Today is Steven's birthday. Four years ago at the Unit, it was a very different, tense, damp squib sort of birthday.
I arrived first thing with Steven's birthday presents. The day got off to a bad start. The DVD player at the Unit had packed up months before and hadn't been repaired. So, all the DVDs I'd got couldn't be watched. The same with the computer games I'd brought - the Unit didn't have a computer for the service users, so the games remained unplayed. I took Steven's ghetto blaster with me so at least we could listen to the new CDs but it all felt a terrible anti-climax. Steven didn't want to keep any of his presents at the Unit and made me bring them home with me.
I'd got tickets for us to go to Abba World, an exhibition of all things Abba that was being held at Earls Court that week. By now, Steven had been at the Unit three months and they were well into their "building up a case" position. They had logged 218 incidents of Steven lashing out or "engaging in behaviours that need further understanding" and RISK was the watchword, written and spoken about in capital letters. For days, the Unit were considering whether Steven could go the exhibition, factoring in the risk to others if he went. I'd hatched a plan withe the support workers that we'd pretend to be going swimming that morning and once in the cab, speed off towards Olympia. We'd deal with the consequences later. As it happened, they had a last minute change of heart and we were allowed to go.
Steven had a great time. We performed on stage with holograms of the band. We sat in the helicopter from the cover of "Arrival" and Steven was delighted to see Bjorn and Benny's recording studio recreated with views across the archipelago. I felt melancholy all day - sure it was fun but it was a small oasis in a turgid time
Back at the Unit, there was a small party. One of the other residents went to town and put up decorations and changed into a tie for the meal. They did make an effort but both Steven and I knew that it was not the sort of birthday he'd prefer to be having.
Here's a picture of the trip to Abba World. The Unit were unhappy about pictures of the agency staff being taken. The guy didn't mind at all, so to get round the Unit's concerns we did a little photoshopping and put Mr Bean's head on him: