This week’s writer is a London-based social


Took a day off yesterday. I started it with such energy and good
intentions, all those art galleries, all that tidying, new clothes,
hair cut, but actually did nothing. Now faced with a desk piled
with messages, reminders and requests, all paper-based work, no
human contact required. The usual battles of management v social
workers and social workers v administration are in full flood and
my telephone plays muzak.


The week is speeding up and here come the usual strange phone
calls. Hello says one caller, remember me? We spoke five years ago
about my aunt.

Who is she? How confident do you have to be to expect your aunt
to be remembered for five years. I still give my name to people
I’ve worked with for ten.

Another plaintive guy phoned three times to tell me he is in
limbo. Why? Because the treatment of a medically compromised
relative is incomplete so he can’t tidy the man into some
institution (his phrase not mine). Anyway, he wants a lively home
where no one sits with his mouth open. That cuts out my house for

Today was the team lunch. We are such a disparate group that
planning a lunch even once a year takes energy sufficient to light
up a small town. Decisions had to be made: bring food in; or eat
out in a place to suit the veggies or the vegans; or those who eat
only halal or kosher food; and what about those who throw up if
they smell fish. And what is this lunch for? Was it for team
building, to celebrate a special event, for the equinox or New
Year? No one can remember.


We certainly are a nation of animal lovers. Visited an elderly
man living in his son’s flat, now almost bedbound and so in need of
personal care. The small living room was rather dark and as I
talked to the son something moved behind him in the gloom. A face
appeared over his shoulder, a Hammer House of Horror face, large
goggling eyes, a mouth crying out silently. I half rose and made a
stifled sound, pointing with a bony finger. Gales of laughter from
son. Lights turned up to reveal the back of the room was a fish
tank, glass wall floor to ceiling, and behind the glass wall swam
gigantic fish looking out. It is his, I quote, little hobby.


Maybe I need a hobby. This going to work and collapsing each
evening at home isn’t actually a full life. The trouble is, I feel
regimented enough during working hours. Do I really want to commit
myself to regular evenings learning woodwork, 21st century atonal
music or cake icing? Decide the answer is a firm no when on
visiting a new client, her neighbour rushes in and screams
Surprise!! I’d know you anywhere.

Am wrapped in warm embrace, she has tears in her eyes telling me
what a wonderful year that was. Who is she? Still holding my hand
she tells me she was my social work student some 30 years earlier.
Now retired, she spends all week at local classes on her hobby,
country dancing, Morris dancing, Scottish dancing, and for all I
know, belly dancing. I’ll stick with collapsing.

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