Noel Howard, of Social Care Ireland and the editor of CÚRAM, the Irish care magazine, has sent these comments about John Cross and the book Charles Sharpe has written and compiled about John.
The Irish Journal of Applied Social of Applied Social Studies will be a publishing Noel’s full review of the book in a forthcoming issue.
Congratulations on the publication of A Shared Experience. It is hard to believe that you only met John in 2008 because reading the book I get a feeling that somehow, you knew each other for far longer.
I think this book comes at a good time for those who work caring for children because, to use a phrase I’ve used elsewhere, the essence of caring is not about commodification but about relationships. In Ireland at any rate, social care workers are more than ever subjected to the jargon of supposed certainties which benefit no one, least of all, children with difficulties.
I find, in reading your book, that John was the real antidote to what now can tie social care workers up in knots – on the one hand regularly encouraged to use their professional judgement and yet when they do, even with positive results, can find themselves facing a bureaucratic nightmare. There was a time, and this is perhaps another example of my dinosaur status, when one could write in a log book, “Tom had a very good morning”, safe in the knowledge that those you worked with and worked for knew what was meant. Now, on good authority, I believe you must detail how and why Tom had a very good morning. The very core of the ebb and flow of life in residential care is now subject to the latest buzz words, one of which at the moment here is “journey”. Everyone, from the cat to the King has to be on a journey of some sort. But enough of my meanderings and back to the book.
The saddest part for me has to be the boy saying to John on his being withdrawn from New Barns by his local authority, “John, you said I could always live here.”
The most infuriating part was of course the story of the trial which kept bringing Arthur Miller’s line in The Crucible to mind…”You are pulling down heaven and raising up a whore.” Most striking of course is your description of John’s lack of bitterness and resentment and in that I think he was a better man than most. I know, in fact, I’m certain, I would be very far behind him in that attitude. Also, it was lovely to read of Jim Nichol being so impressed by what Eve Foster and Maureen Ward had to say. It struck me that they perhaps were the best inspection service a unit might hope for, somewhat removed but imbibing all that was good around them.
The anecdotes from those who worked with John were, as with most anecdotes about people in this kind of work, quirky and revealing. Of course his innate modesty and true sense of justice were what most come through in the book as well as a thorough delving into what constitutes the therapeutic task.
Interesting you mention that John had no great reliance on theoretical matters and yet there is a very evident theoretical base in his conversations with you and the extracts from his writings. Also, you get across the idea that he was always about with his cup of tea and that can’t be said of many managers now pressurised by all kinds of bureaucratic demands.
Applicable I think to John also and to many who worked with him are those lines from Wordsworth:
That best portion of a good man’s life
His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
I hope, Charles, that the book gets the readership it richly deserves and well done in bringing John’s life and times to us.
This letter has also been published as a permanent article in the goodenoughcaring Journal.
A Shared Experience John Cross, his life, thoughts and writing by Charles Sharpe, published by Abbeyhill Press Totnes in 2018. Price £7.995
To request a copy of this book email firstname.lastname@example.org
All the proceeds of the sale of this book go to sustaining the John Cross Archive currently maintained by PETT at the Barns Centre, Toddington, Glos.