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I Didn't Belong: Chapter Fifteen - Living A Double Life

...I didnít care for
one minute about anyone or anything. Eventually I
was apprehended and as was inevitable I ended up
in various gaols up and down the country. I went
to gaols like Strangeways, Armley, Winston Green,
Lancaster, Haverigg and Ranby...

Ronnie Cook is finally released from an approved school, only to end up in deeper trouble.

Ronnie's journey from a life of crime to that of being a steady, productive citizen makes for an inspirational story. His account of this turbulent early years, I Didn't Belong, has been publicised around the world. The book is available from amazon.co.uk Type Ronnie's name in the Amazon search box.

So itís Plan B time. First thing to do is to get some leave
from the approved school. I applied for leave to my dadís
address, as it would be classed as a fixed abode. My dad was
self-employed, which put him in the right social
section of the community to be classed as a decent
upstanding law-abiding citizen. So I would be O.K.
in that department.

My next step was to get some
new clothes, so I went to see Captain Swanson and
put forward my application. My argument was that
I had been at the unit for well over a year and I
had not had leave of any kind. I felt that I would
look out of place wearing the clothes I came in
with. To my amazement he there and then phoned Mr
Burt my housemaster to ask him to report to his
office to discuss some of the benefits I wasnít
getting due to my situation, and he wanted him
there ĎNow!í. I was told to go and find myself a cup
of tea somewhere and report back to the Captainís
office in an hour, which was fine by me as it meant
no work for an hour, and of course I dutifully did.

After an hour I headed back to the Captainís office,
sat outside and waited for him to call me in. But
my housemaster came, and I was told I had to go
with him to the shops in Newcastle and see the
Captain later. I went and was fitted out with things
like a football kit and other sports wear and a
couple of sets of clothes. I was taken for a meal, the full
works.

Straight away I started to wonder why all of
a sudden I became the flavour of the month. I
refused the majority of the offers as I couldnít work
out what they were up to and what the cost
would be to me, as these things didnít happen in
institutions without reason. I soon found out. When
we returned to the unit, I was told to report to the
Captain immediately. I went to the Captainís office
and he broke into a tirade of ďWhere have you been?
What have you been doing?Ē

He was also about to
send the police out looking for me as an absconder.
When I explained where I had been he was even
more outraged. He sat me down and started a
conversation that astounded me. He asked why I
was there in the unit. I explained that I was due
for court on a charge allowing myself to be carried,
when the police a day before my appearance
dragged me out of my bed. I was aken to the courts,
immediately, the magistrate told them to take me
away, and I ended here after various other places.

He said that the reason he asked was that he
couldnít find anything in my file as to the reason I
should be there. In fact he was very surprised to
not to find a copy of my charge sheet or the court
order or even the associated paper work from the
social services. He did however seem to be
genuinely concerned about how this could happen.
He was actually devastated that not one person
picked up on the fact that there werenít any notes
about my conviction!

He couldnít apologise enough,
and said that, going by what was written in my notes, if
he had been made aware he would have discharged
me on the minimum six month period and followed
up the reason why I was there. At that meeting I was
told to apply for leave and
as soon as confirmation came I could go on home
leave and not come back.

In other words I had
been discharged. This was now 1974. I arranged for
me to have leave in Gainsborough to my dadís. And
surprise, surprise, his house was a council house
and to say the least it was no different to the
circumstances I was living in as a child. His scrap
yard was an allotment with a few piles of scrap in
it. His house what a complete and utter hole of a
place. I wouldnít have kept pigs in the house let
alone the gardens. But I did notice in his yard a few
draw plants growing under glass.

Well, what was I supposed to do? Of course I decided to
take quite a
lot with me. I stuffed a few in my bag and
scarpered to Newark in Nottinghamshire to where
some of my extended family were. After a few days
I decided I was going backwards. Then one of the
family said, ďYou donít really belong in this situation.Ē

Before I left Newark I arranged for one of the
family to do me a favour, and that was to give the
local constabulary a ring about my dadís gardening
exploits. I know it sounds bad but this was part of
a campaign of retaliation for my childhood. I donít
feel I would be appropriate for me to say what else
I did, but I won.

Next thing to do was to find
somewhere to stay and find a doctor for a
prescription to slow me down a bit and get a good
nightís sleep, as my head was in a mess. Alas!
Doctors wouldnít give me the tablets I needed as
they thought I was on some other drugs and
thought I was trying to con them, which I can
understand.

So I went to my mumís to live. She thought I
had run away from the approved school, but she was
cool about it once it was sorted out and she was
sure. I was now in a situation again totally alien to
me. Normality.

My mum told me she had cancer. I
now felt as if I had the world on my shoulders. I
tried to co-operate and settle but it was difficult. It
wasnít long before I was living a double life. One
where I was still up to my old antics - drugs,
robberies, prostitution and various other antics.

I found it better to work on my own so only I could
be to blame, whilst at the same time working as a
commis chef at the Earl of Doncaster Hotel. But as
word got round that I was one of the Cook family,
life was made difficult. So I left and went as a
plasterer, but the builders went on strike. So I went
back to the mines. And guess what - they went on
strike along with the steelworkers when I went
there.

Bit by bit I became depressed, started to
drink a lot as my only support that could
understand me was going to die. To me it was the
end, so when I got drunk or smashed out of my
head on drugs, I always wanted to run away and
start life afresh. Ironically, I would always steal a
car to get away from my life situation, when I could
have bought any car I wanted to.

I literally went on
a spree in a self-destruct mode. I didnít care for
one minute about anyone or anything. Eventually I
was apprehended and as was inevitable I ended up
in various gaols up and down the country. I went
to gaols like Strangeways, Armley, Winston Green,
Lancaster, Haverigg and Ranby.

Whilst on my gaol
tour I saw all kinds of things happen: young lads
committing suicide, men getting raped by other
inmates on a power drive. Rule 43s being scalded
by the lads that gave the supper out. The screws
would turn their backs and the lads would pour hot
tea over them from a large bucket. The beatings
other inmates and I had to endure from the screws
were beyond a joke. All they were after was for us
to retaliate so they could come in with their new
M.U.F.T.I techniques (minimum use of force tactical
initiative), which, by the way, gave them the right to
use what they call minimum force.

The night time beatings were the worst as they used to
come in hooded with riot sticks and batter some of us. As
you are probably aware, with gaols being crown
property we had no case for recourse. I understand
now that people have the right to speak up and
something may be done regarding the problem.

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