Peter Wayne is banned from a conference on marginalisation and packed off back to Lindholmeby Peter Wayne / August 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in August 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
It has been a month of turmoil and upheaval. Just when all seemed to be going swimmingly, and I was basking in the triumph of Mrs Michael Howard’s visit, a bolt struck from a volatile summer sky. To begin at the beginning: there was a heated argument in one of our peer encounter groups (the “engine” of the therapeutic community) after Acko, a young Welsh miscreant with something of the Indian brave about him, called me a “cunt” and a “liar.” I flew at him with some equally unparliamentary expressions. He then crossed the group circle and landed a swift right-hander on my jaw. That was the end for Acko. He had broken one of the cardinal rules: the poor lad was nicked for assault, summarily expelled from the community and moved directly off the wing. Therapeutic staff made me feel guilty about Acko’s fall from grace: I was old enough to have known better than to wind up such an unstable young man. Did I not realise that I had ruined his chances of rehabilitation? My remonstrances fell on deaf ears. A couple of days later one of the staff ordered the removal from my cell of a beautiful desk, piled high with manuscripts and papers. Heartbroken, I watched from my cell window as two screws threw it into the rubbish midden. Then the piss testers arrived, with their white rubber gloves, glass beakers and temperature gauges. Sure, I had smoked a joint the night before. Once again, I “should have known better.” Ten days loss of remission. Not surprisingly, after this litany of malfeasance, the gubernatorial call-up was not long coming. Harold Grey, a Janus-faced piece of work whom I had known since his uniformed days in Wandsworth, was wearing a turquoise jacket with a garish floral tie. His face looked ashen, though. He obviously had something serious to say. “I’ve had a fax from the department of… ” he consulted a paper on his desk “…er… applied social science at Stirling University. They want you to fly up there…” (he did say fly, but with distaste) “… to deliver a lecture to an international conference on…” he checked his paperwork again “… marginalisation-whatever that might be.” I brightened. I had known about this for some time. Four months earlier I had begun negotiations and was looking forward to this trip north, if it were ever sanctioned. “The…er… area manager, to whom this matter had to be referred, has left the decision to me as to whether or not you will be allowed to attend.” He clipped the end of his sentence. “In view of your recent, shall we say inappropriate, behaviour, I have decided that I cannot give that permission.” After a weekend thinking it over, I reluctantly asked for my discharge from the therapeutic community. I felt I had done a lot of work for them, with little in return. That same night, stripped of my therapeutic status and very much a fun-loving con once more, I sought out the expelled Acko, to patch things up between us after the unfortunate malentendu. He was in his cell, quite willing to let bygones be bygones, surrounded by his cronies Dennis, Didi and Dai from the Cardiff ghettoes of Splott and St Mellons. Invited to join the carceral Eisteddfod, and encouraged by the simultaneous arrival of Freddie the chaplain’s orderly, carrying a bucket loaded as high as the Black Mountains with the best Tiger Bay hash, I succumbed to temptation. “Eur bra” (here you are brother) “toke this fucker,” Acko offered. Just as I was about to go down on the sweet heady mixture, into the cell burst “Robocop”-security screw, “burglar,” pot diviner extraordinaire. The executioner’s axe fell on my head at dawn the following morning. Heads bowed, like recalcitrant schoolboys outside the headmaster’s study, Acko, Dennis, Didi and Dai (God, it seemed, had intervened on Freddie’s behalf) were already standing on the mat outside the discipline office. Inside, the principal officer with warts on his eyelids read the riot act. Illegal substances, breach of trust, drug paraphernalia, broken compacts… he droned on and on. “And so-” he finally got to his punch line, “-you will all be demoted to basic regime to reflect on your actions. Go upstairs now and pack your kits,” he snapped. “You’ll be moved directly after breakfast.” And that was that. I appealed (to Governor Grey), appealed against the appeal (to the number one), and appealed against the appeal against the appeal. It was no use. Management had closed ranks against me. Since then, I have been housed among the prison “badbwoys,” locked in a cell 23 hours a day and left to address my “offending behaviour” as I pace from one end of my lair to the other. They say I will be transferred from this prison soon. With six months of my sentence left, it looks as though I shall be returned to Lindholme, where ducks roam freely around the camp and Governor “Mad” Batt rules like a feudal suzerain. For the time being I am content to catch up with my reading (Blake Morrison’s As If, which I will be reviewing in October’s Prospect), writing (a piece on death in prison for Esquire), and arithmetic (I am converting to weeks, days and hours the six months until my release-sure symptoms of early “gate fever”).