Friday, April 02, 2010

Waiting for Charon - or Godot?

Mud and stars

This week, for the first time in a long time, there is news. Mid-week they handed me my parole dossier for the provisional Parole Board hearing in June. This dossier should have been handed to me at the latest in February but, like everything the prison service does, they were late. The funny part - arrogant tragedy would be a better description - is that they have given me a deadline of five days to compose any response I might care to make and - this is the funny bit - they have allowed me a half page to do so. It's not happening of course - the solicitor will simply obtain an extension.

So, I've finally got the dossier and the contents are enough to cause a Tasmanian Devil to step up his aggressive demeanour by about three hundred percent. I'm not allowed such a luxury of course. It is against the rules for a prisoner to suffer from stress no matter what the provocation. The odd part is that the contents haven't annoyed me, because they are no more than I am used to and have come to expect. It is a rehash of all the same old, tired inaccuracies and downright mistakes, but I am used to that. They have even managed to give me two more names - Colin and Anthony. Well I shouldn't complain - I have always said that I wished I had a better name, although I wouldn't have selected Colin or Anthony. No, I'd have gone for something much more prosaic - like Aloysius. What a name THAT is!

However, I digress.

It's not all bad. Some of it is quite good in fact and in particular I want to mention The Wallace. She has done a decent and fair job with the garbage she has to work with - and some might say that I am the biggest bit of garbage in the heap, but let's not get personal.

I have been hard at work since I got the dossier and have written two documents. One is a direct representation by myself to the Parole Board which will be added to whatever representations my solicitor will make. The other is a response to the dossier itself.

I finished the work yesterday (Saturday) and it will all be in the post (with this) on Monday to Andrew who has agreed to computerise it all for the purposes of easier reading and better presentation. He will also edit it to remove the rudenesses which it may contain. I have to admit that while I don't allow these things to get me annoyed any more, I still make rude responses. Well, the way I see things is that an idiot should be informed that he (or she) IS an idiot - or worse. What can they do about it anyway - send me to prison?

I'll he honest, my gut reaction is to tell them, quite simply, what I think about them, but that would be entirely counter­-productive and would probably annoy those people who have gone to a lot of trouble on my behalf. I have learned how to control my natural urges. The fact that I shouldn't  be in prison at all should, and probably does, entitle me to a little rave now and then and some rude remarks from time to time - but I don't do it. The satisfaction of telling them to go and fuck a spider would be fleeting and I would regret it for a lot of years to come,

The prison service is an unforgiving creature, experience has shown me that, and is still showing me.

So I have completed my responses and will rely on Andrew to remove my more glaring rudenesses - there are certain to be more than a few. My trouble could well be that I have gone from a nasty, devious, criminal type to a nasty honest person who is probably too straight for his own good. So when we consider that, it seems that I can't hardly win, can I?

I wish my typewriter could do smiley faces. I write a lot of things with my tongue firmly in my cheek, and when I use a pen I can take the sting out of things with a little smiley face. Typewriters can't do that. Here is an idea - put the smiley faces in wherever you, the reader, think they should be. It would be interesting to see whether everybody would choose different places. It's all a matter of personal outlook really.

In the words of Frederick Langbridge (1849-1923):

Two men look out through the same bars:
One sees mud, and one sees the stars.
Silence, truth - and innocence
Silence is the virtue of fools (Francis Bacon 1561-1626)
Truth sits upon the lips of dying men (Matthew Arnold 1822-1888)
It is better that ten guilty men escape than one innocent suffer (Sir William Blackstone 1723-1780)
All three of these men must be turning and squirming in their graves now through shame and emharrassment at the way the legal system has been debased by a succession of Home Secretaries as they have eroded and trampled all over justice.

Silence is the virtue of fools
A great deal could be written on that sentence but I am merely going to suggest that when a person sees something that is so clearly wrong and does not speak out against it, does not rail against the injustice - then that person is as guilty as the one committing the outrage.

Truth sits upon the lips of dying men
Again, a lot can be written on this sentence but I will confine myself to just a few comments. When we get older and become aware of our own mortality, a great many things that we once saw as important suddenly become far less so. In fact they become quite pointless and we no longer care about them. Were we would once have gone to quite extreme lengths to hide something, once we are practically standing on the landing stage waiting for Charon and his ferry, we no longer give a toss. We tell the truth and the devil take the hindmost. There is no point in any other course at all.

The Blackstone quotation - well, what does anyone need to say? The Prison Governors' Association has estimated that there are between 2 to 3 thousand innocent men and women in our prisons. That's a lot of innocents - more than the bible says Herod killed in his slaughter of the innocents.

Shouldn't we all be denouncing it?

Isn't it strange that a huge number of people will take to the streets to protest at not being allowed to butcher foxes and yet these same people are quite content to let thousands of their fellow human beans rot in prison, despite the fact that they are as innocent as the foxes!

Mind, why am I surprised? This country is renowned for caring more about animals than it does about children. How else do we explain that we have a ROYAL society for the prevention of cruelty to animals but only a NATIONAL society for the prevention of cruelty to children.

Shouldn't we be raging at the injustices evident in this little country? Shouldn't we be digging out those responsible and making them afford some form of restitution? Shouldn't we be grabbing them by the scruff of the neck, shaking them violently as a terrier shakes a rat and yelling into their collective face, "What the fuck are you playing at?"

I suspect that we should be doing all of those things - and a lot more - but we aren't.

Bear in mind that there is nothing personal in anything I have said. The "we" mentioned is the collective one and means the whole of society, not any particular section.

Personally, I have reached the stage where the boyhood fire that once coursed through my veins is now nothing more than a few emhers glowing softly, soon to turn to charcoal and finally to go out altogether.

Given that, all I can add - and what better - are the words of the nurse, Edith Cavell, executed during the First European War in 1915. These are the words she uttered, or wrote, the night before they executed her:

Standing as I do, in the view of God and eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.
Grumpy Easter bunny

Must have got out of bed on the wrong side this morning because I woke up in a less than charitable mood. No idea why. In fact I didn't even realise until after we were unlocked and I was getting hot water to make a cuppa when one of the fellows said, "Morning Frank."

I just grunted and ignored him. That's the best part about getting old - nobody expects us to be nice any more. So, I wandered back to my kennel and no sooner had I got seated with my cuppa than a youngster appeared at my door and said, "Frank, can I have a word with you?"

That's when it hit me that I wasn't at my best because, usually a tolerant sort of cove, I wasn't.

I said, "If you have to. I'm having a cuppa and a fag. Come back later on. Go on, bugger off."

He ignored this of course and came inside.

"The thing is," said he, "I should have had a RAM board the other day and nobody knows anything about it. I keep asking but nobody does anything - they don't care!"

I retorted, "And to be quite frank, neither do I. What the fuck do you expect me to do about it? I have enough problems doing my own sentence, I can't do yours as well."

He ignored this as well - prisoners have got very selective hearing and memory when it suits them. "It's my girlfriend, see! She keeps getting on at me about getting a move to another jail and getting to open prison. I've told her, I've got twenty-three years left to do, they won't let me move! She's doing my head in. I feel like grabbing somehody and fucking his shit right up."

"Well," said I, "That'll certainly help you to get moved to a new jail, not to mention six months in the block when you get there - and a few slaps into the bargain. So that's a good idea. I wish I could think of things like that."

"Stop taking the piss," said he petulantly. "My girlfriend is doing my head in. I'd be better off down the block."

"Look," I said. "We all know that you are simple minded, there is no need to prove it. Let me tell you a little story, okay?"

"I like your stories," said he. As I have said, simple minded.

"Once upon a time," said I as a beginning, which is always a good place to start, "there was a little bunny rabbit playing in a meadow. At the bottom of the meadow ran a railway line. One day the bunny rabbit got too close to the line and a train came along and cut off the rabbit's fluffy tail. The rabbit ran home to its mother, crying that a train had cut its fluffy tail off. Its mother said, 'There there, don't cry. Go and get it and I'll sew it back on for you.' So the little bunny went back to the railway line and as it had its head over the line looking for its tail another train came along and chopped its fucking head off! There is a moral to this tale," I finished.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Don't lose your head over a little bit of fluff. Now bugger off while I have my tea."

See! I just wasn't feeling very charitable this morning.

The way we live now

As we shuffle our way along the dusty road of life we will, much as Bunyan's hero, Christian, meet many diverse and different characters along the way. I know, I've met a few.

There is no better place to meet the weird, wonderful, naughty and downright nasty than in a prison, and that isn't confined to the inmates. The industrious and idle, the sympathetic and selfish, the kind and the cruel - we meet them all. I've certainly met my share of miscreants over the years, some famous and of course the infamous. I don't wish to discuss any of them at all, but I do want to take a short look at the influences they all may or may not have exerted, either deliberately or unconsciously, on others and on the prison system as an entity. In particular, I want to mention the Irish.

Oh no! Not the bloody Irish again! Eight hundred years of aggro from that gang of hooligans and they are still at it! (Incidentally, the word hooliqan has its origins in the Irish.) If it hadn't been for the Irish incarcerated in this country's prisons in the seventies, eighties and nineties, the prison system would still be run on Victorian lines where prisoners were treated like scum - and a lot of folk would say, "Quite right too! Never mind the likes of Elizabeth Fry and her misguided ways and ideas, let's get them chained to the wall and throw a bucket of cold water on them once a month!"

The Irish changed all that because they taught the English prisoner the value of collective action and rebellion. Let's face it, if there is one nation on this planet which knows about and understands rebellion, it is the Irish, the Tea Caddies.

Rebellion is a disease, a virulent disease, and once contracted it quickly takes hold and spreads like wildfire. So the authorities got rid of the Irish - they sent the whole bally lot of them back home to the Emerald Isle.

Then, once the Irish were no longer with us, the authorities set about clawing back all concessions made to prisoners over the years of struggle. Bit by bit, the quality of life for the prisoner in British jails is being eroded, but nothing will be done about it because of course there are carrots dangling for the donkeys to chase.

Sad but true.

We can't bring the Irish back - they wouldn't come, and most of them have been released by a forgiving government anyway. The nearest we have got now to the Irish are the moslems - at least they seem to stick together, but they also seem to have their priorities wrong.

Where does that leave the carrot-chasing British prisoner? Like the sparrow which crashed to earth when its wings froze up - in the shit, mate.

The Voice In The Wilderness

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