Windows – a book about unlocking potential
Windows – a book about unlocking potential
This is the first chapter of a book I’d like to write about my life, unlocking potential and what I’ve learnt form both sides of the tracks – I would really appreciate your views on it . . .
What a beautiful day! I am on a train travelling north to deliver my first appointment as a professional speaker. How did my life get to this point? I look out of the window – it’s a delightful Spring day in April. The sun is shining and the bright colours of spring are washing over me, the beauty leads to a deep breath and a feeling of being grateful for my life today.
Looking out of this window makes me think of the many other windows I have looked out of throughout my life, the people and places that are related to those windows, some are still in my life today – others are gone and some, are shadowy figures that I can’t quite remember.
Looking out of the window again I unconsciously rub my wrist and remember looking out of the window travelling north to start my first custodial sentence. On this occasion I was wearing cuffs that felt heavy on my slim wrists, I was only 14yrs of age I was 4ft 11in and a slight build and this meant the cuffs were heavy as they needed extra blocks so that I could not release my hands.
The weather was not as it is today. We started travelling around 3pm and the weather was cold wet and the sky was grey representing how I felt about myself and my life so far. I remember the date it was the 21st January 1985 I had recently turned 14 and was now old enough to be locked up. I remember looking out of the window and seeing a sign saying ‘Send Detention Centre’ 8 miles to go. I felt fear as I had heard of the brutality that went on in the place.
I refocused on looking out of the window I could hear the drone of the radio and the police officers talking but I was trapped within myself – what was I going to do? how will is survive in such a place?. I wanted to cry but held back the tears I had to be strong I had to continue to survive.
Then I hear the words “we are here son” – where – a safari park? Thorpe Park? That’s where other 14yr olds go. No I was being driven through the gates that are like the mouth of a beast about to engulf me and give me no peace. I step out of the car and the Police officer takes of my cuffs and I look up and I see a prison officer by a door. He is wearing black shiny boots, a crisp blue shirt and a peaked hat that dips forward and covers his forehead, he is very much the image of a sergeant at boot camp.
He looks at me and also right through me – he shouts “come here”, I look at the Police and they ignore my stare so I slowly walk over to a prison officer that I can see hates me without even knowing me. I get to him and he looks at me and says “when you’re in here you don’t walk you don’t run – you fucking fly” and with this he shoves me through the door and I stumble but don’t fall to floor.
I see another prison officer and instinctively know he is my next stop, this time I don’t walk I run to him. He looks at me and gives me a card and says this is your number, every time the door opens to your cell or an officer asks you shout out your name and number. He also tells me that everytime I walk past an officer I need to say “excuse me sir” and you only ever reply with a “yes sir” or “no sir” unless asked a question that warrants a reply.
He puts me in a small room that has a table and a bench, he shuts the door and I hear his boots and keys clonk and clank into the distance. I look at the card M33681 that is now me. I then look away and look at the walls and windows the walls are a gloss finish that are cold to the touch and that is my everlasting feeling of that place – cold, life did not exist in that environment. The door flies open and the same officer grabs my card and screams “to attention” I jump up my heart racing “what’s your number?”. I stumble and stutter and he screams “if you don’t remember your number in future you will be sorry…” I still remember how that threat of violence dominated the environment and you were always aware that the officers had the power and could do as they pleased. I never forgot that number and today 31yrs later I can reel it off my tongue without a thought, I was truly embedded as a number – ‘Gethin’ did not exist in that place.
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