Due to the joint ravages of moth and a teenage daughter who, despite spending all of her disposable income on beer and clothing seems to prefer to dress almost entirely in items plundered from her father’s wardrobe, I decide to pack up Rob’s things into plastic boxes so that they can wait out the remainder of his sentence in the relative safety of the cellar.
It feels a little like bereavement. Some of the shirts and jackets still smell of him: an unmistakable blend of his aftershave, incense and something that is uniquely him. Some of them are moulded from frequent use to his particular shape so that even on the hangars I can see his chest in the emptiness. I discover T shits that I haven’t seen for years dating back sixteen years ago to when we first met, nostalgic items from when we were younger, ambitious, unknowing. I work late into the night. I don’t sleep much anyhow. I spread my dresses out in a deliciously spacious fashion on the liberated rail that is now replete with femininity and feel as if I have just lost another part of him.
The following morning I receive a letter from BAFTA inviting me as Rob’s representative to resign his membership and avoid the disciplinary process following his conviction “for an offence directly related to the very industry for which BAfTA exists to support”. I turn cold and then hot. Yes BAFTA my husband is rotting in jail, 9 weeks into a 9 year sentence for providing development funds for the dire British film industry and putting much needed money directly into the hands of the independent producers and film makers who comprise the BAFTA membership. Would you also like to disbar all the producers who benefited from this scheme and others like it?
I call and speak to a very pleasant, but woefully unsuspecting chap, who realises part way through the conversation that he has awoken a sleeping dragon. He expresses genuine personal concern and sorrow. I wonder why it is that we strive under the auspices of professionalism, to keep these vital qualities out of professional communications and directives.
If you have ever tried to get a film off the ground in this country and benefited from funding from tax breaks, if you have ever run your own business and trusted the advice of tax counsel or accountants because they are the experts and that is why you hired them, if you have ever suspected that the papers don’t print all of the truth all of the time, or if you have been shocked by what you have read in this blog about a very unsafe conviction handed down by an inexpert jury in a trial where no expert tax opinion was ever heard or even if you just think that this process has been humiliating and painful enough for me, I invite you to write to BAFTA and encourage them to write to me again, but better.
I will certainly not resign, and am looking forward to the disciplinary process with venom. It is rare that I get a chance to direct some of the frustration and anger that is usually turned inwards. I call Jim and tell him in the worryingly stroppy, potty-mouthed language that I appear to have adopted in the face of this adversity, that I’m not having it. He agrees: he’s in, we’ll fight it, and in so doing strike a blow at all those who never think to look under the hood at the complexities, or at least that is how it will feel to me. Isn’t that what the film industry partially exists for? To look a little deeper?
Meanwhile I am surrounded by support. People grow solidarity beards, small children draw and send pictures and make vile potions to send to our oppressors, there is love. And where would we be without that? So far in prison Rob is yet to meet one person who actually believes that the system wants to rehabilitate them. Worse still, not one person believes that anyone actually cares about them. That is a damning discovery.
You can say what you like from a government office where whatever little sins you commit, (because we all do, because that’s what humans do…apart from you mum of course), have not yet been discovered, but until our prisons are evaluated on reoffending rates rather than on ever decreasing ratios of guards to prisoners and price we’re doing nothing more than providing excellent criminal networking opportunities for an increasingly angry, marginalised and socially disruptive group of people. There is no “us and them”, there is only us. We rise or fall together. We are a community, or at least we should be.
The latest directive from HMP Highpoint is that each prisoner is now allocated just one loo roll a week. This comes delivered in a plastic bag also containing a jay cloth. It is unclear whether this is to be used (rinsed and reused?) after the paper has expired or whether it is intended for a separate task. In other prisons fruit is now banned in an attempt to prevent the brewing of hooch. Scurvy anyone? At least it may also simultaneously reduce the call for loo roll. Constipation, however uncomfortable, is a positive plus in a world with little bathroom privacy.
Rob is a little sad that his neighbour has been moved onwards and upwards to the dizzying heights of block 7, the Highpoint equivalent of Mayfair, (which in prison terms translates to no bars on the windows and very little lock up) but is heartened by the fact that due to some internal scam involving frozen chickens, several block 7 residents have been booted out onto block 3 to contend with all the gang members that are normally housed there, thus freeing up a bit of space on 7 where Rob and the boys have their sights firmly set. Every chicken has a silver gizzard.
Lastly I couldn’t finish this post without saying a word about Don Ranvaud, impassioned visionary producer of Constant Gardener and City of God fame, who was genuinely devoted to film and instrumental in building film industries in the developing world. Don was so active in the film world that he was one of the few genuine non-dom citizens of the world, living in hotel rooms, hopping from film festival to film festival and generally baffling everyone with his unique mixture of brilliance and madness. He died perhaps inevitably of a heart attack in a hotel room after a life entirely devoted to trying to move and shake in the industry that he loved and also railed against. He vociferously opposed Rob’s conviction and was a true, if slightly unhinged comrade. RIP Don, you will be missed. RIP Doris also; Smaller, furrier and less well known, but nonetheless beloved.