Opinion

What does nature mean when you're behind bars?

Inside, nature takes on a greater meaning. An inmate at HMP Lewes writes about the magic of nature for the prison literacy festival Penned Up

a painting of a murmuration in nature

A murmuration painted by a prisoner at HM Prison Wealstun. The artwork scooped the First-Time Entrant Award for Watercolour & Gouache

This is the only way I can express nature, or my appreciation for natureI used to work for a friend who lived out in the country, and to get to his house you had to go down a lane. Either side of the lane was a field.

In the summer the horses would be out. I think they were Shire horses belonging to a traveller that were in the field to the left as you walked down the lane. On the right-hand side at the top of the field you could see in the distance a herd of deer, you make out some of the young ones. I used to walk down the lane and see how many I could spot, but tell you what, they are quick. My friend had a few acres of woodland so every day you would encounter peacocks. They’ve got a lot of front, and they don’t really run from you. The males are very curious, and make you laugh. One summer evening I was there I even saw a white deer. I didn’t even know you could get white deer.

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One time a sparrowhawk flew down and landed in a tree about two metres away. My mate said it hunted the mice, or field mice, at the back of the chicken run. He said that if the hawk got used to you it would land near you and stare you out.

Amazing, here’s me banged up and just writing a few lines makes me feel free.

We watch nature on the telly but if we actually take time we would notice that the more concrete we put down the more we are depriving ourselves of its existence

I remember a magpie flying in my bedroom window. It stayed with me for three days before it flew off. The funniest thing that I experienced was I was near the local shops and a fox came over staring at me but pretty cautious. I went to the chippy and got a battered sausage and threw it to the fox. The fox went off and disappeared, and I went to get the bus home. Do you know I wasn’t allowed on the bus because the driver said I couldn’t bring my friend on? When I looked round the fox was trying to get on the bus with me! I had to walk to work that day and keep calling to the fox so it would stay safe.

Funny about nature. We watch it on the telly but if we actually take time we would notice that the more concrete we put down the more we are depriving ourselves of its existence. Didn’t really think about that until I actually thought about all this magic in the world, but us people are blind to it, or think we are better.

This article is from a special edition of The Big Issue magazine. Get a copy of ‘Locked Up in Lockdown‘ in The Big Issue Shop or purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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