Friday, September 28, 2012

Everyone needs a break

It's true! Everyone needs a little break from time to time and, Zeus knows, I've needed one for years.

Well - here's the bit I particularly like - I've had one.

Last weekend I went out for a really pleasant day with Andrew. I'm not sure that he found the first part of the day particularly pleasant because I dragged him to a car boot sale. Fascinating things, car boot sales. It's astonishing what people find to sell and even more astonishing what people THINK they can sell. The world is full of optimists, that's for sure.

I dragged Andrew around every stall. I was looking for an old-fashioned safety razor, those things with the separate blades and the screw-on handle. Didn't find one, of course, but I did buy something which I have since found I neither need nor want. But this is the nature of car hoot sales - we discover things we just never knew we couldn't live without. It's not all bad news - Andrew did okay too. He found half a dozen old Beano or Dandy annuals, I'm not sure which - a bit of light reading for his boy there then.

By the time I had perused and searched every stall on the site, I could see that Andrew was both bored and a little bit chilly so off we went into town where we wandered around a couple of shops as I continued my quest (pointlessly, I might add). Finally we got bored and retired to our favourite eatery where we had our Sunday din-dins.

It was after that that the torture began.

Andrew drove us out of town to a car park where he got the bikes off the back and I had to get changed for that popular pastime of crushing your bollocks on a bike seat designed by a devotee of the works and doings of the Marquis De Sade. Actually, apart from the crushing of the personal testacularities (copyright word, but you can borrow it), I enjoyed the bike ride enormously and this time didn't crash once - that's progress. We went several kilometres up the side of the river toward the city and sat on the grass for a while watching a marathon row - thirty-one miles, and anyone who thinks that's a stroll in the park has got to be joking.

We saw a lot of rowers - single sculls, doubles, right up to full coxed eights. There were a few older rowers. One pair of brothers had rowed many marathons together and we worked it out that they had rowed in total over a thousand miles - that's a long way to walk, never mind row. However, most of the rowers seemed to be mere youngsters - striplings, callow youths, both boys and girls.

One pair were about fourteen years old and they rowed the whole way, thirty-one miles - and didn't finish last. Anyone who despairs of today's youth, go and watch the kids rowing marathons. THAT, my friends, requires guts, determination and strength of character, and those kids had it in abundance - they'll do well in life.

We rode back to town to watch the end of the race and it was quite heartwarming to see the way the watchers on the banks were encouraging the rowers. It taught me that, however hard something may seem to most of us, there are always some who will accept the challenge AND complete it. I take off my homburg to them.

That was the weekend. The following week, I caught an early train to the city and booked myself into the hostel there and then went down to the railway station to meet John, my editor, as he got off the train. We spent a very pleasant day together and chatted of cabbages and kings until I saw him off again at about half four in the afternoon. Back to the hostel, where I got changed and, wearing a nice suit plus black homburg - I must have looked like someone out of "The Godfather" - I went into town for a very pleasant meal and then back to the hostel for a kip, with another day ahead of me.

The next morning I was waiting for Herman the Big Plum to arrive and collect me by vehicular transport when my phone rang, and it was The Wallace checking up to see if I was okay. I assured her I was and, as we were chatting, Herman El Plum arrived, so I left The Wallace to chat to the hostel boss and went off with Herman.

We drove into the town, where I introduced him to my favourite place to refuel the human body, wandered around the shops and Herman decided to take me to a nearby seaside resort. I've never been there before and, to be quite honest, I'm not keen to go there again. It's like every other seaside resort really - twenty-seven thousand ways to get dosh out of the punters. In fact that's government policy as far as I can see.

Herman got me back to the hostel at about six and off he went on the long drive home while I showered, changed and went out to have a bit of din-dins, then retired for the night.

The following day I packed my suitcase, said "Bye bye" to the people at the hostel and caught the train back to the town, where I managed to persuade Jenny (shop manageress) to let me put my suitcase in her place while I went for lunch and did a bit of shopping. Then I caught the half-four bus back to durance vile.

And that, my  friends, is the tale of my little break that lasted four days - and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Quite looking forward to the next one too. It's true, everyone needs a break - to climb a mountain or jump in a lake. I went for a bike ride and bought myself a homburg. I'm not sure which I enjoyed most - the bike ride had more pluses than minuses, and the homburg causes glances to be cast in my direction (and only a few actually snigger).

Come to think about it, people have been sniggering at me for years.

As I was coming back to town on the train, it occurred to me that a year ago I wouldn't have believed that I would he sitting on a train, feeling quite rested - and not a pair of handcuffs in sight. I must be getting old - but I DO like bike riding now.

What made the most lasting impression on me after those four days? Seeing all of those kids rowing such a long way out of sheer desire to just do it - and as long as we have kids like that we won't go far wrong.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A day on my own

I found a car boot sale all by myself on Sunday - who's a clever little nitwit then?

Mind, I very nearly never got out at all because, when I went to the gate lodge to book out of the jail, the kangaroo said, "Computer says 'No!'"

Apparently, somebody had forgotten to register the fact that I had  a day out booked. Anyway, off I went to see my personal officer, who was fortunately on duty that day, and he managed to get it sorted out for me quickly enough. However, I didn't get out of the gate until after 9:15 and the bus into town had gone already. The fellow on the gate said he would phone the van to come back for me. So I set off down the road, just like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road - only this one isn't yellow OR brick, it's just tarmac and full of potholes.

The van finally came back to get me and I got the driver to drop  me at the college because I saw a boot sale going on in the car park. I told him I would walk into town from there.

What I was looking for was a fob for my pocket watch and an old razor which I could use because, to be quite honest, the modern ones are about as much good as a glass eye. Oh, they are very sharp, you just can't get them under the nose - pathetic!

Well, I didn't find either item and, after wandering around looking at the wide range of stuff people sell, and trying to have a conversation with a deaf woman who was most likely drunk to boot, I wandered into town.

A day all on my own - the first one I've had since I've been here. Everyone who would normally meet me, the whole lot of them, were otherwise engaged, so I happily spent the day keeping myself company. At lunch time I went to my favourite riverslde bistro, where the waitress was surprised to see me dining alone.

Half a chicken and the trimmings, out on the terrace with cold orange juice to wash it down, all for eight quid - you couldn't get vexed at that if you wanted to.

I went into the park after that, because there was a sort of fete on with rides for kids, tombolas, stalls and all that kind of thing. The crowds were quite thick considering that it was Sunday. I wandered around, saw several people I knew, and by about four in the afternoon the sun's heat had sapped me. I was running out of petrol. I came back to the prison then and realised that I had enjoyed the day a good deal.

I expect the coming weekend to be a little more hectic but just as enjoyable because Andrew is coming to meet me and is threatening to bring the bikes and a picnic basket, so I could end up with a sore arse and not a decent cane in sight.

The next day I am off to the city where I will be meeting John, the writer and editor, to discuss various matters. He used to be a reporter on "Private Eye", or something like that. Anyway, I will spend the day in his company so that will be a pleasure and the day after that I have got Herman the Big Mug coming down from Hartlepool to  spend the day with me and to deliver me back to the jail gate in  the evening. No doubt I'll make a report on it all in the Voice next week.

Finally, I think I wi11 mention Margaret. Margaret works in a charity shop in the town and she is one of the most pleasant people I have met in a long time. Margaret, the world is a better place because of people like you, but you need to do something about the haircut. It's worse than mine - and I'm as bald as an orangutan's arse.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Red-legged League

Thoroughly disreputable shoes!

We've all got a pair of thoroughly disreputable shoes, or slippers, or a cardi, or t-shirt - something. We've all got something like that. Something we've had for years and which is so comfy that it is practically criminal. It's no good washing these things or cleaning them in any way whatsoever. In fact, a good wash would probably  encourage them to fall apart. Everybody wants us to throw them away, of course, but that would be like abandoning a favourite child - it's not happening.

In my case, it is a pair of Kappa trainers which I bought about ten years ago in a sale from Sports Direct at the amazing price of seven or eight quid. They are black leather and, over the years, they have managed to develop a couple of small splits - but comfortable isn't the word. I may get buried in them.

Some people think me being buried is a great idea anyway, with or without the thoroughly disreputable shoes.


I now have a dozen rescued birds, all young ones which have become orphans via one route or another - nests destroyed, abandoned by parents - all manner of reasons. The thing is, I've got them now. I've managed to get seven to the stage where they are all feeding themselves and flying - but not actually going anywhere. They seem to prefer their adopted home, the North Sea Camp Rescue Centre - my bleedin' pigeon loft. I've got half a dozen others, all tiny things which have to be hand-fed three times a day and which are very demanding as soon as they hear a human voice.

One of the older squeakers used to be called "Tbe Cuckoo" - but that's been changed now to "The Gannet", for obvious reasons. It follows me around like a dog, squeaking and trying to shove its head between my fingers. "The Gannet" is perfectly capable of feeding himself but he still prefers to have me feed him. I'd give him a thick ear but he is a member of the gang called the "North Sea Camp Red-legged Hoodies", and it would take a brave man to tackle just one of them - to tackle all of them would take a suicidal idiot.

They all have red rings on their legs for identification purposes, so that I can recognise them once they decide to strike out on their own - and one day, they will.

In fact, it's much like my own position. I have to go to the hostel in the big city again shortly for an overnight stay, but one day I will be able to strike out on my own. The only thing that is different between me and the pigeons is I don't have a red ring around my left leg - well, apart from the ones made by my wellies.

So, it's me for the wide open spaces again. It's not a city I am particularly fond of, but that's probably because I am being compelled to go there. If I went by choice I would probably enjoy the place - it's nice enough. In fact, going there voluntarily might cause me to get to like the place. It could grow on me, like an old pair of Kappa trainers - but I bet it would cost a sight more than seven or eight quid.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Spitting feathers

They were all in this morning.

I crawled out of my pit at about twenty minutes past six - or, as  my pal calls it, "Daft o'clock" - and, after the usual rituals, I  was on my meandering way down to the old stable block which is where my pigeon loft is. Not that it is a pigeon loft any more - it  is now the "North Sea Camp Rescue Centre", although so far all I've got in there is a motley gang of young abandoned pigeons which I am rearing to maturity. Once they reach that happy state - a state, incidentally, that I hope to reach myself one day - they can go their own way in the world. However, seeing as the loft is the only home they have ever known, they will stay there, going out for a fly-­about each day and spending the rest of their time sitting somewhere comfy - like on my chair.

Take The Head and Houdini, for instance. They are just about grown now and are outside flying around most of the time, but, as far as they are concerned, they live there and I can sod off - they ain't going no place.

So, they were all in this morning when I went down there, and that includes a couple of others who use the place as a sort of pit­-stop - but I don't mind that.

They all run around the floor in a gang - it's only a matter of time until they all decide to be hoodies. When THAT happens, the rest of the birds around the place better start watching their manners.

Oh yes, and on Thursday I had to go and see someone at the Offender Management Unit - or, as the acronymous crowd like to refer to it, the OMU.

Off I went at the appointed time and the interviewer got me seated and asked, "What's going on with you then?"

Me: "Nothing."

Her: "We haven't seen much of you lately."

Me: "Well, you know me - I don't harrass people."

Her: "I know."

I asked her if, as has been suggested by John H, I can go over to his place for a few days to allow us to discuss my writing, him being my editor.

"No," was the reply. "You must take your home leaves to the address to which you will finally be released."

"Every time I come up with an address," said I, "you veto it."

"Well," said she, "we've had word from [The Wallace] that she has organised a home leave for you at the hostel, middle of next month. Will you go?"

"Of course I will," said I. "But why not have a couple of days at the Junkies' Paradise Hotel and then a couple of days somewhere with decent people?"

Anyone would think that I had made an inappropriate and extremely rude suggestion. Clearly there is absolutely no intention of ever allowing anyone to get a decent start out in the real world - they want us to go and live in a world of junkies, low-lifes, chancers and free tickets back to jail. The thing that puzzles me is that the jail is full of people with no family or friends and no sort of support mechanism waiting for them - I've got all that. They NEED the hostel, the resettlement place - I don't. They can't get a place - I'm being forced to take one up.

If anyone can give me a logical explanation, I would appreciate it - I'm utterly perplexed by the distorted thinking involved. Perhaps I should ask if I can move into the pigeon loft with all of the other homeless characters who live down there - I'll even try to grow feathers if that makes them feel any better. I don't hold out much hope of the feathers, to be fair - I can't grow hair, never mind feathers. The only feathers I get are those I am spitting as I try to get them to see sense.

The Voice In The Wilderness