Letter #35 from UPIII



Recieved 22nd August 2018

JVA Köln, Wednesday, 15th August 2018.

To my dear comrades and friends,

I woke up today thinking about words. Obviously this is not unusual, because I think in words (I have friends who think in pictures and colours), but I’m thinking specifically about the words themselves, the combinations of sounds, and how other people understand me through these sounds.

Which leads me to think about all the words I don’t know. English is (for now) my only spoken language, but there are still so many English words I don’t know, for example, I came across the word “susurrus” while I was reading, and found out it means “a low noise, like a whispering or murmur”. 

And what about words in other languages! Some don’t translate into English but I feel them and want to use them.

Like in German there is a word, “Hamsterkauf” which, in the way you cannot directly translate, means “panic buying”. There also seems to be the connotation that it is “panic buying for the apocalypse”, which gave me a little laugh. I get this though, because I Hamsterkauf chocolate when I’m upset like I’m about to lock myself in a bunker for a few months.

It’s almost like meeting someone and thinking “where have you been my whole life?” I wish I had a list of words that I could go to when I feel something because my current vocabulary isn’t extensive enough to express it.

And all these emotions here I don’t have words for, because I’ve never felt them before so I haven’t felt insatiably (please excuse my spelling, I hate that I can’t sound out words, because in English it could be any combination of letters, I wish it was a phonetical language) curious to know what they are.

And the words I do have to try and describe my feelings are either not accurate or not strong enough.

So I am very frustrated.

Let’s take the word “sad”, for example. Well, what kind of sad? Morose? Miserable? Melancholy? Depressed? Pensive? Low? Lethargic and heavy? Upset?

I wish my English was better.

So I’m flicking through my English-German dictionary trying to learn more English but can’t, because it doesn’t put the words I don’t know into sentences, so I can’t even attempt to find a similar word. UGH.

And now not only am I frustrated that I can be attempting to speak German and have to stop because I don’t know the word to express myself, I’m now doing it in English too.

Then I’m reminded of a person I know who speaks like they swallowed a dictionary and I think. … “I don’t want to be that person, but I hate not being able to convey what I am feeling.” And I guess if you read this and don’t recognise a word you can go and look it up.

I’ll be lying in the bed here reading a book sometimes and just have to make a white noise beeping sound in my head because I don’t know it, and can’t look it up. And I just “ughhh” you know? UGH.

I was having a conversation with another prisoner here (well, like obviously, it’s not like we went out to a coffee shop or something) yesterday and talking about how we feel being in prison, what we’re going through, and about visits, which we both had on Monday and both felt … I’m stuck for a word here. Again. Trepidation? Anxious? Worried? Concerned? UGH. But anyway, let me and my very poor ability to express myself try and explain why.

Visits are wonderful – don’t get me wrong – but I go and feel so, misunderstood. Because, as much as my lovely visitors can try, they cannot feel what it is like in here. The weight. The power behind me words, what effect the meaning of them has on me.

I am entirely, inescapably, terribly alone in my cell, in the house, in the prison. Maybe though, I can see a glimmer of myself in another person, maybe. Someone here who feels as I do, thinks as I do, who understands without words.

Not everyone does. We are all in identical cells but not identical people.

I crave conversations that are deep, thoughtful, soulful, about the universe and the human soul. Do you know what the main conversations are about here? Dicks, sex, and how much people here miss them. I just … it’s not me.

And I can’t force myself to be interested in talking about it. It’s not me.

And this isolates me even more.

I’m not normal, I’m too different. That’s not even taking into account the now very stressful language barrier, because it is fast becoming reality that if I don’t become able to hold more than a basic conversation in German, I will have only one or two people to talk to, who do not always have time for me.

I must learn German, quickly, so I can just very simply talk to other people. Well shit man. How do I get someone to understand that? Especially if they have never felt it?

But then there’s my visitor who has been in prison longer than my entire sentence. And they handled it. They got up each day and dealt with it.

I feel I do not have the right to complain. Nine months? And I’m getting shitty about it? I want to put a hand on my shoulder and say “get over it and grow up”.

Complaining I don’t know enough German? Well, I have the resources, don’t complain, learn. Do things. It is my own fault if I don’t. I have no excuse.

I need to stop being so “woe is me” because I can literally fix a lot of my issues. Accountability. Responsibility.

And I am so frustrated at myself for all of this. That I am isolating myself, that I am encouraging this extra isolation, that I complain about petty and very fixable things, that I feel so misunderstood, or not understood at all, that I can’t express this, that I take all of this out on myself, that I just … I just want a single person who gets me.

I’ve probably written if before, but I often think of the saying “would you rather have someone know everything about you, or no one ever know you at all?”

And I find I’m not so sure of which I’d prefer.

I wish someone would know me, really know me, would want to see all the things I’ve hidden away. But that is an overwhelming amount of trust and faith that they will want to still know me after they find out. And I don’t know how I would handle it if I lost them. I already feel lost when I lose people who have only seen the bright parts of who I am, how much worse would I feet if they’d seen the dark parts too? So, I isolate. It’s easier.

But then, I feel so crestfallen and upset that there is a very real chance no one does want to know me, not really. They want the idea of me more than me.

But I’m not an idea! I want to yell. I feel! I think! I love! I cry! I dream! I am! Someone please see this! See me as more then UPIII! More than an activist! More than a bunch of scribbles on a page or words on a blog!

Ask me all the things you wish people asked you! What do you love? What do you hate? What do you dream= What do you miss? Where do you want to go? Who are you, really, not just who you show to other people? What scares you? What inspires you? Do you have a favourite colour? Do you have a favourite anything? Do you feel like you feel too much sometimes, or too little? What’s on your mind?

I’ve already given a lot of myself away in these letters, more than I usually would, so maybe I should just keep giving away more of myself to you. So I am not an idea. So you see me as a person, more so than you maybe do now. You can get to know me, really know me, and maybe see a bit of yourself in what I write.

Recently, I wrote a letter to someone, which I don’t often do these days because so many don’t reply, but I wrote to them about my favourite colour.

Which is the colour of the sky at night, deep and inky black.

The colour of the sunrise, a spectrum of blending water – colours; pink, gold, purple, orange, blue, flowing into each other.

The colours of Autumn; crisp, warm, playful, easy going, humming, the final dance of Summer before Winter.

The steel an stormy grey of clouds before a thunderstorm.

The white blue of an iceberg.

The swirling browns and creamy whites in a coffee after you pour a little milk in it.

The richness of a well oiled wooden table, the yellows and brown streaks.

The brightness of new leaves in Spring, so many shades of green and maybe reds and oranges too.

The depth of a still pool of water or lagoon, blues and greens.

I don’t have a favourite. I’ve fallen in love with all the colours that make up our world.

And I fall in love, too, with the way people speak about their favourite things. I don’t have a favourite song, or artwork, most of the things I love are the things my friends love, because their love is the most beautiful kind of infectious. It’s hard not to love something which makes someone else feel so alive.

But I have things I am drawn to, but can’t explain why. Things I love which I may not say. I love the “nudes” collection by an artist Anja Brock. I think they are so … graceful. Curves and lines and things implied.

And I love street graffiti, I could stare at it four hours, running my eyes over the shapes and colours. The hidden (or not so hidden) beautiful and magical and uncensored parts of people tucked in and around the soul less concrete pillars and dusty forgotten corners of cities.

I used to go for drives at night to cities or larger towns near where I was living, on my own, so I could get lost and look at and look for these little secrets. And because I was on my own, no one could tell me it was silly or dumb.

And I’d go to bookstores and find a book there that “spoke” to me, that felt good in my hand, and I would buy it and give it a home with me. For the art, the cover, the words, the subject … a book that was unexpected or that I wouldn’t have unless I was there at that moment, or that night, in that place.

I don’t organise my books by title, or author, or in any measurable system, or any permanent system. They hover. The ones I read often are always within arms reach, and then ones less read I display, ready to be pulled down, moved, thumbed through, placed in the spot of another at a moments notice.

But I know what they all look like, that’s how I find them. They are like well loved friend. I know the colour of their covers, what page the quote or thing I’m looking for is on. I am at home in their yellowing pages, in the space between their words, how they welcome me in their silence. And it upsets me I will never know every book like this, or every person, one lifetime is simple not enough.

And in these books, I fall in love with words and sentences and characters and stories. With the experiences which will never be mine. With people I will never meet. With places I will never go. 

I fall in love with the passion and creativity of the authors. With the moments they make me gasp, or cry, or stamp my feet, of have to put the book down and make a cup of tea because the character’s blindness to their surroundings (classic romance novel anyone?) makes me so exasperated.

I don’t have a favourite tea either by the way, though I love the experiences I have drinking a certain tea, like the chunky ginger in the Tower or Earl Grey while I’d cuddle up near a fire on a cold day. So I drink tea when I want to feel peaceful, or bring back memories, or something like that.

I also heard once people sometimes use the warmth of a hot mug to replace the warmth of human contact. I don’t know how true this is, but a cup of tea does make me feel better about things. It’s comforting. A hug in a cup.

And so I think about words and sentences again, and art. That I heard once that when an artist dies the heavens let them paint the sunset so they can do art one last time.

I wrote this in a letter too, and wondered about what Van Gogh’s sky would have looked like, who swallowed yellow paint because he hoped it would make him happy, and who found beauty in faded sunflowers and broken old shoes. I hope it was happy, and I hope he found peace.

And I wish someone asked me about these things. That someone was curious enough to want to know. Or noticed things about me, as some people do, that my nose wiggles when I talk.

Or that my glasses are a little too big so I scrunch up my face sometimes to shimmy them back to where they should sit. Or that sometimes I might need both my hands to hold something you could hold with one, because my hands are so annoyingly small (16cm from the bottom of my palm to middle finger tip).

And I notice these things about other people.

And I love these little things. They make me smile. The little secrets we have that we don’t even notice sometimes.

The sweet and beautiful parts that add up to a whole person.

The things that make you so much more than an idea, or a concept, or a bunch of thoughts and feelings.

The things that make you so incredibly real.

The things that make you human, stunningly, wonderfully, imperfectly human.

Imperfectly perfect. It makes you magic, it makes you into the most complex art piece, in the gallery of the world, that draws people to love you, to remember you, each colour, brushstroke and shape.

I’ve often heard people use the term “poly amorous” as a negative word. But I think it is so joyful and full of love, literally “many love”, or whatever.

That there is too much love inside a person that they cannot find it inside themselves to give it all to one other person. They want to spread it, one love is too constricting. It feels so… so free. 

And, for me, I find it incredibly difficult to conform to monogamy. Because I fall in love with all the little things about people, and I get upset with labels like “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” because I belong to myself.

I don’t like feeling boxed in, caged, constricted. It makes me want to scream. It’s the way I grow to dislike people, because I am not an object.

I will not give my heart to people who make me feel like they hold it as a prisoner. I am wild, and reckless, and my love is free. I will love, and sleep next to/with who I want, and no one will make me feel guilty for that. No one.

And this makes me think about my friends in (monogamous) relationships who call “their other half” their best friend.

Firstly, I don’t need another half. I am a whole person. I do not need anyone to “complete” me. I complete myself. And, anyway, I think it is better to be wanted by someone than needed, don’t you thing?

Secondly, I’ve never had a best friend. I have people I am “close” to, but none I feel really gets me, understands me, touches my soul. So I feel alone. But, I’m cool with that.

I feel guilty though, because people call me their best friend, so I feel a level of obligation to say it back so I don’t disappoint them. And then I feel shitty for lying, but I put other peoples feelings above my own. If it makes them happy to hear it, sure. White lies. I don’t want to hurt them, they are my friends and I love them. I don’t have favourites, because I love my friends for difficult reasons.

Fairy lights and flowers are both beautiful, just not in the same way. One is not better than the other to me. Just different. Wonderfully so. I love both.

So when people ask “how can you fall in love with the forest in six and a half days?”. Honestly? One hour, the days were bonus time.

I saw myself in the people there, and I grew to love all of them, still do.

I feel in love with their love of each other, the forest, their stories, and all the little things about them.

I fell in love with freedom.

And, as I’m sure you’ve read, I protect what I love. I fight for it. And not just “I fight for it”. More than that.

I fight with all of me. I give all of me to the things, the people, I love. Every part of my head, my heart and my soul. I don’t half ass my love. Not a spark, my love is a wildfire.

So if, for any reason, we go our separate ways, I know I couldn’t have loved more. I couldn’t have done more. I love passionately, madly, deeply, completely, purely, with all of me.

And so I am in prison for my love.

Because I fell in love with the Hambi. With their dreams, their hopes, with them. They because my dreams, my hopes, my friends. Their fight, my fight.

And nobody fucks with my friends.

And prison doesn’t make me love the Hambi any less, does not cause a rift. I get letters from some who remember me. Yeah, prison is really shit, but I get to go out of here back into “the waiting arms of my friends”.

So, I am not afraid. I am not worried. I love the Hambi and I love you, comrade, wherever you are.

In one hundred and twenty five days, I go home to Hambi.


And you know what else? I get to hear stories of the other UP’s who were here. And I’m pretty sure I haven’t met them (who knows) but the way people talk about them here … it’s hard not to love them, these people I’ve never met, through the stories.

People here noticed their little things, and love them still, and miss them, and talk about the UP’s with such care and love, like they put the stars in the sky for the time they were here. It is so… so lovely and heart warming and beautiful.

So now I not only love the Hambi I’ve met, I love those I haven’t. And all the Hambi supporters. And all of you who have written to me. Every single one of you. Every person, every occupation, every fight and fighter.

I’m here for you, thanks for being there for me.

There’s a few letters coming through again (finally) and I am writing back to all of them, slowly, but I’m getting there. I can’t believe how long they take to write! I started this one at 6:30am it’s nearly 1pm now. But I will get there. (It feels like I do nothing but write these days…)

I’ve got a few things I have to do so I’m going to finish this letter here. So, until the next one.

Best wishes, love, energy, solidarity & rage!



3 thoughts on “Letter #35 from UPIII”

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