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

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