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 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 by 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 is 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 in, to play chess and chat. I suspect he wants something for last week he was not with it at roll call, told a tale of picking up a dodgy ciggy of 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 and 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 trying to. 5 minutes pass in 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

http://chasingthescream.com

Droning on…

The exercise yard is nestled in the armpit of the radiating wings of the prison. In the centre sits the gym equipment: pull up bars, dipping bars. Basic metal that can’t be damaged and requires or gets little maintenance.

I start exercising: walking lunges down one side of the triangular yard, 20 paces.

Turn and repeat.

This is every prison yard in every film except with more litter. High wire fences, crenellated loops of barbed wire. A black knotted netting stretches over. An aviary for those who cannot fly.

The holes in the netting are small. Drugs, stuffed in the slit of a slashed tennis ball, thrown over the wall will not get through. So, drugs are taped to 20p coins, heavy enough to throw, small enough to fall through the net squares. The penny has dropped when it comes to efficient delivery of drugs into jails.

Turn and repeat.

Drones are putting the security of prisons into a real spin. Mini helicopters are cheap. Fly to any window. Whatever you want: tobacco, booze, a knife, a new phone or just a pizza. Everything has an inflated price and the best pound for pound is the new drug Spice. Amazon will get there but today HMP are soaring above the others when it comes to a drone home delivery service.

Big, rough hewn, limestone blocks, (that last saw sunlight on their tops in 1827 when all this belonged to the King), frame small barred windows most with no glass. The netting stops at King George’s floor: the 4th, that leaves just one floor, ten windows, to receive the late night hum of a drone and the clatter when it hits the stonework and falls onto the netting below.

Turn and repeat.

These 30 minutes are my only fresh air in 24 hours. Most do not want to waste this time working out and so sit on a concrete step smoking. A smaller group of ten or so pace the yard chatting, walking the perimeter in a circuit. That YouTube mad Russian bear from the circus would be right at home here.

Two Screws are outside the fencing watching the yard. Cameras watch us all.

Turn and repeat.

Under the windows is the detritus from last night. Seemingly, everyone in the prison has collected a month’s supply of rubbish to throw out of the window.  This happens every night. Every step I look down on the shite swathe rain of: tea bags, crisp packets, empty tubes of toothpaste, ciggy dimps, milk cartons, ripped Bible pages, torn clothes, cereal packets, newspapers, one lone shoe toilet rolls used and unused. Several cons are sifting through all this for a cig stump, a tea bag or for something to do.

I decide to see if I can keep lunging the entire time. I’m doing fine but now I have to stop and admire the view, for, from a 3rd floor window, a green knotted sheet is being lowered. I try not to stare, no one else is, but I fail a green knotted sheet stretches 3 stories. The Screws are parallel to the sheets so conceivably can’t see it. They have seen it all before.

Maybe, this is a Rapunzel style rescue escape attempt.

Turn and repeat.

I end up below the sheet. It’s stuck on a first-floor window ledge and a loop is descending. I can’t help look up. Two tattoo tear faced chaps shout instructions for a waggle of the bed linen rope. The Screws must have heard but their ‘Give-a-shit-o-meter’ remains unmoved and they continue chatting. 3 sheets to the wind?

The guilty looking pair tie an empty milk carton to the end of the sheets. In it, they have put a small parcel from their sock top. The carton is being pulled back up.

Turn and repeat.

“That’s it gents”

We are called back in. All have received the exercise or stimulation they need for the day.

When people ask what is prison life like?

Easy  “Turn and repeat.”