A week after my sentencing, the Catch 22 caseworker still had not been to see me. Mark had gleaned from somewhere that they were supposed to make contact within 72 hours, but clearly this was either not the case, or else they were just blatantly disregarding it, so I decided to move things along.
Since the revelation that I was in all likelihood going to be deported unless I could do something about it, I’d discussed the situation with Tom, and he had done some research online. Evidently, I had to prove strong links to the community, but it would take quite some doing. I could provide proof of my asset base within the UK, in the form of my apartment in Soho, and I could prove that I had been living on and off in the UK since 2007, however for much of that time I had been classed as non-Dom, which meant that I had not been resident in the country for more than 90 days per year.
In 2012, when I had sold a television series to a UK network and made a considerable amount of money from it, they had ‘deemed me a resident for tax purposes’, but had never formally given me UK resident status, although of course they had been very quick to extract the 50% of my earnings for that and subsequent years — that being the going rate of taxation for income in excess of £150,000 per annum at the time. The value of the Soho apartment was in excess of £2,000,000, unencumbered, which we believed was in itself enough of a stake in the country for them to allow me to remain, however we were not sure.
Tom had suggested that I get married, and in making preliminary enquiries had advised me that Rob would be happy to oblige, but I had heard horror stories in the past from others who had entered into a marriage of convenience so I was reluctant to commit myself to this until I was sure it was the right thing to do and also that there was going to be a benefit from it. I adored Rob, but that was part of the problem. I was under no illusion that this would be solely a business transaction, but I had always had a bit of a crush on him and was worried that I would either fall in love with him, or that he would use my vulnerability to bleed me dry,and then let me down at the last moment with the UKBA when I needed him most. I knew him reasonably well, and didn’t think that this would happen, but in these situations one never really knew for sure, and I was painfully aware that I would only get one chance at this avenue with the immigration officials, and it would be impossible to go back to them with another marriage option if for some reason things didn’t work out with him.
I talked over my doubts with Tom, and we decided the best idea was to have a think about the deal and put it all down in a letter to Rob so that we were both crystal clear and under no illusion as to the terms, right from the start. I decided the safest option would be to come up with an offer whereby he would benefit the most after everything was signed sealed and delivered. It was no use throwing money at the situation right from the start, when at any point he could back out once the cash had been paid, leaving me high and dry. Again, I didn’t think he would, but then again, I hadn’t thought much about a lot of important decisions of late, and look where that had got me!
The deal I came up with in the end was that on my release he would move in with me, I would pay all the bills, and would transfer £5000 to him on our wedding day. I would also purchase a holiday house in Spain and would continue to pay our living expenses for the duration of the marriage, and once I got my permanent leave to remain, I would transfer the title of the Spanish property to him. I would also pay to have all this drawn up by a solicitor, and would at the same time safeguard both of our existing assets, so that neither of us found ourselves in a situation where we might be worse off when the deal was finally dissolved. After my resident status was confirmed I didn’t really care whether he stayed or left. I finished the letter, and was about to send it off when I realised I didn’t have his postal address, and after a couple of failed attempts to reach him on the phone, the only option I could think of was to mail it to Tom and ask him to pass it on. Phoning Tom I told him to look out for it, and settled down to wait.
After a week, I still hadn’t heard from Rob, and hadn’t been able to contact anyone by phone, so I was starting to worry. Eventually a week later I managed to reach Tom, who informed me that he had received the letter, and that in the meantime Rob had decided against going through with it. This seemed rather odd, considering he had volunteered only two weeks previously, but I figured he was clearly more fickle than I had thought. Tom then announced that he had a better idea so I booked him for a visit the following Saturday.
Once we were sitting face to face, he announced that Rob was not a safe bet, and that he had talked him out of going through with it because he was scared for my welfare.It turned out that he hadn’t passed the letter on to Rob, but had rather opened it and read it himself, something I was not overly happy about,as it had included a number of personal admissions, which I had no wish to have bandied about town. He then announced that he had decided that he would marry me, and that he would be happy with the exact same deal. I was dumbstruck. Previously I had been worried that I had no friends at all, and now I had two who wanted to marry me!
I was in no doubt though, that the motivation from Tom, as from Rob, had been purely financial, and that had there not been the promise of a sizeable sum on the table, neither would have given the deal a second glance. We chatted about the logistics for the entire hour of the visit, and I agreed to have it all put in writing with the lawyer, the following week. Tom had wanted to talk to his parents about the idea, making sure they were comfortable with it before he gave the final word, which I thought was fair enough. Although I hadn’t met them, I knew that they were close, so we agreed to talk later in the week.
I did however now have the ability to design my wedding invitations, and even have them printed at a super low cost. The Print Shop were happy to have any jobs they could get their hands on to keep the boys busy, as there was absolutely nothing to do apart from the odd poster for internal use around the prison, or the standard prison issue forms and folders used in administration, certainly nothing of any design merit. Although they couldn’t accept outside jobs, they could in fact debit money from our spends accounts for print jobs and the like.
A couple of the boys had the genius idea, in partnership with their friends who worked in the textiles section, of making and designing cool t-shirts for inmates’ use in the gym. These were then advertised through the CMS system and orders could be placed through the canteen, for delivery a couple of weeks later. As usual, this initiative no sooner got off the ground than the staff squashed it, as it involved far too much work for them. It turned out that once ordered, the t-shirts were produced, and then would have to be sent to property, to be added to the purchasers property in possession list, and then forwarded on to the inmate, however this involved a staff member walking more than 200m in one go, so was very quickly deemed far too much like hard work, and was therefore axed.
I had gone ahead and designed the wedding invitation, along with some business cards for use on my release, unaware that all of this was bubbling under the surface, and in actual fact would have been quite happy to have had them sent out on completion, as there was certainly no one on the inside which I would have wanted to invite to my wedding! We had agreed on a price of £5.00 for 1000 business cards and £7.00 for the 100 wedding invitations — a deal I was pretty sure would have been impossible from anywhere else!
A week or so had passed and I’d had no word from Tom. I had tried calling but his mobiles both went to voice-mail, and I was beginning to become a trifle worried. One of the worst parts of being in prison is that left alone with time on your hands, your mind is constantly working and I very quickly imagined the worst! Having not been in the best mental state when I first came in, recent events had done little to improve my confidence or self esteem, so whenever someone let me down, or rejected my calls, whenever I couldn’t reach someone or they failed to show up for a visit, my mind started working overtime and I imagined the worst, and so it was with Tom.
All of a sudden, I not only started to worry that he was going to drop out of the wedding situation, but also that as he had all my passwords, he was going to drain what little was left in my bank accounts. The time was fast looming when I would have to advise my immigration lawyer of my intentions in terms of a potential husband, and once the UKBA were notified there would be no turning back!
There was a foreign nationals rep on the wing, and Mark suggested it might be worth talking to him. He was a rather gruff looking Pakistani guy and I hadn’t had any interaction with him since my arrival. He seemed arrogant and rude, and as I’d said numerous times, I wasn’t here to make friends so if they weren’t the sort of fellow I would have associated with on the outside, then I certainly couldn’t be bothered to befriend them in here! Anyway, I was desperate for information so I figured it was worth a go, however I was mistaken. It turned out that he had clearly only taken on the position for the £1.56 per session he was paid, and had neither interest nor knowledge of anything to do with immigration and deportation. Once he heard that I had a New Zealand passport, his eyes glazed over — evidently I had no refugee sob-story or political asylum catastrophe, so my situation was of no consequence whatsoever.
An appointment with the UKBA prison representative was of a similar calibre. A message via CMS to the faith centre elicited a visit with a rather angry black woman who clearly had a chip on her shoulder. She immediately fired off questions regarding my health and marital status. At this point I was unwilling to furnish her with any details, the point of this meeting was for me to ask the questions, not her! She was also adamant that I had overstayed my visa prior to my arrest, and would not provide me with any information on what my options were, or what the next steps would be, so afterwards I was left completely in the dark.
Meanwhile I’d still had no word from Tom, so I was becoming more and more worried with each passing day. I had spoken to Edd, who had also tried calling him, to no avail. I was beginning to think that it was not to be, and possibly an omen that the wedding idea should be shelved before it started anyway. Meanwhile after the artwork was completed and the invitations were about to be printed, the print shop manager informed me that they could not in fact complete the order, so it seemed another avenue had been closed.
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 15th instalment in the serialisation.
We want to hear your opinion
Photography that embraces naked men
“Stop comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet…”
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?
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.
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