An open letter from one of our tutors

An open letter from one of our tutors……..



In response to the comments we occasionally come across saying “Oh but it’s only a cooking course”


I was beginning to get concerned that the cooking course I was delivering was a bit of a waste of time and resources, and in the eyes of the funding body you could say it was, We only had 5 start, but all five finished, and all five had very real and complex health related issues……


The NHS wants to put forward a five-year plan to make patients more accountable for themselves, more self-caring …. I say it needs to be a life plan ….


I’m going to call my attendee Ben. On his first day Ben was a very, very angry young man who spent most of his time in the group telling me and anyone who cared to listen about his personal life. In between his need for fags and coffee, he moaned about his “missus” (His girlfriend aged 16) he liked to try and shock me with his language and outbursts while the others looked away, I was aware this was attention seeking and a lot of bravado, with the aim to shock.


Over the next few weeks while the group learned about sugar, fats, salt and healthy lifestyles, I in return learned about Bens chaotic home life, and how to cope with his sulking and his inappropriate outbursts. I’ve come to know about Ben’s drug taking, that he suffers from depression, ADHD, and range of physical symptoms like his bad back caused by the one and only job he’s had, and the blisters which form on his hands. He will happily tell you about his past girlfriend who after an attempted suicide died in his arms, about the child she had, that wasn’t his, and now is nobody’s child. His Mother who suffers from depression and his absent Father, about his girlfriend who lies in the bed at night texting other guys. Ben lives in the girlfriend’s house, her parents suffer from a range of long term health issues, he is all clued up on all the medication. He tells me about the range of cats that live in the house, kittens when we started, and about the male cat who spends his nights out on the prowl, Ben feels the need to go out looking for him so he is always tired. He will tell you about the kittens he helped deliver at the start of the course, no doubt there will be more kittens in a few weeks’ time.


Every week there is a drama in Ben’s life, Ben is always early, waiting at the table with a pained look on his face, waiting for my question ‘you OK Ben?’…and out it pours like a slew of molten misery, the latest saga in Ben’s week. This weekend he had a visit from an “old friend” also an addict, by Monday morning the house where Ben lives has been burgled of all electricals, Ben feels the reproach from the family he lives with, he says it is unfair, and is upset that they’re blaming him, so today Ben is very, very angry, he wants to lash out, he says he wants to punch things.

He rang his so-called friend only to find he now lives with Ben’s estranged mother, I have no words ‘Anything good happen this week Ben?’ ‘Yes’ was his reply ‘My Dad made contact’ and for the first time he is accompanying Ben to the Hospital for his ADHD appointment, Ben is looking forward to his time with his Dad.


Today Ben made chocolate and banana muffins, he was dead chuffed he had made them while he chattered about his home life, his medication, and his lack of money. Money issues feature a lot in Ben’s life, he has stolen from me and borrowed from the others in group.

Ben is an addict but today he made muffins.

Ben is an addict but today he answered all the quiz questions correctly with a smug smile on his face.

Ben is an addict, who throughout the mornings session said he had to leave early to walk home because he had no money. No one offered money this time, Ben sat and sulked, but he didn’t leave early, he was presented with his certificate and I wished him well. Ben is just 19, as he leaves he looks me in the eye, it’s a blank stare.

I dislike Ben, but Ben is part of my life now, part of me wants to scoop him up, take him back to his birth and remap his life, for him to be free from drugs, to be his mother, to guide and to just give a damn….


So the next time someone asks…….today, I ‘Just taught a cooking course’

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