Ahhh, thank the sweet lemons that is over. My puffed up eyes attest to the fact that it was not easy. From the moment I drew up alongside the huge concrete walls, I knew my worse fears had come true.
You have to get there real early, visiting is not until 13.45, but the reception opens at 12.00 and you want to get in amongst the first visitors so you get your maximum amount of allotted time. You first confirm that you are allowed to visit by showing your visitor order number which your loved one has sent out to you. Then you have to go to a second window to have your identity confirmed, you are issued with a plastic tag which has your visitor number and then you must pay a deposit for a locker key – you can take nothing, absolutely nothing, in with you except your money in a clear plastic bag – bit like going through an airport check in without the excitement of going on holiday.
Then, that only takes about 15mins, you are then hanging around in a wasp infected car park come grassy area, waiting. Waiting. Waiting. If you have any clothing to take it, you can do this in your free time whereupon it is x-rayed, ticked off as allowed and stuck on a shelf. Then you go back to waiting.
Eventually, when it nears 13.45, you head back to the reception area and – yep, you’ve got it – you wait! What happens is that visitors are taken into the prison in batches of 10, so if you’ve got a badge with 1-10 on it, you’re in luck – this is why you got there early. Once your number comes up, and you will already have dispensed with everything except your cash, you leave the reception area and head towards the prison. You have to take off shoes, and snotty tissues that you’ve stuffed in your back pocket, for them to be x-rayed, then you go through airport x-ray, then you are frisked, then go into a glass box where one door is shut so you are hermetically sealed for a moment, then another opens, through a big gate, into the main prison, then – another wait whilst the inmates troop into the visiting room.
Then a guy calls out your number, gives you a weird map reference where your loved one will be sitting, then sweet, sweet, sweet….. you are finally reunited.
That is the special part, what you have hung around all day for, what makes the day worthwhile. You can hold hands, hug, kiss, talk, cry, buy a hot sausage roll!
Hopefully on my next visit, I won’t be in such a state and would like to thank again the young lady who ran through the ropes with me – I could never have gotten through the ordeal without her.