Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ticking away the moments

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way.
(Pink Floyd 1973)
That's it!

That sums up my past week perfectly - frittering and wasting with the best of them, and simply passing time like the rest of them. Needless to say there is no news, no progress, not a word said by anyone at all on any subject whatsoever. I'm not saying that I have become invisible again, but I might just as well be so. During the course of the last week I have been expecting daily to be given the decision of the Parole Board - after all, they did say that they would make their decision on the 5th of the month. And one thing is for absolutely certain - if it was a refusal, someone would have broken their necks to tell me; I would have known long since.

That hasn't happened.

I think that they will be working out my licence conditions, and that will include restrictions on my movements. No need for them, of course, but I suppose they have to be seen to be doing something to protect Joe Public from a sixty-six year old who wants nothing more than a quiet life away from all vexatious folk and nit-wits.

On top of that, there were also the concerns , misguided concerns,  about what they termed "Your website".

I haven't got a website. It's not mine, it simply bears my name here and there. Just because it bears my name doesn't make it mine. I bet there is a website devoted to Adolf Hitler but it isn't HIS!

The board were informed "This matter has been taken up with NOMS and the Home Office and he [me] isn't doing anything wrong."

They don't quite get the fact that I'm not actually doing anything at all. Whatever I write is duly vetted to ensure that it causes no distress to anyone and yet it still seems to cause concern to some. What can I say?

I've had a lot of mail this last week from various friends and a couple of family members, all asking the same thing - "Have you got parole or not?"

I can't answer the question (story of my life really), so I haven't replied to any of the letters. What is the point of answering a letter to say one thing and then a few days later having to rewrite them all because I have an answer?

That's one of the things about the Prison Service which particularly irritates me - their complete lack of concern for anyone's family, almost bordering on hubris really. It's all well enough to treat us cons like second class citizens - after all, most of us are not even that far up the ladder - but thought should be given to families and others who are just as eager for an answer.

I expect I shall hear in the next few days of course, but there again, I've been saying that for almost two weeks now. So, until I DO hear I shall continue ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, frittering and wasting my time like a man who has a lot to spare - which actually I haven't, but the Prison Service doesn't care in their hubris and ivory towers.

Someone asked me the other day, "What will you do if you get a refusal?"

I grinned, of course, and said, "After twenty-seven years of bad news and disappointments, that would simply be one more in a long catalogue of disappointments. All it would mean is that I would have to gird the loins, strengthen the weakened knees, take a deep breath and start working again for the next time."

Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town,
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine,
Staying home to watch the rain.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Friday, March 15, 2013

On my bike - or back to the drawing board?

Things could go disastrously wrong, of course.

I've been in front of the Parole Board, Tuesday gone it was, a day which could go down in the annals of history - or should that be the days of infamy and calumny?

So many things were said which were quite untrue, although given what was said, and what the Parole Board had to work with, I suppose that, in a twisted, perverse way, it wasn't a surprise. My fault, of course (like everything else, beginning with the Crucifixion) - for several reasons. To begin with, I had thought that the days of sitting there behind an enormous pile of paperwork and documents was over. I was wrong. I should have gone there with documentary proof of everything - including an inoculation certificate for rabies.

Then, of course, there was my own reluctance to impart information about any friends (or foes come to that). I cause myself no end of difficulties with my misguided (probably) protection of the guilty. It's a mindset thing - I just can't bring myself to discuss the  past of others. I'm not too adept at disclosing my own past, never mind the guilty cohorts from my dark and cloudy past.

They harped on about the past of course, going back a half century in some cases - and personally I see little to be gained from that. I can't change the past - nobody can, not even God. All we can do is work for the future to ensure that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

At one point I was even accused of still living off dirty money - money from the proceeds of long past crimes. I'm not, of course, but all I could do in the face of the onslaught was bite my lip like a good little soldier and curb my tongue. The temptation was there to argue but that would have served little purpose. I must just ensure that if I have to sit ANOTHER board that I have all of the required documents with me.

Having said all that, there were many positives too, and a good while was spent by the panel discussing the possible circumstances of my release into the community and sending me to reside in a hostel (which must remain nameless) in a city (which must be kept secret). I would have restrictions placed on my movements and must allow the police to examine any vehicle I acquire for transport. I may be using the bike which Andrew has given me - that could be a bit interesting.

"Where did you get the bike?"

"Fell off the back of a car."

Various members of the Probation Service were asked, "Do you feel that Mister Wilkinson could be safely managed in the hostel?"

Everyone replied, "Yes."

"There would have to be restrictions!"


I would only have to stay in the hostel for a couple of months and after that I can find my own place. They asked, "Where will it be?"

"Who knows?" - I didn't reply, but words to that effect.

I shall hold my house in the high wood
Within a walk of the sea
And men that were boys when I was a boy 
Shall sit and drink with me.
Of course, they won't - I don't drink - but it's the sentiment of that verse which I like. I'm not allowed to associate with my old associates - men of ill repute and, as I mentioned earlier, cloudy and secretive pasts. Their secrets I shall take to my grave with me - and at my age that's not a million miles away.

They spent a bit of time going on about my website - but it's not mine, it simply bears my name. Never mind that, nobody is doing anything wrong, as was explained to the board by the probation folk. (I've been transferred from Northumbria to Lincolnshire, for what good that may serve.)

They were asked if I had any substance abuse problems but were informed that there have never been any concerns on that score as I neither drink nor take drugs.

When it was all over (over four hours of it), and as I was about to depart for a fag and a well-earned cuppa, the chairman said a couple of things such as, "When you get your reply, it will be quick because we will make our decision today... You may have to wait a while for a hostel bed to be made available..." and "Good luck!"

Now, I may be seeing those remarks through the good old rose-tinted spectacularities, but I hope, of course, that I am to be given my release, even if I will be simply exchanging one sort of jail for another. Okay, a much freer jail in many respects, but a jail for a' that - a rose by any other name.

So, my best guess, and taking everything in the round, what do I think? Well, things could go disastrously wrong.

The person who would be most disappointed if parole was refused would be my current cell-mate - a strangely weird and wonderful fellow who is seventeen going on fifty and who is a twitcher, not to mention a naturalist. He knows more about creatures and fowls than he does about people. He wants me gone on the grounds that he doesn't smoke but I do.

So, I live in hope. I should hear any day now and personally I feel it could be good news - next week's "Voice In The Wilderness" should be interesting. But, as I have also said, things could go quite disastrously wrong - and if they do, then it's back to the drawing board to get ready for the next one.
The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, March 09, 2013

You can't wind up a broken clock

By the time anyone reads this I will have had my parole hearing and it will all be over bar the shouting, as my ould Grandmother would have said. She said a lot of things - most of them made little sense as far as I could see. She was an old-fashioned countrywoman and as Victorian as they come. She died in 1987 at the age of ninety­-six which would put her year of birth in 1891 - and THAT'S Victorian. Anyway, I digress, as usual, but one of her sayings was, "As long as the sparrows are singing, ye'll nivver need a warm coat."

So, by the time anyone reads this, the parole hearing will be over and I will be waiting patiently for the answer. (Some folk think I AM a patient, but we will ignore them.)

However, I find that I am to have what could well amount to a sort of dress-rehearsal because the day before my hearing I have got what is called an INTERNAL RISK ASSESSMENT MEETING (IRMT) at which some of the same people will attend, including The SS.

I will (apparently) be given five minutes at the beginning of the IRMT to address the following points:

  • Identify your risk factors.
  • Identify how you manage your risk factors.
  • How do you spend your time currently in open conditions?
  • What do you want to achieve from open conditions?
It's like stepping back twenty years! But never mind.

So, I shall turn up there at the appointed time and have my five minutes in the spotlight then wander off to allow the panel to decide what they will say to the Parole Board the following day. Actually, I think it is all merely to see how I can be managed on release to the hostel, or something like that - nothing to get worked up about or excited about.

One of the boys said yesterday, "They might be just trying to wind you up!"

I replied, "Ha! You can't wind up a broken clock."

Sometimes that's precisely what I feel like - a broken clock. The problem I've got, and it has bugger-all to do with risk factors - or any other sort of factors - is that basically, right down to the very marrow of my bones, I am tired. I've had enough. It's as simple as that really. Risk factors, problem-solving and all the rest of the psycho-babble, count for nothing once a fellow gets to the stage when he realises that life is too short for all of that sort of thing.

In the days when I saw everyth1ng as a challenge and willingly took it all on, I thought I was invincible and that I would live forever. Then, one day, I woke up and suddenly I was sixty years old and had no idea where it had all gone to! I have things to read! Things to write! I don't have all that much time to do it all in neither!  So I have no time for risk factors or anything else. I still have ambitions and dreams to be fulfilled and not a lot of time to do it in. Being retired will help, provided I can find myself a calm, quiet corner somewhere to get on with it.

Oh well, we will see I suppose. But in the meantime, and by the time anyone reads this, the parole hearing will be over.

It's been a long, dreary road to get this far and, as I mentioned earlier - I'm tired.

The Voice In The Wilderness

Saturday, March 02, 2013

In the bewilderness

Well, it looks as though, once again, I am expected to keep secrets that are not mine but those of others with something to hide.

I think I need to explain that, as near as I can, without giving away any of the aforementioned secrets.

To begin with, I went on the home leave - well, let's not call it a "home" leave because I wasn't allowed anywhere near home for a start - I went to a hostel, an approved premises. (Or there again, I may not be allowed to say that much - so forget I said that.) It certainly wasn't a leave either, but never mind, these things are designed to be character-building - I must be a character.

I went to a conurbation which is a sort of cross between a market town, a university town and a place of historic interest. There is a fairly interesting cathedral, a castle, which multi-tasks as a Crown Court, and a prison which was built in Victorian times, like so many were. Oh yes, those Victorians knew how to build all right. Can't mention the name of the place of course, it's a secret. I certainly can't mention the name of the hostel because that's an even bigger secret. It's amazing I ever found my way to the place at all and it's a wonder they even told me about the location - it's a secret you see!

I managed to get there finally with a blindfolded taxi driver. (Well, we can't tell him anything - taxi drivers gossip, they are famous for it.)  When I finally got myself in there, I was politely informed that I could forget my licence conditions - they were being changed on the grounds, to paraphrase, that I wasn't telling anyone where I was going all day, who I was going with and/or what I was doing. They could have tried asking, but that would be far too simple and therefore very complicated for the Prison Service - they don't do simple. Instead, they prefer to dictate - always justified of course.

Well, the upshot was that I couldn't leave the place until seven in the morning at the earliest, had to be back for one in the afternoon until two, and had to be in for the night by seven in the evening. On top of that I had to fill in a form to tell them precisely where I intended to be every minute of my time, and what I did. Saying  just "Down town shopping" wasn't good enough, I had to write which street the shops were on.

Oh well, it's all for the collective good I suppose. Didn't leave me much scope for anything, of course, but there we have it.

So, I went for a couple of meals during my five days "home leave", did a little bit of shopping, went to the Citizens' Advice offices and to the Council offices about accommodation. That wasn't much use because they needed me to supply dates, which I can't do - not yet anyway. Can't even organise my pension because of the same sort of reason.

But I'll get there, I'll get there - I always do in the end.

Oh yes, and the rest of the time I spent sitting in my "room" just answering phone calls from family and friends or reading. Worked my way through three books - very entertaining - and two newspapers each day - I am available for questions.

Finally left to return to the shovel and pick on Friday and, with a bit of luck, I didn't ruffle too many feathers. I don't think I did but you can never be sure about these things.

So, that's me done until the Parole Hearing next week. Once I have had the hearing I should imagine it will be a week or two until I hear the decision and, should it be favourable, I will be off out to the secret location for my discharge. I have no real idea what the Parole Board decision will be, of course, but it should be of a reasonable nature. So I may be off to live, however temporarily, in the secret location. Grand - the family WILL be pleased.

It's not certain, of course, not by a long chalk, so until then, I shall continue keeping secrets which are not mine. I've got nothing to hide in·that respect. Come to think about it, I seem to be carrying a lot of secrets, most of which will have to go to the grave with me, because none of them are mine - they all belong to other folk, and I seem to have spent most of my life just protecting others, often at my own expense.

Oh well, I shall continue to keep secrets I suppose, for others - and that includes the secret hostel being run by nameless folk in the secret location... Sorry about that.

The Voice In The Bewilderness