The article turned into everyones nightmare - the front page of the News of the World. He later reflected on what he had written as having been 'half-jokey, half-inept, but it revealed problems that committed front line POs were meeting every day. I felt they would surely appreciate that.' Funnily enough his career was eventually saved by Harold Evans at the Sunday Times because that very same weekend they had published a carefully considered article in the colour supplement based on his ideas.
Since beginning this blog, I've got to thinking a lot more about that column and managed to extricate my copies of 'New Society' from Uni days, safely stored in the loft. Reading through them it has only served to highlight the extraordinary journey probation officers have travelled; the many similarities that remain, but also to remind me just how much we have lost as a profession, not just in ditching social work, but also in terms of experience, knowledge, colour and passion. The Probation Service used to be filled with real characters who had the freedom to be themselves and innovate. In searching the internet I came upon the following, written by none other than John Waterhouse and in reference to the 13 radio plays written by Parkinson between 1972 and 1994.
........Geoffrey was employed as a probation officer by the Inner London Probation Service for over 30 years. He took pride in remaining unpromoted (he was at one time the longest serving main grade officer in the probation service). He grew up in Epsom, Surrey, where he continued to live (as a sort of suburban guerrilla) and, as a young man, attended the local Methodist church. He said that some of the material for one of his plays was drawn from this experience.Geoffrey wrote a column for the now defunct journal ‘New Society’ under the byeline ‘Tailgunner Parkinson’ From this vantage point he took potshots at all and sundry. He also contributed provocative articles to other journals and the press frequently asked for his views on dealing with offenders. He was a thorn in the flesh of his line managers, was suspended for a time, and eventually banished to the Woolwich office as far away from HQ as possible.Geoffrey is something of a legend in the Probation Service and some will remember him more fondly than others He was a complex man, highly amusing in conversation and blessed with a vivid imagination and sometimes acid tongue. He had a genuine commitment to work with offenders who he saw as more in need of help than punishment.(John Waterhouse)
It reads like an obituary, but a note attached in Aug 2004 records that Geoffrey was said to be in his late 70's at the time, so for all I know he is still living happily in retirement somewhere. I hope so. I wonder what he'd make of the blogosphere? As to my practice, seeing as management haven't yet taken to putting recording equipment in interview rooms, I still have the ability of using private conversations with clients to practice social work by stealth if I want to.