Thursday, 17 June 2010


My teenage years were pretty vile. I was always either running away from home or being chucked out. I was the oldest and therefore my behaviour, no longer a compliant child, was a shock to my parents. By the time it came to my brother and sister, they were worn out and had given up on rules.
I ran away and stayed out all night when I was 14, sheltering in a church from a thunderstorm. Another time, I stayed the night in Muswell Hill ladies loo. One day, after I refused to clean the bath tub while my brother was lounging about: "Sexists!", my parents kicked me out. I moved to a squat in Camden Town, Royal College Street, just up the road from where Rimbaud and Verlaine lived.
Jesse Birdsall the actor shared the place with me, along with the sometime drummer/manager/mate of Madness, John Hasler. The place was very basic and had no heating. I lugged a bag of coal from the corner shop to light a fire in the tiny fireplace and lived off kebabs from the shop opposite. It was winter.
A few days later my parents put all of my belongings into black plastic rubbish bags: "Take these or lose them to the rubbish collectors!". Such fury on their part, they acted like they hated me.
I was at art college, flunking badly. I wanted to be a fashion designer and would make poorly constructed items on my mother's sewing machine such as vertically striped black and white trousers in satin (doh!) which I teamed with a pale pink angora sweater from Sex at World's end. I had a boyfriend who told me, on the first date, that he was going to be famous. And he was.
My parents were so strict, so threatened by my independence. I had to do whatever they told me to do. They constantly emphasised that it was their house, not mine. I felt insecure for years, until I finally bought my own place. I swore that if I ever made proper money that I would help homeless teenagers.
Teenagers get a bad rap in society; all those hormones, all that energy and curiosity. The boys are stabbing each other and the girls are trying to get boys to like them.
Many teenagers are homeless, because they were in care, because they don't get on with their parents, because they were abused, because the parents don't know how to parent. And sometimes the parents and the teens just need a break from each other.
This initiative seeks to help by getting teenagers on the street back into education.

Campaign to get half a million teenagers worldwide off the street and into school:

Tell Us Your Story is giving people the opportunity to recognise and reward others who have made a positive impact on their lives or in their community over the past year. Entries are submitted online at
Launched by Aviva, for every entry they will donate £1 to the Street to School Programme - a global initiative with the aim of reaching 500,000 children worldwide, helping them get off the streets and back into education.

A weekly prize of £1000 will also be awarded to the local hero that captures the hearts of visitors to the site and receives the most votes.  One overall winner will be chosen by a celebrity judging panel for a prize worth £10,000.

About Street to School:
Railway Children is the UK charity partner for the Street to School programme.
Railway Children is the only charity working across the UK with vulnerable children.
Every year in the UK, 100,000 children run away because they’re unwanted, unloved or abused and many are never reported missing. 


  1. This little old lady knocked on my door a few weeks ago and said she was from an organisation that helps lost/runaway children. She said that all these kids disappear every year and no one does anything to help them, even the established children's charities. Now I have my chosen charities that I give to and don't tend to support others, so I said I didn't have any money. She said "what, no money? You must have something" and I allowed myself to be bullied into going inside and getting a pound (my last) out of my wallet.

    She thrust some literature into my hand saying "if you know any students or young people who need a job we have some jobs going". When I read it it was total crackpot stuff. Xenophobic, conspiracy theorist, complete nutjob writing. Apparently there's a whole bunch of them who meet somewhere in Kings Cross every Friday or something. I dunno, I threw the paper away as if it was dirty.

    I couldn't believe I'd been bullied into giving this insane woman money in the name of helping children.

  2. I work with children in care and my passion in life is supporting young people who vote with their feet, and go home to the parents’ who “nasty social workers” removed them from, and to all the empty promise they offer. They may still be on a care order, but it is physically impossible to keep a 16 year old in a place against their will, and for them to understand their social worker really does want the best for them. Mum/dad/both have not stopped prioritising their own needs above those of their children. They are still drinking/using drugs/associating with partners who pose a threat to them or their children. The outcomes for looked after children have improved, but these children are the most vulnerable, and are the teenagers who engage with the criminal justice system or prostitution as a career opportunity/misuse alcohol or other substances, or just become homeless. Once they have removed themselves from the care system, these teenagers lose their rights to any service from Children’s Services, they are not best placed to fend for themselves what with all that early years trauma which they are still trying to manage, not to mention them all finding each other which results in chaos rather than support. I spend a lot of time trying to persuade them just to stay overnight one night a week with a foster carer, or more, whilst they work out what life at home is really like. I circumnavigate the system as much as I can, but then I meet them again when their children are subject to a child protection plan or accommodated by the local authority. This is a generalisation but you can imagine that they are children who have not been parented and, unless they have given it a lot of thought, they cannot parent. The risks they take are dangerous and their children are at risk. I can’t break the cycle all by myself, and I don’t have to, but if you come across anyone like this, if they are a friend of your teenager, they might be a little bit alarming in some ways, but try and keep them safe. When that happens, they come back years later, with a child they can take care of, and they say thank you.

  3. Thanks for your comments.
    Fingers: Do you know what the organisation was?
    Helen: It's so important what you are doing and I hope this government supports social workers, particularly those that work with children.

  4. Funny how things change, isn't it? Having met your parents and seeing the relationship you have with them it's hard to imagine how things were back in those days.

    An important lesson for both parents and teenagers going through it now?

  5. Hi ML. Thanks for sharing yet another episode of your life. Being a teen is fairly traumatic experience for anyone, but it's far worse if our parents lack sympathy and understanding. I would be horrified if my own teenager daughter walked out of our house! I'll do everything I can to be a supportive dad to her because teens need supportive and loving parents, in a way as much as little babies do.


I would love to hear what you think of this post! I try to reply to every comment (if there is a delay, I am probably away from an internet connection or abroad)