A Knight’s Tale (97: I Branch Out)

These photographs from April 1986 were taken by staff members on my last day as Westminster Social Services Area 1 manager as I prepared to continue my working life in a freelance capacity.

Derrick 4.86 1

Here I stand in my office in the former Victorian Paddington town hall,

Derrick 4.86 2

and here I am signing a few documents. Through the window behind me can be seen the old St Mary’s Hospital, which like the town hall has been largely demolished and converted to Housing Association dwellings.

I doubt that any Social Services Departments can today afford the luxury of spacious accommodation for all staff, such as the splendid manager’s office, on the walls of which I was able to hang many family photographs,

Derrick and Louisa 4.86

Louisa came to see where I had been working. We stand in front of portraits of, clockwise from top left, Michael, Sam, Louisa, Auntie Gwen, Matthew, Dad, and Jessica. One of Becky is obscured by her sister’s head. The other two are of me running in a marathon and in a twenty mile race.

This brought to an end twelve enjoyable, if very difficult, years in post.

For the next 24 years I remained self employed. My major tasks were personal individual and couple counselling; consultation to helping agencies including Local Authorities; supervision (mentoring) of other professionals; group work, such as for training and support; and various chairmanships, including those of Adoption and Fostering panels; and the occasional Social Work task, such as preparation of assessment reports for a court.

I have already mentioned that my former Director of Social Services surprised me with a contract for one day a week across the board in my old Department. The Coping with Violence course featured earlier was one task from Westminster.

Jackie was simultaneously ironing and watching television on the afternoon of 2nd July 1987. It was then some years since we had last seen each other. The header picture of BBC News which was broadcast that day was a full face portrait something like this one

Derrick in bath of porridge 2.7.87

taken by my brother Chris. Despite the shock to my then ex-wife, I don’t think any items of clothing were burnt.

You may well ask where I am and what I am doing there. Well, I am in a side-street just off Oxford Street in Central London. So close were we to the main thoroughfare that the watchers in the window must have been in an outlet in Oxford Street.

Sponsored porridge bath 2.7.87
Filling the bath 2.7.87
Bath full 2.7.87

During the morning notices fixed to the bath announced the event and the charity, Westminster Mencap, of which I was a Committee Member, for which donations were sought.

Volunteers poured in the various ingredients and stirred them into the consistency of porridge. It was a pleasantly warm viscous mixture into which the chosen victims lowered themselves for their allotted stints.

Two slang words for a prison sentence are in fact ‘stir’ and ‘porridge’, which fact you may or may not find interesting.

Medic 2.7.87
Derrick 2.7.87 2

Most people dressed down for the performance. It was Chris’s brilliant idea that I should approach Moss Bros to ask them to donate an ex-hire morning suit, complete with topper, for the event. I therefore dressed up.

Jane Reynolds 2.7.87
Derrick and Jane Reynolds in bath of porridge 2.7.87

The system was each of us would spend ten minute periods, with a minute or two changing over. My temporary companion was Jane Reynolds, the then Director of the Association. That wasn’t particularly arduous, now was it?

Derrick 2.7.87

Tubs of rather colder water were provided for a clean up afterwards. There was no shirking that.

Fiona 2.7.87

Finally, my niece Fiona was on hand with a collecting box, hopefully relieving spectators of the money they had saved in the Selfridges sale on the other side of Oxford Street.

This Charity was one of those renting space in the Area 1 building. It also became a consultancy client of mine, so I regularly visited their rooms in the former Town Hall. It was not long before I joined the Committee which got me into the above fine mess.


  1. Good Heavens! All that porridge over you! It looks like fun, though. But I’m sure for me it would be big fun to watch not participate!

  2. Well, that was certainly different! It was very clever to wear formal attire that was not your own. Here, people get dunked in tanks of water, but I’ve never heard of sitting a tub of porridge before! I have the same questions as equipsblog.

  3. HAHAHAHA! I snort-laughed loudly! 😀 A porridge bath! A fine mess, indeed! What a creative and fun fundraiser!!! 😀 And to be dressed formally for that bath…brilliant, Derrick!!! 😀
    Interesting on the slang words for a prison sentence. I did not know this. I learn something new every day!
    And I love seeing the family photos you had up in your office. So beautiful!
    (((HUGS))) 🙂
    PS…I will never look at porridge, soup, stew, or stewp in the same way again…ever. 😀 😛

  4. Oh, boy, what a post! To think of Jackie turning on the TV and seeing you in that outfit in a bathtub of oatmeal. Well, she must have a fine sense of humor to have let that one slip by. So clever of you to dress up rather than down! Hilarious.

    1. Oh, and the time frame didn’t even register with me till I saw the photo of Fiona and thought, “That is a late 80s outfit if I ever saw one.” I graduated high school in 1988 and was probably wearing that exact outfit at some point during school – ha!

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