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Back story, front facing

Depeche Mode were never one of my favourite bands, I’ll admit. I never really got the post punk electronica melange that also seemed to herald the way for the New Romantics. I stuck with loud guitars, as I still do.

On Friday last it was announced that Andy Fletcher, Depeche Mode’s keyboard player had died suddenly, aged 60. An obituary in my newspaper revealed something about his early Christian faith and that he had been a member of the Boys Brigade all through his childhood until he was 18, just as the band was taking shape in 1980. As so often happens, it’s only in death that we learn so much more about the person we have lost.

Parked opposite our church on Sunday was a large, black SUV. Very shiny and clearly new from its registration plate, with tyres that did not look as if they had graced much tarmac, let alone a muddy off road trail. It attracted a lot of interest principally because of a bright yellow DVLA wheel clamp attached to one of its wheels, and a legal notice stuffed beneath the windscreen wipers. Typically this would be because of unpaid road tax, but who knows? As we drove home, we noticed two more clamped, but much older, cars. Perhaps it was our neighbourhood’s turn for the clampers.

That the clamped SUV was clearly an expensive and recent model, made me, and others I guess, wonder about the back story. Why was it parked here? Did it belong to people who lived close by? Had it been there before? It was all a mystery as we could only speculate.

By the time I got home, I’d quite forgotten about the SUV and stopped wondering about its history. But the back story of Andy Fletcher’s life revealed, at least to me, a new aspect which was of relevant interest given the Methodist Church’s close relationship with the Boys Brigade. Positive formative childhood experiences, often forged in teamwork, can help shape adult life, and it was clear that Fletcher had a peacemaker or ‘tiebreaker’ role in the band, holding it together when the two other, probably more front-facing, band members were in dispute with each other. Perhaps the embedded Boys Brigade influence helped along the way?

In our safeguarding work, we do well to pay attention to the detail of the back story, the life episodes and experiences that have shaped the present and how people act. Some stories lie deeply hidden and only emerge at critical times. But as with the SUV, it’s thinking about the right questions to ask and making good connections that will help draw them out. I wonder if it will still be there next Sunday?

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