Only Fools and Horses star Daniel Peacock has been acting and writing television shows for more than four decades, but now works in a care home. He says he finds the work more inspiring than anything he has done before.
The 64-year-old from Barnet, London, who played ‘Mental Mickey Maguire’, has been organising activities for the residents at Hastings Court Care Home for three years and says it has been “the most rewarding time of my life”. In the past, Dan has created a number of TV shows and stared in movies such as Quadrophenia and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Three years ago, his dad Trevor Peacock – famous for playing Jim Trott in The Vicar of Dibley – was in a different care home as he was battling dementia and Alzheimer’s. It inspired Dan to get his first ‘real job’ with the lifestyle team at Hastings Court, as he had just finished writing the second series of TV comedy ‘Marley’s Ghosts’ and wanted to do something outside of his comfort zone.
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He told MyLondon: “I bought a caravan in Kent as I thought I really wanted to get some solitude and I’ve always loved holiday parks. So there I am in my caravan writing every now and then, enjoying no pressure and stress.
“I started watching TV programs I’ve never watched before in my life, not the greatest but they were on TV. Then my son Charlie said ‘Dad you’re watching way too much television’ and suggested I get a job.
“At that time, I thought ‘I don’t even know how to do anything else’, he found me a job at Hastings Court.”
Dan does still work on TV projects, but his main focus now is on improving the lives of the residents at his care home, where he arranges activities with the lifestyle team. The group of staff work to make sure the residents are kept entertained and engaged, and Dan always goes the extra mile to ensure their families are included.
Dan now works to provide entertainment for the residents at the care home
(Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga)
‘Working here has made me a better person’
The actor’s father, Trevor, died in March 2021 after being in a care home for three years. Despite the sadness of the situation, Dan says this helped spark his passion for helping others.
He explains: “Because my dad had been in a residential home, tragically, with the most awful disease Alzheimers, it was the first time I came face to face with this terrible condition and I wasn’t overly impressed with the care home. So when I got here at Hastings Court, it was like a very impressive hotel.
“I started to inject some entertainment and conversation between the residents and bringing them all together. A lot of the residents have lived history, during and at the end of the war so you bond with people here.
“My dad died of that horrible disease but working here has made me a better person.”
Dan’s father, Trevor Peacock, died in 2021
(Image: PA Media)
Dan is an award-winning writer for his kids’ show ‘Cave Girl’, but says that his proudest achievement will be if he wins the National Care Award 2022 that he has been nominated for.
He adds: “I try to inject fun and love into every day, it doesn’t become exhausting, I find myself very lucky to be here. This is my first job, ever in my life. I was 61 years old when I got here. I’m passionate about making the residents’ lives as fun and fulfilling as I possibly can.
“When I went to visit my dad in Yeovil, I spoke to my family members and family members of others who were in there, and although we weren’t ostracised we weren’t always as catered for. So here we started a thing called the memory cafe, a support group for family members every couple of weeks where it’s a safe place for individuals to come.
“Sometimes people break down and cry, which they haven’t been able to do as they suppress it. We get lovely responses from family members, their handing over their loved ones to strangers. So it is important that the love they feel for their family members continue here at Hastings Court.
“I love my relationships and bonding with the residents. I’m taking a lady, Joan, for lunch tomorrow with my family, my treat, as her family has been on holiday. To be honest I can afford it and I don’t want to see Joanie upset.”
‘I wake up every morning happy I’m going to work’
Dan says his dad inspired him to succeed in the acting industry, after he left school at 15 with no qualifications because he couldn’t spell very well. He says: “I remember thinking my life would be nothing as I couldn’t communicate with people.
“But I wasn’t worried because I always assumed after watching my dad do lots of musicals I would follow in his footsteps.
“I remember him writing the songs in our house then going to the West End and hearing them and thinking ‘I remember that that song, look at all these people listening’, that had influence over me.”
Dan says he loves bonding with the residents
(Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga)
Dan went on to star alongside his father in his own series, Mud and Trainer. It was then his experience with Trevor’s care home that inspired Dan to support others.
He says: “This is fundamentally why I wasn’t put out when Charlie said to get a job. In a care home I’ve learned families need to be supported, whatever the challenges the resident may have.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t have been here without my dad’s situation in later life, I’ve learned a huge amount. Now that is the most rewarding time of my life, I wake up every morning happy I’m going to work.”