Oh, there are no words to describe it, but the memory is so rich and vivid. Even if I suffered like Simon does now, I am sure that the power of those three songs would keep the memory in my mind. A mix of awe, surprise, mirth, shock, euphoria, and…well there’s a long list. If Simon and Rob wanted you to laugh, then you would laugh. If Simon and Rob wanted you to sing along,you were belting at the top of your voice. If Simon and Rob wanted you to feel any emotion, they could fill you with it after just a few bars. They were tight and emotive, and utterly shameless with it. Today I could have stayed in that memory and smiled, it would have been a wonderful winter’s morning; if it weren’t for the postman.
After everything that had risen and fallen in Britain over the past century: vinyl records, supermarkets, Manchester UTD, and chat shows; the Royal Mail still had the monopoly in pushing crap news through your door. Every day another brown envelope found its way to my bobbly black door mat. But not today, just a single solitary letter addressed to Simon and I, postmarked HMP Belmarsh 11/02/2052 in angry red on the upper left corner. I knew which of them it was that was writing by the looping calligraphy in which the address was carefully written. I could already
feel the salt water burning behind my eyelids, before I had even opened the letter. Every time one of the children wrote, I knew it would be most prudent to sit down. So whilst opening the letter without irrational hurry, I sat.
Dear Mum and Simon,
I am hoping this letter finds you well, and I especially hope this letter finds you on a good day Simon. I don’t know how the weather has been for you, but here it’s starting to get bloody chilly. I am surprised that they still let us out in the yard considering everything that’s going on, but I suppose that this is another ploy to make the government look humane. I won’t start on that subject, I am sure when
Cameron writes he’ll have plenty to say on that subject. The only thing I will say is they are still singing the song Mum, as loud and as proud as ever. You can hear their voices over the walls every morning when we are pushed out for our ‘fresh air’. Simon you would be proud, we sing it every day with the protesters outside.
Apart from that, life ticks on as it ever does. Even Cameron has learnt now, after twenty years, just to keep his head down and not incite the screws. How many
black eyes and broken bones has that taken I wonder? He still has the zest for uprising though, maybe in another twenty years that will have been beaten out of him too. I know you worry about us, but Cameron is an amazing big brother to me, he may only be a little guy, but if someone wants to cause me grief Cameron wades in and stands by me. I am grateful for him, and as always we stand together. DOF.
I know the world outside these walls is in turmoil, although we get the usual propaganda crap from the news, some word gets to us from the outside, and from
what I can gather, heavy wheels are in motion. That is good for us, because the prison system is leaving us alone a bit more now whilst the governments gaze is drawn elsewhere. I hope that your area is secure from all the trouble. Cameron assures me the house Grace bought for you is in a good area, but I know sometimes the trouble can leak even on to safe streets.
Anyway I know I never write with good news, it is hard to think of anything amazing to tell you whenever I am allowed to write, so in keeping with that tradition I suppose I better tell you that they’ve postponed all parole hearings. In fact it seems that this postponement may be a permanent thing, I was due for mine in April this year, Cameron was due for his in May but now they have all been stopped for ‘security reasons.’ No getting out for me this year then. I read the memo, and through all the legal jargon and self-righteous mumbo jumbo I got the hint that they won’t be reinstated anytime soon.
But hey ho, what did we expect? Don’t worry too much Mum, if the whispers I hear are correct we may all be reunited sooner than you think. I can’t say too much because I am not sure that the screws aren’t reading my letters, wouldn’t surprise me. Just keep a weather-eye on the horizon Mum, and look after Simon.
I love you both.
The letter was finished with three emboldened kisses, and that was the end of my time with my son for a month. Simon was sat still staring at the television, re-runs of ‘Criminal Minds’. I am not sure he understands it anymore, but it is something familiar, from a time when letters didn’t cause the world to implode around you. I will read the letter to him later, and as always he will gaze out the window, looking at the small garden trying to remember who Henry, Cameron and Grace are. In five days’ time I will take the letter to the crematorium and leave it by Michael’s plaque. Michael would appreciate that; for all his faults, he loved Henry.
Multitudinous tears were shed on the day of Henry’s incarceration, most of them Michaels. I remember being stony silent as the ridiculous sentence was passed upon those boys. Simon was viciously angry, and he was capable of intemperate fury. It took Rob, Damian and Mark all their strength to prevent him, outside the doors of Northampton Crown Court, from ripping the head off the shoulders of three armed police. These bastards stood there smiling at him, goading him. Simon would have taken all three of them on if it wasn’t for his very calm and collected friends. I just stood looking on as Simon fought, and Michael wept.
My phone vibrated in the pocket of my highly unflattering orange cardigan. Back to the present again then! “If I run to you, will you hold me in your arms forevermore?” This ringtone was another of Simon’s favourite songs, and one I programmed my phone to play whenever Rob was trying to call me.
“Hey Toni. How is Simon this morning?”
“Good at the moment. Peaceful and vegetating in front of the box.”
“Did you hear from any of the boys today?” I left Rob’s question hanging in the air for a moment or two. Rob knew the timetable; the twelfth of every month Henry, the nineteenth Cameron, and Rob’s son Alex wrote him on the fourteenth from Winchester. Rob always rang on these days, the question always the same, the conversation never light, before we tentatively swapped condolences and memories.
“Yes, Henry wrote today, he is OK. I think Cameron is OK too, Henry spoke of him.” I spoke softly so Simon couldn’t hear me, not that it would have mattered. “You hear from Alex in a couple of days don’t you?”
“Indeed I do. When I have read it we can meet at the Crem, assuming you still leave Michael the letters.”
“Yes. You still leave Alex’s letters for Faye then?”
“I won’t stop, until I stop, or the letters stop.” Today Rob’s glass is half empty then. I looked at Simon as Rob meandered his way through some monologue about how Faye and Michael would be proud of their boys despite everything. Closing my eyes I tried to recapture that moment in the warm café forty years ago. Try as I might I couldn’t recapture those sensations that came to me so easily earlier. Maybe it was because Rob never sounded melancholy back then, and Simon was full of life. Today I wouldn’t be able to escape reality. I remembered the words of Sheryl Crow as Rob laboriously droned and slurred:“No one said it would be easy…