Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The leafy bower

There is a tree.

It's of little use asking me what sort of tree - I'm no expert. But if it's any help, I can definitely state that it's not a weeping willow, it's not an oak and it's not a pine tree. Beyond that, you can take a wild guess. It could well be a spreading chestnut for all I know - and not a sign of the village blacksmith anywhere. Beneath this tree, the grass is dappled in the sunlight that manages to struggle through the foliage above and it forms a dappled, cool, leafy area which is quite pretty to look at. The view is improved enormously by half a dozen fat sheep just lying there in the shade, their thick, creamy, lanolin-rich fleeces dappled too as they lazily munch their way through whatever grass they can reach without going so far as to actually get up onto their legs. I'm thinking about starting a rumour that they are actually legless, just balls of kinky wool with heads.

Above these lassitudinous sheep, in amongst the leaves and branches can be heard various birds, tweeting and cooing away - or it may be just one bird, a particularly clever parrot, though I've got my doubts. NEXT to the leafy, shaded bit of sheep-infested grass there runs a public pathway and there is a stile which manages to form an exceedingly comfortable seat for a fellow who needs to sit in peace and manage stress levels in a pleasant fashion.

I sit there, watch the sheep doing next to nothing, have the odd fag and contemplate matters of enormous weiqht and import - such as the meaning of life, the universe and everything, as Douglas Adams once wrote - and so far I can't see how the answer comes out at forty-two, but I'm prepared to be convinced.

I was supposed to go to the hostel tomorrow for an overnight stay. By the middle of last week I was beginning to kind of wonder where the licence form - the ROTL - had got to so, being a fellow who knows what to ask, I asked.

"Oh!" was the answer. "It's been cancelled!"

No reason, of course, reason and the prison service do not make happy bedfellows - they got divorced years ago. Still, to be fair, it doesn't seem to be the fault of the prison for a change. It seems that the hostel has had an influx from somewhere or other and there is no room at the inn, so to speak. If Mary and Joseph had turned up there with an ass, they'd have been stone out of luck - they haven't even got a stable!

So, no hostel for yours truly. But then my lateral thinking sort of clocked on for duty and I asked myself, "Why, if I can't go to the hostel and get a tick in a box, why then can't I go to Pat's for five days 1eave?" Seems reasonable to me.

Off I went to the OMU department.

"Oh," said they. "We'll have to email your offender manager."

Great, I thought, The Wallace will see things reasonably and she had the details of the place a month ago to check it out. So I rubbed my hands with anticipation and went back to my seat on the stile for a while.

The answer came back, "Your offender manager is seeing to.matters."

"I need to know," said I. "I need time to apply to take some  dosh with me."

"Just put in for the money," I was told.

So I did.

On Thursday they told me that my offender manager hadn't "Risk-Assessed" the place yet.

"I'm the lowest risk level possible!" I complained.

They sort of shrugged. "What can we say?"

On Friday they said that The Wallace had written both to me AND to Pat - but I wouldn't be going there tomorrow.

I sighed, casually killed a passing fly and wrote letters to The Wallace, Pat, my solicitor - and went to get a sun-tan as I wandered around the place contemplating matters.

The bit that particularly concerns me is that the prison service wants me to produce a realistic and robust plan for my release to present to the Parole Board, but they won't let me actually produce one. This doesn't apply just to me, they seem to be doing it to all prisoners who have indeterminate sentences.

So, here I am, no further forward in the grand scheme of things, although I seem to have prospects. I have a nice home to go to with a nice family, a career in writing without too much trouble and a place to live away from the madding crowd. That seems fairly robust and realistic to me - far better than sending me to some hostel full of junkies who would steal the pennies from a dead man's eyes.

However, until such times as I can take my next step forward, whatever that step may turn out to be, I shall continue sitting on my stile, regarding sheep in the shade.

Well, I like sitting there! You see - there is this tree...

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Galloping Gourmet

It was a cold start to the day yesterday - and got progressively worse as the day went on. But I can't complain because I enjoyed the day immensely.

To begin with, I got out of the gate quite quickly compared to the fiasco last weekend - and there they were, begod, sitting in the motor vehicle, waiting for me. Let me tell you, when you see a Land Rover parked up quietly with three females in it, smiling in a sinister fashion, a wise man is cautious because you just KNOW that sooner or later, someone is going to start taking the piss. All, that is, without mentioning Harvey - and, as the world is fully aware, eleven-year-old boys can cut up a bit rough  at the best of times.

So, there they were, three of them, smiling - and when a woman smiles, a wise man heads for the hills. Let's have it right - there's Patricia, a farmer's wife for years, used to all manner of heavy work that a Sumo wrestler would refuse to take on; Sara her daughter, ANOTHER farmer's wife, who has clearly served her apprenticeship in places on a par with the Siberian saltmines; and Da-Da, Laura or, as she is better known on the wrestling circuit, Lulubelle. Just to make matters worse, all three are extremely well-versed horsewomen who wouldn't have been out of place amongst Ghengis Khan's hordes. A man would have to be insane to tackle any one of them - to tackle all three of them, he would have to be suicidal! And I'm a well-known coward at the best of times.

We went to Tesco's, me being bullied all of the way. I had a list of ingredients with me for our meal that I was cooking with my own lily-white mitts later that day. Ah! But I'm not silly. I gave the list to the ladies as I stood there looking helpless and assured them that they were the best ones for the job of collecting said potion together, men being notoriously dim when it comes to shopping. Of course they fully agreed and while they stood there congratulating themselves I grabbed Harvey and we abandoned ship. We legged it into parts of Tesco's where ladies never go - the men's bit.

Well, we wandered around, Harvey and me, and even went so far as to buy a packet of hankies, carefully peering around corners to make sure we weren't ambushed by the aforementioned females. Back at the vehicle, I suddenly remembered that me and Harvey had to go somewhere, so we escaped again to the garage. But they found us. I think Harvey must be chipped - his mother traces him too, too eaily.

Well, we finally arrived at the Hole in the Wall gang's hideout and it was great to see that Andrew had already arrived! Much greetings and helloings and I took Andrew to meet Buddy. (See! Cooking ingredients, meeting Buddy - the Galloping Gourmet! Try to keep up, this is all clever stuff you know! I don't just open my mouth and let the wind flap it ahout - I think about things before I write them down. And if you believe that then you deserve to be part of the dynamic trio mentioned earlier.)

So, there we were, in the kitchen and Jade arrived. So we got on with it, me doing what I could to remove my fingers and Jade doing the actucal cooking while she chattered away, no doubt looking forward to the day when she is able to join her mother's gang. It all worked quite well really. We soon had it bubbling away nicely like any good witch's cauldron should and once Jade and I had done that, we were finished. The rice was being cooked later in the afternoon by someone else - we had done our bit.

Jade went off to play with her Play Station, Harvey having wisely disappeared much earlier, and Sara got the western saddle out for me. So I checked the leather (it's getting softer - wonderful) and Sara threw it on Buddy's back. Buddy was being quite good for a change - maybe he's getting religion. Hoisted myself up there (it's a long way back down and Andrew had point blank refused to even contemplate getting up, but I'm made of sterner stuff - I can be talked into anything) and off we went, Buddy and me, ambling along, like Clint Eastwood in  a spaghetti thingy - all we needed was the music in the background. Buddy cut up rough once or twice, but his heart wasn't really in it. I think he only did it as a sort of token thing, just to let me know that next time, if he can be bothered, he'll get me. Unsaddled, and him back to eat the grass in his paddock (why do people buy lawnmowers - buy a horse!), we were all soon settled in the dining room shovelling down the Wilky version of rogan josh, tearinq lumps off the naan breads.

After that, Jade decided that we should all play her version of "Who wants to be a millionaire?" usinq questions she had copied from the PS2 game - the winners got nothing, the losers did the washing up. Notice how clever she is - she was the quizmaster and therefore no danger of HER doing the washing up. As it turned out, the real losers, Lulubelle and her sidekick, simply refused to do it - so that was a quiz well spent.

Shortly after that it was time to get changed back into my pox­doctor's clerk clothing and Andrew delivered me back to durance vile with fifteen minutes to spare.  What an excellent day - better than putting your tongue out at passing policemen.

As the sun set slowly on the landscape at the end of yet another Lincolnshire, rural day, I thought to myself, "That curry was nice - it may be time to suggest mince and taties."

The Voice In The Wilderness

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Days like these

Thursday the 10th was a nice day - spat with rain a little, but that didn't bother me much because I got myself dressed and off out to the hospital, where I saw a specialist in fitting surgical appliances. Now, before any juveniles begin sniggering about trusses and such, I was having a couple of knee braces measured for days of cold and inordinate discomfort, nothing more. So, got measured and fitted for one - the right knee. They had  run out of medium sizes - they will send it on to me.

As I got back into the van for the return journey, a friend of mine got out.

"Is it you, Frank?" said he.

"Ha!" said I. "Had I known it was you, I'd have hidden."

Back to the Shovel'n' Pick and a bit of wandering and feeding the friendly rams by hand.

That was Thursday.

On Friday I was up and out very early because I had an appointment with a sharp instrument at 8.30 am at the hospital again. This was my umbilical hernia thing being sorted out. I've had it for ten years or more. It doesn't bother me much at all at the worst of times. However, I didn't go directly to the ward, I went up a couple of floors to the ward where my pal of the previous day - remember him? - had been enthroned, because they had kept him in. Of course, me being the cheerful sort, I thought the worst.

"Hello," said I to the nurse on the ward, "I've come to see... " and gave her my pal's name. (I won't use his proper name - such things are frowned upon. I shall call him Albert.)

"Ah," said the nurse, a pretty girl with a nice smile. "Are you from the Camp?" It must have been the suit that did it.

"I am," I agreed. "I'm the one who gave him the heart-attack in the first place!"

"Oh!" said she. "He didn't have a heart-attack, he's got a DVT."

"Don't worry," said myself, "he'll have a heart-attack by the time I leave."

Nursie sniggered and said, "Bed three, bay six."

In I went and there he is, sitting in the corner like Little Jack Horner and gazing at the scenery out of the window - probably wondering why he couldn't see any fences.

"Hoy!" said I from the doorway. "Don't think you are getting away  with anything, Pal."

Three other sick men sitting by beds looked surprised - I think they thought I was from the Russian Mafia.

"Frank!" cried the folorn lunatic, obviously glad to see a face he actually recognised. "Is it you?"

Well, the long and the short of it is that he has a DVT and will be kept in while they shove needles into his stomach every thirty seconds until he is cured. I know, I had one myself about ten or twelve years back.

We wandered up to my ward - well, down really: it was on the second floor - and I was admitted with the nitwit in attendance. I saw the anaesthetic-administerer and, what with me still having a violent cough - the residue of last week's cold - the fellow was quite reluctant to proceed with the butchery and so it's been put off yet again until a future date. Can't say I'm too upset at the decision - I had somewhere else to go the next day and I didn't want to be walking like a geriatric crab, nursing stitches.

So, after yet another bout of idiocy with Albert, I got the bus back to durance vile.

That was Friday.

On Saturday, yesterday, I was at the gate, all suited and booted at a quarter to nine for my release at nine bells. There were dozens waiting to get out - must have been thirty or forty in the queue - and by the time I got out it was twenty past nine.

Pat and Sara had been sitting in the landrover since ahout a quarter to nine and, as I put my bag in the boot, Pat said, "We were starting to think you weren't coming!"

Off we set and shortly after we started Pat's phone rang. "Hello!" said she - she has the manners that even Lizzie Windsor would be pleased with - "He's here now... Wait..." and she gave me the phone. "It's Herman the Big Mug," said she but actually used his proper name. See! Too polite to be rude. I'm not.

"What do you want?" I asked. Anyway, he said he was leaving Hartlepool right then and would be with us by one or two in the afternoon. I told him, the police should perform a proper job and shoot him.

So, there we were, out in the countryside, and I got Jade to help me to cook a spaghetti Bolognese - a kind of assistant chef, which is pretty good seeing that neither of us knew what we were doing. Well, once we had done the sauce we cleaned up and left the kitchen with Jade agreeing to stir it now and then - we would cook the pasta later, about four.

Sat out in the sun, Dennis and me hammering away on a couple of his guitars and sniggering a good deal.

Then we noticed that Pat and Sara had disappeared and that we hadn't seen them for a while, and they turned up with Herman fo1lowing them in his vehicle. They had been to meet him and show him the way. It's easy to get lost in those winding little lanes.

"Have you got stitches?" asked Herman the retired giant.

"No," said I, "The op was cancelled."

"Great," said the big mug, "Come here." And he proceeded to give me a bear hug that nearly broke my ribs. I would have ended up in the next bed to Albert.

"Get off you bastard!" I told him.

Some people seemed to find that comical.

Well, we sat about in the sunlight and then I decided that me and Jade would go horse-riding, so I had to go and get Buddy out of the field. Surprising enough, he was quite cooperative for a change - it could have been the carrots I fed him.

So, after managing not to fall off and break anything vital, Jade and I made the pasta - loads of it, after all we were feeding eight hungry mouths.

Not long after that, washing up done, they delivered me back to the hoosegow and that was my day done.

I think I'm going fishing next weekend with Dennis - that could be interesting.

My mother told me there would be days like these...

The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lincoln Green

"If Robin Hood was from Nottingham, why did he wear Lincoln Green? Why didn't he wear Nottingham Green?" I asked Geoff.

He replied that Robin Hood didn't exist.

"That's a terrible thing to say," said I, scandalised. "Are you trying to tell me that all of those stories about Friar Tuck and Little John are bollocks?"

"All rubbish," said the great sage.

"Hollywood made films about it!" said I. "In colour!"

All he did was snigger - I think there is something wrong with him.

Anyway, on Monday gone (30th April), I went to Lincoln on the choo-choo train - the first choo-choo trip in a long time. I had thought I may struggle a little bit with the mechanics of it all, but I didn't - it was easy. Everything is on timetables and even an idiot in a hurry would struggle to make a mess of it.

I arrived in Lincoln to a sunny day and tourists all over the place, students wasting their grants and an inordinate number of buskers for some reason. It's a nice place, Lincoln - big pedestrianised shopping areas and pleasant. I wouldn't want to live there - no sign of Robin Hood nowhere.

I found the hostel, after a little trial and error, did a bit of shopping, went to see the cathedral and the castle, had a bite to eat and retired to my hostel room at about ten-thirty in the evening. A day well spent, I suppose.

I was returning to the prison the following morning, but first I had to have a chat with The Wallace on the telefunken, an instrument I have absolutely no regard for whatsoever - don't like em. Spoke to The Wallace and she seemed to be satisfied by whatever the hostel had said about me, mainly that I was well turned out and polite I think. I may have to do a couple more overnight stays there to satisfy the requirements of the Parole Board. I don't see the need personally, after all, there are fellows here who have been waiting for nine months or more to get a place at the hostel for their overnighters and can't get one. I can get them and don't need them at all - I've got much better places to go to, where I am more than welcome, and those places are far more in line with where I will be going eventually on release. Making me go to and fill up a scarce hostel place unnecessarily makes little sense to me, but I suppose rules are rules and I will have to collect all of my ticks in the right boxes - common sense has nothing to do with the matter at all.

Anyway, after a little chat to The Wallace, I wandered down to the railway station to discover that the trains were on strike, but the railway company had laid on replacement buses, all I had to do was show my ticket. There was a reporter from Look North, or something, and he had a young woman with a camera with him.

"Excuse me sir," said he, "I'm from Look North. What do you think about the train strike?"

I looked at him, hoisted my heavy bag on my shoulder and sort of grinned. "I don't care," said I and got the bus.

So, that was my day out, or at least my one night stand.

I was supposed to have a hernia repaired on Friday but it was cancelled because I have got a cough, having just got over a bit of a cold. It's been put off until this coming Friday. That means a trip to hospital on Thursday, then an operation on Friday and a day out with Buddy the geegee on Saturday. I can see certain difficulties ahead, but we will see I suppose.

Finally, I want to make one or two comments about a clothing firm called Premier Man.

Comment One
Have nothing whatsoever to do with them. I made an order for trousers, shirt and jumper and paid about four quid for overnight delivery. A month later I was still sitting here, like a statue of Robin Hood, waiting. I asked them on the phone where my stuff was and their reply was the classic lie told by all such companies who have no intention whatsoever of giving their customers the service they paid for. They said, "We tried  to deliver but there was nobody in." This is a PRISON! There is always somebody in, any time, day or night - there is ALWAYS someone on the gate. "We tried to deliver but there was nobody in."!

In fact, that's all I am going to tell anyone, because anyone who deals with them after hearing (or reading) that has to be crazy and deserves all of the poor treatment they are going to get. Maybe I should get Friar Tuck to pay them a visit. Hey, it's a good job I didn't do a Spoonerism on that name...

The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, May 03, 2012

It's raining

Well, here we are again - Sunday morning, 29th April and it is  just coming up to nine o'clock in the morning. I am supposed to  be out of the prison by now, sitting somewhere in Boston waiting to catch the train. But I'm not. Before anyone starts to think that there is something wrong, let me just say - there isn't. I was informed yesterday that the hostel couldn't accept me today and it was delayed for twenty-four hours. I'm going in the morning. The good news is that I only have to stay there for the one night - I'll go tomorrow, which is Monday, and return on Tuesday. A sort of overnight bed and breakfast thing, nothing more. At least I will get the chance to go shopping for a new dressing gown for my visit to the hospital on Friday. I'm having my umbilical hernia repaired - a bit  of sellotape and a couple of staples should do it. I'd do it myself, but sellotape costs money these days.

Where was I? Oh yes, not going anywhere.

So, here I sit and, looking out of the window, it is probably just as well because it is pissing down and blowing a gale. (Hang on. I'm probably not allowed to say "pissing down". I probably have to say "heavy precipitation". Yes, that's better.) There is a heavy precipitation today. In fact, there's been a heavy bleedin' precipitation most of the last week or so - pissing down in fact.

Now, tell me this and then tell me no more. If it's done nothing but rain all week and the telly is full of pictures of rivers with burst banks and floods, why is there still a hosepipe ban in certain areas?  Er, er, er... It's the wrong sort of rain in the wrong places, or some such cobblers. The simple facts are that the water companies are tearing the arse out of the general public, not maintaining infrastructures, allowing massive leaks to go unstopped and then charging the poor mugs who constitute the public a fortune to not be allowed to use the water. At least in the days when I robbed people I had the good manners and decency to use a shotgun!

So, I'm not going on my overnighter until tomorrow. I bet that's a big relief to all citizens. Well, they haven't recovered from Robin Hood yet. Let's have it right - it's all only a tick-in-the-box job anyway, or it is as far as I can see. What is the point of taking up a space - a PREMIUM SPACE I might add - in a hostel which could be utilised better for someone who needs it? There are plenty of people sitting languishing in this place, waiting months for a space in a hostel when I've got somewhere to go, far better for me on many levels, not the least of which being therapeutic and peaceful. Still, mine is not to reason why, I suppose. After all, where would we be without the right ticks in the right boxes?

Yes, it's me for the knife next Friday. There's a thought. I shall arrive at the crack of dawn, shoved into a bed still warm from the last occupant, shaved, told to dress in my new dressing gown, taken to the scene of the crime, knocked out with laughing gas (or whatever they use - probably a mallet) and, when I wake up half an hour or so later, there will be yet another scar on my body to tell lies about at some future date.

I've got a large scar on my leg which I earned in the early seventies. When it first happened, I used to be asked how I arrived at such a scar, for a few years anyway. I grew bored with the account and began to make stories up about sharks and septicemia from shaving my legs when I was a Tranny. In the end I had told that many porkies that I couldn't even remember the truth anymore.

So, if you see me with a scar on my leg - don't ask. Come to think about it, if you see me with a scar on my midriff, don't ask about that either - some things are better left alone, and my midriff is one of them.

The Voice in The Wilderness