My feelings after watching “Everyday” a film by Michael Winterbottom

Yes, Julie, I did watch it…… grizzling at first at the reminder of the red bibs and having to sit on a set chair, this is what I thought:


I don’t quite know what I felt about “Everyday”.  It was a raw subject, different to mine in that I have no children and my husband was only a 40 minute car journey away.   So in comparison I was lucky.  But the loneliness was mutual.  Having to carry on your life on your own, having to pick up the pieces left behind once the legal proceedings are over and done with, the vacuum you live in whilst your other half is away.

The film was nothing more than a study of waiting.  There were no major dramas that go along with having a husband (and I specify husband, because they are usually the breadwinner) inside.  Yes, “the wife” had a pub job to either make ends meet or to deal with the boredom, but other families suffer the loss of the breadwinner more deeply.  Christmases seemed to come and go without the anxieties of debt piling up, the children got older and their dad missed them daily growing up.  But there is so much more to being the wife of a prisoner, and I appreciate that’s not what Michael Winterbottom wanted to focus on.

As a study of the lonely mundane life of the wife of a serving prisoner, the film worked well.  But we know that is only part of the journey – serving the sentence is the middle, going in and coming out are traumatic challenges in their own right, the sentence does not end on release.

Whether you would have the patience to watch to the end having no first hand experience is another question.  Towards the end, I too got bored as I did in real life.

You Can’t Miss What You Never Had…

…But you can miss what you did have.  I preface this posting with a reminder:  I thought all our money was gainfully earned.  I never knew our lifestyle was partly funded on stolen money.  I say partly, because my husband earned a very large salary.

Ok, so where was I.  I suppose this has come about because I still have a pink and brown bathroom and it is still on the ground floor.  Every time I lie in my faded pink bath and admire the mould growing under the sealant and the chalk encrusted, rippled brown flowered tiles, I remember what my previous bathroom was like.  It was absolute bliss to soak for an hour or so in a roll top, cast iron, free standing bath.   Upstairs.  I could leave my bath naked and wouldn’t have to tiptoe over five cat bowls  at the same time avoiding giving a cheap thrill to passing motorists via the glass paned front door strategically placed opposite the bathroom door (conversely, passes the time of day if you’re stuck on the bog for a while).

The downstairs bathroom is shitty, at my previous home, I had a choice of two, one with roll top bath and one that I did the tiling all by myself whilst England slaughtered the Aussies at cricket.  I had carpets too, no outrageous inch deep shag pile, just plain oatmeal, wool, but plain.  Now I am the joyous owner of a 120% pure nylon, 0.0001mm pile and a vacuum cleaner that’s throwing in the towel.  The 0.0001mm pile is tenacious and clings to cat hair like it’s its own.  The (different colour) carpet that runs up the stairs is, I believe, made from recycled brillo pads.  I believe this because I once slipped on the stairs and the resulting friction burn almost started spontaneous combustion.

At least we no longer have the original downstairs wall coverings.  They were tasteful.  Plastic effect brickwork on the lounge (no plum colour feature wall for me) and in the kitchen diner (kitchen/dining room) well, I’m looking at a small square we saved.  It’s like wood effect flooring, only plastic and on the walls.  Very confusing if you got slightly drunk.  My old kitchen was vast, well I thought it was big.  I didn’t have a middle island, it wasn’t that big, but I did have a breakfast bar (actually it was a piece of excess marble that just stuck out and we put two stools underneath).  I had B&Q fitted cupboards, unlike my homemade affairs that are (and I’m not kidding) a full 6ft off the ground.  To find anything in them I do have to climb onto the table, but they are capacious.  I miss my cooker as well.  I had a Stoves range, not an Aga, too hot in summer, but it did have a wok burner and a brilliant hot plate from which we scoffed homemade Scotch pancakes in winter.  My current cooker came from a charity shop and has four coiling rings and one oven – actually it has two ovens, but didn’t come with a seal so the top one is not usable.  I managed a perfectly good Christmas dinner for four last year, so it’s not that bad.  And I’m back at the bathroom.

And I do have my furniture which I’ve had for a long while and comes loaded with memories.  I know that I am still so much more privileged than the vast majority of people – I have food, shelter, safety.  I own my own home and have a good job.  But there are a few times I do, hand on heart, miss those little extras that money just can buy.

Baby it’s hot outside

What a week – I’ve been busier than an ant farm that a kid’s just poked with a stick.  I don’t mind, it’s made the week fly by and that’s good considering I’m almost in countdown mode (saving the actual start of countdown until we roll into September).  On Monday, I heard via the grapevine that I’d gained the Customer Service Award for the month of July.  This was news to me because I didn’t know we had Customer Service Awards and also that I’d been nominated.  It would appear, the announcement is now official, that this is a new scheme and my company now awards Customer Service and Employee of the Month.  Although I’m pleased with my award, I wonder how on earth I’m now going to achieve Employee of the Month.   I take Customer Service as second nature – why would you not want a happy customer…. but Employee of the Month.  Darn.  I want that one.

So as we rolled into Saturday I was thinking of relaxing and having a go at garden redesign.  Things have come to a halt at the bottom of the garden.  Mike has decided it is a “big job” and one for professionals.  He wants decking.  If he can pay for decking, he can have decking.  But the top of the garden, well, that’s a different matter.  I want a bit of grass.  So, on what turned out to be the hottest day so far (hit 32 degrees in Suffolk, and couldn’t have been that far off down here in Kent) I was thinking of wielding sledgehammer and shovel to take out one of the many granite block walls that haunt our garden.   I slept in the spare room last night, the attic bedroom being too stifling to even think sleep would be possible.  To keep a nice air flow in I left the bedroom door open, so by 3am, with four cats in or around the bed, I had a fit and shooed them all out and finally got some sleep.   When I eventually got up, I sat with one eye on the coffee and the other on the slowly rising thermometer and eventually thought “sod it”.  There’s only one thing to do when it gets that hot – go lie down and bank up some well earned sleep.  So I did a quick bit of sewing indoors and then as everything began to wilt and pant I laid down on the bed, put the ceiling fan on and got a nice three hours of well deserved sleep under my belt.

I did have a go at the wall when it cooled down at 6pm, helped by chickens on the look out for anything that moved.  And now it’s 9.30pm and would you believe it, I can’t wait to go to bed again.

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!

It’s raining, it’s a Bank Holiday…. I’m thinking Windolene

So it’s the Jubilee Holidays and in typical Bank Holiday form, you sweat your pits out in a stifling office for weeks, longing for a break and when it comes along – it rains.  Solidly.  For the duration.

I know I should get out of bed and do something constructive, on my lonesome, but I just don’t have the heart and compunction to do so.  Kind of reminds me when I was single (I married later in life) and I would go places on my own.  It’s amazing how fast you can get around a stately home when you are only looking at things you want to look at.  I eventually decided it was a complete waste of money.  Almost I came, I saw, I buggered off double quick and didn’t get my money’s worth.  You can’t linger on your own – well, I didn’t think I could.  There’s safety in numbers sitting on a bench licking an ice cream.  On your own you just look…. suspicious, weird, plotting?

So I find myself on a soaking went Bank Holiday Monday wondering what to do.  And that’s how I got to thinking about Windolene.  You just don’t see it these days.  In the olden days (I’m talking about 5-10 years back) pre-DIY shows times, you didn’t WANT people to see the complete hash you were making transforming your front room into a state of the art lounging area.  So whilst slopping distemper and whitewash everywhere, you’d wipe a layer of Windolene over the windows and it would dry out thus making it gloomy and difficult to paint on the inside and suspicious looking on the outside.  Then you had the fun of being able to scratch little messages or smiley faces in the layer of dried Windolene (that was pre-computer game fun for the kiddies).  You could even carve out a man with a big nose looking over a wall and write “what no Watney’s”…… that was adult pleasure.

Why did they do that?  The Windolene, not the “man with the big nose”.   I think it must have been so that when you did slop paint all over the place, the paint would not stick to the glass, you could just wipe it off, plus have the added bonus of gleaming shiny windows to set off your new decor.   But a flick through the interweb and I have seen comments like “to stop people seeing the mess you make when decorating”.  Eh?  Who gives a monkeys!  You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.  Do DIY SOS cover up their windows?  No, I don’t think so.

So, that’s Windolene for you.  I wonder what they put in the stuff to make something so basic (water and possibly vinegar) so complex.  I can’t even begin to think of the manufacturing process involved in making Windolene – what exactly is in the stuff!  No wonder it’s not as popular.  I remember using it once, stopped half way through the cleaning to have a chat, or do something more compelling and returning to the windows to find the wretched pink stuff had dried out and would only come off with a scraper.  Horrible stuff.  And then mum insisted we clean our windows with scrunched up newspapers and a bit of spit (no, the spit is poetic licence, she would say a splash of water).  Apparently it was something in the newsprint that brought them up shiny.   Life’s too short.  Nowadays, for those who might possibly be interested in how I clean my windows (no not of interest to the majority of readers of my blog who are spammers) I use water, sometimes if I have any left, with a splash of window cleaning washing up liquid type stuff.

I’m really bored now.  Not as bored as Mike will be because access to the gym is restricted today due to “sports day”.  Apparently three people had signed up to compete in the sports day.  Coming on the back of an arbitrary pay cut, I’m not surprised at the lack of community spirit.  The Sheppey Cluster has decided to revisit the pay structure of those working within the prisons and Mike, who assists in the teaching of a Business Skills class (not allowed to teach, that’s down to the professionals) has had his pay drastically reduced.  Contrary to popular belief, prisoner’s wages are not huge.  Mike will drop down from something along the lines of £7.00 a day to £3.00 a day (I can’t remember the exact figure).  I’ve never sent a penny into Mike since he went inside.  And he doesn’t want me to start.  He’ll just have to make compromises like I do on the outside.   He has decided that although he enjoys and finds it worthwhile teaching fellow inmates how to run their own businesses after leaving prison, and let’s face it, when you’ve got a criminal record, sometimes it is the only way you will be able to find work, to work for yourself, he’d be better off doing voluntary work on the outside.   So rather than do voluntary work with inmates on the inside, he’ll do it for those on the outside.  No, it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what being in prison is all about.

50th Birthday – Getting Trollied On One’s Own

Well, me being me, I just had to Google “trollied” to make sure I spelt it correctly.

Urban Dictionary: trollied

3. trolliedTo get so drunk that you have to be moved around in a shopping trolley. Rachelle got so trollied the other night that she woke up in a public bathroom 
Yes, you go for it Rachelle, one wonders if it was her 50th?
I can count on the fingers off one hand the times I’ve been “trollied” but I have never, ever, been carted around in a shopping trolley, it actually sounds quite fun, something I’d want to save to do whilst sober.  I have shot down the Isle of White toboggan run, on a trolley, but that was perfectly legal and above board and I might say a touch hair raising.
Right, a diversion here, I’m supposed to be cooking myself a birthday cake to share with the family tomorrow (we have a clutch of April babies).  I stuffed the mixture into, ok I admit, they aren’t 20cm cake tins, and I’ve just checked in the oven and it looks like aliens have landed.  Cake mixture has puffed up and erupted over the edges.  Don’t know if you remember the episode from Star Trek “The Trouble with Tribbles” but I think I’ve got Tribbles in my cooker.
Anyway, back to matters in hand, my Tribbles are not sun tanned enough to be removed from the oven so I have another 5 mins.  I did miss mumsy calling me at 7.30am singing “Happy Birthday to you…” and continuing with “this time 50 years ago I was…..”.  I haven’t had that conversation for 3 years (I think) and I’d give anything to go through the boredom again.  Where was I, see, the sparking shiraz is already taking effect.  What can one do when one finds oneself along on ones 50th birthday.  One looks into ones heart and one must ask oneself, what would make one happy on ones birthday.  What makes me happy is a whole bottle of previously referred to Sparkling Shiraz, a whole packet of Tyrells salt and vinegar crisps all to myself and later, just before I slip into unconsciousness, a succulent, over-ripe mango, which I selected from a leading supermarket the other day, for the specific purpose of sucking on.
Bloody Happy Birthday to me.  Goodnight.

Everything’s all ok and I’m happy

Just to confirm that I’m not always a miserable moo…… after an emotional visit yesterday afternoon, Mike has confirmed to me that things will be like they were during that hiatus time – after all the evil, but before the going away – and we will spend maximum time sharing life.  So although it is a bank holiday, it is cold, it is raining, I am happy.

I’ve forgiven Otto for being an elderly cat and costing me £75 to discover he is healthy.  I can’t go out digging up the garden because it’s wet, I will have to spend a pleasant day sewing.  Ah, don’t you just love rainy bank holidays.