Working at Seaview 1987–89
Memories by Anna Barnes, Seaview Trustee
I started in Seaview in July 1987, part time, with the wonderful Sarah Kinson as my job share. I was also fortune to be working with Andrew Sheldon and Liz Currie funded by the Manpower Services Commission. Andrew is still in contact with me and was (and still is) one of the funniest people in the universe….a fortunate quality when you are working at Seaview. Previous experience? Well I’d run a crèche for a while and managed to convince the committee that this was relevant experience (it was community work after all). I also made them laugh in the interview which is always a good thing. This was an incredible period in British social history as the old long stay hospitals were all being closed and we had at least 40 people using the centre who had been in these hospitals, mainly on the outskirts of London, for years and years. Many were in bed and breakfasts funded by DSS and had little experience of budgeting or in independent living.
My first day is vividly ingrained in my memory, chatting with Cathy about her nerves, serving tea, sorting out jumble, making sandwiches, (is this what graduates do?) never finishing a sentence before someone started another, guarding access to the phone, trying to make sense of the “tick system”.
I stayed for 2 years and loved it completely and utterly. It was all about the people: Andy, Cathy, Jimmy, Cherie, Graham, Bob Noxious, Peter, Tex, Julie, Colin, Ivan, Shanie, Vince, Tim, Gordon, Angie, Miles and Babette, Erica (still here!) all spring to mind. Here are a few memories:
- Me calling the police because one of the street drinkers had stolen some cutlery. It was worth nothing but it was the principle. He returned it when our wonderful neighbourhood bobby asked him nicely.
- One of our centre users bringing in a dead seagull to cook
- Andy and Ruth’s wedding
- Ruth blagging cheap entry to Folkestone Amusement Arcade because “we’re disadvantaged”.
- Frank’s wedding
- Tex chairing a centre user meeting really well with a pet rat on his shoulder
- Me asking for a knife to be handed over before I would serve any tea
- Stephen coming in to volunteer and living in a tent for 3 months whilst he did so
- Me buying a fantastic red biker’s jacket from Clive for the price of a cup of tea (this was probably a bad thing to do but I’ve still got it)
- A centre user picking up coins off the ground during the Old Town carnival and justifying it by saying he was “cutting out the middle man”
- Saying we needed a safe and one being wheeled in the next morning (another bad thing I suspect)
- Being taught by Janet (who was homeless) that toothpaste can also be used as glue
- Asking someone’s name and being asked to look at the label of his jacket
- Press ups in the bank…(this is a reference to a particular behaviour from one of our service users who wanted to impress the bank staff when we went to deposit our takings)
- Jimmy going to the supermarket with Julie for the first time in his life
- Bob falling off the wagon THE DAY WE MOVED INTO SOUTHWATER CENTRE when he was my main volunteer at the time
- Liz going on holiday to Greece and not coming back
- Karl shutting the centre every night with the words “haven’t you lot got homes to go to”…
They say that you don’t find mental health, it finds you. This is true because following on from working in Seaview, I got a job in mental health research working for Chrissie Higgs (now Maynard). I remember pondering for days about whether to take the job, as I was worried it wouldn’t be as exciting. Well it wasn’t. I proceeded to spend 17 years in mental health and another 6 years in the rest of the NHS. I think that Seaview was the very best training I could have had. I’m so pleased to be back, especially working with Mike and Chrissie who I worked with for many years. It feels like going back full circle, but in a good way.