First time, I set off in plenty time, going to the police station to enquire the quickest way to get there, by public transport. The station had moved. I went to where it had moved to and couldn’t get in. I was leaving when a policeman came out and showed me what I should’ve pushed to gain access. His name was Taggart, my surname initially. He computed two ways to go. I took the one the slow train at the platform suggested and from Wandsworth the bus suggested, counting the stops, asking if I’d got the right one. The conductor directed me farther. I checked from the woman of a couple at the street corner and ran for a coming bus, walking from it to the prison and its visitors centre where I was given a no to be traded in for a slip of paper later and told to put certain things in a locker which locked with a pound coin in a slot. I forgot the scarf, reopened the locker, which released the coin to be reinserted.
I was early but everybody else was too. We could take in £5 for snacks. This, as coins, was put in a plastic saucer and identification in a bag to be put in another locker after one handed over the slip, was identified, stamped and tagged about the wrist before passing through an electronic gate to be frisked. “This is called the rub,” I said. I was given back my coat, remarking to the others in the pen, “This comes from consorting with criminals.” I went back for the money and was told to look in an inside pocket which had been zipped. I offered my seat to a girl with a toddler in her arms but she declined. The wait was long.
We went through a door opened to receive us and directed to an outside door over what looked like a playground where we waited in the rain, forbidden to cover up with a hood for our faces to be identifiable on CCTV.
At another door in we were given a no, mine 33. In the hall were numbered tables with a red seat one side and blue seats the other. I took the middle blue. A woman couldn’t find 39 and once I realised which it was, told a guard and we redirected her.
John came in and I waved him where I was. He looked radiant, a florid, good-looking green-eyed guy who said to wait for the queue to go before I bought coffee and a chocolate bar for him. I bought a variety of chocolate things up to the £5 all but 40p.
He asked what I thought of his solicitor I thought good enough to do his parole hearing he was after a barrister for. She and I had asked ourselves did he want to be in prison, by his reckoning twenty-six years all told, more than half his life, much more than half his adult life. He gave some explanation I forget but said, “But you always end up back in prison for a longer time.” He concluded he was self-destructive. I’d asked her how I should put it to the board, I told him, that I thought it better, though angry at the time as she was, he had absconded because having gone through my hands he was more likely not to offend when he was released this time though it had better be soon or the good done would go to waste. “Good point,” he said. She’d asked, I said, would I give my address for him to be released to and I’d said no. He agreed; he wanted a one bedroom flat to put his daughter up in.
He was steering clear of heroin inside. I asked what his medicine had been since I took a sip and it was strong. Methodone, but the police had only tested for heroin and cocaine. What, I asked, had happened in the room I was kept out of? The police had burst in and asked was he John [he’s asked me on his solicitor’s advice to delete the surname they used in case the police should read these blogs and find evidence for a case against him, much as my friend Quentin advised though then I was using a wrong name]. He agreed he was and they relaxed. He said the wrapped hash was for his headache and could he take it but that was disallowed and it left. “I’m going to bake it into something, make brownies,” He’d said I knew nothing about it, thinking his name was O’Reilly or Riley. “I thought it,” the real surname, “spelt with an e.” “With a u,” he said. He was led off in handcuffs. The police gave Bob, my neighbour who’d let them in at the outside door, a thumbs-up. “Wait till I see him!” But it might’ve been ironic. “That’d explain why he came to my door afterwards to ask did I know anything about it and went on about they’d been threatening to arrest him for abuse. He said they’d broken the door and they hadn’t when I looked.” “The door wasn’t broken.” Bob had lied to get out of having let them inadvertently in. Tina was also there, looking downcast. The police had come for him because of what his ex-partner had lyingly said that he’d lain on her bed, moved a teddy bear a centimetre and shat in her bath. “We,” the solicitor and I, “didn’t understand that except she was being spiteful, and it doesn’t explain how they knew where you were,” a concatenation of circumstances perhaps.
We got through a lot in the hour and he through the five chocolate biscuits and bars. I didn’t know what the guard was going on about, to flash my armband or stamp before a locked door. The pretty girl from Islington said I hadn’t been there before and they think everybody has. A child asked the guard if she had a key, implying she should open the gate and let him out. She had to wait for everybody to come out first. We handed over our keys and guards returned our identification and other locker key. We hurried to the centre and retrieved our stuff before rushing off, the Islington girl who didn’t know where Richmond was in a cab. I took the bus back, the train from Earlsfield, another home from Clapham Junction, where I finally peed.