Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Social duties

"Prison" is a strange animal - or perhaps it would be better referred to as an "Entity". Whichever way, it's strange. Well, I suppose I'd better explain that rather odd statement. What I mean is, it's like a micro-organism, a huge micro-organism - and if that's not a contradiction in terms then I don't know what is.

It is a small, entirely enclosed world and yet it teems with the life of any huge metropolis. We wander through it generally indifferent and ignorant of most of what is going on - and yet we are fully aware of everything. Llke any conglomeration, we have those at the top and those propping everyone and everything else up. We have the weird, the wonderful and all stages in between. We have those who really ought to be kept as far from female society as possible and those who think that any unattended  pound coin is there to be stolen. Muggers, sluggers and buggers - we've got them all.

People like me, hereinafter referred to as "Ordinary Decent Criminals" or ODCs, have generally reached the position in our personal mindsets where we can ignore the - shall we call them "The Fiddling Fraternity"? - and we generally only offer our time and friendship (fleeting as it may be) to others much like ourselves. It's true, water does find its own level, and birds of a feather do flock together. The "Shify Sonority" avoid the ODCs and so on. Sometimes it's hard to know the difference and I suppose it's best not to enquire too closely. The old axiom would seem to apply - if you don't want to know the answer, don't ask the bloody question.

Personally I don't give a fiddler's and don't ask questions. I have a small - well, not so small - circle of fellows I see and chat to and everyone else kind of becomes a face in a dinner queue, and that way my personal mental comfort is assured.

I think what I really mean is that I don't make judgements on others without a good reason. Who am I to judge anyway?

Okay, with that out of the way let me move on to saying that over the years (and there've been a few) I must have met thousands of fellows much like myself who are generally seen as "goodfellows" - one of yer own, so to speak. They come into our lives, stay a while - sometimes many years - but sooner or later pass on much like ships  in the night. Every now and again paths cross again and we run into old faces. Such a thing happens here at the Home for Gay Sailors just as it does everywhere else, and when I arrived here I ran into a few faces from the past and a few have arrived since I got here.

There used to be a kind of tradition in prison which consisted of a new fellow arriving in a prison - a goodfellow - and he would be taken around and introduced to others of a like ilk. This served several purposes: it got the fellow into a circle which he knew he belonged to, fellows of a like character; and if a goodfellow introduced the new boy to another goodfellow it was a kind of endorsement saying, "This is X, he's okay.' It doesn't happen much these days of course - the modern class of ODC quite simply doesn't have the manners of the "Old School". On the converse side of course there was the un-uttered but heavily-implied fact that if a fellow WASN'T introduced then the fellow was no good, but there was no need to say so.

Well, an old friend of mine arrived this week and I've been doing my duty in introducing him to those he needs to know - he knows a couple himself already of course - and that's my duty done.

I wonder why modern day criminals no longer have any manners in general! The world has turned very selfish and "Me Me Me" in the last ten to fifteen years or more. Mind, is it any surprise, when every time we turn the telly on we get our political masters standing there accused of all manner of devious behaviour, spouting out figures in the billions and smugly telling the lesser mortals such as myself that we have to bite the bullet while they bite their lobsters.

Oh yes, it's true what they say about the politicos - a politician is someone who will willingly lay down your life for his country.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


As any reader of this drivel will be fully aware by now, I spend quite a lot of time each day simply wandering around the place in liberty and unfettered abandon, making up for the years of restricted movement elsewhere. (Ha! Several elsewheres really - forty-eight of them in fact.)

So, I wander about the place. I get up at my leisure each day (although I am always fully operational by seven in the morning) and begin my daily stint of perambulations normally around eight-thirty in the ack emma, as they say in military circles. These nomadic wanderings take me to many varied and exotic locations, such as going to see how Rambo the gigantic pig is doing, hand-feeding a ram which, for reasons of its own, runs to see me as soon as I appear on the scene. Actually, it's a strange creature. I arrive at its little field/enclosure, which it shares with half a dozen of the farm's healthy but disgustingly filthy rams, and as soon as I shout, "Come on!" it runs across to the fence, tries to climb over and I pull up tufts of grass and feed it. Others come too, of course, but they are kind of reluctant to take the fodder from my hand. The ram slobbers all over me so I've probably got all manner of diseases by now, such as scrapie, whatever that is. Anyway, when I get fed up of pulling up grass, I usually scratch his head for him for a short while and wander off about my daily  rounds.

I go to several places where I know folk and have a few words, I go to the library, places like that. I also run into quite a lot of people who say, "Hello" in passing and from time to time I stop and have little conversations with someone I've run into. It is one such conversation that has attracted my attention this week and, seeing as I am not allowed to name anyone, I won't. However, as will become blatantly obvious from the narrative, this person was a fellow of importance in the grand scheme of things here at the Home for Gay Sailors.

There I was the other day, just having departed from feeding the friendly ram and shaking the slobber off my hand, when I ran into this important fellow who, for obvious reasons, will be henceforth referred to as "The Important Fellow". (See - I don't use people's names!)

"Ah!" said this fellow. "Good morning."

"And a good morning to you," says I, not one to be outdone for manners. "How 'r' ye?"

"I'm fine," said he. "Can I ask, why is it that every time I see you you seem to be very smartly dressed and wandering around doing nothing?"

"Ah," said I. "I can help you there. I'm just lucky."

This reply seemed to disconcert him a little because he went on to ask, "What do you do all day?"

Me: "As little as possible."

That reply didn't go down too well either. "What is your job?"

"I haven't got one," said I. "I'm a member of the idle poor."

"You haven't got a job?" said he. "How long have you been here?"

"Since December the twenty-ninth," I replied pleasantly.

"And you haven't got a job!" said he. "Why not?"

"I can help you there too," said I. "I'm retired."

"Retired?" said he. "How old are you?"

"Sixty-five," replied myself.

"Sixty-five? Are you sure?"

I sniffed deeply. "I think so."

Clearly "The Important Fellow" had psyched himself up to give me gainful employment at the very first opportunity AND give a right royal bollocking to whoever was allowing me to do nothing. Having been informed that I am retired killed that plan.

"Oh," said he. "Are you enjoying the leisure?"

"Well," said I, "it's better than what I was used to."

"Fine, fine," said he. "Well, carry on."

"I'm managing stress," said I.

"Managing stress?" said he. "You don't look stressed to me."

"Must be working then, eh?" said I and smiled my usual grin.

He just grunted and went on his way.

As I continued my wanderings it occurred to me that he hadn't asked me my name - he KNEW!  Well, well, well. It's true - a fellow never knows what is or isn't being said behind the scenes - do we?

The Voice In The Wilderness

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

There is a leafy bower

There is a leafy bower... Okay, perhaps that statement may be me being a little economical with the truth - using what our political masters call "terminological inexactitudes" - with it only being March, the leaves are few and far between. However, I reserve my right to the use of peotic licence!  If it was summer, it WOULD be a bleedin' leafy bower!


There is a leafy bower, created between the library and the building being used as a chapel - a quiet spot indeed. A large tree sits in the middle of a pebbled circle and spreads its (currently naked) branches above a circular bench built very neatly around the trunk of the said tree. (Don't ask me what sort of tree it is - do I look like Percy soddin' Thrower? Ha! For all I know it might even be a spreading chestnut tree - and not a blacksmith in sight.)

So, we've got the tree and the bench in the circle of pebbles, all tastefully surrounded by a neat brick border. To one side is a fish pond with sides raised a couple of feet with water gently trickling in at one side and dozens of multicoloured goldfish swimming about and doing very little to earn their daily bread as far as I can see. There are bushes and other trees surrounding the circle mentioned previously and not a leaf between any of them. Come to think about it, there's not even a bud showing, not yet - I've looked! With the weather improving now it won't be long before it IS a leafy bower. (Give me a break!)

The point of all this drivel is that it's nice to sit there for a half hour or so in my daily solitude of retirement - a pause in my daily wanderings. There I sit, quietly and quite comfortably, musing on cabbages and kings and managing stress in my own inimitable way.

Somebody asked me the other day, "Frank," said he, "don't you ever do anything?"
"I try not to," said I. "It keeps me out of trouble."

I know where I'll spend a fair amount of time when the summer finally gets here and the leafy bower comes into its own. Ah! The peaceful existence of voluntary idleness.

I went to Boston the other day, to Pilgrim Hospital, to see the physiotherapist there about my knees. I took a couple of quid with me this time because it was getting on for lunchtime and I thought I might quite fancy a cuppa and a sandwich. The physio was a fellow who seemed extraordinarily polite, but that probably comes with the job. He pulled and tugged and ripped and wrenched. And his final diagnosis was that my daily wanderings were actually the best thing I could be doing, my losing weight during those wanderings-about was ideal - and all he had to offer me was to continue the way I was going because I am doing everything right. I've got to say that makes a nice change for me - to do ANYTHING right, let alone everything.

So, that's twice I've been out into the world of normal folk unfettered, unchained and unescorted, and they both count toward the three that The Wallace wants me to do. Only one to go and one overnighter somewhere. I have no idea when that will be of course - perhaps The Wallace is organising it. However, until such times as I do get further days out, I shall continue sitting in the leafless leafy bower and watching first the buds appear, turn into leaves, birds will nest in the tree and no doubt deposit further compost to encourage growth. Let's hope it misses me sitting underneath, and all that cobblers about it being lucky, well, tell that to the workers in London's sewer system.

Finally, I've lost five inches around my waist since Christmas so the trousers I bought then are all too tight. Anyone want a couple of bell tents for the kids to play in?

The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Better late than never

Before anyone starts complaining to the Great Essayist in the sky, I am fully aware of the fact that there have been no entries for a couple of weeks. There has been a reason. Circumstances way beyond my control made it expedient for a slight hiatus in output. That's a great way to put it, but the fact is that the prison here were a bit concerned that I might be using a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter, or that I might use the names of staff members, or inform the world that I was going somewhere on some specific day, thus allowing Al Qaeda their chance to "get" me. So, after a bit of a chat with the governor, it has been decided that I am in fact not actually doing any of those thinqs so we can return to normal, hence - here we are again folks! (At this point I would normally draw a smiley face but this is an old typewriter - give me a break.)
This place is strange, to say the least. We've got blackbirds who think that wandering around the feet of us lesser mortals is normal, wall-to-wall doves and woodpigeons - and people who lean on fences talking to sheep. Mind (and I've said this before), it may be the only way round here to get a sensible conversation. Be all that as it may, it's quite funny to see some hairy-arsed convict pulling up tufts of succulent grass and hand-feeding rams who not only take the stuff but then stand still to have their topknots scratched.

There is a pig called Rambo - and I'm not surprised. He is huge, black with a wide white band around his middle and seems to spend his days trying to batter down fences to get at the pig in the next pen, or else simply bites the gates. Put it this way, in  a fistfight between me and him, I'd be easily recoqnised because I'd be the little cloud of dust rapidly leaving the vicinity.

The good news is that I have now been signed up (or whatever it is they do) to allow me to have days out and overnight stays. The first overnighter will be in a hostel somewhere, but the when is another matter altogether. The Wallace will be pleased because she wants it done as soon as possible, whenever that may be of course.  I've been out once already, of course, under my own steam, but that was just a visit to the local hospital - and I'm going again. This time I am taking a couple of quid with me so that the least I can do is have a sandwich and a cuppa while I am waiting for tne van to collect me to bring me back. I'm seeing the physiotherapist and have to take shorts with me - I only want to see him, not run the marathon!

Another thing about this place is the aroma that sometimes pervades the place when the wind is in the right direction - or the wrong direction, depending on your point of view and love of the delicate aroma of sheep shit. Somebody said that they are going to get a thousand chickens soon. Wonderful! The smell of a thousand chickens should improve the authentic smell of the countryside no end. Get that in little bottles and you'd make a fortune in the Yorkshire Dales flogging it to tourists - "The Authentic Smell of Olde England"!

Oh yes, I can see the adverts now - maybe Saatchi and Saatchi can take it on. We'd need a good name for it, of course - no good just calling it scent, we'd need better than that. All suggestions in plain brown envelopes, please (along with an entry fee in used banknotes), to "The Home for Gay Sailors Aromatic Asylum" (and let's see them make a bloody acronym out of THAT!).

Anyway, this has simply been me letting everyone know that I am sorry that there have been no "Voices" for a couple of weeks, but things are back to normal now. By the way, the winner of the "Name the scent" competition will win a bucket of product, tightly packed - no scrimping here, mate. You never know, it may NOT kill your roses!

The Voice In The Wilderness