Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pilgrim's progress

Actually I've had a good week - well, I've had an interesting week, and that's good enough for me. It all started on Wednesday when I had a visit from John and Sharon. I wasn't all that sure what to expect, but I am delighted to say that I have met two more really nice people - two more to add to a growing band of nice people I have met in recent years.

In my early years in prison I met practically no nice folk - but that's hardly a surprise. However, as time went on, and as my personal attitudes changed and I altered my interests, I began to meet nicer folk - until now I seem to meet them at fairly regular intervals. This has probably got more to do with them than it does with me. Let's face it, who wants to be in contact with a raging bull who is only one step up from lunacy? From the days when I began to be interested in more academic matters, and spent my time on writing and similar pursuits, I seem to have gradually met a growing number of really nice folk.

John struck me as being a man clearly interested in what is right and seeing that things are put right. Sharon is a diminutive, elfin figure with a huge smile from the minute I saw her and DEFINITELY a person who knows her own mind. She made a big impresslon on me and I got the feeling that conversations with her would never he boring. Hopefully I can stay in touch with both.

Anyway, that was on Wednesday, and I have not spent a pleasanter afternoon for a long time. On Thursday I had to appear before a board to be granted temporary release on licence to allow me to go on an unescorted visit into Boston to the Pilgrim Hospital, there to have X-rays taken of both of my knees. I had expected a board with a lot of people sitting facing me across a large table. No such thing. There was a governor and a person assisting him, that's all. He informed me that they don't like sending people out under escort so I had to be sure I didn't make a mess of it, and I assured him that I wouldn't. That was it! He signed my temporary release document and off I jolly well went.

On Friday morning, after a heavy night of snow, I thought that all travel into town might be stopped because of the roads, but it wasn't. All I had to do was collect my temporary licence release book from the wing office, walk across to the gate, identify myself and tell them where I was going and get into the van. That was it - I was out of prison for the first time in twenty-six years, more or less. However, and this may sound strange, there was no sense of freedom at all, no feeling of any liberation. I still felt a chain firmly fastened around my neck. I expect I'll feel that chain for a long time to come.

The driver dropped me off at the Pilgrim Hospital and told me he would be back at just after noon and every hour after that until I was ready to go back. I expected, or had expected, a feeling of nervousness or trepidation of some sort once I was completely on my own, but there was none. I just took a deep breath, looked around me and saw that everyone in sight simply went about their business without a glance at me, and I put that down to the fact that, well, they had their lives and weren't interested in anyone else's really. As far as they were concerned, I suppose, I was just a well-dressed elderly fellow attending the hospital - and the fact is, I was, nowt else.

So, in I went to the reception desk and handed my appointment paper over. The receptionist simply registered me on the computer and told me where the X-ray department was. Off I went along corridors until I found it, several people smiling at me or saying "Morning!" as I passed. I was simply another person to them, and most folk are quite friendly, given the opportunity.

In the X-ray department it took about ten minutes and I was putting my trousers back on and on my way back to the front of the hospital again to wait for my lift back to jail. The time wasn't even eleven o'clock!

I had made the mistake of not taking any money with me so I couldn't even have a cup of tea or anything while I waited in the cold but fresh air. So, I stood and watched the world pass me by, and an interesting world it was too. Cars and pedestrians back and forth and not a single feeling on my part of being unable to cope with it all - it all seemed natural to me, easy. Then it got interesting.

A young woman, maybe nineteen or twenty, came up to me.

"You have light yes?" said she in some mid-European accent. Polish? Croatian? Welsh? Who knows?

"No," said I. "I'm sorry, I don't have a light."

Says she, "Where you from?" clearly wondering why my accent is different to everyone else's.

"I'm from the prison," said I.

"Prison?" asked she.

"Prison," I agreed.

She asked, "You guard?" obviously taking in the fact that everything I wore was dark blue.

I grinned at her. "No. I am a prisoner."

"You prisoner?" said she, and went off hurriedly.

So, my charm is still working then. She came back with another little blonde girl about the same age and BOTH were speaking the same language.

"This friend," said the first and told me a name that didn't even hegin to register.

So, there I stood, chatting (or listening) to two foreign girls who probably knew ten words of English between them, for about half an hour until a bus came and whisked them away. I expect they were foreign workers because it would seem that there are lots of Polish workers around the area who work on the farms. It was really nice to have a long chat to those two selfless girls, even though there was little, if any, real communication there.

Was I right to tell them that I was a prisoner? I think so. I see no reason to conceal it.

The van collected me at about twelve-fifteen and brought me back to the front gate, along with a couple of others they had collected. On arrival, all I had to do was inform the gate who I was and then walk over to the wing and hand in my licence book until such time as I will need it again.

An interesting experience and nothing like as hard or traumatic as I or anyone else had expected. It was simple. I took it in my stride really.

The point is that I have been released - unfettered, unescorted  and unwatched - and got back without drama. Now, when I go before the full board on Wednesday 15th of this month to see if I am fit to be allowed out on regular town visits they will say (hopefully), "You have demonstrated that you can be relied on."

I should think that things in the town itself may well be a bit more hectic - faster - but I see no reason to be concerned about it. It will all be taken in the stride of my current learning curve.

So, this past week has been kind of interesting, to say the least.

The Voice In The Wilderness


Anonymous said...

H frank you have been in the news here 3 local papers the last 3 days hope everythink goes ok for you
Regards the Ridges

Anonymous said...

Hi frank again have you been on home leave as all is quiet on the east-coast,
The Ridges