‘Locked down locked up’ – Ophrys

Inside Stories, Episode 15 [HMP Rye Hill, March 2020]

Some lockdown correspondence from Ophrys, sent remotely via the ’email a prisoner’ system in the absence of any face-to-face Harmony on the Hill rehearsals for the moment. Guys inside have more idea than most about the experience of self-isolation we are all going through, but for them things have only got more difficult. Despite this, Ophrys gives an upbeat account of how they’re coping and how he’s keeping busy. 

“Locked down while locked up,” I heard a man say what’s it like here? Well. People seem to have adapted well and some are clearly quite content: pick & chose their TV programmes, play Xbox or similar, listen to music, sleep, of course. What’s clear is that most are eating more, but saying that many are considerably hairier too. There’s those that are hairier & plumper & content! Not me thought. I’m averse to carrying weight. I do like food & at home cooked for myself, baked & made bread – I always have but I hate being even a little bit overweight so I do the simplest thing and eat less. I’ve got into fasting actually – it started in Lent: no food one day a week, just tea & coffee. I felt marvellous! So I continued & extended to 1½ days a week. I still make myself a trifle (I used to make bread pudding but we’re unable to use the microwaves at present). My trifle’s tasty – but I only eat a little little bit. 

We have 15 minutes a day to shower & use the CMS (Computer Messaging Service) to order our shopping & pick our menus & ½ an hour outside. My greatest love was the outdoors & the previous hour a day exercise was so inadequate but now it’s halved. When out, I walk & each 16 circuits equals a mile. I manage 20-26 before we’re called in. Some others walk – not as steadfastly as I do. Most stand in grids & shout their conversations to each other. I check the birds – I heard a blackcap on Saturday – but no house martins yet. They were here on April 19th last year & 22nd the year before. (I’ve been here 2 years as of the 17th). I’m reading a lot (I love books & literature) & have 6 months worth of books of my own. I write stories (I’ve put 10 poems into this year’s Koestler), essays & I’m drawing a sort of illustrated novel. I’m not exceptional at any of it, merely adequate but you know I am so lucky to have a major place to go in my imagination & memories. However, my hair looks like Andy Warhol’s, but grey and after having received 11,000 volts! Great, huh??