Katie's Diary

Dorothy Jarvis-Lee Blog: Mrs. Caldicot's Cabbage War

27th January 2015

HUMOUR is all around us and I had a chuckle or two to myself while watching the brilliant Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War recently.

It’s a sadly common story about a put upon and bullied pensioner who is duped out of her home and put in, for that is the only way to describe it, a rundown old people’s home called ironically Twilight Year’s Rest Home by her avaricious son who cannot get his hands on her money fast enough.

Having spent a lifetime of mal treatment, firstly at the hands of her now dead husband, and latterly the aforementioned son, being placed in an institution with other like minded people she finds a determination she never knew she had.

The bad treatment and duplicity she suffered at the hands of her family is replicated in her new home, which by coincidence is owned by her son’s boss.  Twilight Rest Home is run down, scruffy and dirty, the staff are surly, rude and treat the residents cruelly, yet while she is used to such behaviour, having experienced it all her married life, being surrounded by others suffering the same gives her and them a lease of life.

The rebel in Mrs Caldicot breaks out.  The breaking point is yet another serving of cabbage soup. Once the after effects of the drugs she is given to keep her quiet wear off a feisty warmonger breaks free rallying her troops with hilarious and devastating effects.  Unwilling to be put down or put upon anymore she marshalls her fellow residents to turn the tables on the rest home staff.   Soon the rest home owners and their staff are regretting their actions and running for cover.  It is hilarious yet never far from the viewer’s mind is that this is a David and Goliath struggle and we take sides.

Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War is fiction but was written by a man who had first-hand experience of seeing how vulnerable people were often treated by those they trusted.  Vernon Coleman was a qualified GP and a bit of an anarchist and rebel.  A passionate vegetarian and antivivisectionist, he believed everyone and everything should be afforded some dignity. That’s why he campaigned for stricter controls of the use of benzodiazepine drugs that are often used to sedate people. It seems he used his experience and insight when writing Mrs Caldicot’s War. 

There is a moral for society in the story of Mrs Caldicot and her fellow residents. Vulnerable members of society cannot be pushed around, kept quiet with drugs or ignored.  Like Mrs Caldicot, ubu has often discovered that people we serve have a very clear idea about what they want out of life and once they are supported to find their voice, and they will use it making themselves heard loud and clear.  They are able to both express their hopes, fears and carry them forward.

Part of our uStep model is to make sure that we listen to what people want before we even start to think of how we can support them achieve their goals!  Every vulnerable adult deserves the chance to have their voice heard and society has a responsibility to give them an audience.  Each one of us has to listen to what the people we serve want, need and think about how want to be supported and what they want from life!

Let’s not be part of a society that ‘drugs’ the weakest members with treatment we think they want.  Instead let’s be proactive and all fight inequality and maltreatment in whatever form it takes.  To ignore that message is to do so at our own peril.

After all once the drugs wear off and they get sick of cabbage soup they might become as militant as Mrs Caldicot … wow, then what would happen?



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Dorothy Jarvis-Lee Blog: Mrs. Caldicot's Cabbage War Dorothy Jarvis-Lee Blog: Mrs. Caldicot's Cabbage War

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