Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Coming out for a walk?

Here we are at the Home for Gay Sailors (as someone is fond of calling it) and we are now well into the year's start, so things appear to have settled down and everything is back to normal. Having said that, what's normal these days? Some folk think that dropping bombs on people is normal, so it's purely a personal perception, normality.

However, here at North Sea Camp, normal seems to consist of people going out of the prison to work, organising their days out and generally getting themselves into the correct mindset for their eventual and inevitable release.

It's a very strange situation that I find myself in because, after so many years in high security, something about this situation strikes me more forcibly than all of the other new experiences, and I'll explain that remark.

In the Lazy L I was surrounded by men - most of them young men too, in their twenties - who were going nowhere. Some of them were facing twenty, twenty-five, thirty years or more in prison and, in amongst all of the diverse topics of conversation, there was one which very rarely got mentioned, if mentioned at all - and that was the topic of release from prison. Those fellows (like myself) who were coming to the end of their time of incarceration didn't want to remind those just in the early years of theirs exactly what they had in front of them. Consequently there were few mentions, ever, of getting out of prison.

Here at the Home for Gay Sailors it is entirely different - and quite rightly so, I suppose. Without exception everyone is looking to go home in next to no time at all. They are organising days out down to the local towns, some go out each day to work and many can tell you precisely how many weeks they have to serve before they are released. Many are released weekly and that in its turn provides empty places for new people to arrive, which of course means that there is a fairly robust turnover of clients for the local shopping trade.

All of this brings me to a rather curious observation, because the other day I was talking to three fellows who came here from the prison in Nottingham and none of them have any more than a couple of months left to serve. That's not unusual in itself, but two of them have only been in prison a matter of a few weeks! All three have never been in prison before and the longest sentence between them is six months. This means that in reality each is taking up a space that someone who has been in prison for donkey's years (as like as not) has been waiting six or eight months for! Don't misunderstand me - I do not condemn these short sentence fellows, not a bit of it, but I do wonder about the criteria  being administered by whoever is responsible for these things. I'm perfectly sure that it is probably all to do with operational difficulties and only so many long sentence cons being allowed into places such as this at any one time, but it all seems a bit curious to me for all that.

On a personal level, I seem to spend all of my time these days out in the fresh air - over four hours of it yesterday in the wind and rain. I would go out for an hour with someone, come back and then another would arrive:

Frank! Are you coming out for a walk?
Well, after the years I've spent sitting on my arse in an uninviting environment, unable to walk anywhere unfettered, I don't need inviting twice - and it's nice to know that enough fellows want to go for a walk and a chat with me as a person.

Four times it happened yesterday - over four hours out in the inclement weather - and I enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I recommend it as a career choice instead of running around the streets annoying the gendarmes and upsetting the populace.

It shouldn't be too long before I can start going down to the local town myself - a bit of shopping, stuff like that. I have already applied for my bus pass. I can't wait to get on a bus. I haven't used a bus for such a long time - some time in the 1960's in fact - it's going to be an experience in itself.

Oh well, my flatmate has just arrived and wants to go for a little drive about - who am I to argue?

The Voice In The Wilderness

1 comment:

Donnie said...

This is such a joy to read Frank. Such a joy.