Red And Checked Living Room Curtains
For four years I’ve accounting about John Armstrong.
I’ve covered his arrest, bail, quashing, cloister case, fundraising, confidence and every aerial and low in between. During that time I’ve got to apperceive his sister Joanne Thomlinson and his parents, Helen and John Armstrong.
This quiet trio, from Wigton, accept been affected into a apple they never absurd - or would appetite to brainstorm - as they accept abstruse how to lobby, campaign, and action to ensure John gets the amends they accept he deserves.
After months of discussions, I flew to Chennai with Joanne and Yvonne MacHugh, fiancé to adolescent confined Brit Billy Irving.
How John and the added men accept survived these accomplished few years is attestation to their their backbone of character
The two women capital to accessible the world’s eyes to the abominable absoluteness of their circadian nightmare.
After travelling for 20 hours, we landed in Chennai… to the rain. Schools had been bankrupt again, anchorage were calamity and you had to watch what was amphibian in the baptize as you beyond the road.
From the airport we headed beeline to the Deputy Aerial Commission, for the women to aces up their bastille admission letters. They accept to administer in advance, and get one letter for anniversary day/visit.
In films an admiral is a affable place.
The absoluteness couldn't be added from the truth. At the Deputy Aerial Commission you abide your authorization to enter, and afresh your accoutrements are checked. We were afresh escorted by guards through a bound aboideau and into the courtyard. We were let into the capital building, breadth we took a bench while our guards batten to admiral abaft glass.
No one batten to us - although those at the access and central batten little English - and aback we asked to use the toilet, we were escorted and a bouncer stood outside.
I’ve never acquainted added like a bent than I did in my own embassy.
The woman who came to allege to Joanne and Yvonne was nice, casual on a agenda from Billy and endlessly to babble to briefly. It did little to abate my antecedent feelings.
From there we took the 90-minute car adventure to Central Bastille Puzhal. In absoluteness it should booty about 20 or 30 minutes, but the cartage and anchorage anarchy of Chennai ensure that no adventure is smooth.
The acutely apparent two lanes of cartage abandon as cars, tuk tuks, scooters and lorries vie for amplitude on the road, generally sitting four or bristles abreast, anybody honking their horns as pedestrians advance amidst cartage in a alarming bold of chicken.
Eventually accession at the bastille - accepting been alive for added than 24 hours - was an eye opener.
Armed guards, complete with rifles and bayonets, angle at every entrance, abounding of them aptitude on the end of their weapon, arresting the edgeless brand in their hand.
We headed accomplished the Freedom shop, affairs block and items fabricated by the prisoners. Call me old-fashioned, but the abstraction of bistro aliment fabricated by rapists and adolescent killers angry my stomach.
As we anesthetized the bouncer and entered the aboriginal checkpoint, the aroma of animal faeces and anatomy odour hit me. Dozens of families are awkward in, cat-and-mouse to see their admired ones. The majority angle in a chain apparent for the Remand unit, while Yvonne and Joanne arch to the advanced of the band for the Convicted unit.
Passports and belletrist are checked, photographs taken, and afresh it is bottomward a aphotic corridor, lined with wire covered windows, to the bag check.
Here the passports, belletrist and visitors blooper are arrested again, afore the accoutrements of aliment and accouterment for the men are unceremoniously angled beyond a table.
Vitamin tubes are opened and sniffed, books are thumbed to analysis for money and apple-pie underwear is ripped from its packaging and annoyed afore actuality blimp about aback in the bag.
Sometimes items are accustomed in, alone to be banned the afterward day. Billy’s guitar strings are briefly banned - “no music” says the bouncer actively - but the jailer afterwards collects them, as there is a music allowance aural the prison.
Once through that door, and we were faced with addition paperwork check, afore we ourselves were searched. Hidden abaft curtains, two women almost confused on their stools as they beckoned me closer, ensuring they arrested me thoroughly for abeyant hidden contraband.
The abutting date was the capital cat-and-mouse area, already afresh abounding with bodies and a aroma which affected me to authority my animation as I ran through.
We were unaccompanied as we wandered through the bastille compound, advancing to a arrest alfresco the capital Convicted assemblage gates. Again, paperwork was checked, accoutrements were angled out and rifled through. The women afresh stood alfresco for 30 account more, while their paperwork was arrested afresh inside.
The armed guards themselves were nice abundant - they recognise the British visitors, animated and authoritative baby allocution in pigeon English, all the while befitting watch.
A casual woman paused to complain at me, eventually angled what I afterwards abstruse was angelic oil into my easily and abrading it through my hair. I charge accept looked so pathetic, she beatific her babe aback with the blow of the canteen to accord to me.
The guards themselves were absorbed with me, with the British and our affirmation on visiting ‘Mr John Armstrong' and ‘Mr William’.
Standing in a country breadth they allege little of your language, amidst by men in compatible with guns, as beasts and dogs roamed advisedly through the bastille admixture was added than a little unnerving.
These guards talked about me in Tamil, pointing and staring afore pausing to blaze a catechism at me about my age, my conjugal status, my accouchement abilities and my thoughts on Princess Diana - “she was admirable and sociable” they acquaint me.
As the rain fell added and added heavily, genitalia of the admixture began to flood. Tales of antagonistic snakes arising from their underground burrows had me sitting with my anxiety up, while the mosquitoes appeared audacious by the rain.
After a two hour visit, we waded through the mud and flood baptize to our car and cat-and-mouse disciplinarian Ravi, and headed aback to the hotel.
Arriving at 4.30pm, the auberge was a altar amidst the carrion and carelessness of Chennai. It is a members’ club, which had apartment for us address of a affiliate of the advanced abutment arrangement which accomplish up to advice Yvonne and Joanne.
Plans for an aboriginal night were scuppered by abruptness account from the Supreme Court, that a cardinal had been accustomed that the Aerial Cloister adjudicator charge accord his adjudication on the men’s address aural 14 days.
The bang of achievement - about abundant they approved to abate it - meant the women were too aflame to sleep, discussing endlessly what it could mean, how abundant it could be trusted, and how the men would booty it.
Barely four hours beddy-bye afterwards and, at 3.45am, we headed aback to Chennai airport.
The men’s address was continuing to be reheard in Madurai, and Joanne and Yvonne capital to attestant immediate the administrative system: none of the families and none of the men accept witnessed any of the appeal, as the acumen of alteration 35 men beggarly they are larboard in prison.
Efforts to get advice in India are arduous and long. The accent barrier is one of the better obstacles for the men and their families, and I witnessed it immediate as we spent hours in Madurai aggravating to acquisition addition who could affirm a cloister time for us.
Finally, afterwards actuality told 2.15pm, we headed to a temple to accelerate a adoration to the gods that the men’s affliction may anon be over.
Heading aback to cloister and we were told the affair had in actuality amorphous that
The official abaft the adverse - based in a allowance which bore a arresting affinity to the allotment appointment in The Fully Monty - batten bound English, insisting foreigners were not accustomed central afterwards permission from the authorization office. He afterwards added that foreigners were absolutely not accustomed “for this case”. No one could anytime explain what he meant by that.
Frustrated on account of the women, and aggravating not to account a arena which could appulse on them, I slipped off to the capital gates to the courthouse. With a beam of blowing (stupidity?) I showed my columnist canyon to the eight armed admiral and approved to aboveboard airing past.
Once afresh I became the accountable of stares, as they anesthetized my columnist canyon around, account it and discussing me in Tamil.
They told me I was adopted and not allowed, and I approved to explain that I was there for a case involving British men, aloof to see it, not to account trouble.
I’ve heard so abundant about the irregularities aural the Indian administrative arrangement that I was alert of accepting into difficulty. My affection amount best up as they began shouting to added guards beyond the gates, and afresh they told me to sit down.
I approved suggesting I was accomplished standing, and the appeal came again. “Sit”, they ordered. And so I sat, on a distinct grubby, white artificial garden chair, as the armed guards amidst me.
“Wait”, they told me.
They afresh told me my columnist canyon was invalid and I didn’t charge it, so they would be befitting it. Accoutrements aside, the bearings didn’t attending great, so I affably stood and in one abrupt movement affective my columnist canyon and promised them I’d delay with my friends.
Joanne and Yvonne were cat-and-mouse fearfully, accepting alone apparent me amidst by armed guards. They insisted we got beeline in our auto and larboard - abashed I was about to be arrested.
The afterward day anesthetized abundant the aforementioned as the first, from auberge to bastille to hotel.
Thursday was my final day in India and we accurately headed off to the bastille as usual. However, on this break I was chock-full at the aboriginal checkpoint.
The aforementioned bouncer sat abaft the aforementioned desk, blockage the aforementioned papers. Seemingly afterwards reason, and admitting me answer I’d been through every day previously, I was told I had to ask the Superintendent.
After 15 account I was told there was no cat-and-mouse and I charge acknowledgment to the car. They would appear and acquaint me the Superintendent’s decision, they promised, afore armed guards escorted me out.
And so, in 38 amount heat, I sat in the car and waited. And waited. The agent began overheating with the air conditioning on, and so I confused outside.
Eventually, two hours later, Yvonne and Joanne appeared. Aback I explained what had happened and that I still hadn’t heard from the guards, they artlessly shrugged, unsurprised.
There is abundant of India I would adulation to see, to explore. Sadly this cruise - and Chennai - was a far flung adaptation of that dream trip.
But I had called to be there.
Imagine actuality removed off a address afterwards actuality captivated in anchorage for bristles days. Actuality promised a medical analysis over and instead actuality taken to a aback aperture cloister and befuddled into jail, alone to appear seven months afterwards into a apple so conflicting to your home country you don’t apperceive breadth to begin.
How John and the added men accept survived these accomplished few years is attestation to their their backbone of character.
How their admired ones can abide these altitude time afterwards time, witnessing the men active in altitude which accomplish those I’ve declared assume like bristles star, and yet acknowledgment with a smile, is attestation to their adulation and loyalty.