Goodbyes…

A few weeks ago I had a conversation about an interesting part of ending a meeting or a conversation – the good bye.

Good Bye Umbrella

Wind Caught Umbrella Away

I asked my colleague, “How do you find saying good bye to another professional?” I asked.

She replied: “I never really thought about it.”
I said: “Well…. I… have and I find myself saying bu’bye to just about everyone, even to people that are from call centres. What am I doing?” I said
“Well”… she paused, “it is a nice way to bring a conversation to an end. With my friends I sort of say BYEEEeee” She said
“So you sort of sing it?” I asked
“Yeah something like that…” she said, “…And then with one of the counsellors I worked with before, she would  say Bye Bye Bye Bye Bye as they were putting down the phone almost apologetically ending the conversation.”

Intention

Here I laughed uproariously, I couldn’t control it. The laughter was delicious and surprising and welcome. My laughter was in part due of recognition of how a counsellor may behave trying hard to maintain compassionate boundaries and also ending a call with a client. My colleague’s re-enactment was also a great characterisation of a person tentatively putting down the phone receiver cautiously. I could almost see the care and non malificence of the counsellor’s intent.

Family

My laugh of recognition was also about how I end my calls this way with my sisters especially my eldest sister.
One of my nieces asked: “Why can’t you just say I love you and get it over with?”
I gave a long explanation about the long good bye as meaning the same thing! My niece 14 at the time didn’t quite buy it. I don’t believe I really did either.

Formal

The goodbye or the bu’bye conversation with my colleague continued as I was looking for comparison with how others manage their goodbyes and when and where a bu’bye is an appropriate way of ending an engagement with another.

Warm

Perhaps a goodbye has become formalised as a permanent ending – hard with finality. Where as bu’bye is warm and has a similar meaning but is vague and familiar. I have in mind the bu’byes I said to my sons when they were much younger. However singing a good bye as my colleague does with her friends, I understand as another form of familiar parlance and recognition of the significance for people close to oneself.

Endings

Final Goodbyes

Goodbye Walking Away

In a few weeks I have an uncomfortable good bye ahead of me. My time at Together for Mental Wellbeing has run it’s course and I am to move on to pastures new. The experience I have gained at the charity has been amazing, transformative and unforgettable. The discomfort arises as I bare witness to the friends I have made, moments of inspiration had, insights shared, support offered and ideas for development discussed, are to be no more.

As a lay philosopher the opportunity to discuss ideas with others about the advancement of the criminal justice service in London and find ways to better support those in the community and those in custodial settings I will greatly miss.

As a group I have not come across another set of people that are as committed, compassionate, resourceful, flexible in thinking, and willing to work the unforgiving hours until the job is complete. It has been a growth making experience working alongside: Counselling Psychologists, Community Links Workers, Counsellors, Forensic Psychologists, the Data Team, IT department, HR team, Admin team, Managers from around the world all contributing to an organisation that has a belief based in recovery and safe return/re-entry to the community

Saying goodbye to all of the above is saying good onward journey for both of us. Borrowing a phrase from Chris the Big Issue seller at London Bridge who always offers me a phrase that makes me smile:

A truthful quote

Painful Goodbyes

‘Until we meet again’

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When Coaching gets it Wrong

My first introduction to American football happened as a result of Grid Iron on Ch4. I was already an enthusiast of Basketball and Football became a new sport to invest time with and learn about. I enjoyed the UK based commentators attempt to over explain the rules and various decisions that occurred throughout the game. This was in the late 80’s.

Choice

Due to Colin Kaeparnick’s non signing with a team last season I chose not to watch any NFL games. I am vaguely aware of the winners of last season’s Super Bowl but am not as up to date with trades and new signings for this season. Netflix and Amazon have been my go to’s.

Offering my NFL starved eyes initially Friday Night Lights – then Last Chance U, All or Nothing, Undefeated, Coach Snoop and QB1. Marching Orders has been a late addition to my TV watching that I have been fascinated by. The show has little to do with football as they perform for themselves and in competition with other bands. Each Last Chance U features a marching band intro and I have been impressed with their discipline and timing.

Defining synchronicity and Timing and Discipline

Netflix show Marching Orders

Losing It

In my experience great leadership can lead teams to phenomenal successes and some devastating defeats. As a former Basketball Coach I recognise the want for excellence from all, all of the time. The reality is that excellence and perfection are not always possible, no matter how much it is wanted, worked for or at times wished for. A number of years ago I had a moment at a London Youth Games tournament when for 30 seconds I lost it with my basketball team. I lost sight of what we had come to do, play well, play for enjoyment and play as a team. The Hurricanes had worked so very hard to get to the games and the 1st game had been a great example of what I enjoyed about coaching. The first game was a narrow defeat but they had gained learning from the experience and looked to have fun throughout the game. I had felt that they were ready to take on any other team and play well.

A meme that inspires

Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor’s advice.

1st Quarter Defeat

The second game out they were losing to another team within the first few minutes of the 1st quarter by 15 – 2. Stunned, appalled and amazed at the swiftness the other team from Westminster were dispatching us with, I called a time out. I wanted to rally my team and interrupt the flow of the game. In the time out my words were incendiary and raw coming from a place of hurt, anguish, disappointment and guilt. My ire was intolerable and according to the team lifted the roof on Crystal Palace’s main hall and painted it an array of colours. My several words of profanity put me in reach of Last Chance U’s Buddy Guy and Jason Brown coaches.

Story Book

The need to perform well and win against insurmountable odds must be a chip that gets inserted into a coaches sub consciousness at some point during their lives. The Hurricanes had trained well. The drills we had covered over the months leading up to the London Youth Games I and my co coach believed would provide them with chances to play well, be versatile, flexible on offence and decisive on defence. The pain of disappointment came as I realised that for some this was to be their last youth games. That their Basketball playing potential was not going to be realised that day, or any other where I were to coach them. The reminder of the story book ending slipped out of sight that afternoon. But life as always continues.

Last Chance Who?

Last Chance University Season 3

2 Shows and Out

Season 3 of Last chance U has underwhelmed me. I enjoyed the first season, it offered a behind the scenes look at another coaches habits and team building capability. The Editing of the  episodes watched may have miss represented Coach Brown’s input with this season’s show.

In season 2, Buddy’s past crept in and derailed his attempts at claiming inter state championship victory. A punishing disappointment that he seemed unable to let influence his decisions and mood. Coach Brown in season 3 appears to have not read the coaches charter. I find it difficult to watch his players be screamed at repeatedly with no information to guide their overall improvement. The coaching staff do not get off lightly either as they are viciously hurled abuse at. My mental health antennae have turned to on and I am starting to see Coach Brown’s ire as unsavoury and dehumanising.  I had not foreseen that such poor management, poor leadership and an unstable personality type could rip a team apart as resolutely as Coach Brown’s had.

The Islander

I am dismayed at the latest instalment of Last Chance U, yes it was never supposed to be as neat and as sewn up as Friday Night Lights, however I held out for something redeemable. A quality to the calibre of Coach Brown that young men were willing to put their hearts minds and bodies on the line for. Initially the spark and committment and energy was there but as pressure mounted Coach Brown started to retreat into a concentric circle pattern that had him be isolated, unlikeable and lacking connectivity. Good leadership drives hard, has unrelenting standards, knows how far to push and be pushed and then offer to those who they work with all the accolades and praise when they achieve what they are due. Marching Orders band director Donovan Wells is a great example of a person who is willing to have vision and inspire others to achieve it and not lose the respect of those he is working with. Once the likeability and the ‘I will run through that wall for you coach’ is gone, the team is lost and the game is over before it even began.

The leader of the field team

Quarter Back #1

Leadership

To lead one should be willing to listen to all voices especially those that dissent. An element in disagreement  may perhaps with revision could support attainment of goals desired. I feel that a good leader, coach, counsellor, mentor, should be willing to be led. Leaders cannot know all, do all or be all. At times it would be best to sit still, listen and learn.

Some Losses

The Hurricane members that I am still in contact with have forgiven my ire and curse words of that then. I am thankful of their resilience and patience with me. It has become a “remember when Coach Mike…”

Laughing plays an important part in dislodging, dissolving and supporting growth. I saw little laughter in last Chance U season 3, unless at the expense of Coach Brown. I am happy that I didn’t permanently damage the Coach player relationship with my team. I lost my temper and not the team.

Some losses are too great…

It’s All in the Hands

With summer at it’s height and the evening’s beginning to draw in, I noted my willingness to bake shoot into overdrive. I was asked by a colleague what got me into baking and said “Baking helps me manage anxiety”. Baking helps to stall the thoughts that build about the improbable future by occupying time and ones hands and ones mind with the act of making something – edible gold.

A Probation Favourite

Potato and Dill Bread

Distraction

In an earlier blog I mentioned that I baked my first savoury bread as a result of not knowing how to begin writing my dissertation for my masters in counselling. In a way baking helped to calm my nerves about the mammoth task ahead of me. Writing a significant piece about my early life and relationship with my mother was an unwelcome challenge. Baking bread helped to transform anxiety and stress into doing something productive and creative.

Transition

My first ever bread was a banana bread which lead on to an attempt at making an Irish Soda bread. The step from the banana bread to the Irish Soda was not too great. Unlike studying at an undergrad level with Interior Design and then studying at a masters level with Therapeutic Counselling. The transition from Banana Bread to Irish Soda was straightforward. With the Irish Soda, I didn’t need to invest in any equipment like a bread mixer or training, practice and time were the only requirements.

Development

Bread baking has taken me to attempt sour dough’s, brioche’s, fruit loaves and pastries including croissants and pain aux chocolate. This is not an advert for suggesting a try at the Great British Bake off. Baking relieves me of pent up energy and emotion and relaxes me immensely. GBBO is entirely enjoyable to watch, to be a participant? Not for me. I could see the vision of the master bake ending up in a bin much like a previous contestant were things to go wrong. Baking remains a joy, a simple pleasure. The product of which can cause a rush of excitement and some envy.

The Baking CV

I have brought baked goods into most of the places I have worked:
2004-2007 Salesian College mostly cakes and an Irish Soda Bread
2009 – 2012 Drs Surgery near Camberwell cakes.
2010 -2014 Belmarsh Prison I pushed myself a little and attempted cakes and more complex breads including a quick rye bread.
2014 The University of Kent where I was a student mentor – Breads and cakes. This is where I honed the skill of making the sourdough. A book bought for Christmas that year the handmade loaf by Dan Lepard inspired me.

Smiles

In the 3 years I have worked alongside probation I have brought many breads and baked goods in to offices at Greenwich, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Merton, Sutton and Southwark. The bread is usually accompanied by cheeses, grapes, butter and jam or a soft spread. My belief is, those that work in the public domain genuinely are unsung heroes and are in need of congratulating and validation by those they serve and look after (Society). My offerings were a small testament to an idea: ‘Gift others with something pleasant that would be hard for them to return’. The breads cakes and other items I brought in, usually vanished in a short space of time and put a smile on most people’s faces. For me giving and causing for a short while joy, was priceless.

Edutainment

Mentioning the GBBO above, stirs my thinking about what Channel 4 will offer us this season? Last year’s departure from BBC1 to Channel 4 did not deter my admiration for the participants or enjoyment of watching the show. It still ticks most of the boxes for good entertainment. A sour faced judge, a fair judge, and 2 comedians bringing levity when things inevitably go wrong. The mini edutainment sections are also in CH4’s edition too. Netflix has all 7 seasons and all episodes. Let the entertainment begin!

2 Artisan Breads

Sundried Tomato, Onion and Cheese Loaf alongside a Caraway and Raisin Bread.

Appreciation

I baked for my team of Forensic Mental Health Practitioners recently – 3 Dan Lepard Recipes: a classic banana bread, a yoghurt and chive bread, an onion and cheese baguette that has an MO addition of sundried tomatoes. Renamed  as ‘Pizza Bread’ by a colleague at Together. My anxiety about my moving on from Together enabled me to craft 2 wonderful loaves and a cake as a goodbye to a brilliant team. As a group the NPS team have worked diligently and passionately in probation offices across London. Overcoming a number of unforeseen challenges, obstacles and developments within the service. The bread was to say thank you and that their efforts have been greatly appreciated by me, Together, Probation and the service users they have supported.

Memories fade like the aroma of a freshly baked bread, I would like to hold on to these memories for a while longer…

Breaking the Cycle

Half-Truths

In a conversation with my supervisor we came across an interesting idea. We [society] punish those who have done wrong to society by sending them away to prison.

Arike asked “I just want to make sure I heard you correctly, you want to punish people who have already had a difficult past?”

“Er, yeah, well that’s what society wants for people who have wronged them. They have to repay us by spending time away from us, to then return rehabilitated” I said.

Arike chuckled… My folly although well put, had been illegitimately conceived. I had stumbled into another half-truth of society’s thoughts about the criminal justice service and about what, We the greater want from those who have committed crime against Us. We want them to pay back for the harm they have done to us. Rehabilitate, be re-educated and return healed from the hell that they were sent to…

Is the above a fair request?

Musical Identity

By stating to Arike that I have been the victim of a number of crimes was an attempt to show understanding. Being beaten up on my housing estate at the age of 9 by a school bully, and having my mother’s purse stolen by a friend were painful shocks to the system. We living near the bread line stolen from by a trusted friend…

Living in Wandsworth between 1997 – 2002, my car being broken into a number of times was possibly a greater loss. My car stereo and CDs – stolen, taken, had, made off with, disappeared…

Music was then, and is now, an important part of my identity. I loved making mix tapes and then playing a selection of these carefully chosen tracks as I drove to work.

1st Car

An Escape Golf Mark 2

Loss

My assailant, had taken something I held dear. I felt rageful for my hurt and violated sense of space. I also wanted my stuff to back. I shared this with Arike who chuckled some more. In the time after my stereos disappearance, I was able to get to a place of compassion.

The idea I was able to fashion was that the thief possibly needed my stuff more than I. Perhaps they were not in a frame of mind I could ever fathom or figure out. They found my car out of place in this well to do part of Wandsworth, broke in easily and took what they needed. I was lucky they didn’t steal the car, further complicating my commute to work. My red 1988 Volkswagen golf. It pained me to get into it and drive with no sound other than the engine – hollow and vacant.

Why

I imagined a male. Possibly either a drug or alcohol misuser who exchanged my low tech, low cost, car radio for their next escape. The usual phrase of ‘Why Me?’ formed and was popped by a realisation that if a £20 car stereo sale could bring momentary happiness, then my loss could result in momentary happiness for them… perhaps then…

Hurt First

An outcome of the discussion had with Arike was that the thinking around prison and punishment of crime may be archaic, ill fitting, not suited for our modern times, out dated and out grown. If not prison, then what? Community sentences? Returning to the idea of punishment Arike posed a final question:

“Society wants to punish those who already have been hurt?”

From this point a realisation hit home. The want for punishment remains for a society hurt by those who have taken something from us. I get that. What I started to visualise was those who commit crime also have had things taken from them, freedom, childhoods, education, self-agency, identity, family, access to funds, homes, safety… As a group of people, they were hurt first.

Faces at the bottom

We as a society rejected and affixed labels (Mad, Bad, Sad) and then sent them away. Is there much wonder then that as a group of people rehabilitation does not come easy?

Breaking the Cycle - Big Society

All for All. Big Society

Can you imagine what it could be like to return to a place where you are not wanted, feel impoverished, unable to contribute, the so called friends you thought you had were just as dysfunctional as the people you grew up with, or certain members of your family, spending time between probation, job centre, approved accommodation, attending change grow live CGL, trying to give up a habit as a coping mechanism that halts feelings of denial and hurt, returning to familiar patterns of crime, to feed a habit and return to a gaol system that further impresses that you are not a member of anywhere but it’s grey confines. What then?

For me there are many layers to unpack for ‘Those Who Were Hurt First’ that would need to be addressed by all.

The unpacking begins…

Yoga, herbs and sunshine: New Zealand opens ‘humane’ jail for most violent inmates

Johan Hari T.E.D. Talk Addiction as a Health Matter not a Criminal Justice Matter.

I thank Paul Delaney for hi-lighting this article. Drug addiction

King Heroin – James Brown

Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow Americans
Lady Americans
This is James Brown
I wanna talk to you about one of our
Most deadly, killers in the country today
I had a dream the other night, and I
Was sittin’ in my living room
Dozed off to sleep
So I start to dreamin’
I dreamed I walked in a place and
I saw a real strange, weird object
Standin’ up talkin’ to the people
And I found out it was heroin
That deadly drug that go in your veins
He says
I came to this country without a passport
Ever since then I’ve been hunted and sought
My little white grains are nothin’ but waste
Soft and deadly and bitter to taste
I’m a world of power and all know it’s true
Use me once and you’ll know it, too
I can make a mere schoolboy forget his books
I can make a world-famous beauty neglect her looks
I can make a good man forsake his wife
Send a greedy man to prison for the rest of his life
I can make a man forsake his country and flag
Make a girl sell her body for a five-dollar bag
Some think my adventure’s a joy and a thrill
But I’ll put a gun in your hand and make you kill ’em
In cellophane bags, I’ve found my way
To heads of state and children at play
I’m financed in China, ran in Japan
I’m respected in Turkey and I’m legal in Siam
I take my addicts and make ’em steal, borrow, beg
Then they search for a vein in their arm or their leg
So, be you Italian, Jewish, Black or Mex
I can make the most virilent of men forget their sex
So now, no, my man, you must, you know, do your best
To keep up your habit until your arrest
Now the police have taken you from under my wing
Do you think they dare defy me, I who am king
Now, you must lie in that county jail
Where I can’t get to you by visit or mail
So squirm, with discomfort, wiggle and cough (coughs)
Six days of madness, (Hah) and you might throw me off
Curse me in name, defy me in speech
But you’d pick me up right now if I were in your reach
All through your sentence you’ve become resolved to your fate
Fear not young man and woman, I’ll be waitin’ at the gate
And don’t be afraid, don’t run, I’m not chased
Sure my name is Heroin, you’ll be back for a taste
Behold, you’re hooked, your foot is in the stirrup
And make, haste, mount the steed and ride him well
For the white horse of heroin will ride you to Hell, to Hell
Will ride you to Hell until you are dead
Dead, brother, dead
This is a revolution of the mind
Get your mind together
And get away from drugs
That’s the man
Back, back
Songwriters: Charles Bobbitt / Charles Fred Bobbitt / Dave Matthews / James Brown / Manny Rosen
King Heroin lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Ru n

Part 2 arrived whilst I was writing part 1. Energy and inspiration can be like that at times. Arriving when attention is paid to other things.

Pt 2…

Metaphor of Running Underground

Run

Ru n

I thought we would
Forever run
Together like a river

Running
It’s bed
Never running dry

As if running were
A sport of
Joy, run

Like pain, red
As paint, tracked across
Streets after bucket

Splatter and pedestrians and
Traffic and pigeons
And dogs exhaust

The wet tacky for many
Many metres

A picture of running

Running River

Expiring effluvia, you
Left as I ran at
Full pace, a while

After letting me
Run beside
But eventually you tired

And ran on
Ran faster and faster
And faster

Could not keep up
Cresting the next
Hill and disappeared

Running on
Hoping that
You wait for

Me still, there
Where last I saw
You Run

You’ve gone and I
Run on:

Coming over the hill

Running a Mountain

Glad of the company
Once I had had

The paff paff
Paff
A soft comfort

Unlike when you
Were here
Running

At

My

Wise

Side