Spice of life

Drugs are around me every day. This morning I’m in the shower room: 4 cubicles in a line. Think Glastonbury but without the sophistication, I’m wearing flip-flops to save my toes from the dimps and debris on the floor.


Drugs are around me every day.  This morning I’m in the shower room: 4 flimsy plastic cubicles in a line. Think Glastonbury but without the sophistication, I’m wearing flip-flops to save my toes from the dimps and debris on the floor.

I’m alone. I strip, hang my pants on the hook,  pull back the shower curtain and yelp with surprise.  Yelp is not a good sound for a man to make in prison. Come to think about it, it is not a good sound for a man to ever make.

A young con is, Polonius-like, behind the curtain:

A wretched, rash intruding fool’

No water running to alert me, just stood silent. I quickly choose another cubicle and wonder whether the following definitions have any bearing on his actions:

Definition: Cheeked

To hold money, contraband between one’s buttocks. See Plugged.

Usage: “I was on a Rotl today,  had a shit and forget I had cheeked £40. Must’ave flushed it down bog ”

Definition: Plugged

To hold money, contraband, or a mobile phone in one’s anus. This can be forcibly removed by fellow prisoners or less frequently Screws. See cheeked.

He was lucky I do not carry a rapier to the shower.

“No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be”

I had never heard of Spice prior to going to prison. Prisoners were drug tested for Marijuana so when an alternative arrives, spice, that did not show up on drug tests it was popular.  ‘Alternative’ is misleading, for with any new product the consequences are poorly understood. Spice is a different drug; no mellowness, it just brings a banging heart and debt.

Drug barons will abuse the addicted for a smoke:

eat this dimp butty for a drag,

a punch in the face for a drag,

and worse.

A man on my wing, Willo, has been popping into my room, to play chess and chat. I suspect he wants something. Last week he was not with it at roll call, told a tale of picking up a dodgy ciggy off the floor and has had all his priveledges taken away from him. No canteen, no visits.

Ex-marine, which I only believe when he shows me photos. He tells me he is related to Louis MacNeice and produces poems about the death of comrades as proof. Not as convincing as photographs but believable. He is a nice fellow with drug issues that led to burglary, a 5 year conviction but an improvement of his opening gambits with his piece development through the exploitation of open files and centre control.

Some days he can play chess.

Some days he literally can’t make a move.

For example, last month I walk past his room as a crowd of four are looking in and laughing. Willo is on the floor curled up rocking. Maybe this is a good day.

I see him less and less over the next two weeks.

I stand next to him in the dinner queue:

‘I’m worried about you”

“I can look after myself”

I want to push the discussion further but I’m a coward and fear connection with a man who is a trained killer. The sum of my formal training relates to Excel spreadsheets from 1996.

The next time I see him, again in the dinner hall, I’m sat eating. Willo is ladling some beans from the servery onto his plastic plate or is trying to.

5 minutes pass while he is still trying to scoop beans. He cannot hold his plate level. He cannot really hold the spoon but he holds everyone’s attention and attracts derision.

He is shipped out the next day. As is usual this information filters out slowly.

A case like Willo happens every week.

The paranoia swirling mists of gossip point fingers on who told what and to who but the Screws are not stupid nobody had to spill the beans.

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety its connection” Johann Hari


The writing is on the wall.

Aaron, the prison Chaplin, organises a steady stream of Christian do-gooders to come into the prison. Tuesday nights: they come in to sing and preach but mainly preach. Tonight, an all female a cappella group; culled from a local church. So far, they have kept themselves hidden in the vestry. Maybe they are afraid to converse with actual criminals. Maybe they are just afraid. Prisons are scary places.

The usual half a dozen cons arrive. Two or three more will walk in half way through as they usually do. Two or three will walk out half way through as they usually do. Both approaches usually bemuse me.

I’m sat with Hugo, a dark web drug dealer, and thoroughly nice chap. He used to sample his wares as heartily as he sold them. His downfall was filling his car with petrol from his local garage. During the transaction, he removed a parcel from his coat to find his wallet. This parcel was his only employment that week. All he had to do was get it to a post office. It contained several dozen orders to his customers, mainly MDMA, some Meow Meow, lots of LSD, ketamine, a reasonable quantity of cocaine, and a healthy lump or three of heroin. Hugo had sampled all of the above within that last week. That was a usual week.

He can talk eloquently and knowledgeable on drugs for he has been off them now for a while.

Hugo only sold heroin to businessmen. He defined businessmen as people who could buy enough brown for three months. In one payment obviously. One payment in advance. There were 3 businessmen deliveries in that parcel which sat next to the Esso shop till.

Fortunately, for his customers, the envelopes were not yet addressed. Unfortunately, when Hugo realised his package was no longer in his possession he went back for it and collected a possession with intent to supply class A, B, and C  charge and eventually a sentence of five years and eight months.

All of his late twenties he will be inside. This is distressing.

Can you imagine how his customers feel? That would have been a tough three months.

The six ladies walk in and line up at the front of the church. It is the sign of a shallow individual to judge on physical appearance. All are very ropy. Think Angela Merkel but without the va va room. This is where the Golden Girls are today.

I turn to Hugo and ask,

“How many of the six would you shag?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, he replies,


I’m as shocked as he is serious. 26 months in prison will lower anyone’s standards but two? Two down market Ann Robinsons. Secretly, I’m impressed with his enthusiasm……. but two? I have a simple rule of never having sex with anything I can’t lift. Clearly, the constant gym is increasing Hugo’s availability pool. Maybe I should hit the gym more?

During the next one-quarter of a second, I check the lineup twice.

The results are as follows:


no, no, no, no, no, and a no.



This could be a lookalike competition for Miss Marple, Queen Victoria, and Ann Widdecombe. In fact, I think one of them is Ann Widdecombe, but not as slim.

I’m struggling for one.

The old dears begin to sing their first carol “Silent Night” and it is beautifully done. This song always manages to bring a tear to my eye. I contemplate that outside, normal people are doing normal things. I’m just getting into it when Hugo leans across and adds,

“Possibly three”

That’s it. I cannot allow this magical scene to be sullied by this boy. So, I join in. The tennis match starts I serve:

“I bet Aaron has fucked all six ”

“…..over the font”

“While the other five watch……”

“…singing carols”

“oh come all ye faithful”

We both smirk in a childish schoolboy deuce delight. A grin that is inappropriate and the ladies know it. We certainly know it. New balls, please.

Maybe Hugo knew the song was going to finish. Maybe he knew the church would fall into utter silence at the moment he delivers his ace,

“Do you know Aaron fucked me six times over that font”

All is calm, all is bright……for the nanosecond that it takes for 6 old ladies to process what has just been said. Perhaps the ladies did not hear. Perhaps the applause covered the full impact but there was something in the horror on their faces that hinted that they did not like what they heard. There is no evidence that prisons act as a deterrent but prisons are a deterrent for pensioners. These ladies are deterred. They plainly will not be back inside. They will not be sleeping in a heavenly peace for some time.

The rest of their songs seemed to drag; for us and them.

I took the view that it would have been worse to leave before they had finished. The ladies took the same view. This was the only concert I did not hang around at the end for conversation.

As I’m quickly leaving the chapel I spot a sign,

“No Swearing. This is the house of God”

I cannot accept that this sign was there before. This is God’s message to me to repent. I’m converted, will obey the writing on the wall, banish blasphemy and expel profanity from my life.

Plainly, it’s a miracle a simple, fucking miracle.