Raymond’s mum died when he was in prison this summer and they wouldn’t let him out for the funeral. It knocked him back, with his dad not well. He’s always been the fixer, the one who gets things done—and there he was, behind the door for some stupidness that wasn’t his fault.
He was done for a fracas when the police pulled him over. They had the wrong man but Raymond has a bad record and they weren’t that civil: things got heated and Raymond got sprayed with CS gas and ended up inside for another six months. He’s taking the police to court over it, but guess what? Four times the case has come up—four times he’s gone along to give evidence—and four times it’s been adjourned to give the police more time to prepare. Wheels within wheels, know what I mean, says Raymond.
It’s a shame that Raymond distrusts the system so much, because he really belongs inside it. He’s a suit-wearing, deal-making, business-meeting type. He only ever did crime—fraud it was—for the cash for his gambling habit: Raymond’s no gangster.
We picked him up at the prison gate and brought him straight down to Only Connect. He was suspicious at first. Social experiment he called it—but there’s more trust now. He’s done two projects with us and he’s playing the Dame in our panto.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the way ahead for the men we work with. Raymond’s different, though. The future’s wide open and he’s making big strides. He has a good job—helping people from BME communities address drug addiction. “Black people are proud, know what I mean,” says Raymond: they need a special approach.
Raymond’s late mum and her late friend had a business, and their sons have inherited it: Proper Pepper, West Indian pepper sauce. God knows what’s in it but it’s delicious. Things went slow when they died but the boys are on it now. We’re trying to open some doors for them but it’s not easy.
Often, I wonder which one of our members I’d be if I had their background. I can’t see myself swinging along gangsta style, with my hoodie and my chain and my Bluetooth earpiece in. I think I’d be like Raymond: in a suit, doing a proper job, but often feeling let down and left out, pretty suspicious of the way things work. It’s not right, he says, and I know what he means.