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  • This is the first part of John's story. That's not his real name. But today - 12th April - really is his birthday.

    At fifteen, John was tall, fair, blue-eyed and handsome, apart from his front teeth which had been bashed about a bit. He behaved like a two year old, demanding his own way and smashing things if he didn't get it. He was a compulsive fiddler, always breaking things unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally.) He had ADHD, OCD, every set of irritating initials you could imagine. He'd had therapy and ritalin and endless interventions. He was bright and articulate and good at chess and cycling. He'd been in and out of special schools since he was four. And he had a criminal record.

    I was assigned to work with John, and right away I liked him. There was something about him you could trust - even when he got angry, you could understand why. On our first meeting, we had to go into town together to buy Christmas presents for his family - the home supplied a small sum of money for this purpose. It was a little odd, because his family had just rejected him. However, here we were, on the bus, with our shopping list: presents for mum, stepdad (whom John had assaulted to protect his mother, precipitating his - John's - removal from the family home), big brother the heroin dealer, little sister the spoilt brat. It was a cold cold day and some light snow was falling.

    To be honest I don't remember what we bought them. What I do remember is that when we were heading back to the bus station we passed a fruit and veg shop, and there was a display of pomegranates.

    "Oh! Please can I have a pomegranate! I love pomegranates! Oh please, please Helen can I have a pomegranate? Please?"

    You know how a toddler looks just before it throws itself on the floor of the supermarket and starts bellowing? It's very disconcerting in the eye of a tall fifteen-year-old. I decided that a pomegranate was in order.

    On the bus back to the home, he ate his pomegranate with relish and a lot of noise. I told him the story of Persephone and how she'd had to stay in the underworld for six months of the year because she ate six pomegranate seeds, and that's why we have winter.

    Perhaps that wasn't wise.
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