Today at some stage I will mostly be drinking Magners cider. I use the ‘Master’s Blaster’ in the title as this wee Metallica number is what’s cranking out of the speakers above my head. Spent a solid ten hours yesterday in complete silence and only left the computer for toilet breaks and two cheese baps. Actually, forgot to eat. “No bad thing” as my father just said.
For now, this is where it ends, no longer a Queen’s student. My Master’s dissertation has been emailed to the printers to be printed and bound. How do I feel? Not sure at the moment. In many ways I’m proud and amazed that I have completed another leg of my academic adventure. Dazed and confused more like – feel a bit of Led Zep coming on. This would be quite poignant as ‘Ramble On’ is the tune I played over and over on the day of my release 19/06/2013. So, eighteen months later I sit here contemplating at what time I should hit the pub. Do I phone people or do I just sit quietly in the corner and soak up what has just occurred. Suppose the real celebration comes ‘if’ I graduate.
What have the last eighteen months done for me, a bit like Monty Pythons ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’? These months have been cruel and they’ve been kind but with the help of my Art of Living and Sudarshan Kriya breathing and meditation none of it really matters. What has surprised me is that I slept like baby last night and woke this morning with no mad desire to read over my work for any final last minute changes or corrections. It’s done, dusted, gone and with this comes acceptance in the fact I’ve done what was asked of me and gave it my best shot and if that doesn’t meet the grade then that’s fine also. I’m already way past the point of where I ever thought I’d get too.
One thing I have discovered though is that to immerse myself in work that involves my lived experience of prison has at times nearly drove me insane. Convict Criminology has now become part of my life and I now fully understand what my peer predecessors say that it takes superhuman strength and sheer bloody-mindedness to get to where I’m going. At a recent event I spoke to Andy Aresti and I could see how much of an effort and how disappointing it was to still be judged and labeled for an event that sent him to prison fifteen odd years ago. Despite the fact that he has Dr in front of his name means nothing in certain authoritative circles.
The more I read and through shared emails from other Convict Criminologists across the globe I discovered that Andy was not alone. In fact that is the point we/I are not alone. There are now hundreds if not thousands of BA’s, MA’s and Dr’s across the planet who are finding out and have lived what I’m going through and that a prison sentence is indeed a social life sentence. Therefore, I will take a wee step back to regroup to rethink and take a bit of time to be me. Let the hair down maybe even get it cut! Na, that’s just being silly.
Don’t go thinking that I’ll be bone idle over the coming months. Got the small matter of a conference by prisoners for prisoners to organise next month, an article to write for December and a few other wee bits and bobs in between, not forgetting my commitment to ‘Time In’ HMP Magilligan prison magazine. Actually, when I think about it I have rather a lot to do over the coming months and then to plan my PhD. I think I’ll head towards ‘drugs’. Not to take, more the ‘War on Drugs’ at least it’s something I know a little about but won’t kill me reliving and rewriting it in the process
My friend called me from the airport at 9.55pm last night just as I was hitting the send button. He’s home to sort the legal end of his father’s passing a few weeks back. I look forward to meeting him later and sharing my happiness with him. He is one of two friends who came to visit me and I will always be indebted to that. The reason as two why he’s here also allows me to reflect on how short a time we have on this planet and hopefully some of my words will live on in print and not fade like memory over time. So, those of you who read this and have helped me over the past few years (you know who you are). I think the boy done good.
Oh, nearly forgot please check out our radio play “Built To Contain” on Youtube, something I’m very proud of being part of “Developed and performed by people with convictions in Northern Ireland” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uGsSS76s3Q&feature=youtu.be