LIFE STORY OF TERRY DONALDSON CHAPTER 10
In the last month or so leading up to the Great day of My Release I started my Countdown. This is when you say to yourself how many days you have got left to go. Every now and again one of my mated from over the road, Cell 12, would call for me, and ask me ‘How many?’
This might sound like a boring thing to do but it is a form of game which provides endless diversion, as there is a different number involved with each day that comes along.
I got to meet some other interesting people in 13, though, including Blow, who told me about his speedboat and sailing boat runs round the Caribbean, especially around St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mustique, and the exotic-sounding islands around there were his manor, and he could tell in detail about the runs and the people. He told me about the time he escaped from Glendairy, by using Psalm 29 in order to cast a magic spell on the screws on duty. It worked, too, and he made his getaway over the wall using a blanket. From there, he was picked up by a friend and made his way out of the country.
I remembered seeing the remains of a magic spell which one of the boys on H&I had made, using chalk, drawing a rough circle and a start shape on the floor of his cell. It was dark and dank down there, and in the dim glow of the electric bulb down there I could only just make it out .
By now I had people left and right wanting to give me their addresses and phone numbers, which I not only wrote down, but inscribed in my head, too. I had a sense that the administration might try to take away my address book, even though it was disguised in my New Testament. I used a code, with a biro underlying certain letters and numbers in order to disguise my list of contacts. It worked, too; I was successful in getting my list out through the search on the way out.
It might have been the day before my release that Fisher, the former east german border guard that had been cught with the Colombian boatmen, came up and delivered a couple of letters to me.
‘Mail, fellas!’ I exclaimed ecstatically, happy not just for myself but also over the fact that now that the mail was resuming, this meant good news all round. Fisher also had a card for one of the local fellas.
I opened it up- it had already been opened by the censor – and looked at it; it was a green dragon- a picture of Earth Dragon, by Peter Pracownik. Years before I had actually owned the original of this picture – the dragon had always been one of my ‘power animals’, and this was a good omen of positive times to come.
It was traumatic come the day of my release. One of the screws came up for me and called out my name. I was trembling with nervousness as I donned what was left of my prison uniform and made a round, giving a bang to each of the fellas there. I didn’t miss anyone out. As far as I was concerned, each man there was a vital part of my magic circle, and I needed to feel the circuit complete before I stepped out into the outside world. They all wished me well, and then I was being taken through the door. Guys left and right were yelling out their farewells and best wishes, on both sides of the narrow corridor, as I was led down to the gate at the end.
It swung open, and Mr. Shorey handcuffed me, then thought better of it and released me.
Walking down together, three years done since I had come into this place; I was now going back out again into society.
What would the outside world hold for me, I wondered?
Down at the office area I was allowed to sit down, while one of the screws went and got my mail. In all the four months since the fire none of us had been allowed any mail, now I received back all the letters and magazines that had accumulated for me in that time.
I thought about the dragon card. When I had shown it around the cell, a number of very appreciative eyes I had seen cast upon it. Especially from one of my old cellmates Kurt Moore, who I ‘knew’ wanted the card as a design for a future tattoo. I thought about it for a minute, and then sent it back upstairs to him, as a final parting gift from me. In a way it belonged in the cell; a symbol of something, perhaps hope, to those lads there that I was leaving behind.
I was then presented with a large wad of local money; some 1,160 local dollars! This, it transpired, was the sum of all my wages over the preceding three years. Sometimes the admin would make deductions, especially if you ordered extra cigarettes or Christmas cards for your family at that time. You could also occasionally order hand cream, extra soaps, and so on, out of your earnings. I had rarely bothered, so, it seemed, I now had a nice little nest egg to take away with me.
I respected the fact that the admin was honouring its commitment, as I had heard the rumour that because of the fire no-one was going to be getting their wages on their release. It turned out to be a false rumour.
I was then given some of the clothes that Greita from the Embassy had bought for me and left at the desk. It was nice to step into my own tracksuit bottoms and T shirt, along with my own sandals.
I felt like a million dollars.
I was then led out along the track, and the lads were giving me the best send-off anyone has ever got from that place, as far as I could see. There were hundreds of fellas shouting from just about every window as I was led along. It was a truly emotional moment.
Eddie, too, called out from his Block as I passed by. I shouted to him that I would keep in touch and also that I would contact his daughter for him, which I subsequently did.
Up at the front gate I was formally released, and handed over to the Immigration officials. The senior of these two, a man called Jordan, was the one that effected the exit of literally every foreigner in Barbados. He remembered Lavender and Howard, and how these had wanted to shave their heads in a skinhead style before even getting on the plane. He knew Kenneth the Nigerian, who he had had to take back with him to Nigeria as part of his duty. Kenneth received an additional prison sentence there, too, as punishment for ‘bringing his country into shame abroad’ when he had been nicked in Barbados.
I got into the back of their car, and as we spun along the country roads of Barbados it made my head spin to be suddenly traveling so fast.
At one point we stopped and Jordan indicated for me to get out, if I wanted, and buy some bread.
We all three of us went into a bread shop and I looked up and down at what seemed to be a massive collection of different breads, sweetbreads, pies, pasties and patties.
Most of what they had in that shop I had never even heard of, although a few things I had actually eaten since becoming a Glendairy resident.
I bought a couple of things and we got back in the car. The next thing I knew we were at Grantly Adams Airport, and I was amazed at how much it had changed in the three years since I had last seen it. It had undergone a major refurbishment in that time and was now and international-class airport, with its mall of shops, duty-frees, clothes shops, and so on, extending all the way down.
I was taken into the Immigration area, and had my photograph taken and was presented with a signed letter from the Immigration Minister Joseph Attherley, stating that I was banned from Barbados. Jordan said that after five years I could appeal this, but he might have saved his breath; he could see in my eyes that there was no way I was coming back to Barbados.
Whilst waiting for my plane I met one fella there- a Nigerian- who had been waiting there for about two months, without any food or money, stuck between places for which he had no visas. How long he was doomed to wait there I had no idea; presumably until he could meet someone there that might be prepared to lend him some airfare. Either that or, eventually, the Barbadian government would eventually relent and pay for him to be flown out of there. He might still be there, for all I know.
Jordan let me buy a few things from the chemist- a toothbrush, toothpaste, some cotton buds, and so on.
Then, I was led onto the plane, and my passport was given to the air stewardess, to be handed back to me only when the plane had landed at Gatwick.
It felt amazing to be in a plane again; so much luxury, so beautiful the women, everything very exotic. All my senses seemed truly alive and I was appreciating everything.
With a tremendous burst of speed our plane took into the air, and within moments we were looking down over a green island, basking in the sun, surrounded by a massive ocean of bright blue, getting smaller and more distant by the minute.
I settled down to listen to the music on the headphone when, after a short while, it seemed that food was being served. When it came round, it was delicious- we even had a choice of what we wanted! Then, I was asked if I would like a glass of wine. Up till that moment I had not known in truth what my answer was going to be. I intended to stay away from anything intoxicating, to be frank, including drink, but to refuse this celebratory glass of wine seemed tantamount to sacrilege.
The plane headed off into the darkening sky, with the sunset behind us. The chance to see a film was now presenting itself, and I switched on to the appropriate channel. It was some really raunchy thriller called ‘Sin City’ and all the characters in it seemed to be hookers, cops or robbers. It dazzled my senses, so much that I had to run to the loo several times during the trip, one of the airline hostesses asked if there was anything the matter; I didn’t really want to go into the details!
As the plane came in towards Gatwick it made my heart jump to see the gently-rolling fields of England appear beneath us. So many different shades of green, light and dark. Everything seemed quite concentrated, too, with an abundance of houses and cars.
As I stepped off the plane onto British soil I felt a sense of relief at having successfully completed a long and hazardous journey. I felt like Sinbad the Sailor, or Odysseus; someone out of mythology or a legend that has returned, almost, as it were, from the dead, with a real tale to tell.
At first I had to find somewhere to stay. I looked up my old dad, but he had moved, probably fearing for his life in anticipation of my return. I’ve no doubt my sister was able to put her scare into him, to get him moved out and more under her own control.
I subsequently saw him shuffling around Wood Green High Road. He looked fucked. He barely recognized me; only when I told him who I was did his face come back to normal. I gave him back the 160 pounds I had previously nicked off him, this being two week’s pension. He had big sores around his mouth, but said to me that he had a nurse that came in to see him every day. He was talking like a scared man. He did not want me to know where he lived. It could have been that he had a breakdown in that time, I don’t know. I just left him to it.
I went and stayed with an old friend, a woman called Angela, who I had known in the pagan tradition and at various Halloween fests in London. She gave me some floor space, and it was from there that I was able to start getting my life back together again.