Full Metal Cardigan is David Emery’s first book and chronicles his adventures in social care, from enthusiastic volunteer to feral frontline worker, taking in abusive popstars, chanting cults, drug runs and interviewing a corpse.
He recounts how he gained international notoriety for cheating in a pancake race, encounters with the supernatural, High Court appearances, accidentally booking someone into Dignitas, one-inch death punches in Woolworths, waterboarding, psychotic psychopaths, plunger-wielding pregnant women and suicide attempts with rhubarb along the way.
A dull profession, social care is not so on approaching a book like this my first thoughts were about the humour and how it would work in situations that deal with individuals who have so many sensitive problems. It is safe to say Emery has achieved a fine mix of both the serious and the downright funny which I devoured in a couple of sittings.
A sense of the comical is definitely needed in such high pressure work, and with responsibility comes the never-ending paperwork, training sessions, and the unexpected. The relentlessly humorous anecdotes are told with a light-hearted, amiable voice, which in itself is pretty impressive when the National Health Service is involved. For those of you who don’t know what this institution is, it’s a chronically underfunded, overstretched service staffed by people working long hours doing the best they can for the nation’s health.
The comical recollections are a delight to read but these are blended with the sad and serious cases. The emotional balance is spot on as the stories keep coming in rapid succession so the reader appreciates the sober nature of the work, whilst not feeling guilty for enjoying reading about it. That is the beauty of the book, whilst the struggles of both the workers and those needing help are always centre stage – and handled respectfully – the counter balance of the quirky and therefore human aspects clearly shine through.
Giving Social Care a face and helping to change perceptions which allow people to understand what really goes on in the job, is a great idea and in its execution it highlights the need for these important services. There are clearly problems with underfunding and understaffing, huge caseloads and the ever-present threat of being submerged in paperwork or physical harm; what the author does is to clearly show the reader that there are enthusiastic workers – some volunteers – (not to mention the families) who do their best each day to make a difference, and as such deserve an enormous amount of respects and gratitude.
Full Metal Cardigan is one of those rare books that had my laughing a lot and it was a delight to read (and review). It’s a reflective, honest account that isn’t afraid to laugh at itself and goes to show where positivity and putting yourself out there can get you, in a whole heap of challenges and embarrassing situations but plenty of rewarding experiences too.