The spin dryer wouldn’t work. I went to Currys. I could have a spin dryer delivered. On the brink of completing the order, a phone no was required. “I don’t have a phone.” I don’t have a car either. “If I have a friend with a car, can I buy one?” If one was available in the shop. There was one in the shop but not necessarily available for other than show. I didn’t see why I couldn’t buy a spin dryer and have it delivered without a phone no.
I didn’t want to bother Diana who has difficulty walking. She insisted I use her no. I went into Kingston to see if I could buy a dryer without a no but couldn’t find Argos and gave up, using Diana’s no in John Lewis. The Indesit spin dryer would be delivered by the manufacturer the next Friday, the time to be arranged with Diana.
Friday is my washing day. A letter from John arrived with a visit order form. I had to phone a company to book a seat on a bus to his new prison on the Wednesday next and was given a phone no but not told when the bus left or from where. After lunch, I went down to Diana’s to check on the dryer delivery. She said she’d been phoned day before to phone back after four on Saturday about when to deliver the dryer. She excused not having told me on the Thursday by her being ill. She hadn’t a no to phone back to. She hadn’t been given one. The only no on my sales receipt was for John Lewis. I phoned and was on hold when Diana snatched the phone and replaced it on the receiver. I objected. She excused herself on the grounds I was sitting in her seat, it was her phone and she would do any phoning. She got through immediately to a person who wouldn’t however divulge anything to her without my authorisation she was the person to arrange delivery with by phone. Diana, objecting, reluctantly handed back her phone. The woman wouldn’t divulge the phone no of the delivery company to me. She’d do the phoning. “Tell them to tell Diana the time of delivery,” I instructed, keeping it as foolproof as possible.
I asked Diana if I might phone the bus company. Diana doesn’t want John knowing her phone no or any trouble with the police. In prisons it’s guards, not police, and it was simply to book a seat on a bus since I was there anyway. I was let phone. On phoning, I was given another no to phone. On phoning that and getting no reply, an interceding voice said there was no reply. I left Diana with the no to phone but she wouldn’t.
After six, the entryphone buzzed and a man from Hotpoint was there asking for Carins. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I better come down.” He was delivering the spin dryer on the day agreed. He thrust his chest at me with Indesit emblazoned on it. Hotpoint was the same company. He knew nothing about any phoning to change the delivery day. No phone no had been necessary. I was so pleased I tipped him £5, almost all my change; and told Diana the dryer had been delivered after all, to stop her worrying, not that she would.
Next morning I phoned from the good public telephone to try booking the bus seat. The minimum charge was 60p. I inserted that and was dialling the first number of the original one John gave when I was told to replace the phone and try again. I replaced the phone. The 60p, however, was not returned by BT. I’d no more change. I apprised John by email that he’s not allowed to reply to of the situation, including Diana’s disobligingness. (It’d go to Wandsworth, not Standford Hill.) I’m most obliging. I want to help. In a gay sauna my instinct is to ask a wanking man if he wants a hand but I’m disinclined to oblige a woman I saw safely through a trial who’s disobliging over a phone call.
On the Saturday I was letting myself in the outside door to the block when an opportunistic deliveryman who hadn’t gained access asked about no 28. “That’s me.” “The spin dryer?” “It was delivered yesterday.” “So this is a mistake,” he concluded in an unconsciously seductive Irish accent that made me wish I weren’t past it. “I can tell you how the mistake came about, if you’re interested.” He wasn’t. The phoning wasn’t entirely irrelevant; I could’ve had two spin dryers for the price of one.
Diana buzzed me to go for cat food, with the further inducement her list was short. “I’m a bit reluctant.”
With my Sunday paper, I was given £7.50 in change for phoning.
Monday the first phone took £1.20 without even offering a refund. The second would take only cards. The third took 80p, twice offering a refund it didn’t make after cutting me off while the number’s ringing, not the no John gave but the no the no John gave gave.
Tuesday: Red Lion St phone didn’t work, the Paradise Road one only took cards. In the station I actually got through on the 60p minimum and had given my name when disconnected. I rephoned on a pound to make the booking and there was no smaller change in the box to be refunded. I’ve £3.40 left.
I could still miss the bus.
When I read this out at the writing group with one voice it cried, “Get a phone!” His John was going to give me on transferring has disappeared, he’d written in one of his two letters from the new prison. On the point of leaving to visit him, I decided I didn’t need the letter with the usable phone no I’d written on it, putting it back in its envelope and away. I was in plenty time. Victoria is a building site but I found Bressenden Place, a road either side of which is screened off from pedestrians with plastic except where a bus stance is. Two London buses were standing there. Nothing indicated use by any other bus company as a pick-up point and there was no redirection to an alternate boarding site. No one was waiting for a prison bus. The driver of one of the buses didn’t know anything, nor did anybody else I asked, about any prison bus run by ABBA. I couldn’t phone to find out where the prison bus was picking up from if not Bressenden Place. I looked for a police station and found a policeman who didn’t know other than there was a stance there, on Bressenden Place. I went back. Criminal lawyers at Grosvenor Gardens might know but I couldn’t find one and time was short. As I was going back to the stance I saw a coach go onto Bressenden Place and seem about to park behind the red buses but didn’t. I gave up and set off, feeling shoogly, with my buttocks straining from all the walking, for Victoria Coach Station. There I asked Greenlines about ABBA and was shown HM Prison Services on a screen with the bus for Standford Hill picking up from Bressenden Place though I think the woman was explaining that’s because she’d googled it in in the first place. The other woman suggested a Stag pub round the corner from Bressenden place was the pick-up point. I went back to find out there was no Stag pub round any corner.
I caught the first train to Clapham Junction and was nearly trapped on it and taken to Brighton except I ran to a door that was still open. Leaping up them, I saw a woman trauchled bumping a baby carriage up steps, “Want a hand?” lifted up an end of the buggy-cum-baby, making it easy for her to lift the other and quickly reach the top. My arm must still be strong. I passed Diana who hailed me and I did respond but didn’t stop. I ate some of the packed lunch before going onto the library to email John it was just one of those things, a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. The library could get no further than the phone no I already had and hadn’t taken with me. I’d’ve been even more drained of energy and will had I gone.
[Copy of some of the email response to John’s letter from prison about the abortive visit:]
You haven’t given any other boarding place than Bressenden Place. I’ll ask for confirmation where it leaves from next time I phone the company from the station phone. It wasn’t I wasn’t feeling well. I’d every conscious intention of going. I’m supposing from the fact I especially took from my pocket your letter I’d printed the usable phone no on (the one given out when I phoned the no you gave) so I didn’t have it on me to phone when I saw Bressenden Place, and which would’ve confirmed that was the boarding place or given me another in time for me to get to it, that my unconscious was determining I wouldn’t be visiting you that time. Next time I’ll wait despite the unlikely, uninformative appearance of the place. If the abortive visit exhausted me, a real one is likely to exhaust me more: hours there, hours back, outside London.
John wrote the bus paused a minute at Bressenden Place before going on to Vauxhall Bridge Road where it stopped five minutes. I phoned from the station and booked passage on it, confirming where and when it left, before the time a £ gve me was quite used up.
At HMP Standford Hill I signed for John’s phone I’d bought for him on a card, have been given a new SIM card and no I’ve emailed him that he might phone me on Saturday, am recharging it and had £5 credit put on it for me to phone out should I so wish.
I then made sure what buttons to press when he called and asked was the phone then off or on. Off. I wouldn’t play with it until after he’d phoned. At 8:25 I switched it on. It was odd being centred on a phone. The tv was off. A cd was on but low. At 9 he didn’t phone, possibly delayed. About 9:10 I suddenly became hot and sweating though I’d put the heating off. I was feeling unwell without being unwell, a hollow unwellness, no other symptoms. I didn’t want to sit in the chair but took my sweater off and lay down on the bed, taking my socks off, shutting my eyes, thinking of going to sleep but not, in case he phoned, and doing nothing to the phone in case he should phone while I was doing it. By 9:34 I thought it safe to do things and deduced I’d been misinformed or misheard because it looked like I was switching the phone on then. I kept it on over Easter to have the library confirm it was.
It occurred to me if John also had felt hot and sweaty at about ten past nine and wrote saying so in a letter before receiving my email, we’d have proved telepathy, of the emotional transference variety, or at least provided an incident from which a third party could prove what science can’t – not something that’s effected spiritually. So much for that! He wrote he hadn’t been let phone because the no hadn’t been passed by the security department.
Three days after my second visit to Standford Hill John phoned, I made sure, from the Gillingham hospital he was let out to for a pre-op assessment, therefore from an unbugged phone. He imputed my tone to something else. I told him I was angry with him and succinctly told him why, without remembering exactly what I said. It was to do with his taking £10 during the visit which risked my being imprisoned. “You’d rather I went shop-lifting to pay for a meal!” he charged. “You said for a tea,” I said but don’t think he waited for my answer, which was in any case obvious. He’d hung up.