Saturday, 1 February 2014


As the Rolling Stones released their new album and the Beatles toured America, I played kick-the-can, cricket, football and got up to a multitude of mischief with my neighbourhood friends. I was as happy as a 7-year-old boy can get, roaming free through the gardens and fields of my domain. No computer games back then, no nothing really. Just some sticks that magically became swords and some pieces of wood and cardboard that could be leaned into a tree and fashioned into a den. I remember still the names and faces of my compadres from that time.

My father had been a professional footballer of some note and my mum and dad were a glamorous couple in their heyday. I have photographs of  him being carried shoulder-high by hundreds of  fans round the city square of Dundee on their wedding day. The provincial Posh and Becks of their time. We lived in a decent-sized house with my older sister and for a time, my grandfather, my mum's dad. I believe my dad eventually asked him to leave as he didn't like the dynamics. I remember being pretty upset to see him go. My mum didn't seem to be the happiest person though, and tutted at me a lot; she always seemed to have a headache and there were usually a lot of Askit Powders lying around. I guess she suffered from migraine. However, I was a mummy's boy for sure and sometimes while watching TV we would take it in turns to tickle each others' feet.

So, one sunny lunch-time that summer I was out playing with pals when I coincidentally bumped into my mum. I'm a bit hazy about where exactly that was but she must have been at lunch break from her work as a secretary. I took the opportunity to excitedly ask her for some money for sweets. She tutted and made a bit of a fuss but handed over a threepeny bit, or thruppence as older readers will know. My friends and I scampered off eager to spend our fortune. I had no reason to think anything was wrong. I doubt I'd have recognised the signs at that age even if there were any.

Clearly, something was very, very wrong because I never saw her again.

Well, not until my 17th birthday, 10 years later.

I didn't know she'd gone right away of course. When I asked where she was my dad would make excuses and say she was with friends or on holiday. I guess he was holding off telling me the truth in case he somehow managed to persuade her to come back. Well that didn't happen and after some weeks he eventually sat me down and told me she had left us. It transpired she and her boss had stolen the office car and abandoned it a few days later in Glasgow. I worried if maybe I'd asked her once too often for money for sweets. I cried for my mum and my dad cuddled me. I don't remember him cuddling me before or since.

Some weeks later my dad took me and not my sister to a tenement block in Glasgow. I was told to wait in the car. He didn't explain what was happening but I knew. I was there as bait to lure my mum. It didn't work. I sat for an anxious eternity until my dad exited the close visually upset but empty-handed. We drove home in silence.

My mum had been a Sunday-School teacher and I'd been forced to go along every Sunday morning to be indoctrinated so every night after getting into my pyjamas, I would go down on my knees at the side of my bed, eyes tightly closed and hands clasped in prayer and asked God to bring my mother back to the family. I don't know how long I continued with this ritual, but I think years passed before I gave up.

Now I said I didn't see her for 10 years. That's not strictly true. Around 3 years after my mum had left I was in the backseat of a car driven by a friend of the family. I guess he had business in Aberdeen and took me along for the ride. We were driving along one of the main streets of Aberdeen when the unmistakable figure of my mum appeared, hurrying along the pavement in the same direction as we were going. She pushed back her glasses up her nose in a gesture I'd seen a thousand times before and recognised instantly. I screamed at the driver "That's my mum, stop the car I need to see her." I banged on the window, I slapped frantically at the window with the palms of my hands and shouted after my mum. The car speeded up.

Cut to the lady on the pavement rushing along as she does every day, trying to get lunch and back to the office in time for another dreary afternoon of typing, what tales she could tell in this innocent age, this age yet to experience footballers and wags, infidelity and divorce, these things were confined to film stars, not ordinary people. Did she think of me and my sister often? Ever? Now she was oblivious to the hysterics of her own little boy in the back of a car, only ten feet from her, desperately but vainly trying to get her attention above the hustle and bustle of the city streets, his silent screaming behind misted glass slipped away, ever more faint until enveloped entirely by the teeming metropolis.

I watched for a long while after she had disappeared into the throng. Then I defeatedly slumped back into my seat; but I didn't cry. My wall was already thick and high.

My crying days were over for a very long time.

And so, in the same weekend as I met my future wife Liza, my mum and I were reunited. You can imagine my confusion. It was the weekend of my 17th birthday and my friend Ally and I took a anxious and almost silent train journey to Aberdeen to meet her. I was terrified.

As I stepped off the train at Aberdeen station I must have presented a ridiculous sight, I had a wine-coloured braided jacket, flares and purple platform shoes. My hair was halfway down my back. Well I was a hippy and it was the 70's. My mum's first words to me after 10 years was "Why are you limping?" I wasn't limping, I have a natural bounce and coupled with the platform shoes I suppose I walked awkwardly.

God works in mysterious ways it's said. After 10 years the prayers of a lonely little boy were eventually heard and answered. Mother and son reunited at last.

It's a pity it was just too late.

You were too fucking late God.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

9--My Release from the Cells

After another long night in the cells with only my dark thoughts for company things began to bustle along. My door was opened and I was given my coat and glasses. I was handcuffed to a guard and led to a holding cell with a few others. There were about 6 cells in all and about 5 people each in 3 of them. Most of my companions seemed to be regular visitors here and some had been arrested on Hogmanay. It seems a common Police tactic at holiday times to do a sweep of bail jumpers and community service defaulters on the Friday before a holiday weekend. This ensures the maximum possible time in the cells. Spending time in Bell Street cells is feared by anyone who's already tasted it and a common phrase I've heard is "I'd rather spend a week in Perth Prison than a night in Bell Street."

I was taken to speak to a duty solicitor who told me I would appear in Court shortly. He said I would be granted bail and I'd be free in an hour or so. I was handcuffed again and taken up some very narrow stairs into Court. I confirmed my name, the charges were read out and I was given bail.

I was released from the handcuffs, given back my possessions and shoved out into the main corridor where Dave, my brother-in-law (also Dave) and Karen were waiting. Boy was I glad they were there but I still greeted them sheepishly. I don't remember much about the car journey back to Dave's but the whole gang turned up and I was moved and touched by the support shown by everyone. I hadn't eaten for 3 days and so Karen went off to make me an omelette while I recounted the events of Hogmanay to my friends.

And the rest is a blank. I don't remember what time we left Dave's. I don't remember going home. The next few days are hidden in a thick fog. I don't know what's going on with me ... am I blocking things out now or did I forget to remember certain things at the time? I really can't tell. Either way I'm beginning to realise, as I try to reconstruct the events for this blog, that I have huge gaps in my memory. Mostly events surrounding Karen. I remember complaining in a jokey way to her that the omelette was a bit rubbery. After 3 days of starvation you'd think I'd wolf it down. No, I complained. Joking or not this now seems to have been the beginning of a behaviour pattern that would have disastrous consequences, and I'm only discovering it now. I think it's important that I push on with the blog and try to shine some light into the darkest corners of my mind. It's somewhat distressing to find I've obviously erased a lot of events from the past year from my memory and I'm pretty certain they are gone for good. Maybe in my mental explorations I'll find out why.

I don't, however, have a problem remembering the events of  THAT summer  ...

Sunday, 26 January 2014

8--Goodbye to the recidivists

There was no sign of Steak Pie Tuesday morning. It turns out he was in a fracas the day before and spent the night in the cells. He's told me previously if he got in trouble again it would mean prison and he really didn't want that. I might not see him again. I wouldn't have thought I'd have anything in common with anyone I met through Community Service but somehow, in adversity, bonds are formed. I feel sad he's doomed to recidivism until something terrible, or probably fatal, happens. He's been in Iraq, he's seen things no one should have to. That's got to do something bad to people.

A break from tradition for me today. I wasn't sent to dig in the Nursing Home garden. Instead I was sent to clear up a private overgrown garden in a housing scheme with four others. A garden strewn with litter, old prams and nappies. I'm sure you can imagine.

I set out originally to tell the truth about my time here. This blog was to be my fightback, my revenge on the system to document the highs and lows and the characters along the way, good or bad. However, I now feel a certain responsibility, affinity even, to my fellow cons and screws. To tell of the practices occurring could have consequences for those involved. It's just possible someone in authority could read this one day and I don't want to cause anyone any grief. So, unfortunately, the next few of my most hilarious and almost unbelievable paragraphs have been censored. It pains me to do so.

--------------------------------------------- tools ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2 hours.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- driving --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- lunch --------------------- Day of the Beasts --------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------- ----- piss --------------------------------------------------------- Menzieshill !

I had a meeting with a nurse this week to give me a Well Man check. Anyone over 35 gets this and we get an hour deducted from our tally. Everything checked out pretty good. We can also have 30 hours of education which again is deducted. I'm definitely going to take up this offer. The courses range from reading and writing to digital photography for beginners, which I think, with a huge dollop of irony, is the one I'll take. Creative Writing is also available which could come in handy.

It's with mixed feelings that I've applied for a placement. This is where certain offenders can take up a post in something like a charity outlet or organisation, usually cleaning or helping with menial tasks. I have a meeting with an organisation on Wednesday and so, if all goes well I shall spend my last day of digging at the Nursing Home on Tuesday. Again, I would love to write about the very unusual circumstances of the position but I daren't give the game away. At least not yet.

As stated above, this blog was originally intended to rail against the system that now controls a large part of my life. To fight back against the humiliation. To rescue some dignity and possibly glean some humour from the situation. Now I don't know how much further I can take this. If I accept the position next week I will appear to the public like a normal worker and it would be churlish and wrong for me to write about anything that happens there. I'll try somehow to keep writing but it seems the blog has taken a slightly different direction anyway, it's more about ME now. It's all about me.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

7--The Letter

This doesn't define you

I lay in the twilight contemplating my fate and worrying myself sick that Karen and the rest of my friends and even my family would desert me in light of my heinous assault. Hour after hour I lay in fear. One might imagine I was bored but my heart still pounded and my stomach still churned and my mind still raced so there was no room anywhere for  boredom.

Suddenly my peep-hole opened (obviously with a clang) and an eye appeared, it closed just as suddenly. Then my cell door opened and a policeman stood on the threshold. "Well, Mr Popular," he said. "I have a letter for you from Karen, do you want to read it?" "I can't let you keep it, you'll have to read it here in front of me and hand it back." My heart went in to complete overdrive and I began to shake. How much more of this heart-racing torture can I take I wondered. I really just wanted to faint. I wanted to collapse on the floor of my cell and let someone else clear up my mess. Clear up the mess that was ME, just sweep me up into a bucket and pour me down the drain. Was this my denoument from Karen. I expected it was.

I must have muttered that I couldn't read it without my glasses and they'd been taken from me. He scampered off for a few moments and came back with them. I could see he was still glowing from Karen's presence. She had clearly put her spell on him and probably twisted her hair round one of her fingers and given him that smile, while twisting him round her little finger.  I put my glasses on, he handed me the letter and with only slightly more fear and trepidation than I feel right now I began to read:

My dearest Larry,

I will not be able to see you or speak to you as they won't let you out or me in. I just had to let you know how much support and love there is for you. Everyone is so worried about you; none as much as me. This does not define you, but it has brought to a head a lot of the issues you have been dealing with.

Maybe now you will stop suffering in silence. I knew something was up, I just wish I could have been with you more, that we could have taken ourselves away from this toxic situation.

You should probably know that I have also met with Liza. She came to Dave's when we were all there (for you) last night.

Eric is devastated for you and is so worried, Jill, Tina, Dave, everyone.

I want you to know that you are not alone and you will get through this. I love you very much and I know it will be a long road. You have to get yourself together and face whatever is going to come with dignity and above all honesty.

I'm thinking about you every second.

All my heart, Karen, xxx

PS. Myra is home and her mum said it looks a bit better today. xx

I folded the letter and handed it back to the policeman and thanked him. He took it from me and motioned for my glasses. I handed them over and he said "You're a popular guy." I sniffed hard, bit my lip and looked at the floor. He gently shut the heavy metal door and locked it. I turned away from him and immediately broke-down and cried, in fact I howled. I fell to my knees, cradled my head in my hands and the dam broke inside me and days (actually years) of  pent-up emotions flooded unhindered out over my concrete bed. The tears streamed down my cheeks just like they are now, but for different reasons. I sobbed with shoulder-shrugging intensity until I was spent.

Now clearly I was relieved at Karen's letter. She had taken away, with a few strokes of her pen, my biggest fears. Now I could face whatever punishment was due, knowing she cared, and was still there for me. However, have you met me? What I failed to do was pay any attention to the message within. If only I had taken it on-board, things might have turned out different. Anyway, with hindsight I know that couldn't have happened. Not then, that would come later. With hindsight I know that a darkness was spreading through my mind like a creeping cancer, invading and distorting my thoughts. Some trained in the field say it was PTSD. A little dramatic you might think but it's not my diagnosis. With that and the WALL I had built around me Karen had no chance. I was impermeable and impenetrable to all emotion even if this episode had begun to create hairline cracks.

It would take a whole lot more than this to bring down MY wall. My wall was a sturdy edifice and I'd been proudly building it for many years. In fact, to the backdrop of the Beatles' Love Me Do,  the foundations were robustly laid many years ago.

On a sunny summer afternoon when I was just a 7-year-old boy ...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

6--There has to be a better way

The inscrutability of the human spirit, our consciousness, the soul, call it what you are comfortable with, lets ordinary people do extraordinary things. What makes someone capable of cutting their own arm off and sawing through the bone with a rusty penknife to free themselves from certain death trapped in a crevice up a lonely mountain? Another, kept in a makeshift dungeon and raped daily for 20 years, yet still manages to keep alive and survive to thrive when eventually freed. Survival stories of the extreme yes, but I'm forced to think of examples like these for inspiration when up to my ankles in soaking, sodding, freezing mud, digging in these dreary, dank, lifeless gardens. My boots always wet and hanging heavy with sodden soil. I'm sorry for the unfair comparison, truly I am. However, this huge walled garden seems permanently in darkness and drizzle and turns my mind as black as the foreboding sky. Maybe one day soon the sun will shine and the birds will sing and my heart will lift. One day soon we will plant some flower bulbs and some vegetables. By summer the garden may be a pleasant place and the fruits of our labour will bring joy to others.

But not to any of us diggers. None of us doing the work now will be there in summer. This makes me think someone is missing an opportunity. This week one of the young guys pulled an old rotting cabbage from the ground. He held it up to his face exactly like Hamlet with Yorick's skull and then began to strip away the layers one-by-one till he was bored. I could tell he had never held a cabbage in his hands before. Maybe he didn't even know what it was. He tossed it into the air and drop-kicked it a hundred yards. He wouldn't have done that if he'd planted the damn thing. He wouldn't have done that if he'd watered it, protected it from weeds and watched it grow from nothing into something he could chop-up and have with his mince.

And that's my point. It's no one's fault that these young guys aren't around long enough to tend to a complete cycle of nature, but I think somehow the system should provide them with inspiration. With aspiration. How great would it have been if he could have taken a cabbage he had nurtured, home to his mum, and they'd had it with lashings of butter along with their mince? An unkind thought has just jumped into my head that his mum would probably have slapped him, thrown the cabbage into the bin and said, "You can't have cabbage with turkey twizzlers you clown." Oh well.

But seriously, shouldn't these guys be exposed to things they've never seen before? Things they've never experienced. No doubt the Daily Mail would brim-over with bile and expose such things as being soft on crime but I feel they should be shown films they would never normally watch. Music they'd never normally listen to (although this was demonstrated unsuccessfully in A Clockwork Orange). Maybe a talk or lecture from a inspirational speaker. Perhaps every now and then one of them might just catch fire and be inspired by something.

Anyway, who am I? I'm sure this subject has been discussed by social workers, criminologists, psychologists and God knows whom over the years. I'm not going to change anything.

So, Steak Pie and I worked together this week moving barrow-loads of soil. Sodden mud. Everything is fucking sodden. He told me he had pawned some sort of painting-thing he had. He'd expected £30 for it but in fact was given £3. He had to pay £6.50 to reclaim it. I was aghast. He said that's how it works Larry, as if I didn't know how pawn shops made their money. I just didn't know they made quite that much. I quizzed him more and he said he'd also pawned his laptop but he'd lost it now because they wanted £170 and he couldn't afford that. I vowed, silently, to do something about that.

Wherever I look there seems to be an opportunity for almost every individual to have some improvement made for them. Just a little tweak that might help to improve their bad situations. I think the support workers (screws) should actually be support workers and mix with the guys to try to identify those little tweaks that could make a real difference. Or here's an off-the-wall idea ... someone working undercover, as an offender, someone older who could mix and try to give advice as one of their own. I guess that couldn't work, but it's making me think.

There's another guy, maybe 25 years old, married with 2 kids. He's handsome with a great physique. He cares for his wife and kids and I see potential in him. But he talks at breathtaking speed, every second word is fuck and every sentence ends with "man." I struggle to understand him. He must be frustrated by not being understood but he probably doesn't understand why. I soooo want to ask him to calm down and speak slowly. It wouldn't take a great effort, he just needs to know what he's doing wrong. I'm certain if he could change his speech pattern it would change his life. I'm certain one day, with a little guidance, he could be the sort of man who could cut-off his own arm.

There is much to be done.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

5--To The Cells

January 1, 2013--8.30 am

In a daze I showered and got dressed. I tripled-locked the door again, expecting not to return for a few days. Gingerly I made my way out of the close into the street, wondering if the Police might be sitting outside watching for me. I know my crime may not have warranted a full-scale alert but paranoia was taking its grip. I must have walked past Karen's imposing town-house but I really can't remember doing so. I should have been checking for police cars outside, an ambulance maybe ... some signs of life, but I don't remember walking past however hard I try. Was this the naissance of my blind-spot of all things Karen? I believe so.

I remember getting to Balgillo Road and I phoned my son. Surprisingly, he answered. I told him the police were looking for me and what I'd done. He was less than impressed. He's not easily impressed by much and normally even less so by me, no matter how hard I try. I told him I was going to my eldest daughter's house. He put the phone down, and I guess, went back to sleep.

I walked the 3 miles to Nadine's house and banged on the door. Of course, everyone was asleep in bed. Eventually, Nadine answered the door and could see my obvious distress. She made tea and I told her what had happened. Phone calls to the rest of the family ensued and it was decided to meet at my younger daughter's home, the scene of the family party we'd had the night before. By now word was circulating and I had some phone calls from incredulous friends. The concensus was I should go to the police station as soon as possible. Well of course this was always my intention but I didn't want to do that until I'd spoken to the people that mattered.

My son-in-law drove me to Bell Street in silence. It was around 2 pm when I approached the desk and told the Sergeant on duty that the Police may be looking for me. No one seemed to know about me and they couldn't find anything on the computer. However, they took me at my word and guided me through to an interview room. Presently I was visited by two cops who said they still had no information on my crime but would take me down to the cells till they'd made enquries. They said I'd likely be home in a few hours but I knew instinctively this wouldn't happen.

Downstairs I was taken to a high desk and stood to attention thereat. The cops took up position either side of me and I was told to lean forward with my hands on the desk. As I did this the cops laid their palms in a passive way across each of my wrists. I've no idea to this day what this ritual achieved. However, the police were all polite and reasonably respectful in the process. I was divested of my belongings, my shoes and coat. I was led to a cell, given a blanket made from old Brillo pads and invited to enter. The door clanged shut behind me with a heart-stopping err clang.

Inside the cell was a concrete plinth with a 2-inch thick plastic mattress-cum-excercise mat. There was a non-flushing toiled attached to the wall. I lay on my back on the mat on the plinth and stared up at the cold concrete ceiling. How did it come to this? How could I be in this situation? When I went out last night I was happy and content and proud to be celebrating New Year with my family. A few short hours later I'm banged-up in a cell and have committed my first criminal offence. Good God, I've not even had a parking ticket before. The knots in my stomach tightened and my heartbeat stepped up yet another notch.

I don't know for how many hours I lay there, unmoving, staring upwards till my eyes were sore. I wondered what my family and friends were doing now. It was New Year's night, everyone should be partying. Have I ruined everyone's New Year? What was Karen doing? She saw the horror unfold, probably in slow-motion. What was she thinking of me? I've brought shame to myself, my family and my friends. It was too much to bear. Really it still is.

Every hour the cover over the spyhole in the door would slide open with a clang and a security guard would shout my name, or in some cases, hey you. They wouldn't leave until you answered. Every so often there would be a disturbance from another inmate or someone else being admitted. Every time there was any movement the clanging was intolerable. I thought with modern materials we could eliminate clang from anything. However, I thought of the first inspection day after the cells were finished and the man in charge saying "There isn't enough clanging in these doors. Put more clang in there, we need more clang."

Sometime during the night a policewoman appeared at my spyhole (with a almighty clang). She was thoroughly pissed at me and through the hole she formally charged me. When she'd finished she asked if I'd anything to say. I said "how is she?" This seemed to piss her off even more and she clanged shut the spyhole and left. These words were read out in Court. The only words attributed to me throughout the whole year. Three words after a dozen visits to solicitors' offices. Only in hindsight, a dozen useless, worthless visits.

In the morning I was offered a dry roll and some water. The attitude of the guards was fazing me and I refused everything. In the 48 hours I was there I took nothing save for some water. I didn't feel like eating anyway and somehow I didn't want them to feel like they were doing me any favours.

I lost all track of time and knew that I was hugely misjudging the passing of the hours. I discovered I was miles ahead, in my mind, of the real time. I knew that come January 3, I would appear in Court and hopefully get bail. I dozed from time-to-time but never sleeping properly. The mat was so thin my hips were aching. I folded the mat in two to double the thickness but it hardly helped. Occasionally, I would do press-ups and sit-ups on the floor, working up a sweat like Rambo preparing his revenge.

No one spoke to me save to offer water or a dried-up roll. No information was offered, no contact was given. No visitors allowed. The guards were surly and rude. Every possible dignity was removed and my humiliation was complete. I thought my despair could never deepen and nothing could ever be worse. Well, turns out I would be wrong about that.

And then came the letter . . .

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

4--Day 2 and 3, January 7 and 8 2014

Just home after 2 days at the coal-face and I'm weary. Not through hard work but through the mental anguish that comes with the process. I feel a little drained and my mood has been low. Yesterday, the first day of service after New Year, was daunting in prospect. The only con I recognised from Hogmanay was Steak Pie, we shook hands, then we sat in the usual contemplative silence for an hour until it was time to board the bus. There are many such times of contemplation in a service day. Maybe it's designed that way. I know I use it exclusively to think of the Road Not Taken.

I have now asserted my rank of age, and travel (again in silence) up-front with the driver. The journey this time was in brilliant sunshine and people were in the streets cheerfully going about their business. This in stark contrast to the occupants of the bus who were all gloomy captives. Yes, even the screws are in some way as captive as the rest of us. I've come to realise over a short time they are not exactly in coveted jobs and I expect their salary is low. I think the social workers Lord it over them and I can tell they are just different pieces in our game, all playing it as best we can. Out of the 9 or 10 screws I've encountered so far, only 2 have attempted to engage me in conversation. One asking my name and introducing himself. I thought he was a nice guy and I told him it was good to meet him although better under different circumstance. He agreed and replied that everyone had done something stupid in their lives but not everyone gets caught.

Steak Pie and I were put to work together and he told me he'd been in the army, this was no surprise as he wears army combats exclusively. He'd been to prison a couple of times and was loving his community service. He was used to taking orders and was at his happiest when someone pointed to a spot and said "dig there." He especially liked destroying things. We were asked to demolish a shed and his face lit up as he rushed to the front so no one else would get a chance to break anything. One of the younger guys began to use a large broom as a sledgehammer. I guessed it would take 4 strikes before the shaft snapped. It took 3. Normally, I'd be a bit annoyed at mindless vandalism but somehow it seemed to be part of the game. I was surprised at how little I cared.

Back in the outhouse huddled around the soothing heater like cowboys at a camp fire one of the younger guys began mixing a powder with milk. He was asked about it and enthused over a Herbalife product which he claimed was causing him to lose weight in a magical way. He then said he was an agent for Herbalife and was making a fortune selling it at only £55 per month "but if any of you guys want it I'll gie ye 10 per cent aff." Steak Pie said he had a sale. Mr Herbalife then delivered a broad Dundee sales pitch which ended "and they've goat sehintists in America lookin' into' it an' ahin' ... fuckin' amazing." I nearly bought one myself. But really, here's this guy that's not wallowing in self-pity, not giving-up or getting angry at the screws or the world for his misfortunes. Here is a real Jean-val-Jean making and taking every opportunity to rise above his misfortune. Good luck to him.

We finished early today, 3 pm instead of 3.30 pm. The screws had a meeting to attend. I asked, naturally, if we still clocked-up 7 hours as it wasn't our fault it was cut short. I was a little peeved, but not very surprised at the answer.

Wednesday we were digging trenches again. There were 4 other young guys with me and none of us had met. As seems customary hardly a word was uttered. I know I'm guilty of being quiet, possibly to the point of being thought aloof. It's not (all) aloofness, I am genuinely low of mind right now and each spadeful of earth I grudgingly howk from the ground seems to end up in a large sack hanging round my neck. I stopped taking anti-depressants on Hogmanay. Possibly not the best day I could have chose. However, I figured that since I was going to be pissed pretty much solid for a few days, I might not notice the lack of drugs. I was wrong. By the next day I had a knot of anxiety perched firmly in my chest that made my breath go shallow. I wanted to go back to the tablets but instead I got drunk again. This cycle went on with less and less alcohol for a week. Okay, so I'm now free of the physical withdrawal of the drugs. However, the symptoms have manifested in my mood and I know it. The temptation to take the tablets is great. But the yearning to be me is greater. I want to face my troubles and strifes without crutches or chemical cosh. The old Larry Jones has gone forever. I think the new Larry Jones is going to be alright!

Oh! On the way out I asked Steak Pie how the pie was on New Year's Day? On the mad scramble to get through the door he stammered loudly over the other's heads, "the neighbour's fuckin' doag ate it."

I shrugged, hurried out the door and didn't look back.

227.5 hours to go.