Silver Linings

The best laid plans and all that. 

Earlier today, I was given a date for Medical Retirement from the Metropolitan Police. My last day as a serving officer will be Wednesday 28th February 2018. 

That wasn’t how it was supposed to be. 

I joined the Met in September 1992 – a clueless 22 year old embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Over the years, I fell hopelessly in love with the Job. And with the men and women who do it. Like most of my generation, I fully intended to see out each one of my 30 years. Perhaps longer. I even had a half-baked idea that I might try to make it to Chief Constable one day.

Then life happened. 

In April 2013, at the age of 43, I broke. I was off work for more than 7 months – a once capable man reduced entirely to rubble. Almost five years later, I’m a whole lot better than I was, but I realise that I’ve done myself some permanent damage along the way. I’m no longer strong enough to deal with the exhaustion and the strain. I can no longer manage the inevitable stress. And I appear to be completely unable to cope with trauma of any kind – certainly not the kind of trauma encountered endlessly on the policing frontline. 

That’s the painful privilege of this job – to venture repeatedly into the hurting places; to be there when lives are saved; to be there when they hang in the balance; to be there in the scattered mess of blood and bandages; to be there when lives are lost; to be there when news is broken; to be there when the shattered faces of loved ones crumple in grief. To be there on the inside of the fluttering blue and white tape.

Not now though. I’m no longer able to stand in those places. And I’m in awe of those who are. Time and again, I find myself stirred by the breathtaking courage and compassion of my colleagues. They have always been – and they remain – the everyday heroes and heroines who police our streets. I will miss them more than I can say.

I will miss it all.

But there have been endless silver linings.

The extraordinary love of my wife; the unexpected hours and days spent with our three beautiful girls; the faithfulness of friends and the kindness of strangers; time and space to think and breathe and to learn how to rest in a world that is moving far too fast; the discovery of writing and of the healing to be found in telling stories; the opportunity to stand up and speak up for the things that have to matter more; the discovery of a thing called grace. 

Life might, of necessity be slower these days – but it is also somehow deeper, richer and kinder. 

Whatever happens now, I will always love this extraordinary job. I will always love the extraordinary people who do it. I will always celebrate their humanity and heroism. And I will always feel pride of the finest kind.

Because I was a boy in blue.

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122 thoughts on “Silver Linings

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  1. Indeed, most of the time, life can be too fast, demanding and harsh, but one can always find silver linings in it. They always exist, we just have to discover where they lie in our life. i will try to find the silver linings in my life too, and I hope you continue to find solace in yours.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ve now lived in London for 7 years and, amongst the many downsides – weather, transport, housing – I count the Met as one major up. I’ve dealt with you on the job, I’ve met you on the streets, I’ve chatted with you on the public transport, each and every time marvelling at your calm, compassion, sense of humour and commitment. Yours is a model for the rest of the world, thank you for your service and for dedicating your adult, and your health, life to keeping London safe.

    Best

    Fabrizio

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Reading this post was an eye-opener. Had no idea that the Police also feels the stress of seeing grief stricken faces. Thank you for writing so well and helping commoners like us to appreciate all that you’ll go through in the line of duty. Wishing you all the very best for the future.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. You struggle to find something to say that will help but you realise that your service is outside of your own experience, you only realise that you have taken for granted all in the Police Service and what they do. Only after reading your blog do you realise how wrong that is.
    I feel that I want to say more, but feel that anything I say will be woefully inadequate so all I can say to you and the whole Police Service is many, many thanks for all you do and have done and to you personally. God bless take care.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I stumbled to this book during sick leave and the need for a good read. Not an easy read, but engaging. My ex husband was in the RUC. The happy person I married became became someone who started to talk about taking his own life. Our marriage didn’t survive. But I can see parallels to you own story. I can see he went through so much I was unaware off. Thanks to all who hold the line. We, society own you everything.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thank you for sharing and you have my gratitude for doing such great work. A life in the job changed my old man for the worse. I wish you the absolute best for the future and hope that you can embrace the negatives as part of what has brought you this far. May the future be nothing but happiness.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. What a brilliant read, thank you for sharing!

    Quick question, is there a contact detail which i can contact you on in regards to research for my dissertation project?
    James.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Indeed the police more than ever are at the Hurting point. As a (semi retired) community health worker I have been supported so many times by the compassion, professionalism and sheer practicality of the police. Our expectations on the ground, especially now a days, of the police is immense and I can’t praise them enough. Many people become police with the expectation of fighting crime, but actually they also protect, find and support our most vulnerable people.
    Enjoy the space, enjoy your family, you have earned it.

    Liked by 4 people

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