Participants in the Stories of Care creative writing project responded creatively to stories about 18th and 19th century Foundling Hospital pupils. Here is Jo’s creative writing titled ‘My Friend Margaret’. You can also watch a video of Jo performing her piece at the showcase.
My Friend Margaret
I can hear Matron shouting at poor Edward. He’s getting it today. I feel my heart thumping in my chest. I just want to run and hide in case she starts on me next, pointing out my faults, every fault of my own, exposed and laid bare. Nothing individual in this place. Characteristics are stripped from us as we need to conform. It’s all about conformity, uniformity. That’s how it has to be.
Suddenly, I see Margaret in the distance. She is hiding behind a tree. She senses my fear and sheltered by the shade of a large oak, she beckons me over. I feel the relief awash over me and my breathing begins to slow as I hurry over to Margaret. Will she spot me? Will Matron stop me in my tracks? The angry relentless tirade fading into the background, to be replaced by birdsong and the sound of the rustling breeze through the trees, and Margaret’s gently, playful giggle.
I hesitantly approach her as she mutters:
‘It’s unfortunate this cholera outbreak doesn’t incarcerate her for a couple of days, confining her to a sick bed, giving us all a welcome break.’
It takes me a couple of seconds to register… Sweet, gentle Margaret is a kindred spirit. We are conjoined in our mischief. She is just like me. ‘Yes,’ I say as I struggle to compose myself.
‘It’s us against the world, eh?’
So, she fancies herself as a rebel … just like me. She has enjoyed my boldness. Fighting against the grain, against the system. Which brings us here. On the cusp of taking our first tentative steps. We are Margaret and Agnes. Margaret and Agnes. Never to be spoken of using a number again.
‘We are breaking away.’
It feels liberating. I’m leading her away. We are leading each other. I’m taking Margaret with me. We are united. This will be our lifeline, our connection, our escape from the harsh institutional reality. Our oasis in the desert.
Come on Margaret.
‘Come on Agnes.’
We walk off linking arms.