to be cuddled all the time, how JM tried to look after Sally and how Sally had no sense of humour and neither did FM, and how one day she made them a meal to try and get them to sit down peacefully together but FM chased Sally out into the road and they were screaming at each other.
JM told me of how Sally grew up and went to live on her own in a flat and would sit there chain smoking all day in the dirt and squalor, and JM would go and continue to try and help her and clean up and put the washing on while Sally sat and smoked, JM told me that FM resented her helping Sally and would sit outside in the car while JM went in and helped, and how it was tearing their marriage apart, so she abandoned Sally, and got one letter from her some time later, and that Sally changed her name.
The worst thing about all this was that JM told me I was the spitting image of Sally, and she showed me photographs, I was not comfortable with this at all and would leave the room rather than hear her go on and on about Sally and see the photos. I do recall something about JM going on about a ‘second chance’ with me, when she had become really emotionally involved, but I did not want to be a second Sally, I wanted to be me, not mentally ill or a chain smoker who lived in a hovel. One thing JM could not make me be was passive dependent, I am not, I value my independence more than anything, which may be why homelessness suits me so well now.
I gather from JM’s talk about me and what she told FM, that she thought I was having a relationship with the college safety man who was my mentor, which was undoubtedly unhelpful, added to her thinking that my ability to interact with some of my tutors but not my fellow students was about me wanting a relationship, but without exception it was not, I was not mature enough to think that way, I had grown to trust some of my tutors from the First Diploma, and therefore greeted them while not really acknowledging anyone else, I was as I said, a frightened person, and found being able to talk to the tutors comforting
(of course, my thinking that the adults knew best was also a part of this, as well as my fear of young people and people of my own age from the ghettos, council estates and hostels).. FM and this Safety man also started going to the same Masonic lodge together at around this time.
I didn’t have sex or desire it in the whole time I was at college, in fact I have not had sex since then, I am not really adult enough for a sexual relationship, nor do I find the thought of the physical side of it appealing and I am against sex outside of marriage, but the way JM talked about me you would think I was a nymphomaniac.
Looking back I am embarrassed about my clinginess to the tutors, I am ashamed of how JM seems to have branded me a slut, I never had any sort of sexual relationship with those safe and trustworthy men, and it didn’t cross my mind, I am glad that they were trustworthy too. The mentor was a bad influence in that he was untruthful and irresponsible, but it is my fault that I was blind to that and that his behaviour influenced mine, but he was not sexual.
Anyway, on leaving the farm in Wales, I returned to the college to live on site. JM arranged me a placement off a local farm owner who was her friend, unfortunately it was not a suitable placement to start with, but the arrangements were made behind my back between JM and the tutor and the farm owner (a wealthy landowner, oligarchy and church position holder, of course!).
I was not happy with this and I said so, I pointed out various problems that I could see would occur, but no one listened to me, so I started this placement, they also were only paying pocket money, it was a large arable farm where one man did all the tractor work, the farm owner’s son did the paperwork and sometimes a bit of tractor driving, and I was not going to gain any practical experience there as they simply left me weeding between hedgerows they had planted to gain government bursaries, they would not get bursaries unless someone weeded these miles and miles, literally, of hedges, it was hard hopeless work, that I was left doing on my own, the first day I got very thirsty because I had no water, I did not really understand break times, until the tractor driver started taking me home for breaks he warned me that his wife was a bit mouthy and snappy because she spent all her time alone indoors in the rural cottage, and she was, she didn’t like a girl working on the farm, she didn’t want a female anywhere near her husband.
One day they left me weeding a hedge on a steep bank by a road, the bank was slippery and I fell onto the road with a sharp scythe in my hand, I was shaken and again my leg was hurt, I walked back up to the farm cottage, and got yelled at by the jealous wife because I could not explain to her what had happened or that I wanted at least a high visibility jacket before I went back to that bank, as well as a bandage for my leg, the placement was falling apart, I was living onsite at the college but struggling for food because I had no cooking facilities and relied on the college canteen, which was not open when I got back from work, and it was difficult to get a packed lunch out of them, let alone breakfast, in the early morning, cycling to the placement every morning I came off my bike on the ice and it was ruined, I then had to rely on the tractor driver coming to get me or I had to walk to the placement, which took ages or put a strain on the tractor driver.
The hedges were all weeded, and they were struggling to find work for me, a big arable farm is not the place for an inexperienced or disabled student, they could not give the tractor driver time to train me and they could not let me loose on a tractor in the fields. They got me doing beating on shoot days, despite me being mainly against driving birds to their death at the hands of fat old men with guns, including JM’s farm owner friend, this was another reason I didn’t want to stay in this placement, but for this job I got extra pocket money as everyone got beater’s pay, we also got beer and partridges, I gave the partridges to the cleaner at college, and gave the beer to my friend ****, which was stupid in hindsight, but I had stopped drinking after my experiments with vodka in Wales, and **** wanted the beer, it made her hyperactive and more wild than ever, leading her to graffiti in chalk outside the hostels among other things, for which I was blamed, she got clingy too, and wanted to be with me all the time, she would come to my room in the evening and when it was bedtime and I threw her out, she would stand outside my window and tap on the window for ages, she also wanted to fight and wrestle, and she was bigger than me and quite heavy and I wasn’t comfortable with the physical contact or being sat on a lot, especially not as she farted all the time as well, she was a ladette, I wasn’t, I was just the way I had been brought up, looking like a boy, but I was the one who was called a lesbian, no one dared to cross **** because she had no compunctions about thumping them. She was company for me, someone who did not treat me like an idiot or a troublemaker, but she wanted a lot of time and energy and I was used to being alone.
And we were getting into trouble with the tutors for hanging around and chalking on the ground, mainly ****, but I got the blame,**** told me about her brother who had been killed when they were young, I told her that I had not gone to school and that there had been a lot of violence in my life, but apart from that we didn’t talk about the past.
**** told me many many rude things and jokes, and I listened, she talked about how she hated her classmates and she talked about agriculture, she was passionate about tractor driving and machinery and I knew that she was going to complete her NCA and had a better chance of getting a job than me, I was ashamed of the failing, badly set up placement that I was in, and I was ashamed of my inability to make things work out properly, basically I was as I had been for years, ashamed, embarrassed, I knew and everyone knew that I was odd, I didn’t have communication and interaction skills or understanding of social skills or what people wanted, expected or what their motives were, I only understood half, if that, of what people said to me, and I felt hopeless, I felt to blame, I felt depressed and sad and tired for struggling through each day like this, I still feel like this now, despite knowing what is wrong with me.
JM continued to get me to go to her home for counselling, though her husband’s unpredictable temper terrified me, he would sometimes answer the door with a stone cold growl ‘what do you want?’ JM said that was just how he was, and that he had been like that in church when they had arrived at ******* and he had been sat on for it, and later she told me she was pretty sure he had been violent to his first wife who could not stand up to him as she did and that FM knew if he ever hit her (JM) he would be out on his ear and that would be it, usually in public he came across as very mild and nice, especially to women, but in the house he was raging and yelling all the time he raged at me, at JM who ignored him and at JM’s mother who raged back, and her rage was terrifying, this situation never changed or got better. Apart from FM’s brief gentleness and generosity during the abuse, and even then he could flip and become what JM called autocratic.
I also raged and yelled during ‘counselling’ because JM refused to do anything about this badly set up unworkable placement,
I remained hating driving birds to their death on shoot days and being left in the middle of nowhere with no water and no toilet, on an open bridleway with no privacy to toilet, at the time, at the time I was simply not as capable as I am now, now I carry a bottle with me and fill it with water and I know how to go to the toilet in the field, but back then I had no control and I had to keep going back to the farm cottage for the toilet, and the jealous wife complained, I also continued to struggle to arrange food for myself.