Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No-fly zones

Anybody who reads this drivel on any sort of a regular basis will be fully aware by now that I am not the brightest star in the firmament, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, I could pass as a nitwit in anyone's company. Don't knock it - it's not easy being as simpleminded as me.

So - there are a couple of things that I don't actually understand. Now, forget the rights and wrongs, the moral maze so to speak, just concentrate on the words. Here comes the question:
How does a "No-fly zone" include bombing vehicles on the ground?
Personally, I've never seen a tank fly, but that doesn't mean the Americans haven't got one - they've got
everything else. Who was it who said:
You can't say that civilisation doesn't advance because in every new war they kill you in a different way.
Oh yes, I remember, it was Will Rogers.

So the Yanks may well have flying tanks. The British don't have them, of course - they've barely got any flying airplanes and even THEY will be flogged off at the first opportunity to the highest bidder. All in the name of economic prudence, of course, tinged with a smidgeon of idealism. Aldous Huxley said:
Idealism is the noble toga that political gentlemen drape over their will to power.
Let's face it, a politician is a person who is so patriotic that he is more than happy to lay down your life for his country.

As for causes, E.M. Forster had something to say about causes, and that was:
I hate causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.
So, as can be seen, I don't understand how a "No-fly zone" can include bombing vehicles or people on the ground.

There is also a lot of drivel being spouted about getting rid of a dictator and protecting civilians. I don't see anyone declaring a "No-fly zone" over Zimbabwe or trying to kill Mugabe - but then again, Zimbabwe has no oil.

However, they did declare a "No-fly zone" over Gotham City recently, after an unfortunate incident. Superman was flying over the city on one of his regular patrols when he looked down and saw Wonder Woman sunbathing naked on a roof - totally naked, arms and legs spread wide to garner the most of the sun's benevolence.

"Whey hey!" Superman thought to himself, flew down at the speed of light - WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU MA'AM - and off he flew again at the speed of light.

The Invisible Man stood up, felt his bum and said, "What the fuck was THAT!"

By the way - there is no news this week.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Men that were boys

Yesterday, March 22nd, I had a letter from an old friend, a friend I have known for well over fifty years and with whom I've been through a couple of interesting situations - situations, incidentally, better left unremarked. It all got me to thinking, as these things usually do, about the past.

I know that young people wonder why us old fellows harp on about the past so much, and I'll tell you. It's because the past is a safe place to be - we know what happened and there are no surprises, nasty or otherwise. The past is a safe, comfortable environment.

Anyway, Freddie (for this is the friend's name) was telling me in the letter of all the other old boys, who send their sincere respects, as well as telling me who has died. I remember all of these young men when they were young men, and the interesting part ( I suppose) is that they remember me too. After twenty-five years they still remember - I must have done something right along the way. I know young fellows who haven't got a friend in the world. Well, if you get to thirty and have no friends, you are doing it wrong.

Having said that, they do say that if a man has just one true friend then he is a rich man indeed.

A lot of fellows have died in one way or another, and this got me to thinking ahout my own funeral, not all that far away now. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not about to turn maudlin, not a bit of it. I've got it all organised - I'll have Frank Sinatra singing "My way" and I'll be in the background 1aughing my head off. By the time it's all over the whole congregation will be laughing like lunatics and, on the way out, someone will say, "What a character! He couldn't even let us plant him without turning it into a big joke!"

Well, it is a joke. Funerals have bugger-all to do with the dead - the dead couldn't give a fiddler's. Funerals are strictly for the living - and that's a contradiction if I ever heard one.

So, I wonder who will attend my own planting? I hope I am there to see it.

Howsomever, before that happens I've got a few more roads to travel. Besides, Boudica will veto my own requests for an insane departure from this mortal coil. She'll want a miserable one with every bugger crying and being po-faced.

Before all that happens I shall hope to see those old hoys again and have a look at how the years have treated them. I remember them all as fresh-faced young lions at the peak of their prowess and arrogance. The women too! I'll remember when they were all pretty and turned heads as they sashayed past. Now, we are all old - and that's the cycle of life.

It all brings to mind the words of the poet Hilaire Belloc:

I will hold my house in the high wood,
Within a walk of the sea,
And men that were boys when I was a boy
Shall sit and drink with me.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Ides of March

Well, would you believe it! After all the disappointments, resentments, annoyances, delays, irritations and general time-wasting, I have finally been given a date for the Oral Parole Board Hearing - hereafter to be referred to as the OPBH. (It sounds like a chemical formula for an illegal substance - "Psssst! Psssst! Want to buy a feelthy peecture or some OPBH?")

Anyway, finally, at last, after all of the weeks of negative reporting, I can finally say that I've been given a date - Thursday, 26th May, 2011.

I was given the date on March 17th, and that's the bit that has made me slightly nervous - let's face it, the 17th of March wasn't a very auspicious day for good old Julius Caesar, was it? "Beware the Ides of March" - a wise man listens to such messages from the oracles. Do I hear the sound of daggers being honed?

Having said that, the 17th of March is also Saint Paddy's Day, and THAT sort of balances things out a good bit, me being part Paddy as well. Not that I care to be called "Paddy" - or Mick come to that - but, well I'm sure the astrologers would be able to make a case for it being positive.

I suppose it's a bit like the old Arab proverb - "Put all your trust in Allah, but first tie up your camels." Fair enough, I'll beware the Ides, but first I'll tie up the camel in the car park.

Some people say, "Frank, I can't figure out how your mind works at all!" Well, let me tell you a little secret - neither can I. You think it's easy living with my mind? I've told you before - it's not easy being me.

Thursday, 26th May, 2011. It's only eleven months late - that's pretty good in the grand scheme of things when dealing with officialdom.

Thursday, 26th May, 2011 - make a note in the diary.

To move along the bus a bit, Boudica is solidly into the writing now - the bug has caught her by the throat and is squeezing away enthusiastically. Personally I think that's great, and more power to her elbow. I hope it all turns into a huge success for her because if there is anyone who deserves a bit of good fortune in this world, it's Boudica - lang may her lum reek.

That's the good part. The less than good part, from my point of view, is that I was a bit expansive at the inception and made the promise that I would create the drawings for her. Now, I don't mind doing that - in fact I have quite enjoyed letting my pencil scribble away and sniggering a lot - but she is so prolific! I thought I could write quickly, but Boudica's head is full of ideas for stories for little teapot lids (that's rhyming slang for kids, for the folk not so well versed in that area).

That's fine too, but I have to do the drawings and, let's face facts here, my mind is far too dark for any of its outpourings to be inflicted upon children. I only came to that conclusion when I realised that most of the drawings I was doing were quite simply unfit for purpose.

So now I am stuck with trying to draw nice, twee things for Boudica because, if I don't, well - she has a temper, and there will be more than Julius worrying about the Ides of March.

Finally, Blodwin has gone, departed these shores, toddled off to pursue an academic life - and who can blame her? She is far too nice a person to live in this sordid world. She came to see me the day before she left (again, the Ides), and we had a chat for a short while. I told her that I shall miss her and that I saw her as a sort of esoteric comfort blanket, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

When she took her leave of me, she said something which stuck in my mind, something I won't forget for a long time. She said, "Frank, talking to you has restored my faith in working with prisoners." What did she mean by that?

All replies in plain brown envelopes and must be accompanied by Treasury notes to cover expenses for my proposed trip to Katmandu where I understand there is an oracle living on top of a pole. I want a word with him ahout the Ides of March - surely he can issue a few words of comfort!

The Voice In The Wilderness

Friday, March 18, 2011

Confusion will be my epitaph

I'm confused.

Here's me, sitting here, minding my own business, bothering nobody, doing my own inoffensive things and plodding along like a proper little patient. What are the ubiquitous "THEY" doing?

A good question.

I am getting mixed and often completely contrary messages from all and sundry. Had a letter from my solicitor during the week which had enclosed a letter HE had received from Hoss the Boss here at the Lazy L. I won't quote the full thing, only the confusing part. Hoss the Boss writes:

With regards to Mr Wilkinson's final decision on re-categorisation; at this time the paperwork is being considered by the Deputy Governor, as soon as a decision is made, Mr Wilkinson will be informed.
That's what HE says.

Then I had a letter from The Wallace, and once again I will only quote the relevant passage. She writes:

I did speak to the Offender Management Unit a few weeks ago about your category review. [They] advised me that in order to review your category, it had to go to the director of high security as you had been Cat A within the last 5 years.
As for a date for the parole hearing, forget that. It has taken on the mantle of rocking horse shit - very difficult to get hold of indeed.

Don't misunderstand me - I don't see a conspiracy at all. What I see is a catalogue of incompetence and failure to communicate with each other. Each department is diligently protecting its own little powerbase and they are all keeping secrets from each other to the detriment of those they are supposed to be managing and dealing with - the cons. There are cuts in the air you see!

"My department is doing a good job!" they cry. "It is the others who don't know what they are doing!"

Yes! Because you aren't communicating, numbskull.

What it all means to me is that I am confused, but who can blame me for that? While THEY go about their little intrigues against each other, here's me, stuck here, scratching - and totally wasting what's left of my life. They do not want me to do anything - I have no targets to aim at beyond "Be a good boy". I haven't been in any trouble of any sort for over ten years - it can't improve! I can't get any better than ideal. All I am doing now is sitting here, rotting to no good purpose.

On a brighter note, Boudica has newly decided that she will be an author of children's stories. About bleedin' time as well, if you ask me. I don't know if I have mentioned this before (and, if I have, then skip the next couple of sentences), but Boudica is really good at writing tales for tots. I've been on at her for some time now to write, with a view to proper publication, but she would only write the stories and send them off to individuals - members of the family and friends, that kind of thing.

(Do you ever feel the urge to grab someone by the scruff of the neck and shake them and say, "You'd better start cooperating a bit more." Do you ever get that urge??)

I finally had to offer to draw pictures to go with her stories before she would start to cooperate a bit. Now? She can't stop writing now. The bug has got her. She's writing like Barbara Cartland on speed.

That's the secret you see. We all have stories to tell, it's just a matter of getting started. Once we start then it's like a snowball rolling down a roof - it just picks up speed and grows as it travels.

I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again - Mao Tse Tung once said:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Well, Boudica has taken the step - long may she reign.

Where does that leave me? Confused, that's where it leaves me - confused.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A prisoner's progress

On March 9th (tomorrow) it will be exactly twenty-five years since that day in March of 1986, (Sunday, Mother's Day) when twenty-two armed policemen arrested me at gunpoint. The fact that I was sleeping in my bed at the time is best ignored - and it is churlish of me to mention it, so forget that I did. Twenty-five years - counting the six (or seven) leap years included in that time (or is it eight?), that's a total of about 9,000 days. (9,131 to be precise - just worked it out.)

Now, that's quite a long time. Wars have been fought, nations have risen and collapsed, dynasties have fallen, earthquakes, floods and various disasters have come and gone - but here I sit, the rock upon which all human frustration breaks. (Like the Rock of Gibraltar in a way - we know it's there, we know that others want it and claim it, but will the British give it up? Will they bollocks.)

Twenty-five years.

I've met a lot of people in those years, most of them pretty wicked in some respect or other, but a fair few who have been decent, good people. Never despair for the human race - the good folk are out there, make no mistake about it.

This was all brought home to me just this morning when one of my peer group here at the Lazy L asked me if I knew a certain person. He seemed to think that I must have run across this mystery fellow at some stage because the fellow in question has been in jail fifteen years.

I told him, "I don't know everyone!"

It's true! It's a silly question really. It is like saying that just because a person comes from Ireland he must know Paddy who lives in Dublin.

Yes, I've met a lot of people over the years - muggers, sluggers and buggers; fat cats, high hats and just plain rats. I've met them all, but they have all gone from my ken. Some have gone home, of course, never to darken the portals of a court again. Some have died, either in or out of jail - but all have gone their own way.

In some respects this is quite sad, I suppose - but isn't this the story of everyone's life? We travel the roads that Pilgrim travelled in Bunyan's book. We run the whole gamut of characters and meet them all, but they eventually pass by and are gone into the night, one way or another. And this, of course, brings to mind the words of Longfellow from "Tales of a Wayside Inn":

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.
That's all we are - ships that pass in the night.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Atta Matta

Needless to say there is nothing to say or tell anyone this week - but that's par for the course I suppose - unless you count the fact that my appeal solicitor, that paragon of ineptitude, has written me a two line letter telling me that she will not represent me at the European Court of Human Rights. Oh I can fully understand why she takes that attitude - her inadequacies would be exposed for all to see in no time at all. Well, I've got news for her - they will anyway, it will just take a little longer, that's all.

However, let us not be vindictive. Put that to one side and concentrate on the fact that there is nothing of a positive nature in any direction - sorry about that.

So, there I was, midweek some time, and I got to thinking, as is my wont on a rainy afternoon when I've got bugger-all to do, which is most of the time around the Lazy L. I got to thinking...

Now, thinking and brooding on the ills (real or imaginary) that are done to us are two entirely different kettles of fish. I was thinking, not brooding. I never brood - I don't allow myself that little luxury, as delightful as it may seem. No, I was cogitating, musing and, of course, I was randomly browsing through memories. Well, memories are a safe area, we can adjust things to suit ourselves - selective memories - and there are no surprises in the past, just little things that make us grin from time to time.

A casual observer would have seen my smile and instantly reached for the phone to the men in white coats - but never mind them. I was thinking about my childhood and the characters I either met or saw, from a distance, as a child of six or seven. There were a lot of them around the town of Sunderland in those days. Samson Beresford, the strongest man in the world (according to him), springs to mind,  but I am not going to itemise them all. The one I want to mention is an old woman who wandered the markets and poorer quarters of the town, always dressed in black with her dress down to her ankles and almost covering the black boots she wore. She was, in fact, the epitome of everyone's idea of a witch in a fairy story. (These days, of course, that position has been taken by Boudica, and no doubt she will make me pay for THAT crack. Ah, see if I care...) So, this old lady...

I have no idea what her name was, but everyone called her Atta Matta. She got that name because whenever she saw an unhappy child (and she saw plenty around Sunderland in the early 1950's) she would crouch over the child, wipe his tears and say in a sympathetic voice, "Atta matta, son?" She was a kindly soul I expect - all the time in the world for unhappy children. It's a pity there weren't a few more like her. She will have been dead for years now, of course - Atta Matta was an old lady even in those days.

This got me onto mortality in general and, of course, my own mortality in particular. I start my twenty-sixth year in prison on the 9th of this month and I wonder how many years I've got left. It can't be all that many - I'll be sixty-five this year!

Boudica gets annoyed when I discuss this subject - maybe she is a bit reluctant to face the fact that I am not immortal. Well, I'm not. I might go on a diet, do all the right exercises, stop smoking and all manner of things to prolong my life, but I can never escape my inevitable end - none of us can. But this is no reason to be sad or upset, not a bit of it. I shall get on Charon's ferry when the time comes, hand over my copper fare and, when I get to the other side of the Styx, I shall get off and I will be approached by a figure dressed in a black dress down to her ankles and black boots and she will wipe the tears from my eyes and say, "Atta matta, son?"

The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Nothing at all

There's a man sitting in a concrete room,
His heart full of emptiness and gloom.
With his head in his hands you'll hear him say,
"It's a long time ago since yesterday."
Then his hands gently droop and slowly fall
In his world full of nothing at all.
(Status Quo)
Here we are at the end of yet another week where there is less than nothing to report or tell anyone about. No date for the parole hearing and even less prospect of one - and of course not a word about a downgrading or a transfer to greener and pleasanter surroundings. My solicitor is doing his best but he is suffering under the same intransigence as I am myself. We live in hope - we have no choice in the matter.

However, I did manage to get a copy of the Rolling Stones' Greatest hits (1968-1972) so I can't complain.

I've had a virus! I may have mentioned it last week, can't remember. ( I only write this drivel, I don't waste my time reading it.) So, I had this viral thing and, like all men when they get a bit of a cold and/or a cough, I decided that I was dying, popping my clogs, handing in my dinner pail, shuffling off this mortal coil, heading for my reserved ticket on Charon's ferry and generally snuffing it. Boudica took the opportunity to take the piss, of course - "Diddums got a cold then?" seemed to be her attitude. Don't worry, I'll get her for it.

Apparently, I made a crack recently about wood and boarding up her mouth which she took exception to, although her sister almost choked on her tea when she read it - they've got a funny sense of humour those ladies. I'm not saying Boudica was rude about it, but the implication was there - she can be rude without trying (or possibly not knowing even, or caring). Women are quite good at that - the cutting remark that draws blood while they sit there, butter wouldn't melt, and say, "What?"

Anyway, the point is that Boudica has finally decided to put her enormous talent for poetry and storytelling to good use, as anyone will know if they have started to read her stories about her stupid and vandalistic mutt, Cassie. Boudica has put her hand to writing for children.

Now, anyone who knows me will know that being nice to Boudica is probably suicidal because she just thinks I am up to no good if I am nice to her, but it has to be said, she is good. Her poetry is first class and her prose keeps children giggling and entertained for hours. I've been at her for a long time now to write for kids, but listening to me is against her priciples apparently. Then Andrew mentioned that there is a huge market out there for children's stories and Boudica has finally decided to try to join the human race and take part in the march of humanity toward a better world - she is writing a tale for children. I'm looking forward to it because... well, let's face it, I never grew up. I'm just a big kid, like all the rest of the men on the planet - how else do you explain the popularity of train-sets?

Oh she is good, no doubt about it, and she has a great sense of humour really. (She needs one living with that dog - the world's only demolition team on four legs.) Come to think about it, a sense of humour probably helps when she has to deal with me, too - I'm usually termed, in her own words, "You miserable old bastard."

Okay, not disputing that, but do you know the best thing about being a bastard? I don't have to buy anyone a present on Father's Day.

The Voice In The Wilderness