This week’s diary writer works in an elders’ duty team

With half the team suffering hangovers (they say it’s food
poisoning but I know a hangover when I see one) we’re all under par
this morning. I’ve dealt with so many referrals today that it
reminds me of my first day as a child care officer way back, when I
was given a caseload of 85 children in care. My first months were
spent getting out of date orders rescinded in the courts. The most
bizarre concerned two Etonians whose sloshed parents had a row in a
local hotel. I just loved the looks on the magistrates’ faces when
these young men admitted they hoped their futures lay at Sandhurst
and the City.

Sibling rivalry, childish behaviour, temper tantrums are all alive
and well and demonstrated daily by the very elderly clients and
their adult children with whom I now deal. Professional staff
aren’t much better. A sulky GP barks “Why should I? She doesn’t
like me” when asked to visit a failing patient, another says
sharply: “Don’t ask me to deal with it” when asked about another’s
incontinence. Asking a referrer who wants an assessment for her
oldest sister whether we had agreement to the visit being made
brings a tirade of “I know best what she wants, whatever she

There’s a team building day tomorrow. Much needed. We’re all taking
responsibility for a bit of the programme and I have got to ask
everyone to talk or sing on any subject for which they feel
passion, good or bad. It’s being held at my house so must rush off
to buy loo paper and tidy up a bit.

What a day! One guy fell off his bike and into a swampy patch on
the way over here, so started by showering and putting on my
husband’s track suit while his clothes were in the washing machine.
Two of his colleagues felt I should not have offered, and he should
not have accepted this help as if we’d been in a regular training
room he’d have to sit in his muddy clothes. Swamp-man countered by
telling them where to stuff their comments. We then began to share
our passions, as planned. Swamp-man led off saying his passion was
to get out of social work as soon as he could. One guy brought his
new ratchet screwdriver and did whatever you do with ratchet
screwdrivers for what seemed like an eternity. Someone brought a
little bongo drum and sang a song from her Eastern European country
which was so like Peter Ustinov’s Phoney Folklore (‘Ze pezant who
fell in love wiz his own track-tor’) that I had to leave the room I
was laughing so much. One truly passionate girl brought a little
carton of slugs, collected from her geraniums and explained how she
had learned to love the slugs that ate her plants. The slugs,
getting bored as they’d heard all this before, climbed out of the
carton and set off for the feet of the bongo player. She screamed,
swamp-man swore, threw the slugs into my garden and went out for a
fag. Ican’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day more.

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