Volume One was intended to record a different life for me and, regrettably, the family.
Those trusted friends to whom I have foisted that tome have suggested that I carry on where I left off whilst I still have enough grey matter from which to trawl just how marked an impression those dreadful months and their effects had on us all. The old maxim that ‘Life goes on’ can now be proved totally false…..after the trauma, a completely new life began. Whether for better or not is for other people to judge.
For my part I have been taken, but not surprised, at the change in attitude in some quarters… both positive and negative. Although I had resolved to be a changed man… to be helpful, considerate, constructive, understanding, less bumptious, cantankerous, short tempered… (the list goes on, but I am already struggling with the spelling!) I feel I have slipped back into my old ways, for better or more likely worse.
Although it was interesting to see the reactions of people I met in the first few weeks of liberty, I still had a constant ache gnawing at my inners… should I try to explain exactly how it had all come about or merely try to forget the past and keep it all bottled up?
The ‘Tag Man’ had been extremely pleasant and constructive, although always with the warning of dire consequences should I step (literally) over the curfew line, but once he had convinced me that I would not meet my Maker in a puff of smoke and steam on first plunging my electrified ankle into a bath, I easily got used to it. Not being a Morton fan, despite my holiday in that neck of the woods, that first bath was sheer bliss! Unfortunately bliss was short-lived, and my main priority, apart from trying not to talk about life inside to Margaret, who was doing a great job of carrying on as if it had not happened, was to work out what the hell I was going to do for the future. It had been difficult enough before June, but my chances of gainful employment seemed less than nil with the new burden on my CV.
All was soon to change, and my life would be altered in so many ways! I received a letter from Routes Out of Prison, care of The Wise Group, ‘inviting’ me to attend an interview at their office in Glasgow Road, Paisley. I tried to summon up as much enthusiasm as possible, since this was the first indication that at least someone was good to their word and sticking to the promise of trying to help when the day came, although deep down I still held the negative, defeatist view that not only was I old and therefore of virtually no benefit to the jobs market and prospective employers, but I also now had another major Barrier to Work… little did I appreciate then how big a part that ‘Barriers’ phrase would play in the following three years!
As they say in all good Mills and Boon books, … ‘Imagine my surprise’ when I later received a hand-delivered letter from a girl called Amanda inviting me to return to her office to discuss a possible placement working in that very office!
There’s an old song by Ry Cooder: Hope remains when pride has gone,
It helps to keep you movin on
You’ve paid the price to come so far,
Just to end up where you are.
For the next three years I worked up to become the Induction Officer and got to see and appreciate at first hand the everyday problems of people about whom I had little knowledge before.
For some reason I began to enjoy getting to know the ‘customers’ (not ‘clients’, since that was the Jobcentres) and to realise just how lucky I was not to be burdened with the baggage that some of these poor folk lived with constantly… separated with kids in care, recovering from solvent abuse, almost illiterate (indeed one lad whom I actually knew took three efforts to even spell the school he had attended for four years!), rent arrears, no work experience or track record to speak of… and that was just the staff ….. Boom Boom!! I am of course referring to the customers. Many were facing the problem of unemployment for the first time… it is a harrowing experience. Some had horrendous stories to tell of their lives, and sometimes your heart went out to them, and the need to help would scream in your head. Some were verging on suicidal — some I would gladly have assisted in their quest for that goal! The first thing I noticed, however, was that the staff here actually DID care and often went out of their way to accommodate customers and spend a lot of their time understanding their hang-ups, fears, gripes etc.
Redundancy/Retirement halted my new career, but by that time, with the help and support of my family and new colleagues, to all of whom I owe an everlasting debt of gratitude, I had recovered my self esteem and a bit of confidence, which have in turn been helped even more by my recent introduction to invaluable organisations like Families Outside and have been boosted by the success stories of people such as I who have been helped to become fuller persons again with regained hope for the future.
Ok. Finito! Nae mair!
Thanks for staying with me thus far; your reward is that that you can now brush away the cobwebs which will have gathered as you fought your way through my ramblings. If I have given you an insight into life of Lawrence, and more importantly given you hope and a smile now and then, I am happy. If not, then I DID warn you!
In memory of Mags, who sadly died earlier this year.