Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas memories I

It all started with my housemate who was a medical student attached to the Southampton General Hospital for a training stint. One evening, whilst we were nursing steaming mugs of tea, she had proposed that we bring some yuletide cheer by carolling in the children's cancer ward. We spread the word amongst friends, roping in those who were interested in participating in this little venture for a laugh, and ended up with a mixed bag of about 10 - 15 people.

We only had two evenings of practice and backed by a guitar, I can honestly vouch we weren't exactly voices of angels! In fact, we had actually thought twice about buying and distributing Christmas candy to the kids in fear those sweeties would be flung back at us in an attempt to shut us up! But risk it we did....and luckily, things turned out alright. The children were forgiving (bless them!) and gamely beamed, cheered and sang along with us. It was a fun afternoon for everyone and such a runaway success we were that we were requested to carol round all the wards the following years after!

In fact, in my final year at university, we even received an invitation to christmas carol in a nearby prison! Odd request which was mulled over thoroughly...but we reasoned out why not? Safety was assured and the prisoners were human beings too...and yes, it was Christmas after all. Plus, most of us were curious to see what the inside of a high security prison was like, of course, with the option of leaving at free will later...hahahahaha

The visit was certainly no laughing matter. The building was imposing, security was tight. We walked in single file, through a door with steel bars, which opened and clanged shut ever so quickly, cutting an individual off from the rest of the line to be body searched by the prison warden on duty. Once you were cleared, another door with steel bars opened and you were then officially in prison grounds.

The prisoners who attended the Christmas event we carolled at were supposedly selected for having been on good behaviour for a period of time, and hence were unlikely to be a social threat. However, as some were apparently serving time for heinous crimes committed, they were still not allowed direct contact with any of us. Nevertheless, it was still pretty unnerving - its rather difficult to carol cheerfully whilst observing the mixed reactions of the inmates in attendance...most were normal, but there were some creepy ones who glared on with nary a smile but instead had stony piercing eyes boring holes right through you. On the other extreme, there were those who also stared and stared but were grinning so widely (or was bordering on leering? maybe it was just psychological) that made some of us girls just shift around uncomfortably

To be frank, I was glad when the carolling session finished. An unorthodox Christmas experience it was, and admittedly, paranoia and prejudice aside...I am certainly in no hurry to return!


At 11:34 pm, Blogger Aurora said...

what an interesting experience, despite the creepiness! I totally understand your consternation as you walk through the aisles, but still, don;'t you wonder, what would drive people to commit such heinous crimes? I've always believed it an act of desperation or some cry for help or attention. It is not possible for a human to be born bad - or evil - unless it has something to do with biology. Oops! Didn't mean to rant. Sorry :D

At 12:25 am, Blogger munsta said...

sometimes i don't know whom i should be more fearful of...those who clearly emit "evil" vibes, or those who look innocuous like the boy next door.


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