Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Rest of the First Day

The computer said NO at the Gate and I had to wait until it could be persuaded that I was actually being released. Finally....

Into my brother's car and off for destination southward, newly equipped with some "Treasury notes" - quaint prison service terminology for cash- and enough tobacco to make me a prison millionaire. With the Editor at work and my first probation appointment not until 3pm, I had the fleeting idea of stopping at every service station along the way to indulge in some treat or other. We settled upon a Costa Coffee place, usually one of my most frequently avoided places. I will never, ever, get used to paying over the odds for coffee! Sitting outside slurping and smoking, I noticed some guy attempting to take a photo. Paranoia kicked in - who the hell takes a pic of a Costa at a service station??? - and I spent five minutes with my hand over my face like some lunatic.

The Guardian called. Could I knock out a piece for the website, 800 words by 3pm? Yes, I said, taking a hell of a risk. The journey down South was quite short. For a while I wondered whether I should, could, stop at each service station along the way to stuff my face with a treat but decided that "home" had waited long enough for me.

Which didn't stop me and my brother stopping off to buy me a shiny new phone. I say new, I mean new to me. It had been sharing space with other people's loose change and trouser fluff for a while before it came my way, but the end result was a Blackberry nestled in my pocket. Something else to carry about with me - clothes just don't have enough pockets. And I refuse to carry a handbag.

Home. Two trips from the car, wheelbarrowing in my stuff under a blanket to hide the HMP bags from the neighbours. Then lunch under the pergola, my new favourite spot, with my brother - who had never knowingly eaten a meal composed solely of veg before - and the Editor. Her laptop sat in front of me, fork in hand, I had to mentally absorb these momentous events with hammering out the Guardian piece. Job done, and I duly received the traditional abuse from commenters.

I was home.


  1. Plainly I'm being lazy but can you post the links to the Guardian items onto your blog too please ?

    1. It was posted here 8 entries ago under the heading "comment is free". I'd post the link here to save you searching back through the archive, but I'm lazy too ;)

    2. As long as I'm not missing anything (apart from the rabid commenters)

  2. Hi Ben
    Welcome to the outside life, at last!
    It must be a bit of a blur at the moment, but the good part is, you don't have to keep checking the time, to try and make your way back to the nick on time.
    Costa coffee and the other's are a rip off, the only time I use them is when I drive from London to Lichfield(HMP) on a visit.
    Glad to hear that the paper's are starting to ask you for comment.
    As for the people who leave the abusive word's, just laugh at them, one day they will make a mistake big or small, it's just a question of degrees.
    Now live your freedom, sit under the pergola and "enjoy the moment in the evening sun".
    Best wishes.

  3. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on the Probation Service.

  4. Never thought I'd say this, but utterly heart-warming, if y'know, still Ben. Well done guys. And gosh yes, you did get abuse in the Grun. Can't wait to read on.

  5. Forgive the impertinence Ben, but what monies did the Guardian offer you, if anything, for an 800 word essay?

    It would be interesting to know if they have a standard rate, or whether they rate their contributors economically.

  6. @JimmyGiro, I believe that there is a standard freelance rate offered by the Guardian, around GBP90. Keep that quiet, lol.

  7. Crumbs, imagine having to write for a living !?

    No wonder journalists rarely bother digging deep these days.

  8. You should probably contact TYT, tell your story, inform the public. Prepare some talkingpoints and oneliners in advance, you'll do fine.


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