Full Metal Cardigan: Adventures on the Front Line of Social Work – David Emery

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.

21 Replies to “Full Metal Cardigan: Adventures on the Front Line of Social Work – David Emery”

  1. This sounds fantastic! I can’t begin to imagine the challenges of working in the social work system and it sounds like he covers the bases sensitively and informatively while still being funny. And honestly, I would read this on the title alone, that is completely hilarious, I really did lol. Fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A-thankyou! There is so much to appreciate in what goes on, although the dual challenges of keeping both patient and calm must weigh heavy at times. The tone of the book is akin to Jack Sheffield (teacher) and James Herriot (vet), as well as my mum’s favourite Gervase Phinn, the names may mean nothing to you but they all provide a gently comic look at their professions and also conveniently give you more to perhaps add to your reading list. I’m helpful like that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know James Herriot, I used to love his books and stories, especially as a kid! The other two I’ll be looking up 🙂 but definitely sounds like the kind of tone and storytelling style I’d like. Thanks for the great recommendations! Reading list can never be too long, right? 😉

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        1. I think it appeals to the universal glee of someone else suffering, whilst the reader is free to enjoy without guilt what the author had to go through. Highly recommended in that regard.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. A great skill is involved in negotiating sadness/badness/harshness with humour. I think humour is a bit of a cure-all, and a way to get people to see something they’d rather not look at.
    The title is hysterically funny.

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    1. Comedy always makes something more palatable, even if it isn’t something that wouldn’t usually be on the reading list. The more it is used the more it can help teach and allow us to understand which makes it doubly shameful that so much of it is seen as offensive. Once we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves and each other we may as well give up.

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    2. Comedy always makes something more palatable, even if it isn’t something that wouldn’t usually be on the reading list. The more it is used the more it can help teach and allow us to understand which makes it doubly shameful that so much of it is seen as offensive. Once we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves and each other we may as well give up.

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  3. My husband has just qualified as a social worker, and I have a funny feeling a copy of this might just end up in his Christmas stocking this year. Perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Ste J, The title itself is priceless, since social workers are believed to live in cardigans and sweater vests. The balanced attitude you speak of is indeed truly hard to achieve in a book of this kind. I foresee that the book will enliven many a dinner table conversation among those of serious turns of mind, who also have just that touch of humor in their makeup. Thanks for your review.

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    1. It would be good to discuss favourite stories in both which was the comical ones to enjoy and which were the most moving or thought provoking, especially when dinner is involved. Or just ice cream, I am fixated on that at the moment, which was unlike European me.

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    1. It is the sort of book that makes you want to read just a couple more pages and then you realise you are halfway through the book. It is certainly different to my usual type of book but it i always good to stretch one’s reading horizons.

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  5. Wonderful review! I think this book will be added to my tbr heap. Having worked for a local authority housing department, the Department of Social Security and for the Met Police Community Policing department in my distant past the book will no doubt be of some amusement to me.

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