Over the course of the past few weeks I have taken genuine interest in the video and written testimony of some of those choosing to share their personal anxieties arising directly from the current Covid19 crisis.

Not at all from a voyeuristic vantage point but more from a virtual reach out perspective, perhaps even searching for some comfort and I’ve found that whilst admiring their honesty and bravery in sharing their concerns, insecurities or fears I have also noticed a fairly consistent theme with many of those who are sharing. Their anxieties and motivations in sharing are entirely genuine but in the main they share from a platform of material security, they share a comfortable lifestyle, with an almost subconscious accompanying messaging style where the impact of the virus is not one of immediate financial hardship and all that that can bring from an anxiety perspective.

In my experience to date , you tend to hear the message as opposed to really feel it if that makes any sense at all?

I have a daily wrestle with the thought of sharing my own anxieties via Twitter live or another social media platform with a decision still pending and try to separate the voyeuristic attraction that may exist from the positive others may glean.

There is an identifiable teaching style to many of those sharing deliveries, a style which is born out of professional and personal confidence and security. It leaves me wondering who their messages are designed for at times. Rightly or wrongly I seem to have arrived at the conclusion the messages are for their existing peer group. Perhaps to offer comfort and solace in these uncertain times but to also perhaps to encourage further sharing within the listeners own peer groups. 

In a way some remind me of Billy Connolly and his talk of a world full of Nigel’s during his legendary “audience with Billy Connolly” performance. “Did Jesus play for Tottenham Hotspur Daddy? Well you know Nigel in a funny way he did” If we can’t laugh we might as well chuck it.

That is far from a criticism but more an observation which leads me I guess to ask why someone would make the choice to share when they do not have that carefully woven comfort blanket of personal security or peace of mind. In sharing an anxiety in a non professional setting i.e. not in the presence of a skilled counsellor or mentor, from a base of insecurity, you are offering trust to the person(s) you are sharing with whilst simultaneously exposing a perceived personal weakness which may colour another persons opinion of you consciously or otherwise. The choice to share becomes about more than the bravery to share but the possibility that in sharing it will further impact on your insecure status.

This blog has been evidence of that this past year. People form opinions based on your sharing, occasionally despite claims to the contrary. Their actions contradicting their words – some delivered in public settings such as Twitter – on numerous occasions. In a previous life I had always held the view that what others thought of me was none of my business but that like so many other comforting thought processes was to an extent removed by the attachment of a lived experience label.

Over the course of the past year – in this justice realm – I have had meetings cancelled repeatedly sometimes with no better excuse than “something else has come up”, I’ve had numerous pledges of work and action evaporate without explanation and I’ve listened to those with no real life experience basis for doing so coach me on skills I have successfully honed over the past thirty years.

Curiously, I find that in the life experience realm, where I discuss messaging, strategy and a myriad of other topics meetings once in the diary are honoured, calls are returned and actions progressed as they have always been. You would be forgiven for asking why I persevere in this lived experience realm but I have shared my motivations in that regard almost relentlessly perhaps to the point of becoming a pain in the derriere for many I’m sure.

I guess this for the moment is my way of sharing in this realm.

Covid19 has been devastating from a personal security perspective, potentially more so than prison, but where there is a will there must be a way is the adopted mantra for the time being. As part of that 5% who fall between the cracks of government assistance each day starts with a huge intake of breath, some long practised positivity exercises of a mental nature and a personal affirmation that today will be better than yesterday. That coupled with a visible reminder that serves to inspire, delivering an outer calm akin to the beautiful swan gliding across the sun kissed, glass like surface of a picturesque lake with the paddling legs carefully concealed beneath the surface.

It also means that at a time when many chat about developing connections and maintaining contact with spare time set aside for self-care amidst lockdown and isolation as well as future planning there is a very real demand for some to be relentlessly innovative and creative around generating work opportunities throughout this crisis. There is no time for a Covid19 break just a developing talent for suppressing the cough which is a bloody constant pest especially during lengthy Zoom conferences.

As a keen observer of human nature I see many other swans, despite their creative camoflaging,  around me. 

In this turbulent time there seems to be a widely held hope that our world post Covid19 will see the further development of the growing sense of community that we see across the country and I fervently share that wish.

I grew up in a Scotland that was generous but tough, kind but real, where you knew your neighbours and they knew you. Where a house party was a common physical occurrence, not an android app, and everyone was welcome. A society steeped in community spirit, where we all kept an eye on each other not out of duty or because we were reminded to but just because that’s the way it was. A society who needed no reminders on kindness, compassion or Prehabilitation. I’m not referring to a melancholy memory coloured by sentimentality but more just a time when we knew right from wrong, help from hindrance and most people acted on that without the first thought being I’m all right Jack.

For me the destruction of so much of our community spirit died – or perhaps more accurately was placed in cold storage – on 4th May 1979 but today is not a day for politics.

In that yearning for a greater community spirit – Yesterday I read with no little interest an article written by Karyn McCluskey of Community Justice Scotland in the Scotsman newspaper in which there is reference to a welcome lack of lazy rhetoric or over zealous headlines around descriptions of those in prison. The suggestion being that the world, or certainly our small part of it, has woken up to the fact that people are people regardless of their circumstances and as such should be treated humanely. I sincerely hope this is the case although my cynical nature does cling to the possibility that being politically sensitive is a current strategy and theme amongst the media and at the first sign of an embedded prejudice being affirmed they will revert to type, I pray that I am wrong.

Although the outrage faux and otherwise that took place around the actions of the Chief Medical Officer this past weekend seemed to be devoured by a pack craving a return to their staple of comfort food. Are we on the dawn of a brave new world or are we just enjoying – amidst this abhorrent crisis – a break in hostilities like the men who experienced le Treve de Noel in 1914. Plus ca change?

Another blog post that caught my eye yesterday in its spirit of kindness and future planning was written by Niven Rennie at VRU Scotland who talks about Covid19 and the impact on violence reduction

It’s heartening to see organisations such as the Violence Reduction Unit who have been supportive and encouraging to First Time Inside look to the future at this time.

Who could not be heartened by the sudden explosion of kindness we are all witnessing, does it represent a thawing of that previously frozen sense of community spirit, time will tell. From clapping on the doorstep to celebrate the heroes of our front line services to watching organisations who have been forced to step back from their regular activities turn their resource into a powerful weapon for good.

Watching organisations like Achieve More Scotland, Centrestage, Heavysound CIC, Fare Scotland and many others tackle the issue of food poverty these past few weeks in particular has been truly inspiring. At this time I can’t help but think that whilst others talk Scotland walks. @copyrite FTI:-).   

I look forward to shaking off these symptoms and making myself available to assist out there but in the interim I am happy to make this platform available to those who could benefit from it’s limited messaging capability with the view to sharing positivity during this tough time.

One matter which does continue to cause me great concern is the apparent inertia around family visits to prisons in Scotland and the wider implications of Covid19 on the population of the estate both staff and inmate. The lack of solutions or rather the lack of implementation of solutions is desperately worrying in health terms for all who need to be there day and day out.

Cancelling prison visits was 100% the right thing to do in light of Covid19 but we need to be aware of the devastating mental impact on inmates and their families of removing those tiny islands of comfort A hug on a visit is like a battery recharge it powers the survival mask. We must provide serious solutions to serious problems as a matter of urgency. It is now two weeks since we were assured it would be days not weeks before solutions would be in place.

Thank you as always for taking the time to read the First Time Inside blog please take care of you and yours during this worrying time and remember Staying Home Saves Lives.

@firsttimeinside out for now…




                   Thank you to our heroes







Comments (1)

  1. John TRainer


    Yet again you deliver a hard hitting message with compassion and kindness. If only that compassion and kindness was returned. Every time I read one of your blogs I reflect on how services and people in power must change to deliver a fairer, more equitable and caring society. If we want to achieve this vision we need to recognise the type of lived experience you describe and also show respect and humility as we listen and learn.
    We also know that people who changed the system for the better didn’t always get recognised as visionary at the time. Stick with it and we will achieve systemic change and rebuild a society in which we are proud to live.

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