Thursday, November 25, 2010

Singing from the same hymn sheet

And so it begins...

It is now officially official because all parties have been heard from and been given their opportunity to boot me in the conundrums - nobody can say they didn't have a chance. 

All reports have been finalised and "locked in", as their rather odd jagon has it - the die is cast, the arrows are flying through the air, the missile has been launched.

Okay, for those who are more comfortable with less colourful speech and prefer plain talking, here are the facts. All of the reports have been completed and suhmitted to the Parole Board, as far as I know, and the results are as follows:

  • My home OM - Offender Manager, formerly my probation officer - has said that she wants me in an Open Prison to prepare me for release.
  • The independent psychologist, an immensely likeable person, has said precisely the same thing - Open Prison to prepare me for release.
  • The prison psychologist, who we all know and love as Blodwin, also would be quite happy to see me in Open Prison to prepare me for release and she will be attending the Parole Board and telling them so.
  • The only fly in the proverbial, of course, is the Smiling Assassin, but she doesn't count - she has no business making recommendations in the first place.

So, we have everyone singing from the same hymn sheet - and anyone who has any sort of experience of the prison service will fully appreciate how difficult that can be, to get everyone in unison. So (I've got to stop saying that, I'm a PhD for God's sake!)... Anyway (and that's no better), the tide is coming in at last.

Bugger it, nobody will get that reference:

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the Main.
Arthur Clough.

It could be said that the feet are firmly planted on the long road of progress at last.

What bothers me in all this is - where is that fickle ould tart who has been the bane of my life for so many years? Where is she? Lady Luck? Has she found someone else to torment? I hope she has - but if she has, whoever you are, God bless you, you've got my sympathy.

The next step in the saga of the 'Demented Prisoner' is to get an actual date for the Parole Hearing, and that of course is only something that my solicitor can push for.

To move on...

It may he remembered that I have been banging on a bit lately about how many governors we have here at the Lazy L, a total of thirty-nine to be exact. I now find that I may have been just a bit uncharitable because it seems that while there ARE thirty-nine people here of governor grade, a fair number of them are really just heads of various departments and not governors as such. They just have the governor grade, and that is probably more to do with pay structures as much as anything else. Still, they are governor grades, and thirty-nine in one clink is too many by anyone's criteria.

Finally, Boudica - or, as her adoring fans call her, Attila the Nun. (Ha ha! I like that one. Did I write that? I can't wait to see what I write next - I'm entertaining myself here.)

So, Boudica definitely seems to have lost her favourite pigeon, Scruffy. She's still got thirty or so others, so there is no call for anyone to put pigeons in boxes to send to her, although you can if you want to - I haven't got to deal with them so I don't care. It's her birthday on December 7th so I would appreciate it if people would be kind enough to send her birthday messages because I think she has reached the grand total of fifty now. I'm not sure of course - and I can't ask because I am supposed to know these things.

Besides, she'd only want to poke me in the eye again.

Oh yes, I have this uncanny ability to bring out the very best in people. It's a skill you know, given to few - and the main reason why I wear protective goggles.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don't ask me!

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how difficult it is to get any sense out of anyone these days - especially officialdom or any of its minions?

I'm not talking about daft questions, such as "Are you reading that paper you are sitting on?" but real questions like, "Can you tell me who is in charge, please?" or, 'Who do I talk to about this?" You simply can't get an answer!

"I'll have to talk to my line manager... Leave it with me... I'll look into it and get back to you..."

That's the last you will see or hear from them. Does this only happen to me?

Of course, there are some questions that you shouldn't even ask, never mind expect an answer to. To start with, never ask a woman how old she is because she will never answer but will come back (probably) with a question of her own such as, "How old do I look?"

RUN! Leg it! Head for the hills, rip your own throat out with a rusty garden fork - anything but answer that question. NEVER!

If you try to be charitable and say she is younger than she really is, she will presume you are taking the piss and make life very, very uncomfortable for you. If you go the other way and say she is older then you might as well put fifty pence in the meter, get a cushion and shove your head into the nearest gas oven. It's all over for you, mate! As for getting it right - forget it, not a chance. And even if you do get it right by pure chance then you will be accused of knowing all along, so you can't hardly win really.

But this is getting away from the point - the point is that it has become impossible to get an answer to a perfectly reasonable enquiry these days.

Then we've got the other problem - asking for advice or being asked for advice.

It's no good asking for advice - nobody cares enough to actually listen to anything being said to them. They all have their own agendas in prison and any advice given will be tilted and clouded by that hidden agenda.

Being asked for advice? Another minefield!

This morning (Tuesday 16th November 2010) one of my contemporaries approached me and said (I paraphrase ), "Hey, Frank! Listen, I need a bit of advice... " and he went on to tell me that he had to make a decision about something and wanted advice. I heard him out, of course, and then sat looking at his expectant little dial as he waited for words of wisdom from the venerable and humble old con - well, not so venerable and not so humble, I'm just an old con.

"Well," said I finally, "let me tell you something about advice. You usually find that when someone comes, as you have, asking for guidance or advice, they don't really want it because they have already made their minds up. No, what they are really after is approbation. They want someone else to agree with what they have already decided. The reason for that is so that if their decision should turn out to be stupid they can then point a finger and say, 'You told me to do it!' So, they don't want advice, they just want somebody to blame when it goes tits up."

"No! No!" he protested. "It's nuffink like that!"

I just grinned at him. "You are a big lad now, over twenty-one. You have to make your own decisions in life - this is one of them. Look, you know what you intend to do, so go and do it. Have confidence in your own decisions. You'll make mistakes - everybody makes mistakes in life - and let's face it, nitwit, in life your mistakes are the only thing you can really call all your very own work. Good luck with that then," and I grinned again.

"You're a horrible sod," says he, disgruntled.

"True," I agreed, "but I make my own decisions. Off you go and make yours."

So, really I am no different from all of the others who won't or can't answer questions. I don't mind making decisions and taking the blame for my own mistakes, but I see no reason why I should take the blame for the decisions of others. And perhaps that is at the root of the whole thing - nobody wants the blame for things that they are not responsible for.

I'm too old for all this, that's the trouble. 

The Voice In The Wilderness

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tina Turner kidnapped!

It's official! I have finally worked it out. The evidence was right before my eyes all along of course, but, yours truly not being the brightest star in the firmament, I failed to see it. However, once I did see it, the facts became so clear - and the facts are...

Prisons are now being run for the henefit of the staff - prisons have nothing to do with prisoners! The prisoners are merely the goods and chattels which have, quite simply, become part of the furniture of the prisons that are being run for the sole benefit of those who work in them. And when I say work I am speaking very loosely indeed.

Don't misunderstand me. The great majority of the people who work in prisons really do want to do the job they are paid for, but a small few won't let them. A small few think prisoners should be given nothing, taught nothing and kept incarcerated inside their cells on bread and water for twenty-seven hours a day.

These people are invariably members of the P.O.A., that august body of men and women who resent each and every innovation which might mean that the prisoner's lot may be improved and that they may actually have to do something to earn their stipend. They walk around in groups, grizzling and learning from the P.O.A. manual, "Ten Thousand Ways To Say No".

Then, of course, we've got the thirty-nine governors here at the Lazy L who have also taken to wandering about the place in groups. Well, they have to I suppose - there aren't enough offices for them all to hide in.

To move on slightly, on this wing we have a female warder - in fact she must be a kangress! (That's a brand new word - let's see if I can make it take on.) I can't use her name, of course, and I wouldn't want to, but she is grumpy. Now, I know from experience that it is actually harder and takes more skills to be grumpy than it does to be a Polyanna. The thing is, not only does it take more skills to be grumpy, it is actually much more fun. The reality is that her bark is much worse than her bite and she actually goes to great lengths to help those with problems. I like her immensely. She is rude to me, but I can see her grinning when I am rude back. We have sort of developed a system of finger signals which would be understood in any language.

I got my Saturday Telegraph this week, for a change - I am waiting now to see whether I get my Mail on Sunday. In tbe M-O-S last week there was a free Tina Turner CD. At the price we pay, I would expect a weekend with Tina Turner, never mind a bleedin' CD. Anyway, be that as it may, tbe CD should have been given to me - after all, I paid for it. It wasn't. They said to apply for it from reception. I did that - reception know nothing about it. In fact nobody knows 'nuffink' about it. The Tina Turner CD has disappeared into the ether. I'm going to have a word with the Independent Members' Board (formerly the Board of Visitors) about it. There was a DVD in yesterday's paper and I got that no trouble. Clearly there is a Tina Turner fan who is too mean to buy the Mail on Sunday.

Finally, I turn my attention to that wonderful heart of gold, Boudica. She writes to me every day, posts the letters daily - and that's what Boudica does, as I do myself. Last week I found it necessary to tell a P.O.A. member that he was bone idle because he quite simply refused to get the mail and distribute it. Since then I have had no mail whatsoever from anyone. I make no further comment on that but I'll be bringing that up with tbe I.M.B. too. It is childishly vindictive really. The mug goes home each and every night to his family, if he's got one. Prisoners never go home. Our mail is our life-line.

Where was I? Oh yes, Boudica. The war of the Errant Pigeons between Boudica and the Troll may be over because Boudica thinks that the Troll has rented the house to a young couple and therefore the Troll may now bugger off and stop assassinating Boudica's birds. The star of the show, Scruffy, now has a friend too, apparently - so perhaps that is all turning out for the best.

Where does it all leave me? Nowhere, that's where. I'm still in the process of getting good old Blodwyn to sort out the mess made by the Smiling Assassin in respect of my recategorisation and reallocation. In fact it is business as usual really - hurry up and wait.

Has anybody got a copy of Tina Turner's Greatest Hits they don't want? Send it to the tea-leaf who has pinched mine.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Today is October the 31st - All Hallows, or Halloween. This is when prowling gangs of little kids wander about knocking on people's doors and making veiled threats -"Trick or treat, Mister!"

I'm surprised that a few of the more childish characters around this place don't do it - they are immature enough. Still, there is plenty of time, who knows? Mind, hairy-arsed thugs wouldn't be satisfied with a few sweets - "Treat - or we'll kick yer nuts up around yer Adam's apple," would be more like it.

I'm being unfair. This is probably one of the calmest periods in the history of the prison service - there is very little violence so forget I made that puerile crack.

Where was I? Oh yes, October the 31st. Now, anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with me and my use of the English language will probably be aware of the fact that over the years I have read a couple of books (written a couple too, but they don't count). From all of the stuff I've read, all allegedly true too, my mind is filled with facts and figures, none of which is readily available - they are all buried in the subconscious or wherever it is in the brain we store this stuff. To recall this information entails, normally (for me anyway), a certain amount of thought.

However, this does not apply to October the 31st because, for some reason, a couple of facts from history jumped into my mind this morning as I sat with my first cuppa, scratching myself.

On today's date in 1971 the IRA blew up a bomb in the restaurant at the top of the Post Office Tower in London, causing a lot of damage and loss of life.

The second thing that came to mind was that on this date in the year of grace 1517 Martin Luther published the document which effectively began the Restoration Period. I don't remember anything else about it, such as the title (and it will have a title), and I'm too lazy to actually get the book down and look it up, but there we have it - 1517. Remember it for future reference. You never know, one day you might be on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and that might be the big question ,

Were there ever two such diverse facts? Why do I remember them? Well, the IRA one is simple -
I have, over the years of my incarceration, met some of those responsible and I've heard it discussed in cells where copious amounts of home-brewed hooch were being industriously quaffed.

Why I remember the Martin Luther thing is a mystery, though. It's not as though I ever met the fellow, although there are people who think I'm old enough to have done so.

Anyway, that's October the 31st - All Hallows.

It may be remembered that last week they failed to deliver my Saturday Telegraph newspaper and it left me disgruntled. I made enquiries of course, forceful ones, and was assured that it had been a mere oversight by the newsagent and my order would be extended for a week until 13th November. Yesterday (yes, you've guessed it) - no paper again. Now I am waiting to see if my Mail on Sunday arrives.

Finally, Boudica and her pigeons. She's got a favourite and his/her/its name is Scruffy. (Apparently it's not the most attractive bird in the firmament.) Scruffy lives on Boudica's window sill. It bangs on the window and rushes inside at every opportunity.

Well, Scruffy now has a friend and, though nervous just at the minute, will soon learn from Boudica that there's nothing to be scared of. I've got to say this about Boudica, she has a great big heart on her. She is kind and signs up to all manner of causes. She "feels" for the less fortunate.

Me, I'm too busy feeling for my bloody newspapers!

The Voice In The Wilderness