The First Night’s the Hardest… Day 2 am

10 Feb

They say the first nights the hardest, I say every night is as indescribably futile as the next. But I don’t know this yet, Its early hours of my second day and I hear the stamps, the bangs, the yells and clucking, the constant clucking of heroin addled inmates struggling with their own demons inside a small cramped room with another equally lost soul.

So what’s sleeping in a cell like? You ever slept in a car before? 🙂 Its noisy, its unfamiliar. There is a large extractor fan above a sink at the foot of the bed. There are two vents, one in one out. The noise can justifiably be compared to that of an airborne jet. The fan works by taking noxious smoke filled air from other cells pumping it via our own and removing our own cleaner air. It doesn’t cool the room and is often covered by cheap issue toothpaste to deaden the noise.


I’m woken by the sound of the alarm on my ‘tea’s made’ they issue all new prisoners. Black humour, I’m woken by a bald face staring into my cell, before bellowing the name of my cellmate Ian. Its six am as Ian gets his belongings together and prepares for another day in court. He has a two part sentencing, his mind is understandably occupied I hope for his family’s sake, what he hears today doesn’t shatter him. You will have no doubt heard his case in the news – its a whopper.

I’m not sure if he will return to my cell later but I hope so. He is the only voice I’ve really heard this side of the parapet and I can deal without some yard speaking lunatic rocking up. As he leaves, he puts his first night pack of goodies over to my side of our shared desk, I tell him I won’t touch it but he is insistent I take it before it gets binned when I move.

When I move?

I hadn’t even considered that – for now that concern gets shifted to the back of my mind, but boils away still.

Once he heads back to Southwark, I have a rummage around amongst my belongings. I have a freshen up, leant over the washbasin as and when water is running (Its temperamental) and sit down to eat some cereal before writing again. Celltime is pretty mundane but then that is so often the case in prison.

I survey the space I’m confined in, there is a bunk bed to the left, a long wall mounted desk to the right, buffered by a little storage cabinet unit either side. To reduce the chances of us making metal edged weapons, we are provided with two bulbous plastic chairs, that look no dissimilar to a smurf. These are sat side by side under the desk and its here I spend my morning. Beyond the bed and desk, is a filthy old bed sheet, stained and adorned with pubic hair; it hangs from a rail fastened with a fork – acting as a divider between the sleeping area and the toilet. Further still and this is a distance measured in inches at a push, is a small window, reinforced and barred offering a little light at the top of a cell wall.

Looking out the window, I see a little benched area, a haven? No, its the exercise yard for the sex-offenders – their prison within a prison. Picturesque.

As I inventory those possessions I’ve been given, I count 3 photos that slip through the net.

“They are my 3 favourite photos of you precious” I hold them close to my chest, exhale and am thankful for this little mercy.

She’s in a park, picnicking, drinking a cider in a warm London field; I can’t drink for a while but maybe a little Camden in the New Year?

A little Hawley Arms perhaps….

I lay my three favourite photos out across my desk that I sit writing from and reach into my bag for my radio.

“Bastard Screws! They’ve not given me my plug. What good is my radio without a power source!”

My blue beaker’s empty, I’ve finished my tea, I guess I’ll have another, there really isn’t much to do then this morning this side of Wandsworth. We’ve got the smallest kettle in the world, but its big enough. Civility is much the important sensation this day and a cup of Euro Shopper tea with disturbingly flammable milk whitener; could be Twinings right now.

I can’t help but think much of the next year will be painted by a necessity for a warm beverage. I butter a stale roll, using a ‘fruit spread’ jam substitute that comes in a prisoner’s breakfast pack and pop on the weather forecast.

25 Degrees… Its a scorcher.

Not expecting to be out sunbathing today, I consider my immediate issues.

– I’ve got no pillow, my necks in bits, neither has Ian, I’d like one for both of us on his return.

– There is no plug for the sink, besides a condom stuffed with ‘something’ – god knows what, perched on the edge of it.

– I’ve been given £2 phone credit to call home, but not until after 2pm when my numbers are verified as ‘Safe’. Association is from 9 am to 11am today, so that’s today ruled out for calling home.

This latter point frustrates me, I have always coped well alone but I’m still my parent’s little boy and I know they will be desperate to hear from me. I can’t do that for at least another 24 hours. I hope they’re okay. How has R taken all this? She’s on the other side of the world?

My girlfriend’s been with me from day dot, from when all this was an issue, I look forward to the time when I can have a normal functional life with her. She’s a good sort, I dread a dear john.

The cell door swings open, I’m feeling comfortable:

“Pack your bags, you’re moving!”…


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