Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford was very worried. It was 9.30 pm and her Mummy hadn’t come home yet. She always arrived precisely at 8.30 pm and was never late, but tonight she was very late. Dorrit thought that something awful had happened to Mummy because she was a very responsible parent and would never go out socializing or drinking. She knew that Mummy had to work three jobs to pay their rent and bills. They lived in a Council flat in a Tory borough of London so their rent was quite expensive because the Council insisted that rents should reflect prices in the private sector. Unfortunately, unscrupulous greedy landlords, who had no sense of responsibility and didn’t care that they were turning the country back into a feudalistic society, set the prices.
In the day, Mrs Dunford worked for the minimum wage in a Coffee shop on the High Street. It was gruellingly hard work as it was a very busy shop and she was never allowed to sit down even during her break, so her legs got very tired. In the early morning and evening she would work for £5 an hour cleaning posh peoples house in the North of the Borough. She felt guilty about this because she was paid “off the books”, which meant that she did not pay Income tax or National Insurance. As a good citizen, she thought that this was wrong. She would have preferred to work for a decent wage and pay Tax contributions to the Nation to help all the poor people who can’t find jobs or are disabled and can’t work, but this was out of the question, so she made sure that every Sunday in Church, she would put one tenth of it in the collection plate, knowing that the money would eventually find its way to a good cause.
Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford loved her Mummy very much. She knew that one day, if she worked hard and always did her homework, like Mummy said, she would become a lawyer and be able to work as a Human Rights Activist, and although she would not have a huge salary, like the city bankers or politicians that go on to be advisers for unscrupulous companies and corrupt foreign governments, she knew that she would be happy and fulfilled and be able to buy her Mummy a Bungalow by the seaside and give her some money so that she would not have to work so hard.
It was almost 10pm and Dorrit was at her wits end. Her Mummy had still not come home and Jasper, her lovely old dog, was making matters worse by whining. He was desperate for a poo. Mrs Dunford would always take him for a walk when she came home, so he also knew that she was late and he was getting very upset about it. Dorrit wanted to go and knock on a neighbour’s door and ask if they had seen her Mummy, but she was nervous about doing this. She was only 13 and knew that sometimes, if you are left alone by your parents, who have to work all the hours God sends and can’t afford a child minder, the authorities will take you away and put you in care. Dorrit was very small and only looked 11 years old at the most, and even though she was very responsible and had been taking care of herself in the evenings since she was little, she thought that a nosy neighbour might inform the authorities and that she would be taken away and she would never see her Mummy again, and that made her very very sad and frightened.
She suddenly had a thought. All week, on the radio, there had been news of rioting in the streets of London. Apparently, a young innocent man had been shot by policemen in North London, and because they didn’t seem to care about the fact that they had taken an innocent person’s life, and they had left his mother, father, brothers, sisters and friends waiting outside the police station for hours and hours without giving them an explanation or saying sorry for what they had done, people had got very very angry and started to smash things up and break into shops and take things. Lots of Politicians and Posh people had been saying that it was wrong to do that because they didn’t understand that the Tory’s had created an “Everyman For Himself Society” and that people didn’t understand why, if the Posh Toffs, Tories and the Royal Family are allowed to steal things from people, it is wrong for poor people to break into shops and take what they want.
Of course, Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford knew that stealing was really really wrong, whoever was doing it, and she would never do such a thing. She felt really sad for the people that were stealing things because she knew in her heart that those people were just frightened because they had no prospects of ever having a secure job or making decent money or having secure housing or a decent education.
The innocent man’s death in North London reminded her of the time her Daddy went on a political demonstration in London and was kettled. He saw disabled people in wheelchairs, who were desperate to go to the toilet, having to pee in their trousers and frocks because they couldn’t get through the police line. This made her Daddy very angry with the riot police who wouldn’t listen to him when he was trying to negotiate a passage through the barrier for the disabled. He lost his temper and shouted at an officer and was arrested. A few hours later, he mysteriously died in Police custody. Dorrit remembered going to the funeral. Her Mummy wouldn’t let her look into the coffin and kiss him goodbye, and when she did squeeze past her Mummy and tried to kiss her daddy good bye, she could not recognize him because his face had been beaten to a bloody pulp. She missed her Daddy so much, and that feeling was made worse because her Mummy, who always comforted her when she was sad about her Daddy dying, was not here. Perhaps it was the rioting that had prevented her Mummy from coming home. This was her thought – she must go and look for her.
Earlier, she had heard noises coming from the High Street – breaking glass and shouting. Maybe there was a police barrier – the blue and white plastic tape that is so familiar in working class districts when the police arrive and cordon off an area so that they can search peoples houses for a few grams of hashish. Maybe this barrier was the reason her Mummy was late?
The streets were quiet. Jasper had just done a huge poo and Doritt NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford had meticulously cleaned it up with her poopa scooper and put it into a plastic bag. Afterwards, as her Daddy had shown her, she squirted disinfectant on to the pavement to make sure that no small child, who happened to fall down and scrape a knee, would get infected and go blind.
Dorrit walked on. Jasper waddled behind her, wagging his tail. His arthritis was playing him up a bit, but he felt very happy being outside with his best friend Dorrit. She arrived on to the High Street and was shocked to see that all the shop windows were broken and that wheelie bins had been set on fire and were still smouldering. Everyone, the firemen, policemen and people, had gone home to bed and there was a quietness about the place that Dorrit found strange and disturbing. Jasper barked at an urban fox as it ran out of a trashed KFC shop, his mouth full of uncooked chicken legs. A couple of years ago, Jasper would have chased after him, but now all he could do was bark and growl and wag his little tail.
Boxes that once contained toasters, shoes, television screens, radios and mobile phones, were strewn across the street. As she waded through the litter, kicking the boxes out of her way, Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford noticed something on the ground in front of her shimmering silver in the light from the street lamps. It was a pair of Trainers – Silver Trainers with white stripy strips along their sides and bright red laces. She read the labels sticking out from the heels of the shoes – Nike! She looked inside and read the size – size four and a half – exactly her size. How could this be? Every night for years she had prayed to Gentle Jesus that her Mummy would get a pay rise and be able to afford to buy her a decent pair of shoes instead of the ones she got from the Cancer Research shop, which never quite fitted her and always rubbed the skin off her heels. She now had what she always wanted, and for a brief moment, in her state of euphoria, she forgot about her Mummy and danced and skipped and waved the shoes above her head, unaware of the CCTV camera above the KFC shop that was filming her.
She remembered her missing mother and vigorously shook her head to calm herself down from her state of elation. She placed the shoes carefully in her poopa scooper bag and continued onward.
Through the mist of the smouldering wheelie bins she saw a figure walking towards her. It was a woman definitely – a woman with a blue headscarf and two Tesco plastic shopping bags and a badly fitting old raincoat. IT WAS HER MOTHER.
“MUMMY, MUMMY WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ?…….
I was so worried about you and I couldn’t come out and find you because I remembered what you said about the neighbours not knowing that I am left alone a lot and then Jasper was barking ‘cos he wanted a poo and I thought he would get on the neighbours nerves and then I remembered the riots and thought Blah Blah Blah Blah………………………”
“Its OK darling. I am here now and everything is fine. There was a barrier and the Police wouldn’t let me through because of the rioting – that’s all darling – stop crying now.”
Mrs Dunford didn’t want to tell Dorrit the truth. She was coming home from cleaning Mrs Hilliard-Bastardos house in the North of the Borough and was a bit late because her boss had noticed a finger print on one of the silver candlesticks that Mrs Dunford had polished. She was made to polish all six of them again, even though they were as shiny as a new pin. Because of this, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and found herself surrounded by young people smashing shop windows and shouting and screaming. There was a line of policemen at the bottom of the road, and when she tried to pass through, she was arrested on suspicion of looting and was taken to the police station.
“Please let me go – I haven’t done anything and I need to get back home because my daughter will be worried”.
Her pleading words fell on deaf ears. A very large woman constable, who’s tummy hung over her belt like a lump of unbaked bread dough, lead her into a police cell. As she walked, her huge thighs rubbed together and made an insidious hissing sound –
Shhh Shhh Shhh Shhh.
Once inside the cell, the constable told Mrs Dunford to get undressed so that she could be searched properly. Mrs Dunford was embarrassed because although her underwear was always spotlessly clean, it was very old, especially her knickers which had holes in them. She was also frightened; she remembered what had happened to her husband when he was in Police custody.
The constable carefully picked up each item of clothing with a pencil and inspected them. She found nothing.
“OK Madame – Bend over”
“Please don’t do this – I haven’t done anything. Please let me go”
“If you don’t do as I say I will blast you with my Tasar and trust me, it will hurt a lot.”
The constable smiled as she slowly pulled a pair of bright yellow Marigold rubber kitchen gloves over her chubby little hands. She took delight in tormenting her captive by smoothing out the creases of each yellow rubber finger, one by one.
After keeping Mrs Dunford in a cell for a couple of hours, they finally let her go without charging her.
The next day was one of the happiest days of Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford’s life. For the first time in years, the other girls at school were not calling her names – “NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford”
In fact, they were being quite friendly and complimentary about her brand new Nike trainers.
“Nice Trainers Dunford. Where did you get them from WINK WINK?”
She liked being called just Dunford. She would have preferred Dorrit, but Dunford was a big improvement on Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford, that’s for sure.
Lots of other big girls in her school were wearing new stuff: brand new T-shirts, skirts, trainers, and some of them even had new smart phones and flashy MP3 players.
“What a coincidence” thought Dorrit. “Gentle Jesus must have smiled on everyone just has he smiled upon me. Perhaps my prayers benefited everyone else in my school. Praise the Lord”.
That night, her Mummy tucked her tightly into bed and Jasper snuggled up next to her. She was still excited about her wonderful new trainers and all the new friends she had made at school. She felt warm and safe knowing that her Mummy was at home. As she drifted off to sleep, the full moon shone it’s moony light down upon her through the window.
The next morning Dorrit rose at 5.30, as was usual, and started to prepare breakfast for her mother. After her mother had left to do her cleaning job, she would do extra study so that she would be at the top of her class and pass her exams and then go to University and study law so that she could become a Lawyer and work for the Rights of all the poor people in the world.
As Dorrit poured milk over her mother’s porridge, she thought she could hear voices whispering outside the flat. She thought that it might be the post-man talking to a cat, but surely it was too early for him to deliver his letters?
The loudest bang Dorrit had ever heard in her life startled her so much that she dropped the milk bottle on to the floor. Milk and broken glass was everywhere. Jasper was barking and growling and her Mummy was screaming.
‘WHAT DO YOU WANT – WHO ARE YOU?”
At least 14 Police Officers, armed with automatic weapons, dressed in full riot gear, helmets, flat jacket and the rest, had burst into their flat. Dorrit was frightened and tried to run into her bedroom, but an officer grabbed her and placed her in a headlock. She was choking and thought she would pass out if the policeman didn’t let her go. Jasper’s protective instincts kicked in big time and he jumped up at the police officer and bit hard into his uniform. The officer’s colleague stepped in and hit Jasper several times on the head with a heavy truncheon, breaking his thin brittle skull.
“LEAVE HIM ALONE” shouted Dorrit. “HE’S OLD AND FRAGILE, PLEASE LEAVE HIM ALONE.”
Jasper, lying in a heap on the floor, whimpered and whined as blood and brain fluid oozed out from him on to the threadbare carpet.
The two largest of the Policemen escorted the Handcuffed little Dorrit out to a white van. Another officer, who was carrying her trainers in a see through plastic bag, followed them closely. As they drove away, her Mummy was left crying and wailing uncontrollably on the doorstep. Jasper had stopped whining and was now still and silent.
At the Police Station, Dorrit Dumford was charged with burglary, looting and rioting, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, being in charge of a dangerous weapon (i.e. a vicious dog) and possession of a class A substance that they had found in the inside pocket of her school uniform. After that, she was escorted into a cell by a very large women constable who was so fat that, as she walked, her thighs rubbed together, making an insidious hissing noise.
SHHH. Shhh. SHHH. Shhh.
The lady constable couldn’t believe her luck. For the past few days she had done nothing else but strip search young women and stick her chubby fingers inside them. Little Dorrit Dumford was too young for that, but what did it matter. No one would take any notice of her if she complained. She was just another girl from the council estate.
“Take off your clothes and stand in the corner.”
Dorrit was really embarrassed. Her underwear was always spotlessly clean but it was old, especially her knickers which had holes in them. That’s why she hated P.E. at school. When she changed into her gym kit, everyone laughed at her tattered undies. The constable didn’t even bother searching her clothing. She just got straight down to business.
Dorrit felt a sharp pain. She could feel blood trickling down her legs. She was trembling and trying not to cry. The constable had said that if she made a noise she would get a blast from her Taser, and if Dorrit complained, she would come into her cell late at night and finish her off for good.
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“NOT A WORD. NOT ONE WORD”.
“Yes” said Dorrit, remembering her dead father’s face that had been reduced to a bloody pulp by the knuckles of heartless police officers.
“Please don’t hurt me anymore.”
That night, Dorrit Dumford lay on a hard bunk in her small cell, weeping uncontrollably into her rubber pillow. She had lost something that was very special to her. Something that she was saving for the man she would fall in love with and eventually marry. She knew hardly anything about Carnal affairs apart from the few things her Mummy had told her about babies and where they came from, and things that Father Joseph had mentioned to her.
Father Joseph had explained to her that Gentle Jesus loves girls who save themselves for marriage although sometimes it was OK to be affectionate to special friends. Father Joseph said that he was her special friend. When she was younger, after Sunday school he would ask her to stay behind. He would sit her on his lap and pat her knees with his chubby hand saying that she was a very special girl and that soon they would be special special friends because he would show her things that would be a secret between them and she should tell no one, not even her Mummy.
She wished that Father Joseph was here now because he would tell the police that she was a good, special girl who would never dream of stealing things, and they would let her go.
Dorrit Dunford’s solicitor advised her to plead guilty to all six charges. If she did, the court would be grateful to her for saving them time and let her off with a light sentence. This was the first time that Dorrit had ever been in trouble with the law, so the court would probably give her an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) and make her conform to some kind of curfew for a few months. After that she could lead her life normally.
Dorrit Dunford would only plead NOT GUILTY. To do otherwise would be a lie and to tell a lie is a sin that would make God angry with her. When she said this to her solicitor he was very annoyed, but did what she had asked and entered a plea of not guilty. This meant that there would be a real trial with a jury. The court would be angry with Dorrit because this would take up more of the court’s time.
During the trial they showed a CCTV film of her dancing in the street waving a pair of trainers above her head. She was next to the High Street KFC shop with all its windows smashed and she could be seen kicking boxes out of her way. The Police gave evidence that she had resisted arrest and had assaulted an officer with a dangerous weapon i.e. a vicious dog that she had instructed to mercilessly tear into the flesh of a brave policeman who was just doing his job in the most difficult of circumstances. They also said that she was high on drugs and had used foul language, which was a complete lie because Dorrit never ever swore and didn’t know what an illegal drug looked like.
Dorrit Dunford had no one to speak for her. Father Joseph had told her mother that he would come as a character witness, but he forgot to turn up at court because he got carried away buggering two choirboys in the Crypt of St Augustin’s.
This was a dark day for Dorrit Dunford. The Judge, Sir Lawrence Bottom-Grabbit, was in an awful mood. His Fois Gras and Caviar sandwich had not arrived because a “bunch of rabble” was having a sit-in in Fortnum and Masons and they had not been able to make deliveries. He had to put up with a Cray Fish salad on brown from Prét a Manger.
“How do people eat this muck? Its disgusting”.
He instructed the jury to find her guilty on all six charges.
The Judge was getting more irritable by the minute. The Jury was taking its time making up its mind. Sir Lawrence Bottom-Grabbit had a meeting scheduled with his friends from Eton, Harrow and Oxford and Cambridge at the Lodge of The Secret Society of Free Plasterers, and because it was the last Wednesday of the month, they would be standing in a circle in the grounds, with one of their trouser legs rolled up above their knee, masturbating and ejaculating onto the earth so that their class – Posh Toffs, Conservatives and Royalty – could maintain ownership of the land they had stolen from the people. He knew his seed would touch the earth first, which meant he would not have to buy a round of cognac in the Conservative Club later that evening. He knew his seed would touch the ground first because he cheated. The rules were that, during masturbation, you were only allowed to think of the Dark Lord and how, through his eternal light, subjugation of all the working people of the world would be achieved. He however, recalled his time in the sixth form of his public school where he would play his part in character building the next generation of the ruling class by forcing first years to have anal sex with him. The mental imagery of pathetic pleading and cries of pain would make him ejaculate within seconds.
The Jury came back into the courtroom and the verdict was delivered.
“Dorrit Dunford you have been found guilty of all six charges made against you. Because of the context of your crime, I feel that you should be made an example of, so I hereby sentence you to a four year custodial. TAKE HER DOWN!”
“But sir, please have mercy, I did not do any of these things. IT JUST ISN’T FAIR – YOU MADE A MISTAKE”. Said Dorrit as she burst in to tears.
“PLEASE DON’T SEND ME AWAY”.
“HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY JUDGEMENT. ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF SEVEN WHO USES THE TERM ‘IT ISN’T FAIR’ SHOULD SERIOUSLY HAVE A REALITY CHECK. I HEREBY SENTENCE YOU TO ANOTHER TWO YEARS FOR CONTEMPT OF COURT AND WASTING THE COURTS TIME. TAKE HER DOWN.”
Mrs Dunford could not remember feeling as depressed as this since she received the news of the death of her husband. It would have been easy for her to give up, but through the power of her prayers, and drawing from a strength deep within her forged through years of hardship and endurance, she managed to carry on working. Somehow, god willing, she would find a way to free her daughter. She would work harder, get another cleaning job, work through the night, and do anything she could to make sure that Dorrit had an early release and a secure home waiting for her.
Unfortunately, Mrs Dunford lived in a Tory borough, and because it was their policy to evict families whose children had committed Anti Social Behavior crimes, she was served a notice to quit and was escorted from her home by Bailiffs. She had no family to turn to, and like so many working people who have to work all the hours god sends to make ends meet and therefore have no social life, no friends to help her. Social services said that they were unable to re-house her because, technically, she had made herself homeless.
She managed to salvage a few possessions that had not been trashed during the police raid and stow them in a Sainsbury’s shopping trolley. Determined to carry on, she turned up for work on time every day. Unfortunately, as fastidious as Mrs Dunford was about her personal hygiene, sleeping rough made it very difficult for her to maintain her high standards. Her domestic employer, Mrs Hilliard-Bastardo, who she had served faithfully for almost 12 years, dismissed her without notice or severance. She continued to work at the coffee shop, but after several complaints about her unkempt appearance she was sacked.
Dorrit Dumford was getting by. And although she missed her Mummy terribly, somehow, through her prayers and drawing on an inner strength forged through years of hardship and endurance, her determination to survive her ordeal grew day by day. The secure children’s home was full of girls who, like herself, were frightened and sad about being torn from their families, so she soon made friends. Although it was difficult, she continued to study hard. The teachers seemed indifferent to the differing educational needs of the individual students and always aimed at the lowest common denominator. Dorrit was bright and way ahead of the rest of her classmates and managed to keep up her level of development through extra study during leisure time.
She worried about her Mummy. Dorrit had noticed, when Mummy visited her, that she wasn’t looking as fresh as she usually did. Even though her clothes were old and worn out, they were always ironed to perfection and spotlessly clean, but lately she seemed a little unkempt and once Dorrit had noticed, when greeting Mummy with a big hug, that instead of her usual lemon fragrance, there was a slight hint of an odour of pee. She asked –
“Are you sure you are OK Mummy? You look so thin. Are you eating properly?”
Mrs Dunford’s reply was always the same,
“I’m fine darling. I’m just a little tired, but everything is fine”.
Mrs Dunford was not OK and she certainly was not eating properly. Too proud to beg for spare change, her diet was reduced to whatever she could find in the street. She competed with the foxes for half full KFC boxes. She would wait by the dustbins at the back of Tesco and Sainsburys for out of date bread to be thrown out, stand in a queue under the bridge at Charing Cross for a plastic cupful of soup and a sandwich. This was her life – day after day after day – a constant search for free sustenance.
Her appearance had now deteriorated to the point where she could no longer hide the fact that she was a homeless person living on the street. Her hair was matted and dishevelled. Her face and hands were grey with dirt and worst of all, her legs were wrapped in grubby bandages covering weeping ulcers that had developed because of her unhealthy diet and having to constantly walk. If she stopped and rested on a bench in a public place, the police would move her on. If she was too tired to move quickly, they would threaten her with arrest or physical violence. To them she was a non-person. Their brief was to keep the undesirables (non-people) moving so that they would eventually leave central London and not litter the tourists’ spots with their presence.
Mrs Dunford had made a very difficult decision. She would not visit Dorrit again until her circumstances had changed for the better. Dorrit was becoming increasingly upset by her Mummy’s deteriorating appearance and knew that something was amiss. Mrs Dunford had said nothing about their eviction. She thought that Dorrit had enough to cope with getting through her sentence without worrying about homelessness. She had lied to her daughter by saying that she had been offered a job, with better pay, as a domestic in an old folks home in Luton, and for the next few months, it would be difficult for her to visit as she would be travelling for many hours a day as well as working long shifts. Dorrit seamed slightly relieved by this. “At least Mummy has a better job now and will start to take care of herself”.
Twice a week, Mrs Dunford would walk to her old neighbourhood to pick up Dorrit’s letters from her old flat. A nice elderly couple had moved in there and would make sure that any mail addressed to Dunford was saved and not thrown out with the junk. She would reply as often as she could and would hand deliver letters to the Secure Children’s Home, but this was becoming more and more difficult as her mobility was reduced by arthritic pain and ulcerated sores.
The summer was almost over and the evenings were getting colder. It was raining and Mrs Dunford sat inside the Royal Festival Hall building on a soft chair near the Clore Ballroom. She knew that she would soon be asked to leave, but just for a few moments she could enjoy the warmth of the room and watch people milling around after the concert. Her Sainsbury’s shopping trolley was the big giveaway that she was a non-person. As soon as a security officer saw it she would be out on the street.
“I’m really sorry Madame. I’m just doing my job. If it was up to me you could stay here all night.”
Someone had called her Madame. That hadn’t happened for a long time. As she walked over to the Festival Pier to take shelter from the rain she felt slightly reassured that there were still polite people in the world.
“What a nice young fellow”.
She was in luck. The booking office at the pier was closed and the man who stood by the entrance gate to the ramp had gone home. She could stay there out of the rain until someone came to lock up. She listened to the jazz bands on the party boats going up and down the river, and for a few moments, lost herself in her fantasy of taking Dorrit on a boat trip to the Tate Britain and back to the Globe Theatre where they would have a special tea to celebrate her release.
The last boat of the evening was docking. It’s starboard side banged hard into the rubber tires on the pontoon at the bottom of the ramp. Five drunken young men had disembarked and were walking towards her. The boat hooted its horn and sailed onward to its final destination waking Mrs Dunford from her glorious dream – those treasured moments where everything was normal again and pain free.
“How nice they look in their dinner jackets and bow ties. They must have had a really lovely party. ” Thought Mrs Dunford.
One of the young men looked familiar to her and as they drew closer she could see that it was the youngest son of her old boss, Mrs Hilliard-Bastardo. She hoped that he would not recognize her, not that he ever paid her much attention or spoke to her, just the odd grunt when he was looking for something he had misplaced or needed a shirt ironing, but still she would feel ashamed if he knew what had become of her.
“HEWWO BAG WADY – WE’VE BEEN TO A PARTY AND ARE ALL JOWWY DWUNK.” said the youngest of the bunch – an acne faced youth waving a half full bottle of Bollinger champagne in front of her face.
“WOULD YOU CARE FOR A DWINK MRS BAG WADY – PERHAPS NOT, I MIGHT CATCH SOMETHING – TUBERCUWOSIS OR WHATEVER YOU PWEBS ARE DYING OF THESE DAYS. HA HA HA HA WHARF WHARF”
“No thank you sir, I don’t drink”.
“HOW ABOUT A SMOKE THEN” said the young Hilliard-Bastardo swaying from side to side as he lit a large Cuban cigar with an 18-carat gold lighter.
“I HEAR CIGARS ARE VERY GOOD FOR THE OLD T.B.”
“No thank you sir, I don’t smoke. Please leave me alone.”
“I THOUGHT ALL PLEBS SMOKE AND DRINK. IN FACT I READ IT IN THE EXPRESS THE OTHER DAY THAT 90% OF ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE OUT OF WORK AND CLAIM BENEFIT SPEND THOUSANDS OF POUNDS A MONTH ON TOBACCO, CHEAP LIQUOR AND HOLIDAYS IN THE COSTA DEL PLEBEIUS.“
“I don’t smoke or drink or claim benefit”.
“OF COURSE YOU DO – JUST LOOK AT YOU. YOU HAVEN’T TAKEN ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF HAVE YOU? AND NOW YOU’LL EXPECT FREE HEALTH CARE ON THE NHS, WHICH PEOPLE LIKE ME, THE TAX PAYER, WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA ……..”
“Please leave me alone, you are frightening me.”
‘IT’S LIKE DADDY SAYS – TIME FOR A CULL ME THINKS”.
As the young Hilliard-Bastardo turned sharply around to his friends, the cigar he was holding wiped across Mrs Dunford face, and although she pulled back smartly she could not avoid it being pushed into her eye. Was it intent or was it accident? Whatever it was, the resulting screaming and crying somehow escalated the situation. The young men began to chant and stamp their feet on the ground like Maori warriors –
“TIME TO CULL – TIME TO CULL – COLLIGERE – COLLIGERE!
DASHING THROUGH THE REICH, KILLING LOTS OF KIKE
OFF WITH THEIR HEADS AND PUT THEM ON A SPIKE…..”
They continued to chant and sing as they picked up Mrs Dunford by her arms and legs, dumped her in her shopping trolley and pushed it hard down the ramp.
The trolley somehow found it way on to the pontoon where it crashed into a barrier and tipped over. Mrs Dunford, blind, distraught and in agony, managed to get back on to her feet. She waved her hands in front of her to feel for any object she might bump into, unaware that she was walking towards the water.
It had been over four years since Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlifeEXCEPTforApairOFnikeTRAINERSthatSHEhadMANAGEDtoHOLDonTOforaCOUPLEofDAYS Dumford had seen or heard from her Mummy. She had prayed to Gentle Jesus every night for her Mummy to show up, but Dorrit knew in her heart that she would never see her Mother again.
Somehow, through her prayers and drawing on an inner strength forged through years of hardship and endurance, she managed to carry on. Determined to fulfill her dream of studying law at university, she had passed 7 GCSE with top grades and was now working towards her A levels. Unfortunately, she was now too old to be kept in a Secure Children’s Unit and was being transported to a Young Offenders Institute. Dorrit was frightened. She had heard stories of bullying and sexual abuse, suicide attempts and Inmates kept locked up for 20 hours, even though they are supposed to have 10 hours a day out of their cells.
She was made to share a cell with Barbara – a very large young woman who’s tummy hung over her belt like a lump of uncooked bread dough. At first Barbara was nice to her and protected her from the girls that tried to steal her food at lunchtime. But then it started – sexual advances – almost every night after lights out. Luckily, 3 nights a week Barbara was visited by Veronica – a very large Prison Officer who was so fat that when she walked, her thighs rubbed together making an insidious hissing sound.
SHHH, SHHH, SHHH, SHHH, SHHH.
Veronica was an ex-police constable who had retired early on full pension because of rumours of sexual impropriety when searching young females at her police station. After an official hearing, she was advised to retire from her duties. The prison service seemed like a good alternative.
Barbara and Veronica would romp all through the night, groaning and moaning like animals. There were nights when they tried to involve Dorrit. Most of the time she would just turn over and cover her face with her blanket and they would leave her alone, but there were other times when things got out of hand and she would receive a blow to the head or a punch in the kidneys from one of them.
Without any one to protect her, Dorrit was bullied and resorted to spending most of her time in her cell even at meal times. She lost weight and was put on a so called suicide watch, which meant that, once every couple of days, a reluctant screw would come and stare at her for a few minutes. She was diagnosed as anorexic even though she would have delighted in tucking into a plate full of sausages and beans.
She couldn’t sleep. Every night the constant wailing, screaming and crying from the other inmates, and the moaning and groaning from Barbara and Veronica made it impossible.
A year had passed. Dorrit was counting the days – another 365 to go and she would be free to leave this dreadful place. This thought and her constant prayers protected her from self-harming. Her situation had become so dire that there were times when she thought that suicide and eternity in purgatory was better than this place, but then she would pray and count the hours in the day and then the minutes and then the seconds and she would feel an inner peace.
When the voices first came they comforted her.
“Everything will be fine. Your Mummy is thinking of you and Daddy is watching over you and loves you very much.”
Then came the dark ones – the voices that told her she would rot in hell because of her sins and that there would never be any redemption – the voices that said her mother was a whore and never loved her and her father was a pimp.
Somehow, if Dorrit concentrated very hard, she could differentiate between the voices in her head and reality, but with the visions it was almost impossible. In the middle of the night she would feel a gentle hand on her shoulder, and when she turned, her father would be standing before her, wiping blood from his battered face. At other times it was her mother with a shopping trolley, her entire body covered in weeping sores, her eye sockets empty and steaming as if some one had pushed a hot poker into them.
The day Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford left the Young Offenders Institution should have been the happiest day of her life. For the last 6 months, one day had merged into another. The few hours of sleep, that would have given respite from the torment of her unjust imprisonment, was denied by horrific visitations and hateful voices constantly vying with each other for attention. The torment of reality and Dorrit’s world of illusion had fused together into ONE – BIG – HELL. Leaving the Institution was just another day in that hell.
Her social worker had found her a room in a bed and breakfast close to where she had been brought up. Compared to the Prison Guards, Mrs Closeup was kind to Dorrit although most, who hadn’t suffered the hardship and degradation of false imprisonment, would have perceived her as indifferent. She had referred Doritt to a psychiatrist who had diagnosed her with schizophrenia and had prescribed medication. The drugs had done their job and her hallucinations did become less frequent, but the side effects made Dorrit very tired, and sometimes she would have to spend all day in bed. Her condition wasn’t helped by her limited diet of Sainsburys and Tesco Sandwiches and pot noodles. The B & B did not provide breakfast (as its name would imply) and there was no kitchen. Cooking in the rooms was strictly forbidden.
As the months passed by, Dorrit learned to cope. Routine was the answer. Despite her extreme fatigue, she would rise at 7am and pray to Gentle Jesus for solace and guidance, at 9 am, walk to the shopping centre to buy her meager daily groceries, at 11, arrive at Hyde Park, having walked 3 miles to get there, and eat her breakfast/lunch. In the afternoon she would visit St Augustine’s to pray for a couple of hours before returning to her room in the B & B. Evenings were spent reading or sitting with Tina and Alannah, two young girls (former inmates) who she had become friends with at the B & B. At 10 pm, exhausted from her day’s activity, she retired to her bed. Occasionally, on Sundays after church, Dorrit would meet up with her friends and go to a free concert at the Southbank, or just sit in the Festival Hall and watch people milling around.
Once a month she visited her Psychiatrist and on a particular day, in the autumn, he suggested that she might like to attend classes at the Local Government Day Opportunities Scheme where she could take a music or drama course, or just socialize with other people with mental illness. The innately shy Dorrit was reluctant at first, but after realizing that she had nothing to lose, decided that learning to play the guitar would be a good option. Occasionally, at church, a group of young Christians, The Joyfuls, would turn up with their guitars, keyboards and drums to accompany the Hymns. Perhaps if she learned a few chords she could play in church or strum along as she sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” or “Abide with me”.
The first Tuesday Doritt attended the Community centre she was nervous. Dave and Mikey, the two teachers, were very friendly and asked her many questions about what kind of music she liked and what she wished to achieve. The other students had been attending the class for quite some time and seemed very proficient and at ease. This shook her confidence a little, but the teachers reassured her that, with a little practice, she would soon be able to cope.
Doritt’s week was now punctuated by events that she could actually describe as happy – Sundays with Tina and Alannah in the Park or at the Southbank Centre, Tuesdays with the music group, and a couple of afternoons spent in the Barbican, or Holborn library where she was learning how to use the internet to study. Even though it was difficult for her, she managed to assimilate information and avoided concentration loss by taking regular breaks. In the evening, as well as reading, she would practice the tunes she had learned in the music group on an old beat up guitar she had borrowed from Tina. Her psychiatrist was very pleased with her progress, although he did suggest that Dorrit should not overdo things and pace herself. Stress should be avoided as much as possible.
It was now summer and Dorrit had achieved a lot. She had played her first concert in the Community Centre with the Day Opportunities band, she had become computer literate, her concentration was much sharper, and her speech was clear, precise and capable of expressing lucid thought.
However, there was the occasional relapse, usually brought on by stress. Although life could have been better for Dorrit, she felt that she had a certain amount of support that helped her, but now, since the Tories came to power, things were changing and this worried her terribly. There had been talk of the Day Opportunities Group’s closing because of the cuts. Some of the other service users had been sent to a Government Assessment Centre where they were interviewed by a panel of people to assess their work capability. One of the other guitarists from the Music Group, after being interviewed, had his incapacity benefit taken from him. The panel had said that he was fit to work a full time job, even though his depression made it impossible for him to guarantee that he would be capable of turning up for work five or six days a week. The normal appearance of the mentally ill made them an easy target for the Tory’s demonisation machinery. Every other day in the fascist rags of the UK, there were stories of claimants “swinging the leg”. The country was fast becoming an “everyman for himself society” and there was little sympathy for the genuinely incapable.
Doritt, through no fault of her own, had become dependent on benefit for her daily needs – housing, clothing, food and travel. She wished that she was capable of working a full time job. She longed for her independence, but being an intelligent girl, she knew that she needed time – a period of respite where she could heal from her trauma. The loss of her dear Mummy, the last two years spent locked in a cell for 20 hours a day, and the early onset of mental illness, had taken its toll.
“It’s just a matter of time”, she kept repeating to herself,
“Then I can carry on with my life and become useful to myself and society”.
Also, the Tories were threatening to take away housing benefit from the under 25’s, forcing them to go and live with their parents. She had no parents; they had been cruelly taken away from her. With no housing benefit she would become homeless. This thought kindled a wave of worry that would start in her tummy and move upwards to her brain making her feel physically sick.
The inevitable happened. Due to the cuts, the Day Opportunities scheme folded. The music group had given Doritt the confidence that, even with her condition, she could achieve something. The friends she had made there would return to the isolation of their lonely bedsits and she would never see them again. As a consequence, Dorrit stayed in bed for a week during which time her old friends the voices and visions visited her again.
The Assessment Centres were run by, so-called, independent companies. Their agenda was to get as many people back to work as possible despite any difficulty they might have in coping with daily life due to physical or mental disability. When Dorrit was called, the panel greeted her with comments of how normal and healthy she looked. They asked questions such as why she hadn’t been seeking full time employment. At any other time, Dorrit could have answered the questions with clarity, but having spent a week in bed fighting to differentiate between illusion and reality, she was mentally exhausted and came across as being quite dim-witted. A week later she received the letter that told her that she would no longer receive incapacity benefit and should report to the Job Centre to seek full time employment. Having no experience or A levels, the jobs available to her were quite lowly and Doritt was sent to work stacking shelves in a supermarket.
For the first two weeks she managed to arrive to work on time and do the tasks that were assigned to her, but soon the voices came. They gave instructions and assured her that stacking cleaning materials and baby food on the same shelf was perfectly logical. Cans of beans should be kept in the fridge next to the bacon and sausages and Bacon Foil should be stacked next to the chickens which had to be buried in oven chips.
Dismissal was inevitable. Too confused to go back to the Job Centre or seek help, Dorrit spent the next 10 days in bed. She ignored the B&B’s manager as he knocked on the door shouting for the rent. She ignored her friends, Tina and Allanah who gently whispered encouraging words through the walls and outside her door. For a couple a days she managed to get up. She was very weak. She had not eaten for quite a few days and felt dizzy and sick. Mr Hilliard-Bastardo, the owner of the property, visited her. At first he seemed very kind to her and listened as she tried to explain why she couldn’t pay the rent. After careful consideration, he made her an offer and left.
She asked Tina and Allanah what unprotected anal sex was. They both knew why she was asking and explained to her that Hilliard-Bastardo had many B&B properties, and that he often visited young girls who were having difficulty and proposed that if they allowed him to have his particular favorite way with them he would forgo or reduce the rent.
Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford was shocked by what she had heard, but more importantly, she was frightened to her core. There was absolutely no way she would allow this man to defile her. She would rather walk the streets.
That night Dorrit was visited by a vision so beautiful that it totally engulfed her in warmth and love. Gentle Jesus stood before her dressed in blue and white. Light shone from within him as it did in the illustration of the healing of the leper that she had hung above her bed. He said that he would relieve her of all worry and pain and take her to a place where she would find peace and security, but she had to do exactly what he told her. He gave specific instructions. First, she should tear up a bed sheet into small strips and then plat them into rope. Having done so, she should stand on a chair and tie one end to the big hook that was screwed into the ceiling next to the light fitting, and wrap the other end tightly around her neck. When she had done this, she should kick the chair away. Paradise was waiting for her.
As Dorrit NEVERhadAdecentPAIRofSHOESinHERlife Dunford’s
suspended body gently swayed slowly from side to side like a strange medieval pendulum, darkness came upon her. As if from far away, she could hear someone knocking on the door and a creaking noise as it opened.
Hilliard-Bastardo entered the room and stared up at Dorrit. She was still alive. Her eyelids were twitching and her toes were bending backwards, stiffening and relaxing, stiffening and relaxing. Within minutes her body would be still and lifeless and Hilliard-Bastardo would then take what he had come for.
Author photo: Tsz Man Chan