Steve – “My dad was a bit of a crook”

Just before Steve’s nursery nativity play, his dad robbed a post office and shot a policeman. In hot pursuit, the police raided the nativity play. “My brother thought it was the perfect opportunity to take a picture of me, as they were yanking my dad out of the audience.” The photograph shows Steve, dressed up as Joseph, sitting on the stage in tears.

Steve doesn’t have any real memories of his dad from before he was sent to prison. He has no recollection of visiting him in prison, but he has been told the stories. “Apparently he used to get my mum to smuggle stuff in (to prison), in my nappies… drugs and things like that”. Steve was ten when his dad was released. As his mum had divorced his dad, he didn’t really reconnect with him until he was 16. “I wanted to see if I had that father-son relationship.” At the time, being 16 and in to drugs, Steve thought it was quite cool that his dad was dealing drugs. As Steve’s alcohol and drug habit increased under the influence of his father, his relationship started to break down with his mum. He admits, “I was a bit of a git to my mum”. It was only when his dad tried to pull him further in to his world that he realised the extent of his dad’s behaviour. The last straw was when his dad tried to get him to drive a van for a robbery, aged 18.

I met Steve when he was performing a very moving, and at times angry, poem about all the things he wish he had the courage to say to his dad. He wrote it at his dad’s hospital bedside, two days before his dad died. Steve remembers, “when I wrote the poem I was very emotional as it bought everything back up.” But when his dad died, and even at the funeral, Steve didn’t have any emotion. “In a way it was quite weird…I was void of everything.” Clearing out his dad’s flat, ironically on Father’s Day, he didn’t feel the need to hold on to any sort of keepsake from his dad. I wonder if the grieving process for Steve started when he was 18. By penning his true emotions through the poem he wrote at his dad’s bedside, may have helped him finally accept the mixed feelings he felt for his dad. Maybe for Steve, the grieving process finally came to an end once the ink had dried on the poem.

Steve likes to write character based and true-life poetry. “I tend to like the darker side of people.” He has written a group of poems all based on characters in a prison psychotherapy session. All the characters have done dreadful things, but the poems look at how much their situation played a part in causing them to do these things. “Can you feel sorry for someone who has done something quite horrible?” questions Steve. He likes to throw light on subjects that make people feel uncomfortable, such as taboo subjects like paedophilia. I agree with Steve when he says, “these things exist, they are in the world and we tend to turn away from them, whereas we should acknowledge them for what they are.”

Steve started writing poetry when he was 12 years old and although his poetry is very good, he doesn’t perform so much of it now, which is a shame. His real passion is his music and the band he plays guitar in, DodoBones. Although the music scene has dropped off in Hemel since the heady days when David Bowie and Freddie Mercury graced the stage at the Pavillion, DodoBones play a lot of gigs and festivals in the wider area. Their performances have included Carfest and the Cambridge Rock Festival, where they supported The Animals. Thankfully it looks like Steve’s distressing stage debut aged three hasn’t put him off performing.

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