In the prologue to ‘Aspects of Love’ a young Englishman, Alex, is lovestruck by a French actress, Rose. This upends his world, and he sings that ‘Love changes everything ... Love changes how you live and how you die’. He notes that love ‘makes fools of everyone’ and concludes that once love strikes, ‘nothing in the world will ever be the same.’ The song was featured at the 44th Tony Awards.
There is little more that can be added about this song as the song’s words say it all! I can, however, testify to the many occasions that I have witnessed where the love of one person towards another has changed their lives significantly; usually for the better but sadly, not always so. People may want to ‘fall in love’ or ‘be in love’, but nobody chooses it; love happens! And when it happens, it changes one’s life beyond recognition.
The annuls of history reveal that people have cheated, maimed, killed, died, and even gone to war because of the love of one person for another. There is no emotion as powerful as ‘love’, not even ‘hate’, and once smitten and love comes in the back door, all reason departs through the front door; leaving the couple totally wrapped up in each other tom the exclusion of everyone else. It isn’t that the couple in love have lost their capacity to care for others around them; it’s just that their eyes, and senses, and mind and body are totally preoccupied with the one they are in love with. That person has now become their whole world, their universe, their orbit of prime focus, and their sole concern.
That is where the saying of lovers ‘floating on cloud nine’ originates. How often have we heard someone describe a couple in love as two people who are totally absorbed in each other’s presence to the exclusion of all others, by saying things like, “Oh, it’s no good showing those two, they only have eyes for each other” or “Those two love birds are living in a different world. They’re on another planet!”
Consider for one moment married men and women who fall in love with another married person, each of whom are the parents of young and emotionally impressionable children. Imagine the devastation caused to the break of two family units and the lives of all concerned, where all the innocents are expected to set their feelings to one side so as not to impede the new love of two parents from different households!
Often, such relationships develop from a conscious decision by two married people from different unions to have an affair, and yet occasionally, ‘love can happen’ in situations where there is no sexual impropriety at all. It is perfectly possible for two innocently married people from different unions, who have neither sought love nor any act of indiscretion outside their marriage to find themselves in circumstances with another married person, in which it is no longer possible to deny that they are ‘falling in love’.
Remember, that love (not sex) is ever chosen; it happens? Perhaps such an example is one of those occasions where the love of one person is better put to one side in favour of a loyal and faithful spouse and a family of young children?
I will never forget Bernard with whom I worked with for six years. Bernard had one of the worse starts in life. He was abandoned at birth by a mother he never knew and was raised in children’s homes. He had no blood siblings and at an early age, he started stealing and engaging in every act of theft and vandalism he could. He was the only young man I ever knew whose behaviour was so unacceptable that he served his full two-year sentence of Borstal without earning any remission. Borstal inmates usually received up to 50 per cent remission for good behaviour during the 1970s.
During the 1970s, I set up a project between the Huddersfield Probation Office and all the surrounding churches. Through church bulletins, I advertised young men and women who were repeat offenders who had no positive family connections and asked for any Christian couple who was prepared to give them a home base as part of their family. We had a few fostering successes, but Bernard was not one of them. I did, however, place 19-year-old Bernard with a married couple in their late fifties. The couple concerned had parented one child; a son who had sadly been killed in a traffic accident six years earlier. Had their son lived, he would have been Bernard’s age.
For the first three weeks of Bernard’s placement all seemed to be going okay apart from a few expected teething issues. Then, one night after the fostering couple were sound asleep, Bernard (who had run away from children’s homes half a dozen times in the past), decided to steal what he could from the home of the kind couple who had taken him in, before leaving. He stole whatever money he could find and any small sellable items. One of the items stolen was a treasured framed photograph of the couple’s deceased son. Bernard removed the photograph from its silver frame and threw it away, to conceal the possible source of the silver frame from the person who eventually bought it. When Bernard was eventually caught, arrested, and produced before the court, his offence and record of previous convictions resulted in him being committed to the Crown Court where he received a sentence of 18 months in a Young Prison establishment at Thorpe Arch.
Over the following year, I visited Bernard monthly in prison without fail. On each visit, he never once spoke a word to me in either question or reply. I presumed at the time that he was so ashamed by what he had done that he considered total silence to be the best option as he was not the type who ever apologised. Each monthly prison visit by me to Thorpe Arch Young Prisoner establishment would witness me speaking to him for an hour without once getting one word in response.
About one year into my visits, my home circumstances were such that I should have remained off work that day, but instead, I made my usual planned monthly visit to see Bernard. The visit went as usual with total silence from Bernard. As I stood up to leave, I uncharacteristically lost my temper at his ungrateful response to me over the past year and I gave him a mouthful of what I thought of his behaviour; especially the despicable act of stealing and destroying a precious object from a loving couple who had taken him into their home and who had treated him as one of their family! I knew it was wholly unprofessional of me to have lost my temper, but I was so angry and disappointed with Bernard’s overall response to the kindness, love and consideration shown to him by people who’d cared about him (including myself). As I left his cell, he spoke to me for the first time in my previous year’s visits and uttered one sentence only, “Thank you for coming today, Mr Forde”.
I supervised Bernard on Youth Custody Licence following his prison release and we appeared to have made some modest headway through our weekly office conversations by the time his licence period had expired and his period of supervision with me came to an end. It was many years before I saw Bernard again, and as his name had not appeared on the Huddersfield Court list during the intervening period, I simply presumed that he had moved area, as people with Bernard’s track record rarely stopped offending completely.
Then, one day while I was walking through Huddersfield, a voice from behind me yelled, "Hi, Mr Forde!”. I turned around to see a smiling-faced Bernard with a young woman and two children, one infant in a pram and the other child walking alongside one of their parents. Bernard proudly introduced the young woman as his partner and the mother to their two children. Our brief conversation revealed that he had not offended since he had last seen me and that his partner had also been through Children’s Homes and the Social Service’s Residential homes since her childhood years. The two had met and had fallen in love four years earlier, and as today's song indicates, their lives were never the same again because their love for each other had ‘changed everything’.
Love and peace Bill xxx