We took turns to read out loud from Joel Smith’s Lost at Sea.
Every chapter has questions at the end, and the men really enjoyed this element. I was initially somewhat alarmed by the nature of some of these questions, for example, ‘Have you ever been away from home when there was bad news?’ and I was tempted to steer them away from potentially such painful and personal questions. However, that would have been my mistake, as they were open and willing to discuss them. One man said his uncle had recently died and another that his brother had recently died and he was plainly worried about his mother’s health. They both have contact with their families and this provides some comfort.
Another question, ‘who do you share problems with?’ led to a discussion about family first, but also other men on the wing, and one man said that he was having to learn to trust other people, not to bottle things up inside ‘until there was an explosion’. Another man said he couldn’t ring home to discuss things, as he has a 15 year exclusion order prohibiting contact with his family, so he needed the men on the wing. Another man in the group seemed very supportive of him.
Other questions related to how the young hero in the story felt when given responsibility, and a debate about whether the UK should take in refugees, and if the NHS could cope with the extra people. One man asked what a ‘refugee’ was and another explained, leading to a debate about the difference between immigrants and refugees.
One of the men was clear that he didn’t want to read out loud, but he was happy to contribute and seemed to enjoy the discussions.
I really hope that all the same men return in a couple of weeks so that we can get to the end of the book together.
All in all, it was a very lively group today and a successful session.
Kate is a Prison Reading Groups volunteer at HMP Grendon