Every story has two sides, so we learn in life, even if the lesson came rather late for me. I had just retired from the sea, and on a leisurely holiday with my young daughter and my gifted fiancee, called on friends whose address I used as a maildrop when at sea.
Hardly had the front door closed, than bureaucrats ambushed. That closing door was truly symbolic. The door was closing on all I believed about the essentials of being British.
|Bathtime for the bathroom .... Andrea Leco is working hard to ensure sure that the old bathroom gets a smart new look.|
Since childhood, I knew that our form of justice was the envy of the world. I was about to learn just how unfair, how adjustable, and how very unenviable it is.
|And when the jury handed out their verdicts, the agents leaped up and down and cheered as if they attended a football match.|
I am sure that the prosecution knew I did not sail to Britain, and knew that my light-weight yacht contained no illicit cargo.
However, they had a gang - an alleged gang - in prison and needed a yachtsman to support their nonsensical modus operandi.
So they ignored what they knew, prosecuted me in a secret trial, and watched me receive a sentence greater than the Lockerbie Bomber's.
And when the jury handed out their verdicts, the agents leaped up and down and cheered as if they attended a football match. That's how much justice mattered to them, it seems.
But, two sides to every story ... On 'exercise' one day, a prisoner said that people stripped of their assets, as I had been, most definitely should apply for council housing. My property had been taken by the State. Well, they took just about everything: reputation, home, yacht, life-savings, girl friend ... I knew Kingston possessed an excellent university and so I applied to Kingston Council.
|Wash behind the ears .... The bathroom itself is getting a clean-up of the sort mothers recommend.|
I should have left prison with a handout that all exiting prisoners receive of, I think, £60. The prison officer on duty refused to hand it over. I returned to the world as an older man with scarcely more than the change in my pockets.
Future looked grim
I stayed with a friend, then boarded for a little while. When the future began to look very grim indeed, I remembered about the housing application.
I doubted any help existed there, but even so I called on the housing office. It really felt as if was experiencing a miracle in the making. My application had reached the top of the list, I learned. A wonderful assortment of properties was - more or less - on offer. I just had to choose.
Then the gentle soul showing me over the flat of my choice said, 'It's yours.' I could hardly believe my ears. The rent was low, the floor had old but substantial carpeting, and friends very quickly provided me with pieces of furniture.
I've enjoyed eight years of recovery in the flat, thanks to the kind heart of this side of British society. And when the state of the bathroom was noted, in moved the repairers and restorers. They began their work today.
I can't tell you how marvellous is it to have one's faith restored in such a pleasant and generous way. Yes, it seems no matter how cowardly one side might be, there are two sides to every story.