My song today is ‘And You My Love’. The descriptive category of musical recordings (the discography) by the British singer-songwriter Chris Rea consists of 25 studio albums, 14 compilation albums, 1 live album, 1 soundtrack album, and 72 singles (including 32 UK Top 75 hit singles. Chris has had fourteen UK top 20 albums, nine of them in the Top 10, including two Number 1s.
Love is one of the few things that has the capacity to make one both open and close their eyes. Whenever I close my eyes, my image is one of my loving wife Sheila. Until I knew her, I never knew love as I know it now. In fact, I had to find her before I discovered a part of myself that I had never become previously acquainted with. We all think we know ourselves, but I have to say at the age of 78 years, the one person who I found the hardest to truly know was myself. It is only when we foolishly think we know it all, that we realise how little we truly know, and how what little we know can best serve us from one day to the next.
I once remember a millhand I worked with. Four of us worked on adjacent textile machines. One of the four was like a human walking encyclopaedia. His name was Ken or Kenny. There was never one day when Ken was not telling us about some fact that no normal person would have ever known, or to tell the truth cared about knowing! I am sure that Ken was simply attempting to come across as being knowledgeable. One of the four workmates was called Frank Cummings. Frank was nearing retirement age and generally impressed as being a down to earth, practical kind of person. Whereas the other three of us would always be broke a few days before the next wage day, Frank would always have ‘just enough to get by, as he would tell anyone in the mill who asked him for the loan of a few shillings until the next payday.
Whenever Ken came up with one of his useless pieces of worldly knowledge as to the hottest or coldest places in the world (especially as none of us was ever likely to holiday there instead of having a week in Blackpool), Frank Cummings would simply say, “And how is knowing that piece of useless information ever likely to serve me in my daily life, Ken?”
Frank was one of the world’s most practical men I ever knew. The acquisition of any new information for him was meaningless unless he could directly apply any newfound knowledge to his daily life to improve it in some significant measure. He did not believe in keeping any stuff that he did not use.
I must admit that at the time, I might have been somewhat better inclined to understand Ken more than Frank. I had always been clever at school but at the age of 15 years, I yearned to get out into the workplace and to earn some money for myself. For once in my life, I wanted to wear shoes without holes in the soles and trousers that were not torn or patched in the arse or under the crotch. So, instead of taking my GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ level examinations as scheduled during the summer months of 1958, on the last day of term in December 1957, as all the other pupils were preparing for their school party festivities at ‘Dewsbury Technical College’, I gathered up my textbooks, and after walking to the Headmaster’s office to hand them in, I told Mr Ford (same surname as myself but without the e) that I was starting work in a mill in Cleckheaton at the start of the New Year. He wished me well.
Having left school, six months before my educational contract had officially expired, I was determined not to leave all my learning behind me. For the last five years of my teenage years (16-21), I was an avid book reader, with a particular interest in historical and biographical books of famous people. Looking back, I can now recognise that I had ‘an educational hang up’, and that a part of me questioned if I had done the right thing by abandoning my schooling at the age of 15 years. In later years, I returned to my educational learning in my late twenties to gain qualifications as a mature student that would get me a university place. Initially, I planned to become a History teacher, and it was only after I had been accepted by Bath University to take Honour’s Degree in British and European History that I had a last moment change of heart, and instead trained to become Probation Officer in West Yorkshire.
I had decided at the age of 29 years after having attained a high paid mill manager’s job on nights that textiles was not the occupation for me. I wanted a vocation where I could use my life’s experience and skills I had acquired along the way. I wanted a career whereby I could learn more and more in my daily work the longer I was in it. I wanted a vocation whereby I could begin to honour the contract I had made to my Maker as an 11-year-old boy who had fought for his life and the opportunity to walk again, that if I lived and walked again, I would devote the rest of my life to helping people better their lives.
I could not keep that promise as a mill manager, but as a Probation Officer who had lived on both sides of the law, and as a streetwise individual who had also walked on the wrong side of the road too often, I knew that by being a poacher turned gamekeeper and changing from lawbreaker to lawmaker, I could usefully serve my purpose in life by sitting at the right side of a Probation Officer’s desk and helping my own kind of people.
The older I grew, the more I gradually came around to Frank Cummings way of thinking. I began to question the merit of seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake, and the more information I asked my mind to receive, the more I would ask myself, “Does knowing this piece of information enhance my life one jot? Or is it ever likely to?” That philosophy was the reason that ‘Behaviourism’ was a method of work that instantly appealed to my pragmatic mind. While, like most workers, I did not mind knowing why a person behaved in a particularly problematic way, I did not need to know those details to help them stop behaving problematically, and neither did they. It would be welcome to derive such beneficial hindsight but it was not absolutely necessary to bring about the desired change. To me, what workers call ‘insight’ occurs retrospectively after appropriate working methods have been applied, or treatment has been given and the problematic behaviour has been changed, but never during the change process.
In order to mentally acquire an image as to the insight/ reason why you initially behaved problematically, I found that the client needed to be emotionally distanced from the initial problem for them to be able to see what it was they had been doing wrong in the first instance. Or in the philosophy of my mill mate, Frank Cummings, insight served me no purpose in producing the required positive change in behaviour but would enable me to better understand the process I had been a part of, after the event, when I was able to emotionally distance myself!
When I think about many of the youth of today, particularly when they appear to be unconcerned about taking on board that or this piece of information that adults in one sphere or another may give them, I often reflect upon their common response of “So wot?” I ask myself, how different is their response to that of Frank Cummings in my teenage years when I worked in the mill? Does not their response also mean, that like Frank Cummings of my youth, they also consider that the information that many adults are trying to stuff their heads with, will not serve them one jot in the advancement of their daily life? Does it really surprise me to realise that learning the lines of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet at school is considered by them to be irrelevant and a waste of time unless they are to become English Literature teachers or actors or playwrights in their later life? Perhaps they might have been better at learning how to write an impressive CV for a potential employer in a market where there are more applicants than the job vacancies they seek to fill? Or understand how one can maximise the benefits of one’s tax code by the doing or not doing of this or that? Or understand their personal rights if inappropriately approached by or responded to by an official dog body? Perhaps leading them to understand how the accumulated interest on debt is calculated might lead them towards making more sensible decisions of what to buy, when to buy, and where to purchase from rather than leaving them to chance the price hypes charged by the money lenders of the world?
Let us face it folks, however much (like me) one loves to read historical books, is it ever likely to serve us one jot knowing when the ‘Hundred Years War’ took place? Or who the leading combatants were? Or what was its causes and consequences on the citizens of England and France? And what part did the English longbow play in its victory? Far better to know thyself than a whole pile of information that can provide interest but does not help you one jot to know the price of a loaf of bread today or whether eating brown bread or white bread or using brown or white sugar is healthier for you?
Getting oneself into massive debt can emotionally and financially cripple you! Getting fatter and less fit can physically kill you and shorten and hamper your remaining lifestyle! Being ignorant of what foods, procedures, medications, processes, experiences cure or kill you, is far more important to your future health and happiness than being able to recite by heart every British monarch who ruled over all of Anglo-Saxon England from Egbert (Ecgherht) who established a stable kingdom in Wessex following his conquest of Mercia in 827, through to Queen Elizabeth 11 who still rules 1200 years later.
As Frank Cummings would tell you, if he still lived, “So wot?” How has it helped me knowing that there have been sixty-one British Kings and Queens since Egbert ascended the throne?” Now, tell me which horse will win the Grand National Steeplechase next week, and I'll never forget the horse's name or the jockey who rode it to victory, and in what year, but I am not interested in knowing which horse ran second, however close!
Love and peace