Daily Archives: June 7, 2009

Hope Springs?

Hope Springs?

This evening I watched a new BBC drama (?), comedy (?), comedy drama (?) called Hope Springs.  It starred Alex Kingston (posh curly haired bird) and…erm…some other people as ex-cons who rip off Kingston’s husband to the tune of several million quid, go on the run and end up in deepest Scotland.  There are a few reasons why this was less than a televisual feast, not least Alex Kingston’s dodgy cock-er-nee accent, presumably to make her more convincing as a con.  It seems these women made friends in the big house and hatched their plan in the dining room, over a batch of illicitly brewed hooch or while mopping the landing floors or something.

What a load of old bollocks.  Naturally such a premise will appeal to the Daily Mail readers out there whose expectation of offenders is such that the second they leave prison they’re at it again.  Although this is a supposedly light-hearted comedy/drama/whatever it is I find this “criminals reverting to type” malarkey to be incredibly damaging.  In fact, it plays right into the hands of said Daily Mail readers who wake up every morning mumbling “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” so unless Hope Springs make their characters ones that the public can sympathise with it will just add more fuel to that mentality.

Why, you may ask, am I so incensed by this?  Well I guess that makes this confession time.  My name is Fiona and I’m an ex-offender.  I’ve been to prison and everything.  Now, before you go closing the window in horror and rush back to the sofa congratulating yourself on your lucky escape, just take a minute to allow me to explain.  I’m not a burglar, nor a drug addict, neither am I a prostitute, how rude of you to have thought so.  Some might say I was a victim of circumstance but, in a nutshell, I was an unhappy mother of 2 in a difficult relationship, had a fight with my then boyfriend and in a moment of abject stupidity/unthinking madness, call it what you will, I grabbed the nearest thing to hand and hit him with it. Unfortunately the nearest thing was a long-bladed Sabatier knife covered in cheese from the pizza my sons had eaten for dinner and the action was more stabbing than hitting.  In his upper back. Thankfully there was no damage to his internal organs or threat to his life and the resultant cut was small in size and only needed  a few stitches. There were also 2 other small puncture wounds that didn’t need stitches. The fact that it could have been so much worse doesn’t bear thinking about.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to play down what I did, far from it.  I know I overreacted badly and did the wrong thing, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.  999 was called, and, while my sons slept upstairs 8 of Hampshire Constabulary’s finest came into my house, handcuffed me, arrested me for attempted murder and carted me off in their meat wagon.  I was wearing a pink strapless party dress, a favourite among the criminal fraternity I believe.

With one ridiculously imbecilic action my whole life turned upside down. I wasn’t allowed to my home, I had to move in with my parents and sister. I didn’t get to see my children for two weeks, two incredibly long and miserable weeks and when I did finally see them, I wasn’t allowed near their house or school. Contact agreements were made through a solicitor and, given the circumstances, I think I was actually lucky that we didn’t have to endure supervised visits. Over the six months until my trial I did get to see them more, and pick them up from school, but the initial blow of going from living with them and being a “normal” mother to being a part-time parent was very hard to take. I think I’ve blocked out a lot of what I was feeling as I tried to come to terms with what was hanging over me and trying to stay positive for the kids, while at the same time preparing them for the inevitable.  My trial has to be the single worst experience of my life, even compared to the unfortunate cycling accident I had while on holiday in France once (and the operation I had to have as a result) and a c-section under general anaesthetic (I really don’t like operations). It was beyond hideous, I felt on the verge of tears the whole time but managed to keep my composure, something I think made the jury feel unsympathetic towards me.  And they found me guilty of Section 18, wounding with intent to cause GBH (I had never been charged with attempted murder but that was what I was initially arrested for).  This was my first experience of the criminal justice system and it will certainly be my last.  My God but it was awful and I still relive it occasionally and all the feelings come rushing back.  But anyway.  Bygones.

On November 18th 2005, a mere 10 days before my 30th birthday, I found myself in the unenviable position of being carted off to prison for 3 years for wounding with intent to cause GBH.  With a stonking hangover.

So quite frankly I think this gives me licence to be annoyed about the depiction of prisons and prisoners in fictional and some non-fiction programmes.  I had mentally prepared myself for prison and was determined to only get good things out of it.  I did just that but will leave the details for a later post.  Suffice to say I was a model prisoner and worked hard to be.  So am I a stereotypical ex-offender?  Of course not.  I wasn’t a stereotypical offender either with my private education and clear diction.  But in truth there’s no such thing because all sorts of people are there for all sorts of reasons.  One thing I can state categorically is that it’s nothing like Bad Girls.  Neither did I notice any heists being organised while I was there… I will persevere with Hope Springs, if only so that I can complain to the BBC and demand immediate repayment of my licence fee for the negative publicity they’ve given people like me.

Reality bites

Reality bites

So, it’s the final of the Apprentice tonight.  Good.  This means it won’t be on TV any more and neither will its endless adverts.  Although I’m actually quite impressed at how the BBC are able to portray exactly how stupid the applicants are every week in only a few seconds.  If I were a business tycoon I don’t think I’d be hiring any of them.  In case you hadn’t been able to guess, I’m not exactly a fan of the reality TV genre.  I don’t watch The Apprentice, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Big Brother or any of those “let’s find a random off the streets to play the lead in our musical because they’re much cheaper than real actors” type things that are ALWAYS presented by Graham Norton.  I hate Graham Norton.

I suppose Big Brother started off a lot of this reality deluge.  Whoever came up with it was either a) very lazy or b) an absolute genius.   It’s like a form of torture and they just seem intent upon winding up the attention-seeking morons that sign up for it year in year out.  You know the type, they’re after fame for fame’s sake and are of the opinion that any exposure is good exposure.  Trust me, it’s not. In my life I have watched only one series of Big Brother and the only reason I did was that it was 13 weeks long and I wanted to kill some time as I had a lot of it to kill.  Once I’d started watching, though, I couldn’t not look, it was like watching a car crash.  I was permanently horrified that people would act in the way they did anywhere in society, never mind on national television.

Perhaps this just demonstrates the difference between me and the kind of people that sign up for these shows.  I would like to be known for my achievements (currently none of note) and if there are none I’m happy enough not to be known at all.  Far better that than to be recognised as “the one who likes to have very public tantrums”, “the one who’s whiter than white but liked to talk all street like the black girls tho innit” or “the one who was vilified for being fat, racist and looking like a pig only for there to be a complete u-turn when they got cancer and died and everyone started revering them in the way they did Princess Diana.”  Hmmmm, who could I mean?

One thing I really don’t understand is why they call it reality TV when there’s nothing real about it.  A particularly far-fetched episode of Diagnosis Murder is probably more realistic (and, yes, I know DM is a load of old pap but myself and some friends have something of a soft spot for it).  Things like Big Brother are contrived and painful to watch and while we all accept that real life can be pretty atrocious and throws all kinds of shit at us, how many of us would invite this willingly and publicly?  I envisage that one day they’ll go too far with their Chinese water torture style tasks and that a contestant will go nuts and either take out the others with a kitchen knife or top themselves.  Hopefully in the name of decency Channel 4 would pull the plug but what is far more likely is that ratings would rocket and they’ll stage bigger and better rampages in future series.  In fact you should read Dead Famous by Ben Elton, he seems to think that wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility…