Monday, October 19, 2009

Gird the loins!

And so we come to the end of yet another week as a guest, albeit a reluctant one, in one of Lizzie Windsor's universities for the mentally inept, criminally insane, socially inadequate and well-brought-up young ladies - and that's just the staff. Nothing happened. No progress. No regress. Nuffink.

However, I did have an encounter during the week with a fellow I have known for many years and who has been there to witness one or two of my 'episodes' in days of yore. I won't use his name - the authorites would not appreciate it, and neither would he I shouldn't wonder - but he knows who he is and I shall let him read this when I'm done anyway. Well, the way I see it is that everyone is entitled to their privacy, even in a place like dear ould Lizzie's gaff.

I went to this fellow's cell for some reason quite recently, to see him on some matter or other, but he wasn't there and I came away until I ran into him at some other juncture. Later, something occurred to me. Looking around my cell as I write I have, over time, collected and accumulated many little things which make my life as comfortable as possible under the circs. I have a stereo with speakers hanging on the wall, a Play Station where I can play games which help me to forget where I am briefly, many many books, a typewriter, tapes, CDs, games, an electric shaver, an electronic spellchecker (which just gathers dust) and so on. My friend, however, had nothing whatsoever in his cell that didn't belong to the prison service. Nothing. I am sure that he has been in prison a good fifteen years, and when I knew him in the mid-nineties in Frankland he had all of the things I have. So what went wrong?

When he came to see me later during the week I asked him. (At this point I need to make a name up for him so I think I will call him Neville. I don't know any Neville, so that should be safe enough.) Neville sat on my bed and I asked him, "Neville, when we were in Frankland you had everything, now you have nothing. What went wrong?" He simply said, "I don't know."

Of course I did not pursue this - I have no right to do so - but it did get me to thinking about how, if a fellow is not careful and vigilant, he can begin to allow small things to slip. Maybe not clean the teeth every night before bed, have a shower every other day rather than every day, not shave as regularly as he should. Then it's a small step to not answering letters as we get them, and then we begin to sleep at lunchtime during the lockup period. Little things begin to slip and slide until one day we find that we have managed to let everything go and we are sitting on rock bottom with no apparent way to begin the climb up again.

That's what happened to Neville. He allowed standards to slip. Any man (or woman for that matter) who gets himself (or herself) locked away must get into some sort of disciplined regime, for their own good and peace of mind. Once that regime or routine is established we must never, under any circumstances, allow even one small thing to slip. Never. To do so is to invite that little devil into our lives, that little devil called Complacency. There is no room for it in a prisoner's life.

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, and that could well be part of the problem. Add to that the feeling which some get that there is no point to anything, and people can give up and simply let everything slide, like Neville. Well there is always a point. We must never concede defeat in life. Inside or outside of prison, it applies to us all.

I am certain that there are times when we feel tired of it all - I do, from time to time - but that's no reason to abrogate all responsibility for ourselves. Of course we feel tired and sometimes feel we need a rest, but we are a long time dead and we can get all the rest we need when the Grim Reaper comes calling. Until then, gird the loins (I love that phrase), and stand firm against whatever Lady Luck (that fickle ould whore) sends our way.

I am going to let Neville read this now. I bet he looks at me strangely - most people do.

The Voice In The Wilderness

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