Mistaken Identity – Pubs

Complex beginnings

And she said something a few weeks ago that had me wondering about social capital and social responsibility. A note to the wise –  this is a declaration for curiosity and moving into a space of complexity and accomplishing the mighty good.

Islamic intricate design

Islamic Wall Art

Leave

“If I showed up everyone would just get up and leave” she said.
A small piece of my heart broke. Amazed and stunned I listened on as she a Muslim woman spoke about her dislike of pubs and the abject fear she might invoke in others if she were to visit a *house of alcohol.

(*My words not hers)

Comfort

At times silence and laughter are used to cover the uncomfortable. I smiled and reflected on my non pub going history. I held the notion since Uni that Pubs were not spaces I felt comfortable or safe in. Alcohol and the consumption of numerous pints were for others and not for necessarily for me. I also held the misguided notion that if I were to go to a pub much like my colleague I could be the cause of the music to stop, fights to breakout or the lively conversation to awkwardly end, and that I would be caused to leave. I hadn’t thought of people being propelled from a space I walked into due to my ethnicity, or that people may react that way to her for her faith. London Summer of 2018.

Responsibility

Discussing the comment a little more I could see some similar themes between my story and hers. She then said “Because of my faith we do see Muslims that do drink (alcohol) if I were to go into a pub and someone saw me (gestures to her *Khimar) it would, you know, be like a sign that it’s okay. I couldn’t take that responsibility. I wouldn’t want someone to think because I did they would too. I just don’t like pubs for me. I don’t get it really. Since I converted it’s not something I can see myself doing.”
*I had thought that a Hijab was the attire worn by some Muslim women. But an Hijab I was reliably informed is a term used for a woman that is covered.

Warmth like a boat riding a wave

Islamic Art by Sargodha

The Greater Good

In that moment I got it. My colleague was not thinking solely about herself or the other Muslim who may, by chance see her entering a pub. I believe my colleague was speaking about the greater good. The ability to place community both seen and unseen alongside and in front of ones individual needs. A greater I, a social responsibility to other faithful Muslims. The request to ‘go to the pub’ came from someone that was leaving the organisation. An unwritten rule of going to the pub to say goodbye to their team and the organisation was the offer. Personal needs/responsibility met social capital with respect and honour – and undoubtedly won.

Awe and Humility

The altruist was observing another law. One that she chose to follow, be in awareness of and sit humbly with. A gentle observing of what unity means for her faith and community that simply outshines the tidal experiences of work alliances and friendships. What was true for her was that attending a pub went against a fundamental truth and did not bow to external pressures from the team. I am usually awed by the immense of space, by scenes of staggering beauty, deft and touching poetry, art that takes breaths away, music that opens doorways. But this, this, this was something else. It spoke of time, respect, values, integrity. It spoke of the greater WE and a love that appeared without an end. Quietly…

A Better WE

My acceptance to pub and bar life is tentative and retracts like a wave. Alcohol is a cognitive disinhibitor and a troubling agent for thinly veiled opinions and loose tongues. I am looking for a greater more un-inhibited WE outside of religion and pubs, away from schoolisms and other human trappings that control, dehumanise, limit and separate. The WE that views all as a continuum and is hungry for parity and better centuries to follow Now!

Four Corners coming together

The Pillars of Unity

Searching

I seek what may never be found – a utopia, an ideal, a peace amongst humanity that lasts. Perhaps the need is myth and arises at these worrying and troubled times. Or as Eric Hoffer has written about we came as close to a difficult place as we could and were scared back into what we knew. Dank Dark Smelly Fear. And here we could remain until we all purposefully choose something better. My wish for her, for me, for Us is that we find other ways…

A few thought inspiring podcasts to end with.

Code Switch

Tim Ferris with Sam Harris

Science of Success

TED Talks Radio Hour Beyond Tolerance 28 uly 2017

Two Guys On Your Head

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Unapologetic

In 1995 I watched a TV ad that was as cool as anything I had possibly ever seen. Channel 4 and BBC 2 were sharing rights to provide highlights of NBA action and as a fan I loved seeing the upcoming stars listed in the Nike Ad. Krs1 provided the voice and the link to a supposed Basketball revolution styled on Gil Scott Heron’s classic. The advert was projected as the future of Basketball. Brought to you by Nike and the tag line – Just Do It.

End of Just Do it Advert

Winning smiles Colin Kaepernick

Daring

Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, who dared to kneel during the National Anthem to protest against the many people killed at the hands of law enforcement across America in recent years. His protest courted controversy and the possibility of his never playing for an NFL team again. He continued to kneel and inspired many others to join his respectful protest. Kaepernick’s actions courted comment from POTUS and many others, stating that Colin’s not signing with another team may have little to do with the protest and more to do with his waning skills as a quarterback.

Do It

Nike’s recent and controversial video marking 30 years of it’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign, is moving on a number of levels for me. In the first instance, the simple piano piece and then the commentary noting feats of overcoming adversity and daring against great odds and triumphing – Just Doing It are eyeopening to witness. From the misfortunes of the skateboarders, we cut to a surfer – then a wrestler – a boxer – runner – football player/homecoming queen – iron man finalist – soccer player – basketball icon – and tennis legend. The request is to be not just good, but dare to be exceptionally outstanding.

Endurance

The second aspect to the 2 minute advert that has me moved, are some of the words Colin shares. Insights to ideas of a legacy he has set in motion. Nike, one of the largest global sports manufacturers has endorsed, possibly playing the long game.

American Dream

Backing a be felled star. Supporting a man’s vision to realign the promise America holds as it’s dream. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I feel that Colin is the one who has set in motion an unstoppable wave.

As fast as Bolt

Jesse Owens Dignity in Motion

Pairs

That of living your truth without compromise. It is both daring and congruent. Scorn, ridicule, not being signed have followed in the wake of his protest and still Colin continues to support his idea of what is right. It speaks of strength, resilience and of an indelible message. Much like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, I can see how the pairing came to be.

Star

“Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.” Colin has stood by his convictions and as a result has been locked out of playing for an NFL team. He believed that he as a sports star could make his feelings known about the spate of unlawful killings that have happened far too often in recent years. Captivating the media and awareni of social commentators and members from black and minority groups around the world.

Seeing Red

Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant III, Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talm Bout is a song accounting the number of women children and men that have been killed by law enforcement. The song expresses the feeling of injustice in a clear and profound way.

Equality

Colin knelt to protest the injustice of those slain and their killers not brought to justice for their wrong doing. Protests and movements including Black Lives Matter have given voice to the many that feel that America has not lived up to it’s promise of equality and justice for all. America appears to justify killing those marginalised and held accountable for essentially being classed as wrong and for surviving simply.

Reality

The injustice, the silencing, the bigotry, the racial profiling, the implicit and explicit racial biases, the misdirecting of public insecurities by media outlets, the fanning of inferiority complex flames that I believe Colin was quietly protesting, were being dragged from the shadows into uncomfortable light. His aim – to draw America’s attention to what has been affecting members of it’s citizens in lethal ways.

Wrong, wrong wrong

The demand that those who watched the games he played, and those of his teammates and colleagues across the league could see that by respectfully protesting – something was horribly wrong. The protest though humble, was as loud as thunder and the world heard and payed attention. Colin standing for something risked losing everything.

Ignored

“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy ask if they are crazy enough.” He asks at the end of the advert. When a person has been discounted, knocked down, possessions stolen, aspects of their identity misrepresented and misprinted as truths, when their voices are ignored, their walks, sit ins, runs, dunks, punches, hits, throws, dances tweets and music appropriated repackaged and resold as another’s triumph story. Viewing the world from the position as low as a pavement, and being held there, stating to anyone who listened ‘I can’t breathe’, dreams then are all that are left. Martin Luther King Jnr had a dream. For Colin taking a knee was his stand, his ‘I Have Had Enough’.

Visceral

Prior to the protest and the NFL Black Out of 2017 I knew little of Colin Kaepernick. My disappointment at his treatment by owners and sponsors of NFL teams grew as I witnessed a man quietly make a point against a problem his country faces. The protest was to kneel during the National Anthem played at the beginning of all games. He did not burn a flag, he also did not curse, taunt or abuse others that stood for the anthem. Visually the image is even more notable as most players stand.

Embracing discomfort

Colin knelt because, as a football player, he felt moved by people being killed by law enforcement across his country. So moved, he had to show something to those that watched televised football games. Feeling that the country should know and be moved too by the intolerable slayings. Colin did little to exonerate himself from those who hurled insults and barbs about his reasons for kneeling. They claimed that he was insulting the flag and the National Anthem.

Game Changer Serena

The Legend that is…

Unpatriotic.

Un-American. He was pouring scorn on those who had given up their lives in foreign lands defending and protecting their country. He knelt paying not only respect to the flag but also protesting against what he saw as injustice. A deft quarterback move. Feigning a pass to rush those yards to get a 1st down. What appears unsurprising is the split his kneeling has caused. The act is a difficult one to fathom for those who may find critical thought, critical analysis and aspects of philosophy a challenge. A football player protesting about an unjust system of justice is beyond red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow thinking.

Black Power Salute

Winning Gold and Bronze Politics in Sport

One or the other

The proposition is not binary. The invitation is a request to see Colin’s act through a lens of plurality. Holding us all in the midst of it’s story – trying to figure it out. A world past Post Modernism, 18 years into the Information Age, of Alt truth, Alt Right. Play football and inspire us as a quarterback Colin, but ignore the plight of those named and the others unnamed. The many whose lives could have resembled Kaepernick’s and his – theirs. The splitting of consciousness, of opinion of right and wrong, of good versus bad and poor appears like a schism; a form of un-diagnosed mental illness, festering and leading to a paranoid schizoid position that is fanned by unchecked fear and misdirected internalised self-esteem issues.

Step forward

When America requires a sports phenomena to politically fight against a global threat as was the case with Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics – acceptable. Jesse’s treatment by America post his 4 Olympic Gold medal winning haul was beyond shameful, unacceptable, disrespectful. When Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics stood and raised their fists in a salute that sent a message around the world. The two men were reviled for their act. Their lives were negatively affected for standing up for an ideal – equality and justice for all. With the case of Tommie and John the Black Panther Party supporters, their political fight was seen as unwanted and apparently tarnished the reputation of athletics, the Olympics and the United States.

40 Million Dollar

The book by William Rhoden ‘40 Million Dollar Slaves’ that I was invited to read by Q, D amd Ruze from Broad Waters Podcast appears to have caught a few in the public stratosphere of sports super celebrity’s attention. In the book Mr Rhoden charts the experience of African Americans in sports events as diverse as Horse Racing, Boxing, Baseball, Football and Basketball.

40 Million Dollar

No Exemption

Plethora of sport

In Rhoden’s book all sports are portrayed through a lens of retrospective curiosity and invites reflection of recent sports stars actions, endorsements and silence in relation to social justice. Mr Rhoden appeared to be tilling the soil for new sports stars – conscious and willing to engage in a higher moral purpose other than filling bank accounts and surfing the waves of popularity. Mr Rhoden appeared to be calling on those who had made it, to right the overturned table preventing equality, social justice and social responsibility for black and minority peoples across America. Rhoden’s call may have been answered.

Stars Shining

Lebron James Foundation

Dwayne Wade’s Foundation

Alonzo Mourning Foundation

Dikembi Mutumbo

Tim Duncan Foundation

Serena Williams Fund

 

Furtherance

Code Switch 30th May 2018 A thousand Ways To Kneel and Kiss the Ground

Fighting Talk 8th of September 2018

Kevin Durant discusses race

Bravery

Humble yet defiant

Taking a Knee Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick should have a new contract playing for an NFL team if he so chose I feel. He had a number of years left to play. The impact of his protest has unveiled a new law by the NFL banning any player kneeling through the playing of the National Anthem. I believe that Nike have the right person for the ideal of Just Do It. Colin Kaepernick has and is continuing to… Inspire, Educate, Support, Seek Justice and look beyond self..

Lastly: Colin Kaepernick discusses his protest and the cause he supports in this video. A synopsis of all that is written above.

The Outlet

Thomas would yell whilst making a fast break down court towards the opposing teams basket “Outlet, outlet, outlet.” Thomas was the loud, outspoken, fast talking, mathematician, the unbelievable dribbler and phenomenal shooter. As a shooting guard he handled himself exceptionally on court.

Turnover

I have mentioned my adoration of Basketball and of the Alienist in other posts. With the Alienist the appeal has been it’s willingness to display patterns in manageable saccades that introduce difficult and strange and new ideas, that turn stomachs and minds and at times both.

Release

Let it Go

Shedding

A thought struck as I near the end of the 1st book of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist. The idea of the outlet. The shedding of psychological material in a safe and secure way that offers regeneration. Think a reptile it’s skin, a cat or dog their summer/ winter coats, a London Plane it’s outer bark. At page 516 the case is as good as over. The shudder of the character John Moore, recognised as letting the horror and level of mind torture he has gone through to pass. He shares the events of the night with his friend and police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.

Shake it off

The recognition is in acknowledging that a case has run its course to an eventual end. How many of us in helping professions conduct a full case analysis or case review to determine learning. With the intent to successfully shake the case off? Every client we work with is unique and has patterns that can be recognisable. Then there are those clients that surpass our understanding. That leave us questioning our training our experience, our knowledge, inviting doubt, questioning suggestions from supervisors both internal and external.

Burrs

How often then do we review with the aim of release and then cleanse? Psychological Burrs are sticky and can unduly influence a helpers work. The journeying with another on the path to better health is one that tests both the professional and the person being worked with. We enter a play that has a number of factors that interact and can determine the outcome of treatment.

A Kings Park in South London

A Winter Walk

Path 1

If the play happens to move along desired paths then we congratulate the client for their success. When working amongst a group of other professionals we also commend the team about the decisions and choices we all took part in playing with recovery.

Path 2

Were the play to be difficult and lengthy and not follow the desired path, we make alternative plans and develop contingencies that may develop a successful outcome for the work. This is where the heart of the matter often sits. Perhaps the client is initially enthused with the idea of what the work with you will deliver. Then a number of road bumps happen and they become aware that continuing with the work will arouse long held fears. Forgetting the intention to move towards better health. Here the skill of the therapist is key as well as the resilience and trust of the client. Where a good working alliance is built this road block can be understood and moved past respectively.

Path 3

Were things to get stuck and not progress we then enter another phase of the work – that of figuring out the why of the holding pattern and where the blockage could lie? The tricky thing about road blocks is that they are almost imperceptible. They reveal themselves in the client’s away times, or in the quiet moments in a session. For me they appear as questions or slivers of insights that may be occurring for the person sitting opposite. I have grown to trust these slim chance offerings as hidden openings. Using tools like art, paths, stones, the wind, changing seasons, dreams, woodland tableau’s something gets worked loose and we begin investing time to what has been unearthed. These moments are when the magic happens.

Shudder to Outlet

With all three patterns the shudder should occur. Shudder to reorganise thinking, shudder to congratulate, shudder to stay awake and to find other ways in which to grow move and shape treatment.

Go be and be happy

Go at St James Park

Self Care

Here the outletting of the pressured thinking, the complex conversations, the layered concentrated empathy and compressed and extended compassion need to be passed. To allow space, to breathe freely, to re-energise and replenish to connect with our purpose, our why. This then is an aspect of self-care. We who care for others can be less concerned with our own wants needs and mental well-being sometimes at great cost! Placing all of our focus on those that we support. Care starts with us first. Selfish? Possibly.

Safety

Whilst on an airplane or on a ferry the flight attendants and shipping crew advise to fit in emergencies – breathing masks and life jackets first to ourselves and then to others. The idea: look after self first, then we are able to look after others.

Everyday

Outletting can be achieved through a range of actions and behaviours. The main aim is to let go of the psychological weights being carried from one day in to another or from one interaction in to another. Supervision is a great way to get loose from the psychological work. Once a month or twice a month may not be enough. We can become susceptible to compassion fatigue, empathy impasse or burn out/singe outs. That may be ameliorated with a daily check in and an outletting of all that could be a trigger, an up setter, an applecart turn-overer, with the aim of finding a piece of tranquillity. To rediscover and reconnect to our why. Returning to the play with those being helped with renewed energy.

Everytime.

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’

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