The writer works as a social worker in a London-based older people’s team


Back at work after a three-week holiday, I feel I’m in a
time warp. I swear no-one has moved from the positions they were in
when I sloped off last month, and my cup of coffee is still stuck
to the desk. But my plants are alive and not too many clients have
passed away. When I returned to work post-Seebohm with previous
experience in child care only, 17 of my elderly clients died in my
first year. I used to call myself Typhoid Mary as I went from house
to house, from death bed to death bed. No one mentioned the
differences between child care and elderly care in the Seebohm
report but boy, I felt them.

I also feel cold – Singapore was always 35 degrees – and very
jet-lagged, while my tolerance level is now some five feet
underground and digging through to Australia. In my post are four
personalised invitations to commercially run social care and health
conferences – at about £450 a throw – where I am assured I
will meet colleagues and have opportunities for networking and
discussions on relevant subjects. I can do that well enough in this
building, in the lift that often grinds to a halt between floors,
giving us a chance to network like mad.


Attend a useful meeting at the local psycho-geriatric hospital
today. Useful in that I manage to be part of the discharge care
plan before it happens, not after. Puzzling that at a time of
shortages in health and social services, 15 people can be found to
crowd into a small room to attend. It is a bit like I imagine a
Mafia conference to be, after watching all those Godfather films.
The major players all sit heavily round a table, and have their
assistants and hirelings sitting just behind them. Even the
assistants have assistants murmuring in their ears. No cigars nor
whisky on offer, though. Pity, that.


Call in on a goodbye lunch today as two of the staff are off to
do a DipSW course. A terrible air of solemnity fills the room as
some 23 people sit silently eating chocolate cake. The presents are
given, then witty and optimistic speeches. Why don’t we
celebrate those of us who stay? I do a quick reckoning of some of
the oldies, and find that five of us have worked here for a total
of 103 years.

This is such a frightening thought that I am forced to have a
second glass of wine, but that certainly helps later when directors
are panicking and rushing around over an MP’s enquiry. It
must be my age and I know it annoys them, but the more other people
panic the calmer I get until I am virtually moribund.


My colleague – we share one corner of the office and she has a
drawer full of chocolate so we keep friendly – has a bizarre
incident today when en route to a client, attempting to drive, talk
on the phone and eat a tin of baked beans. The tin of baked beans
slides slowly off the dashboard and spill out, filling nearly every
corner, crevice and space in the front of her car including one of
her shoes.

She wants me to warn you, gentle reader, about eating beans in a
moving car. It sounds as if it is quite a floor show, and for
£20 she’ll give a repeat performance – weddings and
barmitzvahs extra.

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