Saturday, July 24, 2010

Just a snapshot

Pictures at an Exhibition

There is a scheme within the prison system generally which allows for prisoners to get their photographs taken at their own expense, usually about £1.25p per picture. Not a lot of dosh compared to the national debt but a fortune if you don't have it. It's a good idea, this picture-taking. It allows cons to send home pictures to ageing relatives who can't travel perhaps, or young children, or - okay, let's get the jokes out of the way - for those who like taking the piss, people like Lesley, she with the sense of humour like a burning orphanage:

We can use the pictures to frighten babies off the breast!
Put them on the mantlepiece to keep the dog away from the fire!
Send them to Oxfam and ask for humanitarian assistance
 ... and so on. There - is everybody happy now?

Well, for the last month I have been trying to get my picture taken and.. Yes yes, a crime against humanity, I know. Have we finished with the jokes now? Can we get on? Wonderful.

Most of the schemes for getting pictures taken usually involve them being taken during the course of a visit when the con has had a wash and shave, is wearing decent clothing and doesn't put on too bad an appearance - and that makes sense. Well, when I see the state of some cons at times - unshaved, wandering around in dressing gown and flip-flops with a frozen chicken under one arm - or is that the cockney gangsters? Anyway, there are some less than salubrious sights at times, and I am no exception.

So I applied to have my picture taken some weeks ago.

"It will be taken on your visit!" I was informed.

"No," said I. "This has nothing to do with visits. Read the application. I want a picture to post out, nothing to do with visits."

"You have to have it done during a visit!"

"Listen, Einstein," said I. "Watch my lips. This has nothing to do with visits. I just want to have my picture taken so that I can send it out to friends and family - so that they can see for themselves what a miserable old bastard I have become!"

"It will have to go to security!" they cried.

That was about three weeks ago. Yesterday, Wednesday 14th June, I ran into security, who were loitering with intent, and asked about my picture.

"We know nothing about it," said they. "You will have to put an application in," said they.

"Done that," said I, "weeks ago."

"Well, they will take it on a visit," they responded.

"You are not listening," said I. "This has nothing to do with visits. I just want my picture done so that I can send it out in the post - no visits - post - there's a difference."

"Our S.O. has to decide," said one.

"We will let you know," said another. And that is where it sits now. I am no closer getting my picture done (for £1.25p) now than I was this time last month.

The wheels of the prison service grind exceedingly small at the best of times. Ask them something slightly difficult, but quite within the scope of an idiot in a hurry, and they get confused.

"You get it done on a visit!"

"There is no visit! Nitwits!" I cry, tearing out my hair - or I would if I had any.

Finally, Lesley is mad at me. Her latest scheme is to send me lyrics from songs from all eras and I have to identify them. I did it a couple of times, just to show willing, but now I have told her to get stuffed. This has not gone down well with Boudicea of course - she is mad at me. Personally I think she is just mad, but that's only my opinion, and everybody knows that I'm a miserable bastard at the best of times.

But shall I tell you the best bit about being a bastard? I don't have to buy anyone a present on Father's Day.


Once again we have reached the end of an eventless week where nothing has happened. There is no news, and I am beginning to feel like an invisible nomad wandering through the desert of life saying to myself, "I wish an explorer would come and tell me where I am." Alas and alack, such an adventerous soul doesn't seem to be anywhere on the horizon.

I have an automatic watch that doesn't work so last week I put it in a padded envelope to send it out to Lesley to have it repaired and she can then give it to anyone she cares to give it to. It's quite a nice one really. So, I put it in to be sent out by post at my own expense.

They still haven't sent it. They seem to be confused.

I don't get upset by this kind of thing, I simply add it to the list of incompetencies which includes getting my photograph taken and seeing the optician.

Yes! I wear glasses! Well, when we get older and Old Father Time has a quick look at our inventories to see what else he can take away from us, he pokes us firmly in the eyes and we have to get glasses. It is either that or get run over by a passing police car and end up in hospital saying, "What was that?"

So I wear glasses. A few years ago when I started to wear glasses I wasn't going to be a run-of-the-mill glasses-wearer, not me. I had to get myself an antique pair with spring-loaded arms, the sort that grip the side of the head and don't fall off or slide down the nose making us look like myopic owls.

Unfortunately there are side-effects. The spring-loaded arms have been gripping the sides of my head so tightly that I now have two indented lines running from the middle of each temple to the tops of my ears.

The other day I was wandering about without my glasses on and the lines in question were clearly there to be seen.

"Frank!" says one fellow with nothing else to do. "Why have you got two scars at each side of your head?"

"Scars?" I asked. "What scars?"

"There," he pointed. "One each side."

I look in the mirror and he is right, two indented lines, one each side. Well, you know me, never miss a chance for a bit of the ould craic.

"Oh," said I. "You mean my birth scars?"

"Birth scars?" said he.

"Precisely," I nodded and settled down to tell lies. "When I was born my head was too big to come out so the doctor had to get a big pair of forceps and pull me out."

"You're kidding!" said he in disbelief.

"No," lied I seriously. "My head was huge. The doctor got a grip and pulled me out and the two lines are where the forceps dug in. My mother yelled a good bit apparently."

"I fucking bet she did!" said he, examining my two lines again. "They are dug right in!" says he.

"Well," I replied, "I think that I must have been nice and warm where I was and didn't want to come out. Remember, it was 1946, the coldest winter ever recorded - parts of the North Sea froze over it was that cold. I didn't want to come out so I dug my heels in and fought them. I've been digging my heels in and fighting them ever since."

He looked at me for a few seconds. "Is that a true story?"

I smiled my angelic smile, the one that makes me look like a lion with a tasty morsel between its teeth. "What do you think? Does it sound like a true story?"

"It could be true," said he, "You've got the scars to prove it."

I grinned again. "You sick, sad, insane, demented, lonely lunatic. You should be working for Security - they'll believe anything too."

The Voice In The Wilderness

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