Looking back, new book and review

To describe last month as a ‘busy’ one is putting it mildly. A new book launch at the start of #Indie Author Week UK, a magazine anniversary feature, swapping interviews with fellow author Jude Lennon, research work and remote meetings – well all I can say is ‘phew’!

Now it is time to pause and take stock, as well as getting the Motor Home back on the road after lockdown. Like many we’ll be ‘staycationing’ this summer, so won’t be travelling far, but any change of scene after recent months will be welcome. Open road here we come!

Not usually a fan of looking back, writing a feature as part of the 50th anniversary of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), did get me thinking about my first job in journalism. At the time, way back in the 1980s, I could have gone quite another route.

Straight after graduating, there was the prospect of a research grant for a university post-graduate degree in social history. It would have meant a move to another part of the UK but I then decided that academia wasn’t for me. I’d always wanted to be a journalist and had even completed an accredited distance learning course in my spare time.

Spotting an advertisement for a trainee reporter in then weekly national ‘Social Work Today’ magazine, I winged off my application. With a journalism qualification already under my belt. (and some experience of working with children in care), the job seemed tailor made for me.

An old business SWT card – supplied by a friend!

That still meant a tough two part interview, before being put on a three month ‘trial’. In the end I stayed there for five years, going from trainee reporter to chief reporter and feature writer.

During that time I covered everything from major child abuse stories, investigations into the social impact of mass unemployment in large parts of the UK, to high profile court cases and professional conferences. Subjects that I would then go on to cover for television documentaries and national newspapers/magazines,

Looking back over those early articles made me realise just how much things have changed – and haven’t changed – in the world of social work. By far the biggest scandal is the state of social care for vulnerable people, a can well and truly kicked down the road by successive governments. Covid-19 has laid bare the extent of this neglect and we can only hope that it will finally get the attention it so desperately needs. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

Writing the latest magazine feature also gave me the idea to link my new short stories collection, ‘Shorts and Thoughts’, to the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust charity.

Half of all book payments will go to the charity which is a small but much needed one. Sometimes those who care for others need help too and if you know anyone who likes short stories, then spread the word. I’m setting my sights high for this one as there is a charity involved.

This time around my book of choice is ‘Half A World Away’ by the talented Mike Gayle. I’ve read a number of Mike’s books over the years and this one deals with the themes of adoption, reunion and loss – subjects I’ve also covered in my own novella series.

Brilliantly written, poignant yet still uplifting, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Written from the point of view of the two main characters, the subject is dealt with sensitively and the story has you gripped from the outset. Yet another great offering from one of our best contemporary writers.

Finally, here’s to a more chill-out few weeks and MoHo adventures. Enjoy the summer everyone – after lockdown we’ll never take those small everyday freedoms for granted again.


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