On forgiveness

It’s Saturday, I’m doing the ironing, and as normal my mind is never still.  It’s visiting day today so I have to cram in all those weekend chores before 1pm because I really like to try to relax on Sunday before I’m back at work on Monday.

Digression No.1:  Ironing.  The other day, I was ironing a nice crisp cotton shirt and needed my water sprayer as the creases wouldn’t come out.  Got down water sprayer, but would the damn thing work – oh no. Pump, pump, pump – nada.  So I had to buy a new one (.99p thank you Dobbies).  Got home, attempted to iron said shirt and would the damn thing work – oh no.  Pump, pump, pump – nada.  So cursing, I went into the nephew’s room complaining bitterly and spraying the thing at him, saying “bloody thing, doesn’t work”.  “Oi” remonstrates nephew “don’t spray it at me”.  “But it doesn’t work, so it doesn’t matter who I aim it at” says I, and demonstrated by spraying my head, suicide by gunshot style.  And yes, you’re there before me, what did the wretched thing decide to do….. work.  Wet head.  Sod’s law at it’s finest.

Back to ironing.  I was thinking about forgiveness.  I’ve tried to contact a couple of ex-colleagues via the business web site “LinkedIn”.  I’ve listed myself, because I need a job that makes the best use of the skills I’ve built up over many years, and it would be really good to get some working recommendations from ex-colleagues.  Trouble is, I’ve muddied the water by putting the link to this blog on my LinkedIn site.  Now, as explained before, I have done this to indicate that I am not being dishonest or attempting to cover up my past.  I do not want a repeat of what happened at the Agricultural Society – them not knowing what had happened to me and getting hot under the collar.  I have no secrets.  I have not heard from the ex colleague at the Agricultural Society and that makes me feel like a pariah.  Is it because I know my husband and therefore know what a good man he really is.  People who only hear my side of the story must think – oh yes, she would say that wouldn’t she.   So there I am, ironing, cussing under my breath, also about the woman at the Agricultural Society who went to the Board of Directors to tell them that I had printed out an email (that was about my husband), showed it to her and took it home – the reason for my sacking/leaving.   And then all others came back to mind.  How about the Managing Director I worked for who said “it’s not working” when I began dating my future husband?  “What do you mean it’s not working” asked I.  “It’s not working – I’ve spoken to people and it’s not working”.  “Are you asking me to leave?” I asked.  “I’m not saying that, I’m just saying it’s not working” was his replied.  I enquired further “Are you asking me to break off the relationship with Mike?”   All I got was a repetition of “It’s not working”.  Another job over – note: how many jobs do I have to lose due to my husband before I leave him……?

So there was another imaginary “come the revolution”.  But then I thought, no.  Hang on.  Take the Managing Director – I got that job due to such a weird series of events.  I had left the film company (Majestic) where I had worked for the past 13 years, to join  another, smaller TV production company.  One day, out of the blue, I got a call from an ex-Majestic colleague who said she was also now leaving Majestic as she had found a local job.  She lived not too far from me, so I told her how jealous I was that she had found a well-paid job so close to home, wished her well and forgot about it.  About a month or so later, she called me again to say she hated her local job!  She was going to leave and if I wanted, I should apply for the vacancy.  This was music to my ears.  A job just 10 mins from my home.  I got that job and that is how I met Mike.  So, if I was to curse and rue the day I ever met the Managing Director, the consequence would have been that I would not have met my future husband.  Now, there are some of you that might say that would have been a better course of action, but I do not agree!  I didn’t marry until much later that the average gal, I was waiting for Mr Right.  Mike is my Mr Right.  I knew from the first date, although it took him some years to come to the same conclusion.  He is the only person for me, we go together like all the clichés you have ever quoted.

So what is the unintended consequence of being sacked/resigning from the Agricultural Society?  Well, I admit, that is a tricky one to discover at the moment, but I am sure there will be an unforeseen event which will make me say – hang on, if I hadn’t had lost my job there, I wouldn’t have been working here – or something like that.  So I can bear no grudges.  No, wait a moment, there is one person out there who I do bear a grudge against.  Someone I never met but who must have so hated me/us that he chose to hammer us down into the ground.  And the lawyers Field Fisher Waterhouse.  No-one personally obviously, but the company.  Nasty people.  People who do not know you, but who are “just doing my job” now those I think I can reserve judgement upon.

The point of this bulletin – well, I may send this link directly to the person I was trying to contact at the Agricultural Society, just so they can maybe have a read and discover what I have been through recently, and maybe they can link up with me and say that “yes, I knew Carol professionally, and I found her………”  In business, I have found it important not to make enemies because you never, ever know what’s around the corner and if you want to succeed, then it’s best to be on good terms with everyone.   No, there’s another one I won’t have anything to do with, even though I could really do with a reference from her because I worked for her for nearly a year.  She definitely stabbed me in the back!  Oh well, we can’t be perfect can we.

Ignorance is bliss!

Isn’t ignorance bliss…..   I only say this because as one of my other posts indicates, I’m a great believer in motto’s such as “forewarned is forearmed”  (allowed clothing in prison), “you get what you pay for” (the seam on my Matalan cardy has come adrift),  “a sledgehammer to crack a nut” (Judge in High Court re our Freezing Order (still in place)) and “what goes around comes around” (I’m still waiting).   I today discovered, after reading this extremely interesting article by Vicki Helyar-Cardwell and Julie Harmsworth (http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2011/10/14/life-after-prison) and then clarified using the brilliant Criminal Record Disclosure Calculator, courtesy of UNLOCK (http://www.disclosurecalculator.org.uk/) that my husband’s conviction will never be spent.  Whoopee doo-dah.   Let’s hear it for all those “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” advocates – now you can save your money, you don’t have to “throw away the key”, just let them do their time, let them out and watch them try to rebuild their lives upon release.  Not only that, you can achieve a double whammy by tarring the family with the same mucky brush.

Let’s put sarcasm aside for a second.  Why am I so distressed?  Firstly, I don’t think Mike knows or understands this.  Apparently, any sentence passed down in excess of 2.5 years is never “spent”.   This means that his conviction will ALWAYS have to be declared when asked.

Secondly, Mike has not had the benefit of researching on internet whilst inside, but I have.  I know that once he is released, I will have to advise my insurance companies (home and vehicle) that a “wrong-doer” is living in my house.  Doesn’t matter if he has served his time (three years), we will still have to reveal this information.    This means my insurers will probably either refuse to insure me or will bump up the price so that I cannot afford insurance.  Let’s not even go there on applying for other types of insurance which everyone takes for granted.  We have no sickness cover, life cover, unemployment cover, that’s a luxury to which funds don’t stretch to at present.  If we ever afford to go on holiday abroad, I can’t begin to think how much foreign travel insurance would cost!

I haven’t told my insurers yet – technically Mike is not living with me, so I hope I’m not committing a crime.

The article goes on to report that “For those coming out of prison securing work will now pose a real challenge, despite the fact that employment can reduce reoffending by between a third and a half”.  In our case, my husband will come home to me, to the house I own.  He’s lucky.  He will not be a reoffender, we both know this.  But as to finding a job, well that is an unknown factor.  It may be that I have to become the breadwinner for a long while and on my £7.00 an hour, this might prove challenging.  I am coping at the moment, because my outgoings are extremely low.  I purchased a cheap and basic home insurance policy, with no whistles and bells, same for the car.  I really do not want these payments to rise.

Hopefully Mike will still have access to a bank account, but who knows.  Our joint account with Barclays is still frozen (big thank you to FFW), but really, we want nothing to do with it when it becomes unfrozen.  He did have a further account with another Bank, but I don’t know whether when unfrozen this will become immediately accessible.  This is an interesting one for other prisoners.   Most banks require such a lot of ID and proof of address, that the majority of prisoners have no hope of opening a bank account.  Being inside means you don’t have access to “utility bills”, former addresses, credit history etc.  Can you imagine what it must be like to have no bank account?  No access to any money, no popping to the hole in the wall, no cheque, no debit card.  Even if you do manage to earn any money, how are you going to access it?  Can’t have it paid direct to your bank can you.  Companies would raise an eyebrow if you went in and said “can I have my monthly salary in a brown envelope please”.

Again, it’s one of those things that those innocent of any wrong doing just don’t give a thought to.  And why should we, it doesn’t concern us?  Well, it does concern us.  Again, it’s our taxes that go towards the housing of prisoners and we want prisoners to stop reoffending so we don’t have to pay so much tax.  Don’t we?  And we want prisoners to look after themselves upon release, but what do we do to smooth the way for them to find jobs, open bank accounts and live “normal” lives.  These are little things, but the next time you read in the paper how high the reoffending rate is, give a little thought to the reasons why and maybe enlighten any friends/colleagues who don’t have the benefit of this “close to the action” experience.  It’s another reason to warn others against committing a crime – any crime.

Banking for prisoners link:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11265379

To a potential employer

I’ve taken a bit of a risk, but under my new banner of “live for today” I felt the risk was a necessary one.  I have linked this blog to every other form of social media I contribute to.  That in itself is not desperately dangerous, but I decided to also publish the link to my blog on my “LinkedIn” site.  LinkedIn, for those who don’t know, is a Business social networking site.

I have been worrying for a while now, about the answer I would give during a job interview, to the question “what does your husband do for a living”?  This puts me in a bit of a predicament.  Most importantly, it is a question that is not allowed at interview, however, if I did choose to answer, and it would be strange and suspicious if I did not, and I fudged my response, I could be accused, at a later stage, of lying at interview – and perhaps again lose my job.   If I choose to tell the truth, I could well not be employed on the basis of my husband’s past actions.

Honesty is still, for me, the best policy.  Although I do not want to go around saying “Hi I’m Carol, my husband’s currently serving three years for theft”, my whole life has changed.   My attitudes, sympathies and the reasons why I do what I do on a daily basis has changed.  The aspirations I had for the future, how I lived daily life, everything.  Remember, I had given up work to be a “housewife” before all this kicked off, I had to re-start my career.  Previously I worried not at all about money, it was there, we had a pension, life cover, sickness cover, we were insured to the back teeth.  If something broke down, we replaced it.  To not talk about this to others is extremely difficult – just the question “did you do anything nice at the weekend” puts me on my guard.  My weekend comprises of visiting my husband for one and a half hours every Saturday, so really I only spend Sunday doing “nothing”.

At my current position I have evaded any questions, I speak about the past, but not the future.  If I was to be asked a direct question “so what does your husband do?” I don’t know how I’d answer.  I am only a temporary secretary here so do not feel obliged to tell the full, unexpurgated truth.  But when I go for an interview, I think this will be different.  My last job I lost – on their part because I committed a gross misconduct in printing off, discussing and taking home an email (which was about me and what my husband had done).  I asked if I could resign rather than be sacked, for what I considered was not a gross misconduct, and eventually this was agreed.  The company felt there had been a breakdown of trust.  Do I want this to occur again – no way – I’d rather the truth was known before I started working or never revealed at all.  Given that I am applying for PA (Personal Assistant) positions, the chances are I will work closely with my employer and there will be a higher likelihood that the truth will be revealed.

So in a way, I am hoping that any links will be followed to this place and that if what my husband did is considered “a problem” to a future employer, I hope I will not be interviewed.  Maybe if asked the question I could just refer a potential employer here…..

What’s it really like in prison?

There was a classic article in the Sun the other day http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3875982/Prisoner-living-in-the-lag-of-luxury.html which raised my hackles no end, but on reflection, it’s just another angle from the  “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” brigade.

I don’t know the statistics, but I’m sure I speak for the majority of prisoners in that they do not ” have it easy”.  It’s easy to imagine those in prison as terrible people who have tried/succeeded in harming innocent victims one and all.  There are other crimes though, in which morally you’d take the side of the guilty party.  It’s easy to scream “give ’em bread and water” when you hear about someone who has murdered, but what about those inside who made  a terrible error, who sincerely regret their actions.  What about people in genuinely sad situations who can see no way out of a predicament and resort to committing an illegal act.  I’m not going to come up with any examples, you just put your mind to it, I’m sure you can think of things.  Someone has done something bad, no-one got hurt, but it was illegal – they go to prison.  You feel sorry for them.  Should they too be eating bread and water whilst awaiting the electric chair, or do we have another sentence for those who we feel slightly sorry for?

You cannot tar everyone with the same brush I’m afraid.  The law is the law, there’s no morally right or wrong, it’s just legal or illegal.  I can think of several cases where someone did something wrong, have gone to prison, but they are repentant and on release live a full life well away from the wrong side of the law.

For the record, my husband has access to a swimming pool, a gym, has his own TV, a bed, three meals a day and all the free time a person could possibly wish for.  So is he enjoying life?  Well, no.  Although a swimming pool is within the grounds, this does not mean if he feels like it, he can pop on his budgie smugglers and flip-flops, go towel in hand for a dip.  Actually since being inside (now two months) he has never been in the pool.  I don’t know why they have such a facility, but it is not a health spa open 24/7.  The gym he has been to.  He is allowed access at certain times of the day.  He’s lucky, as an over 50’s inmate, he gets a special time for his exercise. Again, he can’t “pop to the gym” when he feels like it, he has to request and go at certain times.  His TV he has to pay for and I sent him in bed linen for his bed (it is supplied, but given the choice, I sent stuff in).  I have also sent him in a plate, mug and bowl for his food (to replace the plastic tray he is allocated) and any day now he will be able to request metal knife and fork to replace the plastic utensils.

He has his own towels for showering – communal – but must purchase any other toiletries from the Prison shop.  Although he now has his own room, this is not you may or may not be surprised to learn, en suite.  But it’s not a long walk to the loo.  And the other inmates do keep it as clean as they can.

Meals seem to be taken early so that the routine can be over and done with as soon as possible during the day.  The majority of his day is spent in “education” that is attending various Health and Safety briefings, helping others with Health and Safety exams.  In fact, he spends the majority of his time fiddling around in a paper-based institution.  There are chitty’s to be completed to walk to get your post, to order your week’s food, to collect any belongings you have requested – and there are limits of what he can ask for.

Prisoners are allowed Play Stations, with a fixed amount of games, but not computers on which to type (I understand that having internet access is a no-no).  So Mike’s pastime of learning Excel has to be done via a book – interesting.  Must be like learning the piano without a keyboard – I wonder if he has made up a QWERTY keyboard out of used Visiting Orders?

I’m not asking for sympathy – just giving you some facts in case you are interested.  The worse, worse thing for many a prisoner is the fact that family and friends are only allowed one and a half hours a week of visiting time.   For many this is the most brutal part of prison life and often it is totally overlooked by the media and those who gratuitously comment.

Was my interview too flippant?

I had an interesting chat last night with my very good friend, who was upset that I hadn’t come across well on the iPM interview.  She felt I had been too flippant, not really reflected the absolute agony and despair we had both gone through as this story unfolded.  She does have a point.  I felt there was no time in an half hour interview to go through all the traumas, especially as I knew whatever I said would be edited down into about 10mins.  Personally, I don’t think a 10min time slot is enough to capture the horror of seeing the life I’d had planned unravel in front of my eyes.

I have referred in this blog to my “history of events”, explaining that it is still too painful for me to return there. Indeed, in our friendly conversation last night, within minutes of speaking seriously about what my friend had witnessed me going through, I was in tears.  This is what I mean about it being too raw.  She reminded me of how I wouldn’t leave my husband for a second, how I dragged him around like a useless appendage.  He didn’t want to go out, was too ashamed to meet anyone, but I was desperate for the help of others.

She is right, I don’t think I mentioned him being suicidal and then, after her life saving offer of our living in her caravan in her back garden (and finding us a temporary home for our 5 cats), him being arrested and me sitting in their kitchen, tears streaming down my face, but having to pull myself together and go to work.  Or of my lowest point, after having found us a home, got myself a job, dragged my husband back to living, I crashed and decided that Mike’s earlier plans, of us taking our own lives together, hand in hand, suddenly seemed to be the only solution.  I could picture it, it seemed so attainable.

She’s right – that would have made for a different interview.  I am still on anti-depressants.  Every time I think of coming off them, some mini-drama occurs sending me back to the pack.  I need him out, home and clear before I can even begin to think this nightmare is behind us.  And there, I suppose I said it, it is a living nightmare which I skilfully cover up and make light of for the entertainment of others.  But I don’t want to upset you all, life is currently – this week – good.  My garden looks like something from WW1, mud included and none of my cats will come in the house because I’m cat-sitting my niece’s cats.  Oh, and my husband is still in prison.  Oh well, you can’t have everything in life can you.

Here’s my iPM interview

And what a nice man that Eddie Mair is!

I’m still having a debate with myself as to whether or not my husband lied to me.  In as much as I never asked the question “how we can we afford to do what we do”, then he didn’t lie to me.  I honestly believed we did up our house and took holidays on his salary and bonuses he received.  Although according to SBS I don’t think he ever received any bonuses – strange that, him being the only person in the company not to have been paid a bonus.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b015cvyh/iPM_08_10_2011/

 

I go public

The author and that terrible criminal of a husband
Well, been on the radio, might as well show my face.  This is me and the millionaire fraudster, sometimes known as the  “crooked finance director” (well only by our local paper).  This was taken by my lovely sister on a visit over from New Zealand.    As part of the background to events, I haven’t yet mentioned that I was due to go and see her, last June I think, but unfortunately, one of the airmile flights my husband stole from SBS was for me to travel, alone, to NZ*.  We did pay, in February 2010, belatedly, I know you will say, to SBS a cheque to cover the cost of the flight – some £1,000 plus – but unfortunately, for me, they cashed the cheque, then about a month I suppose before I was due to go (even though I didn’t want to leave my husband), they cancelled the flight without telling me and kept the money.  What guys!
* the other airmile flights was (a) our trip to attend the memorial service for the father of my husband’s Chicago work colleague in Rome and (b) inexcusably a holiday to Italy.