Category Archives: Christian Faith

For @newkiddswagg

Hugely disappointed that you have blocked me on Periscope because my important message has not yet reached you. 
I’m trying to think of a way I can get your attention and help you to realise how dangerous streaming and driving is. 
I’m sure you are an honest and caring man and would not want to hurt anyone. As a man of faith (as I am) I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile your driving and scoping with a man who loves his neighbour as himself.
If your child or a family member were run down and killed by a driver who was streaming, driving, reading the comments, giving a presentation, not looking at the road ahead and regularly had no hands on the wheel for considerable lengths of time you would be rightly upset. 
You may be able, in time, to forgive but that would not bring your loved one back. How would you feel if you were the driver?
I don’t intend to spam you or troll you. I hope and pray to God that you see sense and stop this dangerous behaviour. I’m sure if you look at this clinically you know it makes sense. No matter how much fun can be had with Periscope it must not be from behind the wheel of a moving car. 
Please please #DontStreamAndDrive

Advertisements

Let it go..

On 12th August 1966 in a street in west London, 3 police officers were gunned down; murdered. The country was appalled. This was something that simply didn’t happen. Less than two weeks prior to the incident the England football team had won the World Cup. The country was on a high and this brought everyone back down to earth with a huge bump.

_78466208_78466207

The three officers, DS Christopher Head, DC David Wombwell and PC Geoffrey Fox were all shot dead. The offenders were Harry Roberts, John Duddy and John Witney.

There is a good overview of the case here by the Channel 4 news team.

1415781017557_wps_12_Police_and_members_of_theOn the day of the funerals the public turned out in their thousands and lined the streets with police officers to pay their respects. The public sentiment on that day is identical to those we experienced more recently in Manchester.

In the meantime the might of the Metropolitan Police began a manhunt. Witney was arrested within hours. Duddy fled to Scotland but was arrested within 5 days. Roberts on the other hand vanished. It took three months to locate him. He was finally brought into custody in early November. He has been behind bars ever since.

The crime was awful and described by many as the most heinous of a generation. It also led to the formation of the Police Dependants Trust.

After a 6 day trial and overwhelming evidence the three suspects were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge, on handing down the life sentences and a 30 year tariff said;

“I think it likely that no home secretary regarding the enormity of your crime will ever think fit to show mercy by releasing you on licence. This is one of those cases in which the sentence of imprisonment for life may well be treated as meaning exactly what it says.”

The death penalty had only been withdrawn the year before. Many called for it to be reinstated. It does appear, based on the evidence and the sentencing, that had the crime occurred when the legislation was in force, the death penalty was a very real possibility.

Either way two of the men have since died. John Duddy died in jail on 8th February 1981. John Witney was released on licence in 1991. This caused huge controversy as he was released before the expiry of his 30 year tariff but his release stood. In 1999 Witney was beaten to death with a hammer by his flat mate.

Roberts on the other hand remained in prison. He completed his 30 year tariff and up until this year (18 years later) the parole board never saw fit to release him. This is a good blog by Rachel Rogers that discusses life sentences, tariffs and whole life terms.

The news of the impending release of Roberts spread like wildfire. The response was overwhelmingly outrage. The national chair of the Police Federation said that “officers up and down the country were furious”. He said Roberts gunned down police officers in broad daylight and “quite frankly, he should never be released from prison”. He went on to make a further statement that “there will be people out there, planning to murder police officers, thinking they can get away with it”. He closed with “It’s not about rehabilitation or whether Roberts is now safe. It’s about the punishment fitting the crime”. Steve White’s comments can be watched here.

John Tully the Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation branch tweeted; “a total betrayal of policing by the criminal justice system this man should never see the light of day again, life should mean life”

As a contrast the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was asked about the release on LBC.

He, dodged the direct questions but he defended the justice system and the probation/parole system. His overall view was that we cannot allow the justice system to be run on emotions and popular opinion.

Then, most importantly, behind all the froth in the media are the families of those three officers. The families who have spent the last 48 years living without their loved one.

A few years ago a good friend of mine, a police officer, was stabbed to death on duty. On the day I wasn’t furious. I was speechless. I came home, sat on the sofa and cried. The man responsible was convicted and sent to prison. Over the following weeks and standing as guard of honour at the door of the cathedral I didn’t feel anger. I wasn’t furious. I was sad but I was also enormously proud. The offender never really crossed my mind.

In more recent years we have had the murder of Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Manchester. I think of them a lot and I think of their families and friends too. I don’t think of the murderer himself and I never ever name him. As I look back on those events was I furious? No. I was intensely shocked and saddened by their deaths and I also know that it is what police officers face on a daily basis.

With all the comment in the media I began to think I should be outraged. I should be angry at this man and those responsible for allowing his release. Then I stopped because I realised I wasn’t furious and I wasn’t angry.

This man took away the lives of those officers and their families lives changed that day forever. There is no getting away from that. No matter how much we discuss, debate and argue about the release of Roberts we cannot bring those men back.

When someone you love dies you don’t simply get over it. You can only learn to live without them. It has to be the same for those who lose a loved one in such tragic circumstances. They will never get over the loss but they will learn to live with it in their own way. I can only imagine it being much much harder when there is someone to blame. A person who is responsible for your loss.

We know that the death penalty still exists in the USA. We know that the family members of a victim can attend and watch a person put to death. Would observing such an act cleanse you of your pain?

We know that a person can be sent to prison for life and never be released. Would a person being in prison forever ease your pain?Would their ultimate death behind bars finally allow you to find peace?

Do any of these scenarios reduce the pain suffered by the families? Do they make the situation better? More bearable? I don’t think they do. I’m sure that having the offender in prison gives some comfort but I don’t think it brings release from hurt.

Whether you like it or not, Roberts has been released. A 78 year old man has served 48 years  (longer than I have been alive) for the murder of police officers. What difference will this make to my life? None at all. I’m somewhat shocked at the statement by Steve White about ‘getting away with it’. We hear a lot of talk that people who are given a police caution are getting away with it. I’m really stumped at how 48 years in prison can be seen as such? If this is getting away with it what would be suitable? I’m sure the response to that will be life means life. I’d agree. I think if life imprisonment without chance of release makes legislation then so be it. Until then we have to live with the system we have, no matter how unpalatable it may be to some of us. Getting angry about the promise of legislation promised but yet to come and applying it to a 48 year old case is absurd.

The crux of this matter is that Roberts appeared before a court, was sentenced and has seen that sentence through with an additional 18 years on top. That justice system, removed from the emotion of being too close to the offence, has now deemed him fit for release and have done so. My immediate thought? So what!

The tragedy of the loss cannot be underestimated but what needs are satisfied by keeping him inside after all this time? I have only seen anger and hurt. It seems to me that in trying to hurt him we actually hurt ourselves. Revenge imprisons us.. forgiveness sets us free. How can anyone move forward whilst holding bitterness, hatred and revenge within them? A toxic mix of emotions that destroys the person you are and who you can be. It’s like having a tumour inside you and instead of treating it you hold onto it and allow it to define you.

Some may ask if I would feel the same way about the man who killed my friend. Some may ask if I would feel the same about the man who killed Nicola and Fiona. The answer is yes. Would our loved ones want us to remain static. Would they want us to remain angry, bitter and vengeful for 30, 40, 50 years or would they say.. “Move on. Be as happy as you can be. Don’t let this tragedy define who you are”. I hope and pray that nothing ever happens to me when I’m on duty but if it did… please show this to my wife. Tell her to be happy.. life is far too short.

I understand my view here is contrary to popular opinion and I do not post my thoughts with any intention to offend, upset or hurt anyone. I just feel strongly about being able to ‘Let it Go’. Free yourself.

By forgiving those who hurt us we are not letting them off the hook; we are in effect letting ourselves off the hook.

Standing in the Pulpit

Those of you that follow and read my blog will know that in early June I fell quiet for a couple of weeks. I lost my Dad just before Fathers Day and got tied up with all those things that need to be done at such times. I poured my initial feelings into my Fathers Day blog.

I knew even then that I would probably write some more about my Dad but despite a few attempts I have failed miserably. I simply could not unlock the words I wanted to say. Yet today I was handed the keys by Chief Inspector Donna Allen when she posted a picture on twitter. Here it is.

20130810-205902.jpg

Let me explain.

My Dad was a massively keen walker and climber. In his younger life he climbed all the traditional mountains in this country that you would expect. When he became a family man he continued to follow his love of the mountains and hills. We didn’t have a car for many years but jumping on a train with rucksacks on a Sunday morning for a walk in the Peak District was common. I climbed Snowdon when I was 5 and came to love the hills and mountains as much as he did. I still climb as much as I can and, like my Dad, take my children with me so they can understand the pure beauty of nature. This is me with Dads old canvas rucksack in my very early walking days.

20130810-211048.jpg

When Dad was in his late teens/early 20’s his mum took in a lodger. A student studying at the local university. Arild was from Norway and he and Dad became lifelong friends. Dad visited Norway once at this time. A short visit as a single man. Over the years he stayed in touch with Arild and he yearned to visit again, yet with a wife, three children and a mortgage the opportunity never arose.

In his 50’s Dad was made redundant from a job he had done for nearly 40 years. He spent almost 2 years without a job before finding something. Every time I think of this new job I think of the book Mort by Terry Pratchett.

“Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort he offered him a job”

Death didn’t offer Dad a job… but an undertaker did! With some trepidation and doubts he gave it a try. He found a new vocation and spent many happy years helping people at their most difficult times. He had many funny stories of trying to negotiate 20 stone people down tight staircases at 2am in nursing homes whilst trying not to wake anyone else up. There were tough times too and carrying a small coffin in his arms for a small baby or child was heartbreaking for him. He said at the start to the owner of the firm that he was too soft and emotional for the job. The response was “My family have run this business for 4 generations. Do you think I want someone who doesn’t care?” He was right.

Dad settled into his new job and as us “kids” were now all grown up and being successes and failures in equal measure, the door to travel opened. He and Mum visited Norway twice. They were nicknamed by their friends as the “Wow” people. A reflection of a phrase they said over and over again at the stunning country Norway is.

One of Dads wishes was to climb to Pulpit Rock in Lysefjorden. On one of their trips they decided to give it a go. They set off but after a while Dad was becoming breathless and it was clear he wasn’t going to make it up and down in time. Arild pointed it out to Mum. She knew but let him climb a little further before breaking to him what he already knew.

Dad was disappointed but never really let it show. Mum knew how he really felt and so did we but we chose not to talk about it too much. They walked back down and instead took a boat up the fjord. The rocks at the base of Pulpit Rock are vertical and drop straight into the fjord. The water is very deep immediately so the boat can go right up to the cliff face and the feature towers above you. He was suitably impressed and as the boat drew closer and closer the speakers on the boat played Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt suite by Edvard Grieg.

When Dad died we all did a lot of talking about his life. We laughed and cried in equal measures. Arild saw Dad in his last weeks. He was visiting the UK and Dad was in hospital. He travelled a few hundred miles and turned up at the hospital. Mum saw him coming and chatted with him then walked onto the ward and nodded her head in the direction of the door…”You won’t believe who has come to see you”. Mum says that Dads face on seeing his old pal was priceless.

As we made plans and arrangements for Dads funeral we talked about Pulpit Rock and how he never made it. The subject of the music to be played on entering the crematorium was discussed and it was soon obvious that Peer Gynt was the piece.

Dads old firm, albeit many miles away came to see off one of their own and conducted all the funeral arrangements. Dad would have been very proud. The company prides itself on family values and tradition. They are one of the few firms that will always carry a coffin by default. Dad used to say being pushed into church on a trolley was the final insult. At Mum and Dads tiny church we left the carry to the professionals. Later at the crematorium myself and one of my other brothers joined his old work mates and carried him in. As we got ready I could hear the music start and the delicate melody traced out by the oboe and flute. As we walked thought the doors the first crescendo (about 50s on the video) began. The music was massively powerful and so fitting that I welled up… as I do now typing. It was perfect for Dad, his love of that beautiful country and all he would have liked to have shown us as kids but never could. The music will stick with me now. I’m not sad about it. It doesn’t make me think of Dad and how I miss him. It makes me think of all the happy times, all the memories he gave me and how proud I was to be able to carry him home.

There and then I decided that I would, one day, climb to Pulpit Rock for him. Purely symbolic but it would mean something to me and that was all that mattered. The fact that I have three children, a wife and a mortgage, as he did, and simply cannot afford to get there at the moment is rather ironic!

As I said at the start. I had no idea how to start writing about Dad until I saw the picture. The picture drew me to some conclusions.

Embrace life. Get on your feet and get off the beaten track. It’s remarkable what you may find. Sometimes we set ourselves an objective and we fall short of that wish because finances, health or other complications get in the way. Yet even when disappointment crushes you there may be another perspective to view your predicament from. It might not be what you were planning but can be equally impressive and in some cases may even be better.

Finally, never assume you are always right. Your understanding may be genuine but in reality… flawed. Why? The picture above is what I always assumed was Pulpit Rock. It’s not. I’ve discovered today that it is actually Kjerag Boulder. I wasn’t far away. It’s still in Lysefjorden but a little further East. Pulpit Rock is below.

20130810-221722.jpg

As they are so close together maybe I will do both. What do you reckon Dad?

Fathers Day

It’s Fathers Day this Sunday.

It’s a time of joy for many and a time of sadness for others. I have been blessed with three wonderful children and a beautiful wife. I’m not working this weekend and will enjoy their company and whatever they choose to do for me. It doesn’t matter what they do. It’s being with them that matters.

This was reinforced recently at a Christian Men’s Breakfast. The guest speaker talked about how busy our lives have become. How we get so caught up in what we are doing and the demands our careers place upon us that we can ignore our children. He recited the words of this song. It was very powerful

If I’m truly honest I have fallen into this trap a few times. Either with my children or with my father. How many times have you heard your parents say something similar to “It’s ok. You have enough to worry about. Come when you can”? How many times have you passed an opportunity to spend time with your kids because work was pulling the strings?

I have had some great times with my Dad though and these far outweigh the few occasions where I’ve fell short of my duty as a son.

I caddied for him as a kid when he played golf. We ran down the beach together and played cricket. He took me to work and showed me the printing presses and folding machines. The smell of a printers still takes me back to my childhood. He taught me photography. He bought me my first “legal” pint, read at my wedding and revelled in the birth of my children. Overall he has been a huge constant in my life. As he should be.

I have over the last few years been pushing and cajoling Dad to give up his driving licence. His driving was never brilliant and over the years it has progressively deteriorated. I wanted him to volunteer to surrender his licence instead of being forced to after a serious accident and who knows what consequences. Just recently he pulled out of an exit, got dazzled by oncoming headlights, mounted the kerb and scraped the side of his car along a lamp post. He didn’t tell me as he thought I would tell him off. I found this rather amusing. As a child I would be frightened to tell him about some of the things I did for fear of getting told off. How and when does that situation go through a reversal?

Whilst visiting a few days ago the car wasn’t there but he was. He confessed and told me the car was being repaired. He told me it was being tidied up and would be ready to sell next year when he planned to hang up his car keys. I accepted his decision but I think we both knew I would continue to badger him.

Dad is a friend. Someone I can tell things to that I wouldn’t tell my mother. In his book no problems are ever so big that they cannot be overcome by a couple of pints and a chat in the pub. He has steered me true. He is a perfect gentleman and raised me to have those same qualities. He is a man of quiet dignity and pride. Standards I strive to achieve.

Not only do I act like him. I look like him, talk like him and share the same interests and passions. He is the man who shaped me into the man I have become and the man I am still yet to be. The man who taught me that faith, family, and friends are the three most important things in my life.

Sunday is Fathers Day. I will spend time with my children. I will hug them, hold them and love them. I won’t see my Dad but I will talk to him. I won’t get to hug him but I will hold him in my heart where he has always been and where he will always stay.

My Dad is ace. My Dad is brilliant. My Dad is everything I hope to be and more. My Dad is an essential part of me. My Dad is a rock. My Dad is the foundations upon which my life has been built. My Dad is quite simply the best.

My Dad passed away last Tuesday evening. He walks with me now and always will.

God bless you Dad and thank you.

The Christmas Arrest

Whilst clearing some shelves at home in advance of some decorating I found the first Bible that my mum gave to me many years ago. Along with the phrase about driven snow referred to in my recent “footprints” blog I found tucked inside the sleeve a piece of paper with this poem typed upon it. I had no idea it was there. I know it’s not Christmas but I thought it was worth sharing.

The Christmas Arrest

It was early Christmas morning, I was walking on my beat
When I stopped this man and woman who will loitering in the street.
They had a little baby boy wrapped up in swathing bands
Asleep inside the carrycot they carried in their hands.
I stopped them on suspicion that the girl was on the game
She called him “Joseph Carpenter” and said “Mary” was her name.
They did not seem to have a home, or other fixed abode
So I took them to the station – which was just across the road.
I searched his trouser pockets as is required by law –
I only found a Census form and little bits of straw.
I left the woman Constable to make a search of her
And in the carrycot was frankincense and myrrh.
They said the baby boy was theirs – but called him “Son of God” –
And said they had to hide him here, away from one Herod.
We checked them in the phone book and searched at CRO
We fed them in the staff canteen and then we let them go.
I made an entry in my book and went to find the car
When right above the station there shone and eastern star.
Angels on the telephone were ringing up the station –
And written on the message pad was
“Jesus our Salvation”.

C.S. Porteous

20130414-163235.jpg