The secret diary of an anti-social behaviour officer
by Nick Pettigrew
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 23 Jul 2020 | Archive Date 03 Sep 2021
Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century
Perfect for fans of This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay and The Secret Barrister.
Has your life become unbearable because the person living above you has a fondness for crack cocaine, the company of strangers and dance music? Or maybe you’re a social worker, mental health nurse, police officer, firefighter, dog warden or vicar and you’ve been landed with someone who’s a pain in the arse. Who are you going to call? That would be me: an anti-social behaviour officer.
Anti-Social is the diary of a council worker whose job is to keep his community happy, or at least away from each other’s throats. That’s hard enough at the best of times but when government cuts mean that hospitals, social services and police are all at breaking point, the possibility of complete chaos is never far away.
This is an urgent, timely but, most of all, hysterically funny true story of a life spent working with the people society wants to forget and the problems that nobody else can resolve. This book will make you laugh, cry and boil with rage within a single sentence.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 92 members
Well written, funny and grim at times, I really enjoyed Anti-Social, which is a diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer Nick Pettigrew over a one year period and set in the UK. I didn’t know this job title existed and I couldn’t believe the list of duties that this role entails. What I loved about this book was it gives the reader insight into the day to day life of Nick in this role and the problems he had to encounter on a daily basis, from noise complaints, domestic violence, drugs, mental health issues (which Nick himself struggles with but hides through his humour and banter). You would wonder how people in roles like this manage to escape and switch off when they go home at night. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House UK, Cornerstone and the author for the ARC.
I enjoy reading real life experiences from different professionals - they usually give a great insight into aspects of life that I don't normally see, and Nick Pettigrew's Anti-Social is no exception. Pettigrew gives a fascinating perspective on the 'secret life' of the anti social behaviour officer. We go through a year in his life, following various cases. He takes us alongside him into flats where neighbours have complained about noise, parties, drugs and more. Together with the month by month analysis of his working life, we also begin to understand the toll this type of work takes on the officer himself. Nick Pettigrew has a wry sense of humour, honed over years of working with challenging members of society in a setting where budgets are shrinking and teams are perpetually understaffed. I would have liked to have been drawn further into some of the exchanges that take place in each chapter - with more direct speech rather than description - but that's a minor complaint. This is a compelling book which kept me reading right through to the end where we find out what happens to some of Pettigrew's longer term clients, and to Nick himself.
I read this with interest but increasingly became totally depressed. So many people live awful lives, have no self worth, no hope. Not for the faint-hearted as is the job that Nick Pettigrew does. Sort of agree though that he does make it about him a lot of the time. Probably understandably. Some really nasty people about in this World as well.
Anti-social behaviour officer Nick Pettigrew has written a brilliantly cynical and funny account of his job. Drug dealers, hoarders, nuisance neighbours (and those with zero tolerance of any noise at all) and people battling addiction, mental health problems and domestic violence look to him for help - or to leave them alone. His job is at the intersection of others - police officers, social workers, housing officers - and he manages an unmanageable caseload that comprises the cases no one else wants. He’s depressed, has digestive problems and is drinking: will he go under like the tenants he tries to help? Peppered with both poignant and infuriating stories, this is the warts and all account of the victims of austerity and the consequences for their neighbours. Read it - it’s great.
"Anti-Social behaviour is like pornography: hard to define, but you know it once you see it" Anti-Social: The secret diary of an anti-social behaviour officer is a hilariously put together real-life account of the sad, the bad and the mad by Nick Pettigrew who details a year of his life working as an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer (Not to be confused as an ASBO!) The book is split into monthly chapters, labelled 'January, February' etc and paints an honest and raw account of Nick's career as an ASB Officer. Each chapter heading is supplemented with the Password for the month, and the current dose of medication Nick is in receipt of to keep him going. For example: January Password: Stressed101 Medication: Sertraline 50mg These medications steadily increase as the book continues through the calendar year, and you can really feel and sympathise with the stress that Nick is placed under as he attempts to try and fulfil his duty of care to his residents and to the community, whilst being placed under enormous and ever increasing workloads. "I go home and have several very large drinks. The largeness and the severalness of the drinks I need after work have slowly inched up in recent months. The irony of cracking down on substance abusers at work, then drinking myself numb of an evening, is not lost on me." Nick manages to paint his experiences dealing with all sorts of upsetting, frightening, funny, unbelievable and downright weird experiences with a fantastically dry and sarcastic wit. The tales he relives are comic even when they aren't designed to be funny, and this is just testament to the excellent manner in which the book is written, and of the strength of character of Nick in being able to be self-depreciating and see the optimistic elements of a situation where others may have balled their eyes out. "My job requires no embellishment. Exaggerating would be like drinking Red Bull to swallow Ketamine or putting go-faster stripes on a lightning bolt. There's no point." That is not to say there are not sad and anger inducing moments in the book though. Some of the stories of individuals met and cases encountered within the book are simply harrowing. The story about Carla who had carried her baby despite the pregnancy feeding the large tumour within her brain, who then went on to lose her baby to Social Services and who consequently would take her anger out on neighbours by screaming and banging doors, whilst keeping a perfectly made up cot in the flat is heart-breaking. As is the story of Albert, who died alone in his flat writing out Christmas Cards from his cats. You can feel the pain through Nick's eyes, and I honestly give him so much praise for being able to do a job like this without breaking down. "31 October I was late for work today because I spent half an hour sitting on the edge of my bed having a bit of a cry. By the time I get to work this is changed to 'overslept'-the irony being that i haven't had a full night's sleep in months." Despite the tough stories, there are some actual laugh-out-loud funny ones, which will have you chuckling along - The Nazi Dick story for one, the imagined noise complaints of over-zealous complainers and and the stupidity of his new co-worker who is obsessed with office stationery. Nick has managed to create a harrowing and raw - yet real account of his life in one of the toughest public sector jobs there is. He paints a picture of budget cuts, over-stretched resources, under-funded departments and services, lack of housing, lack of staffing, lack of community support, lack of drugs counselling and flaws within the legal policy. Despite the tough subject, Nick has kept the book light, and easy to read, with monthly chapters detailing a 'year in the life' and identifying characters who the reader is able to get invested in. I found myself looking forward to updates on Christophe, Mr. Rashid's son and Carla, and laughing along at the simplicity of some drug-users habits. Having grown up hanging around many a communal block of flats staircases myself....I was really able to put myself in the scene and live in Nick's world. A fantastic account. 5 heroin injected, bass thumping, conspiracy posters in the window Stars. Thank you to #NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of #Antisocial received in exchange for an honest review.
An interesting and eye opening read. Nick writes about his job with humour and in an engaging way. It is a job I would not want to do. This is an intriguing look at bad neighbours and anti social behaviour. Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
A fascinating and funny insight in to a world few of us would have many dealings with. I don’t envy Nick Pettigrew’s time as an ASB officer, most of the cases he deals with require a thick skin or a certain level of detachment so you don’t end up crying at your desk. Not as quick paced as other novels of a similar topic, but an interesting read nonetheless.
This book gives a fascinating insight into the author’s role as an Anti Social Behaviour Officer. Some of the tales are amusing, however the majority are incredibly touching and sad. A decent read and one that stays with you for a while after finishing it.
I was expecting this to be hilarious, but was surprised to find myself so emotional whilst reading some of the stories described by Pettigrew. As an Anti-Social Behaviour officer, Pettigrew certainly has a lot of sordid stories to tell and this book is incredibly entertaining, but it also really opened my eyes to how privileged I am and how easily I’ve judged people who haven’t had the good upbringing or fortune that I’ve had. Not only does Pettigrew open up the conversation on issues within the social care/legal system in his diary, but he also adds a level of humanity and tragedy to people we so often write off as “bad eggs”. A real eye-opener - I’m always glad to finish a book and feel like I’ve learnt a lot or had my perspective changed and this certainly hit the spot! And of course, it is also bloody hilarious.
A gritty & witty insight into the daily life of an Anti-Social Behaviour officer – one of those unusual roles that needs somebody who cares but not too much! Nick struggles himself with depression, and whilst his understanding of mental health issues helps him to understand some of his clients, it is perhaps also exacerbated by his work! The book is a sort of diary detailing some of the more memorable cases that are in his over-loaded case file. Nick shows us glimpses of hard working families who are struggling, alongside drug dealers, deprivation, overcrowding, and abuse. Some of the stories are heartbreaking but Nick’s story has given me an insight into the “other side” of some of the anti-social behaviour that is seen around today, and how some estates seem to attract it. Nick’s down to earth approach and humour makes it a book that is just on the right side of dark and depressing. Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book free from the publisher via NetGalley. Whilst thanks go to the publisher & author for the opportunity to read it, all opinions are my own.
This book is incredible. Whilst I usually love books that show daily lives in different jobs I have never read such a sensitive and kind account of working in such difficult areas. This book completely immerses you in the job and the struggles during it while giving an unabashed honesty about the authors own mental health struggles. This is how the world should be. There was no shame, no judgement and no unkindness. An absolutely beautiful book.
Well written, with more than an edge of dark humour, this takes us into a field of work, the ASB Officer, unreported until now. With diminishing resources, the stress is unbelievable. I found the stories quite distressing even with the humour, as it tells how much that section of society is being failed despite how much the individual cares. A sad indictment but an important book. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for an early reading copy in return for an honest review.
A very fascinating book. It gave the insights so well & was interesting to read what they are up against and what some people get up to. Very well written. Loved it
This diary of an anti-social behaviour officer is moving, anger-inducing and darkly funny in equal measure. These ‘fly-on-the-wall’ memoirs are a hugely popular genre at present, and this book is a welcome addition. The cases of some of the most marginalised members of society are heart rending and raise serious questions about the levels of support these people need, and the lack of resources available to those whose job it is to help them. The mental health costs to the author are grimly presented too, leaving the reader asking many questions of both local and national government. This all sounds grim, and it is, but Pettigrew writes with real style and bleak humour and manages to convey the serious subject matter with compassion and empathy. This is not a book for those offended by violence or abusive language - the vocabulary of most of the characters Pettigrew has to deal with is limited, with most of the words beginning with the letter F!
Unfortunately, I’m already aware of the ASB Officer role, due to suffering with nuisance neighbours in the past. This book gave a good insight to the varied job role that an ASB does. Definitely an eye opener on times. Thanks for Netgalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.
This is the diary of a year in the life of Anti Social Behaviour Officer Nick Pettigrew. Written in the same kind of style as This is Going to Hurt and the Secret Barrister it’s an insight into how these jobs work and how the people that do them are more than often swimming against the tide wrapped up in bureaucracy. It’s written with sarcasm and dark humour which I think to be able to do this kind of job you would need to have to keep yourself relatively sane. It’s an eyeopening read at just how grim things can be on all the people involved. You will laugh, cry, be enraged and empathise with the people and the stories within. It’s an excellent book and well worth the read. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the ARC
Absolutely nailed the grim reality and hopeless despair of working in the public sector. Funny but it shouldn’t be.
This book is as morbidly fascinating as the title would suggest. Well.written, bit of humour and also despaire, at what goes on in people's lives. Good read 👍
I am intrigued and fascinated by books written by those at the grassroots of occupations governed by social policy. From junior doctors to teachers to barristers and prison officers these anecdotal insights into some of the most stressful, underpaid and undervalued jobs are always thought provoking and entertaining. Antisocial by Nick Pettigrew is no exception. In recollecting his own experiences as an ASB officer over the course of a year (although with a decade worth of experience to his credit)the reader is given the opportunity to understand the kind of work involved. Any occupation that deals with the general public, particularly the disadvantaged, powerless sections of society is going to provide a wealth of material for this type of memoir. As I expected, this is a frank and often brutally honest account of the day to day life of ASB officer, an occupation I’d never given much thought to given that I’m one of those annoying (but not smug) middle class readers sat on my sofa whilst turning these pages. Told in a very informal diary like format, my initial thoughts were that books of this nature have one thing in common; humour. Every anecdote is injected with a wry humour that makes the unpalatable actually very funny to hear second hand. I suspect that this sardonic detached humour is a coping mechanism to deal with the daily horrors he witnesses on the estates on his patch, something that struck me within the first few pages. So many thoughts were whirling through my mind as I discovered exactly what this job entails. It requires the skills of so many other occupations from police officer, social worker, mental health worker, solicitor, fire safety officer to name but a few. The list felt endless and inexhaustible yet I sensed it takes a certain type of person to be able to manage this level of responsibility without going completely insane. You need to be empathetic up to a point whilst remaining detached and professional which would rule me out from the start! The caseload for one person is extraordinary but hardly surprising in yet another public service that is underfunded and understaffed and as the year progresses you can feel the burden of responsibility weighing and wearing him down. If that doesn’t consume him then the ridiculous amounts of paperwork that go hand in hand with his job just might!! This isn’t any normal 9 to 5 job where you can forget your responsibilities the moment you leave the office and this man’s dedication is obvious and admirable. It also made me feel incredibly grateful to be working in a job where interaction with the general public is limited! Drugs, drug dealers, noise disturbances ( real or imagined) neighbourly disputes, grievances big or small it’s all here in this melting pot of antisocial behaviour. For people like Nick dealing with these disputes its akin to being on an eternal treadmill where you never ever get to the end, with a mound of unresolved cases growing higher by the day. At least that’s how I understood life as an ASB officer, constantly troubleshooting and fighting fires, drowning in all the futile petty and often ridiculous problems. Doesn’t sound like you’d get much job satisfaction does it? Still the author manages to entertain and amuse with countless tales that defy belief if you happen not to be slap bang centre in the middle of it. Whilst this does mostly read as a cycle of drugs, noise, drug dealing, noise, breaches of injunctions, more noise, evictions, more drugs there are some standout anecdotes that really touched my heart. Arthur and his cats is a heartbreaking glimpse of what life can be for some, isolated and forgotten whilst I found Mr Hewitt’s story of loneliness and imagined grievances equally upsetting. For me the most poignant of all is the tale of Anne and her son Alex although every single case where poor mental health is an issue is sobering. It’s impossible not to be struck by the impact life as an ASB officer has on the author’s own mental health. The titles of chapters detailing his current dose of antidepressant and units of alcohol imbibed may be tongue in cheek but my heart went out to Nick as he struggles alongside recognising and managing his residents own issues with mental health. In what is a funny yet at the same time depressing read I was full of nothing but admiration for this man. Trying to help those that are unable to help themselves within all those complex and arcane rules and regulations is an impossible and thankless task. Reading between the lines the author is just an ordinary man tasked with an extraordinary caseload and it was hardly surprising that by the end of the year he quit. He convinced me totally that his role of an ASB officer was demanding to the point of impacting heavily on his own mental health and whilst all that experience built up over years disappears in an instant he really has no other choice than to throw in the towel. His own recognition that instead of feeling empathetic towards an individual’s circumstances all he could think of was the never ending paperwork validated his decision to call time on this profession. Whilst without doubt the right thing to do I couldn’t help wondering if the residents he came into contact with over the years valued his help and intervention. Probably not!! I loved the epilogue which cannot fail to be political and controversial and scathing. You might not agree with all the points the author is voicing but it’s people like Nick at the grassroots that are best placed to guide future social policy making rather than the privileged Eton educated bureaucrats that are currently responsible. He makes a valid and reasoned argument for changes in drug policy that is hard to ignore as too are his comments on housing policy. It’s the mental health discussion that I found myself agreeing with more than anything. Raising awareness and talking openly about mental health issues may be all well and good but if the services are not there and/or patchy and underfunded in the first place then it’s a pointless discussion. If you enjoy a thought provoking insightful read that also satisfies your natural curiosity about an occupation dealing with the less salubrious aspects of society then this is one for you. Definitely worth your while. Plus you might just appreciate your neighbours aren’t so bad after all!! My thanks as always to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read.
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Nick Pettigrew is an anti-social behaviour officer. He deals with everything from noise complaints to people using their council flat to grow and supply drugs. This book is written in a diary style. It is wrote in a humorous way much like Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt. Throughout this book he relates his different experiences in his job. There are stories that will make you laugh and others that will make you cry. He also relates his own mental health problems. It becomes apparent throughout the diary entries that a lot of the people who are causing problems have ongoing mental health problems. I didn’t always agree with everything Nick had to say but this was a really enjoyable read.
This is the type of book that that makes you laugh out loud, cringe and cry all at the same time. Nick Pettigrew was a anti-social behaviour officer for over ten years and he has seen it all. Utterly brilliant.
What an insight! Anti-Social is hilariously funny alongside being devastatingly sad too. It’s true there are some weird and wonderful people here in the UK and after reading this I’m pretty sure Nick has dealt with them all in his ever growing caseloads. The writing was really my kind of humour, a little dark but always laugh out loud funny. A really easy read dealing with some pretty hard hitting subjects. A book I will definitely be recommending
Talk about an eye opener. Didn't know the job existed and would never want to be one. A glimpse in to the world of social housing with all its complexities. Families, single parents, multi generational households. Drug users,, alcoholics, mental health issues and parents who it is never their kid. Boy am I making it sound good, but it is. Compelling, informative and most of all interesting. I would definitely recommend reading the book.
A fly on the wall view of the daily grind of an ASB officer, this sounds grim, doesn’t it? Well it is a bit but it is also heartwarming,funny, human and really informative. A tale of our society without the fairy part, just the real and imperfect world we live in through the eyes of a sarcastic guy who really cares. This should be part of the curriculum as it is eye-opening and details how some layers in our society are forgotten and neglected when they should be cherished and nurtured. I read it in a couple of days and can only recommend it with lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!
Absolutely HILARIOUS and heartbreaking in equal measures... nothing surprises me much anymore (I work in Safeguarding Children in Education) but some of these tales literally made me weep. Classic one-liners made me belly laugh too though. “The internal doors are so flimsy they would collapse if a French Symbolist poet collapsed against them in a laudanum swoon.” And, “It would be as useful as trying to nail a stretch of fast-flowing river to the pebbles underneath.” Clever, brilliant, tragic, heartwarming, heartbreaking, hilarious, well written and REAL. Pre-order this immediately!! Haven’t laughed so much since Adam Kay’s diary entries! A well deserved 5 stars. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
I requested this book because it sounded interesting, but I was totally unprepared to spend a whole day reading it; I couldn't put it down. Nick Pettigrew is an excellent writer, presenting a difficult subject in an engaging and funny way. I learned so much from this book and it made me think about our society where so many people are frankly ignored, leaving people like the author to try and help them. This book should be mandatory reading for all MPs, and especially the government.
A rage inducing memoir from anti-social behaviour (ASB) officer, Nick Pettigrew, related with sarcasm and black humour, a prerequisite I imagine is needed to survive the chaotic messed up world of councils and housing charities that oversee and manage social and low income housing. His job became ever more impossible with austerity policies that dismantled or grossly underfund the network of services that previously held together some notion of a decent society, particularly with regard to the lack of drug addiction and mental health services. The definition of ASB is given as a) conduct that causes alarm, harassment and distress, b) conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance, c) conduct causing housing related nuisance and annoyance. A diagnosed depressive of over 20 years, Nick relates with humour, the heartbreaking nature of his role that stretches the limits of his patience and compassion, in the form of diary that documents his growing reliance on anti-depressants and alcohol to survive the non-stop rising stress levels in his daily life, and the final nail in the coffin, the fate of Clara, that has him quitting his job for the sake of his sanity. Clara has an inoperable brain tumour, has psychiatric and medical issues, has her baby taken away because of her inability to cope and it's her situation and death that proves to be too much for him. Mental health issues are pretty much a given with almost all of Nick's cases, the cause of why so many lash out without the awareness of the impact of their actions on others, that so often has Nick go to court in his cheap black Primark suit for injunctions, the breach of injunctions, and eviction notices. The numerous tales of poverty, overcrowding, deprivation, depravity, heartbreak and misery were enough to make me so distressed that I wanted to bang my head on the wall, I found I desperately needed the humour to carry on reading. There are corpses dripping bodily fluids, alcoholics, drug dealers, repeat complainers, police drug raids, domestic and physical violence, crack dens, knife crime, nazi sex offenders, dead tenants, harassment, the insane and untold other horrors. Aside from Carla, there is the hard to help Emma, and the psychotic Candice, a schizophrenic who refuses to take her medication. There are the heart rending stories of Phoebe who has to be removed from her home, she is being abused by a young couple seeing her as their meal ticket, taking over Phoebe's home, and Anne, a mother being terrorised and abused in her home by her drug addicted son, Alex. Nick presents an insightful and eye opening opportunity, warts and all, to see close up a divided Britain's inequalities, the invisible underclass communities, heaving at the seams and growing, broken and worn down by the impact of the criminal negligence of austerity. If I had my way, I would make every Tory politician who voted for those reckless and hugely damaging policies spend at least a year living in these communities to see the consequences of their actions. Nick and all those others who do the same job, are poorly paid and another broken byproduct of austerity, doing an impossible job with a rising workload, not to mention the mental health stresses that require more medication and alcohol. I cannot blame him in the slightest for quitting, the wonder is that he lasted so long, consigned to dealing with the symptoms, never the causes of the problems and challenges that his clients face. Pettigrew gives us a hard hitting and unvarnished picture of Britain today, but he does it with humour and a social commentary that makes it an utterly riveting and a compulsive must read. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Random House Cornerstone for an ARC.
Excellent. I didn't relish reading the day to day goings-on of an Anti-social behaviour Officer. So glad I gave it a spin. Anti-social is one of the best books I have read, so far this year. Both intimate and funny, Nick gets to the heart of the problems he has faced and makes you shout and rage and laugh all in the same paragraph. I cannot imagine how difficult his job was, but with compassion and empathy, he has given me an insight into the difficulties of dealing with local communities amidst the cutbacks and red tape of councils and government departments. I highly recommend this book. He deserves all the accolades he can bear. Brilliant.
Anti-Social: the secret diary of an anti-social behaviour officer is one of most infuriating but hilarious reads. Its a raw, sobering account that will take you on emotional roller coaster of fury and laughter.
This cast a fascinating view on those unfortunates whose lives are blighted by mental health issues, domestic violence, substance abuse and addictions, unemployment and petty crime. Pettigrew is an anti-social behaviour office who provides a diary of all the issues and problems that he faces over the course of a typical year. As is the case in the criminal justice system, he is overworked and totally lacking in support and resources. Some of the cases he describes are heartbreaking other feature behaviour of which anti-social is a barely adequate description. What grated was his gallows humour (I suppose you are no longer allowed to say b***k humour anymore. I suspect it was a defence mechanism that allows him to cope with everything that was thrown at him but it made the entire book a difficult read - as I suspect tit would also have been without it too given the subject matter.