“I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – and I will be heard!”

William Lloyd Garrison, Salutatory Address of the Liberator, 1 January 1831

“I’m sorry,” I stuttered, “there must be some mistake.”

“In what way, Sir?”

“We spoke on Friday. I am to ring him today for an update, for confirmation… for a conclusion.”

A pause. 

“I have the department diary in front of me, Sir. It confirms that the last day of work before Mr Brunskill’s annual leave was last Friday.”

Another pause while I fought to gather my thoughts

A hint of impatience. “Can I be of any further assistance?”

I tried to focus. “Well, yes, you can. You can identify and connect me to his superior.”


“I’m not sure that I’m free to do that, Sir.”

“Look,” I said, “I can accept that this is not your doing, and that it is unfair to shoot the messenger, but I assure you that if I am prevented from climbing the chain of command, then I will descend it.” I wondered for a moment where was I getting sentences like this from, but I was so fired up I didn’t much care.

“By that I mean that I will start with the Minister and come downward, as directed. Eventually I will land on Brunskill’s manager. I don’t care for confrontation but you might sense the way this is going.”

Another pause.

“Sir, you probably realise that I am not familiar with your file. I’m going to have to ask you to hold the line while I find a way to the next step which I hope will be acceptable to both parties.”

Both parties? I didn’t want this to develop into ‘us’ and ‘you’. I just wanted that door to open. 

“OK. I’m grateful for any endeavour, and I’m happy to hold.”

So, hold I did. Filling in my contact with more information from time to time as he sought clarification as before, of my life history, the Universe and Everything. There was no point in losing my temper, although I was seething at my treatment: I needed co-operation, and my locker was pretty bare. Ranting and raving were securely locked away in a box marked Emergency Only.

My patience bore fruit. I was finally put through to someone who I imagined inhabited the next level, Donna Sidonio, who, although polite, required me, again, to start from square one – Virginia Bottomley, my local authority head of services, the home study report, adoption approval, arrival in Bucharest, the state of the orphanages, the demands of the British embassy. And now this. 

“From whatever angle you look at this, the taxpayer, the adoptive parents, fairness, but above all, this poor infant, stuck in a urine-soaked cot, the behaviour of this agency of government isn’t what I and maybe you might be entitled to expect.”

That sounded pretty pompous, but it ranked a little higher than “how dare you treat the citizen in this fashion”. I had to keep Sidonio onside if I could. If she shut down the conversation I really couldn’t immediately identify my next step.

“I can see that you have been having something of a hard time.”

“You’re right,” I said. “But I must have this sorted out – not at some vague future time but yesterday. Believe me, the child is facing removal from this orphanage as ‘incurable’. Not because he is, but because he is now in his third year of life, and I am assured that around his third birthday he will be removed from one level of sewer to another, lower level. I cannot allow that to happen. And I need your help – help which at the moment seems to be as far away as ever.”

“Look,” she said, “I’ll get to the bottom of this and find out what has happened to the entry clearance. Can I ask you to leave it with me? I’ll have my assistant contact you with news, hopefully within the course of today.”

There wasn’t much more I could ask, so I thanked her and rang off. But as every minute passed, I became more and more anxious. I couldn’t get the image of that revolting gruel being pumped into his stomach out of my head, of his palpable distress, and the dreadful smell of human excrement. But while I couldn’t rest, a small voice at the back of my mind kept reminding me that none of the civil servants had any idea of the plight of the child whom Carmel and I had now named.

We had done so as soon as I got over my immediate distress on my return from Bucharest. I had a copy of this passport photograph and I passed it over to Carmel, wondering what she might make of his little face. 

“He’s Dominic,” she declared. “Look at his lovely dark hair and his beautiful eyes. St Dominic – all Dominicans – are dark and handsome, and that should be his name.”

So that was that. I felt that he should keep his Romanian name, while we would christen him with both that name and Dominic. Coincidentally, he would have the same name as the young nurse in Bucharest. I was delighted; I loved the name and it was obvious that Carmel had fallen in love with the child in the picture. So I had to get Dominic out of that place.


That afternoon, I did receive the promised phone call and even an apology. I was assured that it was entirely probable that the department would be passing the necessary formal approval to the Home Office within the next couple of days and they, that is the Home Office, in the person of a Mike Lyne or his assistant, a Mrs McCluskey, would be contacting me with formal confirmation.

Now, at last, I felt I could tell Carmel and I could arrange my flight back to Bucharest. There was, I found, room on a flight leaving on Sunday from Heathrow, and the ever helpful Mr McCormick promised to have a ticket waiting for me at the airport. For once, I assumed that things were going my way and I took it that I would be receiving the promised call. I rang Bogdan and gave him the news – he sounded delighted and promised to meet me at the airport.

My new-found optimism was justified. On Thursday, Mr Lyne telephoned as promised and he confirmed that the Home Office had received the necessary checks and authorisations from the Department of Health, and he told me, a little unnecessarily I thought, that the Home Secretary ‘saw no reason to deny entry’ to Dominic. 

However, I ignored the civil-service-speak, and thanked him effusively. He assured me that the necessary telex would be in the hands of the embassy by the following day. 

“I’m flying out on Sunday. I’ll contact the Vice Consul on Monday and hopefully complete all the formalities at that end very quickly so that I can get the child back to England.”

“Good luck. If there’s any problem, do contact me or my assistant, Mrs McCluskey.”

I thanked him again, not imagining that there could possibly be any more obstacles. But I wrote their names down just to be on the safe side.

Had I thought about it, I would have remembered that Bogdan had spoken of Friday 24th August, as the day of ‘the decision’. But I was too taken up with the arrangements which I was having to rush through to think about that. Instead, I set about collecting the necessary supplies and begging more time away from court in readiness for what I hoped would be the final chapter.


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