Probably a little hard to believe, but your twice-a-week correspondent was highlighting a positive and actually helpful side of Britain's appalling prison system in the previous blog here.
|Packed shelves ... We take visits to supermarket for granted, paying little attention to the stacked shelves. But don't experience one for eight years, and the view of all that variety makes you - me - unable to focus on anything else. Well, just about ... Photo by Andrey Zvyagintsev on Unsplash|
I was unfortunate enough to be introduced to its ugly, dishonest side.
This followed an ambush by a corrupt and thankfully since disbanded customs department some time after my swallowing-the-anchor solo passage. Late in the season I was sailing towards the South Coast but had to turn south in the Bay of Biscay after strong winds tore the mainsail.
My position, set by a noon sight by sextant was 39 46.5N x 26 39.7W, about 1,100 miles from the South Coast.
|How would you like to pay? ... Do what we do so often only once during eight years, and it is a deeply memorable event. Many thanks to Getty Images UK for the shot.|
And yet they still claimed that somehow I managed to smuggle ashore a considerable load of drugs.
The lies were necessary if they were to convict a number of men they claimed belonged to a drugs gang.
They had detained them for an age, yet without finding any 'supplier' to support the case.
If there's one thing certain in our awful justice system it's that once a barrister learns the knack of manipulating a jury, he can't lose.
And such was the case with the prosecutor, who I am sure knew that I couldn't possibly have been guilty.
The manipulated – utterly confused – jury succumbed. I was sentenced to 19 years and put through the dreadful Victorian prison system, from Category A to eventually Category D.
When D category came around for me, I was lucky enough to be transferred to HMP Latchmere House, as I mentioned last week.
I was allowed to find work locally and to earn a wage. Not bad considering the State had snatched my barebones and much-loved yacht, eM, and my home, possessions, the economic bedsits I had bought for a retirement income, and my life savings.
I called into an internet café in nearby very upmarket Richmond and good fellow Zsolt H took me on, to work behind the counter and also to help clients with web and computer worries.
The route to work lay through a forest, then across historic Ham Common, and along a track beside the mighty Thames. After a few hours of work, I could walk that very attractive route back to Latchmere.
I've enjoyed a lot of trekking in this life, but those journeys were the greatest and most pleasing walks I can recall.
Absolute high point
The work was good, but do let me disclose the absolute high point of my last year in that cruel system.
For the first time in those crazy eight years, I entered a shop and studied, probably with my mouth wide in awe, the amazing selection of goods on the shelves.
It was Tesco in Richmond's George Street.
At the risk of sounding quite crazy, what absolute pleasure it was to pass coins to a cashier for a Snickers bar, and to receive change and an actual receipt.
I'm currently writing about those nightmarish days, to follow on from my book, Sailing to Purgatory, the account of my 8,000-mile swallowing-the-anchor voyage which ended the many, many years of professional ocean navigation.
The story of those nightmare years won't hold back on the punches so that all can know the true picture of England's utterly disillusioning and dishonest so-called justice system.