I am always proud to say that Walter and I were just one of the five founding families behind DC Network. One of the other families, with whom we became close friends, were Maggie and Charlie Manicom and their daughter Lottie. To the immense sadness of us all Charlie died in a freak motorcycle accident on 27th October 2008. This time of year always brings back good memories of this fun but highly principled man. Here is the tribute I wrote to him for the DCN Journal in 2008.
A Tribute to Charlie Manicom
Charlie Manicom, one of the founding members of the Network died as the result of a motor bike accident on 27th October.
Like the rest of the founding families Charlie and his wife Maggie were keen to be open with their daughter Lottie, now 21, about her conception but had no idea how to go about this or how to make contact with other DC parents. They responded to the item in The Times newspaper about the book My Story and came to the meeting hosted by Dr. Sheila Cooke in her clinic in the old Jessop Hospital in Sheffield that resulted in the formation of DI Network. At that time Charlie was working as a manager in the NHS and Maggie was a Health Visitor. They appeared in the BBC film Seeds of Secrecy that launched the Network and many years later Lottie contributed to the film A Different Story. In fact the title was taken from words said by her.
Charlie was always his own man, an independent thinker. He had no time for shame about his infertility. It wasn’t his fault and he never felt diminished by it. Although a passionate advocate for openness, Charlie remained opposed to the ending of anonymity for donors, arguing that this encouraged far too much emphasis on biology and genetics as determinants of personality and relationships. As the first editor of our Newsletter he wrote provocatively about the emphasis that is put on matching donor and recipient and the pride that some people had about the fact that many donors were medical students (as someone working in the health service this did not necessarily fill him with great joy!). Charlie preferred to think about the complex mix that takes place between genetic material and the social/emotional environment in which a child is raised. He used a cake mix analogy to make his point. Eggs, flour, butter, liquid, raising agents etc are the ingredients that make up most cakes, but what makes the result light and fluffy and taste good is the way that these ingredients are put together, the temperature they are baked at and the care that is taken during the mixing process.
Charlie also wrote the story of how he knew the value of the Network when Lottie challenged his status as her ‘real’ dad when she was angry with him. Charlie, being Charlie, just cuddled her and said that he loved her whatever she said about him when she was cross. This story is reproduced in the Telling and Talking booklet for parents of 0-7 year olds.
Having retired early from the NHS Charlie was hugely enjoying studying again, taking an anthropology degree at the University of Kent. This allowed him time to devote to his adopted village community in rural Kent (he was originally from South Africa) and to be house-husband to Maggie, who has re-trained as a counsellor and works in local GP surgeries. He was never happier. His loss is a tragic one for all who knew and loved him. No more so than for Maggie and Lottie and the lasting friendships he made within the Network.