Sunday 5 May 2019

To Russia with Gloves

To Russia with Gloves

by David Gower


Richard Lovelace wrote a poem in 1642 to Althea the last stanza begins ‘stone walls do not a prison make’.  I disagree with him.

In my case they made a prison from which I wished to escape. I am, as they so charmingly describe it, a ‘guest of Her Majesty the Queen’. Granted the conditions for such guests are preferable to those which might be extended to such as me in my mother country but I still wished to be outside those stone walls. I had a plan to do it which involves my prison companions including a – how do you English say? A defrocked vicar. What a strange and pictorial interpretation that gives.

Perhaps I should begin, as they say, at the beginning. My training in my homeland is as a member of our security forces. Sworn to protect the State against aggression from the outside, control internal plots and where necessary travel abroad to do these things.

After training and insertion I assumed an identity to undertake my mission in Britain. Strange that you English admire your Commander James Bond and his profligate killing and destruction yet it seems I am condemned as a spy. Truly, one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist.

A random unplanned incident led to my incarceration. I was so close to him, almost at the doorway. My disguise as a repair man to place a device into the home of a dissident was perfect until a passing dog – belonging to one of your downtrodden masses who could not afford a lead or to train it properly – bit me. That moment of pain brought forth swearing in my mother tongue, the dissident heard me and his minders pounced. In the struggle my equipment was found and my cover blown. The ‘British Bulldog’ had struck. How the newspaper headlines enjoyed that moment. I am remanded and awaiting trial.

A fellow prisoner  - a defrocked vicar – has spoken to me whilst on the segregation wing. It is here that vulnerable or potentially problematic prisoners spend time. I am considered a risk for obvious reasons of security but he has self harmed several times due he says to feelings of guilt. He used his church funds to fund his gambling and bigamy. When this came out, although God is technically his employer, the Church was not as forgiving as might have been expected. He hoped to sell his story to a newspaper in an effort to repay the funds but struggled with where to begin. As a vicar perhaps he suffered Writer’s Flock!

People like to talk when they feel someone will listen. One of the skills of espionage is to listen and on occasion share crumbs of information in the greater cause. I became a listening ear and in that time snippets of the vicar’s life have been heard and filed away in my mind.  I know where he trained, who his friends were, something about church architecture and most importantly I know of another woman and child in his life unknown to Church and the Press. This came out is a tearful moment when it was I who seemed to hear his confessions. Irony.

This was more valuable than gold to me as we waited to go to our respective court rooms for early hearings. These are never long affairs but they offered an opportunity for my acting skills to be used. I had eaten some prison soap and spent the night hitting the soles of my feet with a towel. These are old tricks used by prisoners of war to imitate heart problems. When linked to my feigned collapse in court an ambulance being called and a trip to hospital ensued. My immediate guards were clearly used to the general run of prisoners and their manner of casual discussion betrayed their vulnerability and casual laziness. Until conviction prisoners wear their own clothes. Before transfer to Belmarsh high security prison I had to run.

In the confusion of the hospital lay my moment to break away. Just a second of inattention from my guards. My handcuffs had to be removed to allow examination and medics asked for privacy. The health professionals were shocked by my sudden recovery and my guards fell to quick blows. They were out of condition and unprepared.

Once into a maze of corridors there were trolleys to block pursuers and ambulances in the A&E bay. The keys hanging in the second one. I left the grounds quickly, what else would an ambulance do? The siren and blue lights parted the traffic ahead. How might my vicar friend say, just like the Red Sea.

The ambulance had to be abandoned quickly but the crew left some useful personal effects in the cab. A woolly hat covered my bald head, medical gloves have many uses and some sandwiches – cheese and pickle would have to do. Ambulances can be parked on double lines or in supermarkets without question. Into a supermarket and then call over the man washing cars. They would find him in the back unharmed.  Now I had a van and his money. Lose the van and then use the cash to buy a cheap bicycle advertised outside a house. No rush just a gentle pedal for a few hours away from the danger zone.

Onwards to reach the vicar’s secret woman and child in the guise of prison chaplain with news of the vicar.  Her unsuspecting chatter gave me more aid to evade the authorities. My tale was that I offered to call in on my way to see Salisbury Cathedral with some clergy friends. It is a very popular tourist spot and the last place anyone would find a spy.

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