Tag Archives: Lord taylor of warwick

Kweku Adoboli / UBS/ The week review

23 Nov

UBS weak link Kweku Adoboli, saw himself star down the barrel of a 7 stretch this week in a dock once graced by I, at Southwark Crown Court.

Having already served over  a year of his sentence, he must now while away another 2 and a half years, although come the summer he will be allowed to begin home and town leaves. Quite how devious or truly criminal he is, is a topic that has been left in the calm, hysteria free hands of the  The Sun, The Mirror and the Daily Mail.

For many outside of the City of London, this was one of a number of obvious calamities still being committed by the arrogant swaggering bowler hat types.

Is Kweku really a criminal in the true caricature style we associate them with? His swag bag seemed a little empty for a man who is accused of a £1.4 billion fraud; for this isn’t a fraud with the intention to steal £1.4 billion, merely corporate financial manslaughter, where a sledgehammer was being used to crack nuts. What does 7 years buy you in other walks of life?

7 years is the average total sentence of Rapists in the UK.

7 years allows you to kill a man driving dangerously with intent.

7 years allows you to stab a man in the neck with a bottle for GBH.

Kweku will serve 7 years for doing his job badly in an environment where blind eyes were turned when the money came in.

Perhaps those blind eyes should too be punished, for creating the conditions and culture where deceit, and smokes and mirrors are employed.

As is likely, UBS will see no more criminal imprisonments amongst their staff. They will pay large fines and duck down below the parapet again for a number of years, before the next cataclysmic economic asteroid rocks the financial capitals of the World; where they hope their mistakes are the least and they can join the queue without making regulatory eye contact.

In the meantime Kweku will don the green trousers of a prison orderly, tamed –  for now.

I walk the streets of London once again, but these days my attire is a little more blue collar. My hands have paint and the callouses upon my palms are no more a Cityboy’s than they are a writer’s. Time moves every bit as fast once more, I wish I had some time to stop and reflect upon my life. A one year sabbatical seems a nice idea again 🙂

 

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Christmas Day in Prison – Scrooge to be Screwed

6 Jun

After a sleep disturbed by midnight Gangsta Rap and my own snoring, I awake to a warm Christmas Day. A cooked breakfast of sorts has been arranged for the next 3 days, so I grab mine at 8 before joining in with a 10am circuit down at the gym. It’s what you do Christmas morning, yes?

The big lunch is only a mild improvement on a usual Sunday ‘Roast’ – the one parsnip making that differential leap. Definitely ALL of the trimmings. 🙂 I don’t expect Claridges and many of my gripes or comments are tongue in cheek. At the end of the Servery queue, the Chapel staff hand out a Christmas card and a mars bar on behalf of the ‘Mother’s Union’. A lovely gesture by the charity that strives to help inmates maintain family ties while inside. It promotes a cheery smile too.

I’m smiling. This is my first and hopefully only Christmas in prison and part of me has a macabre fascination to go through with it to see what it’s like for those less fortunate in decision-making in society that go through such experiences. A handful of chaps from our billet who are united by military ties and a sense of sanity, sit down together for the meal, having made the effort to wear civvy clothes and stay out of prison issues for the day. It’s nice to spend the day in a manner that reflects freedom of choice and expression, as best possible given the circumstances.

The phone in the billet is busy early in the day as prisoners call home, whisper sweet nothings or return to form and yell at their spouses. George has to deal with an inmate who feels that his own Christmas Tupac message should be able to filter through to George’s mother via the background noise on the phone. Even on days such as today, it’s alarming how many people lack self-awareness or possess a consideration for others when it comes to noise or in fact any aspect of life.

Is this education? Parenting?

Whatever it is, it strikes back to that sense of entitlement that society seems to harbour more and more in recent decades. Agitation grows over George’s riposte to the lairy adolescent with music at such volume. Our Grandparent’s queued for fruit, lost school friends in ‘Just Wars’ and were thankful for hand-me-down clothing. Our generation and it’s offspring, cannot envision a time without convenience, luxury or their opinion being heard. The cries of the few are heard over the tolerant silence of the many.

Don’t listen to angry music and delude yourself that the lyrics of a commercially minded businessman are anything other than that. He plays to an audience that thinks they’re kindred spirit, he lies for you to buy. The reality is, your fellow man is all around you and looks nothing like you imagine. Aim high but don’t tread on another to get there, the footings are weak.

Don’t daydream for a decade or double to realise you didn’t make hay while the sun shone. The wannabes in prison exist in the droves as they do on the outside. Year after year spent wishing for  a life of someone else, when all the tools you needed to make your own could be had too. 20 years later you wished you’d learnt that trade, that craft, that skill, that profession. Biggie didn’t wear a boiler suit and mend central heating systems, but Biggie got shot dead and my plumber’s got pots of cash. Smell the coffee boys and come back to the real world.

The notion of knuckling down and putting up with the hand that God gave you, seems to be disappearing as fast as the faces of World War veterans on Remembrance Sundays. Life isn’t always glamorous and life isn’t always fair but if we don’t start living for what we have and making the best use of it we can, then it will pass you by and that will be your time over.

Next stop, you and I are disparate atoms lingering in the void of cold dark space after the Sun has ceased burning and the Earth has stopped living. The galaxies merge and neighbouring stars die too. Billions of years pass by and we are in the infinite nothingness of the Big Freeze. Cosmologists and Astronomers will tell you we are insignificant in all of this. Maybe we are, but I’d like to think that even if our generation’s existence can be measured as a fraction of one heartbeat of a single human lifetime, at least let it be a beat that shows signs of a cathartic, energetic and fulfilling pump of life and not a whimper or trifling whine. Life truly is too short to waste idle.

Philosophical rant over, it’s not unsurprising that if an inmate can’t think how a neighbour might be disturbed by their activity, you hear they wound up in prison after failing to spot a policeman quite overtly monitoring them.

Christmas Day over, touchwood, I’ll never need to spend another 25th of December considering the prospect of Prison.

 

Part 2 – His and Her’s Tale. His Tale

1 Jun

His Tale:

51/2 months down, more than 6 since I’ve seen her last. I wake up nervous, my stomach filled with butterflies, today is the day I’ve dreamed of.

I keep myself occupied with a visit to the gym, setting  a new 30 minute distance row PB, 7631m. I see myself making improvements in personal fitness, it means my time here is not entirely a waste.

I have little appetite as my mind is focused on a date with destiny. I wonder where she will be sat, will she find it okay? What will she be wearing? What will we talk about? Will she cry? Will I cry?

So many thoughts drift, well, race across my mind as the minutes tick by.

I kill the hour before the visit deciding what to wear, showering and making sure I look as good as a man can whilst being in prison. I fear she will see something less than she has in me, in visiting me today. For the first time, a sense of shame crosses me as I think about my whereabouts. She is this travelled, articulate, intelligent and unique creature. Special in so many ways. I am a prisoner, stripped of liberty and often times dignity.

She tasted foods until recently from the magical east and the Orient; I queue up for mine with a plastic bowl. I know my worries are likely ill-founded, R would love me still even if I wore orange overalls today. It’s her best quality of all. She makes Mase feel young and wanted; she get’s my humour and inspires creativity within me, when other’s have only stifled it. My feet are shuffling and my knees are bouncing. I can;t take my mind off my anxieties: “Why am I so nervous?” I tell a friend who knows about my visit.

“MASON” is called out by a screw on duty, I scamper off to the visit’s hall so I am as near to the front as possible. I don’t want to lose a minute with this girl who waits for me.

As I walk through the door to the side of the hall, I am patted down by a guard and then look ahead of me.

Slightly to my side, my eyes lock on to the most beautiful sight, I can’t believe what I can see. It has been so long and yet I see nothing but the very best of that person I said goodbye to at the airport all those months ago. More beautiful than ever, tanned, lithe and running toward me at a concerning pace. She flies into my arms and wraps herself around me. It is all I can do to keep myself on my feet. In that moment of power blessed with her affection, she crashed into me and holds me close; as I hold her the same.

I feel like I’ve been set free.

I could be acquitted.

I could have been found not guilty.

I feel every emotion that equates to happiness. Today is marked down as one of the happiest days of my life.

When you have nothing but emotion, no material obstructions and no insincerity, you can find  a piece of true beauty, true euphoria that even drugs cannot deliver. In losing my freedom, I have tasted what it is to truly feel liberty. You may never envy my location, my whereabouts, my happenings and my failings but I will never envy your lives if I could go a lifetime without an experience that I shared with her today.

I spend the next two hours, nervous, giggling and an inch from the prettiest nose on earth. Tomorrow she comes again, I’ll sleep like a child waiting for Santa.

Lord Taylor of Warwick Part 2

27 May

A hurricane is a brewing – I use this as an ideal opportunity to dry some clothes outside. On the flipside it could also be a terrible time to do so but I’ll take my chances.

On the news, I hear Lord Taylor of Warwick the Tory Lord jailed for expenses fraud has been given his electronic tag to observe a Home Detention Curfew. To the lay person, this means being released on tag. He will have to observe strict curfews or face being recalled to prison. Today is the 3 month point of my own sentence. Had I only received a year I too would be out today. I didn’t, so I’m not.

Anyone with a sentence between 6 months and 4 years is eligible for early release on tag. This means in the best case scenario an inmate can spend up to four and  a half months doing the remainder of their bird at home. This is providing they have a home to go to, are wanted their and not deemed a danger to the community. Importantly, it clears up bedspaces in our crowded system and makes for  a cheap solution to containment.

Lord Taylor’s first priority was to do some work for penal reform charities on his release:

“If anyone listens to me” He says.

It’s a strange turn of events when a member of the ruling elite need to be disgraced to better understand the plight of the contemporary mass and become more in tune with society. Sadly it also becomes that bit harder to be listened to when you find yourself in such a situation. He aims to see inmates categorised while in the court cells after sentencing. The burden this will ultimately relieve on strained resources would be of untold value. After sentencing, the 5 hours plus sat on a wooden bench in an empty space could be more efficiently used by HM Courts and save having to send sane non violent offenders on a prison merry-go-round just to have them wind up at the correct nick weeks later than need be. George is a case in point. I get the impression that a good deal of problems in the UK Prison system could be eradicated if better use of the money alloted was made.

I busy myself in the education office reminding inmates of the importance of manners when they demand I put their names down for the Education Gym session – many of whom are ineligible anyway. It falls on deaf ears, coincidentally I tend to forget to write their names down too, at just about the same time.

I can’t help but think of R, she sent me 5 emails today, I worry I’m being harsh. I have continued to write to her, I just haven’t sent the letters. I need my outlet, my writing keeps me occupied and it helps me vent the thoughts I don’t feel comfortable telling those around me here.

Today I am halfway to home leave.

 

 

Days that melt into one another

12 Apr

A long slow day that as sodden and as miserable as prison can be. A monday in civvy street is a depressing part of the week for most people. Sometimes Mondays feel good, a new week to tick off has begun, but with little to keep me occupied beyond writing, at the moment, today feels somewhat worse.

That sensation of being trapped and unable to leave the prison, makes for such inner gloom.

Just because I am not trapped in a metal cage doesn’t mean I’m not trapped in any other sense. My life can’t begin fully until I walk out the front gates on their terms. A month in and many more to go, I’m starting to get irritable. This week is number 5, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be close to the end. It will come, patience is an attribute I’m still working on.

I finally pick up my radio, I look forward to buzz free listening. Not having to hold my arm in the air, or hang the radio off a ceiling light fitting, just to get signal. As if that yard will make any difference in the whole scheme of things, where radio waves travel through the ether.

In the mail room today I’m perked up by a backlog of letters forwarded on from Wandsworth, there’s a prison letter in there too. It’s from Darren, I rip it open and trot back to my cell to start reading it all.

My original diary entry wrote this as:

“I felt like a squirrel, racing back to his home to bury his armful of nuts”

It sounded dross; so I’m only going to refer to it, as an item that fell on the cutting room floor.

…and rightly so.

I try not to write like a CBeebies script writer.

Back in the cell. having returned from B Wing office, there’s a note on the floor. It’s a B Wing Call Up slip.

What’s a B Wing Call Up slip?

It’s a sheet of paper advising you to report to B Wing reception and collect some paperwork. Sometimes it is simply a reply to an App, others it could be collecting a sealed response to a complaint. Having just got back from there I immediately turn back to see what awaits me in my filing cabinet.

A response to my application to be a billet cleaner. Single cell and free time in the day to devote to study and writing.

The App I’m told, is going to be put in the in-tray of the cleaning officer. Did they need to call me up to tell me this?

Day 37

Wet again.

Canteen day brings a cheer to my week. I spend the morning causing untold damage to a door frame in Carpentry, at lunch Delroy returns to the cell after one of his rare occasions out of the small room; angered by an ‘Electronic Tagging’ rejection form.

“Offender not UK Citizen”

As I’ve said before, he is and his passport to prove it, is in his locked property box here.

It’s a bit of a ‘Computer says no’ situation. As annoying as I find him, I don’t take pleasure in his discomfort. He’s harmless and just a belligerent old man. He has been advised of his appeal opportunities, but they won’t be heard till November: 4 months away. It sounds to me, that an appeal isn’t necessary, just someone taking a personal, bottom-up view of the situation. This bureaucracy and bad communication doesn’t do the prison service any favours.

Later in the day, I deal with an altogether different type of John Lewis list than an MP is used to. I submit to Ex-Politician Elliot Morley, a duvet order form, after ‘Property’ here rejected one brought in for me by my sister.

No sooner have I put my order in, I’m offered an unused still wrapped one from an inmate on my course who had another sent in from home. The spare is sat in his property box. Leaving Ford soon, we discuss me buying his off him at a discount. I head back to Elliot and cancel my order. I could have a duvet much sooner than I anticipated. A small completely irrelevant luxury to you reading this, but a home comfort I’m reminded I miss every night.

 

Why Prison Doesn’t Work

8 Apr

It becomes very apparent to those who wish to observe, prison fails for a number of reasons, but it must not be ignored the fact that fitting square pegs in round holes is not an appropriate way to manage personnel.

I mean, there is a problem with the calibre of people working in certain departments of the prison service.

There’s good, really good and there’s bad; there’s very bad indeed. This is a service with very little margin for error but insists on not enforcing change on it’s stakeholders in a way that can be seen in other industries.

Here are some examples to ponder in determining if there is something wrong with the current crop of Prison Staff.

a.

Ford has a limited education and training budget and therefore has a limited range of City and Guild courses to offer as the costs mount up. It’s taken a prisoner today to advise management to focus on Government sponsored NVQ schemes instead. This means the costs of exam and training registration could be saved and with NVQ being the commercially required standard for many skilled professions; it would be both positive financially and positive too in terms of re-training unskilled inmates with real skills. This would mean more learning opportunities and more real reasons to change one’s life from petty crime.

Level 1 courses in any profession is not going to make a prisoner more appealing to an employer. I speak as someone who while enjoying his Level 1 City and Guilds woodwork course, is not under any illusions that it could land me a job on the outside.

Why does it require prisoners to tell Governor’s things they should be only too aware of? To many who have spent long years within the HMP system, this is no surprise. To me a civvy, who took an ethics-free sabbatical to come here; I’m nonplussed.

Here’s another:

b.

Ford Prison’s paper contract sees them pay £9 per Ream of A4 paper. (This is 500 sheets) The service agreement with a private business, means Ford can only expect 50% of their paper in white. Pop down to Tesco’s and see how much it is there. Who has agreed this contract? This is bad business and is only one small item, likely littered amongst many tens of thousands of terribly negotiated poorly researched Procurement (Buying) decisions the prisons make. If your job is to land the best possible deal, then this contract screams out: ‘My Friend Sells Paper’.

The alternative is equally as worrying:

“You can’t trust the staff to not get ripped off buying paper, how are they going to manage Criminals?!”

…and another example

c.

If the prison chooses to flout European Law, or International for that matter; it can pay a fine and be done with it. If a Doctor mistreats or abuses his position, he can face a prison sentence. The same is rarely said for the repeat offenders public sector bureaucracy working within the hierarchy of HMPS.

Ford pays a fine annually due to the high-barbed fences that surround its prison. An open prison, I might add. It is not open through prisoner pressure, it’s open because it needs to be, to serve the purpose it does for returning offenders to society.

…and another

d.

The boss of Wandsworth Prison was caught last year shifting out 5 of his most troublesome inmates to a Pentonville for the duration of an Inspection, in order that he earns himself a glowing report and a reason to push for his next promotion or pay-rise. He is met with a sharp rebuke for what is a deception: his jobs remains safe. While in prison I have met a man sentenced for a term, for lying on his CV and ‘defrauding’ his employers as to his true professional qualifications. I wonder what he would think to hear of his Captor while in Wandsworth? It doesn’t exactly make you wish to conform now does it?

 

For the young, troubled, angry young man who enters the system, quick to argue, sometimes irrationally – setting bad examples asks for bad results.

So let’s go back to the question:

“What can Ford Prison do to cut re-offending rates?”

Maybe the question should read:

“Does Ford Prison and it’s management, have the ability to cut re-offending rates?”

Country Tracks

23 Mar

A long tiresome journey, memorable for new vistas and a desire to vomit. Travel sickness has never been far away in my life.

As a kid my mother used to give us these travel sickness tablets, ‘Joy-Rides’ they were called. Sounds like ecstacy, the taste was anything but. In fact, I remember my anxiety forming on those mornings before travel, because of these tablets. The taste was awful, bitter, it set a pretty poor tone for the next few hours. God forbid you were in my way.

As we pull into my new home, it requires a sharp left turn into what looks like an old military base, being thrown into the cupboard door wakes others from their slumber. The reason why Ford struck me as a military base, is because it was. (Ex RAF and former Naval School)

That’s where the connection begins and ends. This place lacks order from the top down, riots only months before and the Governor has been named as a catalyst in a suicide inquest at a former nick. Inmates walk by, on what I assume is the start of their afternoon working day. They cross a public road to a second compound the other side. We are unloaded outside a reception hut and led into a back room before the drawn out reception process is put into (in)action once more.

6 1/2 Hours Later

Still sat in the waiting area trying to work out whether I’ll go for the Smoker’s Induction Pack or the Non-Smoker’s pack. You’re charged for the receipt of the item and in it contains a handful of items that you may want while you wait for Canteen delivery. With little but squash, polos and chewy bars, I’m not impressed by non-smoker’s pack. I request tobacco in the hope I’ll be able to use it as currency in the meantime.

Our bags in our possession we plonk them on trailer and wheel the items up to portakabin 200 yards away. Sheltered from the rain, we are given our ID cards and sign some paperwork. It’s here I have my first real conversation with a screw since coming to prison. One by one we head into an office and are asked a few questions by a man in a uniform different to mine. It dawned on me at this point, quite how little interaction there is between the Prison Service and inmates. Do they have a clue what really goes on in their workplaces?

New Pad

The cells are double rooms, or should I say; twin – in an old army style billet accomodation. Spartan, dirty and bunked with a smoker, I’ve no idea where the mail box, phone or showers are. I sit on my new bed and think about the guys I said goodbye to today. I wish I was back at Wandsworth. I know this feelings will subside but for now i’m not happy. I’ve heard this happens a lot to those moved to open conditions. There is a sense of protection one feels in a closed establishment. Taken down to dinner in the Dining Hall, I am very well aware how few prison guards are on duty and quite how many prisoners are walking about unhindered. Ford holds 510 on average, at the evening meal time, I see at least 300 of them.

I’m still in prison and anxiety builds. Suffocating with having to process this crowded new environment. The last time I was in such a busy environment inside, I had witnessed some severe gang violence. D Cats are not known for this type of event, but new in such a place, the heart rules the head.

Irrational, chips and a burger placate me.

 

 

MP’s and other ignorant folks

6 Mar

Einstein once said:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing OVER and OVER and expecting DIFFERENT results”

Tory MP Philip Davies in the Sun writes:

“Why are inmate’s being released if they are going to re-offend?”*

“Inmates clearly aren’t scared of prison as a deterrent, we need to make sentences longer.”

Clearly this particular MP has not only failed to read the words of Albert Einstein, he has also, it seems, failed to read his own words.

…..Prisoners are not scared of prison……So we need to give them more of this punishment in order to stop re-offending…..???

Unsurprisingly to me, this is a common tact that is regularly spouted by the ill-informed (Politicians) and vindicated by the misinformed. (General Public)

If prison doesn’t work as things currently stand, why would more of it have positive results?

*(If we could spot future events before they happen, that would be great; but we can’t. This is a nonsensical comment.)

The tabloid media have a lot to answer for, when they muck rake and write easy to sell stories of hysteria that highlight the few horrors and fail to point out the positive. It’s not altogether a shock then, when the general public form a view based around the words of OTT editorials in the printed press.

More recently, two individuals who it can be said were shining examples of rehabilitation, were awarded in the New Years Honours List. Rather than celebrate a turn-around of these people’s lives and herald this proof of effective reformation, we pan these people and bring up their old news cuttings. We ignore the good work done since, the fantastic contributions they’ve made in the face of adverse opinion and we hang onto their short-lived discarded error strewn ways. We too must accept responsibility as a society for re-offending rates. Let sleeping dogs lie.

This is something to think about while I put a pen to paper and complete my daily blog. I don’t expect readers to agree with everything I say, we are all entitled to an opinion, it’s the bedrock of civilisation – I simply hope my ‘Devils Advocate’ approach gives you something to think about.

 

Day 10 PM – A 2 or 3 Star Hotel?

25 Feb

I pull away from looking out the window, reminding myself of the guilt I should feel for leaving a ‘chum’ outside, isolated and vulnerable. I’ve said it before, the yard is soul-less, sad and unforgiving; it’s somewhere to keep moving, not stand out and understandably sometimes avoided. In every corner, a gang of hardened criminals lurch, representing every major ethnic group in the UK. The smell of cannabis lingers in the air from every hidden recess, packages are passed between inmates either side of the yard’s mesh fence; this cold grey reality is the nearest many men here will see outside for a decade. Lacking inspiration and hope, self-preservation is key, rehabilitation is far from many’s thoughts.

Prison is a hugely bi-polar experience. It helps those that know how to be helped and are willing. For those lacking positive role models in life or the education to rationale their circumstance, prison IS little more than a conveyor belt.

I always heard before I came to prison, that these places were like a 2 or 3 star hotel. This is the rhetoric pushed by the tabloids and perhaps most forcibly, the Daily Mail. They never refer to prison as a 1 star hotel that isn’t in the least bit shocking, but it’s always a conservative boast, something believable to the uninformed observer. Yes, a 2 or 3 star hotel sounds like a reasonably decent place to be, far better than the conditions in many care homes and not so extravagant a pile of rubbish as a suggestion, of HMP being 5 star establishments. So while I’m here I felt I should take the time to conduct a facility inventory and determine the true rating of Wandsworth Prison.

I write home to get a copy of the star classification breakdown, I’ll keep you posted.

Banker-come-Barber

Sat in my cell watching ‘Wimbledon’, I get a knock on the door (That’s a first), it’s Tony the wing’s barber managing to get my cell unlocked to give me a trim. Nice one! A day earlier than expected, I’d finished my letter writing for the day, so it was nice to get some company given Anthony wasn’t back.

The biscuits aren’t mine just yet.

Tony is the first multi-millionaire retired investment banker I’ve had trim my hair. He’s here like many others on remand awaiting trial. In his case, 15 months away – his assets have been frozen and his wife and kids kicked out of their homes overseas. The government there, taking a risk averse approach to alleged criminality, he is being punished before guilt has been proved. Due to the means at his disposal, boats etc, he is deemed a flight risk and is being held in custody despite a clean criminal history. His lad’s school fees are being stopped, adding to the weight of the world on his shoulder. He is  a man desperate to maintain the glue that holds the family together and the pressure upon him without conviction must be huge. He has already been inside for 12 months.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Proceeds of Crime Act, mean such draconian measures are not only allowable they are incredibly common place. I don’t expect readers to believe me or truly care if they do, but I know the control measures put in place on suspect’s life before plea and trial, make you consider pleading to guilt when innocent. If I had felt I got a good deal in my case I wouldn’t be harping on about this now.

Plea bargain deals are being struck more and more as defendants reject sitting for years in Category A or B prisons simply to clear a name already ruined or considered guilty by their peers. Fraud trials can take 3, 4 or 5 years from the day of arrest to the moment in court. In this time a defendant could plead guilty, take the early plea sentence reduction and return to some semblance of normality before a trial ever was.  Remember the phrase:

“There’s no smoke without fire”?

Forget about evidence, clichés are all that matter to defame the innocent’s character and a retraction in a newspaper is always smaller than the arrest headline. Chip wrapping by then.

Regardless of my barber’s future status, the legal situation stays the same.

Back to the haircut – I’m pleased with the outcome.

The cell door closes behind him and I stare at my bourbons for a while, I’ve got some time alone to myself….