This song brings to recall, a workmate of mine in a Cleckheaton Mill that I once worked at. He had been married three years and once told me that his wife had led a sheltered existence and was so shy about showing her naked body that she could never bring herself to disrobe in his presence. On a night-time, she would insist on going to bed first so that when her husband came upstairs to retire, she was already lying beneath the sheets in her night clothes. Before her husband undressed for bed, he would always dim the lights; a practice that his wife preferred.
Despite his wife’s reserved behaviour, he reported sex with his wife as being regular and highly satisfying. The only dissatisfaction my friend had with his wife, apart from her unwillingness to be seen nude, was her complete lack of spontaneity, Their sex life was reportedly regulated by the calendar and clock to occur on certain nights of the week and within a certain time span of ‘availability/accessibility’. In the absence of any sexual activity being instigated by him within the first half hour of entering the marital bed ‘on his night of agreed intercourse’, his wife would consider the remainder of the night forfeited for rest and sleep purpose only.
The more work I engaged in as a marriage guidance counsellor during my earlier years as a Probation Officer, the more I realised, the minefield I had opted to work in. One of the reasons that I loved every day of my Probation Officer career was that, in my day, Probation Officers carried out multiple roles of responsibility. The ‘Probation and After-Care Service’ provided a statutory service to the general public (like an early Citizen Advice Bureau), the Criminal and the Civil Courts of the land, H.M. Prisons, along with fulfilling voluntary roles within the wider Community. Such a variety of specialised roles required Probation Officers during the 1970s to be a well-trained and highly skilled ‘Jack-of-all-trades.
All Officers would be obliged to attend weekly and fortnightly courses twice yearly and those Probation Officers who carried out additional roles in the family and matrimonial courts, as well as the criminal courts and the prisons, would be constantly ‘trained-up’. I was in the second category and was very lucky to spend almost two years attending several days monthly being trained in my Matrimonial Guidance work at the 'Tavistock Clinic'.
Each couple of years, two Probation Officers from the West Yorkshire Probation Service would be selected and offered the unique experience of being trained part-time at the Tavistock. Such chosen officers were usually being fast-tracked for promotion within the Service, but my constant thirst for knowledge, and to become a better practitioner, never once tempted me to want to work anywhere other than at ‘the coal face’.
Today, that organisation is known as ‘The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’. ‘The Tavistock’ is a specialist mental health trust based in north London. The Trust specialises in talking therapies. The education and training department caters for 2,000 students a year from the United Kingdom and abroad. The Trust is based at the Tavistock Centre in ‘Swiss Cottage’. The founding organisation was the ‘Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology’ that was founded in 1920 by Dr Hugh Crichton-Miller. It has long been regarded as a professional centre of excellence of international renown, in its application of psychoanalytic ideas to the study and treatment of mental health and interpersonal dynamics.
I despair when I compare the roles today and yesteryear of a Probation Officer. During later years, Probation Officers have unfortunately become little more than Parole Officers whose entire work and client base is criminally based. Like most professional workers today, they have become overworked underpaid and undervalued workers, and their frequency of face-to-face contact with clientele has been pared down so much that most clients of the Probation Service have become a five-minute monthly reporting tick-list statutory visitor to the office. Unfortunately, Probation Officers have become deskilled in the many roles they once carried out and which today few are given the opportunity to specialise in.
From all the past roles I worked in within the Probation Service, I would nominate my matrimonial guidance work as having been the most difficult, yet the most rewarding. Doing this kind of work afforded me to work better with the more serious criminal side of the coin; the murderers, the arsonists, the rapists, and the child molesters. Matrimonial Guidance Counselling did involve, however, the need to be specifically focused and direct in terminology whenever sexual behaviour was frankly discussed with the man and wife being counselled, and only the most experienced secretaries and typists were allowed to type up the verbatim interview accounts for recording purposes.
I’m afraid that the shy wife of my working pal in the Cleckheaton mill would have died had she been obliged to read some of the typed transcripts of some of the matrimonial work I did.
I dedicate today’s song to Lorna Gregory whose love of reggae and Bob Marley’s songs are firm favourites of hers.
Love and peace Bill xxx