normanstrike

89. Friday September 7th, 1984.

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I slept badly and was woken at 5am by those bloody church bells ringing like some giant alarm clock! A curse on religion.

We went through the same routine as yesterday but the breakfast was worse, one hot dog sausage,tea and bread, no margarine after yesterdays first and last taste.

At 10 we were given a choice of activity. We could either spend an hour walking around the exercise yard,(Bob chose that), or an hour and a half of sport, which I chose, hoping I could exhaust myself enough to get some sleep.

About 15 of us were taken across to a gym where we were given another choice, do weights or play football. I chose football so we had to carry two sets of goals onto a tarmac covered area surrounded by high fencing, and split into two teams of four a side.

We started to play and it was very competitive. After about 15 minutes I was knackered.There was this big bloke covered in tattoos and I stuck out my foot to tackle him. Unfortunately I mistimed it and tripped the bloke up, causing him to go scudding across the tarmac on his knees,skinning them badly. Despite that he leapt to his feet and came at me, calling me,’a fat fuckin’ cunt’ and threatening to kill me. Screws came running from all directions and held him back and tried to calm him down. The screw who was refereeing came up to me and said,’Better steer clear of himson!He’s murdered two already so one more won’t make any difference’. To be honest I was terrified, and spent the remainder of the game running in the opposite direction whenever he came near me. I was relieved when we were taken back to our cells and vowed that in future I would walk around in circles with Bob!

I had dinner at 12 and as expected it was totally disgusting, but I still cleared my plate. No doubt you could get used to it but I’m certain no one could ever say they enjoyed it. After all, we were there to be punished and eating certainly rammed that point home!

After dinner Bob and me discussed our chances of release. Three miners had been released yesterday and Bob’s hopes were pinned on him going today.He said he couldn’t stand another day inside, let alone a weekend. I was a lot more pessimistic about my own chances and was resigned to spending the weekend inside. If I was released then that would be a bonus.

My pessimism seemed justified when the screw let Bob out at 2.15 for another visit, and I felt deserted and alone as I sat in the cell and cursed my lodge officials. I jumped when I heard the door being opened at three, thinking it was Bob returning but the screw informed me I had a visitor, Mrs Callan. As we made our way downstairs I guessed that Mrs Callan was the wife of the Durham Area Secretary and wondered why she’d been sent to visit me. At least it would be contact with the outside world.

I was taken to the reception area and told to wait until I was called. My name was called and I went into a room with a long line of tables running the entire length. I was taken to the middle and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Kath sitting there and all we could do was just stare lovingly at each other. We both tried to talk at once but were interrupted by the arrival of Tommy Callan, his wife, and John Chapman, Westoe Lodge Chairman, who was full of lame excuses for not coming earlier. I listened to them impatiently until they took the hint and left us alone. Kath told me that I would almost certainly be released today because my solicitor was appearing before the Judge in Chambers at 2.30. She was shocked at seeing me in a  prison uniform, and by the whole degrading process of visiting someone in prison. A screw came up and told us our 15 minutes were up and asked Kath to leave. She told me she’d left some cigarettes and two cans of lager, and said she hoped to see me later. I hoped so too!

After I was given my goods, which included a box of chocolates from Mrs Callan, I was locked back up in the cell. I ate all the soft centres from the chocolates whilst Bob paced up and down the cell, driving me nuts with his patter, saying he was getting out for certain but that I would probably have to remain on remand because of my previous record. He said that this was Tommy Callan’s view as well and I began to get really depressed. Suddenly the cell door was opened and the screw said;’Come on lads, you’re out on bail’. I could’ve kissed him I was so relieved. We grabbed our stuff and headed down the stairs. The warden kindly allowed us to give our chocolate and cigarettes to two lads from Blyth whom Bob had befriended somehow and they were overjoyed to get them. In prison terms they were rich.

We were given our clothes back to change into and had to sign for our things kept in a big envelope. When I opened mine to check it I found £17.70p which puzzled me because I’d been lifted with only the 70p! Bob also had £17 extra and we wondered whether we should say something because maybe they were trying to trick us so they could keep us in. We agreed to sign and then waited for the arrival of the Chief Warder with our bail forms. He solved the puzzle by saying,’As a Yorkshireman I support your fight but disagree with the violence. We had a collection amongst the warders and the extra money is to take your wives out for a nice meal’. I was genuinely touched by this show of support and thanked him. He said he hoped he’d never see either of us again and then got us to sign the bail forms. Mine said,’The defendant is not to go within 200 yards of any NCB premises where picketing is taking place except to go to work in the normal course, and to attend the DHSS office at Monkwearmouth between the hours of 10am – 4pm’. I would have signed anyting, even though I was effectively banned from picketing. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as we walked out of the main gate at 6pm. You’d think I’d just done 3 years, not 3 days!

Bob’s sister dropped him off at home and then was kind enough to drop me off at home. Kath and me were overjoyed to see each other and the girls were embarrassed as we kissed and hugged.Later, after we’d eaten a delicious meal and I’d put the girls to bed, Kath told me of the struggle she’d had to get the Lodge to visit me. She even had to find out the visiting times herself! The only help she’d got from the lodge was a lift to and from Durham, and she said that in her opinion none of the bastards seemed bothered I was in prison. That didn’t particularly surprise me given other events, but what did have me fuming was the pressure Kath had been put under by those bastards. She has enough shit to cope with without men who are supposed to be on my side adding to it. I intend raising the issue at the next union meeting, if only so other lads don’t suffer in the same way. Bastards!!

Catching up on the news I find that Kneel Kinnock spoke at the TUC Conference on September 5th, the day we were jailed. He said,’Violence creates a climate of brutality. It is alien to the temprament and the intelligence of the British union movement’.What a load of bollocks! How the hell does he think we got unions in the first place? By asking our lords and masters for permission? NO! Through the blood of thousands of workers in the past who fought to get them. Even bloody Thatcher has the Suffragettes to thank for using violence at times to win the vote. If we have to rely on shits like Kinnock then we will lose everything our ancestors fought for with their blood. Fuck Kinnock, and his softy lefty mates. I for one will fight to keep those rights, and build on them, and so will millions of others.

A journalist from the New Musical Express rang and has asked if he can stay with us for a few days to write an article about the strike. Kath has agreed and he’ll arrive tomorrow night.

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  1. Norman, I’m still following your blog. It’s Labor Day in the US. I’m off to the AFL CIO pancake breakfast. I’ve never quite figured out why the unions felt that workers would want to get up early on a holiday, but what the hell. In any event, solidarity forever and labor day greetings from California.

  2. Norman, I am just loving this blog so much. I remember the miner’s strike going on as a young boy and seeing the violence on TV. Back then I asked my Mum what it was all about and she said something about the ‘bloody miners causing trouble.’ 25 years later I now know that was utter bollocks and have told her so (using much nicer language, of course ;D) If only the fighting spirit of the miners fed into the greater population… we’d have our country back by now! Keep it up!

    • Thanks Duncan,your positive comments mean a lot because its people of your generation who need to know what really happened during that strike.
      Norman

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