I suspect like a lot of people, I'm still coming to terms with the news that Inspector Gadget has called it a day on his blog. His incisive and skillful writing was one of the reasons why I took the plunge and started this blog in September 2010.
I certainly didn't always agree with his views, but his colourful description of life on The Swamp, the characters and situations he encountered on a daily basis and the obvious care and concern with which he went about the business of 'coppering', I found utterly riveting.
To us probation officers, it was also all too familiar. No great surprise there I suppose because essentially we see the same people, but for different purposes and at different times. Much of his writing was as sensitive as it was provocative. Undoubtedly as moving or annoying in equal measure on occasion, but always a good read as the nearly 13 million hits bear testament to.
That is an incredible achievement and yet again underlines the sheer power of the internet as a platform for discussion and informing, free of political or other interference. But there has to be meaningful content and Gadget supplied that in shed loads. It's time-consuming, tiring and feeding the monster can be quite a challenge. Not surprisingly he says he ran out of different things to say, but it took seven years!
While it lasted and for all intents and purposes, Gadget's blog was the unofficial voice of British policing. The place you went to first when something was 'kicking-off' or tragedy had struck. The vast numbers of comments that flooded in after each new post gave us all an insight into what might sometimes be unkindly termed the 'canteen-culture' of British bobbies, but I'd rather that than sanitised press releases or platitudinous management pronouncements.
Inspector Gadget, you rattled cages and made me laugh. You helped remind me about the power of words and the telling of a good story. You confirmed that we are still very lucky to have policing by general consent in this country. I bet the Home Secretary won't miss you, but I have already.
Best wishes for the future Inspector!