We settled into a routine, and started enjoying our new life. The house was huge, with a generous garden. I bought a flat-packed swingset/climbing frame, and set about building it. It took me 3 days, and the boys loved it.
We were just minutes away from the beach, which was an isolated stretch of sand bordered with huge boulders. Access wasn't commercial, consisting of well-worn pathways through scrub land, snaking down the sandstone cliff to the rocks below. Physically demanding, it was all just part of our adventure. We had the sea in our own back garden. Well it felt like it. The sea at night was mesmerising and I found it therapeutic. I came to terms with leaving Nottingham, and tried to focus on the future. The boys were safe here. I called it 'my paradise'.
The only concern I had about Easington, was the massive industrial power plant it was home to. The footprint of this operation was easily many times the size of the actual village, and it housed Easington police station onsite. There was 'deep water' signs, along with gas and electricity activity, a large offshore wind farm visible out to sea, with inland turbines dotted around. Liquid nitrogen was stored in huge tanks. Armed MOD police patrolled the entire area 24/7, their automatic weapons held clearly on display whenever they exited their vehicles. We had to drive past this plant every time we went to Withernsea, it was quite unnerving.
The power plant held alarm drills on a weekly basis, the first few times this happened we were fully expecting to be evacuated by emergency procedures, but we soon got used to it. The first time they burned off the excess gas was also quite scary, but again we just got used to it. Despite the size of the plant, and the constant police drive-bys, the roads in the village were really quiet, with sounds of horses hooves breaking through the bird song and distant waves crashing. We could live with the weird power plant behaviour, the police driving jeeps and carrying machine guns, it was a fair trade. I think.
The boys loved the house, loved the increased space, the garden with their climbing frame, and especially the beach. We needed a dog, I decided.
Scrolling twitter one day, pictures of the cutest puppy appeared. Needing a home, and in Withernsea, I felt this pup was sent for us. I contacted the number, and we collected an 8 week old Staffordshire bull terrier, black with tan markings which made her look like a tiny rottweiler. She was the size of my trainer, and we all adored her. I named her Trix, after the film The Matrix. Trix loved the beach as much as we did, she was perfect.
The letter from social services caught me off guard. They had been contacted by Longcroft school and wanted to come out. To do an assessment. Oh here we go again, I thought. Just when things were going alright they have to come stick their beaky noses in again. Haven't they done enough damage? Anger bubbled inside.
I contacted T, who had started his law degree at Lincoln University. He was blunt, as usual.
"You don't have to consent to this mum, you keep letting them in, believing their bullshit about support, getting your hopes up, and they never do anything. Then you moan about it. Just don't let them in. You don't have to consent"
He wasn't happy about us leaving Nottingham, despite the fact he had technically left home to live in student accommodation at Lincoln uni. He was upset at losing his childhood home, and although he did visit us in Easington a few times, he stayed at my mums in Nottingham frequently. He blamed me for social services constant interference, and often berated me for inviting them in all the time.
I worried about denying the authorities access to the boys. I was aware of the tactics employed by social workers, and the boys being home educated raised red flags, with them being isolated and out-of-sight of any professionals. Plus I had nothing to hide, I had a functioning home school set up, R was attending college, we had a new dog, the house was ideal, why would I be worried about them doing an assessment? In a weird way, I wanted to prove we were doing great, despite the set backs. I tentatively contacted the social worker, and introduced myself. I said I received the letter, and while my law student son had advised me not to consent or engage, that I had rights to privacy, I was reluctantly prepared to allow just one assessment. Make it thorough, I demanded, because I won't offer any further consent to assessments after this one.
The social worker was happy to agree to my terms, she explained that as a family we should have been transferred to their service by Nottinghamshire when we moved. She apologised for us 'falling through the cracks', and assured me that as long as the assessment was satisfactory, as she was sure it would be, there would be no further need for their involvement. She confirmed that records showed I had registered with the local authority as home educating, and that as long as I engaged with the home education assessments, that would be acceptable.
The assessment that was completed was overall extremely positive. The social workers confirming the reports from the protection conference were false, exaggerated, and that things should never have reached child protection stage. So we WERE set up, we WERE chased from our home by the lies of 'trusted' professionals. Paul Scott, the social worker from Nottingham, praising my parenting. We'd lost our home over this. And it was right there in black and white. We were set up.
The assessment was accompanied by a series of recommendations. Further assessments by other services. That wasn't what I'd agreed to.
"They're recommendations mum, not demands. You don't have to accept them" T was again frustrated that social services were offering 'possible' support, he knew from experience this would involve nothing more than endless assessments, and denials. We 'don't meet criteria' being a regular excuse.
"Stop inviting them in, they never help, and then you just get stressed"
He was right. I had to draw the line somewhere. I'd offered one assessment, no more. We were doing alright. I wasn't interested in any further interference.
The home education assessment was conducted by a lovely woman. I was keen to show my curriculum planning, my assessment data, the work the boys had done already. But she didn't look at any of that. She explained she had done this job a long time, and she 'got a feel' for who was doing a good job. She explained there was no standards when assessing home education, and that lots of everyday activities could be turned into teaching activities. She was happy with the sounds of my provision, and happy that I sounded like I knew what I was doing. She thanked me for my time, and confirmed my next assessment would be in a year's time.
We began to look forward to our first Christmas in the new house, when news of an incoming storm came in. Weather warnings were aired, roads were closed, we were expecting what was predicted to be the worst storm for more than 50 years. Friends in Nottingham offered us refuge but all surrounding roads were closed as well as humber bridge, there was no way of getting out. We moved all our furniture upstairs, covered all the doors with tape, and sat tight while the storm raged outside...