Do you ever hear a song and it transports you to another time and place? I had a moment like this just the other day.
I was out for a walk on my own in the forest nearby, and through my headphones came the song Innocent Man by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. I hadn’t heard the song before but as I enjoyed his recent hit ‘We’re only human’, I had added a few of his other songs to my playlist.
This song tells the story of a man in gaol (jail/correctional centre) who says he is innocent. Nothing new there! For those of you who don’t know, I worked in a correctional centre for 22 years as a Senior Correctional Education Officer, managing the provision of Education to male inmates. I started as a part-time teacher before becoming a full time teacher and then the manager of education services. The teachers and I were employed by the state government but late last year we were made redundant, as it was decided they could do it cheaper and better if they outsourced the teachers and downgraded the staff to clerk positions instead of teachers. My staff and I all left and took redundancies, after fighting the plans for 6 months, with our final finishing date of 23 December 2016. It was a sad time.
The day I met a murderer on the bus
Anyway, moving on…..many years ago while I was travelling in the U.K. I caught a bus from London to Bristol. My husband was playing in a Touch Football tour and had to stay in London, while I was able to escape for few days to see our daughter, who lives in Cheddar, Somerset. The bus wasn’t terribly full but one of the later arrivals decided to sit in the spare seat next to me. I am quite a friendly person and nodded hello as he took his seat. There was nothing visibly remarkable about him but I was soon to learn…a lot!
He noticed my Australian accent and asked me about myself. I gave him a few general replies until he asked me what I did for a job. I told him I worked in a gaol as a teacher and to this day I’m still not sure why I did. He was immediately taken by this and asked some more questions throughout the trip.
Towards the end of the journey he opened up that he had recently been released from gaol and had a high regard for education and the place it has in life. He had appreciated education courses and while in gaol he had started writing poetry and songs. I told him about the annual booklet our literacy teacher produced with inmate’s stories, poetry, artwork and thoughts and he started rummaging in his backpack. He presented me with a sheaf of papers which were copies of his poetry and rap songs. He wanted me to share these with our inmates and use them in our next ‘Authors and Artists’ booklet, as a sort of guest writer, an ex-inmate from the other side of the globe who understood their world.
As we left the bus he looked around surreptitiously and whispered to me that he had been inside for murder. He didn’t say he was an innocent man. He was determined to stay out of gaol and felt there had been some ‘divine intervention’ in choosing to sit next to me, ‘the pretty Australian girl’, on the bus that day.
A few things happened after this:
- My daughter was horrified that a) I had spoken to a strange man and b) one who turned out to be a murderer!
- My husband decided he should have come with me after all and told me to be more careful next time!
- I took his work back and shared it with my teachers and we published it in our annual booklet.
It goes to show that you never know who you are sitting next to on the bus, train, tram or plane and you can never judge a book by its cover! You don’t know their background or their stories.
I had only told him my first name and he had introduced himself using his nickname so I have no way of verifying his statements but from his writings I could tell he was telling the truth. I believe my experiences as a teacher in ‘that world’ helped me deal with this meeting. I wasn’t scared at any stage but I did feel a bit weird telling my daughter about it when she collected me, but maybe that was more so because of her reaction.
So hearing the song, Innocent Man, by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man took me back to this memory. It was an interesting career, and one I hadn’t really planned on, but it was something I just fell into. I must say I leant an awful lot! Although I finished unwillingly, I was proud of myself for never losing my compassion or my sense of humour and staying true to my principles.
What would you have done in this situation? Do songs hold memories for you too?
Thanks for stopping by!