As I was driving two prisoners to church this morning the conversation (about last night's television) got on to the X-factor. I was mildly surprised that one of the guys (a) watched it and (b) admitted to watching it. But it was his explanation for why he watched it that really struck me. I will never stop learning, in this job, I realise. As I've never been in prison, I'm constantly listening hard to improve my empathy and understanding, so that I can be better at what I do, or at least try to do. It's not the big things that teach you what it's like in prison. It's the little things. Like this guy's reason for watching the X-factor. He also watches Big Brother when it's on, and for the same reason. And it's so obvious when you think about it. Both Big Brother and the X-factor are very long-running series. He knows when he starts to watch one or other of them (the former's on in the spring/summer and the latter in the autumn/winter) that by the time the series is finished, he will be another big chunk of the way through his sentence.
Time passes so quickly for me. I've barely got used to the fact that it's 2008 and I've already had to order next year's wall planner at work and think about Christmas in the jail. I wish I had more time. I wish I could read lots more books (without my eyelids drooping), and take up knitting again. I wish there was any point in buying a newspaper - I don't because neither Him Indoors nor myself have time to read it. And yet these fellows have the opposite problem. They are "doing time" and the time that is the rest of their sentence stretches out before them depressingly. They might have time to read, and their meals made for them, and plenty of rest, but they don't have the freedom I have. Time, without freedom, is no pleasure, and the best way to deal with too much time still ahead of you, at her majesty's pleasure, is to divide it up in your mind into bite-sized chunks. Now till Christmas. Now till my parole papers start. Now till I get a single cell. And now till the X-factor winner is announced...
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