“For here am I sitting in a tin can, far above the earth, planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do” David Bowie.
My tin can is the 20.50 Dublin to Belfast Train hurtling towards Drogheda. I say to my travelling companion Dominic (this ironically was his first trip on a train in Ireland. He popped his cherry with me!)”give us ten minutes mate I’ve got a bit of a brain freeze.” I close my eyes and try to slowly process the events of the past few days.
I’m afraid that one is starting to realise that terminology and discourse of academia and the science of this science are inadequate when trying to describe the multifaceted levels of emotion one goes through in this here re-integration process. Everything is a process and everything is relevant and it all links up, there is no detachment, it flows like a runaway ticker tape slide show and it is only when one catches ones breath and stops to think about stuff do ‘I’ realise how mere science cannot process this process. It can make sense of it but there is so much that is filtered out and gathered in by the natural process of the mind that it makes it impossible to pin down one event that we might cling too that allows us to say “Oh that explains that then.”
My mate came over from London at the weekend and we spent most of Saturday discussing Fathers and near death experiences that made us more appreciative of the small things in life – like getting up without a hangover of a weekend. I told my friend there was something I needed to do, didn’t tell him what exactly it was; nevertheless he agreed to pick me up early on Sunday morning and head back up the coast to where I’d been living for the past four years. There’s a mini version of table mountain up there called Binevenagh and I’d been sitting aimlessly staring at it for the past four years and unwittingly picked a pre-defined spot on which to stand one day and look back down on the place the people that kept me wrapped tighter than Casey’s Drum. I stood on top of the mountain and said “Goodbye HMP” on my terms. I said and shouted much more and felt much more and cried much more and my friend had the tact and diplom to walk off and leave me alone for ten minutes. Ironically there’s a statue of St Patrick up there standing with his arms outstretched expelling the snakes from Ireland and this was exactly what I was doing. Exorcising my demons. It worked and we drove away laughing and smiling and again my friend had the tact to be quiet. We didn’t speak for a while and as we drove away, down the road that I’ve travelled in cuffs, escorted, in sweat boxes, hospital appointments and home leaves I finally closed a chapter in my own mind. “Fuck you HMP I’m done with you.” We arrive back in Belfast and get lost and end up in a Nando’s devouring copious amounts of succulent chicken. I went to put my hand in my pocket and got the head bit off me “Don’t even think about” he said “you paid my way many a time when I had nothing.” The look was enough for me to keep my gob shut, for once, and simply say “Thank you Gary.”
Monday had me in Bangor, a seaside town, doing my mentoring with a young lad who’s on home leave. It cost me £10 for the train fair and a couple of cups of tea and coffee. It’s weird but I never actually received official permission from NOMS, DOJ or any of the other state sanctioned bodies who sanction these Government led mentoring initiatives. If I did, I’d have to wait for two years at least and by that time the young man I was talking to might well be back in jail or back to his old ways. Is this a crime? What can I be charged with? It is not state sanctioned for me to meet someone for a coffee and just Listen and be there. After all I’ve been doing it on a daily basis for nearly six years on the inside, officially and unofficially why must I now wait for two years. Wise up and smell the fucking Roses people. I understand the rationale but really – GET REAL and stop going round the bloody houses…. Sorry, I digress. When I get home I’m purring like a kitten coz it was good for the young man but it was also good for me.
Yesterday I attended the Irish Penal Reform Trust Lecture on ‘Solitary Confinement’ but before hand I’d arranged to meet an old girlfriend who, if I’m honest, should have married twenty years ago. I promised I’d never lie to myself or anyone else so I now state “Boy was I ever one fekin asshole.” We met in the Gresham Hotel and this lovely women made me, crumble in her hug and smile. It always did, I suppose but the arrogance of an 18 – 21 year old suppresses that stuff. We spent two and half hours chatting and laughing and getting few truths off our chests. More demons exorcised but, for me, it was a chance to say sorry. For once my frequent trips to the toilet where a welcome as it gave me time to compose myself. I’m fairly confident guy as you’ve probably guessed by now, but I felt like wee boy again in this beautiful human beings company. Jane, jokingly linked her harm through mine as we walked up O’Connell street on one of the most beautiful days in my life and I felt, then, as I did twenty five years ago but was too much of a tool to show it. We parted company outside the Kings Inn, heart of legal land in Dublin and as Jane walked away I turned to watch her go. Wow, what a women, not a girl a beautiful, beautiful women her husband of twenty years a very lucky man. It’s also weird that Jane has a degree in psychology and has introduced me to some new concepts, but I’ll not divulge just yet as I don’t think it appropriate to discuss what we talked about. Some things must remain private.
The lecture was great and the speakers where as always on the money. It’s the same in England, same in Northern Ireland and the same across the globe. Everyone is recognising what’s wrong with prisons but nobody is doing anything about it. I get excited when I hear the same things being talked about, the same discussions and the same conclusions with some slightly stupid ideas thrown in also but I’m not excited in the revolutionary sense. I’m excited at the fact that there are now people in the room from both sides of the Criminal Justice fence. They may be looking at each other with daggers sometimes but at least they have the decency to Listen. They might not agree but they are listening or they might not do anything about what they have listened too. However, if there is one thing I’ve learnt it’s that everything I have learnt; somebody else already knows and if you are listening with hatred, anger, empathy or compassion at least they are ‘LISTENING’, and with that comes processing. You might not remember all of it but some of it sticks to be regurgitated at later date. I wrote a piece of writing in 2010 gave it to a academic and three weeks ago I listened to him/or her present a paper where the question at the end was partly based on what I had sent him/ or her three years previously. This is how it works a revelation to me but maybe not for others more cleverer than I.
Yesterday was the first day I stayed awake for the whole day, without the aid of chemicals since I can’t remember when. I got to bed around midnight and fell slipped into unconsciousness with a warm heart and an inner and outer smile that nothing this life throws at me will ever take away. Can anyone pin down the one moment or process that makes me feel this way? all answers on a postcard to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is ground control to Major Tom signing off for a day or two. Re-integration? Ha! To infinity and beyond more like.