The Selfish Pig's Guide to Caring
Written by Hugh Marriott, Illustrated by David Lock, Published by Polperro Heritage Press, 2003
Reviewed by Maria Mackell, Coordinator, Carer Support, AHDA (NSW)
I must say right at the start I did not choose to read this book. ...instead, it was given to me and suggested I might like to read it. I didn't read it in one sitting...it's quite a hefty paperback, about 350 pages. And the thought did cross my mind "hmm, ... funny cover but 350 pages on "caring" might be a bit intense ..." But the funny cover sets the tone right from the start. and it is quite funny. It is also very easy to read, conversational and friendly, and flows easily from one idea to the next.
But it is also quite comprehensive. It is possible (and probably advisable) to read just a bit of a chapter, or a relevant page or two. In every page there is evidence of personal experience of caring, of writing from a "how it is" perspective, not a "how it should be" perspective. It is clear the author knows what he is talking about, and, it is as if you were having a private little chat about the ups and downs of being a carer. It is well sprinkled with humour, personal anecdotes and witticisms from the author, and other sources.
It starts off with a fairly humorous look at what it is not. For example "It doesn't provide a foolproof method of turning you into an angel of mercy". It then moves quite subtly through a range of issues, from general to specific, through to the nitty gritty of the day to day work of caring, like lifting, cleaning, doing the housework, dealing with officialdom.
It does not shy away from the tricky topics ("the messy bits") and sensitively approaches issues such as toileting, sex, altered relationships, carer guilt, fatigue etc. It covers lots of curly issues that carers may need to discuss, like "holding onto your sanity" but it does not preach, nor patronise.
For carers with many years of experience, there will be chuckles of recognition, over common experiences, and a smile or two at the recollections of their own attitudes or thoughts. For those who are new to the job of being a carer ... there are loads of useful tips, and the information is both relevant and detailed. The chapter headings are amusing, but a bit obscure. Once past the contents page for each chapter, the work speaks for itself. Within the chapters, the actual information supplied is quite clear, with sub headings, and funny sketches. So if you are looking for something specific, use the substantial index for quick referencing.
This is an excellent book, full of gentle insight into both the little detail and big drama of being a carer. It covers a really wide range of issues in a friendly, non- condescending way. It should be compulsory reading for anyone involved with carers or caring. After reading this book, many more of the hidden army of carers will be proud to recognise both the range of their skills and the value of what they do. And hopefully others will as well.