Hold the back page..!!

27 Feb

**STOP PRESS**

Life’s just got a lot better. I’m no longer part of the prison unemployed. As good as his word, Darren’s sorted me out a job; I’m the new cleaner on the wing. It’s not pin stripes here, its green trousers, but at least these fit me well.

I enter my new cell in the centre of the landing, within a quadrant of cells of other orderlies – it’s empty as the last occupant is moving his things out. It’s a cleaner, slightly better equipped version of my previous digs. I’ve not just got one pillow, I’ve got three. Another lad walks in a little behind me, I turn round to greet who I think is my new pad-mate, I’m met with a massive smile and a tank-like frame:

“I’m Nev” Says…. well, Nev

His good spirits are forged on the same results as my own, he is not only my new cell mate but my new work colleague. Nev and I are tasked to report to George tomorrow morning as ‘Cleaners on the 4s’.

I’ve got  a clean mattress, extra storage, new views (The main gate) and most importantly of all: the security of being able to put pictures on my wall without fear of being moved again.

If I’m truthful, I’m actually nervous about this job, I don’t know where anything is and I don’t want to be seen as useless. In hindsight, this thought brings home the mental impact prison has had upon me.  The man with memories of Graduation, City bonuses, boxing victories and promotion. Now nervous, how nervous am I?

In a B Category prison, it’s a privilege to wander around the landings and the wing with little impunity, while so many others remain holed up in their cells for 23 hours a day. I’m told I can look forward to having my cell open from 7am to 7pm, this is music to my ears. Darren’s sweeping the 3s, looks up and smiles across. “Nice one” I think to myself.

The other workers make efforts to help me feel more at home, I’ve just quadrupled the number of people I know in prison. Tony, the barber, brings across me some coffee as a moving-in present, then proceeds to take both Nev and I on an ‘Access All Areas’ tour, including the shared kitchen and laundry facilities. I now have use of a toaster, fridge and a microwave. I look forward to using my peanut butter properly.

There’s a minor disturbance on the wing, maybe once it would have been more significant to me. A small but disproportionately loud man is unhappy with his incarceration. Join the club.

……………………………….

Remember that scene in Shawshank Redemption, where the lads drink beer on a roof after Andy (Tim Robbins) offers some, ‘free’ tax advice to the screw? They felt a little sense of freedom. Right now, I’m eating peanut butter on extra crackers, courtesy of a partial ‘Carte Blanche’ in the kitchen. In some small way, I share a fraction of understanding with this… imaginary character from a film. I’m losing my marbles and it’s less than two weeks.

I taste orange squash for the first time in a while, I have pretty unlimited access to milk and coffee. The smile is etched onto me. As I hear those first nighters bang their cell doors, tonight I’m sitting in the Royal Box, for I – am a Wing Cleaner.

 

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