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“A plan was hatched…”

Photo by Artur Matosyan on Unsplash

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Part 13
Five years! I couldn’t believe it! My mouth suddenly went dry as the full impact of my sentence sunk in. Surely there must be some mistake! Clearly my lawyer and barrister had no idea what they’d been talking about, and the fat policeman had obviously been lying!

As she led me back down the corridor to the holding cells, the nice young court attendant asked me how it had gone, and was as horrified as me when I told her the result. My mind was spinning. Maybe I had misheard the judge? Maybe the sentence he had passed hadn’t taken into account the discount for pleading guilty, and the 60% off for assisting the police? Maybe I would wake up any second, and realise that someone had just played a really sick joke on me!

As much as I played these scenarios out in my head, I knew deep down that no such eventuality would ensue — the Judge had been very clear in his summing up arguments, and his comments were now ringing in my ears. “I have read all the notes on this case and I have taken into consideration all the submissions on behalf of the defendant.” He had announced. “Whilst I appreciate the character references offered from members of the community, albeit, celebrated members at that, these only go to prove that you knew what you were doing, but you did it anyway. Although all of your references have attested that you are a fine, upstanding member of society, this only serves to show that you should have known better than to commit these crimes. It is therefore important to this court that we set you as an example to others that you are not able to flaunt the law and walk away with a slap on the wrist. I therefore sentence you to the following…”

He had then proceeded to list each charge separately, passing judgement on each one individually, a total of nine counts — four years each for the first five charges, relating to my first arrest, and five years each for the remaining four charges accrued from the final raid. All to be served concurrently, meaning a total of five years for all of them, of which I would serve half if I were lucky, with the remainder on licence.

Alistair joined me in the meeting room after I had been brought back to the holding cells and we discussed my options. The prosecution had mentioned deportation, something that had been completely new to me. I had been aware of the fact that they were going to try to deport me for overstaying my visa whilst on bail, but I’d had a pretty good idea that I would get off that one — it was such a ludicrous situation that I couldn’t understand any judge upholding it, but now they were talking about automatic removal, because my sentence was over 12 months.

This of course opened up a whole new can of worms and had come completely out of left field. Alistair had no idea about the legality of this, and advised me to engage an immigration lawyer to apprise me of my options. He then informed me that I still had my Proceeds of Crime hearing to fight, and that now the Crown Prosecution would be going after every asset I owned, claiming that it had all been obtained by criminal activity. At least I had extensive proof that it hadn’t, having declared everything over the past few years and paid tax on it, so I knew they couldn’t take everything, but apparently they would pluck a figure out of the air according to how much cash they thought they could extract, and the onus was on me to prove its legitimacy, only serving to prove that the basic premise of justice in this country was now completely flawed — One was in fact guilty until proven innocent, and not the other way around as we had all been brought up to believe.

Some hours later, back in my cell, I related the events of the day to Mark, too embarrassed to admit the full extent of the sentence, given that I had rather cockily already related to him some days before, the advice from counsel that I would get away with a suspended sentence, or at worst a few extra months, I silently re-worked all the calculations in my head of how long I would stay here. With five years, I should be released after two and a half, or 30 months, less the two months already served, and the two months I had spent on tag — a total of 26 months — two years and two months! 113 weeks! 791 days! No matter how you looked at it, it was a long time to waste, languishing in prison.

I felt sick as a wave of depression and utter futility washed over me. I lay on my bunk staring at the ceiling, wondering how on earth I was ever going to make it through the next 791 days until my release. It had been a long day. I’d been on the go since 6 am, the stress and worry had taken its toll, and very soon I fell into an exhausted but troubled sleep.

Next morning I lay mulling everything over in my mind. With Mark having been sentenced some two months earlier than me, I’d seen first hand what the procedure was from here on in. He had been through all this categorisation stuff with Catch 22,and sentence plans, This may involve anger management, or in my case, drugs issues,and would also set out goals which should be achieved whilst in custody, such as working towards enhanced status, something which we had already started, and were so far pretty confident of achieving. I had figured I would be proactive in having all these milestones well on the way before the OMU made contact, in the hope that everything I wanted could be facilitated quicker, once they finally got around to assessing me. I had already completed my in-cell packs on substance abuse, although I had declined the two week course for which they had enrolled me, as during the information session on it I had very quickly realised that I had far more knowledge of drugs, their properties and pitfalls, than the teachers taking the course, so I hoped and prayed I would not be made to revisit it further down the track.

Meanwhile I was back at work. I had completed the level two course in Imaging software, and had been assigned a job in the print shop, working in the design area, but as there was no work there, I was only scheduled for two mornings a week. The actual facilities were amazing — it had the ability to print in full colour, in metallic or foil, on absolutely anything imaginable, from paper and cardboard to fabric, nylon, even aluminium plate, the possibilities were endless, but as there was not much call for this type of work within the prison system, most mornings we were standing around chatting and drinking coffee and I was bored.

As anyone with a history of depression, anxiety or mental ill-health will tell you, it’s important to keep busy, and the worst situation possible is to have nothing to do all day, leaving vast chasms of time to contemplate the tragedy of one’s circumstances, so when Louisa, the imaging software tutor and newly appointed Acting Deputy Head of Education asked me if I would like to take on the role of Peer Mentor for her class every afternoon, I jumped at the chance.

I’d had in the back of my mind that I would like to write a book, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to have her on side to advise me on what was and wasn’t possible within the prison system. I was worried that I would go to all the effort of writing it and then find that I could not get access to it on the outside. I had already worked out that it was almost impossible to send anything out whilst incarcerated, but I figured it was best to get it from the horse’s mouth! “No Problem!” She said, “When you’ve got it finished we can burn it to CD.” she answered when I broached the subject. “Cool, so can I also have access to Photoshop so I can design my book covers in my sparetime?” I continued,aware that I was pushing my luck. “Of course!” was the reply “And if you let me know what photos or images you need, I can source them on the Internet for you and bring them in on a memory stick.” Perfect! Amazing! I couldn’t believe my luck! Finally someone cooperative, with a positive attitude, whose immediate reaction was not an automatic no!

I enjoyed teaching anyway, so the work as Peer Mentor would be fun and rather social as well, and at the same time I could get my book covers completed and sent out, and in my spare time in my cell I could write my memoirs. Louisa was however, bloody irritating! She was one of those geeky people who thought they were funny — incessantly cracking jokes which no one laughed at. She was overweight to the point of obesity, and couldn’t walk more than a few paces without panting from lack of breath. She constantly stunk of stale sweat, which assaulted your nostrils when she frequently plonked herself down on a chair beside you, leaning across you to correct your work, but I figured it was a small price to pay for getting what I wanted. She was a terrible teacher too, and loved to show off to the class what a clever designer she was, but when asked a question, would take over a student’s project, completing it herself without any explanation of how she had got to the final product. During exams, she would regularly stand behind the students, commenting on their actions and basically giving them the answers or telling them what to change in order to ensure that everyone passed.

Ironically, most of the students in this class were there because they wanted to learn the programme, and not just for the £1.56 we were paid for attendance, as in most education units, but her teaching methods made this very difficult. I figured that as she was frequently absent from class, now suddenly extremely busy with administration tasks to do with her recent promotion, and desperate need to show the powers-that-be how efficient she was, to the detriment of her classes, I would be able to make her look good, assisting in securing the permanent Deputy Head position for her, while at the same time passing on the skills needed to ensure that everyone from the class graduated, which would further entrench me in her indebtedness.

A plan was hatched. Suddenly my situation didn’t seem as grim as it had done. I figured that if I could use the time in prison to complete my book, whilst keeping myself as busy as possible, the time would fly, and I would have something tangible at the end of my sentence to justify the time I had spent here instead of the total waste it had at first seemed.

Double Bubble
Double Bubble is the third book in The Chemsex Trilogy — a series of books written by Cameron Yorke about his experience with Chemsex, addiction, and imprisonment in the UK.

We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male. This is the 13th instalment in the serialisation.

The Chemsex Trilogy

Book 1: Chasing the Dragon
Book 2: Candy Flipping
Book 3: Double Bubble

Visit Cameron Yorke’s website

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Cameron Yorke. Photo by Andres Payo (image supplied)
Cameron Yorke. Photo by Andres Payo (image supplied)

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Arts & Culture

Photography that embraces naked men

“Stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet…”

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Arrested Movement by Anthony Patrick Manieri (image supplied)
Arrested Movement by Anthony Patrick Manieri (image supplied)

I caught up with photographer Anthony Patrick Manieri to talk about his ongoing series of work known as Arrested Movement.

Why do you think this project has captured the imagination of gay men around the world?

Because we’re all the same really, except we don’t all look alike. We usually just see what society deems to be the ‘perfect’ body types, flashed across TV and social media all the time.

This project encompasses a wide variety of men that are photographed equally and beautifully. I feel that the variety of men and body shapes being highlighted are recognisable to most men. We need to see diversity represented more in the media. That, and also the idea of male body positivity is refreshing in a world where the media seems to only push female body positivity. In this day and age, where depression and anxiety are extremely commonplace, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone in the struggle.

Why are men so keen to be photographed by you for this project?

Because we all want to fit in. We all want to be accepted, and here is a photographic series celebrating all men, all body types, and showcasing them artistically. I think men look at this and can relate and identify with some of the participating models, because they see themselves in the photos.

Most of the men you’ve photographed for this project appear to be first-time models, most likely being professionally photographed naked for the first time. Was that experience confronting for many of your models?

From what I’ve seen, and from what some of my assistants mentioned to me, for most of the men that participate there’s a definite shift in their overall energy levels from when they first arrive at the studio to when they’re done. One assistant asked me — “What is going on in the studio? Because when they arrive they’re quite scared, some even shake with nerves, but when they leave they glow and have this sense of empowerment.”

I make sure that the studio is private and a safe space for them to try and feel as comfortable as possible. I brief them, and coach them with suggestions of possible body movement. I also stop periodically to show the gentlemen their progression so far in the shoot.

Most men, after seeing themselves on the screen during the shoot, are delightfully impressed by how they look. They look at themselves in a positive light artistically, and not what they usually expect to see. I talk to them about how their hands are positioned, their facial expressions, pointing of their feet, and the overall lines of their bodies in the frame.

When you’re not quite happy with your body, putting yourself out there is brave. I watch some men almost lose themselves in the moment and in the music. I’m grateful that I get to witness such a personal moment of self-evolution. For others, they’re determined to take an amazing photo, so they push themselves so that their final image is strong and unique.

Should everyone tackle a naked photo shoot at some point in their lives?

I don’t know if that’s the answer. What people should do is take time to appreciate and accept themselves, to put themselves first. Fill their own cups before extinguishing their energy with others. Uniqueness is special. It’s okay to look different on the outside, because we’re all the same on the inside.

How is the project continuing to evolve?

I’m currently working on the design of the book — I’ll be releasing a Kickstarter page this Fall. I’m also looking at gallery spaces to have the first of many shows.

Are you still actively shooting guys for this project?

I’m still actively photographing men. If it were up to me, I’d be in a different city every weekend photographing.

Since I’m funding this myself, I need to take breaks between cities. Travelling, studio costs, and hotels add up quickly. There are a few cities in the US, Canada, and Mexico that I’d like to do before heading back to Europe. Beyond that, there’s talk of Australia, and possibly some cities in South America for 2019.

How can we help each other feel better about our bodies?

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I think we really need to be kind to ourselves, and each other — daily. Judgement and self-judgement is such a human flaw, it’s like a vibrational plague. We should be detaching ourselves from our smart-phones and social media regularly. Yoga and meditation are great ways to feel centred and grounded, to be in tune with our higher self. Eating right always makes for a happier body and mind. We need to encourage and validate each other to be the best we can be.

What do the images that you’ve captured through this project tell us about gay men and their relationship with their bodies?

Gay culture is meant to be inclusive, and we celebrate that inclusiveness. Though within the gay community, there’s such a divide between men. We’re labelled and put in categories, therefore creating almost a hierarchy of what’s acceptable.

Body-image and self-esteem start in your own mind, not on Instagram. We need to literally stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet. We need to make mental health a priority in the gay community.

I hope that when people see this project, they know their worth, they know that they’re beautiful, and that it’s okay to be different.

Meet the participants

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