Entitled by Janelle Scott

I learned about Entitled via a friend who volunteers with Shining Stars. Apparently, the author was going to donate $5.00 from every book sold to this charity. As winter descends, Shining Stars is needed more than ever. They feed the hungry, provide essentials to the homeless, ensure people fleeing domestic violence have clothes and furniture, and new mothers have all they need for their babies. I could easily wax lyrical about all they do, wallpapering this blog, but you can read more about them on their website. I ordered a copy of Entitled, eager to help Shining Stars and also support the Author who was making such a generous pledge.

Entitled by Janelle Scott

 

Shining Stars

I could not put this book down once I started! How often have we been blasé to the homeless on our streets? How often have we pretended not to see them? If we avoid eye contact, we won’t have to engage with them. Children tug on their parent’s arm, to enquire as to why people have no home, and are shushed, then hurriedly moved on. The protagonist in this story is no different. If we create a chasm between them and us, it means that we don’t have to digest the unappetising reality that many of us are only a few pay slips, or a medical disaster away from the streets. We believe that they must have done something to create their situation, or didn’t try hard enough. It brings us peace of mind, that we are somehow masters of our destiny, and they are not.

I read Entitled in one sitting, thrilled that not only had the author nailed what it means to be destitute, but also what it means to be broken down then rebuilt. The people our heroine meets on the street are the truest friends she has ever had. They may well be the only friends she has ever had. I have seen homeless buddies run and fetch hot tea for another with the last of their money, or offer food and a blanket to a newbie. This is unadulterated love, something which Shining Stars has in abundance. Several societal ranks are featured in this book, with fate conspiring to have them meet, and learn from each other.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You can order Entitled from the following:

Booktopia

Janelle Scott’s webpage

To make a donation to Shining Stars, or to find out more, click here.

Living Life on your own Terms

She knew what it felt like to be owned, or rather, how it felt when others presumed to own her. She had never felt as free as when she placed her most treasured possessions in a suitcase and left the detritus of her old life. The wardrobe was crammed with dresses and coats she would never wear again. The comforts of times past were still sitting on the shelves, her linen on the turned-down bed. She looked around her room one more time, and then closed the door, not looking back. One suitcase and a pocket filled with dreams were all she carried. She would never again see photographs of herself as a child, nor read through old schoolbooks. Stories were contained inside her mind, recollected at a moment’s notice. It is much more fun to belong to oneself. She thought of who she might be as an older lady. She hoped that she would have honed her own style, after years of discarding what hadn’t worked. She hoped that she may have found what did. Whether that be becoming a Lady in Pink, or the Chick in Green.

Perhaps, there would be the wistfulness that comes when one has had to make hard but true choices. This Iggy Pop song would take her back.

There is a price to pay for freedom, whether it be emotional, material or everything in between. One must not think too much about the risks, or one would never be brave enough to leave. All it takes is a deep breath, and the knowledge that the centre isn’t holding and is actually giving way. The trip into the unknown is the only way to survive. To be one’s own master, not owned nor contained. Twenty years pass, just as in the song, ‘Candy.’ She is ever closer to reaching her golden years. Perhaps a lady in pink awaits, or maybe she will become a rainbow. She wonders whether she has used up her quota of colours in younger years; maybe she will instead cloak herself in charcoal and grey? She knows that birds, dogs, a wild garden and books shall feature heavily. Wherever she ends up, and whomever she is evolving into, she can say she has lived life on her own terms. She was always an unruly spirit, unconstrained and certainly never owned nor boxed in. No matter what they thought…

 

Sanctuary

I was fortunate enough to find a few sanctuaries around Sydney in my tumultuous youth. I find that if I neglect my visitations, I can’t settle. The first time I discovered this place, I was fourteen years old. I had run from the institution of where I had found myself. It was summer, and I looked longingly through the gate, incredulous and transfixed by the fun and frivolity I saw. These people had not a care in the world as they reclined on the sun lounges and waded in the water overlooking Sydney Harbour. I was both enchanted and detached from the spectacle, a few minutes by foot from my own nightmarish existence. A bird in a gilt-edged cage, put outside to witness other birds flying free.

The place where I was living cared little for me, and I later discovered that they hadn’t even noticed I was missing, such was their lack of interest. The next time I wandered, I had managed to scrounge up the modest entry fee to the baths. I was safe here. No monsters laid in wait, just fish, weaving between the people. The salt water cleansed my body, as it did my mind. I floated, I waded and I reclined. I could plan a future here. I could dream big, and imagine living to sixteen. I could imagine I lived in one of the lovely homes nearby and had slipped out for a dip. I would cry as I left to go up the hill, back to my prison. The baths were sacred ground, untouched by evil.

My sanctuary never left my thoughts or heart, and when I had my daughter, I couldn’t wait to bring her here. I had a moment, when I first saw her as a toddler, playing in the sand, and swimming in the water. I survived, and had introduced my daughter to my paradise. As nonsense once again rained down on me, I took my daughter back to the baths.

We found shade under a grand old tree, and ate the most splendid chips. We swam with the great-grandchildren of the fishes I had once encountered, and experienced the reunification  only a sea breeze can offer. I was home.

The Last Place…

I have returned to most of the places where frightful events took place… Buildings and hospitals, houses, parks and reserves. I have stood at these scenes and wept for the girl who suffered so. I wept for what transpired. I took my power back, and incorporated that young girl  into my psyche. No more feeling discombobulated, as though I had been blown apart, my ashes found all over Sydney. I became a little phoenix, rising with her wings outstretched. However, there was one place I hadnt been back to, couldnt go back to…

It was where I spent a great deal of my childhood, it’s gothic visage, cemetry and vast grounds  seemingly enormous and frightening to a child. I have visited friends at the nearby hospital, averting my gaze from the tower standing high amongst the trees at the end of the road. In the 70’s, the old hospital was turned into a mental health facility and school for children and teens. The family had many visits there, none of them ending well. So many memories; too many memories. I was to be placed there at fifteen, my third such hospital, but the only one catering to anyone remotely in my age bracket. At my pre-admission, an older teen threatened to rape me on my admittance. I couldn’t go there… I had been through enough. Besides, I wanted to work. I had left school a year prior, and my god, I had seen and been through more than most adults. This felt like going back to the beginning. I was to be held here, with nowhere else to go.

A series of events saw the story changing, and my back was broken. I ended up spending several months in an orthopaedic ward. This place is my Sliding Doors moment. What would have become of me if I had been admitted? Would my story have been better or worse? I wouldn’t have had my hip and ribs grafted into my back, to make up a replacement spine. I wouldn’t be in physical pain every second of the day and night. However, I doubt I would have healed emotionally. It was the wrong place in the wrong era at the wrong time. I would have been as vulnerable as before.

My daughter was looking forward to an upcoming camp, as was I, and we learnt where we were to be staying. Yes, it was the place I had been avoiding for over twenty years. Every cell in my body stood on a knife’s edge. Then, I breathed. I thought deeply about the timing, and whether I could face it. Memories came flooding back. The hallways and offices, the conversations and smells. How desperate I felt to live a happy life, away from all this. I believed this opportunity happened for a reason. I am now strong enough to go back, and reclaim that girl. Strong enough to go back and reclaim me. I packed for camp, and then I went to camp. I wasn’t afraid. This time, I was free to leave, and nobody would harm me. I faced the gothic structure with courage and was rewarded with my last retrieval of ash. The phoenix could now breathe fire. The phoenix could now fly.

Runaways.

af14922d-da76-4c2d-88f4-14204f5161aeIn the last two days, I have heard three stories of runaways. Two of these people are now adults, and happily survived their tumultuous history. The other story I heard of, is about a little girl. We don’t know the full details as yet, only that she has been found. We hope she is happy, my friends and I. I was filled with dismay at how quick commentators on social media were to judge her. They said she needs a belting, to be screamed at, demeaned, reduced… Twenty years after my time,  it seems as though empathy is not forthcoming from all. A man I greatly respect told me that he slept on the streets of Sydney  for four years  as a youngster. He chose homelessness over staying in a house with a violent father. Another friend left at sixteen. “It was either run or die.” Some choice. I ran away for the first time at four years of age. I wanted to make it to my friend’s house. It was calm there. Instead, I was pursued, then beaten, and told  that I would never get away. It didn’t stop me trying. I wanted the pain to stop, to see who I could be and what I could do in this world. It was a positive gesture, assuring those on the periphery that I valued my life and wanted to live. I wanted to try.

13 Years.
13 Years.

Bad men came forth with generous offers of places to stay from twelve to fourteen. “How kind,” my mind whispered, before a cacophony burst forth from my intuition. “They will destroy you!” I declined numerous offers, and watched in despair as two of my young friends died whilst being sheltered by these characters. I rang a host of numbers on a payphone at fourteen, begging someone, anyone, to help me. The criterion was very specific, and you had to fit into the parameters. I was told I was too young, too old, and on and on it went. At fifteen, I was found after running away from a clinic. I was taken to the local police station. When I was told I would have to sleep in the cell in the corner, and I gratefully thanked them, they knew things were bad. They found me a bed in a refuge, the only bed free in the whole of Sydney. I was taken there at 11pm, and a bleary-eyed social worker opened the door. I fell on top of the mattress in the share room, and lay awake, wondering what was going to become of me.

 

In the morning, the boy’s came from their room, and we from ours. There were eleven of us. We sat at the battered dining table, and a young man wondered aloud what would happen to him when he turned sixteen, in a week’s time. He was trying to go to school, and would soon be without a bed. I was shown a binder filled with resources for kids like myself. You could have a shower here, then lunch here. By a miracle, a bed might show up over there… Nothing was coordinated. “You have to do a lot of travelling when you’re on the streets,” the social worker said. I came to the refuge with nothing, and the toothbrush, washer and soap I was given meant the world to me. I felt as though my identity had been reduced… Over the years, I have known many runaways, both teens and adult survivors of abuse. Their leaving had nothing to do with tiffs over freedom. Rather, they were fighting for their lives.

 

A friend of mine runs Street Pax, a wonderful incentive she started alone. She sources donations of useful foodstuff and toiletries, and prepares packs. She then delivers them to those on the street. They are always gratefully accepted. I will never forget my toothbrush, washer and soap. For further information, or to donate, please go to Street Pax on Facebook.