Saturday, March 27, 2010

A morality tale

I have been asked several times how I come up with the various subjects I write about each week. The answer to that is quite simple - I don't know. I never - well rarely - sit down to write about anything specific, I just start hitting the keys and see what comes out at the other end.

Usually something has been done or said at some point in the last seven days to pique my interest or attract my vitriolic comment - my sniping, as it was once called by the woman who encouraged me to write these things in the first place, although not specifically for a website. Her name was Hilary - as fine a person as ever walked on this sorry rock we call planet earth. Actually, there is nothing wrong with the planet, it's a wonderful place. It's the pricks who live on it who cause the difficulties, and I am probably one of them.

So, when asked how I come up with things, my answer is, "I don't know!" I don't plan anything and never rewrite anything. I do not fine-tune my words. (I don't think they are worth the effort of fine-tuning - they are generally the ramblings of a grumpy old man.)

From time to time that fickle ould whore Lady Luck takes a hand and gives me something to comment on but (and I tempt her by saying this) she seems to be having a bit of a break lately. Well, it's either that or she has found somebody else she likes to kick better than she likes kicking me. Maybe the fun has gone out of it for her seeing as it no longer hurts so much. I have become inured to her violent attacks. Where is the fun? When she puts on her best boots and kicks me as hard as she can in the testacularities, I just stand there, stoically hiding the pain, and say, "That didn't hurt." So perhaps she has buggered off to pick on someone else and if that is the case - good luck mate, whoever you are.

Another thing said to me this week was a sort of accusation, in its own way. I was told that I never give much of myself and I never tell anyone anything. There could be a certain amount of truth in that. However, in my own defence I would like to narrate a wee tale, a parable if you will, a morality tale similar to those of Chaucer, only not as clever.

Once upon a time, in the dead of a bitter winter, there was a little sparrow sitting on a twig and slowly freezing to death, shivering like a dog shitting bones. He had seen the adverts for Spain and sunny climes and he thought to himself, "Sod this, I've had enough. I'm going to a nicer place where the sun shines all day and my feet are not frozen to the bloody twigs!"

So off he set, little wings beating like the very clappers of the bells of hell, faster and faster as he flew enthusiastically south.

Then disaster struck. He flew into a snow storm and no matter how hard he flapped his little wings he slowly froze up until finally he could barely move and came crashing down to the hard, frosty earth below. Fortunately he landed not on the hard ground but crashed into a pile of fresh, new-laid cow dung.

The little sparrow was delighted - nice and warm, lovely. He wiggled and squiggled and got really comfy in his new, hot little nest of wet crap. He felt so good that he started to whistle and sing.

At that very moment a farmyard cat was passing and it regarded the pile of whistling crap with interest. It had never heard a pile of crap whistle before. (Cats never listen to Roger Whittaker.) So, curiosity engaged, the cat began to dig about in the shit and found the little sparrow.

"Magic!" cried the cat. "Hot food!" - and promptly ate the bird.

So now we come to the morals of that story - not one, not two but three.

  • Moral one - just because we are in the shit does not mean that someone doesn't like us.
  • Moral two - just because somebody digs us out of the shit does not mean that they do like us.
  • Moral three -when you are in the shit, keep your mouth shut.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Even the weariest river

A load of bulls

Why is it (and before I go any further, I'd better say that this is a rhetorical question), why is it that every Sunday morning, the second I sit down to my typewriter, my cell instantly turns into Euston Station? I get every oddment and weirdo at my door asking silly questions and generally getting on my wick!

Twiggy arrived - "Hey! Frank! I'm doing fish and chips later on for tea, no bones, they are fillets!"

"I don't care, go away, I'm busy."

Albert arrived - "Hey! Frank! Have you got any milk open?"

"Do I look like Tescos? Bugger off!"

Rob arrived - "Hey! Frank! Is it too early to play snooker?"

"Right!" said I, getting up and going to the door. "I'm locking the door now, goodbye."

So, now I am locked in my cell with the racket of the day going on outside on the wing and I have no idea what I intended to write about. The mind has gone blank - apart from well-filletted fish playing snooker and drinking semi-skimmed milk.

I had a letter from my solicitor yesterday and he seems to have missed the whole point of my attitude toward the CSCP course and the assessment for the same. Yes, I agreed to do it but I never said that I wanted to. I am doing it entirely unwillingly and under protest, but I will do it, much against my better judgement. I do no want to, I HAVE to, to get a tick in the right box - no other reason. Obviously the fact that I want no part of it clearly means that it is all a waste of time because all I will do is point out the stupidity of it all at every opportunity I get, and that won't help anyone. It is insanity to attempt to force any courses of any sort onto people because they will only see them from a resentful standpoint which means that it is all pointless.

Having made a few enquiries into the course (this CSCP lunacy), I can only say that I am not surprised at the high failure rate. As far as I can find out the only purpose served is to give some of the participants nightmares about the violence which the silly trainee psychologists encourage youngsters to boast about. These young men, segregated from female company, these young eagles, the macho crowd, think that they can impress the young women with their tales of heroic violence, most of them not even true! Why the hell would I want to be dragged so far backwards in my personal development? I left all that sort of thing behind me a long time ago. I won't go back for anyone and certainly not for a tick in a box. To be fair, it HAS been said that I will probably be found unsuitable for the CSCP course, because of my age if nothing else, but my general attitude and demeanour clearly demonstrate that I do not need anything like a CSCP course. I hear the participants laughing and joking about it, taking the piss out of the young girls whilst at the same time lusting after them. Why would I be seen as suitable for such insanity?

It's not a case of me being better than anyone else, nothing like that at all, but I do see things differently than the young men see them. Young men see things very differently than us old boys - I know, I used to be a young man and now I'm an old one. I KNOW how time changes things, which is more than the young psychologists can say. They ARE young, they DO still think as a young person and consequently can never understand the changes that time will bring. It's called experience.

I'll finish with a story:
Two bulls in a field, a young bull and an old bull. In the field next door are a herd of cows. One day the young bull says to the old bull, "Hey! Let's take a run at the fence, jump over it and have a bit of fun with one of the cows."
The old bull looks at him and says, "No. Let's take our time, walk round by the gate and have a bit of fun with all of them."

Ah! The wisdom which only comes with experience and age as opposed to the impetuosity of youth. Well, I'm too old and too tired to even walk round by the gate...

The weary river

Charles Swinburne once wrote:

...even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea
It is part of a poem of course - and I'll just mention the fact that Charles wasn't Swinburne's first name, his first name being Algernon. Mind, if my name had been Algernon I might have refused to use it too.

It must be great to have a good name. Why do parents never seem to give any thought to what they saddle infants with as a name? Mr and Mrs Gordon called their son Michael Unwin and wondered why their little boy never had any friends or had difficulty with girls when puberty arrived.

I have always wanted a good name, something interesting like... Rudyard. That's a great name. Or Aloysius. How can anyone fail with a name like Aloysius? Having said that, you wouldn't want either of them if your surname was Taylor - Rudyard Aloysius Taylor, better known as The Rat.

Names have a lot to do with our progress and success or failure in life. I am a firm believer in that.

So, now we come to name selection. Personally I think that each child should, at birth, merely be given an interim name, a sort of family nickname, much like the Russians with their patronym. Then at a certain age, say sixteen, the child should be able to pick the name they want to go through life with.

This brings me to the current practice amongst the youth of today to take on what they call their "street" name, and there are a few beauties amongst them. We see a lot of them in jail, names like "Killer" or "Sniper" or "Nat West" (an interesting one - he got that because he robbed the Nat West Bank - all I can say is that it's a good job he didn't rob Mother Care), "Danger", "Nuke" , "Bullet", and so on - all interesting, I suppose.

However, all of that is completely beside the point. Once again I have let myself get sidetracked. To get back to my original theme - that even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea. It sort of connects with an Arthur Clough sentiment about the tired waves vainly breaking. Well, I am tired, there can be no doubt about that, I am totally and completely dog-tired. I am, in the words of the great philosopher, cream-crackered. A man can only beat his head against a brick wall a finite number of times before he has had enough of the pain. 

When I say I am tired I don't mean that I need a good night's sleep. Oh no, I am not that sort of tired. The weariness I am feeling is that which impregnates deep into our very souls and bones - the tiredness Hercules must have felt at the end of the seven little jobs the Gods sent him to do. But I am still breathing so I am not quite ready to hand in my locker room key, not just yet. I've said it before, they can knock me down but they'll never get me to stay down.

I've just passed my twenty-fourth anniversary in jail - one more to go for the quarter-century, and not a day justified. I wonder how far from the sea my weary river is.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A stoic leper coping with stress

Anyone who is familiar with the ramblings of my diseased mind, and who reads this blog every week, will be aware that I am to go before the Parole Board (yet again) in June of this year. That was made clear to me in a letter sent by the Parole Board to both myself and my solicitor some time around the end of last year. I was assured in writing in that self-same letter that I would be supplied with a copy of my parole dossier by February 27th 2010 at the very latest. Not only would I get a copy, so would my solicitor.

Well, knowing how the prison service works, in all their hubris, it will come as no surprise whatever that the promised dossier failed to materialise! A few days ago I happened to come into contact with my new Personal Officer, so I took the opportunity to bring up the subject.

"Have you written the report for the Parole Board yet?" says I.

"Eh?" says he, clearly a man with a great future ahead of him as an after-dinner speaker.

"Parole report," says I. "For the Parole Board. It is in June and I haven't had a copy of it yet."

Says he, "I don't know anything about it! All I've been asked to do was one for the Sentence Planning and X [my previous personal warder, Miss Concerned] did it. I will be away until April starting next week."

So, they haven't even had the bloody reports done yet. No wonder I haven't had a copy of the dossier - it quite simply doesn't exist yet!

"Should I phone them up?" he asked.

"No," said I, "let them alone. They can explain it to higher authority when the time comes."

Now - and pay attention, I might say something amusing - now, where does that leave me?

  • I am sure (almost) that The Wallace has done a report because she told me so on a video link last month, or it may have been the month before.
  • There is no medical report because I refused to allow the medical gossips to tell anyone anything personal.
  • No psychology report because they haven't been anywhere near me since I came to this prison last March!
  • The security report will say that there are no security concerns - if they say anything at all!
It doesn't leave much, does it?

Once again, I have become the invisible man, the leper, the man nobody wants to admit is even here! I think I'll get a bell to hang around my neck to warn folk when I am in the vicinity, just to give them the opportunity to run away.

Some people say that it must all be very frustrating for me - and at times it is - but I have to live with it. No choice in the matter really. They also say that it would drive them mad... However, the rules dictate that, no matter how much there is to get stressed about, I am not allowed to suffer from stress.

Fortunately I seem to have become quite pragmatic about it all as I grow progressively older, and I can sort of look on from a distance with a certain amount of equanimity - some might even call it stoicism.

Ah! But what is going on inside my heart, you may ask How do I manage to keep it all so strong? "You are old Father William," the young man said, etc. etc. Yes, old I may be, but my mind is active - which is more than can be said for my body - and prison is no place for active minds. At the minute I am keeping it active with the assistance of a PlayStation, a very wise purchase on my part two or three years ago. I have run out of books to read temporarily. I've read all I have, several of them several times in fact. However, I'll put that right soon enough, with a bit of good fortune.

So, I shall continue to answer each and every letter which crosses my threshold, read everything I can get my grubby little mitts on and play games on my PlayStation, even though I only ever play on my own. Still, I've heard that playing with yourself is often good for easing stress...

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Groundhog Day - again!

This week has been yet another week when absolutely nothing worth mentioning has happened. Every day is Groundhog Day here.

However, another old friend came from Whitemoor and lives quite close to me again, much like at Whitemoor. I can't name him so he will have to be given a code-name and, seeing as he weighs about three stones more than a somnolent rhino, I will call him Twiggy - it seems appropriate somehow.

Yesterday Twiggy was in my cell, and it occurred to me that my comfortable little kennel had been set out much the same as at Whitemoor. Just then another old friend from Whitemoor went past the cell door yelling at his pal, who was ignoring him. The old pal was from Whitemoor too!

I then yelled at the yeller, "SHUT UP! STOP SHOUTING!"

Of course we then realised that I used to yell exactly the same thing at the same person for the same reason at Whitemoor. Nothing has changed apart from the postal address.

This morning when I went into the kitchen to talk bollocks to Twiggy, there were five men in there - each and every one of them an old Whitemoor graduate. What is the point of just moving people around from arse-hole to breakfast time when it simply means that it is all the same people and just the locations change. Still, I suppose a move gives us all a chance to see the new cars on the roads.

As I said earlier , every day is Groundhog Day in the prison system and not one of those days has any point to it other than keeping hooligans away from their families and off the streets. What a wonderful policy!

Ah! But the prison system has been charged with rehabilitating its guests too! They can't do it of course, never could and never will. Rehabilitation can only come from one source and that is inside each and eyery one of us. It has to be something the prisoner desires him or herself, and it certainly cannot be imposed.

That is the error heing made by the prison system. They only have one answer to every problem - force. Force does not bring about change - never has. Oh it may bring about changes in the short term, but these changes will be entirely superficial and only maintained until such time as they are no longer needed to fool the overlords.

I had a chat the other day to a fellow taking part in the CSCP programme [Cognitive Self-Change Programme - ed.] and he told me that in the sessions everyone was telling horror stories of violence and mayhem and the young psychologists were loving it all. The cons were actually making stories up just to titillate the silly young women. My pal said that he had started to have bad dreams because of the rubbish being spouted - the violence and bragging. It was affecting his mind, and not in a good way.

This is the same CSCP programme which almost every prisoner is being forced to take part in these days to get the right ticks in the right boxes. It's a farce, a joke. It even borders on fraud as far as the public are concerned because they think that prisoners are being honestly and genuinely rehabilitated. If they were, why would the figures for re-offending be rising steadily? Ask the Howard League for Penal Reform about the figures, don't take my word for it. The re-offending rates are actually higher amongst those who have done the courses than amongst those who haven't.

All that notwithstanding, let's get back to what started this diatribe in the first place - Groundhog Day. I've just had Twiggy at my door asking me if I wanted any cheese on toast! It's just like being back in Whitemoor - and everywhere else I've been over the years.

It's Groundhog Day - again.

The Voice In The Wilderness