24 Dec Christmas, footsteps and time
During my time in prison I kept an almost daily diary about everything I felt and saw. You may have already read the first 19 days at Armley prison, this may be the first time you’ve read my diary… It doesn’t matter, the characters are completely new as I am in a completely new prison.
Until then, I had never spent a Christmas day in prison and I can tell you it was an absolute emotional roller coaster relying on schedule and familiarity to make it go by as quick as possible.
These few days are just a sample of the greater diary, If you like what you’re reading please feel free to subscribe and be the first to know when the full prison diary is getting published.
Until then, please sit back with you eggnog in hand and enjoy the read. Thank you for being a part of this amazing journey from imprisonment to freedom in more forms than just the physical.
Wednesday 23rd December 2015
You know, yesterday I neglected my duties as a frontline journalist at HMP WEALSTUN. Forcing myself up at 6am means that usually at the end of the day I’m pretty worn down and enjoy going braindead on my bed. I’m not doing as much on my digital keyboard, I’m not writing as much, and I can’t believe I’m saying it but reading is getting in my way! I only have 2 or 3 pages left of a 400 page book I received mid-October. I’d have thought it would have lasted me until the end of the sentence.
When talking to people about my ideas and plans, there’s this whole attitude of, “Will you have enough time in your sentence to do that?” Gosh – the end days are near.
Em and I keep talking about how quick it’s gone and how far we’ve come in that time. There is a limit in the prison that one person can have up to 20 cards sent in. Mum sent in 4 blank and I currently have 26 propped up in various places around my pad. A few cards are from people I don’t even know. I definitely don’t feel alone – every card breaks that wall down a little further. If you know someone in prison, send them a note just to say “Hi”. Most will appreciate any form of break from this place.
One note I ruined yesterday was Emily’s letter. I had a can of coke which I put on my bed on a coaster (which was actually the top of my soup-cup lid) and as I stupidly sat down, it fell. Boom and fizz over 3 paragraphs from Emily. I managed to make out most of what it said holding it up to the light. I’m so clumsy when I need to be.
Something I accidently opened which honestly fell out of the envelope was Emily’s Christmas card. It was a gift to ‘name a star’ OMG! She’s a bloody genius. What an awesome present. This is why I love her – she’s so clever and thoughtful! I then saw the card which said ‘for my wonderful guy =)’ ‘*Do not open until Christmas Jacob*’ I panicked – quickly threw it all back in the envelope and told Jason and Padz not to say a thing! I never opened it, they never saw a thing. As if Emily was ever going to talk to them or walk in the room! I wish…
So before my visit with Dad and Helen, I was talking to Raymond, one of my closer friends in here, in the waiting room. He ended up right next to me on the visit and he was incredibly excited about the idea of recruiting prisoners. He said he’d want to do something one or two days a week – particularly around engaging the prisons. Excellent, I thought! He then told me how he managed to get an IPP prisoner on to a Category D board so he can progress through the prison system earlier than waiting for a parole board. It’s a big problem in the UK, and Raymond has changed a culture in Wealstun overnight by enabling several individuals to now get Category D instead of sitting here waiting to get parole in 2 years’ time. I’m incredibly proud of him, and to know him. Raymond’s valiant approach is: ‘I’ve made it before, I can make it again.’ I need to be surrounded by people like this.
The visit with Dad and Helen was mostly me sorting my personal affairs with Helen and telling them both about the inefficiencies of the prison system and how we could be better utilized and how they could better allocate their staff. I also discussed how hard it is to be a prison officer and how I would / could never do it. (Especially now I have a conviction).
On the visit Miss P came up and punched me on the arm in a bashful way in front of my parents – They all spoke about how I need a clip around the ear and Dad wished he had done it 2 years ago – funny! I looked around to ensure other prisoners didn’t think I was being too familiar with the screws. Its ok on my wing but in a visit hall with all the other prisoners – no thank you!!!
As I came back to wing last night after work, Mr P, Mr F, William, Gregg and Sam were all on the servery. They discussed how comfortable I’ve become. Sam said I’m being smart about prison – the wing, the staff and the prisoners, playing them all just right for the easiest sentence possible. “Isn’t that the point?” I asked.
My only danger on the wing was going to be William – Good job I made him a close anti – friend. I call him this because he loves intimidating me and hates it when I put him down with long words, sarcastic laughs or condescending tones. He calls me a ‘fucking posh twat’ and that one day when I get home, he will be waiting for me with mole clamps, a bunsen burner and rope. I love the friendships you can make in prison. It can be rather unsettling associating with such hardened criminals.
Sam and I had some real back and forth banter. We’re such different people and he just seems angry at the world a lot of the time, but I actually like him and said he’s more than welcome for a drink in Brighouse if he doesn’t do anything dodgy haha.
8:27AM: As I was writing I had a hooch pad spin. It took 2 minutes. I told them I tried to brew under my bed but it won’t lift up. It was Miss H (one of my favourites) and another female officer. The other officer tried lifting my bed just to check. Before I knew they were coming I put these memoirs in amongst lots of other papers. I don’t know why I am worried about them finding them, I think it is just the one thing I get to keep private in here. I put my Bible on top of them too (low, I know…) One place they didn’t and really should have checked for hooch was the box my digital keyboard came in: 1 1/2 meters wide and 6 – 8 inches tall. It was wedged at the end of my pad between my cupboard and next to my radiator – perfect brewing conditions, madness. I also said to Rory who jokes that I am a proper ‘screw-boy’. “See I put my own name in too,” I said to him. He laughed, “Blend it!”.
I went on the yard with Geoff last night and told him how Karen said he was the 10 year older version of me. He laughed. We’re bound to like each other – we have the same constantly reflecting disposition. How can I be more like I want to be from what I have learned? He discussed how he’d really like to come on board with the recruitment idea. He’d like to get involved at the early stage. He just wants to bring the technical and sales element – He does have significant experience! All he wants is the title Director with salaries, benefit and commissions to match. Thankfully, he’s out a year after me so I will be able to solidify my grounding to consider it from an arm’s length perspective and see where the company is at that stage. As long as he’s open minded as he appears to be I can certainly learn a lot from him and hopefully pay it back on the other side.
Another item we discussed was the formation of the employability rep role in the prison and its purpose! When prisoners complete employability skill courses, I heard the education providers get £900 per person. In the long run I want the data on everyone who does the course on my list so I can get them in to work. Heck, maybe even my company will run the employability rep scheme in its partnering prisons, helping the prison and my company significantly. I will create a monopoly on ex-offender candidates. The key to selling them is positive PR around the clients who hire these reformed individuals. Gary Verity said on the news yesterday, “The best thing you can do for your fellow man is give him a job.” I can’t wait to approach him and ask him to support this. Welcome to Yorkshire!
Thursday 24th December 2015
I fell asleep around 7:30 pm last night so I didn’t have the opportunity to write. I think my forced sleeping pattern, waking at 6 am, is helping me drift off earlier. I wonder if waking up at 5 am will be better? 3 hours alone in the morning – asleep within 2 hours of bang up? I love how obsessed with reading I am becoming.
Yesterday was special. After my pad spin in the morning, we had remained banged up until 11 am. I played some digital keyboard, developed a mild headache and read some more. The good thing is, my digital keyboard is set up so I can jump on and off more often than just a one-off long session.
We were unlocked at 11 am. Quick shower, food at 11:30, and then… bang up at 12 until 1:15 pm. After that my day should have got busy. 1:25 pm wing rep meeting, and 1:35 to work to meet a fellow prisoner who needed help. I got there and he said we didn’t need to meet for 2 weeks – so I could have stayed at wing rep meeting.
Katherine asked if I was calm during the pad spins. They were both expecting to hear, “Ambulance E wing!” because of my anxiety. It was all said in jest. It’s amazing how much my anxiety has taken over whilst in here despite how relaxed I feel overall.
I had to wait 15 mins in which time I typed up a response to the sharks known as ‘Rossendales’ (a legal aid debt collection agency) on behalf of another prisoner.
4 pm, I went back to work. Karen and Katherine (some of the ladies I work with) were heading to a meeting, so I went and chilled with Adam on B wing for 20 mins and waited for line route outside B wing for 10 minutes. (‘Line route’ is the times where prisoners are allowed to move freely between different workshops and wings.)
Back to wing: Food, pool and a call with Em who was 15 mins late so we only chatted for 5 mins. I then went on the yard to chat with Geoff who is loving ‘The 4 hour work week’. Mr W stood at the gate and said it’s time to come in. I told him I need to give Geoff a kiss goodnight – he offered to turn away. A bit of comedy there. Bang up. Sleep at 7:30 Phew!
I have a visit with Mum, Nan and Emily at 9:30 this morning. I’ve just had a shave. I’ve got a few spots and still need to exfoliate – what a hard life.
I’m currently watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Emily is watching it at the same time =).
I’ve put a page over my door window so people can’t disturb me, although they still do by making noises through the gap or knocking. It can’t send a clearer message. They leave me alone after half hour here and there. Thankfully, we’ve been locked up in order to receive canteen. It’s now 3:45 and I still haven’t got it. We will be unlocked at 4 pm, tea at 4:30 then bang up at 5. Probably not the best time of year to leave lads alone with their thoughts. A mess as usual.
This morning I had a visit with Mum, Nan and Emily. I was so incredibly happy to see them.
He’s just breaking down in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It’s upsetting how much I can relate to his attack on his family when his business / money took a turn. Urgh, I missed the end of it and didn’t have time to call Em because of helping my friend write a letter. We’ve been banged up at 5 due to staff shortages. Sigh.
I really loved seeing Em today, she was wearing a salmon coloured knitted top. I asked if she had a low cut top underneath and she said ‘no, just a bra’ I called her a whore and it took her a second to let it sink in. We laughed. Miss P said how I get more visits than she does. I asked if she could perhaps close the window. She made me do it haha. Geoff too was on a visit. We chatted for some time in the waiting room. He’s finished ‘Four Hour Work Week’ in 2 days or so! We then met on the yard at 1:15 before which I sat in my pad and chose the next 3 days of TV listings. I hope I chose wisely. We chatted for a good 30 minutes and then I had to be in for 2:15 to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. I’m angry at myself for missing the end and not calling Emily.
I’ve let myself down. I will call her in the morning and make it up to her. Besides she’s sent me a letter with some lovely family photos. I’ve got a couple more letters too. One looks like Callum Kitson and perhaps another from my sister. I’ll update you after I read them all!
One sarcastic one from Callum Kitson and his GF Gemma talking about how lonely it will be behind bars at Christmas. Lovely. And yes, one my sister Joanne. I will make her a priority to reply to.
Today, I will add, one guy locked himself in his pad as he couldn’t pay his smoking debts to some of the lads on wing due to a prison payments admin error. I told him not to worry and I showed the guys that it was a mistake and not his fault. He came out and all was calm. I desperately try and explain to these lads that all of this shouldn’t be worried about over the Christmas period but the prison’s tobacco sellers never close shop. People deserve better!
6:25 pm Christmas Eve – it doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve here. It feels like jail with a different, albeit inconvenient schedule. It beats Christmas Eve last year. I was in Gibraltar and got a really awful phone call… it was bad – Fuck sake. I broke. Crying on my friend Nicole’s bed – I just felt I couldn’t take any more. She is such a good friend. I came home on the Boxing Day. I’m thankful all of that is over and this year all I have to look forward to is my amazing family. How fortunate I am =)
Friday 25th December 2015
Some time between 12 and 1 pm
I’m enjoying bang up until 1 pm. Unfortunately my clock ran out of juice around 6 am this morning so I haven’t been as acute with time keeping today.
My morning started at 7 am watching a bit of the Road to El Dorado then the Galapagos Isles documentary. It’s definitely somewhere I’d love to visit. Plus they speak Hispanic which is always a bonus.
8:30am unlock – Woody wanted some milks. I wanted my clothes washing and 20 teabags as my Yorkshire Tea didn’t turn up. We agreed on 4 milks for a clothes wash and 20 teabags. They were Typhoo – not quite Yorkshire Tea but much better than prison teabags which, like drugs, I’ll never touch again.
9:30am Holy Communion at Church, and what a wonderful service it was. I was asked to do a reading on the spot but I didn’t mind. There must have been 40 lads. I sat with the homeless chap who took my top at Armley but I doubt he remembers it. He was really confident in the group reading and singing despite usually been so quiet and reserved.
All the lads were really good with singing today actually. A lot of projection – I was impressed! After service we got a candy cane, snickers bar and coffee. I gave the candy cane to Ben, 1/2 a Snicker bar to Geoff, both on the yard after and half of my coffee to Calvin who was waiting at the wing gate. I then walked around the yard with Geoff who is worried about his proceeds of crime. It’s a shame the courts don’t sort it on the day of sentencing.
Back on to the wing at 11. I couldn’t get on the singles pool table tournament but played doubles with Jason as my partner vs Swoop and Matty. We lost because of me! I spoke with Mum before Church. We had a nice chat and ended the call pleasantly. After pool, I spoke to Em and had a wonderful chat with her. I’ll call her again this afternoon.
Then came lunch! I had a salmon wellington, with lots of potatoes, veg, sprouts and gravy. It was lovely. Made better by the Christmas Pudding and the fact Calvin, Jason and Trevor set out some tables in Trevor’s pad for us all to sit around. I said grace. It was pretty perfect. Zane came in and ate his curry too. For a few minutes we could forget why we were there and just enjoy each other’s company.
Bang up was at 12 and the officers had to kick us out of Trevor’s. I finished my meal and pudding in my pad watching ‘White Christmas’ on Film 4.
I’m on the yard between 3 pm – 4 pm meeting Geoff. I want to watch the Queen’s speech, which means I’ll have to watch the sign zone on BBC 2. I also need to make my bed, call family and reply to at least 6 short letters today. I’m rather sleepy for sure =). I wonder if Calvin has a spare AA battery for my clock?
The end of my first Christmas day in jail. The clock issue has been sorted! The battery just wasn’t pushed in properly – silly me!
It has rained heavily all afternoon. I went on to the yard at 3 hoping to see Geoff to give him the business plan but he didn’t show. It was pissing it down. I called Dad and was passed around the table on the phone. Between Mabel, who couldn’t hear me, Heather, David, Dad and Helen. Mum and Nan were at Suzanne’s so I couldn’t ring them – we were given a hefty lunch pack, all of which I gave away except an orange juice, biscuit and fruit loaf.
I spoke with Emily 3 / 4 times and it was lovely. I rung her too early at one point and her dinner was going cold.
Peter Capaldi has become a close friend. I’ve enjoyed watching him on ‘DR WHO’. The Christmas day special has helped me through the bang up on this day.
There was Christmas in the air but the lads were definitely trying to keep themselves busy and occupied all day – Pool, sitting in pads, hanging about the wing. This day has been hard as the real celebration comes on the 1st Jan when people are talking about how they are out that year or the next. I’m extremely aware I am still here and whether I have 1 week or 3 and half months left, I’m still here. I can’t wait to be home but I won’t let that take away my enjoyment of life which is real right here and now.
Fathers are away from their children, sons away from parents, or even worse, some are away with nobody to miss. I’m grateful. I’m away from all those who love me, away from my future – until one day, I will be giving it all back in a matter footsteps and time.
Footsteps and time.
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