I walk in at 10am, there’s a class going on in the art room and I can see a lot of vibrant colours flying around. There’s laughter coming from the quiet room, which is never really quiet. I say ‘hello fellas, no art today?’ to which they say ‘no, painting isn’t really our thing’ and carry on with their conversation about random antics – you never know what it’s going to be, Brexit or a definitive ranking of the Quality Street chocolates. I pop into the Rec Room, say hello – offer to make a tea for someone and end up with a list of 12 hot drinks to make! I say hello to the support workers and then settle in for a game of BlackJack with a couple of service users… Trust me when I say, you learn fast. I’m a self-declared BlackJack champion, thanks to being taught by ‘the best’ of the playing service users, hats off to him for teaching a complete novice. After a couple of games, a few of them go outside and I have a wander to see who else I can chat to. I return to the quiet room to see what kind of conversation is floating about – I have my weekly Eastenders catch up with one service user and a check in with one of them about how their kids are doing. I can hear some shouts from the Rec Room, someone’s spilt their tea – the support workers swoop in with a mop and before I know it, it’s time for lunch. People are bustling about, deciding where to sit – trying to maximise how soon they’ll get their lunch. ‘What is it today?’.  You’ll learn very quickly there are ‘good lunches’ and ‘alright lunches’.  None are bad, just some are the crème de la crème; sausage and mash always gets a thumbs up. ‘It’s a curry today’ I say, ‘ah right, what’s for pudding?’, a common reply. ‘Think it could be yoghurt but you might be lucky and get a flapjack’.  Yoghurt is a long-running inside joke here, it’s a regular pudding. Lunch is cooked so it’s off to deliver the plates to each room, I get the usual ‘got any salt and pepper?’ or ‘any mustard?’ so I’m rushing back and forth catering to these requests. I’ll have to start asking for a tip next time haha! Before long, lunch is done ‘compliments to the chef’ – as one service user ALWAYS says – plates are tidied and it’s time for afternoon activities.

‘Are you going on the walk?’ I get a chuckle and then get told ‘no, I’m staying in the warmth’ – some service users go on a walk, other days it might be speech therapy, drama, laughter yoga – sometimes I can’t keep up! The service users go to their activities – I can either help with them, sitting in on music therapy was great, or I can chill with the ones that decide just to do their own thing… Back to BlackJack for me… Thankfully, no tea runs – everyone’s full from lunch. I finish the game and go and see who else has decided to loiter! A couple of us gather in the quiet room, again, never quiet, chatting about what we’ve got on this week. I start asking random questions from a pub quiz book lying around and next thing I know, it’s getting competitive, people are keeping score! One classic was ‘What colour is China Red?’ some people thought it was a trick question so went with ‘blue’, but of course, the answer was ‘red’ – cue lots of laughter at what a naff question it was. More chilling, discussing I’m a Celebrity or X Factor, making ourselves the armchair judges. Before I know it, it’s time for me to head home. I shout bye to everyone, ‘see you next week!’ I say, waving frantically through the windows of different rooms.

I leave the door with a smile on my face. I cannot wait to come back.