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Tenacious & Squatty

November 8, 2017

On Monday I gave an interview to the British Association of Social Workers. They wanted a human rights angle to include in their magazine in December to celebrate International Human Rights Day. I really liked the interviewer and he seemed to fully get my repeated insistence that for me, human rights only exist in the “small places”. All the little things in Steven’s life like popping out to buy a pie or choosing his daily DVD viewing wouldn’t be possible without his right to liberty and his right to a private & family life.

At one point during the interview, the interviewer described me as “tenacious” and I experienced a strong emotional reaction. After he left, I even had a little weep over the word. It was only later in the evening that I remembered why. I’ve got an old press cutting from the mid 1950s about my Dad. He was an above average non league player. He used to play inside right and was blessed with a blistering turn of speed. In the Gazette report he is described as “the tenacious Neary”. I’m very like my Dad in lots of ways and so unlike him in many others but I guess that throwaway comment from the journalist got me because it made a connection that I think my Dad would have liked.

The tenacious Neary became a bit of a nickname for my Dad for a while. Slightly sending up but with a great deal of love and respect for him. I can hear my Mum saying to him, “Oi Tenacious. When are you going to mow the back lawn?”

As a kid (and for much longer after) I always wanted a nickname. Most of my mates had one but I could never get one that stuck. Nicknames tend to be appointed by others: you can’t give yourself one and my circle seemed happy with me being Mark. It took me 45 years to get a nickname. Another thing me and my Dad had in common is that we both had our physical strength in our legs. He was quite trim above the waist but had the most enormous quads. They housed the power that propelled his speed and his tenacity. I never had the speed but I had the power. At the gym, I could do deep squats with pretty heavy weights. And that’s where my nickname came from. One morning, I was in the middle of a set of squats and a guy walked in and said, “Hey. It’s Squatty, putting us all to shame”. And the name stuck. For the next few years, in the gym at least, I became Squatty.

Assumptions. Back to the interview. The interviewer told me that his Communications Director wasn’t sure about doing the interview because, given my history, it might turn into “social worker bashing”. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think I do social worker bashing. I bash Steven’s 2010 social worker but she deserves it. I think I’ve made some good online friends with social workers. It was an unfair assumption.

After the interview, and still a bit cheesed off over the bashing assumption, I went off to the gym. It was a Legs & Shoulders session. This is my fifth week of being back in the gym and to date I hadn’t done any squats. This is partly because I know I’m approaching hip replacement material and I’m not sure my hips are up to such a pounding. But moreover, it’s pride. Squatty’s squatting heyday is over and that’s a rather bitter pill to swallow. Foolishly I also didn’t want a public showing of Squatty’s demise. Another stupid assumption. I wrote before that, at 58, I’m invisible in the gym. It’s a different gym and nobody knows Squatty anyway. So ignoring the audience that only exists in my head, I loaded some piddling plates onto the bar and squatted for the first time since 2012. A bit less vanity and a bit more tenacity.

I remember a conversation with my Dad a few months before he died. He’d been out for a lunchtime drink with his partner and on the walk home, someone came up behind them and snatched her handbag. Instinctively my Dad set off in chase. Tenacious to the last but at 63, his speed had gone and the robber got away. He was cowed as he told me the story. Cowed by the deepest shame. It was very sad and no words could make it right for him.

I didn’t really get it at the time but I do now. It goes beyond pride. It’s a part of our identity. Part of our self belief. It may be built on ever shifting sands but it’s part of who we are. My Dad was Tenacious to the very end – just not in a way that he recognised of himself.

And Squatty will exist, long after I can no longer touch the floor with my arse as I complete my third set of squats.

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4 Comments
  1. kate permalink

    You are simply by virtue of what you have achieved amazingly tenacious! Your family couldn’t fail – or wouldn’t have failed for those no longer with you -to be incredibly proud of you. We talk about the labels that get dumped on our loved ones but the labels placed on family carers are hugely damaging too. There is always an assumption than family carers are social worker bashers. This is without foundation! All the family carers I have ever met or come across, despite many of them having been at the sharp end of some really bad practice and treatment, feel passionately about protecting social services and its resources and defending the social work profession. Our distress and justified anger is offensive to the services and makes them uncomfortable and they choose in response to label us as aggressors. When faced with a distressed family carer, passionately standing up for and speaking out on behalf of their relative – and usually at the same time all other vulnerable members of our society and all the workers involved – the authorities choose to treat us as though we are the personification of the actual injustices we are challenging! They choose to take our distress and rational, reasoned and fair challenges completely and utterly personally without any consideration for the fact that what we are challenging is actually harming us very very personally. (And ironically, those who take our challenges personally are usually the ones who want and rely on us to ooze empathy when they have a grumble about how bad they think the servicea are or how bad it was for them when their nephew’s uncle’s sister-in law’s brother’s grandma needed social care for the last 6 months of their life.) It is extremely damaging for family carers and we have to just carry on keeping on going, pretending to be thick skinned and often playing up to the label we have had unfairly dumped on us so that we can try to make the people we are dealing with feel less uncomfortable. It is distressing and, when we are at our lowest ebbs, it is hard to endure.

    Keep on keeping on Mr Tenacity. Forget the squats!

  2. Many professionals make assumptions and often they are wrong. Yes tenacious is how we parents are to continue to have a say in our children’s world and we are more often right.

  3. weary mother permalink

    Quite often LA’s use unqualified or inexperienced people in Social Work or Care Manager role.

    They/LA’s also use short term locums, as care managers, as part of whole Adult Care Service cost and support reduction,reviews. These reviews are terrifying and too often the locums have no knowledge of person under review, their tenured team members or the Local Authority.

    One locum care manager told me she only did this ‘low grade’ job to pay her mortgage, having been a senior social worker. I assume her former SW clients were treated with similar disdain.

    We have all met the majority, who have lightened our all; who have supported us and quietly urged us, cheered us on – to keep on challenging for better for our son or daughter,

    And those who would have done the same, but for fear of authority or lack of power through lack of confidence, qualification or experience. They always treat us with warmth and respect. But our challenge can make them defensive.

    Then the few, who could not care less about our son or daughter.. Who are offended by, and react aggressively to, our weary but resilient tenacity,

    They see us as and name us as the problem when we refused to accept a decision.

    But we carry on trying to do our best, with all….

  4. Hi Mark,

    1.
    human rights only exist in the “small places”.
    Genius.

    2.
    I took the liberty of converting your “Parley Vouz Health & Social Care? (An A to Z of Carespeak)” into a handy PDF, which I’m inflicting on people I work with.

    I would like to send it to you. You can email me at: arthur.battram.plexityATgmail.com . (I swapped the @ for AT to prevent spambots) and I’ll email it to you.

    BTW: There seems to be an error in it – under Q. I would like to correct that, and any other error you care to spot.

    Thank you once more for your wonderful blog.

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