There are many situations that can take place during ones life that stick in the mind.
Take for example a recent episode, during an morning train ride to London. Upon entering the 1st class cabin to take an approximate 11 stop journey to London two girls, one probably in her late 20s and the other in her early 30s were both situated standing, glaring and jeering at people as they entered the cabin. Jeering is probably a strong word but over excited and hyperactive are probably more appropriate descriptions of their behaviour. The reason for their mood became evident within the proceeding minutes. Apparently, they had both just been released from prison and had declared this fact to all within an earshot. Their story was that upon leaving the prison gates with pre-paid rail tickets in hand, they had headed for the nearest off-licence and purchased cans of very strong beer to celebrate their release.
I decided to stay in the cabin as I had overheard one of them proposing to leave the train in two stops time. The theory was that the fellow passengers and I could take the noise and loudness for just a few more stops. However, a friend of mine decided to head further down the carriage. I thought that he might have wished to make a call.
I was wrong as the younger of the two left after two stops. I was sitting in a seat behind the remaining releasee. She sat down stood up and then sat down again. After a few seconds, she turned around and started a conversation with me. She eventually moved to the seat next to me after five stops. The conversation appeared to calm her but at one point she threatened to break the glass enclosure containing a tiny red hammer, suggesting at the sametime that it would be ideal for a possible future mister mina.
She was now 35 and she outlined how her life had fared so far. She had spent the last 5 years in prison on charges of what she described as 42kgs of importation; she had swallowed cocaine in a condom from Columbia but had been busted upon arrival to Gatwick. Her husband was expected to be released next month and was serving 7 years for being part of the drug bust. She described his occupation of being a profession robber that gagged but didnt hurt people during such activities. She described how she had lead a life of prostitution to fuel her drug taking and how her mother was still fraught with worry and distress. At one point, she rolled up her arms to show that her arms were now clean of the dark spots of heroin incisions. She had freed herself from drugs while on the inside.
Every five minutes she would ask how many stops remained to get to Waterloo.
The couple had between them six children. She herself was one of 11 children and one of her brother’s was a Doctor. She confessed that she had chosen the wrong path.
With a few stops remaining to the final destination she described how the prison shrinks had not helped her. She had completed some certificates in reading and writing but confessed later that she could not perform these tasks. Then she jumped to the need to buy a mobile phone and get her watch fixed. The watch had shown the same time of 10am for five years! I explained to her that she could source both a phone and battery from shops at Waterloo station.
The final stop arrived and I have to reluctantly admit that I casually and in an inconspicuously way checked if my wallet and phone were where I had placed them! I felt guilty for doubting someone but the reality of life forced me into this action.Upon exiting the train she urged me to stay with her to take her to the phone shop. Just behind my carriage my friend had got off. He stood alongside both of us. The girl grabbed onto my arm and looped herself to it. She declared, dont leave me I dont know how to get to the shop or my next train. I looked at my friend for some empathy and some moral support to help. He kindly accompanied us from the platform towards the shops on the main concourse.After a few minutes the girl said that she was dying for a visit to a toilet. We showed her where it was. She left her rather large black bag, can of beer and a newspaper to cover the latter outside while she did her business. My friend and I spoke about the need to point her in the right direction and move on.She returned within 2 minutes and appeared slightly sobered. We left her at the phone shop but clearly explained where to get her watch fixed and from where she could get her connecting train. She hugged and thanked us before we left. We both checked our wallets as we headed out of sight down the escalator.
The episode happened on in April 2005. I felt for her in many ways. Firstly, that there may be others like her that need more help when they leave prison or are expected to stay clean. Inside prison apparently they need more support. Once free and on the outside they could potentially commit crimes again unless greater support is provided. Secondly, because although she had stated that she was from a respectable family something had gone wrong in her life at an early age and that there was no one to help. Alternately, she may have been influenced by bad elements. I felt strongly that there was nothing more that anyone could do. It would now be down to her to stay away from the darkside of life. I hoped it would not be a case of being like a moth, not helping her self to stay away from a burning lamp. A sense of the need for her to accept the joy of life was missing.
When we walk past dossers, beggars or drunks its easy to become immune to their needs. We need to ask ourselves if being isolated in our approach to life we consider these folk as someone elses problem. There is a part of society that we fail to acknowledge as needing help.
There appears to be a missing part of our education curriculum that should encourage life skills and to deter negative influences and elements. Our politicians and those with money continue to lead with policies that ignore a chance to treat those in trouble rather than locking them away.