Stray Long Ones (dedicated to Stephanie)

I have just remembered what I really wanted to write about today.  And this message goes out especially for my young niece, Stephanie, a day away from her first wedding anniversary.

Today, slumped on the sofa, where I am able actually to look out of the window at a lovely view (as opposed to remaining slumped in bed and not being high enough to peer through the garret bedroom window) I noticed a hair on my pointy finger (I think that’s my index finger, but it doesn’t really matter which finger it was).  I brushed it away with my thumb, but as I lifted my morning coffee to take a slurp, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, it was still there.  Thinking it was just another bloody cat hair, I again brushed it aside with my right hand this time.

The third time I saw it and rubbed at it, I was forced to get up and go find my reading glasses.  Hells Bells, it wasn’t a bloody cat hair, but one of mine that had suddenly sprouted to an unacceptable length.

I accepted the tuft of hairs that sprouted, temporarily, on my thumb after I’d smashed it with a hammer that time.  They went (I’m just double checking).  But this is just a joke.  Is this part of growing old?  Is this the last laugh of your hormones?  I’ve always been paranoid about sporting a “moustache” and am now forever checking my chin for “stray long-ones” but no-one thought to tell me that hitting 50 was tantamount to turning into a werewolf.

Sorry, Steph, just wanted to let you know the future fun that’s in store for you – it’s something your mother probably should have told you but hides a guilty secret!

Smuggling Your Own Accountancy Books OUT of Prison (it’s wrong apparently)

A little glimpse into prison life.  Mike due out on a Town Leave today.  I don’t know how many of these he’s had, 10, 15, more?  I dutifully waited in the designated car park for him and tried not to get annoyed that 5 minutes passed, then 10, then 15, oh look we’re heading towards a 25 minute wait, when he strode over.

Apparently he was stopped by an officer when booking out – it’s a prison, you book in, you book out, you book up and hey, you book down.  Says prison officer to Mike “what have you got in the bag” (see through HMP issue plastic).  “Books” says Mike.  “You can’t take books out” says prison officer. “But I’ve taken them out before, why can’t I take a book out with me”.  “It’s the rules, you can’t take books out.  I’ll have to check them”.  I think there were a massive amount of three books, all on the subject of accounting, which Mike is gradually bringing home.  “I’ll have to check them all” says prison officer “and that’ll delay everyone getting out”.  So Mike looks behind him, his fellow prisoner looks sympathetic and in no hurry, so Mike leans up against the wall and says “go on then, check them”. 

All the prison officer did was to flick through each book to check for…… well, that’s what we were discussing on the way home.  What exactly was he hoping to find?  A gun perhaps, that Mike had somehow managed to smuggle in and kept well hidden ready for his next town visit when, suddenly lacking imagination, he decides to just check it out past a prison officer?  Or maybe it was drugs that he had dropped in by carrier pigeon and had sat on them waiting for the price of “sniffy wiffy” to rise and make a killing on his next town leave?   Or maybe it was the dreaded SIM cards that are the fear of every prison officer…. maybe Mike had managed to stock pile the entire prison illegal supply and was going to ship them out en mass in order to top them all up at Car Phone Warehouse, and then try to smuggle them back in for major profits or extra sachets or porridge oats. 

What exactly would you try to smuggle OUT.  In I can understand.  But out?  It’s just another example of the pettiness of prison life, in what is, after all, supposed to be an “open” environment.   Roll on August and we can say with a smile on our faces “he’s out next month”.

What’s life like on the way out of prison?

So I think you get the picture of what life is like in prison – boring.  Plain, simple and boring – and you can get terrible contact dermatitis from the excessively strong chemicals used to clean everything.  But what’s life like as you come towards the end of your sentence, specifically what’s life like for both parties (if your other half has stuck by you).

I think I might have said it before – it doesn’t get easier – and it doesn’t, after 11 months, we still had tears today as I slammed the back door, railing at my husband for incorrectly shutting it.  We got over that one quickly, but it’s an example of the tension going on.  The tables have turned.  My husband was never off the bl**ding Blackberry, always being called by his very forgetful colleague who would go over the same story several times a day. Time off and weekends were regularly interrupted because “I’ve just got to make this call…”, “I’ve just got to respond to this email” and now I find myself collecting my husband and saying the same thing back to him.  On Friday, my head was spinning after a particularly stressful event where I got blamed for the ruination of someone’s overseas holiday because something had gone wrong with her i-Phone – this was ALL MY FAULT!   I’m not the sort of person to walk out one day saying “sorry, I’m on holiday for the next three days”.  I stew over work, it’s important that I do a good job – like my husband – we find it difficult to switch off.  So the first day I couldn’t take anything in, couldn’t relax.  Saturday was good, I officially don’t work at the weekend, so no-one could contact me, Sunday lovely. Monday, well, he’s going Tuesday so mentally I was already saying goodbye.

It’s the same when you work and take a well earned week off.  You spend the first couple of days getting there, stressing over little stuff, the next couple of days are lovely, then you start getting anxious about going home, then you’re back at work!   4.5 days at home with your loved one goes in a nano-second, especially when one of you blows it by being in a strop because the other one is about to go again.  Grrr, I could kick myself.

But seriously, rant over, it is strained mentally, difficult emotionally.  Husband has made that transition now from “doing time” to “coming towards the end”.  He returns after his home leave not willingly, to continue his sentence, but because he has to and wonders what he’s still doing there.  Enough time has passed for him to have contemplated his misdemeanours and to want to start helping me build for our future.  The point is now lost, enough has been repaid to the victim in terms of both time and money.  This is when many a prisoner thinks “enough is enough” and absconds.  I seriously wanted to hold on to Mike today and tell him not to go back.  I need him home with me helping to sort out our life, I’m fed up with carrying the can on my own.  When you think about it, a lot of women in my situation may well have not been working when their husbands went away, they may have children.  Suddenly they have to take control, they are the decision makers, they have to get jobs and keep everything together.  Husband comes home from a life of enforced indolence (yes, we’ve already discussed that) and the wife is none too pleased by the change in attitude.  I have a different routine and it takes a strong couple to work through that.  I’m in such a privileged position where I have an understanding boss who is allowing my 20 days a year to be taken piecemeal so I am at home when Mike is on home leave – I can’t imagine what it would be like otherwise.  Some prisoners do not bother with the home leave feeling it is too much of a disruption (to both parties) to be worthwhile.

So as he comes towards the final two months of his imprisonment, has our tax payer’s pennies been well spent – I’m afraid to say I think neither of us believe this.  You’ve not been safer in your beds because my white collar criminal husband has been locked up.  And the gross employment of prison officers to guard him and his ilk is a total waste of money.  He should have received a suspended sentence, should have been tagged from the word go. We almost succeeded in turning a workaholic into a lounging, swearing, smoking bum – but not quite.  Mike is desperate to get out and to get working.  I am desperate for him to get out so I don’t have to keep taking odd day’s off!

Life on the way out of prison for your “average” white collar criminal is just as difficult as it is going in to prison.  But maybe I’m a hard taskmaster!