Home Sweet Home
This was the day I had been waiting for for the last four years and eight months. After all of the problems with my transfer I still had to pinch myself to know that it was actually happening.
The previous day, 9th November, went so fast and thinking back it was as if I was in a dream ... could I really be in England within forty-eight hours. I gave away my clothes to a Kmer lad who had washed my clothes for me, he is from a country that does not have a Transfer Treaty, I wonder how he felt watching me get packed and ready to go home to my family; for him it will be at least twenty years and does he still have a family to go home to? All day was spent saying goodbye to some good lads who I'd lived with for the past few months. I'm not going to write about the goodbyes, it was private and I'm sure you can work it out for yourselves.
That night I think I was the first in line to go up to the cell, my last night on the floor with my home-made bed. I started to wonder if I would be able to sleep in a real bed, after all this time, with a mattress, pillow and blankets. Then I just sat there with the biggest grin ... "of course you'll enjoy it, stop being daft Scott" I told myself!
Everyone in the cell just carried on as normal but to me it was a big night with lots of thoughts going on in my head ... I had done it!! I'd done my Thai side of things, I was going on to the next stage of all of this. It had started back in March 2005 and I was moving on to Stage Two in November 2009. In that time I'd seen plenty but just this last night and it was finished.
After another night of fan watching (I'm going to miss that fan!) the cell doors opened at 6.30am, I can't get out fast enough, I'm down to the house and can't eat anything or stay still ... I'm just pacing about checking my bags with my mind going at 100mph. Wow, today I'm going home! Everyone's coming over, I'm having trouble handling it and just want to get on with the day. I go for my last shower, after this its going to be hot water and not by throwing a bowl of water over myself, I'll be able to just stand under it and press a button and clean hot water will come out. I'm going to the Hilton is what it felt like, London Hilton not Bangkwang Hilton or H.M.P. Wansdworth. My name is called at about 8.30am. I say my last goodbyes and take one last look at this place knowing that I'll never see anything like it again!!
I'm taken to the main offices where the British Embassy staff and prison officers from the UK are waiting. I don't want to say too much about the guards, just that the Thai and UK guards are like chalk and cheese, some things for the better and some not! At this stage there is a handing over ceremony complete with little Union Jack and Thai flags - I kid you not! The Embassy staff are thanking the Thai's for taking such good care of me and saying what a wonderful thing the Transfer Treaty was, at least the Thai and UK Government seemed to think so, myself and many of the prisoners stuck in Bangkwang seem to think a little differently but this was not the time or place. In less than twenty-four hours I'd be in England, that's the only thing that mattered at that moment. After being handed over and with all of the back slapping completed I'm told that I'll be going to an Immigration Centre until 7pm. I say goodbye to the Embassy staff and guards, the cuffs are put on me and I'm led to the gates. My heart is now pumping, I've not seen the outside world for over three years and I was looking forward to this. The big yellow gates crack open ... the traffic, food stalls and all of the people seem to be in slow motion ... then I hear my name being called and see that Uria is standing there.
Uria has been there from the start and here she is right to the last, four years and eight months! The guards won't let us stop and talk so we arrange to meet and visit at the Immigration Centre, we smile to each other and I'm put into a van. Today has just got harder but in a nice way, I'm going to be able to hug and hold Uria for one last time to say goodbye and thank her for everything she's done for me. At times she must have wanted to turn her back on all this but she never did and has been an amazing person to me; someone I'll never forget.
The drive to the Immigration Centre takes about an hour and it was incredible seeing life, everyone going about their daily lives, something I've not done or going to do for a very long time ... all for 6 grams! Even just looking at life on the streets of Bangkok I had a little tear; I've been coming to Thailand for many years and knowing I'll never be allowed back was hard. Because of my crime I'm banned from Thailand for one hundred years, Thailand is never shy with the years it gives out as penalties!
Once at the Immigration Centre my face must have been a picture, it was 11am by now and the cells were full with maybe seventy people from all over the world waiting to go home. If you've not got money you just stay there, I met people who had been there for three years - mostly from Burma, Cambodia and Laos - they're kept until they can fill a bus and are driven to the boarder but not until anything of any value is taken from them like clothes, belts, jewellery, mobile phones etc either by the guards or other inmates. All of the people in these cells were worn down and if I'm honest it was just as hard as anything I'd seen in the prisons. But these people hadn't committed a crime, or their only crime was looking for a better life, and they were treated no better than pigs.
At about 6.30pm I showered again and put on my jeans for the flight home, even long jeans felt funny, I'd not worn them since my arrest and this was all part of coming back into the real world.
At around 7.30pm the Embassy staff and UK guards came before I was taken to the airport. The guards sat me down and explained the transfer process from now on. This in itself was crazy to me, someone was thinking about me as a human being and explaining something to me in a polite manner; again making me feel that bit more human. Reading this you will maybe not understand what I'm talking about but for the entire time I've been in a Thai prison what I have thought or cared about has not been important - I'm just meant to be doing my thirty years and after that I'm allowed to become a human again but not until!!
It was at this point that I knew just how much my life was going to be changing for the better with this transfer.
I now had to ask about Uria, all day she had been waiting and trying to visit me but with no luck. She was able to send food into me but was not allowed to visit. She continued to wait outside in the hope that the Embassy staff and UK guards would understand and give us five minutes for a hug and kiss goodbye ... surly this was not too much to ask!! I explained to everyone that Uria had been waiting outside for eight hours and asked for five minutes with her, the Embassy staff know Uria and have been in contact with her since the day of my arrest. This did not now matter. I was told no visit. no contact, no goodbye and if I made a show they'd call the transfer off, they said she could pass me something for an escape!! I admit now to having a few tears, Uria and me had been together for six and a half years, four years and eight months of that time whilst I had been in prison. If it was not for Uria bringing me food into the first prison in Sakeao and visiting everyday I've no shame in saying that I would not have made it. She's been there for my family and myself since day one of this. To be fair one of the Embassy staff knew my feelings about Uria and said that he would go and talk to her and make sure that she was OK and that he would give me his phone at the airport but it was still hard being led out and not being able to hug her and say thank you. I'll admit we both had a few tears as I was put into the back of the car whilst Uria was being comforted by Embasst staff - the staff didn't have to do this so I was pleased and appreciated that they took the time out to do it.
Thank you staff and goodbye Uria. It was hard and I was glad of the hour drive to the airport to pull myself together.
After being led around the airport in cuffs by the Thai police we met up again with the Embassy staff and UK guards outside of Burger King! For the last few years I'd had dreams about their burgers and here I was outside of one being asked by Embassy staff what I would like!! To my shock and horror I couldn't eat and heard myself saying "no thank you". In thirty minutes time I would be flying home after a four and a half year nightmare and eating was the last thing on my mind. With everything that had happened that day and then no goodbye to Uria I just wanted on the plane and home. There can't be many people in the world looking forward to an English prison but at that time that is all I wanted.
At the boarding gate I said goodbye to the Embassy staff, there were two of them there and I have mixed feelings about them and their roles. One of them is called Jeff and I've had dealings with him from the day of my arrest. He's been great in dealing with my family and always sorting their visits out, I don't think he's met anyone with so many Aunts and Uncles!! We've both had words in the past but on the whole he's been a great help to both me and my family and I couldn't ask for more from him. What he did for Uria was a very kind hearted thing to do, it's not in his job description to do that, he did it as an act of human kindness which will never be forgotten by me. Thank you Jeff.
Boarding the plane was easy, no waiting, I was led straight to the front passing everyone and down to the back of the plane. I sat in my seat and let out a big sigh, this was it, I'm going home! After about ten minutes we were up in the air, I had great fun with the in-flight DVD and screen. Most people were complaining that they'd already seen the movies, myself I was in heaven - I thought I was in a cinema! I sat with a big grin drinking orange juice and watching Slumdog Millionaire, a great film which I saw for the first time. Then the food came .... I really was in heaven, and the attendant called me Sir "would you like more tea Sir?" - my grin just got bigger. After the film and dinner I went to sleep and was woken ten hours later to a full English breakfast - I felt that all I needed now was a beer and disco.
We landed at 6am to my first English winter morning and to say I was cold doesn't get close to the truth, I was freezing! I had more clothes on than I had worn in years and was still freezing. We had to wait for more guards to come onto the plane with the cuffs, they drove onto the tarmac and up to the plane to pick me up; my day was complete I was a V.I.P.!
One of the guards really made the effort and said "welcome home to England son" which was great. So in the first twenty-four hours of being in British hands I'd watched a movie, been called Sir, eaten a full English breakfast and now been welcomed home, could it have been any better for me ... I don't think so.
Being out in the van making our way to Wandsworth Prison was cold and an eye-opener. The streets of London were cold and empty at 7am but it was great to be home. From the moment I had sat on the plane for my return it was like a switch had been turned on me and I was becoming a human being again. There are lads back at Bangkwang Central Prison who can transfer home but would rather stay in Thailand. In my eyes they're crazy but each to his own. The hardest thing about the transfer was not being able to say goodbye to Uria and for the time it took to happen but it was worth it just to feel like I was at that time driving to Wnadsworth.
Pulling up at Wandsworth was a strange feeling; the last twenty-four hours had felt like a bit of a holiday, a day out of you like, I knew that ance I was inside those gates it would be years before I got another one. Once inside the prison I was welcomed by the guards again and shown to a cell to sleep, they'd look in on me later, again thinking about me, I could get used to this! I was shown to a cell with a bed, TV, hot & cold running water, built in cabinets and a kettle. The door was closed with another "welcome home", that three times already.
At this stage, don't ask me why, I just put my head in my hands and cried. The last twenty-four hours had just got the better of me, that and it sinking in that I had done it ... I'd done the Thai side of things. The day I was sentenced to thirty years and read that I would have to stay there for four years at least I never thought I'd do it, but I'd done it and it's finished. Not just for me but my Mum too who at times has been doing time with me.
I'm home. HOME SWEET HOME
Copyright Scott Hurford 2009 - All Rights Reserved