My name is Anthony. I retired from a career in the aerospace industry in late 2012 and trained as a PROMISE mentor/independent visitor soon thereafter. Since mid-2013 I have been Jim’s independent visitor. Jim is in care with a lovely, long-term foster family. He is now 14 years old. We meet every couple of weeks. I usually pick him up after school and we do simple things like walking on Ham Hill or popping to West Bay for a bag of chips. Over this latest winter, we spent the dark nights making model aircraft. It took me back to my own childhood when my bedroom ceiling was festooned with dusty Spitfires and ME-109’s. I was delighted to see Jim catch the same bug as I had done so many years ago.
Two or three times a year, Jim and I will plan a day out, usually with financial support from STAR. I often let Jim decide where we go. Given our modelling activities over the winter, I was pleasantly surprised when Jim chose the Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton as the venue for our February trip.
I collected Jim from home. After the customary pit stop in the restaurant (where I had to remind Jim that 10 o’clock was just a little too early for a pasty) we climbed the steps to the museum entrance. Soon, Jim was wandering through the halls, moving quickly from aircraft to aircraft, asking questions and impressing me with his own knowledge of the exhibits. A few weeks before, Jim had borrowed one of my aircraft encyclopedias and it soon became obvious that he had been reading it avidly.
I had spent many a happy hour wandering through the museum in the past but it was a joy to see it through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old. He was fascinated by the large tableaux presentations, particularly the aircraft carriers and other naval vessels, snapping lots of close up photos.
After four hours of touring the halls we were both flagging. We ended our visit in the museum shop, where Jim chose a Spitfire keyring as a souvenir, and headed back into Yeovil for Jim’s treat – fried chicken and chips! Our teatime conversation was dominated by the aircraft we had seen.
Over the intervening months, we have continued to make our models, although the longer days have meant we spend more time out and about than squinting at tiny pieces of plastic. However, the trip and others like it have had a lasting effect on Jim. Just a few weeks ago we were discussing his school work. He told me that, encouraged by some of the things we had done together, he was hoping to do history as one of his study options. Crazy to think that my hobby of fifty years ago might have influenced a young man today. His ambition is to create video games and he thinks a grounding in history will help to give his ideas context and depth – he’s a smart lad.
On Jim’s behalf, I would like to thank everyone connected with STAR for the continued support provided to children like him. Your help as allowed them to create precious memories.