A Knight’s Tale (57: Learning The New Disciplines)

I took up my team leader post in Southwark in 1974. Each newly appointed senior had come from one of the old disciplines mentioned earlier. This meant that we were supervising people who had far more experience of clients who were new to us in their previous posts.

It is important to understand the concept of supervision as I had learnt it. The supervisor did not have all the answers, but should have most of the questions required to draw out the supervisee, thus encouraging thought and perhaps alternative approaches. The forum for this should be regular weekly meetings for a set length of time, in private, and uninterrupted. I realise that this would be regarded as a luxury today. More’s the pity.

Sometimes a firm line should be taken to deal with unsatisfactory work, because the post does carry management authority which needs to be enforced when the worker will not or cannot change. I do have later experience of confronting bad work resulting in disciplinary procedures and even dismissal.

I, of course, needed to learn these new responsibilities fast. There were two sources of informative experience. These were my allocated social workers, and the clients I chose to take on.

One of my supervisees was a woman nearing retirement who had spent her working life in the Welfare Department with responsibility for assessing and giving practical help to elderly and/or disabled people. She told me in no uncertain terms that I had nothing to offer her. I responded by asking her to teach me about what she did and how she went about it. I don’t know whether I helped her at all, but I certainly learned about her job and the provision of aids to daily living which today’s workers can only dream about. In Jackie’s last post as the modern equivalent of such a provider all she could do was to offer price lists for her clients to buy their own recommended equipment.

One advantage of my position was that I could allocate cases to staff members, including the few I was able to select myself. Thus my clients included a family of small children of a personality disordered father and a mother with learning disabilities; a woman suffering from mental ill health; another with cerebral palsy; one with hearing difficulties; and a blind man. Each of these had something to offer me in return for my support for them. Although I did have to remove two boys from the first family, I was able to resist doing the same for the youngest. He had a large bruise on his forehead which brought vociferous pressure from other agencies for him to be placed in care. In fact he had run across the room in my presence, tripped on a mat, and bashed his head on the floor. It was probably likely that this little one would eventually join his brothers in the care system, but this was not the time.

I made some long forgotten attempts to learn sign language from the profoundly deaf woman and her mother.

One day a mother dumped two small children in our office. We had great difficulty in organising temporary care while workers went to track down their parents. I then realised that we had potential carers in the building, in the form of an elderly persons’ lunch club on the ground floor. Two female volunteers were immediately, easily, found. The next day, by which time the family had been reunited, three ladies presented themselves, wondering whether we had any more children for them to look after. This of course was in the days before compulsory CRB checks. It is now not permitted to work in child care in any form without a satisfactory result from the Criminal Records Bureau. Even that can now be done on line, and could take weeks to come through.

A Spot Of Pedicure

Jackie drove us to Ferndene Farm shop where she bought eggs, a leg of lamb, and vegetables while I photographed some of the produce displayed outside, including

pumpkins, cut flowers, cyclamen and pansies.

A pair of roofers worked across the road.

On this warm, damp, and largely overcast day the sun briefly signalled its presence when I stopped to commune with ponies outside Burley.

One grey indulged in a spot of pedicure.

A number of walkers enlivened the landscape.

I had no problem uploading pictures today, which is probably just as well since obtaining two multiple page forms concerning Mum’s probate was a different story.

As I eventually said when I got to speak to someone in the probate service, because I am an old man who didn’t grow up with computers I want to do as much as possible as an executor without going on line. Having previous experience in the case of my friend Wolf I knew that I needed Probate Application and Tax forms. http://www.gov.uk gives information about obtaining and completing these on line, but not about receiving them by post.

I therefore tried the telephone. After three differently accented machine voices led me through three different option numbers to press I eventually joined the muzak queue – for a good half hour. The man who eventually answered me and I enjoyed an amusing conversation when I explained that I wanted paper forms sent to me. Normally he could have done this, but not now. Why?

Because they are out of print. I can, of course, download them and print them myself.

I hoped to calm myself by reading a little more of ‘Dombey and Son’ and scanning the next four of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations.

‘Then came rows of houses’ displays one of the artist’s excellent street scenes, this time with chickens; and with the foreground portrait offering perspective.

‘Captain Cuttle advanced to the table’, and the next two drawings show more of Keeping’s excellent portraits.

‘The doctor was sitting in his portentous study’ is one;

‘Paul’s chair was next to Miss Blimber’ contains two.

The errors during uploading returned with a vengeance in these. I had so many attempts at the first that I couldn’t see straight. The process took a very long time, and I was then unable to edit them in the gallery. That will also have to be tackled maƱana.

This evening we dined on tasty baked gammon; succulent ratatouille; firm roast potatoes, some of which were sweet; crunchy carrots; tender green beans; and piquant cauliflower cheese, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2018.

Gulls At Sunset

After a rain shower on another unusually warm and sunny day, while waiting for a call back from Peacock Computers, I wandered around the garden;

produced another batch of photographs including fuchsias, dahlias, begonias, clematis Margaret Hunt, Ginger Lily seedpods. petunias, cosmos, Morning Glory, and the ubiquitous self-seeded bidens surviving from summer 2020; then girded my loins in order to set about the struggle to upload them into WordPress media.

This time only one failed to upload because of an error, but two were relocated from the desktop as incompatible with the new operating system. I was able to put those back where they belonged.

Max from Peacock Computers has arranged a home visit on Thursday.

Buoyed by my earlier success Jackie drove me to Barton on Sea to watch the sunset.

The ten photos I loaded when we arrived home were accepted by WP without a glitch.

Later, we dined on a refreshed reprise of yesterday’s roast dinner, each with our preferred beverage.

Attempting To Take A Drink

This afternoon I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/10/24/a-knights-tale-56-how-i-became-a-team-leader/

Early this morning I had raced around the garden at dawn in my dressing gown and slippers in order to keep pace with the fast moving clouds enhanced by a splendid sunrise which turned out to have been the brightest part of an otherwise largely overcast day.

Smoky indigo and old gold hues didn’t quite manage to obscure the glimpses of bright blue or the peeping moon not yet ready for bed. Copper beech, weeping birch and New Zealand flax were all nicely silhouetted and the house at the corner of Hordle Lane and Christchurch Road bore burnished bricks.

After I posted the aforementioned Knight’s Tale episode we took a trip into the forest.

The only pannage pigs that seem to be loose at the moment are those at Pilley, where the little ones are becoming bigger.

Donkeys queued for a go at this scratching post.

Ponies grazing at East Boldre were passed by a friendly cyclist taking his dog for a walk.

Nearer East End a cow with three calves, one looking older than the others, occupied the moorland. I am still battling with the uploading of photographs. The last, most difficult, attempt was of this younger twin attempting to take a drink.

This evening Elizabeth came to dinner and brought with her various papers, including Mum’s will, which I need for my executorship; and this mirror that Vivien and I brought back for her from our Cornish honeymoon in March 1963.

Our meal consisted of succulent roast lamb; sage and onion stuffing; mint sauce; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding; piquant cauliflower cheese; tender green beans; and crunchy carrots, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and my sister and I drank more of the Fleurie.

A Knight’s Tale (56: How I Became A Team Leader)

As soon as I had served the two years I owed post-secondment to Kingston Social Services Department, where there were no available team leader posts, I sought promotion elsewhere.

I answered an advertisement from the Labour controlled London Borough of Southwark. To work there I would need to be a Trade Union member. This seemed acceptable because, after all, they did negotiate salaries for staff. In a further post I was to learn that members in management positions were less equal that others.

I was called to interview in a huge room where I faced a semi-circle of what must have been a dozen committee members and the Director of Social Services. Each interrogator had a set of questions before them. These would be read out in turn with neither response nor exploration of my answers.

About halfway round the arc a gentleman, hesitatingly, recited the question previously put to me. Thinking this must surely be a test for me, I replied: “I’ve just answered that one”. The only response was an embarrassed silence as the baton was collected by the next person to his right.

The far end of the spectrum to my right was now out of my sight while looking at the next questioner. That the two elderly women occupying those relevant seats had been talking between themselves throughout the process was already disconcerting. Could this have been another test of my mettle? I turned to them and said that I could not concentrate on the questions while their conversation was distracting me. I learned later that one of these ladies held a very important political position.

I don’t remember any more details of this event, except that Ruth Nothman, the Director, telephoned me the next day and explained that I had not been given the post, but that she wanted me to have it. There would therefore be a further interview to which I would be invited. She advised me not to upset the panel.

The next meeting took place in front of a platform at the front of what seemed to be an auditorium. My only real memory of this event was that, as I was presented with the one question that I don’t think I could have answered satisfactorily a woman, reminiscent of Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle, entered stage left pushing a tea trolley. Everything stopped for tea. I wasn’t offered a cup but was given valuable minutes in which to ponder my response. To my relief the inquisitors must have forgotten where we were because they moved on.

I got the job.

Struggling With The Media

This afternoon we drove to Screwfix in Lymington’s Ampress Industrial Estate to collect our new macerator, then explored the possibility of viewing the coast near the town. Quay Hill was crowded with visitors; there seemed no chance of finding a spot in the carpark which was in any case swarming with people.

We then drove on to Ferndene Farm Shop and abandoned entering that normally safe environment. Despite request notices on the shop door there was scarcely a mask in sight and the establishment was heaving with visitors, many of whom were children milling about inside. Ferndene has so far had an exemplary record for shoppers taking precautions.

All this despite government scientists warning today that unless the rising infection and casualty numbers reduce soon there is the possibility of another Christmas lockdown.

We fled to safer areas of the forest.

A string of mushrooms risks its life on the verge of Hordle Lane.

A number of vehicles occupied The Smugglers Road carpark near Burley. Their drivers and passengers were probably walking in the hilly moorland. Jackie parked the Modus and began tackling her puzzle book while I wandered off into the landscape

where more fungi were to be found among the green grasses and the

browning bracken.

I appreciated the fleeting appearances of the sun during this period brightening the otherwise generally overcast yet warmer day.

Some of the ground was decidedly soggy. A winterbourne pool contained reflections and a car numberplate.

As we drove away I noticed the glinting dishes on a telephone mast towering from the hillside. Perhaps the grey pony to the right of the landscape had wandered down the trail seen beneath the mast.

I am really struggling to enter photographs into the WordPress media files at the moment. The process is very slow and a good 25% of images “cannot be uploaded because an error occurred during uploading”. This means I have to try again individually. Each one takes 2+ more attempts. This time I abandoned one which had taken 5 goes. I did the same with one yesterday. Today’s header picture is not one on which I was prepared to give up.

This evening we dined on tender and succulent baked gammon; moist yet firm cauliflower cheese; firm boiled potatoes firm carrots; with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie, which involved opening another bottle.

Creepy Woods

I have been without a watch for a day or two. My Tissot needed a new strap and my Longines a battery. This morning Jackie found time to drive me to Robert Allan Jewellers in New Milton to have replacements fitted. We left the timepieces in the shop and drove into the forest before collecting them later from this excellent establishment which does the job quickly and efficiently.

Pastel skies streaked over the browning moorland flanking

the ever-crumbling Holmsley Passage

alongside which wild rose hips

rise above the rippling, reflective, stream.

From the passage we crossed Burley Road into Bisterne Close beside which the woods took on a decidedly creepy persona.

Beech nuts lined the forest floor.

The ditches

and the verge pool are filling up with the heavy rainwater we have been receiving lately.

A Travis Perkins lorry delivering bags of sand brought us to a halt. The driver was most apologetic. He had driven as close to the house entrance as he could, and would only be a few minutes. He underestimated how long it would take to tote one bag at a time up the drive. Having once been stuck on a verge with a similar drop to the one she would have to risk if we didn’t wait, my Chauffeuse reversed the Modus and took a longer back to New Milton.

This afternoon Dave, the plumber, visited to advise us on the replacement for our macerator which seems to be developing a death rattle; and Anne from Kitchen Makers advised that the handles we had chosen for some of our various new cupboards were not available and invited us to choose alternatives. After ordering the masticator of human refuse from Screwfit we called in on Anne and selected alternative grips.

This evening we dined on oven fish and chips, baked beans, and cornichons pickled in chilli. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fleurie.

Sundown Silhouette

Now that the last few days’ brisk breezes have subsided, and with a clear cerulean sky above and cool temperatures below, this morning I gathered up a few fallen branches from the beech and weeping birch trees; some cryptomeria clippings; and Jackie’s piled debris from the rose garden.

After lunch I toured with my camera and, beginning with a couple of the vases the Head Gardener has filled with her red carpet rose cuttings, photographed

some of our continuing survivors, including roses like the unidentified pink.climber, the stronger pink Aloha, the yellow Summer Wine which the bee is seen leaving, and the ever-abundant For Your Eyes only; three prolific dahlias; fuchsias Garden News, Mrs Popple, the tiny all white Hawkshead, and the ubiquitous Delta’s Sarah. The continuation of the blue Morning Glory is particularly unusual, although the fly on its leaf is not so. I completed my collection with a clump of chrysanthemums and Florence sculpture with her baskets of bidens and other flowers surrounded by swaying verbena bonariensis.

Afterwards I posted https://derrickjknight.com/2021/10/21/a-knights-tale-55-after-training/

Shortly before sunset my Chauffeuse drove us to Barton on Sea’s Marine Drive East

to watch the sun going down. We were not the only spectators.

Later we dined on more of Jackie’s winter stewp, with the addition of chopped potatoes and fava beans, and crusty bread and butter. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2019.

A Knight’s Tale (55: After Training)

Following the introduction of the Seebohm report I returned to Kingston Children’s Department in possession of certificates of qualification as both a Child Care Officer and as a Social Worker. Like Local Authority Welfare Officers and those of other similar agencies I was, in 1971, absorbed into the new Social Services Department.

I cannot imagine that it was Lord Seebohm’s intention that we should all become generic social workers overnight. The report had called for the departments to carry generic responsibility in order to improve coordination. What generally happened was that staff like me who had concentrated on children and families were to become individually responsible for older people and those suffering mental or physical ill-health or disabilities. We were led by people who had come from just one discipline. Although at Croydon I had resisted being termed a Social Worker and insisted that I would always be a Child Care Officer I soon became grateful for the foresight of Wolf Blomfield and his team who equipped me better than most who were not trained in the generic mode.

Keen to apply some of the principles I had learnt, I introduced innovations like office interviews where appropriate, thus encouraging client self motivation; respectful time keeping, and reliable appointment times. I demonstrated that if someone knew when to expect you on a home visit they would be less likely to create emergencies. Since we had no allocated office interviewing rooms I needed to be quite inventive in finding available space and keeping it private for the duration of office meetings. The Children’s Officer, John Riley, was most accommodating of this young upstart who still thought he could change the world.

It was in the joint departmental preparation meetings that I first met Giles Darvill, who remains my longest standing friend.

The Donkeys Didn’t Fancy It

After lunch Jackie drove us to Helen and Bill’s home at Fordingbridge to drop off a present.

Attracted by a couple of large mushrooms on the verges at I disembarked and wandered along photographing, in addition, bracken nestling beside an oak trunk, and lichen attached to fallen twigs on the forest floor and decorating another trunk.

The forded stream was racing and rippling along at a rate we have not seen before.

Cars sped splashing across;

a troop of donkeys gathered on the edge of the road-bridge, contemplated the torrent, then, deciding they didn’t fancy it, leaving one of their members with its foal to slake their thirst, turned back and

lined themselves neatly along the shrubbery for Jackie to photograph them through her windscreen and after stepping out of the car.

We returned via Woodgreen where I photographed the landscape around the River Avon, its swans and mallards, and cattle lolling alongside.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s warming winter meat and vegetable stewp, with fresh crusty bread. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.