I could not contain my excitement. I was off to Seafield Residential School. This would be my second time staying in the big house on the Clyde. Two weeks of fun, adventure and activity. I had been there a couple of years before. This was my last chance to go as I started first year in Hutchesons’ after the summer, and I was so looking forward to it.
Mum and dad also seemed excited for me. As they helped pack my bag and got me ready for what seemed like an all-day coach trip to Ardrossan (even in 1981 it was less than one hour).
So we got me all packed up and ready to go. This would be a great trip. I was still coming to terms with the loss of my granda that February. All my spare time was spent in my granny and granda’s. I loved my walks up the country road with granda. I loved sitting at the coal fire in their house. I just loved being around them. They also used to make their own ginger. My love for technology and gadgets was built into me there through my cousin Peter who had been brought up by them. He was the first person I knew to have a remote control VCR, attached by a wire then, but still remote control. He was a music buff and would listen to groups like Orange Juice before really anyplace did.
Anyway, a coach full of excited 11 and 12-year-old boys set out on a drive that seemed like hours long, it took an hour.
I had been at Seafield a couple of years previously and loved it, so my expectation was really heightened. It was set in what seemed like a ginormous old house on the Ardrossan seafront. Built in the 1800’s and used as a military hospital in the second world war, I loved its high ceilings and long corridors. We slept in dorms of about eight or ten. Very well lit dorms with the big scenic windows letting in tons of sunlight.
It was here that I probably really got to be mostly me. Seafield was free of the pressures of home. I don’t remember any issues with the other boys there. I only remember fun, although there was one night, where I had been particularly upset about my granda, and wet the bed. Yep I did that. The staff were brilliant, they acknowledged my grief and were really good at talking and understanding it with me, BUT they also encouraged me to try and get on with it and throw myself into the activities.
So I did.
Ardrossan Castle and its big slide. The assault course on the grounds. Football. My studying Ailsa Craig and the classroom studies. I felt ar home here and loved it (did I mention that before).
Every morning in Seafield there was a small “church” service. We would sing a couple of hymns, one of the boys would read from the Bible and one of the staff would, well I suppose, preach. We all really enjoyed it, and the preach always seemed to be relevant to what we were going through with practical advice, from the Bible, on how to deal with it.
They always asked for volunteers for reading, but I never volunteered. Even at the age of eleven, I was aware that most of the boys could not read very well, and I was aware that I could. So I said nothing until the last morning. I had wanted to read out. I always enjoyed it, I just did not want to showboat. So the last morning I volunteered and I was chosen. What a great feeling for someone who was nearly always never chosen for stuff. I started reading publicly from the Bible surrounded by young guys my own age. I read well. Very well. The staff member leading us said, “wow Stuart if we knew you were that good at reading, we would have had you doing it every morning.” Yeah well, that is sort of why you didn’t know.
In the evenings though, we had my favourite all time snack. A glass of milk and jam pieces, (bread and jam sandwiches). The pieces were of course quartered. I loved those. I loved the very relaxed evenings in Seafield. I could not even tell you what we did, just that it was peaceful, and it had milk and jam pieces. Even now, all these years later, I like milk and jam pieces. I think it has to do with the peace that I experienced there. The “out of body” or normal life experience that Seafield provided.
So we had our last morning, packed our bags, sorted our stuff and got on to the coach. Most of us were really disappointed to be going home. This was such an escape.
I loved going home, always had wee seaside gifts for everyone, and of course, all the crafts etc that we had done during our break. It was brilliant.
37 years later, I am talking to my friend, Craig who lives in Ardrossan. I mention Seafield to him and said how I loved going to the holiday home. “Ah Seafield,” he says “the respite home! That’s where hard to handle kids got sent so their parents got a break!”
Wow. All these years I thought I had been sent there as a treat. I knew I was difficult as a child. Never intentional though. But I was a nightmare. I knew what respite homes were, and I knew what respite care was, but cognitive dissonance had stopped me, all these years making the connection to my own past.
I smiled. I actually smiled. All these years later, I appreciated that it meant my mum and dad got a couple of weeks break from my behaviour. I just sort of thought it was always the other way around.
This is the first in a three-part series that will show how God turned around the need for people to have respite for me to my home being a place of respite. Milk and jam pieces will feature heavily.
This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
The Haven Kilmacolm
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Street Connect, Glasgow City
Bethany Christian Trust Scotland
Jumping Jacks Outreach, Maryhill
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church