Posted by: yorkhull | January 20, 2016

Emotional labour: feeling the way forward for probation


In the heart of the old county of Westmoreland ten probation colleagues from all parts of Britain were arriving at a remote hotel location in what had all the elements of a Agatha Christie Murder Mystery Weekend. The death knell has been sounding for probation for some years now and this group were gathering to imagine what probation might look like in 2020, if indeed it had a future! Appropriately we gathered in the library though Col Mustard was notable by his absence. 

The setting could not have been more fitting. Once the home of the Gandy Family, this fine, Georgian Mansion became a Country House Hotel in 1947. There is a wealth of history here and the Heaves Mansion still retains the elegant character, which befits a true Country House. It is still owned and run by the same family after nearly 60 years. Heaves has always been noted for a friendly welcome and a sense of peace and quiet. Set in ten acres of formal gardens, woodland and parkland, the hotel has magnificent views of the Pennines, the Kent Estuary and the Lakeland Hills. The thin covering of snow on arrival somehow contributed to the atmosphere.

  

This group, collectively shared well over 200 years engagement in probation matters, whether as practitioners, managers, trainers, consultants, researchers and academics. But this was not a conventional conference. Though it was to take place over two days and had an over arching theme, Imagining Probation in 2020: hopes, fears and insights, there were no speakers, no set workshops, no formal agenda. The outcome was, at the start, unclear, untested and possibly unreachable. Though individuals brought their own expertise and slant on this unique and sometimes precious world of probation there was no consensus of thought. In fact those invited represented very different aspects and theoretical preoccupations which were designed to create a real and critical debate. This was not intended to be just a talking shop amongst fellow travellers though more of that later.

This was only the second time I had attempted this kind of event. The last time, circa 1975, was when I was training as a social worker. Attending a fairly conventional, even old fashioned, course in Hull with a predilection for psycho dynamic casework and the readings of Florence Hollis and the like we had heard on the periphery (a minstrel (early social media!) in the form of Roy Bailey playing his guitar) about the anti psychiatry movement led by RD Laing and David Cooper. Not on the curriculum, I suggested to my fellow students we should go away to a remote location and debate these new ideas. I knew of a outward bound place in the North York Moors remote and isolated which seemed perfect. Everyone readily agreed. I prepared various papers, read all the works available of the key thinkers and we set off. On arrival I sought a communal place to work and suggested we start at 3 pm. A football game had started outside and then as 3 pm neared everyone disappeared, I discovered later, to the pub at the bottom of the lane. I sat and sulked, thought about a dirty protest in keeping with my caricatured understanding of Laing’s philosophy until they all returned around midnight. The following day people slept in, went for a walk, cooked communally but steadfastly refused to engage. As we left everyone was refreshed and relaxed and pronounced what a great weekend it had been. I quietly fumed about the lost opportunity.
Chastened by this experience I have organised many conferences since but always with speakers and workshops in them. I yearned for those parts of such conferences where free discussion took place and the agenda could arise more naturally and reflectively. In my experience that space for reflection and contemplation has got less and less over the years, though the conference experience has not necessarily improved. 

There was a real danger that this discussion could descend into a depressed and fatalistic conversation about the havoc unfolding under the bifurcation of probation and the growing role of the private sector in shaping delivery. But stimulated by a discussion on what might constitute the essence of probation, what ever the organisational arrangements, we were able to get into a debate not circumscribed by current practices. We interrogated the fundamental nature of probation arguing that there are functions which any civilised justice system would need fulfilled. Out of this fundamental discussion we began to create areas of mutual interest and work in small groups to shape particular ideas. What I found wonderful was how people who had worked in similar areas but had not met each other before began to revisit their own interpretation informed by mutual engagement. We were helped by five of the group having recently completed PhDs so detailed and well researched evidence was brought to bear.

Day One ended with everyone going down the lane to a pub, but this time at my instigation, which treated us to some wonderful beers, a wonderful meal, the Lancashire Hotpot being particularly outstanding, and a perfect way to recharge batteries. With our average age exceeding fifty (at least!) an early night beckoned after eight hours formal discussion had ended with some relaxed social discussion and a feeling of a great first day.

At the outset I had indicated that the theme was the title of my valedictory lecture to take place on Thursday 28th April at Sheffield Hallam University when I will retire. (Book your free place now, follow this link:  (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hccj-conference-seminar-series-13th-annual-portal-lecture-tickets-19512552570 ) Accompanying that lecture will be the papers, thoughts, polemics, manifestos, photos etc created during these two days, and to be reproduced in Vol 14.1 of the British Journal of Community Justice, my last issue as editor. This issue will be launched at the lecture. So day two began to shape the contributions. Alliances were formed, commitments were made and ideas were scripted. Two months only to reproduce our thoughts. But I am convinced this will be a journal well worth reading. Watch this space.

I could not have been happier with the way the event had unfolded. Spending quality time with people who shared their knowledge and understanding so freely was one of the most enervating occasions I have ever experienced. Others reflected on two days well spent and the opportunity for time out, in wonderful surroundings, with challenging colleagues and now friends was key to our successful engagement. We discovered I think, that we can imagine probation in 2020, that the cycle of social change will adapt and change the organisational arrangements and that using research and evidence remains key to finding ways forward. 

I thank my fellow participants for being willing to suspend their imagination and focus on possible futures. It was a truly great process, in a fabulous environment with stimulating and erudite colleagues. I hope the end product will excite its readers as much as the journey excited me. Thank you! 

Posted by: yorkhull | December 3, 2015

Being responsive


This is my second blog in a series reflecting on my new role as chair of the Probation Institute. I have now been in this role for around three busy months at a time when the PI is beginning to deliver and promote its agenda to support the needs of the probation profession in all its plurality. Recently on the excellent blog ‘on probation’ a series of, at times, challenging points made by probation staff about the PI were aired. This blog will also seek to respond to some of the points made there.
Starting a new organisation with minimal financial backing in a time of austerity and massive disruption to the profession it is seeking to serve was never going to be easy. Though the concept of the Institute had been around for many years, it had failed to gain sufficient traction to get off the ground. But even as the worst excesses of transforming rehabilitation were being rolled out, the importance of such an organisation became apparent to many and the steering group composed of representatives of PA, NAPO, PCA and Unison brought the PI into existence. A stubborn and important action as no one else was doing this! It has taken time, no doubt too much time according to the blog posts, to build the agenda. It has been bedevilled by a number of understandable but in my view surmountable concerns. The blog posts identified three recurring problems – links to the MoJ and CRCs, demands on membership and not fulfilling a campaigning role. 

By its very nature the PI must work in partnership with all the constituent groups, though no Board member pretends this is easy or without conflict. We remain committed to keeping our doors open to the MoJ, NOMS, NPS, CRCs and the voluntary sector. After all, these are significant employers and policy makers for probation staff and any institute has to understand that context so it can offer services to all its constituent groups. But our concept of partnership goes much wider than this and we are establishing meaningful relationships with a wide variety of organisations, including service user organisations, to ensure our work is understood, our purposes explored and out of this networks can grow. We are in no one’s pocket other than our members. I stated this in my first blog and do not intend to dwell on this further. There are no corporate memberships as questioned in one post just working partnerships. But instead of creating false battlegrounds we need to turn the discussion around about how we can more effectively do the job we set out to do. 

We are accused of being silent and it is true that the PI has been busy establishing the key elements of its business and during this time communication may not have been as good as it could be. But that is not the same as doing nothing. As individuals we would comment on TR and readers will know my own contributions. But the PI’s prime agenda is the profession of probation and by definition we must have a forward looking agenda and engage with what is happening now. We are now in a much more robust position in our key areas – registration, professional frameworks, networks and as a centre for excellence. One critical blog post suggested: 

‘I agree probation needs a professional body, a format for registering qualifications and professional development, a credible place for identifying and accessing research and training, and a probation focused authority to speak on behalf of probation practice. Sadly the PI in its current form is not it, and has tried to be too broad and therefore too vague.’

I cannot agree. Our journey on all these issues has made notable progress. We have pioneered a registry, against almost universal opposition, because we believe it offers an essential marker for the profession. It has not been easy to maintain this commitment and as yet it is right to point out we have not achieved a ‘proper register of licensed practitioners’. But that is the longer term goal and the infrastructure created is ready for this task. The more members take up their place in the registry, the more it becomes the default place for licensing. The challenge here is not the registry itself but the need for members to respond to its existence. We have the infrastructure, you have the bodies. 

In two weeks time we launch our Professional Development Framework. The result of intensive work by a small working group backed by a larger reference group. This is a major piece of work which offers a one-stop-shop to professional and career development in a world where a plurality of providers makes career patterns uncertain and difficult to chart. 
The Framework is intended to be:

Inclusive: enabling all workers in the probation, rehabilitation and community justice field to map their career progression

Integrative: bringing together all related frameworks such as the NOMS Community Justice Learning for probation officers into the framework, or restorative justice standards for instance; 

Adaptive: have the flexibility to adapt its core standards to partners training and developmental needs for all groups working in this field; 

Aspirational: promoting a renewed focus on post qualifying development, an area neglected in recent years. We want to create a professional identity which sees lifelong learning as a right.  
This Framework is ambitious but deliberately so as we seek to create an environment where professional growth and development cannot be ignored but is at the heart of good practice in every probation and community justice agency. 

The PI has sought to engage all its members, employers and many wider groups associated with the world of probation and community justice in networks of practice and development. David Raho with many others significant in this field has spearheaded work in the difficult area of electronic monitoring and a final report is due shortly. Over the forthcoming months and years this will become a thriving part of the PI as more networks emerge and we deliver policy documents on a wide variety of practice areas. We want this to be done with members and genuinely reflect our joint aspirations for high quality practice. 

Such outcome reports will enable the PI to speak with authority on practice matters. It is not up to the administration within the PI to determine that policy but to create the environment in which networks can flourish and outcomes are as considered as the work of the EM network will prove. New networks on ‘Women and Justice’ and on ‘Restorative Justice’ are just emerging. Please get involved in this vital work. 

Our fourth area, some of which will spring from the professional networks discussed above is the crucial area of creating a centre of excellence. One blog post said the PI ‘enjoys more traction with academics than practitioners’. I reject this as a false dichotomy. If the PI is to do its job its membership must come from all sections of the probation and community justice world. That includes the many friends that probation has in academia who have supported probation, as I have, in its struggles and campaigns, whilst producing research which demonstrates how practice can and does work. But we must go wider than that and recognise that the profession has management amongst its numbers. There has been a criticism of those who have applied and become Fellows, yet they collectively represent from practice, management and research the great traditions of probation to which we must surely aspire. My challenge to practitioners is why not apply for fellowship and join that journey for excellence. We have a committee set up to pursue this agenda and we are talking to everyone who will listen, explaining that we can provide that repository of knowledge. The speed of this depends on engagement and ultimately on funds. 

We have no secret access to funding. We ask for your support as members because we need your support as individuals to grow this agenda. If we had the resources to offer reduced memberships we would do so. But there is a challenge here to those who stand on the sidelines and criticise our drive to recruit new members. I believe strongly in my own professional development and I will pay for it to achieve personal growth and change. We have kept membership fees at a level well below that of comparable organisations. We are better with you in and being active. Click on the website now and join. 

Most of the work of the PI is done by people volunteering to get involved. I have pursued professional excellence and aspirations throughout my career through Napo, through writing, through the social work council, through supporting training and development and through research. My name was mentioned in the blogs a few times with one comment saying this: ‘I respect the likes of Paul Senior and Sue Hall but they’re not doing enough if they want it to work’. I have offered to come to areas and talk about the Institute and some have taken up that offer but the offer remains on the table. This is not paid work for either of us. We are pushing as hard as we can; if you respect our contributions, please take some of the load and get involved. We do not have the monopoly on what is the right way forward but we will continue to try and not get locked into self-defeating arguments. No one knows more than I do the crushing way in which these reforms have affected probation staff and I have spoken and written on these issues many times. The Institute wants a secure profession across all agencies undertaking probation work, wherever that work is taking place. Don’t we all? Please join us in this endeavour. 

Posted by: yorkhull | October 15, 2015

A message from the Chair


You never know what will happen when you miss a routine committee meeting. In September when I was away working in Hong Kong the Board of the Probation Institute, of which I am an elected member, decided that I should become its first elected chair. Teach me to miss the meeting! This will not be the easiest of tasks I have ever taken on, in about 40 years of working in and alongside Probation but it is one which I am certainly proud to do. I intend to take up the challenge because I believe the PI has a potentially important and certainly unique role as probation is reshaped and refashioned in the course of the next few years. We are in the midst of a difficult time (and I recognise for many that is an understatement) concerning the future of Probation but the essence of what rehabilitation of offenders is all about is built into the DNA of successive generations of probation workers. We must continue to draw on that legacy and continue to strive for high quality, innovative practices. The Institute is committed to supporting and enhancing high quality probation practice by promoting the professional development of all workers who are engaged in this rehabilitative endeavour, wherever they work.
Whatever outcome individuals may have wanted from Transforming Rehabilitation we are left with a plurality of delivery arrangements with a range of agencies and organisations from the public, private and voluntary sector shaping the delivery of community sentences, probation, resettlement and rehabilitation. What they all need is a workforce which is fit for purpose, which can be enabled to engage in continuing professional development and can share their skills and knowledge in professional networks outwith their employing agency. This is the business of the Probation Institute, indeed, its core mission. 
Now I know there are many obstacles to overcome not least has been the bleeding of probation expertise as disillusioned people have chosen to retire or just leave. I understand that but I also know that service users remain and need support and engagement. Workers who have stayed or arrived anew are facing difficult adjustments, a fight for survival and massive career uncertainty and insecurity. I know that these challenges are huge and that achieving a positive environment is far from easy. But surely we have to continue to try.
 What I do recall, having been around for so long in this unique probation world, that I have lived through many previous near fatal attacks on probation as an institution. But there is something at the heart of practice which transcends even the worst of crises because workers care about the people they help and will always be service user focused whatever the practical arrangements of agencies and employers. Indeed the code of ethics prepared by the Institute speaks to those values and puts them up front.
Let me explode one myth now. The PI is not in the pocket of the Minister or NOMS. Indeed maintaining a conversation with them remains an uncertain endeavour. We are and will always be in the pocket of our members. I believe that our independence is our strength and if I doubted that I would not have taken up this role! I hope my past record points to an independent spirit striving for probation in all its diversity. Yesterday we had our second Representative Council meeting, a body created as a result of member elections. In a spirited and at times defiant discussion our Council showed a determination to take the PI forward, to use it as a vehicle for maintaining and enhancing professional standards and to seek to get this message out to all working in probation. The PI is not, per se, a campaigning organisation it is there to support good practice through its register, its approach to training and education through its Professional Development Framework, shortly to be launched in November and seeks to ensure its services are relevant to the changing dynamic of probation, in all its plurality.
Creating a new organisation at such a time has been a very difficult exercise and it is not there yet. I feel such an organisation has been a long time in gestation, long before the recent changes. It is difficult to protect a profession which has few reference points as to what counts as good practice, a situation which most professions from dental nursing to security services would look at with amazement. There was a time when being a probation officer and working for the probation service were synonymous and there was an unambiguous qualification structure. We have moved so far from that vision now and have not always been able to protect the professional aspirations of all of the workers who have contributed to these changes. I believe that the Probation Institute fills that gap and can do so the more its membership grows and through participation and exchange can ensure its focus and its future is driven by member intentions. I would want everyone who is reading this and shares our values to join or re-join now and make your voice heard.                      
At the same time share your reservations to anything I have said by responding to this blog and keeping the conversation going. In future blogs I will focus on particular elements of the work of the Institute and explore and I hope expose other myths which have grown up around it. 

Paul Senior

@yorkhull

Posted by: yorkhull | September 10, 2015

My Yorkshire 


  
By chance on my way to Hong Kong ten days ago I spotted a book by Ian McMillan and its title intrigued me. Luckily it was available as an ebook and so i downloaded it and spent some time on my long journey dipping into this interesting and off beat tome. At the same time I had downloaded a copy of The Dalesman which had run a competition for the best 50 views in Yorkshire. I was keen to check out which of these magnificent landscapes I had seen and which new vistas would open up to me. Would it define my Yorkshire by pictures and would McMillan do a different job on the same theme?
For me as a Yorkshireman who has spent just six years of his life exiled (and I use the word advisedly) to Suffolk in my teenage years Yorkshire defines so many of the experiences of my life and like most Yorkshireman I defend it always against the onslaughts from the ignorant or ill informed southerner and merely point to the County Championship table to defend it against Lancastrians. What service would these two publications do to my image of Yorkshire? Would they add to or help define my own predilections. 
The landscapes which were thrown up by the Dalesman competition were without doubt magnificent and many of them were familiar territory for me defining my own thoughts about the grandeur and diversity of the Yorkshire scene. But they contained no pictures at all of South Yorkshire and precious view of the urban side of Yorkshire. Hosted by The Dalesman it was natural to show the many wonderful views of the Dales, the Moors and our coastline. McMillan also extolled the virtues of this more northerly and sometimes ‘posher’ outposts of Yorkshire. But for me looking at their perspectives side by side I felt McMillan enabled a deeper look into the sheer diversity and breadth of the Yorkshire experience. There were certainly views which could have found their way in to the competition from Roche Abbey which McMillan extols with great aplomb to our industrial heritage so much part of the South and West Yorkshire heritage and as suggested by McMillan part of the very essence of Yorkshire. You have to go some way before beating the magnificent town hall of Barnsley highlighted by Orwell in the Road to Wigan Pier. But I do have form and bias! 

  

I know I was not comparing like with like but for me to see Yorkshire through a South Yorkshire angle was so satisfying. I have to confess that born in Barnsley, lifelong season ticket holder at Oakwell, keen cricketer, and having lived in Doncaster for the past 38 years (and remembering the magnificent site of Conisbrough Castle when I lived there and the scenic beauty of Tickhill), I would instinctively be tuned into McMillan’s account with an ease of familiarity which nudged my basic instincts about Yorkshire.
The book is written in a stream of consciousness style which explore themes, ideas, hunches about ‘Yorkshireness’ which I could relate to. McMillan’s poetic style was deeply funny in parts and his observations of the absurd and the offbeat was sharply delivered. I am not sure it concluded anything but it set my mind running in all sorts of directions and reminded me there is so much of Yorkshire still to see.  The treats are endless and always worth revisiting anyway. Another very specific bucket list for Yorkshire, so when I retire…….   
I am writing this on the day in which Yorkshire won their second successive County Championship which I celebrated around 2 am when on my way to the loo I looked at my phone to see that the early overs at Middlesex had secured the title. Somehow the world feels more in tune when Yorkshire are on top. I made sure both my children were born in Yorkshire if they ever got the call to perform. Sadly my son, thought a keen cricketer would not make it and in a twist of cussedness we might associate with Yorkshire my daughter hated everything to do with cricket, though did the cricket teas for me for some years! I have often wondered whether a photo of Yorkshire’s cricket grounds would be just as magnificent an exploration of the essence of Yorkshire as anything else. My own contribution below shows Darfield’s ground at its best in homage to McMillan, my own ground at Tickhill where I am President and the incomparable Scarborough which hosts the wonderful cricket festival. It enables me to overdose on my favourite Yorkshire things – the scenery around Whitby and Ravenscar where I often stay, the coastline, the Victorian splendour of Scarborough, another highlight in McMillan’s work and of course fish and chips. I do believe if there is a serious omission in McMillan’s book it is that he fails to focus on the Magpie Cafe in Whitby surely the world’s premier fish and chips outlet or is that another competition! 
In my ode to Yorkshire drawing on the inspiration of McMillan and wishing I had had time to enter the Dalseman competition a few pics of my favourite places.

 
 

  
    
 

    

Posted by: yorkhull | May 18, 2014

Not going to imitate!


DAILY PROMPT: A form of flattery. Write a post about any topic you want, but in the style of an author or a blogger you admire.

My topic is my reluctance to write a blog in the style of an author or other blogger. I find this a difficult and problematic prompt for lots of reasons.
I think trying to write in the style of another is potentially a complex task which could be flattering as the prompt intends or simpy foolhardy and a caricature of a good written style. I don’t want to insult the style of someone who has worked on it. I have my own style and I have enough difficulty reproducing a consistent style so I am not about to do that to someone else.

So that’s it for today!

Posted by: yorkhull | May 18, 2014

Whitby


DAILY PROMPT: First Sight. Whether a person, a pet, an object, or a place, write about something or someone you connected with from the very first second.

I first visited Whitby when I was not even 10 years old. We stayed at Sandsend, in a little cottage just up the hill. When I think back to those times I just have warm memories of simple pleasures paddling in the rock pool, swimming in the sea, playing cricket on the beach with my dad and brother and everyone else who wanted to, going into Whitby and enjoying the evening and a bag of chips.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve revisited Whitby over the years. It draws me back through all of life’s ups and downs. I returned many times with my parents to the same cottage in Sandsend. And When i left home to go to university my parents went there with my younger brother and I joined them. When I started work I dated girlfriends and took them to the delights of Whitby. Indeed I dated my wife there walking through Sandsend and pointing out the pleasures of my childhood.

When my own children were young I would get in the car and drive to Whitby. They got to know it as well as I have done. I can’t remember when I first went to the magpie cafe to have their incomparable fish and chips but it is now a compulsory part of any visit there. In some respects I prefer Whitby in the winter when it is quiet and on a clear, cold, crisp winters’ day you can walk through the centre unhurried by the tourist traffic and enjoy the same pleasures of window shopping and the beautiful vista of the abbey ruins on the hill made famous by Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel always brings such pleasure to see.

My last visit to Whitby was just two weeks ago when my two children, now adults, took me for a surprise birthday weekend and we stayed in a lovely little fisherman’s cottage to once again revisit the delights of this wonderful place.

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Posted by: yorkhull | May 16, 2014

Interpreting the world


DAILY PROMPT: Worldly Encounters: The friendly, English-speaking extraterrestrial you run into outside your house is asking you to recommend the one book, movie, or song that explains what humans are all about. What do you pick?

I would consider the ‘Curious incident of the dog in the night-time’. This book and now stage play by Mike Haddon is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It gets inside the mind of an autistic child and how he views the world. I think an outsider reading this book or, probably more powerfully, seeing it on stage performed by the National Theatre in recent months, would be able to see some of the difficulties of communication that they might have reflected in the boys’ struggle to understand the world around him. It shows the very contorted way in which humans can communicate and the confusion that this can cause. It feels to me this would be a good early lesson for someone meeting our society for the first time.

I watched the play at the Globe Theatre in London and found it was one of the most powerful productions I have seen in a long time. On stage for most of the play the boys’ struggle to understand, communicate and interpret the world not only demonstrates the theory of mind in which autistic people operate but also the difficulties we can all have to be able to understand the nuanced relationships of everyday life. I would heartily recommend it.

Posted by: yorkhull | May 16, 2014

Generational changes


DAILY PROMPT: Modern Families. If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?

There is always generational shifts in expectations. I can see the differences from my parents and grandparents yet I fondly believed when I was younger there would be less distance between me and my children. But you easily forget your own heritage and lived experience and believe you can jump generations. Whilst there is no doubt my relationship to my children is different to that of me and my parents the remains a gulf. Not surprising as I was brought up in an environment in which so much of today’s essentials – mobiles, internet, tablets, transport, travel, work, etc etc are so far away from my own upbringing. I think I have made a good adjustment to modern technology but my son still snatches my phone off me impatiently demonstrating that I should do this or that whilst my big fingers blunder through this digitised world.

Our intellectual and experience of the world makes us simply see different things and assign importance to different phenomena. Certainly there are overlaps and points of reference otherwise we would struggle to communicate but we can celebrate difference too. I was luckier than my parents who lived through the depression, the Second World War and survived and then built their family in an austere and somehow restricted world. By the time I was reaching puppetry the horizons were so much wider and the atmosphere of the Kate sixties and seventies brought freedom, love, experimentation, hope and optimism. I have retained all that despite the somewhat depressing world of the present and the future. I fear for my children and their children and what awaits them but I can only view from my knowledge.

I think someone arriving here more than three generations apart would find the world incomprehensible. The pace of change would make it uncomfortable, alien and frightening. I would them them interesting because they could give me a picture of life a long time ago safe in th

Posted by: yorkhull | May 14, 2014

Butter


DAILY PROMPT: No Apologies. What’s the one guilty pleasure you have that’s so good, you no longer feel guilty about it?

I have always enjoyed butter. There is little that is more pleasurable than a slice of toast with butter spread liberally on it or a freshly baked scone with butter melting onto it. Or a crumpet or, more properly, for those of us from Yorkshire, a pikelet, with butter adorning its top, dripping through the holes. Well you get the picture! For many years we were told butter was not good for you and persuaded to eat various derivatives from margarine through to all sorts of low fat spreads. I was never really convinced of this and found the taste of some of these disturbingly vague! Conventional wisdom today suggests many of these margarines are less healthy than butter so I have reverted back as the years have gone by.

Now for a long time my children have warned me about my intake of butter, counselling me on the imminent onset of heart attacks, cholesterol or weight increase. Often this message has fallen on deaf ears despite some of said conditions! It is not that I do not understand the risks but weigh this up against the joy of butter at its best. Also as I now have a medical condition which will impact on my longevity anyway I shall enjoy my eating with a little less reserve.

I had a birthday this weekend and my son’s girlfriend bought me a wonderful little present. It was a jar sized butter maker. With just some double cream and a three minute shake, the cream separates and turns into wonderful, fresh and additive-free butter. No salt either unless you add it. What a wonderful present and I have been testing it with great zest.

I love butter and now I can make it myself it will remain an ever present fixture in my fridge. I finish with a picture of my first home made butter below. Not bad eh!

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Posted by: yorkhull | May 14, 2014

Too late for advice now!


DAILY PROMPT: Powerful Suggestion. What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you a year (or five, or ten…) ago?

I find this a difficult prompt to respond to. In some ways my world is full of advice, sometimes given unprompted and sometimes when I have asked for it. I suppose there are times I have ignored advice which might have improved outcomes but these were considered decisions taken at that time. But I am not sure I have suffered from a lack of advice.

Why do I find this one difficult to answer? I guess I do not believe that a magic bullet given to me at a particular point would have changed my life in any substantive way and it requires me to wish I was going in a different direction now to think what advice might have sent me down such a different path. It flies in the face of the natural sense of my life unfolding and responding to whatever is before it. I rarely wish it was different. That is not to say I might have liked it to go in different directions from time to time but prefer not to linger there.

So I remain bereft of a considered response to this one!

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