Eric says: “I’ve sown stuff, I’ve planted it, I’ve grown it and I’ve harvested it and I’ve eaten it…”

“When I first come here, obviously you get given the choice between woodwork, pottery and gardening. I done the gardening, but I was doing the work on the poly-tunnels, and I thought to myself if I’m going to be doing this, I want to maintain it, I want to do it and keep up with it. I don’t want to do this and then have someone else come in ruin my work, not now it’s there … I just said to Chris can I do this please? I understand it. It talks to me, you know, like I get it. I get on well with Lucy and at that time I could see she was a bit like … I felt that I saw that she was a little bit overwhelmed, so I thought maybe I could help. Yeah, and I’ve taken off with it really.

I worked for **** Council for six years, from when I was 18 to 24. That was very stressful. I reckon that’s where my drink and drug addiction come from. The blokes I was working with … you’ve got people from all walks of life down there … meth, speed, whatever you need … zig-zags, bags of weed, that’s what it was down there. So, I got roped into that really and all the old blokes down there, they’re stressed … we go to the pub after work to relax, do you want to come? It’s a really shitty job. You’re emptying other peoples’ rubbish. You’re a bin-man, you know. The customers, they’re not nice. No-one’s got nothing nice to say. You do get the odd person … oh, I don’t envy your job … yeah, f@*$ off. It’s not a nice job. So, from going to emptying people’s recycling boxes with like bin juice running down your leg, to seeing something put in the ground and growing … now I’ve been here for about a year, I’ve sown stuff, I’ve planted it, I’ve grown it and I’ve harvested it and I’ve eaten it. That is really rewarding. If I can do that for the rest of my life, that’s brilliant. I’d be really happy to do so.

This is still like my first official growing season, but it would be a bit of a bias answer saying that I like to eat whatever I’ve planted, I suppose, you know, the garlic and the rhubarb and all that because I’ve worked on it. Before I came here, I didn’t really like eating veg much, but I will eat it now because I’m growing it. I don’t like kale, but I’m eating it because I’m growing the bastard things. It’s just very tough, chewy.

I think I got lost … growing up … my childhood is the care system, the police, all that, you’re caught in the system from a very young age and you’re in this social services, the police, it’s just so government controlled, but doing this, there’s no control to it, you know, you’re off out and it’s sunny or it’s rain and it’s all natural. It’s all nice. I go home and even though I’m knackered, it’s hard work but you’re not stressed … oh, I’ve had such a hard day, leave me alone … it’s just like, I’m tired.

My sister has noticed a difference as well. She says I’m a little bit calmer, but still a bit more Victor Meldrew. She does my head in, but that’s siblings isn’t it.

I’m just going with the flow. I want to carry on definitely with this gardening. I want to see how far I can take this, the education side of it, and I think what Chris has offered me, like working and education, the best of both worlds. It’s a really good combination. So, I’m doing my level two horticultural course.

I’ve got to stay true to what I’m doing and stay driven and focused and not get thrown off. I believe I will. I can’t go back to where I was … fuck that … sitting there smoking crack cocaine in a crack house in Torquay, eating 17p packets of noodles, what the fuck was I doing? It’s nice to be given the opportunity to do so, it really is. At the moment what’s really nice … a few people have come through and you’re seeing how well they’re thriving. I can see a bit of me in them too. You’re thinking fair play lads, get on. There is other people out there, so it does work and it’s nice to see just like the gears moving smoothly, it really is.

I want this place to work too. Coming here … I wasn’t going to come here originally because I thought it was a cult type thing. Being a care kid and all that, you get thrown so many different schemes and programmes … it’s just another one of them isn’t it, but it’s not that at all. Having been through so many of this shit, I actually found one thing that’s decent, I want it to work. It helped me out, why can’t it help other people out? [and] that’s rewarding in itself. I’m atoning for my sins. I feel better about myself. I feel like I’m doing good.

Becca said to me I shouldn’t really kind of relate myself to other people’s predicaments as such. I’ll be like my life ain’t that bad because I look at that, but I do … we’re all human-beings. I worry about what I’m doing, there’s probably some bloody kid called Eric, my age in Africa, that’s struggling to shit. So, it’s just appreciate what you’ve got as well. It’s like being humble, that’s it. That’s what it all boils down to, all of this that I’m doing is like being humble, just being nice and true. Take what you need and give what’s needed, you know.”

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