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The old lag
The story behind the poem

The nature of my employment means that I have met a great many people who are of a criminal persuasion. Young and old, wealthy and poor, black and white... but all commonly had chosen lifestyles that had ultimately brought them to the notice of the Law and the judicial system. I sat in a van with a drunken 72-year-old man who had been arrested for failing to attend court. He looked like a tramp and smelt like the garbage.... but in conversation I found him to be erudite, witty, clever and disarmingly charming. He was a villain.... but he recited poetry aloud to no-one in particular and when he laughed so did I. He was two polar opposites combined... the bad side of him was obvious...the good side became apparent when you listened to him. He was old then and this is many years ago... I suspect he is now dead but I think there is a little corner of heaven that is a bit scruffy and filled with laughter and poetry because I have heard God likes that prodigal sort of thing.

by Stephen Hirons

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