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“There was nothing I could do about it!”

Photo by Yuttana Koedpradit on Unsplash

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Part 29
Throughout this entire time I had been speaking to Toni on the phone. Midway through August she and Daniel had come for a visit, and we had discussed what needed to be done, however it was starting to look increasingly unlikely that either of them would be of any use, if I were being entirely honest. Daniel had arrived at the visit, sans Dimitrius, who had suddenly decided that he was too busy to come, although I suspected that the two if them had probably come to blows the night before, either that or Dimitrius was too off his face to bothered. Either way, if he couldn’t turn up to a simple visit on a Sunday afternoon, I didn’t see how he would manage to get everything done in a timely manner. I don’t know what I had been thinking - I had known full well that Dimitrius was incredibly selfish, and only ever did anything if there was a benefit to him. Clearly money was not enough incentive now that he had Daniel to support him.
Daniel on the other hand had always trivialised everything I did, and therefore continued during the visit, having decided that I just needed a couple of errands done, and that there was nothing worth wasting his time over. Toni wasn’t interested either, informing me during the visit that she was at present in interviews for another position and would be quite busy but would see what she could do in between times, which was exactly what I didn’t want, as I needed someone who could take ownership of the projects and manage them as if they were their own. I knew it would be no use going at any of it half mast, particularly the social media stuff which, once started would have to be driven. Toni seemed confident that she could manage it in amongst her other work but I was extremely dubious.
After the visits, Toni had contacted Edd, and collected most of my belongings from him. He of course had used it as an excuse to get into her ear and cry the victim, telling her how hurt he had been that I had cut him off,and that he had worked so hard to help me,and gone out of his way to offer support. This in part had been true, but in the bigger picture, he had only ever done something when it benefited him, and was very good at name-dropping and giving it large, but in fact any substance at all, and everything he had done to date had been half cocked, and slap-dash.
I had given Toni the passwords to my social media accounts and emails and she had tried to access my Facebook account, been unsuccessful, and then tried to re-set the password by sending a message to my email address and promptly locked the account. In the absence of anyone else for the meantime, I decided to give her a trial, but no sooner had she left the prison than she started suggesting that she might need an advance on her pay. The excuse was that they had moved in with her father-in-law to save money for the deposit on a house, and she’d had to foster her dog out to someone because pets were not allowed in the house they were living in, so now she spent a large proportion of her time ferrying the dog to and fro between various dog sitters across the city, which cut into the amount of time she could spend on working for me.
When she then hadn’t managed to access my twitter account, and then insisted on opening another one exclusively for the books, I agreed, but having given her specific instructions on how to set it up, when she came back with the title of @chasingdragons it was clear that she had absolutely no fucking idea of how to run a social media campaign, and therefore I was back to square one. From that moment onward there was always one excuse after the other, however, as Daniel had suggested, I thought that maybe she might be useful for the odd errands, such as retrieving my devices from the police, consolidating my personal effects into one place, and tracking down friends and contacts.
When she had been to Edd’s to collect my valuables, apparently according to her, He had been upset that I no longer wanted anything to do with him, so in a bid to heal the rift, had offered to pay back the money he had borrowed from me some months earlier. Toni had been unable to get hold of Tom who was still holding the bulk of my belongings, and my month’s grace to have clothes sent into Prison was fast running out, so I suggested to her that instead he might be able to buy me some casual clothes to be sent in. Anna, my old friend and PA had finally been contacted, and had agreed to a visit so in a flash of inspiration, I worked out that if the both of them worked together, Edd might be able to buy the stuff and Anna could bring it in. I had spoken to Anna and she was quite happy to oblige, but by the time Toni rang Edd he was already out of town so the clothes would have to wait.
As it turned out, Anna didn’t turn up to the visit, so I was left sitting like Nigel-No-Friends again on my own, the only inmate in the visit hall waiting area with no visitor again, so I became angry at her, and decided she was a waste of time also. Everything seemed to be going from bad to worse. Toni had however also rung Hasan, who it turned out was still out of work, and by now extremely keen to talk about helping so having asked the prison for a week’s extension on having my clothes handed in, and gone through the drama of filling out all the forms and handing the old ones out, I bit the bullet and rang Edd who agreed to liaise with Hasan and drive him out the following Sunday for a joint visit.
All seemed to be going according to plan, and having been let down before, I rang Edd on Sunday morning to confirm, however I walked into the Hall to find Edd sitting on his own. In true Edd fashion, not wanting to go an inch out of his way with no financial gain, he had insisted that Hasan travel from Highbury Corner to Maida Vale to meet him, when he must have had to drive almost straight past Hasan’s front door on his way to the prison, Hasan had been running late, so Edd had left without him. To say that I was pissed off was an understatement, and further evidence of his going off half cocked and not bothering to think first. He had however managed to bring my clothing swap with him, so for that I was extremely grateful, if nothing else.
Five minutes later, Hasan walked into the hall, having caught the tube halfway to Maida Vale before turning on heel and navigating the Jubilee line to Woolwich Arsenal, walking the final leg to the prison. The two of them hated each other on sight, and from then for the next four months, they continued an ongoing battle with each other for attention. I outlined the job description to Hasan, and Edd agreed to help out with whatever he could but I knew from past experience that this was just words. Edd and I had patched things up by this time on the phone, prior to the visit. He had apologised and made excuses for the events that had happened whilst I was stuck in Maidstone, which I was pretty sure were lies, but even so, the intention was there, and for the moment in the absence of any suitable assistance on the outside to date, I had no choice but to keep him onside.
Hasan seemed keen, but I had seen this phenomenon before and it didn’t do to rely on it until it had been tested. We discussed the status quo, and I explained the time line, and what I hoped to achieve by the time I was released in what was now eleven months time. By this point I had finally managed to mail the book CD out of the prison, but that, as expected had not been without problems either. I was pretty certain that if I just sent it out via normal mail, censorship would seize it, and everything would have been for nothing, so the only chance of success was to send it out by Rule 39, a process whereby mail could be sent to Lawyers and MPs in a sealed envelope which was not allowed to be read by the censors.
I rang the Solicitor, and asked whether I could send it to her, in a stamped addressed envelope that she could then post onward to Toni. She agreed, so I packed it into an envelope addressed to Toni, then placed it into another envelope together with a covering letter, thanking her for her troubles. I then needed to take it to an officer on the wing, so they could check for contraband before sealing the envelope and signing across the seal. Owing to the 5mm wide post slot I was unable to package it with bubble wrap for protection, so I had encased it in between the cardboard backs of two writing pads. I posted it in the post box and hoped for the best.
August being August, by the time the envelope reached the Solicitors office, everyone was away on holiday, so it then sat on a desk somewhere for three weeks waiting for its recipient to return, but I wasn’t too concerned about this, the main thing was that it had made it into the real world! Back to the Boys, and I had explained that I was now definitely going back to New Zealand, and I had already promised Edd that I would fly him out for a holiday whilst I was there. I had originally intended on only being in NZ for the shortest time possible - as long as it took to replace my passport and then I would be gone again. Of course I would take advantage of Her Majesty’s free flight, and use the month or so there to promote the books, and with that in mind, I wanted Hasan to concentrate on driving the social media to not only drive sales but organise book signings and publicity appearances, in both New Zealand and Australia.
I had already begun to plan our itinerary, and had worked out that if everything went according to plan, we could in all likelihood be in Sydney in time for Sleaze Ball on the first weekend of October. I also promised Hasan that if he could get things moving I would also fly him out with me, which would work out perfectly, as it would mean he could bring all my possessions with him. I had already set myself a goal of earning enough revenue from the books to upgrade our flights to at least Business class - I wasn’t going to fly 28 hours in economy, I hadn’t done it for the past twenty years and I was damned if I would do it now!
Hasan seemed energised and ready to leap in, and for the first time in ages I was starting to think that finally things were starting to go according to plan, but it was not to last! Finally the Lawyer was back from Summer Holidays, so I was straight off the mark and on the phone first thing to ensure the manuscript was sent as soon as possible, but this was also not to be. In my bid to expedite matters I had put the CD in a self addressed envelope, and placed it inside another envelope to send it to the Lawyer. Under the conditions of rule 39, an officer had been required to inspect the contents of the envelope, and he had, but as I’d sealed the inner envelope, the lawyer couldn’t be sure that he had inspected all the contents, so was unwilling to send it on.
We had a fairly heated argument over the phone, but there was no way she was going to budge, so I told her to fuck off and hung up in disgust. After I had calmed down a little I had to admit that she was right, although I was pissed off that she had agreed to it all, without warning me of this when I had asked her originally. Of course the other problem was that I couldn’t now go back to Neil and tell him the truth, because I was pretty sure that rule 39 wasn’t generally for that purpose, although, by even giving me the CD in the first place, they had known that I was going to send it out, so either they had done so knowing full well what I intended, or they had known that censorship would never have allowed it to be sent out under normal circumstances, so they were as much at fault as me.
In the end I told Neil that the CD had corrupted in the post because I hadn’t been able to wrap it sufficiently, and I think he bought it. The next step was to have the CD re-burnt and try sending it out again. Technically, Hasan was a lawyer, so I could legally send it via rule 39, directly to him if need be, but at this point I was still trying to do everything within the letter of the law, so I went back to Neil to request another copy, and he sent me directly to Roy, the head of the music course, and the guy who had burnt it in the first place. I told him the story, and he agreed to burn another one, but for the next few weeks there was always an excuse why he couldn’t get it done.
After four weeks or so I was becoming impatient. Hasan was waiting to start work on it, and although I had written him a long list of tasks to be finalised, everything hinged on getting access to the manuscript, publishing it on Amazon, and generating income. In the meantime he had managed after considerable effort to contact Tom, and arrange to collect my clothes and other belongings, and had also collected the items from Toni, who had proved a complete waste of time. She had been quite happy to take money, and had asked for an advance to pay for the deposit on her new house but had done nothing in return, so I had kicked her to the curb in my mind. I wasn’t interested in grifters - I’d put up with enough of them around me for the past two years, I certainly didn’t need them taking advantage of me whilst I was in prison and holding me over a barrel when they knew I had no other choices. I was disappointed because I had thought she was better than that, but one thing I had learnt since being in here, was that One certainly knew who one’s friends were when the chips were down!
In amongst the gear which Hassan had gathered from Tom, was a hard drive with the backup of my MacBook Pro, and since he had a MacBook of his own, he was able to access the files, and had found the manuscript from my old book which I’d written some twelve years earlier, so in the absence of the new ones, we decided that we might as well re-launch them which would at least boost the income, and give him a dummy run on how to publish on Amazon, as the two of us were flying completely blind. I was of course no use to him whatsoever because I couldn’t see the website, so I had no idea what was involved, but he had talked me through everything over the phone and was gradually gathering all the information he needed to set up the sellers account.
He had then set about editing the copy, much to my surprise as I was pretty certain it should be ready to go, having already been published some years earlier, so I couldn’t see how he could improve on what had been approved by my traditional publisher, when English was his second language, but he was adamant that the formatting alone was all over the place, and again, without the benefit of the internet for me to be able to see for myself, I had to take his word for it. Apparently the chapters were all separate and had been mixed up with those of the second book I had written, which had so far never seen the light of day, so he was having to separate the two, however I now rationalised that the both of them could be published, one after the other, so that if we played our cards right, by the time I was released from prison, we could have four books published and generating income.
This had made me incredibly optimistic, and I was excited about the next eleven months, and confident we would be in a pretty good place by September. Having Hassan around had given me a new lease on life, and I had attacked the second book with gusto, and the pages were flying onto the screen. By now it was October, and I still had not got any further with my requests to be moved to House-block two, however now, out of the blue, when I was waiting to be seen at healthcare I was accosted by a Catch 22 case manager who proceeded to discuss my sentence plan. I was livid!
Firstly, I wasn’t about to have my personal information shared amongst some twelve or so other inmates, and secondly, when I had been desperate for it all those months ago, they had ignored all requests for it, and now that I had signed my deportation order, there was absolutely no use for it whatsoever. Six months ago, it would have addressed the issues I’d had, might have prevented me getting the shit beaten out of me, and certainly could have helped with my health issues, but they had not been interested in my welfare at all, and in fact had gone out of their way to make my life miserable.
The sentence plan was supposed to address areas regarding rehabilitation, and could well have helped with my work on the books as well. It certainly would have prevented my needless transfer to Maidstone, and they would also have been made aware of the work I had done off my own bat in addressing my issues regarding my offence, but they couldn’t have given a monkey’s about any of that. It could also have helped with my enhanced application, which I was pretty sure, through talking to others, would be one of the targets they would have set for me, however now that I was going home, there was absolutely no need for one at all - that ship had sailed long ago. There was no point in setting me targets to meet in order to be released on licence. That was never going to happen anyway, and if I didn’t meet those targets, what were they going to do? Deport me?
I told this little peanut that I was not going to discuss my personal details in public, and that he had a fucking cheek expecting me to, and that actually the only benefit in writing a sentence plan at this stage in my sentence was to tick the box and ensure that they got paid by the government, so now that they had failed me I was not going to give them that satisfaction. In other words - Fuck off! The useless little prick couldn’t even sort out my Cat C transfer - another incidence of a failed system! He finally realised that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted and scurried away with his tail between his legs, but unfortunately not for long!
Finally,at midday on a Friday in mid October I managed to catch up with Roy, who had decided that the prison were not going to let me send out a CD legally, and that he had grave misgivings about re-burning it. He sympathised with my predicament, but was worried about his job, should they find out what we had done. I assured him that I didn’t want to do anything illegal and he agreed with me that there had to be a way of getting it sent out of the prison, as it was my intellectual property, so he compromised and said that if Neil took responsibility for it he would do it for me. I spoke to Neil after lunch, who by this stage just wanted to get it over with, so he agreed to talk to Roy, and get it done that afternoon.
I worked the afternoon waiting patiently for Roy to bring the CD in to me, and when by 4.45pm it hadn’t materialised, I walked into Neil’s office, and asked him to hang onto it until Monday for me if Roy delivered it later that evening. “Oh we can’t do it” he replied in a cavalier brush off “We can give you a photocopy of it instead.” I lost it! What was the purpose of a fucking photocopy? It would mean that I would then have to mail all 320 pages out at 20 pages a time because that was all that would fit through the post box slot, costing me a fortune in postage, and meaning that Hasan would have to scan each page and spend hours re-formatting it all, costing the prison money in ink and paper, and wasting their time and mine, when the exact same result could be achieved by just burning the fucking CD, and I told all this to Neil, in no uncertain terms.
I was angry with Neil because he had led me up the garden path for weeks and weeks, and then, on this day, even after he had spoken to Roy and they had decided against it, he hadn’t even had the guts to tell me face to face and had hidden himself away in his office, no doubt hoping I would just give up. Gutless prick! I was also hurt because I had thought that of all the staff here, he at least was honest, and he had proved as lily livered as the rest of them. Why couldn’t they just be up-front and tell it as it was? I stormed out in a rage, so angry that I was shaking. A few of the others asked what was wrong and I told them. Most of them had known of the troubles I’d had, but many of them had drawn inspiration from what I had achieved, and a few had even started writing because of what I’d done. I had proven that it was possible, and now I had also proved that even the best of the staff would not co-operate.
Personally, I was devastated. In the space of five minutes all my hopes and aspirations had been crushed. All my efforts to date seemed utterly futile and all the work to date had clearly been a waste of time. Why had they not just told me right from the start when I had asked that I would not be allowed to do any of these things. It would have saved me hours and hours of time and effort, and prevented endless worry, anguish, stress and pressure.
I rang Hasan to tell him the news and vented to him for a good half hour. I could tell he was disappointed, but once I had calmed down, and started to think rationally, we decided that we could still go ahead and publish the two manuscripts from the hard drive, and at least we could use those a testers - it didn’t matter so much even if we made a total pigs ear of them on Amazon, as What Goes on Tour had already achieved success on it’s first launch, and the second book, Shotguns & Vodka, had never seen the light of day, so was an unknown quantity anyway. At least we would then be ready with the others when I was finally released in eleven months time, and would be well and truly up to speed with the social media, promotion, and would have gained invaluable experience with Amazon, not to mention hopefully earning a few quid in the process. Of course I was worried that with the topic of Chasing the Dragon being so current, particularly with the high profile court cases which had been aired on the news of late to do with chem-sex, and gay date rape, someone could at any stage bring out a similar book and beat me to the jump, but there was nothing I could do about this, in fact there was nothing I could do about anything. The harder I tried to safeguard my security on my release, the more they tried to fuck me up and prevent me from succeeding, and there was nothing I could do about it!

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 29th instalment in the serialisation. Go back to read earlier instalments.

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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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