New Pastures

21 Mar

In a mad rush, I make sure I have all my belongings but forget about packing the edible type. I figure it shouldn’t be long at my new gaff before I get my hands on extras, I’ll have figured wrong no doubt but it completely slips my mind. My journey is ticking on and I’m heading for open conditions.

The relief

The sense of achievement… It sounds bananas  I know; but in pleading guilty I had planned that I should be back out of bang up in under a month and will spend the next 6 to 8 months in open conditions. It meant by the time the missus returns from working overseas, I’ll have more regular visits and maybe even home leaves. A month or two more and I’ll be heading home. Christmas would even be achievable, if at least for an outing.

My brief obviously didn’t want this to be the determining factor, in guiding my decision to relent on defending myself. But I’d be a liar if I said anything else swayed it. Too long in purgatory, if I could get 2 and a half or less I thought, I’ll be out by the Olympics, maybe I’d be free again before my 30th

I remember asking for a ball park figure of the kind of sentence to expect from my Barrister depending on a range of plea or trial scenarios. Working from that figure, made this way seem the quickest route to get my life moving again. This providing my confidence in coping with prison was as real as I suggested to myself. Not a time to discover I’m deluded 🙂

Now another item on my list of milestones to meet, has been met and things seem a little bit more ‘On-track’.

Faces of buddies to wave me off, stand at the cell door. The screw, after telling me to pack my stuff, locked my cell door. It means I don’t get the chance to give people a proper farewell but I quickly scribble some notes for the lads and leave D some green tea to enjoy in my absence. I write down my details and wait to be walked back to the reception for the first time since I was sent here, when I was extricated from the outside world.

The hotplate/kitchen boss an inmate like us, with a helluva catalogue of lifetime stories gives me a hand with my bags. He shoves some coffee sachets in there for me, as a farewell gesture.

Nice bloke.

I’ll never see you again but you helped make my life during this turmoil, bucket loads better. Thank you, happy trails “C”

My Waiting Room

I’m directed to sit in one of three rooms, mines marked D. Besides me, set to embark on a trip away from this urban nightmare, other inmates arrive in my room with the same excited buzz about them. The prospect of using the phone when you like, regular gym sessions, evening strolls and an end to constant door slamming. Happy faces all round, a sense that each of them feels a little safer and a little closer to a peer group level they estimate themselves to be on here. I’m happy for the same reasons, I hope for a prison filled with spivs and mustachioed bounders; a world with danger that little more remote.

Not My Waiting Room

Next door paints a less happy picture. Inmates off to dispersal nicks, to serve out decades surrounded by futility, lost youth, and psychopaths. Anger isn’t present, just cool-calm violence; the latter, something to fear. Long drives to destinations to long spend, Long Lartin, Strangeways and Swaleside.

Waiting In A Room

I never prepared myself for 9 hours of sitting around, interspersed with 2 hours of queasy, unbelted, unstable, sweatbox Serco driving down to Sussex. Sharing the journey with 5 others from Wandsworth, I’ll arrive at Ford back at square 1. I’ve heard rumours it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, it’s a prison, what is it cracked up to be?

Once again, I’m alone, I know no-one and still a prisoner.

The van loads with us on it after a period of excitement that waned and made way for tedium. With nothing but unknown faces, wooden benches and a barrage of the same repeated conversations about Ford, it wasn’t long before I wished I could be back upstairs laughing with the lads or being beasted by Daz in the gym.

In the vehicle yard again, the sun’s out, its a good day for a road trip and my lucky number flashes up on my little casio watch. Down in the footwell is any number of sandwiches I can’t stand for lunch. Mayonnaise, salad cream and another indistinguishable sauce – none I eat. A bag of crisps suffices for lunch and I become re-acquainted with that sepia canvas, London through the window of a prison van…



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