Things I thought

Saturday 18 August 2012

Day 9 - New Digs Old Tricks

I spent the night listening to helicopters buzz overhead and the morning on lockdown. You lot really are cross, aren't you?. I know my incarceration must be a shock to you, but don't you think burning down England might be a slight overreaction?

Rocksteady and I spent the morning safely tucked away in our cocoon of stone, an experience that is rapidly becoming as tedious as it is predictable. To mix things up it was exercise rather than Association which went missing today leaving both my legs horribly unstretched. Even more disastrously for my (mental) health, my supply of burn has finally run dry and I've been reduced to constructing fags out of the butts in the ashtray like some kind of teenager. Luckily I should only be subject to this juvenile indignity for 24 hours or so - my canteen ration's due tomorrow.

By mid afternoon the reason for our lock down became clear. From my cell window I was afforded a fairly unique view: easily a hundred prison guards and senior level cops (I saw at least 2 Chief Inspector lapels) squeeze themselves into the chapel either for a top brass pow-wow or, just as likely, to beg god for a way out of this clusterfuck. They shuffled back out an hour later, gravel faced and chain smoking.

The belly of the prison's belly rumbles as it wolfs down more inmates, and the latest mouthful of rioters has pushed me further along its digestive tract. A guard came this afternoon and told me to pack up my stuff. I had my choice of wings, so I chose B, where Charlie Gilmour, a man whose own ludicrous crimes I stand in bewildered awe of, is said to reside. Sadly upon getting here I discovered that the Pink Floyd scion and scourge of the royalty had been moved to a less shit prison. Good news for him, I suppose.

A new wing means a new cell mate who, for the purposes of obfuscation and at his own request, we shall call Ben 10. Ben 10 has told me many new and exciting things, mostly about how diabolically awful the mismanagement of this place is. The waiting list to see a doctor stands at 3 months, the waiting list for a dentist at 5. As he regales me with tales of the cons and cock-ups that characterize life here, the telly happens to roll round to the news. As if to back him up, a report has been released today calling conditions here "unsafe and demeaning". We grin through gritted teeth as the reporter informs us that some prisoners in Wandsworth can be locked up for as much as 22 hours a day. The least I've had so far's been 23.

Ben 10 is able to tell me a little more about how jobs work inside. The best ones, he informs me, are in the DHL centre, where the canteen packs come in. It pays better than anything else inside, and there's a £5 bonus if nothing gets nicked. The second best is as a cleaner - you get a £20 bonus for any "biochem" clean ups (piss, shit, vomit, blood) you have to do, and a tidy racket has emerged between clean up workers and prisoners willing to engage in a bit of dirty not-actually protesting. The split the cash.

I'm on the top floor in B Wing and the heat is oppressive and both Ben 10 and I sit around with our shirts off (we aren't allowed the windows open, lest we "escape" by squeezing through the 6 inch gaps in the bars and fall the 5 stories to our deaths in the exercise yard).  The whole place feels increasingly like a tinderbox, and we discuss what to do if/when it all finally sparks. We agree the best thing to do is to keep well out of it, shut the door and try and live off Ben 10's incredible stockpile of porridge, noodles and tea that's been a year in the making. It is, at least, a cosier vision of a prison riot than the one I had back on E Wing.

So ends day 9.

You can find day 8 of the prison blogs here or you can even go back to the start 

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