Porridge

The Wednesday Word-prompt on Weekly Prompts, the site I share with my partner GC is CRAVING.

Gerry talks about food cravings, and I’ll let you into a little secret, his culinary choices really are a little odd!

My own response to our challenge tells of a craving that awakened a memory .

Peanut butter and banana

Having been introduced to the combination of peanut butter and banana, a recent brunch-time craving was to eat a sandwich of this twosome.

Unfortunately, the cupboard was bare, so instead, I made do with a bowl of porridge, and whilst waiting for the milk to heat I began to think about the other definition of the word ‘Porridge’.

Porridge‘ is a British slang term for a prison sentence, the prisoner is doing porridge, and I imagine the term was coined because porridge at breakfast used to be the only breakfast on offer. 

Some years ago my friend Mary’s son was apprehended and arrested in the South of England by the local constabulary, subsequently, he was charged with smuggling cigarettes (by the truckload!). In due course, he found himself detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure in Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes.

To say his shocked mother was upset would be an under statement, and even though he was caught red-handed, Mary initially insisted that this was a case of mistaken identity. Those of us in her inner circle, however, were none too surprised, we always knew he was a ‘wayward lad’.

Some time afterwards Mary asked if I would accompany and drive her to Milton Keynes to visit the young man in prison, her husband was unable to take her and she did not want to miss her visit.

I didn’t relish the idea of a long drive down to Milton Keynes, but the thought of actually seeing inside a prison excited me.

My late mother’s reaction to my news was as expected. “Oh, Susan, you can’t, what if someone sees you!” A little sigh accompanied my reply, “Mum, you and I don’t know anyone in Milton Keynes let alone someone who is in prison, well, apart from Mary’s Howard!”

Visiting Day arrived, and my late husband instructed me to drive carefully and not to do anything silly.  Me… silly?

As Mary and I set off for Milton Keynes, Mary was quiet and apprehensive, but I found it hard to curtail my chatter and frequently had to remind myself to play down the thrill of visiting a real prison.

HM-Prison-Woodhill-Milton-Keynes

On arrival at Woodhill I was disappointed to find that the prison building itself was constructed from modern brick, I’d hoped to find an imposing building, built from stone that had long since blackened from industrial smoke, dirt and grime, such as ‘Armley Jail’ the Victorian prison in my home city. I’d always had a hankering to see beyond those iron gates.

Armley Jail 2

Given the age of Milton Keynes itself, and the fact that Woodhill didn’t open until 1992, I really was stretching my expectations.

The town of Milton Keynes was born with an Act of Parliament in 1967 which approved the building of a new community of 250,000 people covering 8,850 hectares (21,869 acres) of Buckinghamshire farmland and villages. Built to ease the housing shortages in overcrowded London, its founding principles were for an “attractive” town that enshrined opportunity and freedom of choice.” 

After having our paperwork scrutinised, we entered the building, and as we walked into the security area I positively buzzed with growing excitement.

We were asked to place our outer clothing and handbags into lockers and were told to remove our shoes before being searched by a female officer.

Next we walked through a series of locked doors and a long corridor before we finally reached the visiting room. The size of the room surprised me, I had expected a smaller, drearier room. Instead, we found ourselves in something that resembled a large, bright cafeteria. Howard, having been alerted of our arrival was already seated at a table. I remember two officers standing at the front of the room, but I’m unsure if others were present.

The visiting hall was served by a cafe counter to my left and was situated toward the rear of the hall. Here we were able to purchase refreshments, and on the walls, just like any other cafe, were price lists of the snacks available. Although we weren’t allowed to take in our handbags, we were allowed to carry a small amount of money.

I’m not sure what I expected to see here, but I certainly did not anticipate sitting amongst perfectly normal looking people with their families and even a couple of babies.

Fast forward a few years, and Joss, my youngest, went off to university.

At the school where I worked, and where my grandchildren were pupils, one of my colleagues approached me and asked where Joss was. I told her he was at university in Newcastle. She began to laugh as she answered, “In that case you should be aware that Max is telling everyone that his Uncle Joss has gone to prison!”

Max would have been around five years old at the time. Max’s amusing announcement was the joke of the staffroom, leading to a few witty comments, but for my friend Mary, the actuality of having a son in prison was not at all funny, for her the reality was heart breaking.

Footnote: Woodhill is a category A prison for male adults, with an adjacent unit for young offenders. The prison holds both convicted prisoners and remand prisoners for local magistrate courts along with foreign nationals awaiting deportation.

(C) SueW-nansfarm.net 2019 – Word Prompt Craving from Weekly Prompts http://weeklyprompts.com/2019/04/24/word-prompt-craving

Prison photographs curtesy of the ‘Mirror’ and the ‘Telegraph and Argus’.

30 thoughts on “Porridge

  1. In the past I’ve had the misfortune of taking my late mother to visit someone very close in prison. I know she was hurting very much, but your post made me laugh about not wanting anyone to recognise her visiting such a place. It was a strange time. Btw, I have porridge every morning for breakfast. Good to see you back, hope you enjoyed the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Trev.
      I can imagine our mothers were the same in not wanting to be seen or in my case me being seen.

      I also eat porridge a lot and always sprinkled with a sugar replacment. When I finally did get my brunch of peanut and banana I had a severe reaction to the peanuts.

      I had a lovely rest thank you Trev and for your comments. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in Gillingham in Kent for a time and considered becoming a tutor for prisoners in Rochester jail but on visiting it found that having doors unlocked in front of me and locked again behind me gave me such a horrible
    feeling that I rejected the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PePa, what a very kind comment!
      I agree with you about the long read I too am not a fan. I become easily bored as it takes a lot to retain my interest. I was concerned about publishing this one in its entirety, therefore, I am doubly grateful for your lovely comments. Thank you so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Murphy's Law

    Peanut butter and banana sandwiches were a lunchtime staple in our house! So sorry about your peanut allergy. My granddaughter has no problem with peanuts, but can’t go near a tree nut.

    I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have someone close to you in prison, and then to have the experience of visiting that person in prison. Your description of the visitors process is pretty much the way they show it in movies/TV. Not a fun experience. I hope this story had a happy ending for Mary and her son…. meaning he learned the error of his ways and made his mom, and himself, proud.

    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I could say that Howard learned his lesson but sadly, I can’t!

      Strange how allergies strike out of the blue when a short time previously there was no problem. My son is allergic to walnuts and pecans. I’m allergic to eggs and mussels and now peanuts.
      Thank you Ginger. 🙂

      Like

  4. Great post & story, Sue, I’m not surprised that you were so intrigued! It’s true that we often don’t perceive what others maybe going through at difficult times in their lives. We try to cover ourselves, or find ways to protect our uncertainties & lack of a particular experience whilst around them. We can so easily make light of a situation that we have no understanding of. We don’t mean to cause hurt or trivialise..it’s human nature..and we’re curious beings! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so true Debbie. Though in my case, as much as I sympathised and understood my friend’s heartache, I am ashamed to say I really was thrilled and excited about this visit. On home soil there is that natural empathy and the urge to protect Mary, but this was so different and I really did have to play down the ‘pleasure’ of visiting this new world.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The stigma can seem terrible, but it is one of the tests of friendship to realise that being related or friends with someone ‘doing time’ does not tar one with the same brush. Still, I must admit that I found it hard to interact as previously with a boyhood friend who was locked up for some blatant fraud.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So very true Les. Apart from seeing him at his mother’s occasionally, I’ve had little more to do with him, and he continues to be up to no good.

      I imagine that you lost all trust in your friend, and I expect you wonder if you really ever knew him at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It certainly was a shock. Funny: I met another friend of a friend who had been in prison and she cheerfully admitted to being a crook — said she was built that way — but said that she never did anything to harm family or friends.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. A very interesting read. We used to live in Bramley, which is not that far from Armley so it was good to see the picture. We now live near Wetherby which has Wealstun prison close by and Wetherby Young Offenders prison. I’ve never actually visited a prison and would be very apprehensive if I had to, so well done you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Tony. What a small world, I too used to live in Bramley, just around the corner from the Intake High School, now knocked down to make way for an academy on Intake Lane.

      My grandma lived in Armley not far from the prison, which is why I saw so much of it when growing up, and of course passing it on the bus, number 54 I think it was!

      I visit Wetherby a lot, especially Thorpe Arch as I’m very fond of Decoporium, I love hunting around second hand shops, such a shame the other stores have closed down.
      Funnily enough my friend’s son finished his sentence at Wealstun, so much easier for her to visit. I never visited again, Milton Keynes remains my one and only prison visit.

      Thank you so much for your kind comment and thank you also for the Follow, much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

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