WELL BEING: #1 Worry.


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Starting off with probably one of the biggest things to affect well being is that of worry. Worry is good in so much that an imminent situation that cause pause for thought increases the metabolism, blood pressure goes up and your body readies itself for a fight or flight. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the constant drip, drip, drip, of an irrational fear that is always there at the back of your mind or on your back, constantly reminding you that you cant jump out of your own skin, despite your best efforts to do so.

Worry is very much linked to fear. Fear of things that might come to pass. Human beings always fear something they don’t understand or that hasn’t happened yet. Holding onto fear becomes a worry. So you try not to worry and then you worry because you’re not worrying. It’s like a snake eating its own tail.

I was a chronic worrier for most of my life until one day I stopped running from my worries. I said “You know what, I have realised that 99.9% of my worries of what might happen haven’t happened.” It was a wonderful release. It was a matter of statistics. The longer I went worrying without something happening confirmed to my rational mind that there was nothing to worry about. The rational thought slowly outweighed the irrational thought that the longer I waited worrying about something to happen then at some point it would.

So why do we worry? Some of us are predisposed to worry, we can’t help it. Some of us worry because we are run down, lonely or simply left alone with our thoughts with nothing else to think about except out worries. What a ridiculous hamster wheel we choose to run in. Perhaps Alan Watts described it best:

Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does it steal your joy of the present and keeps you very busy doing nothing. This thought process can transfer itself into our work as police officers. If not checked it can grow and grow paralysing your ability to do anything at all. Those little things become insurmountable mountain’s. You function on a day to day basis, responding to code one’s, ironically never giving a thought to your own safety but once back in the office. Once back in the comfort of your own company you slide back into that trough that sucks the present away from you preventing you making any decisions at all.

Don’t let worry consume you. Don’t worry that you are trying not to worry. If you finally conquer yourself not to worry, don’t be surprised at the peace you find. Allow yourself the peace you’ve a right to. No Worries!

WELL BEING: Introduction


As many of you that have followed this blog previously you will know I have commented on many aspects of traffic legislation and what it was like to be a traffic officer and all that it entailed including the role of a family liaison officer. Traffic legislation has probably more case law associated with it than any other area of legislation.

Barring a case I was involved in several years ago when the driver of a seaside tram was prosecuted for causing the death of a pedestrian under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and for the first time in the UK, I cant think of any other recent case law because pretty much every situation has been covered. That it how it became with my blog, there was nothing else new to cover and I had a lay off. I’m still on road policing but no longer part of a centralised unit. Still loving what I do and just as passionate about it.

But things have changed in the relatively small space of time since my last blog. Austerity and the resulting cuts to the police service of this country, a subject I’m not going to tackle, for that is a whole different topic in itself is causing a whole bundle of problems for forces up and down the country. Some are better equipped to deal with the fallout than others.

For sometime now it has become increasingly obvious to me that it is not the cuts to budgets and reduced resources that will affect the police’s ability to function. No, it is the ability of the individual police officer to carry on his or her role with the same dedication, passion and that continuing forward motion when free waters become treacle.

What I am talking about is the well being of every individual officer of this country.

Levels of sickness due to stress are increasing at an alarming rate and this should be a real wake up call for those that lead our service. I do of course refer to the senior police officers or as I prefer to think of them as guardians that shape policy and have a very real influence of how our day-to-day work experience influences our own outlook and wellbeing. I call them guardians for they bear a very great responsibility and since there tenure as Chief Constable is usually one of five years, their legacy will either help or hinder their future replacements. Yet at the coal face the humble foot soldier can expect to see out the next thirty to thirty five years of service and so it is important that officer welfare and well being is at the top of the agenda of every current and future Chief Constable.

For if it is not, like a house of cards I believe police forces will cease to provide the service they are expected to do with relatively very little warning! That is a scary thought to consider for us all.

I must add at this point that these are entirely my own views. I am not an expert nor do I have any formal training in these matters and indeed at times I may approach a subject from a position of ignorance. Everything I say is my own opinion based on my own life experiences and that of people I know. I also don’t pretend to get it right all the time and indeed suggest I may be completely wrong most of the time. That being said these are my own views and I would hope that after nearly twenty years as a cop and ten further years prior to that as a photographer who was luckily enough to travel to many parts of the world I may have picked up some things of relevance. Many of the topics that will be covered in the future I have experienced personally. I am not saying how I dealt with those experiences were right or wrong but I guess how I felt about them would be pretty much the same as everybody else. So I hope that gives all this some credibility.

The dictionary standard of well being is  

Well being n. The state of feeling healthy and happy.

A laughably simple definition of what is an incredibly complex set of circumstances, emotions and personal outlooks. Over the coming weeks and months I hope to explore those facets of which there are many.

Relationships

Health

What we do

Where we live

Finance

Education and skills.

I hope you have the time to follow me in this exploration of well being. It wont be easy, it is a subject that has confounded people far better than me for centuries.

As I promised at the start of this blog, which I am so excited about, I said I would base my opinions as much as possible on my own life experiences. This I think sums up the subject as a whole.

My Mother around two years ago was admitted to hospital on several occasions to be treated for various conditions, which would ultimately take her from us. One particular experience for her and us was to be admitted to the local hospital. The medical staff treated the symptoms but failed to look after her well being. Bringing her meals during visiting times, which was a direct violation of protocol and so she failed to eat properly causing her to slowly get weaker. Cancelling tests, Doctors unavailable prolonging her stay, as without the tests they could not say what was medically wrong. It came to head when I confronted the head nurse and doctor on the ward. I told them that unless they started to look after my mother I would be taking her home. She was distressed, in tears and begged to come home. It seemed to do the trick and she was treated and discharged.

Several months later she was readmitted, this time with a different doctor in charge responsible for her immediate care. The doctor said it was not about treating the symptoms but treating the person as a whole. We breathed a sigh of relief. Finally we said, someone gets it!

Welcome back.


During the start of this year, major changes in which, to be honest every police force in this country had to embrace made me realise that there was no longer a place for “Tales from the Slab.” After some persuasion I realised that there was still a place for this blog site, albeit with a completely different outlook.

I am still a traffic officer and I am still picking up the pieces, whether that be the lives of families or the limbs of those lost to those families. Yes, it is that stark.

But on the back of that is now my most pressing concern, that of Officers who on a daily basis see such scenes, don’t see their family on a basis that could be called healthy and are slowly but very definitely wearing themselves out.

So bear with me. I intend to explore that nightmare not only for the officers but as a consequence for the police service they work in.

Its nice to be back.

The end of an Era


Sadly, this will be the last post from the Tales from the Slab. It has been decided that after 55 years the way in which we police the motorway will change forever. That’s not to say that the motorway will not be policed. It will just be policed in a different manner.

We have the greatest number of road miles to police as a force and we were the first force in the country to have a unit specially set up to police the motorway.

As Police Officers we will do what is necessary and strive to provide the service we would want you to receive. We will do what is necessary; we will do our best.

Thank you to all of you that have supported this site.

Adapt and improvise. We will do what is necessary to make sure that you have a safe journey along our motorways.

Invest in yourself.


The Tales from the slab blog is about road policing. But every now and again it’s about the people that work the slab and all other emergency workers.

For do we not bleed?

Its fair to say that 2013 has been an awful year for one reason or another. Perhaps it has been a good year for you, for others less so.

Emergency workers do a tremendous job. But unfortunately there are very few people that help pick up those workers who give everything.

So this is for you, those that work hours beyond which is expected and do what is beyond which is expected.

Who walk the long mile, never getting thanks but never expecting it either.

Three short video’s that hopefully will put the pep back into your lives and remind yourself why you chose to walk that long mile and know that brothers and sisters walk that lonely mile with you.

It’s very important for you to believe that you are the one. You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here.

Invest in yourself.

Things do turn out alright in the end. If its not alright then it isn’t the end.

Moments that change your life.


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Once in a while you read something that makes you stop. What makes it exceptional is the words. Not written by the hand but by the heart. Indeed, anyone who has been in a similar situation will recognise the fact that the writer must also have been there too. That is its power.

And so, my friend and colleague Mr Craig Evans very kindly allowed me to post his thoughts on this blog. He generously opines:

The moment that re shaped the way I look at life came at just age 10. I was with my parents attending a prospectus evening at the school I would go on to attend, Baines school, Poulton-le-Fylde. We sat next to another family, who I had never met but by chance both of my parents knew the parents of the boy they had brought to see the school. His dad Lawrence had been at my dads school & my step mum had dated one of his friends when she had been younger. They chatted away & of course I was introduced to Lawrence’s son, Lewis Crookall. How could I have known that this chance meeting & our subsequent friendship would have such a profound impact on the rest of my life?

So it was, that Lewis & I started at Baines & of course having already been introduced we acknowledged each other & as time passed became close friends. We had rare common ground in that we had both been brought up in an “only child” environment living with our respective dads & step-mum (although Lewis did have a half brother & sister living with his mum). Lewis was one of those people that you only meet on very rare occasions; he was “larger than life”! Physically, he was as “strong as an Ox” and loved his sport. I would call for him on my way to school & we would cycle together. We would do circuit training & basketball training before school & then he would call for me in an evening so we could attend the athletics arena to train some more.

However, his physical prowess was only a small part of his makeup; He had the most enormous personality, he could light up a room with his humour & he had a heart of gold. Anyone who ever met him would claim to know him, because he was that type of character but those that knew him well, would also know that he was intelligent (he wanted to be a solicitor) & had real sensitivity.

So, aged 14 I remember getting a horrendous throat infection & at the same time Lewis collapsed at home. I remember telling my parents about Lewis & we all assumed that the pair of us had picked up a bug. Unfortunately, this was not the case…
Tests showed that Lewis had a brain tumour, which he described as “the size of a 10pence piece”. Everyone at school was really shocked, but Lewis made “light of it” & tackled his radio therapy with vigour. As his tumour cleared it was found that his cancer had spread & yet Lewis battled on through Chemotherapy with a smile on his face.

Now aged 16 I remember my parents sitting me down & telling me that they had spoken to Lawrence & that unfortunately Lewis’ brain tumour had returned & that it was terminal. It was a lot to take in at such a young age, but I just knew I needed to go to see him. It is one of the most vivid memories I have through my life…

I spent the whole journey there trying to think about what I would say & arrived with no words. I went into Lewis’ bedroom where he was led on his bed holding hands with his girlfriend Elaine. Lewis was as “bright as a button” as usual ,but as I sat next to Elaine, he said ,”This is it Ev, I am going to die”. I replied, “I know Lou & I’ve thought about what I was going to say, the whole way here & have come up with nothing”. I remember Elaine crying & whilst Lewis held one of her hands I grabbed the other. Of course, Lewis soon changed “the tone”, made light of the situation & we sat laughing & joking. Lewis had made the situation quite easy & when I had to leave he followed me into the landing to show me out. We hugged & this was the point I “broke down” I sobbed my heart out & Lewis just hugged me harder & told me, “don’t worry everything is going to be fine Ev”! Lewis’ strength still amazes me! When I left Lawrence came outside to check I was ok, but it is fair to say I sobbed all the way home!

I visited Lewis every day up to the day before he died, when it was obvious he should be surrounded by his family. The funeral passed by our school where all the students & teachers lined the road side, “our year” did a guard of honour outside the packed church. It was a fitting yet poignant tribute to a short but incredible life/personality.

Apart from Lewis’ unbelievable heroism throughout his ordeal the things a remember most are how amazing his parents Lawrence & Marilyn were both with the love & care they showed Lewis but also with the care they showed to his friends visiting. Also how they all talked about how amazing Christie Hospital was throughout Lewis’ illness.

So, how did this change my life? Well, I learned that life is here to be lived to the absolute maximum. Tell the people you love, exactly that & leave nothing “on the table”, because you never know what is round the corner?

Hence, 22 years on Lewis is still inspiring me! Last February I couldn’t run 1/2 mile without stopping. I’d let negative influences creep into my lifestyle & had got complacent & lazy. Since, I have stopped smoking & started training again….6 days a week! So from half a mile; next April (13th) I will run 26 miles in the London Marathon. In doing so I have pledged to raise more than £2000 for Christie Hospital & will do so in the name of Lewis & all those around me that have also been touched by cancer. I should mention that, tragically, Lewis’ half brother Fraser Olufojude also lost his battle with cancer as a teenager…. Fraser was also extremely popular amongst his peers & an accomplished sportsman. As family we have lost two dear friends over the last 12 months…..but on a positive note I have a number of colleagues & friends who have battled successfully against cancer (or are currently bravely facing their illness) and I have been lucky enough to have my dad, mother-in-law & sister-in-law all have successful battles with disease over recent years.

I am enormously proud to be representing Christie Hospital, Europe’s biggest cancer centre, who apart from the care they provide are one of the worlds leading research centres & have been for more than 100years. Hence, no matter where you are in the world; if you have been touched by cancer either personally, through family or friends, Christie Hospital is likely to have contributed in some way to the treatment/care received. So I would ask you to dig deep & sponsor me in my quest to complete The London Marathon & help make a difference to cancer sufferers everywhere.

To echo Craig’s thoughts and aspirations I have respectfully added a link which certainly I have found a great help and I hope you will too. Craig challenged to find himself and it is up to us to find ourselves. Peace and love.

Invest in YOU.

Snow road to Christmas………


snowmegadomAs winter yet again approaches, here is an article from December 2010 courtesy of The Blackpool Gazette and reporter Jacqui Morley.

Snowmegeddon! It’s the moment most motorists fear…the steering has gone light, the wheels are spinning, and the car is out of control and skidding on icy compacted snow.

That’s the hazard many face as they inch vehicles across side roads which have seen no sign of grit since the snows came.

It’s already a white-out across the Fylde with fears of worse to come as the bleak mid-winter chill shows little signs of easing, and bites into the peace of mind of householders frantic to catch up with Christmas shopping, or deliver presents, and traders desperate to court festive business.

Many car owners have stayed at home or left the driving to others – there has been no shortage of commendations for Blackpool’s bus drivers for keeping the network open in spite of vehicles freezing up with the additional pressure presented by overspill onto other routes caused by road closures.

PC Dave Thomas is one of the few motorists for who the snow and ice holds few fears. He’s done the advanced police driver course, and revisits every three years for the refresher, and has gone from community beat manager in central Blackpool, to traffic officer.

He was on snow patrol last Saturday when countless bumps were reported to the 12-strong traffic squad – and is on duty over Christmas and New Year. Nights, to boot.

Dave’s just been demonstrating how to correct a skid…although he would rather we didn’t get into one in the first place.

It’s all down to speed, he says, inappropriate speed for the conditions, rather than taking things too fast and using brakes to compensate. If you have to brake use the engine’s brakes, go through the gears. That will help you keep traction on the road surface. Tyre treads (and mine are all legal – for he’s checked, along with fluid levels and lights) merely displace water. Not give you a grip in snow or ice.

We’ve been on the road for over three hours – driving over untreated roads in and around Blackpool and rural routes deep in south Fylde and Dave’s not used his brakes once. Other than the hand brake upon stopping. He’s controlled his speed by thinking well ahead, and by gearing down, or up.

One other tip? If you’re prone to slipping and sliding off from a start…try moving away in second gear, not first, to gain more traction.

And under no circumstances drive with just an envelope of a window available…as one lady driver did this week, resulting in a collision which crumpled her car, and made a sizeable impression in another.

“Take the time and trouble to clear the snow and ice off your car,” adds Dave.

Last Saturday, Dave barely ventured over 10mph in most parts of the Fylde. Today, with most of the major roads, the so called arterial links, cleared, and council contractors showing true grit in keeping on top of fresh snow falls or risk of black ice forming, Dave’s driving is almost back to normal speeds. Almost. “You let the road conditions dictate your pace,” he points out. “You also double, ideally treble, even quadruple, your stopping distance, so you have space, and time, to get out of trouble if someone else loses control.”

He also warns against overtaking in the central reservation, which remains ungritted, or covered by compacted snow.

“Head into that, at the wrong speed, and you’re heading for trouble,” he warns. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a 4×4 or any other car, the result is just the same. Nor is ABS the panacea to all problems.”

The point is made at one of the accident blackspots of the Fylde by a driver losing patience with a slow coach – and overtaking at speed, his rear wheels fish-tailing in the momentum.

So, how to get out of a skid? “Newton’s First Law of Motion,” says Dave. “An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. So lay off the brakes and the accelerator – and nine times out of 10 you’ll get control back and be able to steer out of trouble.”

One lad learned that lesson the hard way this week – having bought a 400 car for his girlfriend as a Christmas present. He had it stashed away but nipped out, after she had gone out, for a new tyre. It cost him – and others – dear. He skidded on ice into another car, heading towards him, which shunted into a parked vehicle. With his provisional licence expired (after an early ban for driving his dad’s car without supervision) the 22-year-old panicked and fled the scene, abandoning the car in a nearby road.

He later called police to confess he hadn’t got insurance either. “I’ve been stupid,” he says. He’s also been lucky. He could have been dead – or killed someone. “There’s no excuse,” says Dave. “A car’s a lethal weapon in the wrong hands.”

Plus, there’s the matter of insurance, with the burden of claim for the other two damaged vehicles falling on the motorist who had the misfortune to meet this inexperienced, unlicensed lone driver on an icy road.

Dave knows just how bad it can get. He’s had to break news of fatalities to loved ones. He’s been first on the scene of some horrific collisions – with no survivors.

He recalls how one colleague turned up where children were waiting to come home for a family celebration. “It’s the worst job in the world to do. Once you’ve done that, seen the accident scene, had to break the news to loved ones, you do all in your power to stop accidents ever happening again.

“We can’t. We still breathalyse drunk drivers – often hours after the party’s ended. We still throw the book at boy racers and hope they finally see sense. We still remind people to make the most basic safety checks, and to stop using their mobiles, and to always belt up. It’s common sense.”

And, with that he stops another motorist, white van man, no seat belt, who protests: “I always wear a seatbelt. Just not today.” Crash and it could cost his sternum, says Dave.