I have been moved to a new prison for the night: HMP Crowford. The three hour drive in the sweat box is a relief; to savor silence, the respite from the noise of HMP Slade.
An age waiting in the petrol station for the driver to get a sandwich.
Familiar motorway service station signs. I’m going home it will take months but I’m heading home.
I arrive. The lawns are immaculate.
“wow its looks really tidy”
“It is out of control mate”
The Screw confides in me.
“The problem is these young kids come into work get lamped up the side of the head by some big fella and figure they can go work in Sainsbury’s for the same money and less aggro. We can’t keep staff. The wings run themselves”
Interesting notion as the Screw unlocks the door entering the wing.
I’m given a sheet no pillow.
“first floor pad 39”
Nice room with shower and I must have a Presidential suite as there is glass in the windows: another prison first for me. I leave my clothes, books, chess set, toiletries all I have with me in two bin bags on the bed and venture outside of my cell and mingle. Young men, boys chat in their doorways. Soon I’m playing pool with a heroin dealer from Leeds. Ex-squaddie nice chap. He is easily winning each game, not a strategy on my behalf he has had practice being halfway through a 9 year term. Some games go well and I get two attempts to make a pot. I have realised i will have two transferable skills from prison so I have challenged all my friends to a game of pool and an arm wrestle on my release.
The pool table is next to the balcony looking to the ground floor.
Shouting from the floor below. A large black chap is properly boxing with an Asian chap. They are punching each other around the head. A screw tries to intervene and receives a slap up the side of his head. The screw is a young lad, rat tail attempt at a ponytail and fat belly. I’m no expert on bare knuckle fighting but outside of the southern states of America men with ponytails rarely win fights. Men with rat tails never win. His training in restraint holds does not feature as he scarpers, tail between legs.
A group of color-coded helpers is trying to pull the two pugilists apart. The Asian fella is losing on points. He is also losing a lot of blood from his nose.
I consider my options on whether this fracas will constitute a riot. The fight is a floor below. My cell door is ten feet away and I’m already planning my escape route to locking myself in there for when the tiles start being thrown from the roof.
The heroin dealer looks up from another pot.
“It’s not serious they ain’t got knives”
The Asian camp manager throws in the towel they retreat to a cell.
The black man runs to the middle of the wing and roars as this is not enough he beats his chest too. A remarkable performance. King Kong would be proud.
‘Who else wants some?”
I smirk at the cliche bravura of this rhetorical question.
But no another chap takes up the boxer bombast challenge, which was serious, and now two heavyweights start slugging it out. I have ringside seats. I’m most impressed with their stamina. No one is ringing a bell.
But I’m shocked. I ask the ex-heroin dealer if this is normal.
“Just a drugs bill”
One grabs the others sweat top and rips it clean off. Bucks Fizz would be impressed. More helpers separate the guys and the fight is over.
A cleaner appears with mop and bucket.
“Rack em up it’s your break”