|Publisher:||The History Press|
|Edition description:||New edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.08(w) x 7.80(h) x (d)|
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I've never been so apprehensive in my life. It's Monday, 8 December 2008. My Virgin Airways plane lands from St Lucia into the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport. It's just after eight o'clock in the morning.
I've arrived, and I'm scared. While my fellow travellers nervously grip their partners' hands in anticipation of the first violent contact with the tarmac, all I can think of are the cans of fruit juice in my luggage that contain cocaine. Paranoia seeps from the air vents and heightens all my emotions. I'm unsure of what's real or what's unreal. Everyone appears to be looking at me with accusing eyes.
There's a family occupying a row further along the fuselage, and when the father looking around the cabin turns in my direction, I'm sure that this brief eye contact is a tacit accusation. He seems to look at me with an accusing eye, but how can he know? Maybe he's a police officer and is keeping an eye on me, because they already know. This paranoia is going to be the theme of the whole morning.
The airport at this time of day is quiet. I walk to passport control and there are two men standing behind the counter. I assume they're checking all the travellers, but they seem to be looking directly at me and no one else. I walk through passport control to the baggage reclaim area, where bags are slowly beginning to emerge from the carousel flaps. Many cases travel the full circle a number of times, while others are claimed immediately by their owners, who then head to customs. For a while, there's no sign of my bag. It seems like an eternity, but then my luggage emerges from the plastic strips. I look at my bag nervously. It's slightly ajar, the zipper half open. I hadn't put any padlocks on them. But then again, I'm very tired and realise that in my many years of travelling I've often failed to close my bag properly. 'Come on, Chris, pull yourself together. You're just overthinking everything,' I tell myself. I look around and pick up my bag, taking a deep breath. I follow a group of fellow passengers towards the 'nothing to declare' exit. They walk through but before I can reach the exit one of the officers I thought had been looking at me earlier is now standing at the exit. His voice is level and calm as he says, 'Excuse me, sir, may I check your luggage?' My bag is taken to one side and the officer looks through it. He reaches for the three cans of fruit juice and removes them. Inside, I'm shaking, trembling. I can hardly stand.
The officer takes the cans to be X-rayed. His body language betrays nothing as he lifts the cans and places them on the X-ray machine. In an instant, I have a thousand thoughts that trigger the infinite consequences of my actions. I try to breathe more slowly. The officer returns and he tells me that the X-rays have revealed nothing. A sense of relief washes over me, but it's momentary as he explains that he is going to have to open the cans. Around me normal life carries on as people chat on their way back from various destinations, but I feel disconnected from it, as if in a bubble of my own anxiety. The first sobering thoughts I've had in months become so obvious and apparent, and when the officer returns after having discovered the cocaine I know that everything is going to change. In an instant, the future looks very different to the one I had imagined. The officer takes the cans away and for a brief time I am alone. For a second or two, I almost convince myself that everything is going to be okay, but it passes before I can blink, as reality floods in and drowns out any sense of hope. 'What's my mum going to say?' What are my brothers going to think?' 'What about the press and everyone else?' No part of this is going to be good. The customs officer returns after what could have been minutes or seconds – I don't know. He tells me the cans have tested positive for cocaine. Doom and gloom descends. He asks me to follow him, and I do. I am taken upstairs and to the left into what looks like a normal waiting room. At this time, I can't say I'm even thinking any longer. I can feel the panic running through my body. Externally, as ever, I try to remain calm, but inside I'm racing. I'm like the duck that seems at ease on the water while underneath its legs are going crazy. I'm waiting for the police to arrive, and when they do, I am arrested. So begins a long journey, one that would take six-and-a-half years of my life.
I arrive at Brighton police station. I don't remember much of the journey. At the station, I'm processed and put into a cell. My mind continues to race. In the cell, I'm alone for the first time. My head is spinning, I could scream with disbelief about where I am. A while later, I'm told that I can make my phone call. There is no doubt who I am going to call – my younger brother, Mark, but then I remember he'll be at work and unable to take the call, so I choose a close friend instead. I ask them to tell my brother where I am and what has happened – that I've been arrested.
My night in Brighton police station is just surreal. It's hard to comprehend quite how I've moved from one state of being to another so rapidly. A few hours before, I had been a free man returning home, now I'm a criminal facing a long sentence in jail and having to tell my loved ones not just where I am but what I have done. I spend one night in Brighton before I'm taken to a prison in Surrey. Driving into the prison, I begin to recall all the prison movies I had seen as a younger man. We all have a vision of what prison must be like, and I'm about to experience mine at first hand; this is so far out of my comfort zone, I can't believe it.
I doubt whether I can survive even a couple of days in here. I don't think so. With the cell door locked behind me, it's the first time in a long while things are quiet. I think about my family but it only makes my head spin and I want to scream.
When I decided to import drugs I never gave my family a thought. I didn't think about the negative aspects of what I was about to do. I was never going to be caught and so I never had to think about the consequences for my family. Now in this cell they come to mind. What have I done? I sit and think about the countless others who are going to be affected by the fallout from this. My family and friends are going to be affected and that's hard to cope with because, although I will have to live with my mistakes, they will inadvertently have to live some of this with me too.
The moment I start to think about those close to me, what I have done really begins to hit home. Nobody can knock on my door now, but others will be doing that to the people I care about. I have just added to their burden. As the elder son and brother, it was always my job to protect my family and I have just failed in that spectacularly.
I emerge bleary-eyed into my first morning of incarceration at HMP High Down in Surrey. As I sit in my cell, all my thoughts are negative and I seriously doubt whether I can cope with this new reality. Simple things that I normally take for granted, like the liberty of walking down the street, are at the forefront of my mind. I yearn for the simple things, not yearned for in decades. The truth is that I already know it will be some time before I experience normality again. The best-case scenario is that I'll get bail while the prosecution prepares its case.
My solicitor arrives and tells me that the application for bail will take a couple of weeks. Even a fortnight now seems like a lifetime. I guess I'll just have to cope as best I can. Two weeks – surely I have the mental strength to get through that short period. Over those couple of weeks I must have cut a sorry figure. That's the emotional stress. I'm in new territory; I have no skill set to deal with this. I say very little, there is nothing to say, but I'm trying hard to remain positive.
Within days I get a job serving food to other inmates, which gives me something to do three times a day. This job allows me to get out of my cell, which is important, as without the work I can be locked up for twenty-three hours a day. The activity helps the day pass more quickly and has the added benefit of me getting more food, so I don't feel as hungry. I've never been the fattest of people, and keeping my weight up has often been something I've had to watch. In here, within a couple of days, the weight just falls off.
As well as my work in the kitchen I try to occupy myself further by wearing a second hat. I'm also a 'foreign rep', which basically means I go to see new foreign nationals coming into the jail. I ask them about their needs and help them to navigate their way through the criminal system, which I too am learning. Even in the state my mind is in, it's quite easy to see and appreciate that there are people here who are in a worse predicament than myself – people who don't speak English and therefore find it hard to understand how the system works. I try to make it easier for them. I also spend some of my time as an anti-bullying rep, anything to keep the grey matter working. Bullying within the prison service is a big no-no. I'm paid £1 per day for the servery work; the other tasks are unpaid but they keep me busy.
Although I'm on remand, only just having been arrested, I'm treated like all the other prisoners. The days pass in a routine way, as you would expect in such an institution. My cell is unlocked early and I begin serving at 8 a.m. for about forty minutes, after which time I tidy, wash up and generally help out. Afterwards I have my own breakfast, which is usually cereal or toast, except at weekends when we might have a cooked breakfast. Most days my job serving breakfast is over by 10 a.m., unless there's a deep clean of the kitchen, which gives me a short time to fill before the lunch serving. I'm then back in my cell until the evening meal at 6 p.m. I spend that time reading and trying not to think, as any activity is better than dwelling on my predicament.
When I can, I walk around the wing or go to the gym. It's a blessing that my serving job provides me with something on which to focus and the opportunity to be out of my cell for longer periods.
At night, there is no hiding in routine and activity, and so the nightmares come. It is quite simple: I am afraid. Fear is a part of life, but this is just too big a fear to deal with. In fact, it's more than one fear, it's a host of them. One nightmare involves me trying to run to get away, but get away from what – I can never tell in the dream. I'm trying to get my groove on and run very fast, but instead I'm running in slow motion like Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. Another is being up high in a precarious position, like on the edge of a crane, with the wind howling around me. I never fall but I'm always scared that I will. As the time passes, I learn that I'm never going to fall, but this does not remove the fear; all I can see stretching into the distance is day after day of the same nightmares. Yet, through all of this, on the exterior I still try to remain as calm and polite as possible, even though my nightmares inform me that I am absolutely bricking it. There is a fraction of time just before I open my eyes when I can allow myself to believe that I'm in my own bed, in my own house, and that prison was all some terrible dream. But then I open my eyes and the cell is still there. I realise with dread that this nightmare is real.
I may be consciously occupied doing something with my mind, but there is still a horrible feeling of unease that is always there, right by my side. I can't get shot of it, whatever I try. I am not always consciously thinking about what the unease is, but it's always there. In a matter of days, I'm already noticing that I've become a lot greyer. I had one or two grey hairs before, but now they're increasing rapidly.
This all goes on for the two weeks while I wait for news of my immediate future. Finally, I receive the date of my bail hearing. When it comes, I must face the immediate disappointment that I'm not going to leave prison for my day in court, as the hearing will be via videophone.
I am taken to a room where my future will be decided. Many others have been in this room today, some were successful and some not. But I'm hopeful I'll get bail, and with it a little space in my head, temporarily at least. I watch for half an hour while the two sides of the argument are given. The State is arguing that I'm a flight risk, but I suppose that depends on how you would describe a flight risk, as I reckon I could only make it to outside this room before someone recognises me at this moment. But I'm not the master of things to come, I gave that up when I broke the law. The faces retire to decide my fate. While I wait, I stare at the empty chairs. I am devastated – they say I'm a flight risk. The hope that had sustained me through the first two weeks evaporates in an instant and I want to scream, but I have to bottle it up, as it would serve no purpose. I must try to focus and get my head around this.
Expressing my disappointment would serve no purpose. There are plenty of people in this prison who have been sentenced and are facing many years, even life, yet they find a way to cope. I have never considered myself weak so there must be a way for me to cope. These inmates are an example but not an inspiration; my aim is to reapply for bail in a month and to get it right next time. So, it's back to setting that goal and working towards it – just another month.
Time passes relatively quickly. It is something of a conundrum: the days seem to pass so slowly, but a month flashes by in comparison. I decide that this is because jail is full of routine and drudgery so that, looking back, it is very hard to separate one day from another, as each day is filled with uneventful regularity. For forty years, whatever problems I had, I could at least walk out the door and go where I wished, but that privilege is no longer mine. It's a strange feeling, knowing I can no longer make those choices. All this puts the previous problems in my life in perspective and I realise that what I thought were major issues were actually insignificant ones.
I know I must find a way to cope in prison and believe that things will get better. All the choices were mine and only I am responsible for my incarceration. I could be in prison for fifteen years – it almost takes my breath away thinking about that – so the sooner I get used to that, the better. I'm not dwelling on how I got here and why I made the choices that led to my arrest. You may ask, 'Why not?' Well, if you fall into a river and get swept along by the current, you don't think, 'I wonder what caused me to slip?' You think, 'How the fuck am I going to get out of here?' Once the immediate fear has gone then you might go back to find out why and how you fell in, but not right now. That said, these questions would start to form later. Right here and now, I have more pressing things in my head – mainly my current predicament. I need to deal with that before I'm even capable of thinking about how I fell off the bridge into the river.
My fear has created a view of my experience that is at odds with reality. We tend to get our view of prison from TV and movies and there are things that go on in jail that are mirrored in fiction.
However, it's not as bad or as frequent as the movies would have you believe. Prison is not supposed to be a pleasant experience, it is a punishment after all, and it's definitely not like Butlin's, as some would have you believe. Okay, I have a TV in my room, but that doesn't compensate for not having your freedom or spending time with your loved ones. I understand that I made the choices that put me in here, but that doesn't make my situation any more comfortable or pleasant.
I receive my first visit. It's my brother, Mark, and I have no idea what I can say to him. Saying 'I'm sorry' at this point seems weak and pointless. I guess it's one of those situations where I'll have to sit here and accept whatever comes. It's a very difficult visit. Sitting in front of Mark, my fear doesn't seem to be as important and, for a moment, it's gone.
As a young boy, my desire to set a good example for Mark has helped me greatly in my career – the fact that he was present and watching what I did drove me to work harder. That makes me feel even worse now. I cringe when I think of the size of my failure. Mark reports back to my mum that I'm okay, but that I was constantly rubbing my head, and they all know that's what I do when I am stressed. It occurs to me that all visits could be as emotionally charged as this one, and a visit from my mum even more so. Thinking of her is very difficult and I know that I don't have the words to explain how I feel or to begin to explain why I made the choices I did.
When I see my family, I'm filled with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment in myself for what I've done to them. But still, they come, and I am so pleased to see them. Despite my guilt, nobody points an accusatory finger and no one asks why. They just seem to instinctively know how I am feeling and support me.
Excerpted from "Crazy"
Copyright © 2017 Chris Lewis.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 The Arrest 7
2 Remand 11
3 The Young and Innocent Chris Lewis 19
4 My Developing Career as a Boy in England 34
5 The Rise and Rise 52
6 The 1992 World Cup and a New Career 87
7 On the Up and Then Down Again 109
8 The Downward Spiral 133
9 Spot-Fixing and the Stitch-Up 143
10 The Wilderness Years 154
11 Guilty 162
12 The Beginning of the End 173
13 Release 180
14 The World of Now - 2016/2017 186
15 So, Who is the Real Chris Lewis? 190
16 Who is the Real Chris Lewis? Part 2 -The View of the Ghostwriter 196