Chris’s blog: Oh, dearie me

This week, a comment from one of the LandWorks trainees leaves Chris reeling…


Neil is a newbie, a day release prisoner and fascinated by how and why the project does what it does.

The morning planning meeting is just breaking up. I like to believe everyone now knows what they’re doing! Mugs clink, seats scrape, men stretch, stub out fag ends and force out that last bit of smoke into the atmosphere, signifying the ‘off’.

But Neil interjects, shooting from the hip: “So, Chris, basically you come up with some new ideas and it’s all fun.”

The shot sends me reeling, my mind whirling as I think about the hours of planning, the worry involved in LandWorks. I am lying wounded in my (Scottish roots) fug, as thick as the smokers’ cloud. Oh, dearie me. ‘Fun?!’

I am brought around by voices, voices all agreeing with Neil: “Oh yes I do enjoy it here”, staff and trainees speaking as one. I stand blinking as they head off into the morning sun… ‘Fun?’

LandWorks tools in the workshop
LandWorks tools in the workshop

Well, I decide there and then, I am going to clear up that pile of rubbish, over there, that everyone (including me) just ignores … despite having raised its existence a few times at morning planning. That’s clearly not ‘fun’, so I am just going to do it, yes I am.

Joe comes over to help, I manage to stop muttering dark ‘work ethic’ nonsense and we fill a wheelbarrow together, while he tells me about a difficult time with his family over the week; we find something to laugh about and he gives me a hug.

Pushing the barrow towards the bonfire, I overhear a conversation at the cob wall (it’s becoming the ‘in’ place to chat; there’s something about working with your hands and talking about life that seems free, easy, good and – I realise – fun!). I pause, catching words about ‘the system’ and ‘losing any purpose during a long stretch.’

I carry on, past the veg beds… There is a lot of laughter coming from the polytunnel, one of the guys is reminiscing about his parents embarrassing him as a child.

As I push my barrow along further I reflect that perhaps only in this safe environment prisoners can let out such private but perfectly normal memories.

I am almost full circle, back to the diminishing rubbish pile; I call in at the workshop, a hive of activity. Men absolutely enjoying themselves, productive, learning skills, banter and laughter… it’s great, it works.

Day almost complete, another smokers’ cloud appears, signalling two things…

  1. Tea’s up
  2. LandWorks are 90% smokers, which beats Her Majesty’s Prison stats of about 80%

I reckon that this high percentage for offenders is more a social economic indicator than anything. Although it is one choice an individual can make in an institution that controls just about everything else.

This may not be for much longer as the prospect of costly litigation from staff affected by passive smoking will undoubtedly force a ban!

Time to go. We jump into our new (Big Lottery funded) van, everyone laughing at my ineptitude with unhelpful gadgets that are supposed to be helpful!

Anyway we all get that Friday feeling, laughing and a-giggling.

Until the prison gates, when Neil lets out an involuntary sad sigh and I look at a group of women gathered waiting forlornly at the bus stop, their visiting time over.

Hmmm, okay, a bit of fun has got to be a good thing.


7 Comments on “Chris’s blog: Oh, dearie me

  1. I love what you are doing, all of you and although cannot help you very much due to being old and slightly disabled I would like to offer however so help in working with some of the lads (if they want it of course) in building a CV and a few tips maybe on interview skills. If you have someone who does this already that is wonderful, but if I can held please do let me know. Both myself and my partner owned an employment agency and we worked closely with the re-offenders team and had many past offenders working for us on a temporary basis. I was in recruitment for over 20 years, and was CRB checked for another project I worked on, can get references both personal and work related. Oh and by the way there is no charge for the CV’s or the work on interview skills. Thank you for reading.


    • Thank you for your kind words and lovely offer, Sarah will get in touch with you direct about it now 🙂


  2. Well done Chris! I did some prison visiting many years ago, as a Voluntary Associate to the Probation Service and also as a private citizen, including visiting Dartmoor twice when the prisoner I visited was sent there. The prison regime is pretty short on rehabilitation so the chance of working at Dartington is priceless.


  3. Hi Chris,

    Love sound of the work you are doing… it goes with my ethos… “there is of good/God in everyone”…

    I am a massage therapist and body worker, also working with flower essences here in Totnes. If I can be of any support on the route to healing wounds and regaining self esteem, please let me know. I am particularly thinking scar healing and flower essences? Both very powerful and transformative in their own way. I also work with emotional stress release.

    Very best wishes, Julia.


    • Hi Julia – thanks so much for your kind words, we very much subscribe to the idea that there is good in everyone. As Churchill said, we must maintain “unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man.”

      We wonder if you might you like to receive our blogs by email? You can sign up by entering your details in the box at the top right side of this page and it is one of the best ways to stay in the loop.


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