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