Foreword: All chapters of Pigeon on the Wing published on this website are in draft form only. The final version may include grammatical, syntax and content changes, as well as sidebars and illustrations to maintain a level of interest and to stop readers’ eyes from glazing over. All comments and / or criticisms of content or writing style would be most welcome. Masterpieces like this don’t just write themselves, you know.
Seriously, though – this is your book just as much as it is mine. I couldn’t have even begun to write it without all of your help and support. Thank you so much for everything you have done for me, and I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Pigeon on the Wing – Chapter 11 – Visiting Time
Tuesday 30 May 2017 – For some weeks now I had been looking forward to the prospect of meeting someone from the outside, in the form of a process known in the prison as “Visiting Time.”
For those of you familiar with soap operas such as Coronation Street, East-Enders and Emmerdale, where characters are being banged up every other week, and subsequently visited with a never-ending procession of their loved ones at little or no notice, it might seem like an obvious and integral part of the humane and considerate prison environment in the UK.
However, in reality the process is fraught with bear pits and elephant traps, no doubt designed to bring home to all those involved that incarceration is not meant to be a walk in the park, and communications with loved ones on the outside of the prison should be only conducted with extreme difficulty.
It wasn’t all the fault of other people, as I was to find out. In order to initiate communication with people on the outside, it was necessary to employ a certain level of handwriting skills, in order just to send the most elementary of letters to prospective visitors on prison notepaper.
Although I had access to a computer terminal in my cell, there was no word processing software, no email software and no way of electronically communicating my thoughts to the outside world, so I would have to call on those very same handwriting skills, painstakingly perfected in the British educational system after years of being rapped over the knuckles with a wooden ruler by the formidable Mrs Anderson, head of English at my local primary school, St Norberts in Carshalton Beeches, Surrey.
What could possibly go wrong, I hear you say? I will tell you what could go wrong. I used to win prizes for my handwriting skills at school, but half a century later I would find that those handwriting skills had deserted me.
Half a century of conducting my communications via a typewriter and a computer keyboard had left me with all the calligraphic skills of a dyslexic chimpanzee.
A chimpanzee, furthermore, who having been tasked with writing the complete works of Shakespeare, along with an infinite number of other chimpanzees, had unfortunately found it all to be too much to cope with, and seeing no other way out, had overdosed on a combination of crack cocaine and methylated spirits.
I had received letters from several good friend and colleagues who had expressed a desire to come and visit me, and all I could do was to scrawl a missive on prison notepaper that looked as though a demented spider had decided to dip its feet in an old-style ink-pot, dance the Light Fantastic across my notepad and gracefully expire in a blob of noxious fluid in the bottom right-hand corner, signing itself off as “Best regards xxx.”
I found this extremely disconcerting. As I said, I had won prizes at my school some fifty-odd years previously – at the time, I had invested in a plethora of Parker pens, numerous bottles of Indian ink and other writing implements – and with broad brush strokes, judiciously placed full stops, expertly located commas and quotation marks, I had swept the board with my calligraphic expertise.
Where had it all gone? I had no idea. The phrase “use it or lose it” came to mind, and I resolved to recover my handwriting skills in prison by writing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” on innumerable sheets of notepaper every single day until I could at least write a coherent letter to someone on the outside.
In the meantime I had been fighting a battle with the prison authorities to have them accept some nominated names, addresses and telephone numbers for potential communication. This was a problem because I was not allowed to communicate directly with anyone from Liberty GB, and it was only with great difficulty that I was able to nominate some good friends of mine, who I will from now on refer to as Margita, Karen and Chris (although not necessarily in that order.)
These three fine people had attended my trial at Southwark Crown Court, and they had very kindly distributed the details of my trials and tribulations far and wide through the counter-jihad support network. Now, they had expressed a desire to come and visit me, and I had to pull out all the stops to make that happen.
I had to nominate the appropriate telephone numbers and have them approved – a process which took over a month – and once the approval came through, I had to set aside some of my weekly allowance to contact them via telephone and set up a meeting.
Every time you make a phone call from prison, it costs you a substantial sum which is deducted from your minuscule £15 weekly allowance, and setting up a meeting is a process fraught with difficulties which could have been derived from Dante’s seventh circle of Hell.
My potential visitors then had to submit a request to the prison for a visit, the prison administrators would let me know, and then I had to inform the prison administrators that I would agree to such a meeting taking place.
It sounds simple, but as I said, it takes a long time to arrange. Of course, time is something that most prisoners have a lot of in HMP Thameside.
That the one visit I had took place at all was something of a miracle. Nevertheless, the promised day arrived, and on the Tuesday before I was released, the visit from Chris, Margita and Karen took place.
For me, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
It was up there with my earliest childhood recollections – of a day in the park with my parents in the summer sunshine, the day I managed to ride my bicycle without falling off and the day I made the acquaintance of a large number of very attractive black and yellow winged insects whilst I was eating jam sandwiches and subsequently ended up at the local hospital A&E with multiple wasp stings. Good times.
“Oi, Burton, you’ve got visitors.”
Two prison officers handcuffed me and collected me from my cell. (Over the previous few weeks, everything involved in moving me from one place to another had been done in the presence of at least two prison officers. I was obviously a hardened criminal who – left to his own devices and with a series of mighty leaps and bounds – would stop at nothing to escape the clutches of the prison system.)
Having been securely handcuffed, I was led to the preparation area and instructed to don a vivid fluorescent purple and yellow vest over the prison greens that I had been wearing for the previous four or five weeks.
I have to say that the colours clashed more than I would have liked. I could think of more than one camp performance artist from the world of theatre who would have said something along the lines of – “Oh dear – That purple and yellow does NOT go with that green, darling.”
I don’t wish to be overly melodramatic, but I could see how that colour combination would produce nausea in someone of a delicate disposition.
From the preparation area, I was led to the visiting area. At that point my handcuffs were removed and I was made to sign in using a secure fingerprint recognition system. I made a mental note of the process that I would have to employ in the future if I were to make my escape (which would probably involve sawing off a prison officer’s finger and using it to fool the fingerprint recognition process.)
I’m only kidding. It’s surprisingly difficult in prison to obtain a saw that would be suitable. I would probably have to resort biting the finger off with my teeth. (You can see that I have thought this through.)
Strangely enough, I had been approached a few days previously by two members of SO-15 (the counter-terrorism police.) It had been the same routine (“Oi, Burton, you’ve got visitors.”) and I had been led through to the visiting area, having been prepped with the same fluorescent purple and yellow that passes for haute couture in the prison system, and the same fingerprint recognition process. (I was still using my own finger. I hadn’t as yet found a prison officer prepared to donate a finger in exchange for a packet of cornflakes and a month’s supply of toothpaste, which was all I had in the way of bargaining chips.)
At that time the two SO-15 police officers introduced themselves to me with a cheery “Don’t worry, we’re just here to conduct a random survey on how you are being treated at HMP Thameside.”
The hackles on my neck rose. No police officer conducts a “random survey.” Random surveys are the prerogative of organisations such as the statistical gatherers of information such as Pew and Mass Observation. The police only target people of specific interest.
“So how are you getting on?” said SO-15 counter-terrorism officer No. 1.
“I can’t complain,” I said, “but I can’t help but wonder how you selected me for your visit to one of Her Majesty’s Prisons. I’m sure you have better things to do.”
The officers looked at each other. “Actually we wanted to ask you about what you were planning to do once you had been released.” said SO-15 counter-terrorism officer No. 2. “You know, whether you had seen the error of your ways and were remorseful, or perhaps had decided to repent.”
Remorse and repentance might have been high up on their agenda, but it was not even on my radar. “You must be joking,” I said, ” I am going to be making speeches, writing articles and transmitting my thoughts concerning Islam and its deleterious effects around the globe on radio, TV, social media and You-Tube channels until the Grim Reaper knocks on my door and invites me to participate in some scythe-sharpening exercises.”
This was obviously not what they had wanted to hear. “But why would you persist in publicly expressing anti-Islamic views after having been locked up?” said SO-15 counter-terrorism officer No. 1, “and please call me Ray.” He gestured to his colleague.”This is Dave, by the way.”
Ray and Dave were in for a surprise.
For the next forty-five minutes I proceeded to explain (quoting chapter and verse from the Qu’ran) to Ray and Dave as to why the entire counter-terrorism narrative was flawed, and why they would never achieve any success while they clung to the view that Islam was at its core a “peaceful religion.” (instead of the reality of it being a genocidal totalitarian ideology with ambitions of global supremacy at the expense of all non-believers.)
I also explained (again quoting chapter and verse from the Qu’ran) that their media-inspired world-view where so-called “Islamist terrorists” were essentially twisting and misinterpreting the so-called “peaceful religion” to justify their violent attacks on non-believers – was likewise essentially flawed.
I told them in no uncertain terms that I felt that it was my duty to make every single non-believer aware of the dangers of allowing the ideology of Islam to occupy the public space in any capacity whatsoever – even if that awareness meant that some politically incorrect decisions would have to be taken by those in power to maintain and reinforce national security.
I spoke of the need to halt Moslem immigration and the building of new mosques, the need to monitor existing mosques, and the need to remove Moslems from positions of power in local and national government, the police, military, judiciary and educational infrastructure, primarily because of the divinely-commanded duty of every Moslem to promote Islam at the expense of the non-believer at every opportunity.
At the end of the forty-five minute interview there was a stunned silence from the SO-15 counter-terrorism officers. “You seem to know an awful lot more about Islam than all the other people – including Moslems – that we have talked to in recent months,” said Dave, “maybe we could talk to you again once you are on the outside in a couple of weeks?”
“Sure,” I said, “no problem.” But they never followed it up. They did telephone me a few weeks later to claim that they had been called away on a more pressing engagement – would I mind very much if they postponed or cancelled their visit?
I could sympathise with the myriad priorities that the officers of SO-15 would have to deal with. Perhaps Anjem Choudary, locked away up the road in Belmarsh, urgently needed somebody to clip his toenails.
Or – perhaps – his wife, on the outside, urgently needed assistance with the collection of some heavy shopping from Harrods (the exclusive department store) on account of her having mislaid her burqa and being unable to leave the house.
Anyway, I digress.
On the day of the visit from my three friends, having been kitted out in the aforementioned purple and yellow vest, and having been signed in to the secure fingerprint recognition system, I was allocated a table number and was led to the seating area where my three visitors were waiting.
It seemed to me as if I had never met three more beautiful human beings in my entire life. When you have been incarcerated behind bars for almost six weeks then you really appreciate the company of people who share your worldview, and Karen, Chris and Margita were together and separately the epitome of human kindness.
And I’m not just saying that because they bought coffee for me – proper vending machine coffee too (supposedly meant for visitors only) and not the ersatz coffee supplied as standard for consumption by prisoners.
When I say this, I don’t wish to cause unnecessary offence to the no doubt highly respected purveyors of coffee granules to the prison population of the UK. And I suppose at the end of the day I should have been grateful – I could have been restricted to a bread and water diet with the odd tin of tuna thrown in. But if they could have chosen something that tasted a bit more like coffee and a bit less like second-hand grit from the bottom of a budgie cage, then I’m sure it would have been met with much appreciation.
I sipped at my vending-machine coffee. Nectar from the Gods would not have tasted any better. We talked about all the things leading up to my trial, the trial itself and my subsequent imprisonment. I tried to make light of it but I started to get quite emotional, which is something that doesn’t often happen to me.
I don’t remember everything that I said, but in the heat of the moment I do remember kissing each of my visitors on the cheek several times more than I should have under the circumstances.
This produced a variety of interesting responses.
Karen was a beautiful young lady with blue / grey eyes that looked straight into your soul. She had a flawless facial complexion that could have come straight from a Chanel cosmetic advertisement, and as she was being subjected to my unwarranted attentions, she blushed fetchingly. I loved it.
Chris was a retired insurance underwriter and a professional musician. He was a quiet and thoughtful man, as straight as a die and around the same age as myself, which probably explained why he spluttered profusely at my thoroughly inappropriate exhibition of tactile enthusiasm.
Margita (who was married to Chris) seemed to take it all in her stride. As a college teacher (and as another strikingly beautiful woman with a soft and sexy Eastern European accent) she was no doubt used to having to fend off the attentions of randy old reprobates like me.
I’m sure that under different circumstances, all three of them would have reported me for sexual harassment. I only had a week to go before my release date, but I remember that I was ecstatic that these three wonderful people had taken time out of their busy day to visit me.
You know who you are, and I will love you for always.
The visit ended, and I was escorted out of the visiting area, across the courtyard back to the Category C block, and from there to my cell. The door clicked shut behind me with an air of finality, and I was alone once again with my thoughts.
End of Chapter 11
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