My first visit – sponsored by Diet Coke

3 Apr

What’s a visit like?

Its a different experience for everyone, an alternative remedy for an inconsistent patient. There is a sea of young mothers with the weight of the world on their shoulders listening intently to dreams of a better future. The parents sickened with themselves from a sense of failure; some rightly, some wrongly. The gang of mates, to gee up their ‘Boy’ or the children coming to see their Dad. Visits are a different drug to each patient here, mine’s Ecstasy, my best mates have just rocked up.

Slipping through a side door in an orderly jumble a handful of screws pat down inmates as they walk into the communal area. Our names are meant to be ticked off as we go through, to make sure there aren’t any stray prisoners popping in – this is not done. I remember this in case I ever run out of visits and can get a pal to book friends and family in under his name instead. (I’ll cover my arse now, I never did it but it’s completely do-able)

A cursory pat down and a reminder to to us to keep our ID cards on show at all times; just in case anyone bothers to check.

I walk out into what was my gym this morning, this time I see a space busied with smiles, frowns and worry. I have only happiness in mind as I spot my buddy Clive sporting the footballer’s latest haircut of choice; the Mr T. He is a massive Chelsea fan and now he looks a little more like Salomon Kalou*. He meets me with a big hug and leads me outside to meet my long time suffering pal Genesis, shades on enjoying the sunshine and with a tray full of treats to greet me with. Diet Cokes a plenty, I’ve a penchant for this stuff; and flapjacks that would sink a lifeboat. Having secured a picnic bench for us to sit on, I enjoy every second I spend with them for the next two hours catching up with life back home and regaling them with tales of my journey so far.

The two hours trapped in our bubble, couldn’t be further from an anti-climax. But it’s conclusion sees that metaphor burst, and I slink into a little sadness knowing how many more weeks I am away from real freedom. Happy to see my friends, I can only imagine how a father must feel bidding farewell to his kids. There are those here I’m sure who are ambivalent to such things, but others too who have made their mistakes in life, yet still devoted dads. As we wait to be let out again, I see the bombsite that is a visit’s hall, post visit. Colouring pencils, pictures, sweet wrappers, arts and crafts; signs of happier times, thoughts and memories, all dumped into a bin bag and swept to one side, for another week at least.

*My pal is actually an Arsenal fan but I make a point where possible in life to have a dig at his choice of team. As a Spur’s fan it is my duty.


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