Wednesday, May 06, 2015

the last post

So that’s it!

Nine years and one thousand posts later, I’m writing my last item as Spence Kennedy.

When I started Siren Voices I had no other ambition than to make a diary record of the people and situations I found myself in, to report what happened each time as sympathetically and non-judgementally as I could, and most importantly, to get myself into a routine of writing.

For a long time no-one outside the family read the blog, which wasn’t surprising, because I didn’t do a thing to promote it. But I kept going, and it was gratifying to see the word-count build up. I fiddled around with the style a few times, experimented with the voice. Innis, a good friend of mine (and a brilliant photographer), let me use some of his photos in the header. My writing style changed, and I started to feel easier about confronting the blank screen each time. The whole thing began to feel quite solid.

Still, nothing else would’ve happened if my wife, Kath, hadn’t emailed Suzi Brent at NeeNaw. Suzi recommended Siren Voices, and suddenly I started getting comments!

I was quite worried to begin with. I felt uneasy about writing under a pseudonym (‘Spence Kennedy’ because my mum’s dad’s middle name was Spence, and Kennedy because I was reading The Big Picture by Douglas Kennedy at the time). I knew how important it was to protect patient confidentiality, but I couldn’t think how I’d be able to maintain the degree of intimacy that I wanted if I had to ask a patient for permission each time. The easiest thing seemed to be to change identifying details and stay anonymous, even though I really wanted to be honest about who I was. In the end I decided to stay writing as Spence Kennedy. Years passed. I became two people: Jim Clayton at work; Spence Kennedy on-line. It all seemed to balance out. I didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardise the blog.

When it came to self-publishing my first books, I stuck to Spence Kennedy because I thought the only people who might feasibly buy & read them were the followers of the blog. It was frustrating not to publish under my real name, but then again, I figured that I wouldn’t be in the ambulance service all my life. When I left, I’d be free to pull off the mask and start writing as myself.

So that’s what I’m about to do!

My day job will be with the Community Rapid Response Service – working alongside Occupational and Physiotherapists, District Nurses and so on, helping patients avoid hospital and stay at home. I won’t be blogging about my work with the CRRS, although if I come across some interesting stories I might conduct a more open interview and get permission from the patient before I publish.

The new blog will be much more general, I think. A collection of sketches, poems, stories – anything that occurs to me. I’ll try to make it as entertaining and interesting as possible, with more pictures and clips than before. I look forward to hearing what you think.

I won’t be posting on Siren Voices any more, but I will keep the site open for people to read and comment on if they want. I’ll certainly publish any comments that come in, and make a few of my own. I’m proud of what Siren Voices represents: as true a picture of life on a front-line ambulance as I could make it.

There are so many people I need to thank, I hardly know where to start. My wife, Kath, for reading everything and editing it into some kind of meaningful order. Blogger has been a great platform and I recommend it thoroughly. But most of all I’d like to thank everyone who’s ever read, followed, commented or Tweeted about Siren Voices over the years. I really couldn’t ever thank you enough. I hope you all stay in touch, because I feel like I’ve made some good friends over the years.

Here’s to the next nine years!

Jim Clayton
(feels good to type that...)

Check out the new site:


tpals said...

It's going to be hard to adjust to the change. After all these years getting to know Spence, Jim feels like an alias - a super hero's alter ego.

I'm happy for you making the career change you need though. Congratulations!

Alan said...

Congrats Jim! Looking forward to reading whatever you do!

Anonymous said...

Nooooooooooo, don't go!!!!
2nd reaction - Spence/Jim, I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your new endeavours.
I stumbled across this blog about a year ago and can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading every new encounter you've posted. Your writing style is a pleasure to read but it's your compassion for fellow human beings that shines through with a rare humility that really makes it special. I'm sure your new team mates will feel lucky to have working with them. All the best X

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your new job and writing career. I felt I just had to thank you for the wonderful insight you have given us to the work of the ambulance service and it's unsung heroes. I was introduced to Siren Voices' by my daughter(7 years ago when she embarked on her medical training) and have followed it avidly ever since. Your writing is superb, the stories you relate are often grim and heart breaking but they are always told with such honesty and empathy that I only hope that, should I ever need the ambulance service 'Spence and Rae' will be there to answer my needs. Your writing has opened my eyes, not only to the pain, sadness and misery of some people's lives but also to the genuine compassion you have for your 'service users' (just trying to use the correct 'PC' terminology here!) You and your colleagues are unsung heroes. I wish everyone could read your words so that they might have a greater understanding of what a wonderful service you provide, I am sure that you have been instrumental in opening my daughter's eyes to her future through your experiences and I am pleased to say that she has not changed her mind about her chosen career yet is perhaps a little better informed because of 'Siren Voices'.
Very Best Wishes to you, your colleagues and to Kath.

Lydia said...

I will miss it Jim but looking forward to reading your excellent writing in any location and format! All the best with the new job 😃 Lydia

Alexia said...

Congratulations Jim - and good luck with the new job, and the new blog!

L said...

I'll miss your blog as it is my absolute favourite blog that I follow but I will read your new blog.

Good luck with the future :)

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey tpals!
I do feel strange - like I just pupated (eurgh). Into what? The real me... but even Jim feels like an alias... I don't know who I am anymore...

I think the job change is a good one. No more nights ('you had me at "no more nights"...)

Lots of triple dots. It's that kind of day...

Hi Alan

I'll try to keep it interesting. The theory is that all the energy I put into the blog will now go into stories &c (as well as finishing the current book). Theories. Yeah, right.

Anon1 - That's so kind of you to say so. Thanks for reading - and for the good wishes in the new job. Always a stressful time, but I'm trying to embrace the philosophy that change happens whether you want it to or not, so why not embrace it &c &c. *sigh*

Anon2 - Blimey - this blog has been going long enough to train as a doctor! *gulp*. Thank you so much for your kind words. Very much appreciated. I know I'm probably a little biased, but if you ever have to ring 999 you're pretty much guaranteed a fantastic crew. I've met so many lovely people in my time on the ambulance. I wouldn't (couldn't) have worked on the front line for ten years if that wasn't the case....

Very best wishes to you and your daughter. These are tough times, it's true, but despite all the politics, the cut-backs, the management changes &c, at it's heart nothing has changed. Looking after people & helping them when they're in trouble is a good & rewarding thing to do. :) x

Cheers Lydia! I'll do my best to keep the new site as current & interesting. I'd better - it's in my real name! :/

Thanks Alexia! Very much appreciated. Hope to speak to you soon on the new site...

Thanks L! Thanks for following the blog all this time. It'll be great to see you on the new site & hear what you think about some of the stories. All criticisms & suggestions gratefully received... x

GrumpyRN said...

Good luck in the new job. Look forward to reading more of your stuff.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, GRN!
I thought it was high-time for a change (v apposite, given the date...)

Hope all's good with you & yours J :)

Anonymous said...

It will feel strange not checking in to read the latest post. You don't know me, but you've been with me on my journey from ECA to ,hopefully, paramedic come the end of July. It's been a rollercoaster ride but, aged 50, I'm about to achieve my dream. living proof that it's never too late. I recognise many of the jobs we go to in your posts and I look forward to reading your new blog. Good luck in your new pathway.x

petrolhead said...

I'm really going to miss Spence, but I look forward to getting to know Jim! I'm sad to see Siren Voices go, it was my favourite ambulance blog of all!

Good luck with your new job, is it still local?

Anonymous said...


I've been reading your blog for a long time. I think another ambulance service blogger sent me your way.

I've also managed to train as a doctor in the time you've been writing!

I remember first reading your blog and going back in time, devouring old posts and being so impressed by your writing ability.

Thanks for the journey. I am sad it is over.

But I look forward to following your new one.


Mark Spencer said...

Congratulations Jim,
The stories you've written over the years have been great. You brought us the voices of the unheard. I wish you well as evolve in your writing and look forward to new stories. Thanks from across the pond.

Potts said...

I'd recommended Siren Voices to quite a few people as the best distillation of the EMS experience out there. Absurd comedy, fascinating characters, frustration, hypnagogic stumbling through calls, unfixable misery all presented at random.

Jim, you're a fantastic writer, and, I suspect, a good person. Best of luck with the new job.

And goodbye, Spence. Strong work. Go get some sleep.

jacksofbuxton said...

Good luck with the new job and the new blog Jim.

Looking forward to the new books and blogs to read.

Spence set a high standard for you to follow though.

Kind regards,


Mary said...

Congratulations! I'm going to miss this blog so much. It's always made my day that little bit better when you've put up a new post for us to read.

So, thank you. For all of it. :)

Chaz said...

I have quite a few feeds in my RSS reader, almost all of which get skipped at least some of the time. Except yours, which is the only one I guarantee I will read every time. Even when I'm eating and you do a real stinky, fecal one - I'll skip it until I've finished my lunch, and then come back. I even bought the e-book, and I never buy e-books.

Your well-crafted prose, interesting subject matter and reliably interesting tone will be very much missed. However, very much looking forward to seeing what Jim Clayton does - keep it regular!


Em said...

Congratulations on the new job and good luck with the writing. I'm looking forward to reading it. Your blog has been fantastic.

Spence Kennedy said...

Anon - Congrats on the retraining / making it to para. Not easy when you're working at the same time. Best wishes for your career - and thanks for reading all this time. I'm glad I didn't put you off...

PH - Thanks for all your support over the years. And yep - it's still local...! ;)

James - Wow - another doctor in the time it's taken to write this blog! Excellent! Good luck in your career. Don't let the politicians drive the bus &c &c (which reminds me - I must get out and vote today). I hope I can get the new blog working half as well as SV.

Spencer / Mark - Thanks very much! If you like the new material half as much I'll be chuffed.

Potts - Very kind of you to say so - thanks for reading & for recommending to the site to other people. Funny about the sleep thing. I'd say sleep deprivation was definitely a bit of a theme... :/

Jack - Cheers! I'll do my best to make the new site as interesting as I can, and update it regularly. It'll be quite a challenge, not having real people to write about. Inventing them is a lot harder!

Mary - Thanks so much. I'm sorry to pull the plug, but now that I'm out of the ambulance (today was my last day), it had to end. Thanks for reading all this time, and for your support.

Chaz - Thanks very much for that - and sorry for the fecal stuff... not my favourite subject, either, but hell, I'll write about anything. I'll try to get some of that reportage style in the new stuff - but hopefully now I'm not writing in one area I'll be able to play around some more with the style. And I'll do my best to keep it all up to date!

Em - Thanks very much! I'm looking forward to the new job, particularly the lack of night shifts. It's good to have these shake-ups now and again. Maybe ten years was a little long, though!

Ali_Q said...

Selfish as it may be I am very sad to read this. I have read your blog for a good few years now and I have also read the two books that were published on Kindle and I have loved all of it!

It will be very strange for me knowing your name is Jim, but anyway! Keep on loving that wonderful family who have supported you and encouraged you to write such wonderful storiEspecially. Please don't stop!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, Ali - for reading the blog all these years, checking out the books & generally being supportive! Hugely appreciated.

It's strange for me, too, knowing my name's Jim. (There's a history of strange revelations around the name Jim, though. When I was growing up, everyone called our next door neighbour Jim, but it turned out his name was Stan! (For the record, I like both those names - big Stan Laurel fan...).x

Kirby Obsidian said...

Congrats, Jim -
I've enjoyed both your writing and your perspective on the human experience.
And, being myself both a social worker who sometimes blogs about my clients and experiences, and an aspiring writer who wants to grow in the craft, I've appreciated you as a great model of what's possible.
Happy Future, and I look forward to your next gifts!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thank you so much, Kirby. It's so kind of you to have read & supported SV all this time. I hope all's good with you & your family. Huge respect for the work you do. The very best of luck with everything. J :)

Max Sang said...

Well, I'm really sorry that Siren Voices is coming to an end. Far and away my favourite blog. Good luck with the new adventure!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks, Max.

Funny thing is, I think I'm more anxious about changing the blog than I am about changing my job!

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. As Arcade Fire sang: nothing lasts forever / that's the way it's gotta be... (then they go on to say - there's a great black wave in the middle of the sea, for me..., but I'll gloss over that, because it's not helping my anxiety any. :/

Anonymous said...

So sad to read this, I love your blog and check every day.. Despite working in the ambulance service myself! Good luck in your new venture Jim x

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Anon. Very much appreciated. Best wishes for your career. Working on the ambulance is a great thing to do. I'd never have made ten years if it wasn't! :) x

media_whore said...

My very best wishes to you, Jim. Yours is the only blog I've ever bookmarked and then regularly checked back to for updates - I'm sad to see it go, but I have already bookmarked your new site.

I write a little myself and am in the process of setting up a page to post things rather than driving some friends on Facebook a little crazier than they already are. According to one of my best friends, it's very existential, my decision that not only do I have these opinions, but the world should listen to the ;)

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, MW. I'll try to make the new site worth your while. I was thinking of having a 'voices' tab on it, to put up any real life monologues & overheard scraps, just to keep that side of things going.

Your new writing page sounds good. Let me know where it is and I'll check it out. I think I could do with some existential at the moment :/

Jane said...

Hi Jim!

and congratulations on the new job - it sounds right up your street, and hopefully you'll be able to solve some of the issues you've written about.

I'm very sad to see the end of this blog - and hope that you'll leave your posts up so we can still read them (and you - to remember just how awful shift caused sleep depriavtion is!). But I'm excited to read your new stuff too, you've a brilliant way with words.

thanks for the reading pleasure over the years - and thanks to Kath as well, given that none of us would have read without her intervention.

All the best, and I hope you have a few days off now before starting your new role,


Max Sang said...

I hope you'll soon get round to making sure all (or almost all) of the entries get published as a book. I remember you published some of the early ones but this stuff is too good to allow it to fade away.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey Jane! How are things? Good to hear from you.
Just started the new job today. First impressions? Mad / under-resourced / great staff doing their best to cope.... sound familiar? Exhausted new-boy syndrome. Tons of admin. All probably symptomatic of being firmly (nakedly) outside my comfort zone - but probably all the better for it.
Thanks for reading & commenting over the years! Couldn't have done it without you. Kath is wonderful (and I'm not just typing that 'cos I know she'll read it). She's made all this possible.

Phew. Thanks Jane. Hope all's good with you. Speak later Jx

Hi Max
I was toying with the idea of publishing the whole thing as a (free) ebook. May well do that, when things have settled down and I've got the time. Thanks again for your kind words & encouragement. Very much appreciated... :)

Anonymous said...

Oh! Everyone's said it already. Happy/sad news. What treasure you've gifted to us and what lucky people who have experienced your kindness and care. I'll keep following whatever you write. Look forward to it. Losing your sense of self through your work is the sign of true empathy. Go with it. This is where the depth and power comes from. Shine on, Jim oo

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much, Anon - that's really kind of you.

Often I'll know without reading something back whether it's any good or not, because I'll have had that feeling of losing myself for that period. It's when I'm overly self-conscious about writing that it comes out a bit flat.

Thanks for the encouraging words, Anon. See you later Jx

Tree said...

You're my second blogger to close up shop, change in the last few months. Must be something in the air. I will miss Spence but I am totally willing to get to know this Jim guy. Good luck with the change.

Blair Ivey said...

Good on you, mate.

I've enjoyed the blog the last several years. You've introduced me to a world I only knew from the 70's TV show 'Emergency!'. And the writing. . . I've learned from that, too. I understand that people move on, but, man!

Take care and best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Jim/Spence -- so happy for you, but sad for me. Have always enjoyed reading your blog and will follow you -- to read whatever you write. Your stories and the way you write them has touched me deeply. Good luck and God Bless.


Unknown said...

Spence - Jim! - thank you for the thousand posts you have written. They had a true sense of depth and empathy, and were a constant source of "have you seen this?" links that I shared with other medical volunteers.

Spence Kennedy said...

Tree - Thanks very much - and sorry to add to the tally! I needed to come out of the ambulance, though (ten years is more than enough), so the blog's days were definitely numbered. I hope the new blog is as interesting - will certainly try x

Blair - I must immediately look up 'Emergency'. Sounds like my kind of show. (Yeah, right. I'd probably burst into tears five minutes in). I can't tell you how grateful I am for all your support over the years. I'll think of some way / thing. :)

Imamontanalady - Montana! After reading lots of Annie Proulx, I'd love to go to Montana / Wyoming... :) Sorry to finish the blog, but I'm hoping to hit my stride with the new one. It'll have a section that's very like SV, although I'm trying to use this moment to inject some momentum into my novel & short story writing. I really hope I can keep it up! Thanks for your kind words & support x

Dean - Thank YOU for your lovely comment & support. Good luck in your work - it's a good thing you do!

Blair Ivey said...

If you check out Emergency!, please remember it was produced nearly 45 years ago(!). Paramedics were a new thing. The show got high marks in it's day for authenticity from firefighters and the medical community. For a good overview of the show:


Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks for the link Blair. I'll check it out later :)

Unknown said...

Oh no, not another ambulance blog coming to an end, it's a dying breed for sure.

Glad to hear you are looking forward to your new job and wish you the best of luck.

Your part of the reason I've volunteered with Saint John Ambulance, wanted to make a difference and take some of the strain of our NHS.
Guess I could start a blog but might be a bit boring, "day 1 - put a plaster on, day 2 - was sick on"

Well best of look, and I'll check out your new blog sometime.

samrad said...

Best of luck in the new post Jim. If you're ever down in Tenby a cup of tea's on offer (if we can ever find a spoon in the station)

Spence Kennedy said...

'Fraid so, Derek! Thanks for following SV all this time, for all your comments & support. And thanks for the good wishes in the new job - first week over now - felt jittery towards the end, like I couldn't do it... but settling in a bit better now and think it'll work out.

Absolutely start a blog! I think the jobs always turn out more interesting than you think. There's always some angle. Anyway, let me know when it's up and I'll have a read.

Hey Samrad!

Thanks very much. Always up for a cup of tea (just got to look up where Tenby is). Put the kettle on!

Eileen said...

Me too - I shall miss Siren Voices! I have a paramedic daughter and hear the shittier side from her. You balanced that with more amusing moments at times.

And me too - whenever I really like a blog it disappears.

Good luck in the new job - it can only be healthier ;-)

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Eileen. I already feel better for not working nights this past month. The new job's shaping up fine - a fair bit of patient assessment, which is great. I'll try to keep updating the new blog as much as possible, although I don't think it'll be quite as regular as SV, unfortunately.

Thanks for reading & supporting all this time, Eileen. Very best wishes to you & your daughter. J :)

cogidubnus said...

Going to miss you Spence/Jim...I know I've been a somewhat irregular visitor, but I like to binge-blogread if you know what I mean.

Thanks for all the good reading, good luck in the future and don't write like a dream!

Same old town?

All the best


Spence Kennedy said...

Cheers, Dave! Always good to hear from you. Thanks for your support all this time. I owe you a pint at the very least (plenty of good pubs in *** ) ;)

cogidubnus said... owe me nothing...on the contrary I owe you several...and sometime or other might come over and alarmed...(Kath be very alarmed...)

Cheers mate


Spence Kennedy said...

Well if you ever did it'd be great to see you ... :)

Sian (from Canada) said...

Oh Noooooo!! was my first thought when I read the post title!! So glad to know you will continue to write. I have been reading Siren Voices for years, it is my favourite blog. I try to save up a couple of weeks at a time and then sit down on a lazy Sunday morning with a cup of tea and read them all, pure pleasure.
Thank you for this blog Spence/Jim. Good luck in your new venture.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Sian! It's been a real pleasure to write Siren Voices all this time. It was quite a wrench bringing it to a close, but hopefully I'll keep the momentum up with the new site. It might not get updated quite as frequently, as I'm trying to get more of the next book done & not take so long - but I'll do my best to put stuff up along the line of SV - reported speech and so on. Thanks again for reading all this time & all your support, Sian. Very much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Nooooo, your blog is the first on my list! What am I to do? No seriously you have written so beautifully about tragedy, farce and comedy and you have always written with much sensitivity. I'll really miss Siren Voices but wish you all the very best for the future. Keep blogging, wherever you are!!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks, Sally!

It's been pretty cathartic, writing SV - as well as good practice. I think it helped me cope with the stresses & strains, turning those episodes into copy. Thanks for reading all that time, Sally. I'm over at now - with a 'voices' section for more of the same stuff. It probably won't be quite as productive as SV, because I'm trying to focus more on fiction. But I'll see how it goes.

Jim :)

Lynn Hanbury said...

Damn I am going to miss this so much. As a "once every few months catch up" reader may I say thank you for the last few years of insightful reading, thought provoking and sometimes tearful times along with a good few giggles on the way. Good luck with your future but if you ever change your mind I'll be sat here, covered in cobwebs by then, waiting for the next instalment ;)

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Lynn!
Thanks for the lovely comment - and for reading & supporting Siren Voices all this time. It was quite a wrench to finish it, but I knew it couldn't last forever. I've got the new blog on the go, tho' - - and it's got a 'Siren Voices-ee' section - so you could get your monthly hit there! I'm a bit slower updating the new blog because I'm trying to focus on finishing the current book, but I manage a few posts a month. See what you think - it'd be lovely to 'see you!
Thanks again for all your kind words & support
Jim :)

Barb K said...

Thank you so much for your blog. I found it just over a week and a bit ago and have devoured it from first to last. I am sad that I have finished it, I wanted to make it last much longer. Currently undergoing a bit of a mental health relapse (complex ptsd) so your blog has been a very welcome diversion.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks very much for the comment Barb (sorry it was a while posting - I'm not checking it so much these days...)

Sorry to hear you haven't been well lately. I hope you're making a good recovery & getting all the treatment and support you need.

Best wishes & thanks again for reading!