Sunday, March 25, 2007

Even in the worst of nightmares, the dreamer stirs and wakes, and soon begins to forget the horror which terrified through the long hours of darkness.

With six months to go, administrative noises are stirring this wretch and at least suggesting that an end might be nigh, that he might wake from the almost unbelievably bad dream and go out there, free from the nightmare's grip.

Well, no, not quite free. Parole fills the waking first and it is accompanied by strict rules. Yet it is out there – away from the iron bars and stone walls of the very long night of my peripeteia. Today then brings the time where parole becomes a possibility, and all sorts of people enter my cramped arena to assess the wretch's suitability.

Is he ready for such responsibility? Will society feel safe with him on the loose? Might it not be better to keep him caged, for everybody's sake if not his?

The interrogators each have messages like a nudge and a wink only partly hidden between the lines of questions. Parole's not a right. It is a privilege. You might leave on September 1, on the anniversary, or some days later. The date's not set in stone! Remember, it's a privilege.

What they don't say is that soon it will be a right, for new laws affecting burgeoning numbers more recently convicted enter the locked-away world with a different ending in the offing. They must be released at the half way mark.

It is a very strange notion for someone who has been inside a long time. Whether these new people behave or not, whether they have acted positively – pursued education and the few chances to work - or negatively, rioted as often as possible, and learned nothing except their power to make everyone else's misery even deeper, they go home automatically half-way.

This is what goes unstated as I am passed from one expert to another. Outside my window, through the bars, a blackbird is magnificent with glorious song, the willows pull on a sudden new greenness, and the sun clambers across the Line.

When different songs come from the trees and the shiny young shoots are yellowing and the sun is far south, it will be my time. No, it should be my time.

Eight years ago a squad of men ran circling round Pat and Gerry's home. Cars loaded with arms and ill-intentions pinned my elderly Toyota to the driveway. As they bagged the change from my pockets, I asked, 'How will I get back from the questioning if you take my money?'

I kissed Emily and Konstanze farewell for a few hours which has grown to ninety months, so far.

I was rushed to London where I answered what questions I could honestly which while failing at first to prove my guilt, instead proved my gullibility. It was many months before I realised that they needed those answers to twist about for 'evidence'.

Thirty seasons should surely have exhausted the nightmare, yet I don't see optimism in the faces of my polite interrogators.

'Parole is hardly a straight forward matter. I may well recommend – we all may – parole. But it’s not to say that the parole board will listen.'

Of course, the parole board will soon be no more because of the new law that makes half-way full time. And in that thought there lies a strange sort of analepsis. For our judge, who went to such pains to explain to the jury the lack of evidence concerning me, was also retiring. He might have pointed to the jury's ill judgement, but instead grasped a triumph for his retirement – burying collectively lifetimes of human life into Britain's insatiable dungeons in his one last conspiracy trial.

And will the retiring parole board act with any more humanity when their colleagues, like the judges, rate justice by shows of ultra-conservatism?

The pleasant lady interviewing me on Friday said, 'It's difficult to guess whether you will get parole. You've served such a long time; that's a problem. And while all the good boxes are ticked – I must say your record is astonishing - the parole board might feel this is not yet the time for you to go home.'

I suppose my disappointment was also marked by a certain bafflement. She leaned forward like a mother who wants to encourage a confused child. 'Look, you get a second chance in 12 months. And, anyway, what you need to keep in mind is that if it doesn't work out, you'll be going home in May 2010. Yes, well, thinking about it, it does seem some way off just now. But you'll see how time flies.'