The worst nightmare for a man about town on licence is to return late to the prison. Dire consequences follow such an event, being "grounded" the most important. In this context, being grounded doesn't equate with being sent to bed without any supper; it means a loss of movement out of the prison. In the run up to release, this is a Very Bad Thing. My niggling stresses about public transport are behind me. Once you have been on a train or bus once, it’s an embedded skill. The only thing left is to learn the routes, for if you miss the bus...woe, woe... And so in this more confident mood I headed off to the city to check in with my oncologist. This always seems to involve probing questions and the rubber-glove experience, so the bus could take all the time in the world on the way into town. On the way back, though, I found that I had just missed one bus and was left in the damp and cold to hang around for half an hour. The next bus duly appeared, travelled half a mile, then conked out. This is when I began to worry just a little. Without a mobile to call the nick, without a bus...this could have been a sticky situation, Luckily another bus was but minutes behind and we piled on it. That's two bus-fulls of people trying to squeeze into one small tin container. I had to stand and hang on to a strap as the driver took a meandering route towards the nick in the snowy darkness, leaving me bereft of landmarks to ask where to get off. Just as I was asking the driver, our stop appeared. I can't say that I will ever be happy booking myself back in to prison, but I did breath a sign of relief that I hadn't overstayed outside. It was also a reminder of how fragile is the progress for all Lifers in Open prison. One minor slip, even one outside of our control, and progress can be instantly halted.
BEN'S PRISON BLOG