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.

A Knight’s Tale (64: Changes In Residential Care)

By 1974, after I began working in Westminster Social Services and had met

Jessica that Michael came to live with me and the three of us took up residence, for three months, in an unoccupied children’s home in Droop Street, NW10 which was opposite the Area Office.  These photographs were produced in the June that we moved in.

This children’s home, now that they were coming out of fashion, had closed and a new use was being sought. Eventually it was to become a residential facility for people with mental health problems, and when, in 1986, I left Local Authority employment to take up freelance work I became a consultant to the manager. One of the then elderly residents had spent her life in a hospital as, being an unwed mother, a moral defective. These hospital wards were being closed down and their residents were to be supported in the community. Four other residents then occupied a flat in Harrow Road. They were mentored by a senior staff member who I supervised.

Rather unfortunately, this building was named St Jude’s, after the saint known to Catholics as the patron saint of lost causes.

Matthew and Becky still enjoy telling how, when they came for the weekends, they experienced the thrill of choosing any one of the numerous available bedrooms.  The children also had access to the kitchen, with varying results.  

Michael, Matthew & Becky 7.74 1
Michael, Matthew & Becky 7.74 2

These two pictures, from that July, demonstrate first the intense industry and excitement generated by cake-making; then the awful moment of truth when Michael’s disappointment, Becky’s visible disgust, and that, as granddaughter Flo later said “Matthew’s world has ended” is displayed.   Four ounces of salt had been used instead of that quantity of sugar.