Going to The In Laws 4 – Joseph

“You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave”

On the Saturday night at the in laws we had a full on family dinner. Roast beef Yorkshire pud the works. My favourite. The wine was good and all in all it was a very convivial evening. The kids were very sociable and were not nagged too much for being children by their parents.

Towards the end of the meal, Dawn, wife to BIL1, was pontificating about immigrants and human rights. You know the sort of stuff people yak about, The European Bill of HR, another example of Brussels interfering in Britain and the Labour government doing its best to wreck the country bla blah blah. Now I am now great fan of TB, labour or any other politician for that matter, but I asked her whether she knew that said bit of legislation had been driven by Britain, under the Conservatives and against the better judgement of most of the other member nations at the time. No she was not aware of that and was I sure. Healthy debate.
She then went on to say that a lot of this amnesty international and human rights stuff was just bullshit. For example, she couldn’t see what the fuss was about over Guantanao bay and human rights. These were terrorists etc etc should be taken out of circulation. Dont get me wrong I am not in favour of anyone blowing anyone else up just for the sake of it. I have no doubt that there are some serious bad arsed dudes banged up in The Bay, but if you arrest someone you put them on trial present your evidence as fairly as possible and accept the verdict. This may be a bit of charade but it is the rules and system that we have in place. Everyone should be treated the same. In the war against whatever, it easy to drop the rules if it suites you, because you are on the side of good and they are not. I don’t want to get too political but the question is this, how does it feel to be considered to be the bad guy and as result not have the protection of the law and your human rights?

I have thought long and hard about whether to recount this story, but having discussed it with several people, I have been encouraged to tell it.

It is a bit long and I don’t apologise for that and also I have to be vague about exact places dates and times.
Some months ago I was contacted by a large multinational mining company, to look for one of their consultants, who I shall call BR. He had gone missing in a certain African country which we will call Z. We shall Call the leader of Z Bob. Very briefly BR Had been working in the east of the country and had returned to the capital about three weeks ago with a variety of samples and had sort of just vanished. Would we be willing to go to Z, look for BR and if possible return him to a place where his company could access him.

Z is not a place to go to lightly and I was not going to go alone and unprepared. The company were way ahead of me on this and stumped up a very reasonable budget and resources to facilitate us.
So it was the 6 of us headed off somewhat uneasily to Z.

I should explain that in a case like this I will ostensibly travel and work alone and make all the enquiries, but will be shadowed by at all times by at least one other member of the team. We call it baby sitting. The rest of the crew are for back up and for other enquiries should things start moving quickly. As a rule if something goes wrong the baby sitters will not intervene immediately but will be able to monitor what happens to the main man and should be able to see where you end up. Obviously, if it is going tits up big time on the street, the baby sitter will step in, but the idea is to have a few hidden bodies to bring into play if something goes wrong.
To cut along story short, we made good progress and found that BR had left the capital and headed East again and was apparently in a town about 70km to the East. I wasn’t sure why he had gone there as my understanding was that this part of the country was used for tobacco production and not mineral extraction but that was not my concern. We headed East.

Initially we did not find out too much but then BINGO somebody had seen a man fitting BRs description being arrested. Nothing for it but to head to the local army HQ/cop shop to see if the story was true. I presented myself and was seen eventually by a fat, shifty looking, senior officer who told me they knew nothing of BR and had no reports whatsoever about anyone matching his description. He was lying. I knew it from the word go that he was telling fibs, but I have learnt that in places like Z you keep your big gob shut. I thanked the officer and “donated” about 30 quid to police charities and left. I had really bad vibes about this and about the fate of BR and was on the point of deciding to abandon the job.
I had only gone about 500m from the police station and was drinking a bottle of coke at road side stall, when 2 Toyota pick ups and a Nissan saloon car pulled up beside me. The occupants of the pick ups were all sporting that most famous of African fashion accessories, the half timbered AK47. They were out and onto me like flies onto a cow pat. I was bundled into the car and driven off at high speed. This was not good and what followed was worse.

I was taken to some kind of detention centre. I guessed it was the police station I had been at earlier. There was a large reception area with a desk and bars at the window. There at the desk was the fat, shifty, senior officer who fired a load of questions at me about what I wanted with BR. He was somewhat aggressive for a man who knew nothing about BR. I think you can imagine the type of scene. I told him the truth ie that BR had gone missing and I had been asked to find him. The Fat bastard obviously knew about BR and got seriously pissed off very quickly when I couldn’t or wouldn’t tell him any more. He shouted something and the next thing I knew I was suddenly frog marched out of the the room and down long dark corridor not quite 2m wide with cell doors on each side. One cell was opened and I was thrown in and then beaten with long sticks and had the shit kicked out of me. literally.

I regret to say that was only the start.

After about an hour or so they were back. I was taken to another larger sort of cell where they beat the soles of my feet with sticks. There are no words to describe in pain and I knew my light footed dancing days were over before they had begun. They were asking me about why I was looking for BR and what was I really doing there, was I on my own and who was I working with.

I would love to say I was super hard and didn’t talk, but that is just bollocks. The thing is, they didn’t believe me when I told them the truth, which tends to make ones position just a touch difficult.

Now then under the namby pamby human rights laws I should not be tortured and am of course entitled to a telephone call or access to a lawyer and fair treatment, but you know somehow I had a sneaking suspicion that was not going to happen.
One of the guards came and took my Swiss Army watch from me and another my wallet. The watch had been present from my wife. I was not happy at his taking it, but could do nothing except bleed and hurt. They went out of the room. Fuck I was in serious pain, this was not funny. I had been told in training once to remember and if possible recite the ten commandments. This is supposed to keep the mind focused and you can rise above the torture. Yeah right, but in the absence of anything better it would have to do. I must have passed out or gone to sleep because the next thing they were back. This time there were about four guards and they had pieces of rope and string with knots tied in them. They stripped my clothes and beat with with the ropes and shouted questions at me. This is really painful. The being beaten with ropes that is. You can try it if you like, just get an average bit of rope or cord and a knot in the end and hit yourself on the back a couple of times. I recited the ten commandments but some how this became the names of the seven dwarfs.

Doc saved my life. For some reason I kept saying Doc I couldn’t think of any of the other poxy dwarfs, but the dopey fuckers thought I was talking about an accomplice. They stopped beating me and I was aware that someone else was in the room asking me questions. I knew it was the senior officer I had spoken to earlier. He was asking me questions but I was too fucked to be able to answer him. I then heard him say leave him till tomorrow and if we get no sense from him get rid of him we will send him to Chikurubi. Chikurubi is a notorius high security prison in the capital.
I was dragged along and thrown into a cell. Fucked if I know which one but it stank of shit and piss and it was hot. So hot. I lay on the floor bleeding. I cried or at least I would have done if the tears could have left my shut and swollen eyes. I wanted my girls to be there, to tell me they loved their daddy and that it would be all right. My eyes were so swollen that they tears just sort of weeped out of the swollen lids. My nose was full of blood and snot and my throat burnt. My mouth was full of blood and I couldn’t breathe and just lay there gurgling. Then I was sick which was full of bile. Obviously damaged my liver or something from the beating. The vomit stuck in my throat and mouth and the acid was burning and I started to choke. I was going to die on my own vomit.

Then I heard a voice. and felt a soft hand on my face.

“Dont die mista, dont die”

The hand got inside my mouth and scooped out the vomit and blood.

“They beat you bad mista but you not gonna die. Dont let them kill you mista. You be ok soon you see, god will help you”

I felt the hand stroking my head and the little voice telling me it was going to be ok and not to worry he would look after me. I was away with the fairies because I knew this was a male but in my minds eye I could see my little girls. They were playing in the garden at MILs and smiling and skipping and doing little girl things.

It was a sunny happy time. A sausages in the woods time. A time to hold on to.

I felt fingers moving the crap and blood from my eyes but I was almost blind and could only see very vague outlines. All the time that voice kept telling me I was going to be OK and stoking my head. I can tell you hat despite the immense pain, the fact I was not alone made me believe that just maybe it might be OK. I felt my head being lifted up into the lap of the stranger and he cuddled me and I was away into a black deep abyss of sleep.

Soemetime in the night, (I found out later it was 2.30am) I was woken up.
“Mista wake up. Mista wake up” I was being shaken.
“What your names mista, whats your names”


“Its all gone black de lights are out and der are white men here looking for you they are calling you”

I could here voices and some sounds of activity but it meant fuck all to me, it just didn’t register. My head was put on to the hard floor and I heard my cell mate calling “Norman is here, down here mista”

Then familiar voices.

A thump as someone or something thuded into the cell door I know now it was one of the guards.

“Open the door you cunt or I will tear your fuckin head off” You didn’t need to be the other side to know that BF meant business. The guard was jibbering and messing round with the keys. CRACK the yabbering stopped and I heard a body hit the floor
“Don’t fuckin bother I’ll do it myself”

I hear the door open and the sound of footsteps and there was flash of light as a torch or something went round the cell.
“What the fuck happened to you?” said BF
I muttered

“Not you Norm, your little mate”

“Sweet baby Jesus” SB was in the room “What the fuck did they do to you son?”

I heard my room mate telling them that they had pulled his teeth out with a pliers.

“How old are you son?”

“Ten years old sir, I am ten year old”

I felt someone beside me and a kiss was planted on me forehead I was craddled in strong arms and hand brushed my forehead.

“Hello Norm my old mate, You don’t look so fuckin hot either lets get you home shall we”

“Yes please” I cracked
I could here SB talking to the boy asking

SB “who did this to you?”

Boy “It was the big fat man”


“I was looking for my father he was taken away by them”

“Come on son you’re coming with us” said SB

“Can’t do it Bob we cant take him” said BF
“Fuck off I aint leave in this kid here” said SB

“He comes” I managed to say

“CONTACT” – The enemy was and we were about to have a fire fight. I say we I wasn’t going to do anything. The fire fight was short but noisey. Time to go.

We were out of the building and I was thrown into the back of what I later found out was one of the pick ups. The rest of the vehicles had apparently been disabled.

We left the town PDQ and headed East towards the border.

To cut a long story short we made it across the border without incident well apart from me being sick and pissing blood all over the place, but I don’t remember too much about it apart from “High Ho High Ho its off to work we go” kept going through my head.

I woke up and it was till dark. In fact it was the evening. I was in a bed with rough blankets but it felt so good. I opened an eye and the first thing I was a child with wide eyes smiling at me, his gums torn and ulcerated and his face puffed and bruised. He was stroking my face.

“Hello Mista Norman, I told you that God would help you. He always does”

“Are you God, because you helped me to stay alive?” I asked

He smiled an even bigger smile and gave a little laugh

“No mista Norman I am not God, I am only Joseph”

Josephs parents could not be found. We believe his father had been killed. There was no further trace of BR, we suspect he had gone the same way.

The lads managed to find a dentist pay for Joseph and got some dental treatment for him, it was the least I could do.Sadly we were limited in what we could do for little Joseph in practical terms. With the help of the nuns we arranged for him to be cared for at a nearby mission for children. At least he will have food, shelter, care and education and as much affection as these people can give. Believe me they do fabulous work. It costs £30 a month to keep a child in one of these homes. let me ask you, what is 30 quid to us? Its fuck all, but to children like Joseph it is the difference literally between life and death. There are several ways to sponsor a child and that 30 quid just might make a difference.

I don’t care what the kid said, I have seen the face of kindness and courage and his name may not be God but it is Joseph.

Thank you Joseph.

7 Responses to “Going to The In Laws 4 – Joseph”

  1. dl says:

    So much evil in that place, yet still a little bit of goodness can shine through.

  2. Fuck.
    That’s just done it now.
    I have been a mess all week and now this.
    I am crying all over the place…
    Norman, that is just horrible, horrible, horrible…

    Such barbarism. That is what happens when we take away our humanity.

    Poor, poor little Joseph. I wish I could cuddle his dear little face.
    And yours, you poor dear man.

    I sponsor two children. I hope my heart never stops bleeding.


  3. A grim and powerful account. I’m glad you got through it all with your sanity intact.

  4. Sally says:

    God Norman! What a******s. Pliers on the teeth of a ten year old boy – and beating you to the point that your internal organs were damaged. It’s unbelievable. Glad you survived to tell the tale. 🙂

  5. Uncle says:

    Hello everyone. Sorry I have been a bit tardy at monitoring comments.
    The good news is that Joseph is doing really well. The place we have him at is really good and the people there are spot on. A pal of mine went to see him a couple of weeks ago and was really please to see how well he was and taught him to do some party tricks with his new false teeth. Who says the British army hasn’t contributed to international culture!

    I can understand my beating as that as it the way of the world, but doing that sort of thing to kids is just bang out of order. The thing is that it is happening everyday and nobody gives a monkeys.

    Anyway I have recovered and am glad that I met this lad. I can honestly say that seeing such humanity and courage changed something inside me.

    I still have trouble with the ten commandments and the seven dwarfs though!

  6. Gumpher says:

    Christ, that makes my life seem tame. I’ve got a reasonable idea where you were, i spent a bit of my childhood there and its fucking wrong what that man has done to a beautiful country.

  7. Uncle says:

    Gumpher – Indeed it is a beautiful country with so much potential and there are some great people there. Unfortunately for the average man and woman the place is just falling apart. I don’t think people in Europe or the USA just realise how bad the situation really is.

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