22 Feb

The cell door swings open at 8.20 to what would be on any other day, a siren sound, a chorus if you will, a Gym Induction. Today though, my body’s sore, swollen and lethargic, as the illness that has engulfed me in recent days takes shape. I embrace germs my DNA string hasn’t seen since the 1890s. I feel ill still but nothing would stop me from hitting the gym.

I bimble to the end of the landing and converge with the other random assortment of lags. A bit of waiting around is required so I take a look at those standing with me. Anything from young and old, excited to disinterested, it seems the gym screws drag everyone out for this event. There’s alcoholics, drug addicts, the morbidly obese and the athletically insane, all present eager for some out of cell time. Quite what level of fitness a tramp may or may not have is a prospect I am eager to explore.

I chuck last night’s writings into the yellow post box in time for the 8.30 collection and I have the chance to catch up with Ian and our new chat pal, Tel. A number of the wing orderlies tag along too for a gym session and I get the chance to properly make the acquaintance of Darren. He’s a wing cleaner on remand, suspecting the terms of his release license after  a 9 stretch. That’s a full 9, an 18 year tariff; makes mine look like chump change.

The gym we head to is one of five in Wandsworth and is a mixture of old and new equipment but better than some I’ve seen. It’s still a little spartan but perfect right now. It beats push ups and shadow boxing in your cell, sweating with your head inches from the toilet. Don’t let the Daily Mail have you thinking we have a David Lloyd centre here. The showers are cramped, cheek to cheek and I can’t see a hot tub anywhere.

We sit on a wooden bench in two rows while we are given a 5 minute safety demonstration and talk on gym etiquette. It’s another box ticking exercise and I’d bet a good half don’t understand a word thats just been said, i’m champing at the bit and fly out of the blocks when we get the green light.

I spend a bit of time getting accustomed to the gym and try to put together some kind of circuit in the hope I’ll sweat my disease out. Twenty minutes in and Darren invites me into his session. Cue the hardest hour of training I have done in a long-long time. He’s as fit as a fiddle, systematically wearing me down muscle by muscle. If he’s testing me, I don’t know how much longer I can keep the brave face on. No rest for the wicked seems to be his mantra – I feel it’s futile to protest that at heart, I’m not.

I enjoy getting to the gym, if not for anything else but being able to have a shower without it being a drama. As I dry off I take the time to chat to Darren about what brought him back here. In keeping with similar remand cases, I won’t comment more. But he has a family outside and is desperate to make up for lost time. I can see he’s a good sort and I here from others he has been pushing to get me that job on E-Wing I hanker for. Tel, told me today he’s off to Wayland nick, I’m conscious that cell movement is happening again and while other wings maybe quieter I’ve started to get bedded in on E and sticking on here will be just fine.




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