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So far Josie has created 83 blog entries.

Thank you for smoking

In bygone days the crapper in the education block at HMP Highpoint was basically a smoke house. Before the introduction of the smoking ban last week it billowed perpetually with a thick nicotine-rich fugg so dense that the facilities were hazardous to negotiate and the “No Smoking” signs on the walls tricky to spot. The loos themselves functioned mostly as armchairs which made Rob feel bad when the call of nature occasionally forced him to request the vacation of a cubicle. After a few fags men with skin like parchment and hands that were yellowed and stained might pop into the library for a chat or a book or a change of scene. There are few pleasures on the inside. A combination of fags, books and empty bowels is about as good as it legally gets.

For weeks the various strata of prison life have been readying themselves for the impending purgatory of the ban. The governor even saw fit to purchase a full sized cigarette outfit and persuade one of the more trusting lads to dress up in it: a witty harbinger of doom. Black marketeers have been judiciously stockpiling their new product, rubbing their hands together in grateful glee. Designers and engineers have perfected small crack pipes so that spice can be consumed in ever more lethal fashions and quantities.

In the 1990’s branding guru BJ Cunningham invented Death Cigarettes. Encased in a black packet and emblazoned with an iconic white skull and crossbones packs bore slogan’s like “Too bad you’re gonna die”, “It’s your funeral” and “The grim reaper don’t come cheaper”. We are all going to die. What matters to us is the liberty to choose how we live. Prison largely removes choice and so small freedoms become vital, hence why most prisoners smoke.

“They” like “us” know it kills in the end, its lethal effects are writ large on the packet, but there’s plenty will do that for you quicker in the slammer than a death stick. In a week that has seen another fatal stabbing at Scrubs, the focus on lung cancer before lung puncture might be considered by the skeptical (who moi?) as a cynical use of smoke and mirrors. Every three days someone takes their own life in a British jail and we want to demonise that most effective, successful and (in comparison to suicide) relatively innocuous anxiolytic of all the time? Ban the humble ciggie?

And don’t start about staff health and passive smoking. Current staffing levels ensure that officers rarely stray into prisoner territory which is why drug taking and violence are more prolific than anyone who hasn’t experienced these conditions first hand could ever imagine. No-one gives a hoot about the secondary smoke inhalation of the convicts themselves. If inmate health was of the teensiest concern, prison food would be budgeted at more than it costs to feed a dog and 23 hour bang up would raise the occasional eyebrow in the corridors of power.

No… like Grayling’s 2013 ban on books this latest “initiative” is all about subjugation. When it comes to prisons, HM is the ultimate dominatrix. As a group we can be fairly confident that most prisoners aren’t good with rules. Banning “burn” is nothing more than the perverse desire of the powerful to design ever more deceitful sticks with which to beat their captives.

When a smoking ban first came into effect at Isle of Man prison in 2008 inmates resorted to boiling up Nicorette patches and infusing absorbent materials such as tea, dried banana skins and pubic hair with the resulting solution. This noxious filling was then rolled up in pages of the bible or (wittily)The Criminal Code and defiantly smoked. Over 800 power cuts and many more low level electrocutions resulted from inmates short circuiting plug sockets to spark up.

Sometime during my adolescence my sensible and occasionally draconian mother banned my long suffering father from smoking anywhere, at anytime, on the irrefutable grounds that as his wife, she would certainly suffer the effects of his future ill health at least as much as he would. The result was that his car became a reliable source of mints of all descriptions and that he continued his filthy habit at work. Summer camping holidays were a little tricky – we children frequently discovered him squatting behind our old Citroen, frantically wafting away plumes of verboten smoke in a futile effort to remain undetected. If my mother could not break the habit of a man who, for all his sins, has adored her his whole life then I don’t give Her Majesty great odds with this latest prohibition.

We all have “props” that make life more bearable. Our family crutch and primary prison survival tool is the phone. Last week I held Tala in my arms whilst she sobbed so violently she could hardly breathe. Rob had just told her that he would no longer be calling at bedtime as all privileges had just been withdrawn from every member of his unit. The Albanians (bless them) had uploaded footage of their New Year’s Eve party to Facebook and the press had discovered it, thereby scandalising decent folks with this wanton display of immigrant happiness and advertising the shock existence of illegal mobile phones in prison. Gasp.

Hundreds of prisoners are caught and intermittently punished for phones every day of the week (13000 mobiles were confiscated in prison last year) but when the press get involved stories are spun and “the authorities” panic hence this knee jerk decision to punish 70 uninvolved men and their families.

Aged 11, Tala doesn’t smoke at home yet, so we had to make do with cuddles and lullabies to get her breathing under control. Finally she fell asleep on my chest, soothed by the rise and fall of my smug pink lungs.

To Highpoint’s credit they lift the punishment eventually and our family is reunited over the airwaves at bedtime, but the damage is done and “the child” as she is affectionally known in our household, is becoming familiar with depths of despair that I had hoped would remain unfathomed until perhaps her first romantic love affair.

Stress is at least as carcinogenic as cigarettes. This ban will bring that on in spades and herald new and greater levels of debt and punition, not to mention the inhalation of pubes and other unsavoury and as yet uninvented substances guaranteed to make tobacco look positively angelic. It will play well in the press though. In a world where sensation, scandal, blame and debauchery sell, our laws are being dictated by media empires in whose interest it is that society remains as fractured and divided as possible. Happiness and harmony just don’t sell. You can stick them in your pipe and smoke them.

By | February 6th, 2018|

Fish Tank

How do you treat a sick fish? It’s not a trick question and the answer is simple. You change the water.

At a recent inspection at HMP Liverpool, men are found to be living in rooms with missing and broken windows, exposed wires, cockroach infestations, blocked and over-flowing toilets. There are vermin infested rubbish piles in communal areas too dangerous to touch. A man with multiple mental illnesses is found in a damp room containing only a bed and has to be rescued by the inspector. Violence has tripled since the last inspection. This prison is a sewer and will produce only rats. This is not the fault of the governor. This is the result of a culture that thinks it can cure its sick fish by adding cyanide to their tank.

I thank our lucky stars for Highpoint North. The Ritz it ain’t but Unit 12 is tentatively becoming a flagship wing for rehabilitation culture. It’s corridors are now painted a sunny yellow and embellished with positive quotes. It boasts a vibrant council. Residents (who are unlocked almost full time) manage all the cleaning and look out for each other. There is hope and friendship and possibility. There are even cake clubs for heaven’s sake!

Syndicate members contribute ingredients and the resulting delectable concoctions are shared between all. Admittedly the prison palate is easily pleased, but standards are reputedly high. D, the unofficial Bad Boy’s Bake off King, has recently shipped out to D cat, leaving Rob to contend with a glut of digestives and another poignant farewell.

There is nothing bitter sweet about saying goodbye to the mysterious poo that has been found in one of the unit’s toilet cisterns however. It’s removal, though logistically complex, is good riddance. It is unlikely that its prior owner genuinely mistook the water tank for the bowl, so one can only assume that the rogue pooper deposited his load in this curious location to remind us all that this is still prison. When you deprive a man of his liberty the chances are he will seek to assert his freedom in a variety of un-envisaged and undesirable ways.

This week we drive to our convict through flurries of snow. It is almost romantic: even razor wire looks beautiful in white crystal. I am however feeling somewhat less lyrical by the time I’ve waited unsheltered and prone by the gates for 20 minutes and have developed blocks of ice where once were feet. Visiting wives unfailingly dress to impress whatever the weather and I will not be the exception.

Credit where credit is due though, there is light in the visitor tunnel. Children under 14 no longer have to wear wrist bands, and identification requirements at check in have been reduced down to the levels required for foreign travel, i.e. a passport will now suffice. This speeds things up to the point where the lovely and long suffering admissions ladies actually have time to make eye contact without risking heckles from the back of the queue. Powers that be, our collective blood pressure salutes you, but please, can someone change the lightbulb in the visitors’ cloakroom? It expired months ago and in a building that houses hundreds of relatively able bodied men perhaps one of them could oblige?

Steaming gently in the tropical visit hall, I fancy I appear rosy cheeked and quasi bridal with my hair up and dusted in snow, but alas melting mascara icicles ensure that I look more like a bedraggled panda. Rob looks hot and cool enough for us all though: Long hair knotted at the back, protest beard positively resplendent, edgier than his nickname, Gandalf, suggests. My God, this man is beautiful!

By the time we are homeward bound the roads are greasy with slush and we battle back into the city through relentless driving rain. I arrive shaking with exhaustion, adrenalin, longing and loss (a crazy cocktail regularly imbibed by us prison wives) and, although it is only 7pm, climb under the duvet and gratefully accept the delivery of tea from my eldest. Nothing heads off a nervous breakdown like a supine British cuppa and the unsolicited love of your offspring.

Living with an officially adult daughter and her childhood best friend (who has moved into our shed) is hugely more successful than I had anticipated. Although neither of them are fully reconciled to the fact that, although all bathroom furniture is frequently baptised in water as a matter of course, these fixtures do still need additional cleaning, we live pretty harmoniously together, pitching in on the cooking and childcare and keeping our respective living costs low.

When do children become adults? It is a pertinent question with regard to maternal patience as well as criminal justice and incarceration. It seems that brain and hormonal development both continue well into the early 20’s. As a result psychologists have now recategorised adolescence into three stages: early (12-14), mid (15-17) and late (18-25). Since 2013 UK children have been eligible to see a child psychologist until 25. Why then are we prosecuting and incarcerating under 25’s as if they were fully formed rational adults? 17% of the UK prison population are under 25 despite the fact that the science proves that they are not yet in their “right” minds. I (and certainly my parents) can vouch for the fact that I was a lunatic until at least 23 when early onset motherhood cured me via exhaustion and the love of something other than myself.

I am not suggesting mollycoddling or God forbid the infantilisation of young adults – those under my roof contribute rent, food, cleaning and the DIY services of a wide pool of male admirers, but I can certainly vouch for the fact that this 18 – 25 group are dealing with a lot and are wont to make dubious choices before reluctantly embracing responsibility.

Where our youth are out of control and under parented they may well need an intervention, but no-one in their right mind would make that prison. Worse still are “Young Offender’s” Institutes, AKA child prisons, which are more violent and dangerous than any adult lock up.

How children become adults is a further question. With sweat, tears and forgiveness on all sides it seems. If we must perpetuate the cycle of life and fish and egg should meet, a little love and compassion in the tank is probably the way to go.

I’ll give Philipp Larkin the last word today.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

By | January 25th, 2018|

Prayer

No. I didn’t string myself up by the fairy lights, fatally overdose on sprouts or choke to death on a chestnut. I made it through the festive season. Just. Though let me assure you that Christmas is not a holiday for any mother and that goes double for the prison wife.

When we arrive at Highpoint South on the 23rd I am astonished to see the visitor’s centre wall to wall with decorations: a far cry from last year’s desolate dearth of cheer. If I’m at the dentist or the supermarket I couldn’t give a toss whether or not they have bothered with the tinsel: I know I count in the free world, or my dollar does… but this display of festive cheer means a great deal to me here.

You see, when the visitor’s centre feels safe and warm and cheery, the children imagine that their dads are being similarly cared for. They aren’t of course, (although to the prison’s credit Unit 12 also had decorations this year and phone calls until 1am on NYE which was very sweet), but every word and demonstration of kindness to prison kids is magic balm on their fears: their fathers live in a universe they have never seen, with people they don’t know, for reasons they may not understand, so the friendlier we can make their interface with this unfamiliar world the better.

Prison children are twice as likely as their peers to experience mental health problems. They worry about their jailed parents more than you could ever know unless you have watched them do it and wondered again and again to yourself how our current policy of mass incarceration could ever make the UK (much less the world) a better place.

Tala and two other incredible children are the subject of a CBBC documentary for “My Life” called “Missing Dad” about having a father in prison. It screens at 5.30pm on Monday the 15th Jan. I still can’t watch it without crying with pride and sorrow…

Happiness is the greatest act of defiance a prison family can perform against a system specifically designed to prevent it. Jail is about punishment pure and simple: vengeance occasionally couched in the deceit of deterrent, and so, as a natural born rebel I set about trying to bring yuletide “happiness” to the household.

I buy things. The tree. The nosh. The presents. Then I fill the diary. People. Places. Stuff for the memory box. It works… sort of. The family remains vaguely upbeat, at least, we are busy enough not to slump.

Children want christmas to be like when they were small and still believed: brimming with magic, sparkles and copious chocolate, crowned by the impossible benevolence of Saint Nick.

My kids no longer believe in much however and no amount of material tat can wipe their memories clean again. Besides, it turns out that Christmas actually really is about being with the people you love. Without them it’s hard to rejoice.

New Years Eve was my best for decades but I greet Jan looking considerably worse than is fair cop for the amount I have drunk. I wake up with a burst blood vessel in one eye. Great. Hello freaky red eye lady. Ordinarily I wouldn’t leave the house looking or feeling this grim but Grandma must be redelivered back to the Midlands before she turns into a pumpkin or thinks she has.

Taking a person with dementia out of their environment isn’t wise. When you return them they tend to have forgotten simple things like where the bathroom is or how to use the phone (with which they now attempt to turn on the TV). Mildly funny… but mostly just sad and very very tiring.

By nightfall I have a migraine so profound that I’m puking repeatedly teenage style. By 2am I’m delirious and call Okha, the only person I am sure will be awake. I want her to search the net and check that my brain isn’t bleeding or exploding or something… the eye is really freaking me out! I know… I’m a drama queen and google is guaranteed to terrify us all, but nothing would surprise me about my life (or lack thereof) any more.

Google doesn’t disappoint of course and confirms imminent death so I call 111. The phone doc asks if there is another adult in the house. Tala is sobbing uncontrollably next to me terrified by the demise of her remaining parent, and grandma, previously a nurse, midwife and the most caring and competent woman I have ever known, can’t even find the light switch to her bedroom today and probably doesn’t count. “No… there’s just me” I say between retches… in a tiny village in the back of bloody beyond.

It’s just a headache of course, but then the doctor starts probing my mental state. Have I been experiencing feelings of hopelessness of late? Have I been persistently depressed? Well yeah…! Duh…! I consider putting it to the medic that she might feel hopeless and desperate if her husband was doing a nine stretch for film making, but decide to lay off the sas and cut the poor innocent lady some slack. The pain is taking its toll and rendering me almost docile plus she has just confirmed that I’ll live for which I am thankful when all is said and done.

In his book “Lost connections” Johann Hari, a depression sufferer himself for many years, explores the convenient medical myth that sadness is basically a serotonin deficit fixable by drugs. It isn’t unfortunately. Prosac might take the edge off for a few months but 65 – 80% of people taking anti – D’s are depressed again within the year. The only people who really benefit from medicating gloom are Big Pharma.

What Hari found was that just as every human has basic physical needs (food water shelter etc), we also have basic psychological needs. He writes:

“We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we are good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future and there is growing evidence that our culture isn’t meeting those needs”.

Oops. Depression is about environment, not broken brains.

The same is true of both offending and recovery therefrom. Humans malfunction in hopeless environments. Sadly prison (being the epitome of a pointless, thankless existence) threatens to make everything worse for us all.

Here is my antidote and my prayer: Thank you to the governors and staff who are working against Grayling’s murderous legacy and improving things under the radar. Thank you to those inmates who support and care for each other as best they can. Thank you to the families and friends who visit and give the incarcerated something to come out to. Thank you to whoever sent Rob a box of chocolates. He isn’t allowed to receive them and the prison have sent them back but it was a lovely thought. Thank you to everyone in the prison reform movement striving day after day to bring awareness and sense to this most senseless of worlds. Thank you to everyone out there who has a heart and a head and cares about people they might never have met, whose lives may be very different to their own. We all belong together. We’re a community. We can change this step by step, opinion by opinion. We matter and we have meaning. There is always hope.

By | January 10th, 2018|

Turds

Okha and I are on a road trip, the pretext for which is a college open day. The upshot of her deranged hippy childhood where TV was limited exclusively to nature programs is that she has developed a comprehensive knowledge of animal kind. The drawback is that her interests are now are pretty niche. It takes us approximately three and a half hours in the car and 20 minutes on the campus to discover that this establishment not only smells overwhelmingly of horse poo but is also populated entirely by white girls in jodhpurs: not a splash of ethnicity nor any kind of tentative misfit in sight.

My daughter, who has gone conservative for the day with pastel hair, Doc Martens and (by her standards) a conservative dress, sticks out like a sore thumb. We cast furtive glances at each other, neither one wanting to appear hasty until, unable to bear it any longer I grab her firmly by the hand and we run screaming to the car. Get us back to our noisy, dirty, over populated, kaleidoscopic city and away from England’s green and pleasant land.

We’re both a little ashamed of our knee jerk desertion. We should know better than anyone that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there is a limit to tolerance and how much dung one can reasonably be expected to tolerate in the name of a tertiary education. I wonder if art school might not be a better fit? Probably a fair amount of scat in those places too though, albeit creatively situated and resonant with symbolism.

There are few settings better disposed to DMCs than the car. Sitting side by side and staring straight ahead we re-find each other after some difficult months. She’ll always be my little girl, but she is resolutely her own woman now too, and that is the way it should be.

After all boyfriend conversation has been exhausted we move on to the thorny issue of what to do with me in my dotage. Alzheimer’s is all but a foregone conclusion: I am already frequently to be found searching for the car keys in the fridge.

As far as Okha is concerned so long as I develop the kind of dementia where I merely forget that she is married and repeatedly break out champagne to celebrate the good “news”, we may be able to work something out, but if I go down the poo smearing route, it’s off to Dignitas with me – no ifs or buts. Fair enough. I am a reasonable mother but I’m not prepared to put in the kind of devotion and self denial that would earn a future carte blanche for anything experimental involving excrement.

Speaking of which, writing for the Daily Mail is an unlikely aspiration for… well anyone really, but nonetheless this has been my overriding ambition for 2017 because where the DM leads the politicians follow. Extraordinary and sad, but true.

With days to go my dubious dream is realised with a double page spread entitled “Husbands behind bars at Christmas”. I purchase my hard copy incognito from an unfamiliar newsagent, sandwiching it furtively inside a Guardian like the guilty porn it is. Unfortunately they have picked the “wistful” photograph where I look as if I have gas. Payback I suppose. I feel suddenly vulnerable and exposed.

It is not long before worried messages are illuminating my phone like a string of neurotic Christmas lights on flicker. “Am I okay? Have I read the comments?” I haven’t, don’t and won’t. I have it on good authority that Daily Hate commentary is almost entirely penned by middle aged men in soiled tracksuits who live with their mothers and eat a lot of biscuits, adopting noms de plume like Suzy or Amanda, so I’m not even mildly curious about the grubby content of the tiny troll mind. I am however interested in raising the profile of prison families and the damage done to children by the often unnecessary abduction of a parent. After the sticks and stones of the prison experience, words will never hurt me.

Persuading the gen pop that prison is broken ought to be easy: the facts and figures are unassailable, but as a nation we are increasingly bored by the humble fact – a dry, sterile little nugget of inconvenience. Okay then, to hell with facts: we need stories! As the actor Alan Rickman said: “The more we are governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from and what might be possible”. So I will tell our story for whatever it is worth.

Rebranding prison is a PR task of epic proportions that will take a lot more than me looking pained in a dress, (no trousers or jeans allowed on females gracing the pages of The Mail… yes, honestly!) but just having a voice is a baby step in the right direction and so I’ll take any crap anyone wants to throw at me.

Back on good old Unit 12 M looks as if someone has thrown a turd at his head. Olfactory investigation unearths the unlikely revelation that he is in fact sporting a coffee head mask: instant coffee made into a foaming paste with two tablespoons of hot water, rubbed generously into the scalp and left to set. It appears that M has made the rookie mistake of revealing his fear of balding to A, the wing’s unofficial chief prankster who has suggested this procedure. To be fair caffeine does have an array of health benefits but a topical spoonful of instant is unlikely to succeed at rebooting defunct hair follicles.

To the delight of everyone (this is the slammer and Unit 12 is a drug free wing which can make Friday night a bit slow) M is waxing lyrical about “the tingling”, convinced the concoction works. You can clock up the years doing time but wisdom doesn’t always come with age. Some people are born smart but most of us have to learn the hard way: slowly and painfully. If the worst that happens is an unfortunate brown stain on your head as you pass through the intestines of life then great, but sometimes things get messy. We can pretend they won’t or don’t or shouldn’t, but history would be against us there.

Life is poorly controlled chaos if you live it. Perhaps we should all stay at home with our mothers spewing virtual outrage into the ether, crazy with the bitterness of unblemished, unhappy lives? But if we decide to sink or swim in the real world some of us will come unstuck and fall down the crapper. We’ll find ourselves floating around in the bog water then, staring up at the arse end of society and wondering how it came to this, hoping that someone will get their hands dirty and fish us out before we hit the sewer.

We might look like shit, but perhaps that is because we are drowning.

By | December 19th, 2017|

The Ladies

“Excuse me” says worried voice as I waltz confidently into the loos at my home from home, Highpoint Visitor Centre, “I think you might have sat on something”. The look of horror on the girl’s face does not bode well.

Gingerly I present my bottom to the wash basin mirrors. Sat on something? My butt looks like roadkill. Do you even know how much juice a stray raspberry can produce during an hour and a half’s dedicated squashing against a leather car seat? No? Well… it’s a lot… and those seedy bits don’t enhance the effect.

“What am I going to do?” I breathe in horror. She looks at me aghast, shaking her head sadly, “I honestly don’t know”, she admits. Help is at hand however. This is “The Ladies”. A small emergency summit meeting is called by the sink area and a growing contingent of women abandon elaborate make up routines and pitch in. There is strength in numbers.

My bottom is examined with grim practicality. Someone suggests pulling my jumper right down at the back. We try it. It rides up rebelliously and strangles me to boot. You’ll have to take them off and wash them concludes the first girl. “But she’ll look like she’s wet herself” counters her mate “and that hand dryer is crap.” There is nothing even vaguely absorbant in a prison loo: it is 2 ply roll if you’re lucky for whatever task is at hand.

“Do they have spare clothes here?” asks another girl “You know… the one’s they make you put on if your top’s too low or tight or something?” They don’t, which I am glad about despite my predicament: there are enough indignities in prison wifery without the aggravation of unsolicited wardrobe judgement at the gate.

Suddenly I know what I must do. I dispense with my jumper and whip off my long sleeved thermal, draping it artfully around my waist and tying the arms like a belt. “Ta da!” I cry triumphantly in my bra. The onlookers are unconvinced. Covering what is a fairly reasonable derriere (when encased in jeans at least) during a prison visit is basically a no no. Our men are in prison when all is said and done and the sighting of your Mrs’ unmasked behind isn’t much to ask, but beggars can’t be choosers, besides which I think I am styling it out! The girls remain dubious. “Just sit down as quick as you can and don’t go to the cafe” is their parting advice… ”and next time eat crisps!”

I love my husband (I think that much is probably clear), and other specific men: my dad, my brothers and a handful of randoms who have earned their stripes over time, but women are, in my view, more or less universally fabulous, (unless they are pre-menstrual/menopausal, trying to emulate men or just having an off day). This is particularly true in a crisis.

As early as 400 BC Aristophanes wrote a play about the women of ancient Greece ending the Peloponnesian war with a sex strike. You want to see an end to violence in prison? I suggest the reverse strategy: conjugal visits. It’s not rocket science – sex sells everything these days: ironically, it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. Let’s give peace a chance. I guarantee an overnight reduction in bad behaviour if prisoners have to answer to their wives as to why a conjugal visit has been cancelled. We’ve got this by the nuts. Might I suggest a preliminary trial at say… Highpoint North? No minister has anything half as impressive as the British woman up his sleeve, though it does seem that unfortunately one or two ministers have had their sleeves up unimpressed British woman…

Under current protocols the first opportunity for the resumption of marital relations with a prisoner is The Town Visit, though admittedly this may not be the stated objective of the “privilege”. D category prisoners who are in theory being prepared for release and reintegration (i.e. abandonment and homelessness) begin to meet their other halves for the first time in the outside world during sanctioned exeats into the local vicinity at which point the search is on for a suitable location for the resumption of “intimacy”.

The Ladies loos have long been a seat of privacy and tolerance; a bastion of acceptance and open-mindedness: a bolt hole away from home if you will. It is where we go to cry, excrete, vomit, regroup and redraw ourselves ready to face the world again. What happens in The Ladies stays in The Ladies and so it is to this insalubrious institution that we head in times of need.

It’s not “The Dream” but after years of prison we are used to that. It is in this cramped and lowly stall that we will defy the expectation of the system that we will break, illustrate our ingenuity, tenacity and flexibly and begin the long road back to rebuilding our relationships.

I’ll admit that The Ladies is an unlikely setting for the resumption of a love story. As a budding screen writer I was cautioned by the great Bob Mckee never to try to write a modern day love story as there is little to stop the path of love in the modern day world and thus no story, as story is born in the battlefield between desire and obstacle. Well Bob… try prison! All the obstacles you need and oceans of battered and bruised, but also victorious, love.

Rob was always a ladies man, in general far preferring the company of women to that of men. Miraculously, raising two daughters has only deepened his belief in the fairer sex. This has changed somewhat in prison where absence of choice has taught him a deep appreciation of his kind. You see what men are made of when you live in deprivation and confinement with them and there are so many good guys inside: a veritable brotherhood of man. Inexorably however The Ladies will always win out.

By | December 3rd, 2017|

Dreams

Today is the day! Our first ever family visit… at last. It’s a big day. Too big perhaps. Tala is bouncing off the seats with unbridled excitement but Okha, who has metamorphosed into a nocturnal creature of late, is unslept and unprepared as we arrive at the prison, this being the middle of her night. The visitor centre is eerily quiet with only a handful of families on the list. It is cold.

We almost slip up at the first hurdle when Oki discovers the dreaded “phone in the back pocket” only moments before the gates shut, plus she has a hell of a job getting tampons through security but, after discussions about “ heavy flow” that seem brutal and unenlightened even in this Dickensian environment, a compromise is reached and we enter the hall at last.

We launch ourselves predictably at our favourite prisoner, revelling in the freedom of movement that is the hallmark of this visit, but I know immediately that I have already become too institutionalised to be comfortable with this changing of goalposts. I don’t know how to be in the space.

Tala is at no such loss however and is already charging back from the playroom, eyes glittering, with a towering collection of board games and pens and all the paraphernalia of 11 year old fun.

We bag the table football while we can but are soon surrounded by a small contingent of under 5 spectators and the aim of the game quickly shifts from goal scoring to avoiding infant eye gauging with the the reverse ends of our pins.

Undaunted we sit back at our table… the one we had vowed we wouldn’t sit at because we didn’t have to and Rob and Tala launch into Connect 4. Oki is looking white and fraught. I understand how she is feeling. Orminston Familes who run the day really go the extra mile to make it cozy and welcoming. The attending prison staff are unimposing and smiley. There is a magnificent lunch laid on including a delicious and authentic curry (racial prejudice in sentencing does have its advantages) and cake for a little girl’s birthday. Everyone does everything they can but… this is still prison. There are bars on the windows and the doors are locked. Two hours, five hours, whatever. He won’t be coming home with us.

The space and the early start are particularly tricky for a twenty year old. 5 hours of phone deprivation is torture in its own right but worse than this there is no way for her to get what she needs here: no place for her to begin to broach her fears or her fragility. Whatever was left unsaid before prison began has remained so and the hurt festers painfully in her. Teenage is a terrible time to lose your father… again.

This is Tala’s visit: her chance to catch up on the thousands of hours of missed play since his departure. I sit as close as possible and hold him tightly, just a squeeze or two short of strangulation. I retract back into myself. I expected too much. I had hoped that this visit would refresh the parts that other visits can’t reach, but the sepia tones of dreams translate poorly into reality. This is not the time or place for the kind of play I need.

I can feel myself going under already on the journey home. A strange feeling like sliding down the sides of a giant mixing bowl. I know that if I hit the bottom I may not be able to get out again. I’m shaking inside. A week later it is still there… nervous wide-eyed anxiety: a perpetual feeling of having drunk too much coffee, reminiscent of exams and trouble.

I know things are bad when I find myself in bed with Donald Trump. Calm down, it’s only a dream… but still. Although one cannot rightfully be held responsible for the depravity of the subconscious I have debated long and hard with myself over revealing such debasement to my loyal and long-suffering readership but I have very little shame left besides which this is honestly the funniest thing that has happened to me all week.

In the dream I am stroking Donald’s (I think we’re on first name terms now) face and with that genuine depth of tenderness that is the preserve of lovers (breathe through the nausea people) I am asking him what happened. I want to know what has broken his heart and made him so obnoxious, though, in keeping with my empathic dream self, I phrase this somewhat more sensitively. I think I actually call him “sweetheart”.  He thinks about it. I see him soften. Goddammit I see him self reflect and then, just as he is about to make the break through, the alarm clock sounds and it’s dream over.

I know I ought to be relieved to regain consciousness from what could only be termed a nightmare objectively speaking but the dream is beautiful. Unlike Real Josie who has been a crotchety depressive old cow all week, Dream Josie is kind and clear. In the dream I understand what eludes me so often in reality: that genuine compassion and kindness, even and especially towards those who hurt us the most, is the only way. “Love your enemy” is profound wisdom indeed… I only wish this lesson had been slightly less literal.

Whenever longer jail sentences are lauded as a cure all for crime (this week for acid attacks – horrific events that leave the victims scared for life), I slump. Incarceration is not a cure for crime. The data is now conclusive that increased sentence length neither reduces crime nor disincentivizes offending. Long sentences are categorically not a deterrent, (except with regard to white collar crime) and we are Flat Earthers if we say otherwise.

But what about the victims? Consideration for the wronged is vital and persuasive. It is against the needs, rights and suffering of victims that I stress test every opinion I hold about prison. I understand the concept of an eye for an eye but doesn’t that just leave us with lots of half blind people trying to find their way in what is already a dark world? How much vengeance is enough? Could the death of one person cancel out that of another? Surely our lives are more than account books to be balanced?

I don’t know how I would feel if someone hurt or killed one of my children. I hope I never find out, but if you want to see something beautiful, something that gives me hope and something to aspire to, watch this.

By | November 23rd, 2017|

Halloween Heart

Unless you are an Albanian mafioso, (lot’s of them at Highpoint North incidentally – exceptionally generous and hospitable people), you probably have no idea how much a severed thumb bleeds. Think burst water main. T demonstrates by lopping his off with a circular saw in carpentry by mistake and spraying the workshop red like a Halloween themed geyser.

The bloodshed continues when Rob’s mate W loses the plot in gardening and attacks someone (psychotically intent on provoking him) with an edging tool just days before his release date. It makes no sense, but curiously, when you cage humans together in the underworld for years on end you tend to bring out the dark side.

Another man is demonstrating his frustration/madness/distress (is there a difference?), by throwing himself against the walls of his cell and knocking his own teeth out, (clearly no one has warned him about the horrors of prison dentistry). The results are ghoulish and messy. Bloody prison.

Surviving or God forbid occasionally enjoying hell essentially comes down to people, (staff and inmates) and not privileges, which means that despite the heavenly freedoms of Units 6 and 7 over in Highpoint South to which Rob could have requested a move months ago, Unit 12 has remained his favourite haunt.

Hallowed is it therefore that the mountain is coming to my Mohammed:  a Category D style regime has been promised to the whole unit! That’s the treat. The trick is more responsibility which for Unit 12 means cleaning on the Sabbath. As a council member it is Rob’s unfortunate task to verify that all members of the wing are honouring the new rosta.

Persuading children to clean things is tedious even when one controls all sources of food and shelter but prison youth only really respond to drugs, intimidation or Trump administration standards of spin. The thought of bathrooms relying exclusively on male attention for their cleanliness has always filled me with horror, but prison is another realm.

Rob’s mate K cannot understand why there are so many pubes on the ceiling of the shower until Rob discovers S (possibly not the sharpest knife in Dexter’s drawer) cleaning the shower by throwing a bucket of water as hard as he can at the floor thus displacing all ground filth to the walls and ceiling. Mystery solved.

When I hear Rob muttering about how it’s easier to just do things yourself I feel suddenly tender towards the prison system. All women really want is for men to understand the unique nightmares of motherhood and if incarcerating orphans and film producers together is the only way to do that, so be it.

Finally the all important new door is fitted granting freedom of movement around the unit until 9 pm. It’s not life or death but it means a great deal to the men. In jail trust is the Holy Grail and this ramshackle, remarkable community have pulled together and earned it. The greatest blessing is bedtime phone calls: so worth the occasional pube in the eye.

Halloween comes and with it the hoards of polite, creatively attired children accompanied by adults in Nigel Farage masks (I do love Stokey). Both of my girls have now reached the stage where dressing up is primarily about looking good (black lipstick is surprisingly glamorous even on an 11 year old) with a vague nod to horror, or in Tala’s case, cats.

Both girls go out (one with her feline friends and loot bag and the other to a Turbowolf gig) and I am left manning the door, handing out the sweets, hoping someone will nick the pumpkin like last year curtailing the festivities before only the Bounties are left so that I can drown my sorrows with chocolate eye balls.

This week the real bloody mess is me. Prison conjunct with Halloween will apparently awaken every rattling skeleton in your closet. I’ve transcended the demon ‘HOPE”: it has burnt me at its stake too often already, but I can’t find much to replace it with which leaves me facing LONELINESS… the kind you get in a crowded room full of people who are all not the one you love. Now I’ve hit DESPAIR again. Every time I think I’ve slain that monster it rises like a zombie from the dead to spite me.

I dramatically declare to my friend that I would cut body parts off to get Rob home again. Which ones? He asks. I imagine myself as an amputee and reconsider. Rob is probably expecting to come out to a whole wife, plus dancing is one of the few sanctionable pleasures I have left.

I consider having a breakdown and staying in bed. Forever. But as I lie awake watching dawn temper the night I can see the shadowy face of my youngest (still sleeping with me on account of the nightmares and the warmth) and know that I can’t do it. A prison family is a virtuous circle and it only takes one person to fall out of formation for the structure to turn grotesquely in on itself.

Loving a prisoner is like loving a ghost. Prison time stretches on and on like an evil enchantment way beyond what is fair or bearable and into unchartered territory where there is only fear and desperate faith. Love without flesh or bone? It’s a sorcerers riddle I cannot solve.

This week has seen me hurtling through emotions handcuffed to a macabre ghost train that never stops. I have to remember that there will be an end. One day this ride will be over and I’ll climb off and into real flesh and blood arms that will hold me tight until sunrise, One day I’ll wake up and he’ll be here, but for now this is a dark wood and no place to be alone. Fortunately I’m not.

After the little trick or treaters are all away to bed leaving only occasional rabid teenagers on sugar or crack still prowling the streets, I nip out to fetch in the novelty cobwebs from the hedge and find in their place an immaculate cotton wool heart, pristine and perfect: not a stab wound in sight: A snowy mark on our house, a slightly tipsy? sign (from next door bless them) that love rules, even in the darkness.

If you follow Prisonbag on Instagram you can even see the heart and my hedge in all its fluffy glory…

 

By | November 6th, 2017|

A thousand cuts

To cut a man up in prison you only need a tooth brush and two small disposable razor blades. You set the blades close together into the brush handle. That way the slashes won’t heal and the scars remain forever. “Razoring” is common practice on the inside. It costs very little to get a man cut up: lucrative employment is thin on prison ground. Desperation has only ever bred brutality.

Scores left over from “the out” are often settled this way. You will not know where they will will strike. The ambush can be anywhere, anytime.

A victim arrives from Highpoint South, skin in ribbons, jumped by four men in the gym in a well planned, deftly executed assault. HMP Knifepoint is living up to its nickname. Experienced staff will no longer work South: give them sleepy little North any day. And so it gets worse. At least two units are now almost entirely prisoner run. No one is safe.

The outside isn’t much better. Knife crime is rising 24% year on year. Prison sentences will only, can only, make everything worse. When we pen our youth away from all humanising influences will they learn a lesson?

Certainly. They will learn the law of the jungle and the price of weakness: these kids are survivors so they’ll step up to the plate. Many have been abused, abandoned and syphoned into gangs since primary school. Do they need help? So much and in so many ways. Will they get it in our prisons? Absolutely not. The longer we lock them up the more they harden and the violence spills back out into our communities again like some kind of monster. When we throw the book at our bad boys, they’ll rip off its spine and eat it for breakfast.

There is a video doing the rounds on Facebook called “The Race of Life”. A throng of teenagers from all walks of life stand ready to run a race. The winner win collect one hundred dollars. What’s not to like? Tension crackles. You can cut the air with a knife, but before the race begins there are some provisos.

“Anyone whose parents are still together take two steps forward”, shouts the umpire. The children from broken homes deflate a little “Anyone who grew up with a father figure in the home. Two steps forward”. The gap widens. “If you had access to a private education, advance two paces”, the ref yells. The kids at the back are getting twitchy. “Two more if you have never had to contribute to a family bill” he shouts. “Step forward if you have never worried about having your phone cut off. If you’ve never wondered where your next meal is coming from, take two steps again”.

Some of the runners are half way down the field already and the race hasn’t even begun. The course is dotted with young people spread out over the field. Some (mostly black) kids haven’t even stepped off the baseline. They’re looking down at their shoes now. There are no short cuts for these children. They know they can’t win. It’s a familiar feeling but you can see the frustration in their faces. And the shame.

When the ref shouts “Go!” amazingly most of the contestants run, but not those right at the back. Why would they? The hundred dollars is not for them. They never even leave the starting blocks.

I see these young men every week at the prison. I don’t know their stories, but they all have one. No one wants to end up in this place. Perhaps they wanted to run a race they thought they could win. There is no victory here though. Now they are in prison they are not just on the base line of life, they are walking backwards barefoot over glass.

There is a young man who comes to book club. At first he was only in it for the biscuits. As the son of a preacher man Rob knows that a month of sermons has nothing on the humble biscuit. Staff grumbled about the guy’s attitude: he needed to learn respect; he was a taker, cut from the wrong cloth.

Over the months however, slowly, tentatively, his manner has changed. With painful trepidation he has become a part of what is probably the most diverse book club in the western hemisphere: a tiny brave new world far from his smash and grab past. Now he helps and passes the biscuits around. Someday soon he’ll read the book.

Another man, a lifer in his 50’s, comes every week to the library. He has never once smiled at Rob when he checks out his pile of novels nor said goodbye when he leaves. Never a whisker of reconnaissance nor a flicker or warmth until out of the blue one day the man requests a title.

He’s after “A thousand and one places to visit before you die”, “because… see… I’ve done my time. They’re cutting me loose.” he explains and breaks into an extraordinary grin that lights up his face. The sun emerging from behind clouds. They find the book and flick through its suggestions together. “They should have this place in here!” the lifer jokes.

Perhaps they should. Prison is an extraordinary place. Utterly counterproductive to anyone who might on the face of it belong there, but an invaluable lesson for those who think they don’t. It is sometimes unspeakably tough to be cut off from the ones you love but I thank God that prison happened to us and jackknifed me in my sleep. Like a bad boy’s kiss it has shocked me awake. Now I know the difference between an artery and a luxury.

At visiting we are let in earlier than usual. Prisoners are still filing into the hall and being allocated their tables. Somehow we converge with Rob at the front desk and he and Tala find themselves walking together to our places. It is the first time in 16 months that they have done anything apart from sit. She is wildly excited by this coup de grace and clasps her arms tight around his waist as they traverse the room, stealing glances up at him from this long forgotten angle, matching him pace for pace with long legs just like his, smiling upwards like a sunflower in the light. Every moment of every life is precious. Even and especially those that cut you to the quick.

If you haven’t seen The Race of Life here it is:

 

 

By | October 25th, 2017|

Full Lunatic

Beards are for ugly blokes. That is the conclusion D has come to and he cannot understand why Rob, with his chiseled features and unassailable good looks, persists with the chin wig. “If I nailed you to a cross” (not a reassuring opener in any setting and little short of menacing in the slammer), “you’d look like Jesus”, says D with affectionate, slightly crazed, exasperation.

Say no more. Who’d style themselves on the Son of God when God has given us whole body depilation that we might look like Love Island contestants: hairless from the eyeballs down. This is the Essex borders when all is said and done but Rob’s disposable razors were confiscated at Birmingham Crown Court on June the 24th 2016 and they have never been replaced.

His shaving brush hangs forlornly on its stand in a dusty corner of the bathroom quietly place holding for its erstwhile owner and occasionally jolting me, mid pee, into sentimental reminiscence.

Us girls appropriated his razor years ago whilst he was still in residence. Most men surviving outnumbered in excessively female households quickly come to understand that it is part of their role to upkeep a communal razor and rinse it unquestioningly prior to use, but the brush was always his alone.

Now it is one of the last relics from our old life. With the passing of time a tipping point has been reached whereby items conferred as keepsakes – scarves, T shirts and the like, have lost all totemic power. Possession is nine tenths of the law (unless your husband has been convicted of fraud) and whether we like it or not, these artefacts have now passed to us and serve as reminders no more.

Sometimes his absence hangs so heavy that I can barely speak. I can be very sniffy about suffering, particularly my own, or anything involving the loss of status or cleaners. There is so much hardship  amongst the families of prisoners and such genuine fortitude that I feel ashamed submitting to despair in the midst of my relative privilege. As if this is a test and I am failing.

I watch the bright full harvest moon rise above a veil of clouds and remember back a decade or so when Rob, transfixed by a similarly spectacular lunar orb, drove confidently into the stationary boot of the car in front, whose owner questioned his sanity and relieved us of our no claims bonus.

In the past we sent our lunatics to the asylum. Now we send them to prison. The governor of an infamous London nick practically shivers describing the sound of prison nights to me before the gradual introduction of in cell TVs in the late 90’s.

For him this initiative, so maligned by a public opposed to “lags living it up in luxury” is the best thing to have happened in prison for decades (a damning admission in itself), because “It gives the crazies something to stare at through the night and keeps them quiet”. When I ask him what the mentally ill are doing in prison, or how he can safely accommodate them he just shrugs. He’s a civil servant. His is not to wonder why…

Researching the history of British asylums the penny starts to drop. Asylum closure was begun by Enoch Powell in the 1960’s after details of overcrowding, poor hygiene, wrongful admittance and brutal, ineffective treatment began to emerge shamefully into the public domain. Sound familiar?

A light bulb switches on in my brain (ECT anyone?). Today’s prisons are actually yesterdays asylums plus a lot more drugs and minus the staff. Prison in conjunction with “couldn’t Care less in the Community”, is government’s answer to the current mental health crisis and its prerogative remains the same: keep it hidden.

The idea of mad people chained to poles in the centre of rooms disturbed us as a nation, so we have replaced the poles with purpose built cages and banished the afflicted to Titan prisons in the middle of nowhere so that the madness can continue (cheaply) behind closed doors.

Better still, just like Victorian city prisons, our old asylum buildings repurpose marvellously as unaffordable luxury flats complete with witty backstories about their previous occupants. Kerching!

One in four young women are suffering from depression or anxiety or both. Our young people are cutting themselves to shreds on the values and the future we have handed them and the Prozac sweeties aren’t working for anyone except Big Pharma.

And prison makes everything worse. God help anyone entering prison with mental illness. Children of prisoners are twice as likely to experience mental health issues as their peers and I can personally vouch for the deranged mindset of at least one prison wife.

Knighthoods all round for the governors I say. Armed with little more than a fleet of pre-millennial tellies they are housing the hundreds of thousands with barely a loaf or fish in sight. Rehabilitation is moon pie in the sky: an unreasonable and frankly unachievable expectation without more money or less prisoners.

Patrick Cockburn, journalist and author of “Henry’s Demons” the harrowing story of his son’s descent into schizophrenia writes “The treatment of the mentally ill measures the health of any society because they are the most vulnerable and the least able to defend themselves against cruelty and neglect”, which is reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s assertion that “The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

I doubt big D would be impressed by the British bang up. UK prison is a one stop shop for the elements of our society that we can’t face. It is the underbelly of capitalism. It is yesteryear’s poorhouse. It is the arse end of prohibition and ill informed drug policy. It is the asylum in disguise.

It is also the only place where I feel truly at home. It is where my grizzly werewolf love lives and thus the location of every brief respite to our separation. A slither of moonlight in the dark.

By | October 9th, 2017|

Seat of Mercy

We have Grandma in tow at visiting this week. She has become so frail that I have taken to linking arms with her wherever we go just to keep her upright. Sitting isn’t any easier. In stark contrast to my derriere which never leaves home without its convenient inbuilt padding, hers has rather lost its stuffing over the years so that an un-cushioned chair has become little short of torture for her.

Prison isn’t big on soft furnishings, so I decide to smuggle something in. It’s a bold move. The last time I brought an unauthorised item with me into prison (my phone), things didn’t go well, but I consider Grandma worth the risk.

We start off strong, secreting the vital bolster successfully through the entry gates, sandwiched unobtrusively between Grandma and me, but that is as far as we get. Bootleg butt protection is a flagrant breach of protocol and no one on the “body search” team is in the mood for any funny business.

Once inside the visiting hall however I spot a familiar face amongst the staff and when I explain about Grandma’s bottom she disappears at once, returning minutes later with the contraband and a massive smile.  For all any of us knew Grandma could have stuffed that thing full of drugs, but our angel of mercy took a chance on us. She gave us the benefit of the doubt and along with it our humanity.

S (the subject of last week’s funereal travails) is working in the visiting hall on rubbish and tray collection. With inimitable charm he has persuaded every member of unit 12 to entreat their visitors to buy him something from the cafe. As unit 12 are legion today, (a dozen or so of them at least), his pockets are bulging alarmingly with a growing collection of fizzy drink cans and assorted confectionery.

By the time we hand over our Fruit Pastilles he is looking as green as a Jamaican can reasonably look without the production of actual vomit. Anything not consumed in the hall is potentially subject to confiscation and so S is chowing down resignedly, puke or no puke. Reckless consumption of everything and anything is the result of this infantilising system and a hallmark of the prison experience: you get what you can when you can.

I watch a young boy take a chocolate bar over to The Man with No Hands (whose visitors are late) and offer to open it for him. It is common practice for other visitors to look after even unknown men who are still waiting. They do enough of that, and we are proud to take care of our own. We know that there are many reasons a family can find themselves in that room. More than 1/4 of UK adults have committed an imprisonable offence, it’s just that most of us don’t get caught.

The man with no hands is beautiful. It’s the first time I have seen him. Hands were the price he paid for finishing on the losing side of an African armed conflict where mercy is for the weak. When his wife and daughters arrive he wraps them in his stumped arms, folding them into himself easily, conveying with shoulders and biceps and neck everything hands could. His girls look so proud. You couldn’t not be. I have never seen a more radiant man.

I really think that Liz (HM, not Truss – she has already been deposed – someone tell Katie Hopkins) ought to pop in and see for oneself what is occurring in one’s dungeons these days. Ignorance is not bliss. I’d give HRH 20 minutes in that visiting hall before she started granting pardons, although Rob, looking as he does these days like a cross between Guy Fawkes and Osama Bin Laden is unlikely to be first in line for her mercy.

I’m tired. This week I have driven over 500 miles collecting and returning Grandma to the Midlands via Cambridgeshire. There is also water coming through my bedroom ceiling again (the work of a rogue rodent gnawing though plumbing in the loft) and scary confiscation issues to contend with.

By Sunday night a potent cocktail of exhaustion and unwanted responsibility catches up with me. I miss touch. I miss it so much I have taken to having multiple baths just to let the water hold me. When an oven ready lasagne fails to induce pleasure, (orally, not topically people… I do have limits), I admit defeat and settle in on the sofa to face this beast of loneliness down. “Bring it on… Do your worst!” I scream silently. Big mistake.

During the ensuing hours I run the full gamut of hopelessness and wretched self-pity, landing finally in downright depression. Not an evening I’d repeat in a hurry, but the letter I write to Rob at the end of it is such a roller coaster of unbridled hyperbolic emotion that it at least gives us something to laugh about when he receives it two days later and long after I have come back to the light.

The thing that pains me most amongst all the stresses and strains of the single mum/prison wife gig is the remorseless draining away of my fecundity. Not that I actually want to do anything with it (two kids is at least 1/2 a kid too much for me), I’d just like to carry on looking as if I could.

My friend B reassures me that I am still looking pretty fecund, which is generous, but there is no denying that there is little point to looking even slightly fecund without someone at least slightly attempting fertilisation, and my fertiliser is on library duty for the foreseeable…

The library is something of a sanctuary in prison: somewhere to escape the tensions of the cell. In his wisdom the prison governor has vetoed the men’s request to be allowed to cell share with people they get on with and who share similar routines where both parties are agreeable, stating that if you can’t get on with your cell mate that is your problem.

Prison is a very diverse community. Having experienced the joys of cell sharing with an incurable snorer during a lengthy nocturnal celebration of Ramadan, Rob is dispirited by this response. It belies a lack of empathy that ill fits the head of an institution that purports an interest in rehabilitation. Lord (of Highpoint) have mercy. There is only so much adversity any man can take. Less is more, unless we are talking bootie of course, when more is always more comfortable.

By | September 28th, 2017|
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