HG, work placement 1, aged 19, year 2000

  • To my surprise, I was offered a year out placement in Wales, and was offered it quite quickly with little detail on either side. It was a trainee shepherdess placement, where I would do qualifications on the job. It sounded like a dream, especially for me, in the difficulties I was in, ie I could lose my course without a suitable placement, and the only other placements coming up were arable, unsuitable for a novice and placements were scarce, fought over and for competent farmers sons and daughters who had done everything on their family farms already. I was the dunce.
  • So, this placement that only accepted females, only accepted novices and was with sheep, seemed ideal to me.a dream, but back then I didn't know that dreams are not reality.
  • I went to Wales to meet the farmer and his wife. They seemed nice but also odd and cold, they really seemed to be trying to sell the placement to me. I was a bit worried about the money, they were offering £35 a week in allowance, for a full working week, including weekend duties, they did provide accommodation though, and I didn't have much choice and decided to take the placement, they didn't have any other takers, which was also strange.

  • I was sad to leave Hampshire, very sad and scared, because I only wanted to be there in Hampshire, my only home, the county my family had travelled when I was a child and the county I had just spent two happy years in. But the assurance that I would return for the last year of my course and forver after my work placement, and the assurance from my landlady that I could come back to visit, made me feel better.
  • So, the woman from Wales came to collect me, and again I was struck by her odd coldness, she was not a friendly or nice person, she was just someone offering a work placement.
  • When I got there, I was shown to the spare room, which was hardly a bedroom, it had a flight of stairs to the kitchen one side and a door to the landing, which didn't close properly or lock the other side, and the airing cupboard, which the woman used, was in this 'spare room' basically I had no privacy, which was not good, because back then I had to sing, hum or rock or talk myself to sleep at night and how could I do that with no privacy? And without being seen as strange? :) I was strange, ok?
  • I wasn't warned that the couple also did bed and breakfast and so strange people were in and out all the time, it was basically scary and with strange men in and out and my room having no security, I was scared.
  • The room was very basic, almost nothing in it, no storage, there was another student also in the house and we were not allowed in the living room, where the television was, the farmer and his wife enjoyed television and we weren't allowed, and if the other student turned the television in the kitchen on, the farmer would yell at her.
  • I soon learned that he was a nasty tempered man who shouted all the time.
  • For me, coming from my background, this very soon left me depressed, withdrawn and fearful.
  • The more fearful I became, the less I could function, so I was left strimming miles of live electric fence and getting electric shocks from it -yes, this is true, that is what I was made to do, day in, day out.
  • The farm was fairly isolated, within walk a tiny village with no shop but two pubs.
  • Everyone would go to the pub, everyone from the farm etc, and so I did, and I wasn't a drinker, but I drank at the pub, and got unsteady but never drunk, I got no pleasure from it and didn't know why people drank.
  • The villagers at the pub didn't like the farmer, and called him 'fart-ass' behind his back, because that sounded like his surname, and he was reputed to do very little and make his students do all the donkey work for £35 per week, which did appear to be the case. His wife was an unhappy woman who spent a week each month in bed with PMT, and so I was completely at a loss, because I was in an isolated place with no-one at all to spend time with and the coldness of the atmosphere was intense. 
  • The other student could drive and had a local boyfriend, she was dishearteningly scornful of me when she said she would set me up with a man and I said 'Is he honest and faithful and caring?' she said I wasn't being realistic and where would I find a man like that? I have never forgotten that, because I think rather than me being unrealistic, she had low standards and cheapened herself, nonetheless, I did not go ahead with being set up.
  • So, I was isolated on a farm with three people who couldn't care less, I was not learning anything and was ill a lot, again, hayfever, injuries from childhood, stress, depression, exhaustion, I was unhappy, even though I thought the Welsh Mountains were awesome and I was priviliged to be there.
  • So the placement wasn't working and I returned to the college.
  • It wasn't even the end of the summer 2000. And I was very disappointed, and very crushed by the whole placement, especially the farmer shouting at me, he told me I pretended to be stupid when I wasn't, and I knew that wasn't true, but undiagnosed, that is how the Autism came accross.
  • That placement caused me to feel suicidal for the first time, I said to God that it was as bad as my early childhood, and I hadn't escaped just to end up back there.

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