The voice of Tommy Cooper in my head as I think of a title.
The last time I was in the this particular hospital I was in handcuffs. One month before my release, still double cuffed, still escorted by three staff, still treated exactly the same as I was as a ‘B’ Cat six years previously. Despite the fact that I’d spent thirty odd days on Home Leave, was in ‘The Home Leave System’ and had attended previous hospital appointments under Rule 27/2 at this hospital and one in Belfast. It really does make one wonder where the money goes and how the system creates ‘Risk’ to feed the system. This was not an admin error or an oversight this was a punishment for being an unmerciful pain in the hole for the past four years.
However, what it did for me was actually a bit of reverse psychology and it did me some good. I was humiliated and embarrassed and angry beyond words but it reminded me of what it was like at the start. How I felt when they slapped the cuffs on me at Gatwick all those years ago and how I arrived back in Belfast City Airport four years previously. It made me remember why I was in Jail, it made me remember that I had done wrong and it made me realise I would never fart in the wrong direction again – ever. So, the attempt of certain management to annoy me did me good instead. Maybe they should do that to everyone just before release? Take them out to a public place for an hour in cuffs and make them remember how shit it feels to be a criminal because in prison, for most, the event happened so long ago, it’s only really a blip on the psyche.
There’s a book called ‘A Million Little Pieces’ by James Frey and there’s a chapter where he goes into great detail about a visit to the dentist, my toes actually curl up now thinking about it, excruciating. I will spare you the details and leave it to your imagination.
Yesterday morning I had to go to ‘Urology’ for a pee flow test the involves inserting a catheter up the eye of the Tiger and… At this juncture I would like to pay my respects to the two nurses who made a very intrusive process less uncomfortable. Thank you girls and thank you NHS.
The waiting area was packed and I had to inform the receptionist that I had changed address and Doctors. The lady was very discrete and we both talked quietly out of the sides of our mouths and I don’t think anyone got what we were talking about. I deliberately sat across from and looking at the door of the room where I had previously sat with three apes and cuffed. I felt like a leper again but it also got my goat. Why the hell should I feel all self conscious why must society ‘not’ realise that I am of no threat to them. It’s the system that makes me so, not me.
My name is called and I’m taken to one of the treatment rooms, it really is busy, busy, these guys don’t get paid enough. Then the dichotomy and discourse of re-integration starts, beginning with prison and it always comes into the conversation no matter which member of the general public (non workers in Criminology and Criminal Justice)I speak to about this. “You didn’t kill anyone did you?” My response has and will be the same “No, but I did commit a crime and deservedly went to jail for that but that’s where it ends for me. Going to prison is the punishment for my crime. now it’s time to move on.”
Then the topic of length of sentence and blossoming interest is shown on what it was actually like in jail begins. This then sets up the next set of questions namely “what did you do with your time and what are your plans for the future.” My honest and truthful replies are the answers that cause the frowns to be lifted, the eyes to widen in astonishment and the smiles . This is when the human being/the citizen reappears and the stigma of the leper is lifted. One of the nurse tells me she has just completed here degree and I stand up, walk across the room, shake her hand and with a beaming smile say “feels bloody great doesn’t it? Well done.” The nurse is briefly taken aback with the speed which I cross the room and the fact that physical contact – not controlled by her – after all she was messing about with the old John Thomas a minute ago, but she did not withdraw my hand clasped hers and the other nurse stood there beaming. This was when the whole room became bright with smiles and laughter and acceptance. I simply could not keep up with the questions and the excitement afforded me by these two lovely ladies. I was saved by the pain in me wee Willy and took a dizzy fit and had to lie down. They got all business like again and soon I’d recovered my composure and they were back on the questions.
I left that room in fekin agony but with a big massive smile on my face. Each and every time I have been to a hospital, taken a taxi ride or spoke to normal citizen about my circumstance the interaction has always followed this path and it is this that we need to hold onto if we want to change and move our society away from the moral panic fuelled media of today. For me, this is not rocket science. Once people see one has put one’s ‘Time’ to good use they change, they see hope and it allows them to see the citizen, the person, the smiling man who turned his life around from the inside out and this is when they smile with you. They are society they are the continuous ‘Jury of our peers’, they are always watching and always there but not always judging. Now they are accepting, now they are smiling with you.
A Leper walks into a hospital – A citizen walks out!