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I Didn't Belong: Chapter Sixteen - From Ranby To London

Ronnie Cook’s mother died while he was serving a twelve month sentence in Ranby Goal. “I was taken to the Doncaster Royal Infirmary complete with handcuffs
to see her before she went as she wouldn’t give in and die until she had seen me. When I had to leave, we got to the downstairs reception and were informed that she had died.

“Now I was in what felt like being back to square one –
nowhere and alone…’’

Ronnie’s harrowing journey led him from a life of crime to enlightenment. It brings encouragement to those who have lost their way, and enlightenment to those who think that hardened criminals are beyond redemption. His book I Didn’t Belong is available from www.amazon.co.uk Type his name in the amazon search box.

It was whilst I was doing a twelve month sentence
in Ranby Gaol, coming towards the end in February
1979, that my mum died. I was taken to the
Doncaster Royal Infirmary complete with handcuffs
to see her before she went as she wouldn’t give in
and die until she had seen me and knew that I was
all right. When I had to leave, we got to the
downstairs reception and were informed that she
had died.

I was allowed to go to her funeral. It was
amazing the people that turned up to show their
respects. Even some of the most dangerous lads
got permission to go from different gaols. Police
men and women, all rank and file, came. I know it
may sound a bit cruel and un-Christian but in some
ways I was glad that her suffering had come to an
end and I could now be free of the worry.

Now I was in what felt like being back to square one –
nowhere and alone. Now I had nowhere to live apart from my
dad’s but that wouldn’t be quite appropriate. I
wasn’t going to go backwards in life again!

Whilst in Ranby I worked on the visits as a server of teas etc.
Whilst doing this I became friendly with a girl that
came to visit her brother on a very regular basis.
Eventually, I had an invite to live in Leighton
Buzzard at home with her and her mother and
father, which of course I duly accepted.

It was OK down there. I even got a job at a chemical
building products company. I did all right for a while, but I
got itchy feet and decided to take a trip home to

When I arrived I hunted down my
family and friends. I soon realized I had made a
grave error. I ended up being back to the old ways.
In a matter of hours I was dealing drugs along with
the associated crimes and smashed out of my head. As
I sat in one of the town centre public houses, The
Nag’s Head, someone played ELO’s Last Train to
London on the jukebox. I decided to go there,
so I caught it and went.

I arrived in London in the early hours and tried to get
a place to sleep but without any luck. So I went to
Euston station and tried to sleep on the benches or
anywhere I could get comfortable. But I was
constantly being moved on by the police. I was
forever being asked if I wanted business by men and
women, even to the extent of being offered a
youngster. So I soon moved from there. I ended up
in some gardens in one of the nearby squares.

During the day I just wondered about from pub to
Pub. (In my experience one of the best information
offices in any town). I found out that I could get a
bed at the hostel on Dean Street. So I went there
that night and stood in a queue with all the others
for what seemed forever, only to find I never had
enough money for the night and was soon told to
get lost. So much for charity.

I ended up roughing it for a few days. The one thing
I couldn’t understand is how ignorant people were.
If you attempted to make conversation, anyone would
have thought you’d asked them some deep personal question.
Eventually, someone put me the direction of
Bayswater, where I should be able to get B & B in
one of the hotels there as long as I signed on.

Eventually I ended up at the Princess Hotel on Princess
Square. When I arrived there I found it to be inhabited by
Arabs, which to me was funny but understandable
because of my colour. I was shown a room/dorm, four beds in a twelve by twelve, with a chap asleep in one the beds. It was
better than roughing it, so I sorted out my dole and moved in.
But after a short while the man in the corner was
very ill to the extent of vomiting different colours of

I told the manager, and he said that if anyone
phoned for an ambulance they would be charged by
the NHS and it would be expensive so we would have
to see what the doctor said. He came, gave the man a
prescription and left.

That night he was pretty quiet,
and I had a wonderful night’s sleep. And no wonder.
He had died and I had kept him company all night.
The manager said, “Well there is one bonus.” I had
inherited a set of clothes.

I stayed there for a while, thinking things could not get
any worse. Whilst running wild, up to my old antics, I would
on occasion slow down for time to sleep and think.
I would go for walks in different parts of London.

One particular time I still have strong memories. I
don’t know who it was but it must have been
someone of importance. I went for a walk to
Kensington Gardens one day to try and put my life
into some kind of perspective. I went to the Peter
Pan statue and had this wonderful but simple idea.
If I were to sleep at the same place I would be only
one of a few that could say I had slept alongside and
awoke with Peter Pan and the fairies. I know it
sounds stupid but I thought if was arrested for it, I
would look a right clown stood in court explaining
myself. But can you tell of anyone else that has
done it?

Eventually after a long walk which seemed
to be for hours, I came across a hedgerow with a
wrought iron gate, as I had noticed a couple of
ladiess (and I mean that with the utmost respect)
about five foot and a bit, one dressed in a green
dress and one in blue, they were ever so elegant. I
decided that, that was the London I had seen on
the television and wanted to be part of.

So I thought I would go in. I found it was called the
Orangery. What a beautiful, peaceful place for
thought. I sat on a bench and watched the fish for
a while, lovely Koi carp. Then the two ladiess came
back through the gate. One of them approached me
and asked, “What are you doing here?”

I replied, “I am trying to decide whether to move from London
or stick it out and give it a good go and see what

The next thing I know a chap was escorting me out, not too dissimilar from Jeeves on the search engine on the Internet.
I think I had wandered somewhere I shouldn’t have.

I ended up stuck in London as I couldn’t afford to get out.


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