Stress had eventually caught up with me and I was driven onto long-term sick. I refused the GP's offer of medication for depression and instead opted for eight sessions of pretty mediocre 'talking therapy'. Being CQSW-trained and a long term Samaritan volunteer, it was always going to be a bit of a tall order for the hapless counsellor, but being a very responsible sort of person, I felt duty-bound to keep turning up and ensuring that the '50 minute hour' was filled somehow.
It all started sat on this very same (hellishly uncomfortable) sofa and out of sheer boredom and a sense of mischief, having read the blogging efforts of Bystander and Inspector Gadget for several months. Fortunately I've always enjoyed writing and the PSR was one of the best bits of the job until bloody OASys killed the art stone dead. Also, I've always been able to knock out a 'paper' on a wide range of stuff, pretty much at the drop of a hat, and to the bemusement of colleagues. So I suspect the advent of the internet and the 'weblog' was always going to hold a deep fascination for me.
All blogs start with virtually no readers, but to my astonishment, the dizzy heights of 50 on the 'hit' counter soon became a couple of hundred a day. When it became obvious that I had a few readers and the comments started rolling in, it definitely became fun, quite addictive and within a relatively short period, highly therapeutic. I'm told I've created a blogging widow though.
But then TR came along. Affable lawyer Ken Clark was ousted by PR zealot Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary and suddenly the profession I loved and cared so much for appeared to be in mortal danger, and I saw red. Overnight this blogging lark assumed a bit more significance in my life and it's effectively morphed into a campaign, sustained by an astonishingly erudite, witty, responsible, sensitive and caring readership, it has to be said. But of course anyone who's ever been close to probation, would not find that any great surprise.
In full campaign mode, hundreds of readers soon became thousands a day and a post every couple of days, turned into two and sometimes even three a day, sustained by readers contributions either by way of blog comments or direct e-mail. I certainly read all the comments and endeavour to answer or acknowledge most e-mails, especially those from clients. Yes, some of our customers read this blog and on quite a number of occasions I've had to assume the role of agony aunt and offer constructive suggestions in order to try and help resolve apparent breakdowns or misunderstandings in professional relationships with officers.
This blog has taken me down many fascinating avenues and whilst other blogs have fallen by the wayside, just like the Duracell bunnies, this one seems to keep on going and that's pretty much down to the readers and contributors. It remains my intention to keep on blogging until our fight against TR succeeds and we consign it and Chris Grayling to a small footnote in the political history books. I believe the internet is one of the best things that has happened to democracy and we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Tim Berners-Lee.
I know the blog is widely read by Napo, the MoJ, probation management, academics and journalists, in addition to practitioners and the general public, so I'm always acutely conscious of the responsibility to tell things as I see them, not as they might be spun. As a result I've made a number of enemies along the way, but I really do feel I owe it to the readership to try and be as honest as I can and repay their loyalty in tuning-in every day. It's difficult though sometimes because I know way too much for my own good and I have to choose my words fairly carefully in order to avoid that ubiquitous solicitors letter......
On a lighter note, I'm continually being told that people up and down the land are regularly being accused of being 'Jim Brown'. That's not only a source of some personal relief, it also brings a smile to my face to know there's a helluva lot of us out there!
So, thanks for being part of this and I'll end on some recent quotes that caught my eye on twitter, just because I like quotes:-
Much as I find Probation disagreeable, the mendacity of the Government in this leaves probation rightly angry. Ben Gunn
It's not the way I would have wanted to leave Probation, but I'm in good company! Sue Hall
Not sure we left Probation....I think it left us. Sally Lewis
For all SW/Probation students - the basic ingredients of the job are honesty, humanity, integrity & fairness. Don't ever compromise them. Allan Weaver
All probation trusts in England and Wales rated good or exceptional - yet they have been abolished and 70% of work privatised. Alan Travis
For all Probation Trusts to have delivered good or exceptional performance amidst TR transition says everything. Peter Wright
Impressed but not surprised that all Probation Trusts ranked good or exceptional in last year despite upheaval. Sarah Billiald