The bonds of life

The title does not foreground a discussion on secret agent 007 which has never been a part of my viewing history, rather the blog highlights those bonds which I would contend give our lives focus and meaning. For me these are defined by geography, work, lifestyle and people, the last one arguably the attachment which gives our lives most meaning.
In my only nod ever to religion I will adopt the phrase most often used about my county that it is ‘Gods own country’. I’m very proud to have been born, lived, worked and now retired in Yorkshire. I spent six years as a teenager exiled in Suffolk and whilst I enjoyed those developmental years I was quite keen to return to Yorkshire as I did, first as a student and then as a worker. Subsequently my seven months sabbatical to Hong Kong is the only period of time of any length I have spent outside of the county. My football allegiance (Barnsley FC), my cricket allegiance (Yorkshire CCC), my university education (York, Hull and Sheffield Hallam Universities), my work, food preferences such as Yorkshire Puddings, rhubarb crumble and fish and chips and the birthplace of all of my close family underscore this commitment.

Old Moor Nature Reserve, Wath
Old Moor Nature Reserve, Wath
If Yorkshire ever did declare independence it would be able to provide me with most of my everyday needs. It has the most wondrous countryside in the Dales and the North York Moors, it has the fantastic East Coast topped off by Whitby and some great towns and cities of which York, Sheffield, and Leeds stand out, but with many other places of character such as Haworth, Richmond, Hawes, Reeth, Harrogate and of course my very own village of Tickhill. You can all add to this list. Much more could be said about Yorkshire of course, much has been written about the County and only last year I really enjoyed the quirky but fascinating account by Barnsley’s Poet Laureate Ian McMillan. I recommend the read. My thoughts on the book can be found here – This includes some pictures of my Yorkshire. So my bond with Yorkshire is very strong and whilst I love travelling around the UK, I am always glad to return North to somewhere where I feel I belong and am at ease.
My work has always been connected with the world of the probation service. For 41 years of my entire working life, whether I was working as a probation officer, probation trainer, consultant, academic or researcher it has revolved around the (mis)fortunes of probation. It is not always been an easy ride as the probation service has been the butt of criminal justice policy Tourettes where successive justice ministers have sought to undo much that is good about probation practice and impose solutions based on the worst possible decisions. This is a general blog so I will say little more about this bond though of course I could talk about probation endlessly as I have done throughout my career.
I think this commitment to probation has made the work part of my life meaningful. I have never believed in the notion of work-life balance preferring the idea of ‘presence’. Thus if my work stimulates me then I may spend many hours on it because the satisfaction which comes has helped me through the day, given me ‘presence’ if you like. So my work bond has been central to and given meaning to my life, even if I look wistfully back on those 41 years as we find the world of probation in such free fall following privatisation and I do wonder in my darkest moments whether it was really worthwhile!
One of the things which make our lives flow are our lifestyle choices. Its a simple truth that the variety of options we have, not only gives us multiple choices but enables each individual to make unique choices. It is always fascinating to meet an individual who is passionate about a subject – be it photography, bird watching or Astro physics. We develop these commitments through our personal positioning or a lucky connection. I suppose mine would include cricket, football, reading, photography, cooking and writing. I have many minor allegiances too but they can vary over time whereas this list is pretty constant. To know me and I would suggest for people to really know you fully, you need to know their lifestyle choices. Not necessarily adopt them or like them necessarily but tolerate them otherwise close relationships might never fully develop. I recall when I was working in probation, most of my colleagues only saw me through the lens of work, their gaze did not extend to my lifestyle, I was serious, focused, I suppose a little private about my lifestyle. When I played cricket for South Yorkshire probation, people engaged with me on a different level and learnt a little of my full self and friendships grew from this.
Of course my full self has to embrace, arguably, the most important bond of all. As Christmas approaches the emphasis on family grows. I love Christmas not for its religious significance I’m afraid, but for its focus on family. Whilst my family is now well spread, I remain very close to my immediate family, my son and my daughter. As a single parent since they were very young they have been such a central part of my life that other bonds can recede into the distance. Both born in Yorkshire (in case they were good enough to play cricket for the county, sadly neither were), one still lives locally whilst his much travelled sister enjoys the brighter lights of London. The joys (and frustrations) of being the primary carer I would not swap for anything. They are the glue which make everything else just rub along nicely. I went to a 50th Golden Wedding celebration this week and it’s such a wonderful milestone with such deep family bonds evident.

Golden wedding
Alongside friends these close family bonds dictate our mood, our aspirations and our goals. I have some (even many) terrific friends who support me and ensure that social downtime is enjoyed and has equal meaning. I have tried to keep in touch with friends made at school, at university and through work. It can be hard to maintain contact and I am always sad when connections wither, whatever the reasons. Losing friends is a loss I would rather avoid. It is always good to meet with friends, have food, talk, exchange experiences and renew that friendship. These bonds ensure we do not feel lonely in the world and we must hang on to them with positive actions. Not as prolific a week for birds but here are a few.

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