“You’re not a proper man, are you Chris?”

Macca and I were cutting sweet peas together, a present for the chefs (who just happen to be women) at Schumacher College, a hub of alternative thinking and living.

The gift was Macca’s idea. The flowers were my suggestion and I had somehow let the conversation get all muddled…

I had told Macca that I was a feminist and before you all jump to the wrong conclusion as well…not because we were picking flowers, but because I was desperately trying to reinforce a positive image of women to a man who starts at a very low basis for enlightened thinking on many issues.

However Macca did want to express his thanks for a recent wonderful lunch that we had all enjoyed at Schumacher College. The sweet peas, combined with his very kind (just misunderstood) nature, managed to convey our thanks.

This lunch invite was partly Macca’s engineering. For the last few weeks he had taken any opportunity to go and collect our daily soup, allowing him the perfect chance to suggest his clever invite idea to anyone who would listen in the bustling kitchens.

“Macca had a big grin on his face, winking at me; I vaguely wondered why”

So, it was six of us that made our way down to the college, arriving just in time to join the throng gathering in the dining area. Everyone else looked clean and rather summery; we managed to look hot, dusty and rather hungry.

I offered to introduce us all, but we were told to wait, form a circle with everyone and then “hold hands with the person next to you”…

Well! This was a bit unexpected and I certainly hadn’t prepared anyone for circle time, hand holding and/or feeling a little awkward.

About half way through my awkwardness I suddenly understood, this was all okay. In fact it was good and there was a tremendous sense that the food we had encircled was made with care and love.

Macca had a big grin on his face, winking at me; I vaguely wondered why.

The food and the company were all lovely, at times two different worlds meeting but a strong feeling of being very welcome and accepted. A lot of food stories were swapped and the prison diet was discussed and analysed. There was a general agreement that a better diet in prison could improve many aspects of prison existence and behaviour.

As we walked back up the hill I asked Macca about the winking. “Ask Rob” he giggled, so I did… “No Chris, it was great, I mean really good, can we do it again?!”

“Oh! Er, yes I should think so… was the circle thing okay?”

“Yeah…didn’t you see who I was next to?!”

“No…” I hadn’t really noticed.

“Oh, she was the blonde Dutch student… Chris, I haven’t hardly seen a girl for two and a half years, let alone hold hands. Can we go next week?”