It is ages since I’ve read a Victorian novel and I’ve never read a book by Elizabeth Gaskell. Mary Barton is one of the first industrial novels. It is set in the early days of Manchester’s industrial expansion. However, I was struck by how modern the story is.
Mary is a smitten young working class woman, dreaming of improving her life by the promise of marriage to a richer man. Her life as a seamstress is filled with fashion and gossip. Unlike her father, a union man, she shows little awareness of the structural inequity underpinning her fantasy of escape. As a young, pretty woman she is subject to judgement, through gossip, inter-generational sneering, and her own harsh opinion, when she realises she was looking in the wrong place for happiness. Continue reading →
Reading plays a number of roles in my professional and private lives. Sometimes I read fiction to transport myself out of the present. I read fiction at night to provide for that gap between the switched on working mind and the sleeping one. However, writing this blog means I make connections between the theories and explanations of social policy and the fiction I read to escape. This was most acute when reading Ruby.
The social policy academic side of me, would describe Ruby as a novel about racism, sexism, their intersection, child abuse, child sexual exploitation (CSE) and poverty. The social work educator might use it as an example to study the impact of grief, bereavement and trauma. Yet none of those terms would be found in Ruby. The vocabulary of the novel and my day job are very different, even if the content is shared. Continue reading →
I would never have read this book had it not been recommended by a friend whose judgement I trust. I certainly wouldn’t have taken it on holiday, without that recommendation. This is a book about a Dad whose daughter inexplicably collapses and (momentarily) dies from an anaphylactic shock. I am the mother of a child who had a serious reaction to a walnut (that I’d fed her) and had to watch as doctors stuck needles into my frightened, half-breathing girl to save her life. Being on holiday with that child is a negotiation – health insurance, systems, languages, resources. For example, earlier in the year we went to New York rather than Borneo, because I knew I could be understood if I needed to shout at doctors. Continue reading →
My first blog in a long time and there is a good reason why it has taken so long – I have been reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and it is huge and I have very little time for reading for pleasure.
I have finished reading the novel at much the same time as the #7daysofaction campaign has been launched. #7daysofaction is a social media campaign to raise awareness of adults with learning disabilities who are being warehoused in Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) across the UK. When I first started research disability in the 1990s, I was particularly inspired by Jenny Morris book – Pride against Prejudice and when considering the right to family life, I am always reminded of these words:
“Powerlessness characterises the experience of residential care and the nature of institutionalism affects even those of us who are not in residential care. The possibility of institutionalism hangs over many disabled people living in our own homes, fuelled by the fear that one day the support which makes our independence possible will disappear, or that an increase in functional limitations will prove too much for whatever resources are available to us” (Morris, 1991: 127)Continue reading →
Last week I was lucky enough to be able to see Carol with a group of friends at my locally refurbished cinema. It was an opportunity to catch up and be entertained. After watching the film, I didn’t think that I would write about it. This is not to say that I did not enjoy the film. It is beautiful and seductive and as someone who is easily distracted by well-cut clothes, I would definitely recommend the film. However, it was not until I wrote about control in the last blog, that I found something to say about the film beyond the aesthetic. Continue reading →
This is my first blog from my holiday reading. Two weeks just South of Barcelona and I know that experience of sun, sight-seeing and family time makes me one of the ‘lucky’ ones. This has been my second jaunt abroad this year, something well out of the reach of many others. An important aspect of a holiday is that it affords me time to read and therefore to consider The Lives of Others. Mukherjee’s title could hardly be more apt for the study of social work and social policy and yet what happens if my reading is so far removed from my experience, can I still really claim to have gained an understanding of the ‘other’? Continue reading →
In my early days of teaching, working with Access and first year undergraduate social work students, I would try to encourage students to consider why context, politics and policy matters:
Me: (Tongue in cheek) So, let’s say the government decided to declare war on some random country in the Middle East (highly unlikely, I know) – what impact do you think this would have on social work?
This question was an exercise in an introductory social policy unit, where one of the objectives was to acknowledge the impact war has on social relations. Students would surprise themselves with the list they produced:
Soldiers returning with disabilities
Soldiers returning with PTSD or other mental illnesses
Increased numbers of asylum seekers, including children in need
Increased budget on defence, meaning less money spent on health and welfare