Published on February 22, 2013
Sheree and Philip Halliday are looking forward to a âboring old predictable lifeâ together.
Published on February 22, 2013
Sheree, Philip and Cody Halliday on their front steps. Friends decorated the house inside and out for Philipâs welcome home party.
Philip Halliday just wants to make people laugh
[I'm working on one more article from the interview with Philip and Sheree Wednesday.]
Philip Halliday didnât learn much Spanish during his three years in jail in Spain.
But he sure knows what âlibertadâ means.
On Wednesday, Feb. 13 the guards called him to their station over a loud speaker.
When he got there he says a female guard was dancing up and down and shouting the word âlibertadâ â Spanish for freedom.
When he heard that, he says his heart started pounding in his chest. But his friend in jail who did all his translating for him told Philip the guard might have gotten ahead of herself.
Philip was to go and sign papers.
Sure enough, they were his release papers.
Back in the common room everyone was lined up to hug him and wish him good-bye.
âI donât think they ever ran into anyone like me over there,â says Philip.
He remembers one conversation with a fellow inmate who ran the canteen.
âHe told me âYouâre always so polite and smilingâ,â says Philip. âI told him so are you and he said, âThatâs because you are.ââ
He says he tried to help out the other inmates when he couldâlending them a can of pop or money for a phone call.
Others helped him with extra servings in the canteen or hot water bottles to help him keep warm.
Philip says he never had any trouble in the jails and in his last prison, he says there wasnât a fight in his module the whole two and a half years he was there.
His was a ârespect moduleâ and if you did fight or cause trouble you were sent out to modules with a rougher crowd.
He said he was nervous going in but he befriended two big Romanians who called him âDadâ. He called them his bodyguards.
The 100 or so prisoners in his module came from all over the world â most communicated in Spanish but some talked English with him.
He says he took some lessons and tried to learn but eventually gave up.
âI had a lot of other stress and it was getting to me and I just thought, why am I doing this to myselfâIâm not ever going to talk Spanish.â
To pass the time he worked on a Spanish craft called hilo â where he applied coloured threads on double sided tape to make colourful pictures.
âVery time-consuming,â he says.
And he also cleaned.
The jail was clean he says because the inmates kept it that wayâwith daily chores and a big clean up every Saturday.
It wasnât warm or comfortable.
âI missed sitting on something soft,â he says. âThe chairs were all hard plastic. I missed walking on something soft. Everything was concrete. I missed sitting on a toilet with a seat.â
But mostly he says, he he missed his family. âFor the first couple months I cried a lot and then I just stopped,â he says. âIt was hard to think about home. I couldnât think about my dog.â
When Sheree and the boys talked of coming to visit, at first Philip was against it.
âI thought it would rip my heart out,â he says. âAnd after a bit I just thought you have to come over.â
Asked if he will miss the people he met in prison, he responds, âNot for very long.â
And then he sits up.
âBut I will write them,â he says. âThey will be really happy to get a letter. Some of those guys donât get anything, they donât have anything. A letter means a lot to them.â
Philip says he received a lot of letters, some from people he didnât even know.
âOne day I got eight,â he says. âI didnât go flashing them around though. I didnât want the others to feel bad.â
When it came time for Philip to leave, he divvied up his clothes and books, some to friends, some just to anyone who needed them.
The steps on his way out were lined with people chanting his name.
âThey knew I shouldnât have ever been in there in the first place and they were happy to see me go home,â he says.
Earlier that day, at home in Canada, Sheree had turned off her cellphone for the first time in three years.
She had just had eye surgery and the surgeon had made her turn it off so she could rest properly.
Her sister was driving her home when she remembered to turn her phone on.
She had three messages from Kevin Burke, Philipâs lawyer in Halifax, and three messages from Joanne Dunn.
She asked her sister to give her a momentâs privacy and she called Kevin Burke.
âI was ecstatic,â she says. âI jumped out of the car and ran in the house screaming for my sister. We hugged, we cried and then I said âIâve got to start making phone callsâ.â
Sheree had set out a plan in advance.
âWhile I was thinking straight,â she said. âI just had to call the embassy in Madrid and they put the plan in motion.â
The Canadian Embassy picked up Philip from prison, they had a room already picked out for him.
In Madrid, Philip and two other released members of the crew celebrated with pizza and beer.
Philipâs hotel room was the first heated room he had been in in years. For the first time in years he and Sheree talked as long as they wanted. First he called her from the embassy and then she called him in the hotel.
âI donât know how long we talked,â she says. âWeâll see I guess when we get the charges. But it was worth it, whatever it costs.â
Philip didnât enjoy the flight home muchâit was a 23-hour trip including the stop over in Portugal and Toronto. He says he was overtired and nervous.
When he landed in Halifax and saw his family, his heart was pounding again in his chest.
Arriving in Digby and seeing the crowds who lined the highway through Conway was âamazing.â
A dozen of Philipâs closest friends were waiting at the Halliday home with food and a bit of beer.
âIt was a great night,â says Philip. âI told people I was going to forget the bad stuff and just make people laugh. Thatâs what I did. They all said it was the best party ever.â
Philip says he doesnât want people to be afraid to talk to him about his time away.
âThey wonât upset me,â he says. âI have already forgotten most of the bad stuff. Iâm just going to make people laugh.â