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Keep up with Karen

Welcome to my new channel

Thank you so much for signing up to my sparkling fresh first newsletter. I’m aiming for a read that’s thought provoking, exciting and a touch challenging. Please do let me know how successful I am! I hope to produce a few more editions throughout 2024 – well – as many as time permits.

But first chocolate and inspiration!

I was Ubering through London heading from a Chartist magazine dinner the night before with the Guardian’s irascible master cartoonist, Martin Rowson to Gatwick and onwards to Seville…

A photo of Martin Rowson holding up one of his cartoons
Martin Rowson with one of his Gaza-themed cartoon artworks.

In the nick of time I managed to snag a much needed Benugo coffee and an oh so deliciously sticky chocolate bun, and as my short train journey began, it struck me – I should start a newsletter. Immediately. Minutes later ‘Keep up with Karen’ was born. Here’s the exact spot!

A view of London from a train window
The moment I decided to create this newsletter – my view of London from Blackfriars Bridge.

I wasn’t even thinking about the future or pondering possible courses of action open to me – as I usually do, planning and replanning my ambiguous future. That future being my life after politics… I was ‘fully in the moment’ when the thought struck me and I acted instantly. Would you call that impetuous, impulsive or acting on a whim? Probably yes, if your thinking is gendered. If I were a man, they’d say – I imagine – he’s so dynamic, forceful, purposeful. I’m merely being authentically and energetically me though. I’ve always shot from the hip.

Adoption apology

Of course I want most of all I want a vehicle to keep you up to date with the journey towards achieving an Adoption Apology and the book that I am writing ‘Kept Unkept Surrendered,’ The Movement for an Adoption Apology (MAA) are doughty fighters for the cause, this most grave unresolved social injustice, leading from front for many years. Given that in 1978 when I came out of St Paul’s Catholic mother and baby home – run by Father Hudson’s and linked to the notorious Tuam home – aged fifteen and somehow I’d kept my baby, why should I be so concerned you might ask?

Let me say this. There hasn’t been a single day when I haven’t wondered what happened to the women I was with in that place… and this led me to want to understand ‘how did I end up in there in the first place?’ ‘Why wasn’t there even meagre support for Dan and I after?’ ‘How did that experience impact the rest of my life?’ You can read more in my memoir, ‘Rattlechops.’, which I intend to have published shortly Only now, through the serendipity and privilege of interviewing so many women who have lived experience of forced adoption did I come to understand and accept my – indeed our – mantle of shame. A legacy that even now occasionally trips me up, ties my tongue, renders me under confident and stuttering. I’m not the only one am I? The shame still takes over…

Like many other women and men, these traumatic memories lie pressed down and sharply creased at the bottom of my memory drawer. Some recollections are as crisp as a freshly picked Granny Smith and as bitter as an unripe lemon. Trauma and perhaps age still prevents the full recall of occasions too painful to see daylight.

No – as MAA steps up it’s fight for an apology I’d also like my particular cohort of unmarried mothers, those post the 1976 adoption act to be included in any redress. But first our numbers would need to be calculated, our outcomes detailed, and our experience’s documented… When will this happen and who will undertake this work? I don’t know. Yet. But I do know it must be done.

Suddenly at 61 the forced adoption scandal begins to feel like the single most important issue I’ve ever grappled. And I have dealt with more than a few. Domestic violence as a workplace issue, equal pay for women, the scourge of child poverty to name but a few. Indeed it was my own experience’s of being ‘othered’ of being deemed ‘less than’ ‘worthless’ ‘shameful’ that led me into a political life. (More of that another time.)

Dazzling horizon

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a fantastic life, and as I look forward to my senior years, which seem to shimmer on a dazzling horizon, brimming with choice and excitement, I see the same god damn damaging patterns repeated in my own dear, yet vulnerable little family. I’m searching for answers. Through therapy, through thoughtful reading, through self-analysis, through writing and through entertaining distraction.

Keep up with me. See how I go.

Please drop me a line all questions answered and do please spread the word and share. Till soon, Karen xx

A photograph of Karen Constantine in a restaurant

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