Posts Tagged ‘Strangeways’

Anthony asked if I wanted to go and stay at their house after we left the prison.    But I decided to go home instead… I just wanted to be on my own.

It was a bad decision.

Anthony dropped me off after checking I was OK.  I told him I was, but I honestly don’t know if I am.  I waved him goodbye as he drove off and let myself into our house.

I was about to go up to my bedroom and lock the door, when me ma bounced out of the living room and stood in front of me, shouting.  ‘Who the f&ck was that!?’ She screamed.   She’d be drinking.

‘Who was what?’  I said, my heart racing.

‘Don’t f&ckin’  lie to me!  I saw you get out of the car!  Who is that fella?  Have you been grassing me up to social services?’

‘No’ I screamed.

‘You’re lying!’

‘I’m not!’ I tried to walk past her to the stairs.  I could see that she was smashed, and that there was no point in having a screaming match.. she wouldn’t remember tomorrow anyway.  She grabbed my arm and swung me round.

‘Tell me who it was in the car!  You’ve grassed me up haven’t you!’

‘No!  It was my mate’.

‘You’re a lying little bastard!  You’ve grassed me up.. my own son! You’re a dirty, lying little bastard!’ She screamed in my face.

I felt so mad… I wanted to cry and scream at the same time.  I snapped ‘It was my mate!  He took my to see me dad in prison!’  That shut her up.  She stared at me like she didn’t believe me… her face all screwed up like an old woman.

‘You didn’t!’ she said it like she hated me.

‘I did!  He might be a murderer, but I still thought he’d be a better dad to me than you are a mother!’.

I didn’t feel the slap across my face – it was too quick.  I just felt my head smash against the wall as I fell sideways.   I laid on the floor by the stairs, surprised that the bang hadn’t knocked me out.  She was still screaming over me.

‘You scheming little bastard!   After all I’ve done for you – and this is what you do!’  She staggered away back into the living room – probably looking for the whiskey bottle.

I wondered if she’d meant to hit me that hard.  I sat up and felt my head; there was  a lump the size of mount Etna, but no blood.   But as a stood up, there was a metallic taste in my  mouth.   I put my hand to my face and realised there was blood.

In the bathroom upstairs, I stared at myself in the mirror, holding my mouth open with my hand.  I could hardly see my teeth for all the blood.   After a good five minutes of close inspection, I could see that not only had my tooth gone through my gum, but when I wiggled the tooth, it actually came out in my fingers.   There I was, standing, looking a state in the mirror, holding my tooth in my hand.

I clenched my teeth and tried to smile.  The big black gap wasn’t too bad if I just ‘half’ smiled.  Penny Salerno would never fancy me without teeth.

I suddenly felt sick… really sick.   It was lucky the toilet was in the same room, because I puked my guts up, along with the tooth next to the one I still had in my fingers.

I needed to lie down… so I staggered to my room and passed out on the bed to dream weirdly realistic dreams of Caribbean Islands.  I was swimming in this dead clear water with all little tiny tropical fish around me.   And when I looked to shoreI could see Penny Salerno sitting on the beach waving to me.  I was waving back.. and she was smiling.  She was gorgeous.   But then she stood up and started shouting and screaming to me… I couldn’t hear what she was saying.

I looked down into the water, but I couldn’t see the fish anymore, just red… the water was red, like blood.  The sea was red.    And then I turned to see what Penny was pointing at on the water… There was a body… floating face down.  I started screaming, and it was floating dead close to me.  It was then I realised it was me ma!    Floating, dead on the water.  I started crying… screaming, wanting to help her.. but the pressure of the water wouldn’t let me close enough.

It was too late.

The Dream... The nightmare - Photo by Jilly Gardiner


I’ve been to hell.   A place I never want to stay.   It smells like our school, and echos in just the same way… but the doors bang harder, and the security guards (what they call ‘screws’) are even more evil than our Science teacher!

formerly known as strangeways

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Anthony had agreed to come to Strangeways in Manchester so I could see the fella who was me dad.   He’d written a few emails and made a few phone calls – and then here we were – being checked for flickies and coke as we walked in.

I felt sick.   Sick with excitement, sick with dread.  I was finally going to meet the fella who was me dad, Carl Laurence.    I’d rehearsed it in the mirror loads of times – smiling, shaking hands with myself ‘Hello dad, I’m Tommy.. your son’.   But now I’d forgotten what I’d rehearsed.  I couldn’t remember my own name, let alone how to shake hands.

Anthony was dead boss.. he put his hand on my shoulder and smiled.. he didn’t have to say anything.. I knew he was telling me that he’d make sure everything was all right.

And then, there I was, sitting opposite the fella I’d been waiting to meet for years.   Tall, brown skin, messy, Afro hair.   He didn’t shake my hand.  He just stared at me across the table.

I couldn’t talk.  Anthony explained to him who I was, and that me ma had said I was his son.

‘So…. Tommy!’  Said Carl, ‘You’ve grown up!’

Turned out he’d known me when I was a baby.   It’s weird, but I didn’t have the feelings  I thought I would.   Before I came to Strangeways I so wanted to meet him, for him tell me he was my dad.  But now as I watched his lined face, and looked between his missing teeth, I didn’t feel like I had any connection to him at all.

‘Are you me dad?’ I said nervously.

Carl smiled, but not a good smile, a smile that meant something else, ‘I could be.  With a mother like yours, who knows!’

At first I didn’t know what he was getting at.. but then I got it.  I stood up, ‘What are you saying about me ma?’

‘Nothin’ lad, nothin’.  I must admit, he did look a bit sorry for saying it.

Anthony got hold of my arm, and made me sit down.   But I couldn’t listen to Carl Laurence after that.  He kept speaking, but I couldn’t hear it.. I couldn’t understand it.   I watched his eyes, his mouth, his wrinkles moving.   If he was my dad, I didn’t give a f&ck.   I had a horrible feeling welling up in my stomach as he kept speaking.  He was trying to be nice but I hated him.

I didn’t speak again.   Just listened to his words, but couldn’t take them in.   I was made up when Anthony said we should go.. he knew something was wrong… he knew I wanted to leave Carl Laurence behind.

As I left, he said he was getting out soon, and he’d look me up.   Why did I just want to cry.. not wimpy crying, but angry crying.  But  I wasn’t going to show him.   I kept it together right until I got outside the first doors.. and then Anthony put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.  I fell apart!  Burst into loads of tears… Stupid, wimpy bastard that I am.

I just don’t know what to think or feel anymore.  Who the f$ck am I?

Valentine’s day is for wimps!  I knew it when I bought a fifty-nine pence Valentine’s card from Tesco Express…  I knew it when I wrote:

‘To Penny.. be my Valentine… from ????’

…. I knew it when I got up at five o’clock this morning and snuck around to Penny’s house and quietly slipped the card through her letter box.     I didn’t know she had a dog though… I nearly had to change my kecks when this huge sounding monster started barking and growling from behind the front door.

Buster Brown Valentine postcard by Richard Fel...

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I turned and legged it along the road, hoping that I had the right house.   Penny had told me where she lived, but I’d never actually seen the house, and she didn’t tell me she had a bleedin’ great rottweiler the size of a grizzly!! (Not that I saw it, but I could imagine what it looked like; mouth snarling and teeth dripping with the fresh blood of its recent kill!).

Yes, Valentine’s day is for wimps.  That’s why I’ll never, never, never admit to anyone that I sent it – even if they shove lit matches down my finger nails, and press my head down into a pile of dog shite!

I’m feeling nervous and excited about tomorrow.  It’s tomorrow I’m going to Strangeways prison to meet my dad.   Finally.   I’ve rehearsed it loads of times in the mirror.   Bet I won’t sleep tonight!!!

(Happy Valentine’s day Penny Salerno) x

I spend most of my school day staring out of the window across the school playing field.  What’s beyond that field is what really interests me.   Mister Reynolds, our Geography teacher, is the only one who makes school interesting (apart from footy practice of course!).   Mister Reynolds tells us about people and places all over the world.  And he’s so nice, that I can go and talk to him afterwards.. asking more questions about countries and people that he’s mentioned in the lesson.    He’s dead happy to talk to me about it.

English: Playing field at Cowplain School

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Did you know that it’s rude to show the bottom of your feet in Thailand?  How mad’s that!  And if you stand on a coin, you’re disrespecting their king, because his head’s on it.  There’s just so much out there.. and I’m stuck here in this cold, square, miserable school with Johno Rathbone who gobs on the back of your school jumper, and Jonesy who bangs his head against walls so he looks hard.

Penny Salerno came into school with a load of those National Geographics she got off her ma the other day.  She put them in a plazzy bag so no one would see them.  There was about ten of them!  I was so made up.   I couldn’t wait to read them – so I took the afternoon off and went and sat on the dock.   If I’d have got them out at school, Terry Bennett would have flushed them down the toilet along with my head.

The Ice caps, the tribes of the Amazon, the cocaine villages of Colombia…. there’s just a whole world out there (all right, I’ll stay away from the coke heads in Colombia), why do people stay in the same place all their lives when they’re not happy?  Why do they live on scanky streets, with cold damp houses, and schools where all you learn is how to throw a good punch so you don’t get your head kicked in so badly next time?  If things aren’t good, then what have we got to lose by walking away and trying somewhere else?

It can’t be any worse, I reckon.

Me ma says I think too much.   I say it’s better than not thinking at all.    She says I annoy people with all my thinking.  But she doesn’t think at all.. except to think where the next whiskey’s coming from.

It all starts next week when I go to Strangeways to speak to me dad.  It only took an email and two phone calls.

That’s when I start thinking my way out of here….

Now I’ve made the decision… I’m feeling a lot more positive about everything.  Yes.. a new year, a new start!   I’m going to find my family!!

I mean.. who the f$ck am I?  I don’t know nothing about my background.    Me ma won’t tell me nothing.   The most I know about me dad is that he’s in Manchester Prison doing time for murder, and that he’s from Haiti.   And that’s the most me ma will tell me….And I don’t even know if that’s the truth!    The only other family I know I have is me ma’s sister who lives in Huyton– and they hate each other’s guts, so I haven’t seen her since before I went into care the first time (when I was about four).   Me ma and her sister were put into care when they were little, so they’ve never really known their ma.

Huyton railway station

Image by Secret Pilgrim via Flickr

So I reckon me dad is the way to go.. especially as I’ve never been to Manchester before, never mind the prison.  And I’ve defo never been to Haiti… and that sounds a lot more interesting than Huyton, earthquake or no earthquake! Besides, I’ve already been to Huyton when I played a footy match there with our school last year (we won 3-0).

I mean, me ma might be lying.. me dad might only be in prison for fraud or speeding or something – but she’s probably just told me it’s murder so I never try to get in touch with him.  I bet he’s wondered why I’ve never gone to see him… I bet he’s not half has bad as what me ma makes out.

I’m going to go the library tomorrow and find out more about Haiti, so when I go and see me dad he’ll be dead impressed that I know so much about his home country – then I bet me nan and granddad and all my cousins will be begging me to go over and live with them in a house by the beach, where we can watch the sea without going outside the gate, and we don’t need to wear coats in the winter.  I am feeling SO excited now…. Cant wait!

Anthony gave me a lift home on Boxing day.   He said I could stay as long as I wanted, but I had to go and face me ma.  It would have been the best Chrimbo ever if me ma had been there too.

Between Chrimbo and the New Year me ma was down the boozer most of the time – with the odd night zombied out in the living room or in bed.  What hurt me most was that she hadn’t even asked me where I was on Christmas day.  She  came in off her face as usual on Boxing day night after I came back from Anthony’s house, and tried to kiss me and wish me merry Christmas,  but the words wouldn’t come out.  I just stared at her – disgusted.  She could see I wasn’t happy.   She lurched forward and tried to swipe at me, but I stepped backwards and she fell onto the first few stairs.   When I tried to help her up, she pushed me away, ‘You miserable bastard!’ she screamed, as she attempted to stand up on her feet.

She practically crawled on her hands and knees up to bed.. and I just let her go.

After that I spent most of the school holidays over New Year just sitting on the dock, fishing.. it kept me out of the house.  I’ve spent most of the last few months trying to avoid Binny, but now I was avoiding me ma.

English: Fireworks

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New Year’s Eve I went down to the dock by the Wheel and watched all the fireworks.. it was amazing.   The sky lit up, and everyone seemed dead happy.

Why couldn’t I be that happy?  Why couldn’t I have a new year to look forward to?

The thought of going back to school made me feel sick.. all the other kids talking about their Christmas, and what Xbox games they got.  And there will I be, a huge knot in my stomach getting bigger and heavier.. and nothing to say.

It was then while I watched those fireworks on New Year’s Eve I made a decision… I was going to go to Strangeways and find my dad!

Christmas in the Caribbean - Photo by Jilly Gardiner

Me ma didn’t get up until mid afternoon today – then a double shot of strong coffee, a ciggy,  and she was straight out on the ale again.

I’ve broken up from school for Chrimbo now, and I’m just dead made up to get away from all the kids who don’t know what else to talk about but Chrimbo… The new Xbox games they’re getting.. the new clothes… their travel arrangements to their nan’s houses in Southampton or Dublin.   Richy Garston is going to Barbados for Chrimbo. .The lucky b@stard!!  I wanted to tell him that I was going to the Caribbean too.. to Haiti, to see me nan and grandad (‘Cause apparently my dad’s from Haiti – so me ma tells me).   I wanted to tell lucky b@stard Richy Garston that I’d be sitting on a beach too, drinking pina colada cocktails, and eating pineapple icecream till it comes out my ears!

If my dad (who’s in Strangeways doing life) really IS my dad, then I’ll have loads of relatives like cousins and grandparents and stuff in Haiti won’t I?  I bet they’d be dead made up to see me; their long lost grandson that they didn’t know was ever even born!

I’m really fed up with Chrimbo – I just can’t wait for January.. back to normal.  Me ma still hasn’t come back from the boozer…

I’m feeling quite low tonight…. I’ve got this huge knot in my gut for some reason.  I’ve been laying on my bed thinking.. and just burst out crying like a girl!  Christmas is for little kids, not for 13-year-old men like me… so why do I feel like this?

I f&ckin’ hate Chrimbo!

American cider

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I kept my head down for weeks after that….  I’d done my duty as a son when the social worker came round to review the situation and the living arrangements.. I made out like me ma had turned her life around, that she’d battled the demon whiskey and won.   I made out like I was the happy, well-behaved son who went to school every day and always did his homework.  And when the social worker asked me if it was just me and me ma living in the house, I said yes.   When the social worker had gone,  me ma said I did her proud, that we worked great as a team.   I nodded, yes we worked great as a team… a team where we could pull the wool over other people’s eyes, making us look like the perfect family (only with a dad in Strangeways doing time for murder, and a house that looked like it had just come out the other side of a tsunami!)

In fact me ma was so grateful that she went down the corner shop and bought sausages!   Irish sausages! (the ones with the green bits in)    We had them with a bag of chips between us from the chippy.   She bought a 2 litre bottle of cider while she was at the corner shop, and even poured me a glass!   Yes it was a satisfying evening.  I went up to bed feeling pleased… Not quite sure what I was pleased about, but I was defo pleased.

It was only when I came down later to see Binny back in the house, bags and stinking shoes back in the hallway, that I knew the feeling of pleasure would never last for long.   Binny was in his usual place on the settee, smoking a spliff.   But what pissed me off more than that was that he had his mangy feet on my royal leather footstool!  I was so angry when I saw those dirty grey, sweaty socks with mangy toes sticking out of them resting on my shiny brown footstool, that I didn’t think.. I just lunged over to him, smacking his legs from on top of it.   He was so shocked, he stood up with his mouth open, and even dropped his spliff on the carpet!

Before he could think of something to say, I’d swiped the footstool, ‘Keep  your dirty, rotten feet off my gear!’   Whether it was the shock of me lashing out that made him just stand there like one of Lewis’s saying nothing, or whether it was because he was too stoned to know what was going on, I’m not really sure.  But I have to admit, it was great to watch him speechless!   Me ma was on the other chair, and just watched – I’m sure I could see a smile under those thin, blue  lips.

I turned with the stool and marched from the living room, climbing quickly up the stairs and into my bedroom (just in case Binny found his voice, or remembered where his fists were!).

When I got in the bedroom I sat on the bed just staring at the footstool on the floor.   Then I just couldn’t help smiling!   What had just happened??  I’d stood up for myself! And Binny had done f&ck all to stop me!

It felt F&CKING great!

I threw myself back on the bed.. lying my head on the pillow.   I put me hands behind my head, took a deep breath and just stared at the ceiling….  that was f&cking awesome!!!!