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.


  1. Dear Lawrence, one of the saddest things in life is seeing wasted potential all around us but we can t afford to let ourselves be overwhelmed by this.

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