‘Passing Time’ – Jaxon & Ophrys

Inside Stories, Episode 5 [HMP Rye Hill, November 2018]

Here, in wonderfully different ways, two members from our choir in Rye Hill articulate the experience of time passing amidst the structures of prison routine. First, in ‘7 More Days’, Jaxon describes the rhythms of a familiar monotony, which eventually return him to the restorative joy of singing. Then, in a vivid picture of Rye Hill’s natural geography, Ophrys finds a different, underlying music in surrounding birdsong. In his brief ‘Tales from Nature’, the small details he notices enable him to track larger forces of seasonal progress that eventually manage to invade the prison walls!


7 More Days

7 more days ‘til choir practice

The euphoria wanes, a new week beginning.


6 more days ‘til choir practice

Alone in my cell, there’s nothing much happening.


5 more days ‘til choir practice

TV is boring, the news is depressing.


4 more days ‘til choir practice

Trudging solemnly ‘round the wing…


3 more days ‘til choir practice

Still nothing to do – I just wanna sing.


2 more days ‘til choir practice

My folder of songs I will make sure to bring.


1 more days ‘til choir practice

What will it be? Rock, pop, or swing?


2 hours of wondrous choir practice.

Now, in my step, a spring!!! ….


7 more days ‘til choir practice


[by Jamie]


Tales from Nature

Robins are the only British bird that sings throughout the year and there is a male now singing on occasion – not continuously – to the south end of Rye Hill, in the vicinity of the visits hall and the staff canteen. The winter song – the one he is singing now – is subtly different to the feistier spring song that is more concerned with staking out territory and attracting a mate. This song is more melancholic, more liquid, more reflective and, in the absence of many other birds singing, more noticeable. There is likely to be another bird whose territory includes the northern area of Rye Hill. Where the two territories meet, the boundaries are often disputed and fights occur.

Jackdaws can also be heard at this time of year, and flocks are gathering to roost in the trees – willows or poplars – visible over the boundary wall. Recently, I’ve spotted flocks of 300 or more. These are the smallest members of the crow family in this country and adults possess a greyish-white nape to the neck and white eyes. A tame one can be taught to talk.

It’s been noticed that there is a seedling elder tree sprouted in a corner of the Hasting wing exercise yard. There are undoubtedly several more throughout the premises. It will, sadly, not survive long because of where it is growing, and will likely be removed because it is a ‘weed’ or makes the place look ‘untidy’ or because – and this is the main reason – it is chancing its existence by growing where it is; it is wild, it will grow large, it is not part of the designated planting and must be removed. Well, on their heads be it; it is long known that to hurt an elder – a tree of myth and legend – results in bad luck!

[by Ophrys]