Maddie Biddlecombe is a member of Verne Visitors Group in Portland and sent us this reflection. The Verne detention centre is set to close at the end of 2017.
It started with an exploding goat in a dry and dusty land, and now this citadel in the mist is more of a home than the occupant’s land of birth. Within the damp ancient walls are more stories than the very stones that make up this fortress… and many will stay there undisturbed shrouded in pain and fear, leaving behind only a fervent wish, as the door closes behind those that get to leave, that they will remain undisturbed.
You do not see the freedom of the sunset on the ocean. Do you hear the constant roar of the sea as it throws itself upon the stony beach so far below? Rattling stones like the jailors keys and leaving abandoned dreams upon it’s shore.
I look up to see the blind bird upon the ramparts, swathed in the sinister glint of razor wire, a memory of another far-off place for me. What hopes, and dreams are stranded here strangled by the lioness of fear?
And yet we nod to the jailers who have no real prisoners. Laugh in the garish airy room, a hint that this is a façade – that we all will maintain. Yet for you this is an escape of sorts, from the dark and oppressing innards of this grisly fortress. Never knowing what the clang of a door may portend, the visitor’s lounge offers a temporary reprieve.
So, we don’t always talk about the silent birds that wheel so far above, but laugh the deep belly laughter that always seems at odds with the desperation of those around us; but it is your escape from the dread and anxiety that is your shadow. Finding humour in the long fall of the coke bottle from the inanimate machine that reluctantly dispenses refreshments lurking in the corner. Our ritual.
Sometimes we wave out the window at my life waiting patiently for me out on the grass, in the sunshine, but mostly we talk of life lessons, and things that don’t matter or matter so much that I shed a tear. But you are learning how easily I shed tears in the face of your deep scars and your openness in attempting to heal them.
The sticky tables, the bored watchers and always the bright chairs with their layer upon layer of stories, lives and journeys – none started here and few end here.
One day you will stand on the ramparts and experience the openness of the ocean and the freedom of the wind and you will step away into a different future.
But until then, I will make the journey up the hill to this other world where people are forgotten and the black shirts hold all the power. Where the flag taunts all those that enter here.
The journey back down the hill is always easier. Back down to the island that unwittingly hosts a cruel, cultural diversity that cannot hope ever infiltrate its shores.