Monday, November 12, 2012

Back to the Future

On the surface it all seems to be going remarkably well.

Sitting in the pub with my work colleagues on Friday one of them said, I hear you have a little experience of prison?” Keeping as straight a face as I could I dryly said, “Just a little, thirty two years.” She nearly fell of her chair.

It was one of those moments when I realise the immense span of time. Thirty. Two. Years. And two months later I am sitting in the pub after work relaxing with workmates, girding my loins for what transpired to be the railway journey from hell to get home. More and more frequently I am becoming subject to “culture shocks”, moments where the immensity of my sentence and the difference between these two parts of my life yawn before me like a chasm whose edge I must stay clear of. These moments fill me with huge waves of emotion that are, thankfully, only visible to those close to me.

The pace of my adaptation has been incredibly quick. On my first day there was a commission by the Guardian to write a piece and things went from there. Developing the blog audience reach, developing Twitter and Facebook, writing articles, giving talks, helping untold students, chatting with Jon Snow on the telly and now the consultancy business. That is just the public face of “Prisoner Ben” so to speak. There is also my private life, weaving my insular ways into the complexity and comforts that come from relationships and a shared life.

All of these happened in weeks. After 32 years, my whole adult life, in prison. That is a shift that many would have doubted was even possible. Indeed, I have fistfuls of reports from prison staff justifying my continued detention on the grounds that my aspirations (university first degree and marriage) were so unrealistic that I needed to be kept in longer until I recognised the difficulties I faced. Ho hum.

Shocks of the new aside then, my attempts to rebuild my life have been going improbably well.
I have to report to Probation weekly, to discuss what I am doing and for them to probe and test. Today I was unexpectedly hit by talk of “offence related work” and having to talk about how I killed yet again. Nothing new has been added to that conversation since 1982 and yet every criminal justice professional feels the urge to delve.

On the surface I walk past you on the street as another middle aged guy, albeit with a rather snazzy hat. On the surface, my life is developing well. But scratch away at this fa├žade and you will find that I have a rotten part to my core, a burden that comes from having killed. It is ever present; the detritus of daily life provides a cushion, a thin patina of normality that I can use to absorb the knowledge of my past. But it never expunges it nor buries it deep enough to deny.

My new life is being built at the cost of another’s life. No matter how wonderful the future may be, the past is forever present.

23 comments:

  1. Ben, this may sound harsh, but you can't turn back time and must now live your life to the full as best you can. obviously the past will never will never leave you but people should not judge as like a lot of prisoners, they don't know other contributing factors. its easy for people to judge and just see the 'crime' and but. yes, their are some people in this world who kill because they just want to but their are others that take different paths and events happen because of past incidents. hopefully in time you life now will become a bigger picture of 'Ben Gunn' and the past just a small portion. also in this world as youm know even if someone was squeaky clean others would still pick on their weaknesses. live your life Ben to the full!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. Or on the other hand, if the burden of your guilt becomes too heavy to carry any longer, you could just top yourself....
    Think of the benefits; no more angst and pseudo soul searching for you, and the rest of us wouldn't have to endure any more of this self serving ego trip of a blog....

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    1. Ah, thanks for the advice. But if I stopped writing, where would sad, cowardly guys like you go to try to get someone - anyone! - to listen to your quite feeble interjections? So I shall keep going, if only to give you a home.

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    2. Looks like you listened..... Took the bait again... As do your fans... Your problem is that you really do believe your own brand of bullshit, the fans problem is that they believe it too.
      Of course you won't top yourself; you couldn't bear the silence.

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    3. I occasionally engage with people like you because, well, you seem so sad and lonely. Why else do you come here, as you detest me so much? And so I try to be a little sympathetic and understanding, just like the Samaritans sort of thing. So you carry on; it clearly gives meaning to your life.

      And obviously I have taken up space in your head. The only space you occupy is the little Comments box.....

      Have a good day.

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    4. And I too have occupied space in you head... Otherwise you wouldn't feel so compelled to respond in such a Pavlovian manner every time I ring your little bell...... Good boy , here's your treat;)

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    5. Humph, fancy throwing my kindness back in my face. Well, if that's your attitude.....keep ringing that bell...... :)

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    6. Anonymous, if Ben's blog is such an endurance, please do the followers of this blog a favour and stop reading it. I have been reading Ben's blog since just before his release and I find following his journey to be very moving and educational. Can't say the same about your input. Well done Ben, have a good day.

      From a wee housewife in Belfast.

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  3. Anonymous - I have a very good suggestion on how you can cease to 'endure' this 'ego trip of a blog'. How about pissing off and not reading it? What an unpleasant little turd you are.

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  4. For my part, I love Ben's blog and have been a lurker for ages.

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  5. That must make me a floater then.... And I think you spelt lurcher incorrectly when you referred to yourself as a dog......

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    1. Consider yourself virtually bescumbered!

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    2. Aimed at Anon@9.04

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    3. Darby, we must meet one day! Thanks :)

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    4. Don't feed the pet trolls!!

      Chuck.

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    5. Ben, ha! No worries mate....The pleasure's all mine! I'll drop you an email when the madness of Christmas is past.

      Chuck, Feed?....Or eat!

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  6. Admittedly, few of us have murder/manslaughter/killing in our past, but I think we all have regrets and sins that seem enormous to us. I, for example, was caught in flagrante with someone else by a long term partner, and while some people can get over infidelity fairly easily, it wasn't the case for this guy. What I did really fucked him up for some considerable time. But if we spend all our time regretting, we can't balance the scales by concentrating on making positive contributions. So we do have to file this stuff in a place it doesn't get in the way of moving forwards, however difficult that is to do. That's how I see it, anyway.

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  7. Ah Jill,you're more commonly known as a 'semen receptacle.' It all makes sense to some of us on here now.

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  8. Yes indeedy, and I am many other things, too. But I'm a semen receptacle who is moving on in a positive way. Which is the point, Anonymous, do you see? ;)

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  9. I really feel that as anonymous is such an ignorant and objectionable person that everyone should just ignore him/her - he/she is really not worth the bother of replying. I suspect that he is really jealous of Ben's following and behaves like a small child. Please ignore Anonymous and don't give him the obvious pleasure he gets from being so abominable.

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  10. My husband just came in the room and read Anonymous' comments and he replied 'Stupid bugger' - perhaps that is the best comment yet!!

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  11. Brilliant Mary's husband!

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  12. Dont stop blogging. As a CJS worker its good to hear what clients views are of the 'process'. We try to tread a fine line between monitors of risk and aid to rehab, your blog will hopefuly sharpen my practice and be a better CJS worker.

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