I have had several wonderful moments over the last 3 years since being released from my last prison sentence. Several incredible personal achievements have also taken place. However, over the last few days so much has gone on that it is difficult to know where to start. A bit of background would more than likely be a good place to begin.
On the 5th of October 1990, my mum sadly passed away. You would think losing your mum couldn’t be any worse, nor is there a good time to lose a parent. My mum would have turned 60 2 days later, 30 years ago today. Two sleeps, though not much of that happened, and hit with an instant reminder of my family’s heart-breaking loss. Some three weeks after I had celebrated my birthday on the 22nd September. My 21st. This time of year has always been an emotional time for me. Another reason that sat equally with the fact I had lost my mum was that she had died at a young age and in my eyes, in my thoughts, in my belief I felt to blame due to my delinquent behaviour as a child then as a teenager. I’ve discussed it in therapy, in sessions, sitting in armchairs and laying on couches. I wasn’t aware of why, but I didn’t want to let go of the guilt no matter what anyone said. So I didn’t. Until now. It was on the 5th of October, 2 days ago, that I finally let go. No! It was anything but easy. I shed a lot of tears. My heart physically hurt. However, I knew the feeling of guilt wasn’t healthy.
I had decided to let go a few months ago after I had received an email inviting me to be a guest speaker at an online conference. Rather than explain the conference, the image below is hopefully a good visual clue to what I saw as a pinnacle in my campaigning for reform (not the pinnacle, as there’s still plenty of work to be done and achieved regarding education, mainstream and prison education).
I knew at the time of the invite that the date was to be on the 6th of October. Slap bang in the middle of what is possibly with no exception the worse part of each year and has been for 29 years previously. I immediately turned to Keef and said, “darling, this is it, time to let go”. Thirty years is long enough self-punishment, time for the feeling of guilt, the feeling not the memory, to be replaced with something where I can look back in future years with more of a smile on my face rather than a tear in my heart. It makes the memory of my mum even more special. I mentioned earlier that it wasn’t easy to let go.
However, I was presented with a new opportunity through another invitation to replace the feeling of guilt with a feeling of doing my mum proud. This time the invitation was for the 5th of October. It was an invitation to appear on MarlowFM’s Power Hour show presented by Emma-Jane Taylor. You can find out more about Emma-Jane’s on her personal website at https://emmajanetaylor.life/. I was a guest on Emma-Jane’s power hour show talking about our criminal justice system and prison. Two other guests also appeared on the show. They were Jim Nixon and D.J. Vodicka. An ex-copper and an ex-screw. Although D.J. was a corrections officer and is from the USA, it was 3.30am for him when we recorded. The show is due out soon, so I don’t want to give too much away, other than to say it was an incredible experience and one I can also look back at with a huge smile.
The morning of the 5th was very emotional. It felt by letting go I also had to grieve again, or was it my first time I grieved properly? Then things seem to immediately progress. I was due to be recorded with Emma-Jane and the lads at mid-day that day. Fortunately, I wake up early so had a few hours to fall apart and put myself together before going on air. Once I had said goodbye to my mum for the last time and dried my eyes. I received a message from a good friend, although my editor seems to be a regular thing these days. Coincidentally, a book review that I had written about D.J. Vodicka’s book The Green Wall (there’s a link below to D.J.s book) had been published by Mark Leech in his monthly circulated prison newspaper Converse and available a week early for members of Mark’s https://prisons.org.uk/ The Definitive UK Prisons Website.
However, as much as that was a positive and another boost, it was something else in Converse that really had me jumping up and down in excitement and that is the announcement of the next ‘The Prisons Handbook’. Over the years during my times in prison, ‘The Prisons Handbook’ became my personal bible. (here’s the link to purchase a copy before Christmas and with a slight discount for early birds https://prisons.org.uk/the-prisons-handbook-2021-contents/) Mark Leech for several years was my mentor, and he didn’t even know it. He didn’t even know me. If you look at the top right hand of the following image you’ll see that I have an article appearing in the 2021 edition. I hope I need not explain how that has made me feel because I can’t.
And those with eagle eyes will also notice that my partner Kelly aka Keef has an article published alongside mine. So it means even more.
Happy heavenly birthday mum. Your baby boy is doing good. ❤