Friday, December 30, 2011

Move over, Aldous - this is my brave new world!

There was a certain amount of reluctance to tell me, of course - there always is. In fact, there is always a certain amount of reluctance to tell anyone anything at the very best of times at the Lazy L. But they told me in the end.

At first it was, "You will be transferred in the week commencing 15th January but we don't know where to yet..." - a curious statement to make for several reasons, not the least of which being that they don't do tranfers on a weekend. Be that as it may, wait a minute - if they know THAT much then they have to know precisely when! And if they know when then they must know where to. I mean to say, they aren't just going to shove me in a taxi and tell me to bugger off and find a prison that will have me - so they know!

I mentioned this, of course, and pointed out that on leaving the entrance gate I would be a Cat D prisoner and not a Cat A and as such there was no security reason why I shouldn't know.

Er... Um... Er... Um...

They came back and told me that actually I would be transferred to North Sea Camp "before the end of next week.." - still at it then, the unnecessary secrecy.

I said, "Well, I don't have to be a scientist to work it out, do I? There are no transfers on Monday or Tuesday - they are Boxing Day and a Bank Holiday. You don't do transfers on Fridays because your escorts don't want to be away and travelling back on Saturday. That leaves Wednesday and Thursday."

Er... Um... Er... Um...

I am now informed that I am being downgraded to a Cat D prisoner and transferred to North Sea Camp on Thursday 29th December. So we finally got there at last - they finally told me something.

However, getting to this point and actually getting to North Sea Camp is another matter - there is many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. Still! Provided that nothing goes wrong, and the taxi firm stays in husiness, I should be on my way to a Brave New World on 29th December - so move over, Aldous Huxley, let the rabbit see the dog.

Jails are made of bricks and passions,
Broken dreams and ribald men.
Evesham's own Long Lartin prison
The likes I'll never see again.
I'll be able to go for an unfettered walk. I'll be able to go and look at the sea! I'll be able to wear suitable clothing instead of being forced to dress like a fifteen year old. I'll be able to relax back into steady writing again. But most of all I can start to relearn how to be a human bean at last. Now that's not a bad Christmas and birthday present at all - not bad at all.

By the time anyone reads this it will be New Year, of course, and I'll be gone from this place. I have no idea what's in front of me, but I do know one thing - it will be an adventure for me, an experience. Almost twenty-six years of high security nonsense and obstructions - all gone. I will be facing a brand new world that I'll have to learn to live in - and I'm looking forward to the challenge so much, I really am.

People often say that the New Year is a time of new beginnings - out with the old, in with the new - and countless other platitudes along those lines. But this coming year in my case it is actually true! So, may I simply say to all and everyone, I hope that your New Year is as challenging and interesting as mine will be and I sincerely hope that it brings everything we all want or aspire to.

Move over, Aldous - Frankie is coming!

The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas story

Not a great deal has happened during the course of the last week, and as for any news concerning my transfer in January, not a thing has been said that we didn't already know. Having said all that, I had a video-link with The Wallace on 14th to discuss her report for the Parole Board. Not that she can say much, really, because the simple fact is that I should have been gone from this place months ago. The reports should really all be being written by whatever open prison I should be in. Be all that as it may, the situation is that I'm here and that's what we have to deal with.

As a matter of interest, I am supposed to have the parole dossier in my hands by 27th of this month at the latest, and that is in eight or nine days' time, so we will see what is said then.  I think William Wallace's descendant is going to make a few enquiries into a hostel for me in the south of the country, and if there is a suitable place for me... who knows?

So, it's Christmas, more or less - or it will be by the time this vignette reaches the ether. Christmas in prison - my twenty-sixth and none of them have been particularly memorable. Well, there is only so much Christmas cheer to go around at this time of year inside a prison - even  a good prison, if there is such a creature. A prison is a prison, however you look at it really.

This year will be no different to the previous years, I shouldn't think. One or two die-hards will go around the place trying to be cheerful; some will be as miserable as sin, of course; but the majority of us will simply treat it as just one more day to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. The days of the drinking sprees that started on Christmas Eve and lasted until New Year's Day have long gone. In those days cons made dustbins full of "hooch" and staff looked on benignly as cons fell down a lot and music blasted out all over the place, more tran a few being as sick as dogs into the bargain. All of those days are gone. Oh there will be the odd furtive sip taken here and there, and of course the dragon-chasing fraternity will be at it, they always are, but nothing of any import will take place.  Ha! I could tell a few tales of days gone by - but I won't, if for no other reason than to protect the guilty.

Still, Christmas isn't Christmas unless there is at least one Christmas tale told, so it is incumbent upon me to do that. Many years ago there was a fellow who lived and worked in Devon, although originally he hailed from the frozen wastes of Leeds. So, one Christmas he decided to rent a car, fill it up with nice presents, get himself up to Leeds on Christmas Eve and cheer up his whole family. All day he drove until, late in the evening, he arrived in Leeds at about nine at night. He drove to the suburb where his mother lived and, as he turned his car onto the road leading to his mother's street, it began to snow gently. Suddenly he ran into a solid wall of traffic. Not a thing was moving, everything was gridlocked and the spaces between the cars were full of people just milling about and looking toward his mother's street, a couple of hundred yards away. The fellow got out of his car and saw ahead, through the traffic, that there were cars and ambulances, cops with guns, all manner of things more in tune with some terrorist activity.  He grabbed a nearby fellow and asked, "What's going on?"  The fellow said, "There is some sort of seige going on."  The hero of our story decided to climb up onto the bonnet of his car for a better look and, just as he got up there, he heard a terrific crackle of static from a loud-hailer and then a voice boomed out "THIS IS THE POLICE! WE DON'T CARE WHAT YOUR NAME IS! GET THAT REINDEER OFF THE ROOF!"

I hope everyone has a good Christmas and that the New Year brings everyone all of the good fortune they desire for themselves.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What's in a word?

And so we come to the end of yet another week at HMP Inertia - or, as it is better known to the Idle Fraternity, the Lazy L. There was a rumour going round during the week that one of the FORTY-THREE governor grades had opened his eyes, but it turned out that he was just looking for his teddy-bear and went straight back to bo-peep, bless him.

So, another week gone by. Wonderful. Another week to the day when I shall finally depart these unforgiving shores. I want to do one of me poems (as Pam Ayres would say).

Long Lartin, full of fear and pain,
Standing grim in the wind and rain -
Enough to drive a man insane -
I'm glad I'll never see your face again.
Right then, that's got THAT out of the way. Having said all that, I did have some news of a sort this week. I had a letter from the solicitor in which he enclosed a letter he had received from the Ministry of Justice about me. They get my name right to begin with, and even get my number right too! But, as usual, they soon lose the thread and refer to me as a Mister Wright - maybe some female working there knows more than I do.

The letter informs us that prisoners are being moved to open prisons in batches or groups of fifty although the same somebody clearly sees himself (or herself) as extremely erudite (or wants us peasants to think so at least) because they don't stoop so low as to use such a mundane (and sensible) word 1ike "group" or "batch". Oh no, they use the word "TRANCHE"!  Now, I know words - I've been introduced, so to speak - and the word "tranche" to me has always meant a portion, or a slice, generally referring to food. It's from the French of course, these words usually are. So I looked it up and this is the entry from the Chambers Dictionary:

TRANCHE: noun, a slice, a block, a portion, especially  of an issue of shares. (French, slice - trancher, to cut).
Still, what's in a word, eh?

All of that notwithstanding, I am in the fourth "tranche" and that means that I will be allocated to my open prison at some point this month (December) and will be transferred to the receiving establishment in January.

So, hacking my way through the hyperbole of the sad and pseudo intellectuality of someone who got a thesaurus last year for Christmas, it seems that I shall heading for greener pastures in January. No idea where to of course - apparently there is no option in the matter - but I can't say that I care, anywhere will do as long as I can get some fresh air and go for a walk without being smothered by concrete.

What's it like to touch grass and walk on it? I've forgotten. I might take my shoes and socks off to feel the earth beneath my feet - then again, I might not, who can tell?

I've got a video-link booked for Wednesday 14th with The Wallace of Clan Wallace, (The Wallaces were actually part of the Amadon clan as far as I know) so I shall look forward to that. Perhaps she can shed some light on things, but I doubt it - I think she is as much in the dark as I am these days.

Ah, the blissful ignorance of mankind. Adam and Eve have got a lot to answer for ever since that day in the Garden when Adam said to Eve, "Hey, I've got a good idea! Turn over, let's try it in that other hole!"  Eve replied, "Bugger off! You'll fill the world full of people!"

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two conversations

Prison is a strange place, really, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that every day is basically Groundhog Day - something I have said several times before. In the last couple of days I have had two different conversations with two diverse fellows and it occurs to me that I've had the very same conversations umpteen times before with only slight variations. However, that's prison for you.

After all of these years, there is nothing I haven't heard or seen so many times before. In fact, I was recently accused of being a bit reclusive by one of my contemporaries - but ignore that, I've been accused of many things over the years, most of them total cobblers. But I have to admit, reclusivity is quite attractive recently. Well, I've heard it all before!

However, as usual, I digress. Two conversations in recent days demonstrate the Groundhog Day thing that I mentioned earlier. Now, I'm not a policeman, so my recall of these conversations can only be seen as approximations, not verbatim. Only policemen have such prodigious memories that they can recall every word that was said to them months after the event. In fact, their memories are so good that they can actually remember things that were never said in the first place.

Again, I digress. I was sitting in my little kennel the other day, Thursday 1st I think, when one of our misunderstood junkies came knocking on my door, cap in hand.  This is how it went:

"Frank, can you do me a favour and help me out?"
"Oh yeah?" said I. "What did you want?"
"Well," says he, getting comfortahle to tell me lies - that's what they do, "my mother has got some money for me that she is sending in..."
By this time I had stopped listening - the same old attempted con job that I've seen a thousand times. But if it's true that God loves a trier, then this fellow was assured of his place at the heavenly drug dealer's outlet.  He was going on.
" if you can lend me twenty-five quid from the canteen, my mother will send you a nifty fifty, but I'll need the stuff from the canteen next week."
I said, "Listen, if your mother has fifty quid to send in, why don't you have it sent in to yourself?"
By this time he was starting to wonder how I had seen through his little subterfuge so easily - it would have fooled bim! Mind, junkies can convince themselves of just about anything.
I then said, "Do everyone a favour, there's a good little dragon chaser, and go away. I'm getting old, not stupid."
So, that was the first conversation, or near enough to it.

The second chat was on Friday, the next day, and I was sitting waiting for my din-dins with one of the young Moslem fellows who has got about thirty years to serve, and he didn't look too happy.

"Frank," says he during our little chat about cabbages and kings, "Frank, how long have you been in prison now?"
"Twenty-six years in March coming. Why?"
"It's a long time," he mused ruefully.
"Oh it is that," said I.
"I wasn't even born when you came to prison," said he. "How old were you when you started?"
"Thirty-nine," I replied.
Then he asked, in a sort of small voice, "Did it go quick?"
Now, I was tempted to tell him the truth but got hold of myself in time to say, "Do you remember when you first went to school? Your very first day?"
"Yeah," said he, "a bit."
"Well," said I, "think about the time between then and now," and  I clicked my fingers under his nose. "It's gone like that! CLICK! One minute you were going to school. CLICK! Now it's gone in a flash. That's prison for you too - one minute you are sitting just starting a long sentence. CLICK! Then you are thinking about going home soon. It passes - everything passes, nothing lasts forever."
He was quiet for a while then said, "You are going to open prison soon, aren't you?"
"January, as far as I know."
"You'll soon be home," said he, and I didn't have the heart to be rude.
"So will you," said I. "Before you know where you are, you'll be sitting here and some young lad will be asking you if the time has gone quickly. You'll click your fingers under his nose and tell him exactly what I've just told you." I didn't add that he would also be getting on for sixty years old, that would have been cruel, even for me.
He grinned at me. "I will, won't I?"
"You will," said I. "Let's go and get our din-dins, the shutters are going to open any minute."
Two conversations, both equally as sad as each other in their own way. Every night these young men (and the older ones too) will be lying on their beds and the regrets will be running through their minds, poor decisions made.  Will they learn from their errors?  Well, the vast majority of them will - in fact the vast majority could probably be released right now and would never darken the doors of a court again. There will be exceptions of course, there always will be.

Coo! That's all a bit serious for me - I almost allowed the world to see into the sensitive inner sanctum, that'll never do.

A fellow takes his new bride on honeymoon to Acapulco and on their last night at the hotel Tom Jones is appearing as the cabaret. Before Jones the Voice comes on, there is a warm-up act of a fellow with a huge lion. The lion does tricks and all that kind of thing and, as a finale, the fellow calls for absolute silence in the audience while he performs a very dangerous trick. He then pulls open the lion's mouth as far as he can, takes out his willy and rests it on the lion's bottom teeth. He then picks up a mallet and hits the lion as hard as he can right between the eyes. The lion lets out a terrific roar of pain and clamps its jaws shut but stops a millimetre from the fellow's willy. The fellow puts his willy away and says to the stunned audience, "Is there anyone here who thinks they can do that?"  The honeymoon bride calls out, "I'll have a go, but you better not hit me as hard as you hit that poor fucking lion!"

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One-track Olive

It goes without saying that there is no further news about any sort of transfer, but that's to be expected I suppose. We know that I am scheduled to be shoved into a taxi during the month of January and I can't see anything changing that. It is the end of the month in three days and we will be into December, so January isn't so far away. I can wait patiently. Let's put it this way, after getting on for twenty-six years, what's a few more weeks?

Now, everyone knows that my parole reports have started, although I am assured that these reports will not be allowed to interfere with my transfer - so that's reassuring. On Thursday gone (24th Nov), I had to go to the office because a young female from the OMU (Offender Management Unit) wanted to see me. Everyone will remember that the OMU is where the Smiling Assassin used to do her villainy, although she's been moved off that job now. Come to think about it, I bet I am getting the blame for that - I get the blame for everything else around here. The Smiling Assassin won't see that it was her own fault for poor report-writing - no snowflake ever feels responsible for an avalanche. No, she will blame me for having the effrontery to question her abilities. Anyway, this new girl came to see me and, as is my custom, I have to give her a name - because I am not allowed to use her real one. I'll need to think about that.

We got seated, and it was quite clear from the very start that she had arrived with a set agenda, and that agenda had nothing to do with the facts or situation as we know them. Speaking to her was almost like taking part in my very first interview ever. I tried to point out and explain that we had moved on from her usual comfort zone - we were no longer concerned with whether I needed to do courses or anything else - the questions to be asked and answered for the parole reports were:

Have I been shopping in the local town successfully?
Have I used the hus without getting lost?
Have I been on home leave successfully?
And am I ready to be released in any particular form?
In fact, the simple case is that I shouldn't even be in this prison and the reports should really be getting done by whatever open prison I SHOULD be in. This didn't go down well - nobody likes to be told that they are irrelevant.

She wanted to talk about me still being innocent and denying my guilt. It was like stepping back years! She was even harping on again about why did I not want to go to a Cat C-D semi open. I finally informed her that whatever reports were done by this prison would probably be removed from the parole dossier and new reports would be added by the open prison when I got there.

That's it! I've got her name now! One-track Olive.

I told her that I'd be gone in January and she seemed to be a bit put out that I knew that.

Well, she finally went off to do her report, and I expect it to be completely negative. That's what the OMU seem to think they are there for, negativity.

An interesting sideshow was that when I came out there was a figure outside with her back to the passing pedestrians, almost as though it all had nothing to do with her. The Smiling Assassin! Oh yes - one last shot across my bows then. We will see.

So, One-track Olive went off to do her thing and I returned to the comfort of my kennel, shooting zombies, driving fast cars and generally adhering to my sentence plan.

Oh yes, that's what One-track asked me - "Why don't you ask if you can do your interventions from this prison?"
"I did," I told her. "I applied for home leave and I can't even get a sensible answer!"
"Why not ask the Number One?" was her response.

Yes, right - ask the man who didn't want me to go to open prison in the first place. Makes sense I suppose, from her twisted logical point.

Well, six weeks from today will take me to mid-January - I should be gone from this place by then or, if not gone, packing my goods and chattels with a taxi waiting at the door.

I'm not telling any jokes this week - Boudica says that I'm not funny. I could have told her that.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Laughter in the waiting room

It's a strange thing, this business of waiting, especially in prison. That's all we ever do seemingly - wait. We wait for all manner of things - letters, canteen day, visits to arrive, our hair to grow We get so used to waiting, in fact, that after a while we start to wait for nothing. Speaking personally, I have lost count of the times that I have had that feeling that I am waiting for something, but if asked I would have had to say that I had no idea what I was waiting for.  In fact that is the whole story of prison life - waiting - and the successful prisoner is the one who learns how to wait patiently. A lot of cons fall by the wayside, of course. They simply lose the plot with the frustrations of waiting and kick over the traces.

It's only stress brought on by the seemingly pointless waiting, but of course the prison service does not recognise that fact. Any prisoner who creates a disturbance or a fuss is punisbed FOR that disturbance or fuss - the causes are neither gone into nor cared about at all.

So we all sit and wait - all for different things, but that doesn't make the waiting any easier.

How is the waiting affecting me?

The main difficulty is that my sleep patterns have suffered. I don't get the sleep I need and most of the time I am dog tired.

But this perpetual waiting doesn't just affect the prisoner - it has stressful affects on others too, like family and friends. I have noticed over recent months that Boudica has changed gradually and my sense of humour isn't the only one that would appear to have taken an unauthorised leave of absence - hers is missing too. She is becoming a bit short with people and situations which, just a few months ago, she would have found funny and made fairly comical observations about.

Humour is the biggest aid to waiting and keeping down the stress levels that come from waiting. I use it all the time - sometimes quite offensively, as several people have noticed. I never intend  to be offensive but it often comes out that way, so if I should say anything that anyone finds offensive, try to remember that prisoners are under a great deal of stress and that allowances must  be made. Offence and malice are two different things.  I often make quick responses to situations which are basically jokes designed for no other purpose than to amuse - but they can be misinterpreted.

Many years ago, in my salad days, when I was nobbut a callow youth, I was strolling down The Strand in London during one of my trips ashore, when I was a mucky little matelot - just strolling, taking in the sights and eyeing the passing ladies, as we did in our youth. I was stopped by a group of Japanese tourists and one said (in a Japanese accent), "Excuse me! You tell me way please, Marble Arch!"

I said, "You found Pearl Harbour on your own, didn't you?" See! Quick. Not intended to be offensive, just witty.

Another time in Liverpool, when the ship was docked over the water in Birkenhead, I was in a dive called the Sierra Leone (a place that is still there today) and I had spent the night drinking  and dancing with a pretty little black girl called Danielle.  We had a good time - it was good fun.

Then, at about ten minutes to two in the morning, she asked me if I was going to walk her home when the club closed at two. I said, "I'm not walking all the way to Jamaica at this time of night."

She might still be laughing for all I know.

So, not only are remarks not intended to cause offence, they only cause offence to SOME folk - others find them funny.

So, what is the point of all that waffle?

There is no point. All I am saying is that there is nothing to report this week - nada, zero, zilch, nowt. We are bereft of any intelligence, we are clueless.

As I say, I'm just sitting here waiting for the time to pass.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The moving finger writes - again!

The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on. That's how I do it you know - one finger on the typer keys. I've got the fastest finger in the prison system.

It will be remembered that I said, "Watch this space" - well, I was right because there are a couple of interesting items up for discussion in the last seven days.

The person from the Tactical Management department came to see me at last the other day. Actually she's quite nice and is just as much at sea in all this as I am. She even said, "It's never been done before!" - and I replied that if everybody had said that we would all be sitting in caves waiting for someone to invent hot meals.

She has written to my solicitor to explain (as far as she can of course) about the delays in transferring me to open nick. It's not just me - the system is full of fellows who are stuck  in prisons that they should have been moved out of long since. However, as usual the prison service has proved to be incompetent, yet again, and created a massive log-jam, so to speak. Transfers have now been taken over by the Population Management Section and transfers to open prisons are now managed by this PMS - as fine an acronym as you'll find anywhere.

I quote from a document supplied by the Tacman:

Transfers will be managed over a period of up to 9 months and prisoners will be prioritised for transfer under the following criteria:
Prisoners whose(sic) tariff has expired will take precedent over pre-tariff prisoners. Post-tariff prisoners will then be prioritised in line with the length of time they have been waiting for transfer to open conditions. The date the S of S (Secretary of State) approved the  move will be the basis upon which waiting time is calculated.
I have contacted PMU (Prisoners' Management Unit) to find out how long it will be until Mr Wilkinson gets transferred out of Long Lartin, they estimate that it should be around January 2012. Please contact Population Management Section for further information.
This is all taken from a letter sent (apparently) to my solicitor, although he doesn't seem to have received any such missive. However, he has been getting to much the same answer himself via other routes because I had a letter from him the other day too, in which he says much the same thing but without the January timescale. He says that the criteria given means that I should be relatively high on the transfer list to move to open prison/conditions, given that my GPP is ahout to commence. The GPP is the Generic Parole Process, for those who care about these things. Personally I think acronyms should be completely outlawed - they are only used so that those who are involved can feel superior to the rest of us peasants.

My solicitor has then written to the PMS (Come on! Keep up! The Population Management Section) at the Ministry of Justice and he has asked for a timescale for my transfer in the light of the facts - GPP  due to begin and all that kind of thing. Actually, the GPP has  already begun because at least two of the reports have been done that I know of. They will probably never see the light of day because they are not what the Parole Board wants to hear about. All anyone can say is that I have shown great fortitude and patience in waiting without losing the plot. (Great word that, fortitude - it has a cadence about it, a strength. Feel free to use it any time you like, it's not copyright.)

So, in amidst this dry, humourless guff, what's the bottom line? The prison is no longer responsible for my transfer and I should be in open prison by mid-January. By that time it will be eight months since my last parole hearing and four to go to the next.

Heigh Ho, onwards and upwards, as they say - the moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on.

I was expecting to be gone from this place by Christmas - so did a lot of other people (expect me to be gone that is), but it looks like I'll be spending my last yule-time here at the Lazy L, and may God have mercy on my soul.

I may celebrate. It will be my last Christmas in prison - never again to be locked up at night - no more sleepless nights - never again to wear a pair of gyves, handcuffs, bracelets - and back in the welcoming arms of Boudica, who will continue torturing me where the prison service leave off.

Oh yes, I may celebrate - I may buy some nuts!

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

See! Told you!

What did I say last week?

Normally I can't answer that question myself - I only write this drivel, I don't waste my time reading it. Boudica seems to think that I actually remember what I write ahout and when - I don't, not normally. That's the beauty of always telling the truth - you don't have to remember it, it never changes.  Anyway, once again I digress. Let's get back to the point.

What did I say last week?

I said, "Watch this space." Well, we have news that is bordering on interesting.  During the course of the week (Tuesday 1st in fact), I received a document from the Parole Board which (amongst other things) informed me that my parole dossier had to be in my hands no later than December 27th (the day before my birthday and official age of retirement). I was strongly advised to inform my solicitor and had to return a completed form to the Parole Board bearing my solicitor's details and those of the Wallace, my probation officer. The parole review would proceed on paper unless  I required an oral hearing (which I do) and, if that should be the case, then my solicitor would take over from there.

Well, I saw to all that and that's done. Now I turn my mind to what it means.

This place is doing the parole reports for the dossier! What is the point of that?  All the Lazy L can say with any degree of veracity is that they haven't actually complied with the Parole Board's LAST instruction yet, to send me to open prison!

The Parole Board wants reports concerning whether I have been out shopping in the local town - have I used public transport without any dramas or punching the driver - and, most important of all, have I been home on leave successfully. They also need the Wallace to say whether I can be released on licence or a tag or whatever she decides is best for me.

This place is writing reports saying that I am no problem - that's all they can write, beyond the fact that I am still here at the Lazy L doing my impressions of a tin of Campbell's veg soup.

The simple fact is that I should have been gone from this place five or six months ago - but here I sit. I shouldn't think that I will be here much longer - I can't see why I would be. Everyone involved is asking the same question: "Why are you still here?"  Well it's no good asking me. If it was left to me, I'd have been gone the day after the Parole Board's decision - I'd have paid for the bloody taxi myself, never mind anything else.

I have even tried to actually do something about going out of the prison shopping and going home on leave - it's all been simply ignored. They haven't refused to let me go, they simply haven't bothered to answer my applications - typical of this place really. Ask a difficult question and they either answer another one entirely or otherwise ignore it altogether and pretend you didn't  ask it. They can't deal with actual decision-making you see - not enough people in charge of the place. They've only got forty-two (or three) governor grades, and they are all busy making sure that the bin lids are on properly and counting table tennis balls and boxes of tissues. You can't expect them to actually do anything or make any decisions - that's not what they come to work for, on the rare occasions when they DO turn up.

No wonder I don't sleep very well. I'm like a bear caught in a trap and chewing frantically at my own leg - I know there is a way out, but no matter what I do it gets me nowhere. Leave it all to the Lazy L and I'll find myself watching next year's Olympics in this cell and still playing childish games on my very expensive PS2.

By the way, I wish the Sun would stop writing shite ahout prisoners and Playstations. We aren't given them you know, we have to scrimp and save up our own pennies to buy them, and even then you have to be on special privileges. Ha! Veracity and the Sun - there's a contradiction in terms if I  ever heard one.

As I say, keep your eye on this space.

A fellow walks into a barber shop:

"How much for a haircut?"
"Seven quid."

"How much for a shave?"

"Two fifty."

"Shave my fucking head."
The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

When am I being transferred then?

Once again we have reached the end of another week with nothing to report, at least nothing that any self-respecting bookie would take bets on. I suppose I'd better explain that - well, we don't want any misunderstandings or ambiguities, do we? I've got enough of  that cobblers around this place without adding to it.

I have been making enquiries about when I can expect to be moved to open prison, in accordance with the Parole Board's instruction (not to mention the Secretary of State - so we won't mention him) of May gone - a simple matter of six months. (Okay, there were one or two minor difficulties along the way, but the facts are the facts - it was in May.) So, I have been making enquiries along the lines of, "When am I being transferred then?"

The other day (and I'm not the only one asking, by the way), one of the people who HAVE been asking went to ask again, and this is what he came back and told me:

Transfers are no longer being conducted by the holding prisons but a central hody of some sort has been set up and transfers are now completely out of the hands of prisons such as the Lazy L. This central body (no doubt having furnished itself with an acronym - they do like a good acronym) has decided to transfer prisoners in "waves" and at the moment they are in the process  of transferring wave 3. I am in wave 5 and can he expected to be transferred to open prison probably in mid January. The fact that I will then be in the middle of the next reporting period for the parole hoard to decide whether to release me or not will make no difference, I will still be transferred. In fact, a letter had been drafted to Mike Pemberton to that effect and would be sent to him as soon as it was signed by a Governor.
This is the story I have been given. I have mentioned it to several people since here at the Lazy L and, without exception, they have all given variations on the same response - laughter and "Yer what!"  These are all staff memhers by the way, not fellow incarcerates.

Needless to say, no letter has been forthcoming, as far as I know, but that doesn't mean that such a letter doesn't exist. Don't misunderstand me, I am not making any accusations against the person who came out with the drivel mentioned above, I think they are as much in the dark as I am and, whereas I would have simply answered when asked, "I don't know", perhaps the person felt that she had to say something, so she said what she said. Having said that, the person who relayed the story could have misheard or misunderstood some of it - who knows!

The bottom line is that I am still sitting here in the Lazy L, torturing my typewriter and anyone who I think might know anything at all.

The thing is that all I am asked to do between now and release (to all intents and purposes) is to provide a realistic and viable release plan. I am supposed to do that from open prison, but if I am not in open prison, what am I supposed to DO?

I have asked to be allowed to get on with things while I am in this prison - go shopping, home leave, things like that - but of course the suggestion has been met with shock and horror. "It's never been done before!" they cry.  Well, history is full of things that have never been done before, and if it wasn't, we would all still be sitting in caves waiting for some genius to invent a fire so that they could invent chefs.

It's November tomorrow too - six months to my release hearing. Watch this space - it could get interesting.

Finally, a little story that I heard the other day - those of a delicate nature or of easily-offended natures, stop reading now. You have been warned.

There was a married couple and, after about twenty years of it, the wife just upped and left - she buggered off.  Two weeks later she knocks on the front door and, when the hushand answers the door she says, "I want you to take me back, but it's only fair to tell you that I've been with another man."

The husband says, "So have I. Bend over."

The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The dance of uncertainty

I don't think anyone will be surprised (or shocked) when I say that another week has passed without any sort of definite news, or even an acceptable promise of any news. The Lazy L is working well, apparently, right on course for absolutely bugger-all. I've got this scenario in my head (in amongst the dross and drivel that normally resides there) that one day they will approach me in a manner of a reasonable nature and say, "Get your gear sorted out, Frank, you are on your travels."  Personally, I think there is more chance of Nelson getting his eye back - but that's just me being defeatist and best ignored. However, nobody must get the idea that I am alone in this waiting game because I am not - the place is full of fellows waiting for a bus-pass to greener pastures.

I understand that over the main gate they have erected a new sign which says, "YOU AIN'T GOING NOWHERE FROM HERE!"

Boudica is annoyed about it all of course, and who can blame her? Almost six months ago she found out that I had been recommended for open prison and was delighted because that meant I would soon be adorning her doorstep with my hat in hand, begging for a bed for the night. Well, that hasn't happened, and she has become disillusioned I think, as I have myself. I was full of plans as to what I was going to do to prepare my future. Now? I'm beginning to doubt that future completely.

It's not as though there is any reason for me to be contained  in this place any more - there isn't. Nobody asks me to do anything, nobody asks me any questions - nothing. I am left entirely to my own devices, completely ignored by the prison and those who allegedly run it. They want nothing from me and I ask for nothing from them other than "feed me".

Somewhere, stuck in some rat hole of a local, Victorian-built prison, there is someone waiting for me to vacate the premises so that they can have my cell and then proceed to work on their own problems toward their own release. Unfortunately they have to sit where they are too, fighting cockroaches for their beds and saying, "Why can't I be transferred to a long-term jail?"

The answer?

"We are waiting for a place for you."

I ask, "Why can't I be transferred?"

The answer?

"We are waiting for a place for you."

And so the macabre dance goes on spreading uncertainty, unrest, restlessness, frustration and everything else that goes with all of those things. In the meanwhile the prison service goes on blithely pretending that there is no problem and God help any misguided prisoner who shows signs of suffering from the stress of it all. Apparently, suffering from stress is the sole prerogative of staff - those people who only work three days a week and who go home every night. It is illegal for prisoners to suffer from stress - it is in the rules. Prisoners must smile at all times, it's the law.

However, let's not be churlish about this. After all, what have I got to complain about? I've only been in jail for over a quarter century for nothing, I get one hot meal a day, I have been allowed to buy myself a decent bed and I get a shower every morning without having to worry about anyone wanting or trying to introduce me to unnatural practices! (Mind, anyone silly enough to want to try that sort of thing deserves to be in jail for gross stupidity - either that or they are suicidal.)

What am I complaining about?

It could be worse - I could be a Lib Dem and feeling the pain of the knife in the back from the True Blues, because it's coming.

Oh, just ignore me - I'm not getting my sleep, I'm a miserable old bastard and, according to Boudica, I'm a sick man.  All that may well be true - and probably is - but that doesn't detract from the fact that the prison service isn't doing its job - but then again, when did it ever? 

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A first time for everything

Well, would you believe it!  This morning (16th October) I received a response to my request for information regarding my application for home leave. It starts off by saying that the original application went to the wrong department, but no apology for that from them, it's not expected - hubris makes no apology for itself.  It's not their fault that there has been no decision because (and this will come as no surprise) someone else hasn't done their job. I'm quite astonished really - someone not doing their job? It's unheard of in the prison system.  Ah! But it's not the Lazy L that is responsible, oh no, they are laying the blame firmly at the feet of The Wallace!  I quote:
I am currently dealing with your application [three months so far] but have not received a response from your Offender Manager [The Wallace] regarding the appropriateness of the address you gave. [Boudica will argue with that - her and The Wallace have chatted on the phone as far as I know.] However, I am sorry to say that it is unlikely that home leave will be approved from a high security prison.
That's the response.  Why is it unlikely that home leave will be allowed from a high security prison? What difference does that make? A person leaves the gate, has a week or so at home and comes back to prison, no matter what prison that may be. Where is the problem? What has high security got to do with it? I am not high security, I am the lowest security level possible. The fact that they have  not transferred me to an appropriate prison is a reflection on them, not on me.

My interventions have to begin soon, I have to formulate a viable and acceptable release plan so the sooner we have the opportunity  to get on with it, the better. Where does it say anywhere that I cannot formulate a release plan from the Lazy L?  "It hasn't been done before!"  Wonderful. Who cares? There is a first time for everything and in reality there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why I should not begin my release plans here if they can't transfer me. It's the fear of the paranoid, that's what it is. I am the one who will be facing the hardest part, not them. What are they  afraid of?

So, there we have it. What I need to do now is inform The Wallace and see what she says on the subject. She may well agree that it is unheard of for a person to get home leave from such a place  as this, but it's not fair to blame her for it.  Oh yes indeed - I've said it before and no doubt I'11 say it again, several times - but it's not easy being me.

Boudica's stress levels are rising steadily, bless her, and who can blame her! After the Parole Board decision, she expected to hear that I  would soon be gracing her front door step again, yet here we are, five months later and the only thing I am gracing is the showers every morning - not a pretty sight for those of a nervous disposition. When a fellow gets to my age he finds that things have started to slip a little bit. Put it this way, if Rodin ever needed a sitter for his second version of "The Thinker" he would be well advised to avoid me like the plague. "The Thinker"!  Well, I might do a bit of thinking, but that's about it really - I do nothing else. 

Many years ago there was a fellow who climbed up a mountain and, when he reached the summit, he sat down to survey his surroundings and got to wondering, when it got dark, where the sun had gone. Well, it finally dawned on him. 

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saint Jude is my patron saint

Here we go again - another week passed, another week of no news or sign of any advancement or progress. In fact, the only thing that seems to be gradually changing are my sleep patterns - I  am barely sleeping at night, and I understand that sleeplessness is a manifestation of stress! Wonderful! Just what I need - rising stress levels.

It will be remembered that a couple of months ago, maybe a little longer, I put in an application for Home Leave or, as they like to call it, Release on Temporary Licence - ROTL.

It will also be recalled that, some time ago now, I had an answer to an enquiry on the subject which said basically that, in the light of my pending transfer to open prison, the application to go home for a week or so was being duly processed - doing me a favour apparently.  The weeks passed, as weeks do, and last weekend I put in yet another application - a query really - asking what was going on with my request to go home for a wee while.

I got an answer back yesterday which said that the person dealing with my transfer was away on leave so they couldn't tell me anything about the transfer but would as soon as she came back!

I didn't ask about transfer!  I didn't mention transfer!  In fact I have given up on ever seeing a bleedin' transfer! All I asked was about home leave - sorry, ROTL.

This is typical of this place really. Are we to understand that when one person goes off on a jaunt then whatever department they are involved in comes to a grinding halt?  Is that why this place never gets anything done?

It's no use expecting governor grades to deal with anything so important - they are far too busy making sure that the bin lids are on properly and counting the table-tennis balls. In fact the only time a governor grade shows his or her face is to do someone down and, as often as not, they even leave THAT to a minion. Governors are not here to run the place, they are only here to ensure that stress levels stay at the appropriate levels. So my stress levels are apparently high.

Oh don't misunderstand me - I'm not ready to declare myself a basket case or anything like that. I'm not about to lose the plot and start ranting and raving - or worse. I'm in full control of myself and have been under much more stressful times, but I am clearly suffering with a bit of the ould Elliot Ness.

I'm not the only one either! Boudica is suffering a bit too, and I think it is hitting her a good bit harder than it is me - either that or I handle it better, who can tell? She told me  in a letter the other day that some of her hair came out - maybe just a few strands, I don't know, she didn't say - but whether  it was a few strands or a whole clump is hardly the point really, the point is that the strees is getting to her too, and who can be surprised at that? After all of this time she suddenly found that the Parole Board said more or less that she would soon have me back to annoy her. I was delighted myself, full of plans and little expectations. Five or six months later I'm still sitting here, picking my nose and nary a sign of a transfer anywhere on the horizon at all.

All I've got is a little hope, but that's wearing thin a bit. Mind, they do say that when a person waits for something for a long time then he will appreciate it all the more when it DOES finally come about.

That a fact is it?

I've put in another application, this one saying that I didn't ask about transfer, I asked ahout going home for a week or so. Will the question be answered?  I've got my doubts.

Ha! No wonder when people ask me who I would pick as my Patron Saint if I could choose I always say "Saint Jude".

"Why Saint Jude?" they ask. "What is he the Patron Saint of?"

"Lost causes," I reply.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Well, I knew IF I waited long enough I would, sooner or later, have something to tell anyone not nimble enough to get out of the door quickly enough.

I've got news!

Yesterday they came to see me bearing an envelope, for which they wanted me to sign. On examination of the accompanying document, I saw that it wasn't me who had to sign that I had received it, not at all - it was for the kangaroo to sign to prove he had given it to me. A case of covering themselves I suppose.

Anyway, when they had gone off about their business, I opened the envelope and it was a letter from the Ministry of Justice to inform me officially that my solicitor's request to have  my parole review period reduced by four months had succeeded.  My parole hearing is to be in May of next year. It's October  now - so that is October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May! Eight months IF you count October. The  fact is that it's seven months - you either count the first month or the last month, not both.

So, seven months to the hearing. There is a twenty-six week period set for report-writing - six months in anyone's money - and that leaves a month for me to get to open prison before I begin the reports. IF I begin them in this prison then I am not allowed to leave this place until all reports are done and I've had the hearing!  IF that should happen, imagine the Prison Service going before the Parole Board and saying, "We haven't even complied with your  last instructions yet!"

So, the next few weeks could be interesting.

However, that's not all, I have even MORE news - IF it can be called news and is of any interest to anyone other than myself. I entered the Koestler Awards again this year and I have just been informed that I have won Platinum this year. That's my fourth literary win, my fourth award!  Now, I'm not being clever here, I'm not that egotistical (I hope), but four awards for writing isn't bad for a poor white  boy from the ghetto. I'm still a poor white boy but I no longer belong to any ghetto - no self-respecting ghetto would have me  for a start.

It got me to thinking about things in a reflective way. Over the years in jail I have studied hard and worked hard on my writings, often and usually in the face of great opposition and obstruction from the Prison Service. Despite all of that opposition, I have still managed three degrees, several certificates of excellence for computer studies, I've mentored several youngsters and helped to turn their lives around, I've turned my own life around and written lots of stuff, winning four literary awards along the way. Imagine how far I might have gone IF the Prison Service had encouraged and assisted just a little bit!

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem entitled 'IF'. I think the last verse covers it all admirably:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son! 
The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is there anybody out there?

I've got a little black book with my poems in,
I've got a bag with a toothbrush and comb in;
When I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone in.

I've got elastic bands keeping my shoes on,
I've got those 'swollen-hand' blues;
I've got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from.
I've got electric light,
And I've got second sight,
I've got amazing powers of observation.

And that is why I know, when I try to get through
On the telephone to you,
There'll be nobody home.
(Pink Floyd)

Well, as any regular reader will be fully aware by now, I've got no news and nothing to tell anyone because, as usual here at the Lazy L, bugger all has happened.

I'm on the waiting list!

Often I sit here in my committee-designed and government-owned kennel-cum-toilet, surrounded by my solitude, and wonder if there is anyone actually out there at all!

Am I alone?

All around me in their own kennels there are so many sad tales and you can be absolutely certain that they too feel alone and abandoned. It's not true of course - we all (well, most of us) have friends and family who care about us - but it's hard to believe at night. In the cells of the Lazy L, nobody hears you screaming because the screaming is just inside your own head. I've said this before, of course, but it's worth repeating - Nicolas Sarkozy once said:

Life is the same for everyone when you are alone at night in an empty room.
I'm tired of being alone in empty rooms, but there's very little I can do about it apart from wait, like a good little patient, for the waiting list to reduce slowly. Sooner or later they will come to my cell door in the dead of night and tell me to pack up my goods and chattels and prepare for a road-trip the following day. It will happen - nothing lasts forever - but after all of the years with very little hope of any real progress, to finally have my lips within touching distance of drinking from the cup at last and yet my neck muscles can't quite manage that final millimetre, it's exasperating. Of course I stretch the tongue to try to cover that final distance but even a lizard would strutggle against the Prison Service, and I'm no lizard - I'm the wrong colour.

Boudica is finding it probably marginally more difficult than I am because, way back in May when we first found out that I had been recommended for open conditions by the Parole Board, she was delighted - full of plans and ideas and expectations. Now, over four months later and not an inch of progress, she is becoming a little disillusioned - and who can blame her? Well, all I can tell her is that they can break the clock but they can't stop the time. It will happen, it will come to pass, as they put it in the bible.

Until it does, all I can do of course is sit here like a good little convict and patient. Well, let's face it, these places are just like big loony-bins anyway - and if it wasn't for the uniforms, it would be difficult to decide who the inmates were. I have come to the conclusion that waiting for this place to get off its collective is much like being homosexual - a pain in the arse.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Confused again

It's official! Once again I have become thoroughly confused hy the mixed signals and messages which this place seems to thrive on - it's the only thing they DO do well, confusion.

Now (I've got to stop doing that), regular insomniacs, and others with little better to do other than read this drivel, will be fully cognisant of the fact that, for over four months now, I have been patiently waiting a move to open conditions.

Well (I've got to stop doing that too), it gives me absolutely no pleasure whatsoever to say that in those four months I have not (apparently) taken one step forward toward the goal of fresh air at the Home for Gay Sailor - not an inch.

One minute I'm going, then I'm not.

The latest message from those responsible makes about as much sense as sliding down a razor blade and using my bollocks for a brake - a good idea to some, I'm sure.

On the 24th of last month I made a simple application asking about my transfer. I got the answer back yesterday, three weeks late and just as many weeks out of date. In that time I have received a letter personally from North Sea Camp - clearly this place has either lost their copy or sold it on E-Bay.

The TACMAN here has finally said:

Mr Wilkinson,
I was informed on 03/08/2011 that decisions at North Sea Camp have been put on hold for the next fortnight until there (sic) Governor 1 has spoken to area about there (sic) situation regarding Lifers/IPPs. A decision is required and until it has been made everything is on hold.
This is pure gammon - nothing more. What does it mean? This is nothing more than another example of "Let's fill him full of crap and hope he goes away". If I could, I WOULD go away - I'll even pay for the bleedin' taxi if it helps!

So, the bottom line is, "We are doing nothing" - as usual.

My parole reports start soon and, once they do start, then I am not allowed to be moved to another prison. I will then have to appear before the Parole Board next year in THIS prison and, of course, the first question asked will be, "Why has our last recommendation not been implemented?" Of course this place will then look for someone to blame, because they take the blame for nothing. Who will get the blame?

Go on, take a wild guess. Oh! There's a surprise! It's all my fault... AGAIN!

To move on, it will also be remembered that a few weeks ago I made the life-changing decision, after great deliberation, to grow a mustache. Well, the plan was to see which came first, the tash or a transfer - a bit like the chicken and the egg only slightly more interesting.

Yesterday one of my contemporaries, a Turkish fellow, said to me that I now look like a PKK Separatist - a Kurd. It looks like the tash is winning.

Having said all that, it won't last much longer because it is irritating the very Divvil out of my top lip. How people can grow facial hair is a puzzle to me. It's annoying and, to be quite honest, looks scruffy.

I am reminded of something my grandma Nell was fond of saying and that was:

Nivver trust a feller who cultivates on his face what grows wild on his arse.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Call me a Mackem

Here we are again, the end of yet another week where there is very little to relate from this end in respect of my transfer to somewhere else, beyond the fact that we should be informed officially whether I am accepted by North Sea Camp and where I am on the waiting list. What that actually means in pounds, shillings and pence is that I have nothing in my immediate future other than more waiting. Well, I'm quite good at waiting - I've had enough practice.

The other thing this week is that today, Sunday the 11th September, is the tenth anniversary of what has now become known world-wide as "Nine Eleven". Don't panic, I'm not going to say anything about it - enough has been and is being said by people far more qualified than me.

I remember where I was at the time. I was in Full Sutton prison and was on basic, so I didn't have a telly - I had to go running to the telly room to watch it.

I suppose it takes a powerful hatred to contemplate such an act. This got me thinking about hatred, and we can't really condemn anyone for it because our nation is the leader in hatred - we don't even like each other. For instance, let's consider the hatred between seperate sets of people who live in each other's back gardens, so to speak. Liverpool hate Everton, Manchester United hate Manchester City and so on. Of course they don't go round blowing up each other's stadiums and killing each other, but that's only because
they wouldn't get away with it. If they thought they COULD get away with it, they would be wiping each other out with the best of them.

Let us consider the situation between the denizens of Newcastle and those of Sunderland. There is maybe fifteen miles between the two cities, but there is a continent between them socially.

Now (and pay attention here - I'll be asking questions later), there is a great deal of misconception in that everyone thinks that a Geordie has to come from Newcastle. That's not so. A Geordie is someone born between the river Tees and the river Tyne. People from north of the Tyne are actually Tynesiders, while people from Sunderland and Middlesboro are Wearsiders and Tees-siders respectively. However, bigots never allow a fact to come between their pet hates and reality, so the Tynesiders call themselves Geordies and call the Wearsiders Mackems. (South Shields folk are Sand-Dancers and Hartlepool folk are Monkey­Hangers - but that's a different story.)

Wearsiders are called Mackems because when the shipyards were in operation it was said that they "Mak the ships and tak them te sea". That became "Mackems and Tackems" which is now merely abridged to "Mackems".

There is a story that there was once a doctor from the south of England travelling to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle where he was to perform a very delicate operation on a patient. He drove up the A1 and M1 and finally turned off into Newcastle itself. However, being a stranger to the area, he was forced to ask directions. So he stopped his car at the side of the road and approached a group of young men who were coming away from St James' Park after a game between Newcastle and Sunderland, which Sunderland had managed to draw after a disputed penalty kick.

"Excuse me," said the doctor politely, "But could you tell me the quickest way to get to the Freeman Hospital please?"

"Aye!" growled a disgruntled fan. "Call me a fucking Mackem."

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

So what's new?

There we have it - yet another week passes with nothing at all actually happening, locked in the passionate arms of inertia or, as the literary world refers to it, The Lazy L. However, I think I can be a bit more up-beat than that - after all, I'm supposed to have an education and an imagination (two things most severely frowned on here at the Lazy L, incidentally). So let me tell a little story here.

When (after a great deal of pointless argument by this place) it was finally agreed that Yes, I would be transferred to an open prison and that Yes, I was a Category D prisoner, I was sitting here cogitating (as is a regular practice with me) and it occurred to me that owing to the fact that I am a Cat D and on my way (via the scenic route obviously) to open conditions, why can't I make a start on my programmes here at the Lazy L?

So I applied to go home for a week or so while I am waiting for them to get their collective arses into gear and get on with it. To be quite frank (Ha! Ha! That's great that one), to be quite frank about it I had absolutely no expectations whatsoever - I only asked because I wanted to see what bollix reason they would give for refusing to let me go home on Temporary Release On Licence or, as they refer to it in the acronym TROL... or ROTL. (They love acronyms - they confuse the prisoner you see!)

Imagine my surprise, then, when someone arrived at my kennel door with a set of papers for me to fill in applying for home leave! I filled the application document in gleefully and handed it back then sat back waiting for the refusal to arrive so that I could have a good snigger at the refusal reasons (not that they are ever reasoned about any decisions - more arbitrary really). I didn't think it would take long - surely the Smiling Assassin would do her best to put a stop to my shenanigans!

Not a bit of it! The weeks went by and... nothing!

So, a couple of weeks ago, I put a couple of applications in to ask about the current position in respect of my transfer and one to ask about the position in respect of my request for home leave.

I got an answer at last. I have no idea what to make of it, of course, this is all new ground to me - I am a lost soul wandering through the maze of life - and that's funny on lots of levels. Perhaps the best thing to do is actually to reproduce the answer here in full and everyone can see for themselves.

Mr Wilkinson... I am awaiting recommendations from the Police and Probation Service regarding ROTL at the address given.
Your transfer to Category D open conditions is being processed by TACMAN.
I will contact the Probation and Police again today.
I would draw your attention to PSO 6300 Chapter 4.3.1 regarding eligibility, regarding closed conditions.
However your application is being proceeded with in preparation for your transfer to open conditions.
Signed and dated 31/8/11
So, what do we make of THAT? Is it good news?

Well... it's not BAD news. In fact, it's hardly any sort of news because in reality it says nothing, merely a sop to keep me quiet probably. "Well, if he thinks we are doing something he might stop bothering us and leave us alone!" That's not going to happen - I've got nothing else to do with my time but think up difficult questions to ask, reasonable but difficult to ignore.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that there appear to be all manner of promises but nothing actually happens - not a bleedin' thing! Nowt, zilch, zero, nada. I'm still sitting here picking my nose and watching my new tash grow. (Incidentally, it's coming along nicely - I look a bit like an ancient hippy, or maybe an armchair bandido.)

Oh well, another week of no news - so what's new?

The Voice In The Wilderness

Friday, September 02, 2011

Waiting is such sweet sorrow

Every week I write that there is nothing to report and no change whatsoever on the horizon, not a thing. This week it gives me the greatest of pleasure to write that absolutely bugger all has changed so this week will be no exception. I'm still sitting here, like a tin of condensed milk on a diabetic's larder shelf, tapping away at my retro typewriter like a demented woodpecker.

I did put an application in some four or five days ago to ask what the position is in respect of my transfer to greener pastures or, as Boudica calls it, the Home for Gay Sailors, but of course there has been no response to that application. Having said that, I'm not surprised there has been no answer - what can they tell me? "Mr Wilkinson, we are waiting for a place for you." Well, I know that - so does everyone else.

I put another application in to ask what the position is in respect of my application for a week's home leave while I am waiting to be sent to the home for queer matelots and the only reaction THAT got was somebody came to see me to ask me who he was supposed to send it to for an answer - how am I supposed to know THAT? I'm not running the dump - and if I was, things would get done a lot sooner than they do now THAT'S for sure.

Big Brian (or, as I call him, Herman the Big Mug) wrote to tell me that he wants to come and see me as soon as I get to the bit of the Wash reclaimed from the sea, so it will be nice to see him - and a lot of other folk I haven't seen for so long. I don't have visits in this place, they are like everything else about the joint - nasty.

Boudica is getting a bit stressed about it all, although she will deny it under questioning. But who can blame her? I'm getting a bit stressed myself - poor sleep patterns, all that kind of thing.

I know she is getting stressed because normally, when I am rude to or about her, she would just snigger and be rude back, but she sounded a bit offended in her last letter because she said, "That's right, when you've got nothing to write about, pick on me!" I told her that it's the menopause, but that's like showing a bull
the proverbial red flag. To be fair, there are other factors that need to be taken into account, but I think this lack of progress in my situation is probaly the catalyst and magnet for all other things that are going a little bit wrong here and there. Things that would normally be "laffed" at and ignored are starting to earn comments from her that she wouldn't make as a rule. Things must be getting to her a little bit.

Anyway, now that I've mentioned Herman the Big Mug, I suppose it behoves me to mention him further. I've known Big Brian for donkey's years - longer than I've known Boudica (she's just prettier). Brian is what is commonly called a big lad. He must be six four or five and from a distance he looks little and stocky - he's built like a brick shithouse in fact. He lives in Hartlepool and, years ago, he fell asleep one afternoon on the beach there. When he woke up Greenpeace were trying to shove him back in the water.

So, that's ANOTHER one who will be annoyed at me now. In the meantime, I'm just going to continue sitting here like a pustule on a camel's bum and wait patiently - in fact, much more of it and I'll BE a patient, although Boudica will say that I've been a patient for years.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A fish and chip tale

Once again we reach the end of yet another pointless week here at the Lazy L where nothing at all has happened - nothing of any interest to me, at least. Mind, to be fair, that’s not entirely correct, although what IS new isn’t exactly earth-moving. This week, all I have been able to discover or find out is that I WILL be going to North Sea Camp as soon as there is a space for me there - I have to wait for room, a place. That’s all I ever do - wait. I’m thinking about changing my name to Mr Wait - maybe I will be able to claim Terry as my brother. Having said that, would I want to?

So, North Sea Camp (or, as Boudica calls it, the Home for Gay Sailors - she only thinks she's funny!) - when will I be off to the world of fresh air, cabbage fields and seagull guano? (I was going to say seagull shit, but that sounds a bit rude.)

Speaking of Boudica, I understand that she wasn’t impressed by my little vignette of last week and the fishy fingers. She says everything about me is fishy, but she only says that because she likes me. Apparently she objects (not very strongly) at my hinting that she was travelling around in trains in the swinging sixties, and she says we never met like that anyway. Okay, fair enough - I’ll tell another story then about how we first met. Of course, people will ask, "Is he telling the truth THIS time?" and the answer is, "Of course I am." Well, as near to the truth as a policeman gets when he is swearing someone’s life away in a Crown Court.

Is it any wonder that policemen and supergasses get on so well? They both have the same kind of mind - they can remember things that never happened in the first place and are willing to swear to them on their mothers’ lives.

Anyway, to get back to how I met Boudica. Many years ago, when I was a mere youth in my salad days, I took to the sea and travelled around a good deal. I used to ask the local populace, “Where am I?” Come to think on it, I’m still doing it - I rarely know what I am doing or where I am.

What was I saying? Oh yes, Boudica and the meeting of the same. So there was I, docked in Middlesboro and, for some strange and unfathomable reason, I went to Hartlepool one evening to sample the beverages being retailed in one or three of the public houses, as was my wont in those halcyon days.

I was in a pub called the "Lord Nelson" (I'm safe with that one - every town has a "Lord Nelson" public house), and I was doing my best to "score" for one of the local girls and meeting with very little success - the story of my life really. So, come closing time it was me for a solitary taxi ride back to the ship and an evening spent in the company of Palmler Handerson and her five skinny daughters.

I came out of the pub at about ten-thirty in the evening and across the road was a fish and chip emporium with a bus-stop just outside, one of those with the shelters.

I wandered across toward the chippie and then saw that standing in the bus shelter was a young blonde eating fish and chips from a paper parcel held in her hand.

Nothing unusual about that, it’s a scene being enacted in every town all over the country every day, but what I didn’t tell you, and what caught my attention, was the fact that she had her knickers down around her ankles.

"Erm,” said I approaching hopefully. “Excuse me, Miss, but your knickers have fallen down!”

She looked at me, looked down, looked back at me and said, “Oh! My boyfriend must have gone home.”

Oh dear - she'll make me pay for that one.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A very sick man

Well here we are again, the end of yet another week of strolling the rolling pastures of the Lazy L with neither care nor worry. Whatever you may say about the prison service, there is one thing they cannot be accused of and that is actually doing anything in haste, not for the cons’ benefit anyway.

Having said that, there are a couple of little signs that just maybe something may happen before the Olympics. Actually I’m thinking about putting my name down for one of the events - the Not Moving A Muscle and Doing Fuck All marathon. I think I’m a certainty for double gold.

The other day they came to see me and asked me to sign a paper which said that I agreed to share a cell on arrival in North Sea Camp (if it should be necessary), so I signed that. There was also a question on the paper for this prison which asked:
“Would you accept Prisoner back in the event of a Serious Open Conditions Failure.”
and of course this place has agreed. They are not too keen on letting me go but they will have me back at the shake of a rat’s whiskers. I’m informed that the document was faxed back to North Sea Camp on Wednesday 10th and that I would know what was oing on within a week - so this next few days should provide something definite at last and I’ll believe it when I see it. Next week’s "Voice" should be interesting.

Has anyone noticed that when any of us (human beans, that is) is in a pensive or thoughtful mood we have a tendency to relax and go off into a daydream. Our faces completely relax and turn to rubber, sagging and drooping I expect. The overall effect can be of having a miserable countenance. We ain't (miserable, I mean), but that’s the perception of a casual observer.

The other day, I was leaning on the railing outside of cell, (well, it stops me from falling to the floor if I lean) and I was thinking of cabbages and kings, off in a world of my own I expect, miles away. My face must have looked even more miserable than usual because one of the female kangaroos came to lean next to me and asked, “Are you all right? Frank.”
Well, you know me, never miss a trick, never spurn a chance at a good joke, that’s me.
“No,” said I. “As a matter of fact, I’m not.”
“What’s the trouble?” asked she, all concerned and walking right into it.

“Well,” said I, “it’s my brother, Cecil.”
I haven’t got a brother called Cecil - nobody has.
“What’s the problem?” asked Florence Nightinga1e.
“Well,” I settled down to fool her. “He’s a lot older then me and he’s been living in sheltered accommodation for a few years now. The thing is, nobody had seen him for a few weeks and the warden at the sheltered housing place got a bit concerned so he contacted Social Services about it. They arrived with the police and they all started knocking on the door of the flat but couldn’t get any answer. In the end they had to break the door down and when they got inside they found the curtains all closed and all over the place there were opened and half eaten tins of Chum dog food and there were spoons in some of the tins. They searched the flat and every room had these half eaten tins of dog food everywhere."
“What about your brother?” asked Miss Gullible 1962.
“They found him lying on the kitchen floor,” said I, sadly. “Oh my God! Was he dead?”
“No,” said I “But he had broken his neck trying to lick his own bollocks.”
She just looked at me and finally said, “You are a very sick man,” and burst out laughing.
Well, you know what Julius Caesar said just before the Senators perforated his torso:
“Coppula eams se non posit acceptera jocularum.”
(Fuck them if they can't take a joke.)

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A fishy tale

Well here we are again, the end of yet another week which has seen about as much progress as the coal mining industry - not a lot. Having said that, I did get an answer to a letter I wrote to Hoss the Boss a couple of weeks back. I wrote to him letting him know that there was a dastardly plot afoot, by persons better left unnamed, to circumvent the Secretary of State and the Parole Board. The plot was to send me to a Category C prison, ostensibly to "wait for a place in open prison". Of course that is pure humbug - once
they got me there they would effectively put years onto my sentence and defeat the whole issue.

Anyway, I told Hoss the Boss and he wrote back to say (amongst other things):

...I can categorically state that we will arrange your transfer to a Category D prison in line with the Parole Board directions...
Well, that seems to be plain enough - unambiguous and final - but it doesn't mention when.

I sent the governor of North Sea Camp a sort of letter-of-introduction-cum-CV and apparently he got it all right and it has been added to my file there. They (North Sea Camp) are in possession of my application, my file, Parole Board and Secretary of State's order, my medical file and my letter-cum-CV. They (apparently) have selection boards at regular intervals and whenever they hold their next one they will decide whether to accept me or not. Back to waiting again.

Boudica says that I have applied for the Governor's job - but we all know that she's got a twisted sense of humour at the best of times.

Wonder Woman and Titus Pullo want to ask the governor of NSC if they can take me out for a meal on one of my days-out, if and when I get to NSC - they must think I need feeding up to get me ready to take Boudica on.

Speaking of Boudica, I am often asked how I met her - well, I was asked once by Blodwyn. You know me - never the same answer to that question twice in a row, so this time will be no exception to that rule.

How did I meet Boudica?

Well, many years ago, when I first took to the sea, we docked one time in Edinburgh, at the Port of Leith, which had a huge fishing market at the time. I was a callow youth then and spent my time at my grandparents' house in Sunderland. So for my leave from the ship I set out to go to Sunderland. However, before I went I visited one of those sea-food stalls they had on the docks at the Port of Leith and bought a huge carrier-bag full of prawns for my grandmother - she liked a prawn now and then. So, carrying my sea bag and the bag of prawns, I got onto the train at Edinburgh Central for the journey down to Newcastle. 

In those days most of the trains were just compartments, no corridors down the sides. If you got caught short during a journey, too bad.

So, I esconced myself into a compartment with one other person - a pretty young blonde girl.

"Oh ho!" said I to myself, "A mucky little matelot stuck into a train all the way to Newcastle with a pretty girl - enormous opportunity to get up to no good!"

Remember, it was the Swinging Sixties - not that I saw much of it at sea.

Once the train got moving, and she had nowhere to go, I started to chat her up - but she put me right down, looked down her nose at me with disdain (she's been doing it ever since), and made it quite plain to me that, as far as she was concerned, I could just bugger off. (She's been saying that ever since too).

So I turned nasty, as young men do under such provocation, and I started to eat the prawns and throw the shells at her. She objected, of course, but what could she do? Not a lot.

So there I sat, munching prawns and chucking the shells at her as she got more and more irate and annoyed until in the end she leapt to her feet and pulled the communication cord.

I laughed and pointed to the sign, "Hey!" said I. "When they see what you've done, you'll get fined five quid!"

She retorted, "And when they smell your fingers you'll get five years."

Bugger! She'll make me pay for that one. 

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Godot ain't here yet

Well, here we are again - Sunday 31st July and the end of yet one more week when nothing has happened and, while a lot seems to be promised, there is nothing forthcoming at all, not a thing, zilch, zero, nada, nowt, fuck all.

However, I don't choose to see it as the end of yet another week - my feet are planted firmly in the air - I see it as the start of a fresh month because it's August tomorrow. My next parole hearing is in September 2012. That's only thirteen months as the crow flies - and the way this place operates I'll still be sitting here doing G.B.H. to the typewriter. Forgive me if I sound a little cynical, but experience has taught me that this place offers much but delivers nothing.

As we all know, the Secretary of State gave me a sixteen month review and I now find out from my solicitor that sixteen months is actually a breach of my human nights under the ECHR Article 5 (4) - whatever that says. Twelve months is normal, apparently, and can only be extended under extraordinary circumstances - but that's MY interpretation, not my solicitor's.

So he is contemplating some form of challenge to have that period reduced to twelve months - and THAT would make my next parole hearing in May of next year, not September. What's that - nine months? Nine months to do all I have to do with interventions and the like and get reports written - all done IN open prison. The way this place operates, I'll still be sitting here in nine months.

However, my solicitor is the expert - I'm just the one who has the stress-filled and anxious nights where sleep sits on my shoulder and sniggers at me.

The trouble is, I'm not getting any younger. In the words of Pink Floyd:
So we run and we run to catch up with the sun
But it's sinking.
Racing around to come up behind us again.
The sun is the same in a relative way
But we're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Well, I can subscribe to THAT!

It may be remembered (or it may not) that the other day I was told that my details would be sent off to every open prison in the country. That hasn't actually happened, as far as I know, and I've not had a word on the subject since. It's not going to happen, of course - remember, we are dealing with the Lazy L here, and what the Lazy L says and what the Lazy L does are always two entirely different things. As I say, they promise much but deliver nothing.

Still, we've got to be like Felix Dennis and see the world as a glass half full - it prevents insanity creeping up on us.

You can't really object to folk when they get a bit difficult when it comes to dealing with the likes of me - after all, I am scum. Hey! Before anyone starts getting the wrong idea, let me just say that it wasn't easy getting to be scum - I had to work hard at it, I suffered for my art! Scum is a calling that many aspire to but few actually get the gold star! Let me tell you, I've got the gold star and two bars. When the scum of the world have their judgement day, I'll be there, right at the front of the queue, waiting for what's coming as a reward.

In the meantime I'll just let the Lazy L continue to hold their own scum awards - and guess who will get the nomination here?

By the way, he's not here yet - that Godot feller. I'm getting toward the point where I'm starting to think that he's just a figment of someone's imagination - a bit like me being sent to open prison by the Lazy L.

The Voice In The Wilderness

To labour and to wait

Yesterday, July 27th, I was called to the office and when I got there I was handed a letter which I had originally sent out to Andrew on 3rd July, twenty-four days earlier. I was informed that Security had stopped the letter from leaving the prison on the grounds that it named members of staff. All I had done was quote the Parole Board document - but it's all academic now because times have moved on considerably. At least the envelope came in useful to send out another letter to him, this time without making anyone nervous, hopefully.

In fact, yesterday was a bit of an interesting day, as days go in the Lazy L. Someone from the Tactical Management Team came to see me (they are the mob who deal with transfers) and it was a very pleasant and hopefully reliable young woman. I won't use her name for two reasons - the first being that this place would start to panic again and the second being that I don't know her name anyway. The outcome of our little chat was that there was no question of me being sent anywhere other than to an open prison - which one is the only question.

She went off about her business promising to send my details to every open prison in the country, although I have no idea how many there are - as I said to her, this is all new territory to me. So, my details are going out to every open jail, and she also said that North Sea Camp had requested my medical details so they must be considering taking me already. I also sent the Governor of North Sea Camp my CV yesterday and asked him to accept me, so that can only help.

What it all boils down to is that I will stay here until I find a place to accept me, it's as simple as that. But I have to be where I am going by September because that is when my intervention time is supposed to commence, on the instructions of the Secretary of State for Justice. I am due twenty-six weeks of interventions and I think that is me and The Wallace sorting out details of my resettlement into the community, that type of thing. Then in April of next year there are another twenty-six weeks for parole reports to be written by North Sea Camp (or wherever I happen to go to) ready for the Oral Parole Hearing scheduled for September 2012. That's only fourteen months away and, provided that nothing goes drastically wrong, it will, in effect, be my release hearing.

Let me put it this way - this Christmas should be my last in jail, and even this one could be spent on home leave.

There's a lot to be done between now and then, of course, and it all starts with this place getting mobile and getting me moved to an open prison. I keep coming back to North Sea Camp, not because of any particular reason other than it is the one which The Wallace thinks is ideal for me and I don't know any others. I don't even know where North Sea Camp is beyond the fact that it is on the Lincolnshire coast near Boston and is partly to do with land reclaimed from The Wash.

Ha! I've got this mental vision of them dragging a lump of land out of a washing machine, drying it off and saying, "That's not a bad bit of land - we'll build a jail on that."

So, that's the position - once again a case of hurry up and wait. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.
Old Harry certainly knew what he was talking about all right - he must have spent time at the Lazy L.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Say not the struggle naught availeth

Let me begin by copying out a few of the passages from a letter received today (Wednesday July 20th) from the Ministry of Justice, dated 18th July 2011:

As you know, the Parole Board has recommended your transfer to open prison. The Secretary of State has now considered the Parole Board recommendation, and agrees with this view for the reasons given by the Panel...
There is a lot of other stuff, but that's the important part.

The letter also mentions that I may have to take part in certain "interventions" when I reach open prison, although that seems to be, to say the least, ambiguous. Whatever it is, I'll be more than happy to go along with it. The letter states that the Secretary of State cannot guarantee to place me on these specific "interventions" through lack of availability of resources, but I may not be suitable anyway.

I am also informed that my next parole review is due sixteen months from the last one - and the last one should have been in June 2010. THAT means that my next review process begins on the twenty-sixth week before the designated hearing date - September 2012. So the review period begins in April 2012 - not too far away, and I have to be in open prison for some time prior to that for certain assessments and considerations to be made in respect of the possible "interventions". I suppose "interventions" is the word being used to replace the word "courses". They don't do courses in open prisons. Actually I think it is mainly to do with matters connected to work done with my probation officer.

So, all the soul-searching and agonising about challenges made by the Lazy L are over at last. I've still got a long road to travel, and there will be pitfalls of course, but I'll avoid them, I'll keep my eyes open for them and, whatever else I may be, I'm not a fool.

All of those fears and anxieties that have given me disturbed and restless nights should disappear now, but they won't of course. I will believe things when I see them - prison  has taught me to hope for the best but expect the worst. That's the Lazy L for you - always expect the worst because that's what generally comes from this place.

So, here I am at last, after all those worries when I thought that nothing else could be done to get sense out of this place. I had lost sight of the fact that, way out of the scope of my ken, there are people who think clearly and who actually make fair and decent decisions, people who were working on my behalf to try to get a sensible conclusion to the situation created by the poor thinking that is endemic at the Lazy L.

It all brings to mind the words of Arthur Clough (poet) in his poem, "Say not the struggle naught availeth" where he wrote:

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.
I was the tired waves vainly breaking, but the tide was coming in slowly but surely. Well, it's in sight now and I can hear the waves on the rocks and smell the ozone.

I have written to Boudica, of course - she will be pleased. Mind, she will also have to stop making her unrealistic threats now - she might have to keep them! Come to think about it, I'll have to stop being rude to her too or she WILL keep them, a lot sooner than I expected. The dog better watch out too. I bet it bloody well bites me - I'm lucky like that.

The Voice In The Wilderness