Three months ago when I was relatively new to this unusual medical condition that I now have to manage, I thought that semi retirement or more was pretty definitely on the cards and I prepared myself for that. I certainly thought that by now I would be doing much less than what I am. Although I am still sometimes disappointed to feel so tired and below par and have to remind myself that I am not as well as once I was, I’m still doing all right and I appear to be getting better. By Friday and Saturday this week I was pretty done in but I’d had a busy few days and a good time and squeezed in much more than I would ever have managed a few weeks ago.
Monday was relatively quiet but on Tuesday I was off to Gartree and Stocken prisons. For these two I have to leave at around two o’clock in the afternoon and I get back soon after nine at night. Both are enjoyable groups and the drive, especially at this time of the year as we begin to enjoy the long, light evenings, is a pleasant one.
On Wednesday morning I was interviewed on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire local radio about the Coventry woman who was arrested and deported from Sri Lanka for having a tattoo of the Buddha on her shoulder. Of course i said it was a bit over the top of the Sri Lankans but it gave me an opportunity to speak about respect and what I call the growing culture of disrespect, and our concern at the way the Image of the Buddha and the word Buddha itself are so often misused and abused.
Wednesday afternoon and evening again involved me with two prisons but with the first there was a difference. Some prisoners manage to make something of their sentence and seize the opportunities to address their offending behaviour and improve themselves, not only by practising Buddhism and meditation, but with education. Some, even manage a degree with the Open University. And that, I may say, is a considerable achievement because prisons are generally far from being ideal places in which to study. And for some the path to that degree has had to begin with fairly basic studies that most of us have taken for granted but which they for some reason have missed out on. So, on Wednesday at the invitation of a chap I’ve been seeing for a few years now I went to Grendon Prison to attend his Graduation ceremony. He had gained a BSc in something to do with Pure Maths. I can’t remember the details because it was all a bit beyond me. It was marvellous to see him in his gown and to hear his short speech, which carried a powerful message, because he spoke about how in another prison, some years ago, he had been inspired by someone who had talked about lifelong learning. Academic learning was what was meant but the idea that you should keep on learning resonates with me because I go on all the time about the need to keep on growing and never to stop, with the understanding that everything is teaching us.
On Thursday I was off again to another two prisons. Well, officially they’re now one, HMP Isle of Wight, but actually they’re two separate sites, Parkhurst and Albany, and they were both amongst the first prisons I ever visited back in the summer of 1977. People think it’s a long way to go and it is a long day but I always say it’s a pleasant drive and then a little cruise on the Solent. The weather was good and I had an enjoyable time with both groups.
On the way back we called at my parents’ grave. My father died fourteen years ago and my mother seven years ago and on Thursday my mother would have been a hundred, while my father’s hundredth birthday was a week before on Thursday the 17th. As my mother used to say, ‘I’m not a cemetery person.’ But I thought that for their hundredth anniversary I ought to take some flowers and tidy up the grave a bit, so that’s what I did.
And that was the week that was!