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  • Giles Sibbald

family….who'd have 'em, hey?

family relationships and friendships as a regenerative source of our happiness and success

Uncle G

My Uncle Gordon died in January 2020.

My dad’s brother.

I last saw him almost exactly a year before that when my mum had fallen at home. That time, Uncle Gordon walked through the door of the same living room that we used to hang out in all those years ago.

Straightaway, I felt his 91 year presence before I saw him. Even though our world was being turned upside down…that reassuring smile of his.


I hadn’t seen him for a long time before then, even though he lived about 400 yards away from my mum and dad. Fleetingly, once, in a café about 10 years ago.

We went back home for the funeral. I am not too proud of how inattentive I have been to family relationships outside of my parents. I’m in regular touch with most of my cousins on my dad’s side, but I knew I would be meeting some family for the first or second time and others for the first time since I was a teenager.

When I was a kid, Uncle Gordon and my Aunty Jennie used to visit us pretty much every Sunday. He was driven by socialist principles and we used to have discussions (he always listened attentively and respectfully to what I would blurt out) around politics and beliefs about how life should be lived and what mattered.

His and my dad’s outlook were influential on the small me.

Uncle Gordon (or Grandad Sibby as he was to his grandkids) just had presence.

That presence that makes you feel that no matter what shit is going down, it'll all be ok. I always thought that everything would be ok when he was around. When my mum was being cared for by medics and my dad was overcome with fear, Uncle Gordon’s reassuring presence made me feel like everything would be OK. And that’s what mattered right there.

His presence was right there in that warm, adoring smile looking at us from the photo placed on top of his coffin. It was there in his family. Being amongst them was a towering and incomparable experience.

Regenerate your relationships

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"

- Unknown proverb

- Jack Nicholson, The Shining

Professional networks and relationships build our work-related social capital. Work-related social capital helps us be economically productive. In other words, they can help us get on in our career.  The way that work has evolved during the boomer generation – the growth of office based work, longer hours, the office becoming the second home, the growth of office relationships as a new type of family or even a family proxy – is coming full circle with many realising that this isn’t what they want.

Post-Covid, as commuting to the office becomes less common, decentralised working arrangements are here to stay and we end up spending less physical time with our work colleagues. This is allowing us more headspace to think more broadly about how we define our success. And that will involve more headspace for quality of experiences over materiality.

More and more, we will find family relationships and friendships as a regenerative source of our happiness and success.

I certainly will.


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