Monday, May 17, 2010

It's funny 'ow their missus always looks the bleedin' same

Shall I tell you about the time I went to prison?

I've been gripped by that Wormwood Scrubs doc that is currently on. Having been there myself it's of special interest. Relax, I've not done time, but I have been inside the Scrubs. The programme made me realise that the brief glimpse I got of the place, though grim, was nothing like the reality. Yes, yes, yes, F-C, you cry impatiently, but what exactly were you doing inside a prison? Well, let me tell you.

We had some friends who were doing work that involved Wormwood Scrubs. Something social worky, not quite sure what, but through that they got invited to the lifers' Christmas do. Would we like to go to, they asked? We nearly bit their hands off. Well, we were curious.

So we went through those familiar gates, up the tunnel. Counted in, counted in again, past the dogs and the razor wire and into a huge hall where the show was to be held. Like a village hall that hasn't been cleaned for 45 years, it was awful. There was a trestle table bar, and several tables of families and friends who'd come to watch their loved ones perform.

The show itself was a curious mix of bonkers and heartbreaking, as well as being slightly scary. Most people sung songs about being free as a bird (their own compositions), there were some unmemorable skits and someone sang Love Changes Everything very badly. People snickered. I watched with a mixture of horror and bemusement. What did they all do? What did that weasley accountant one who looks like he didn't harm a fly actually do to get life?

So when the show was over, and I was awash with cheap wine (and I mean cheap - I'm sure someone distilled it in their cell as I had the mother of all hangovers the next day), we met the case our friends had been working on. He'd murdered someone but of course he didn't do it. He was clearly mad. That was the first murderer I'd ever shaken hands with. The other one came years later and was in EastEnders. Anyway, I've a feeling he might be dead now.

We met the terrifying (female) governor, Mrs F-C had to go the loo behind the stage where murderers and rapists sat louchely smoking fags. I had to go through the billiard room to oblute in a loo that had seen better days. The greenhouse scene from Scum was playing on a loop in my head.

It was dreadful, but I wouldn't have missed it. That said, I never want to go back there. You hear tales. Mum and Dad had a friend who went to jail for fraud. This happily married man was spotted seven years later arm in arm with another man at Junior Wimbledon. And the mother of a friend of mine did nine years for drug smuggling. In prison she became hard. It changes you.

Anyway, did you see that Boy George thing last night. I loved it. Great music.


Ishouldbeworking said...


I once went out with a bloke whose brother was in Broadmoor. I never asked him why - I felt it had taken a lot for him to tell me what he did, so I would leave it up to him if he wanted to tell me more. He clearly didn't. But he did admit, with a lot of cringing, that Ronnie Kray had taken a 'special interest' in his bro, who had had to devise a way of diplomatically letting Ronnie know that through flattered, he wasn't up for 'a relationship'. That was scary enough for me.

When you say that your wife went to the loo behind the stage, by the way, surely you don't mean she just....?

Five-Centres said...

Well, no, ISBW, there was a loo. Not a proper ladies loo though. She was quaking. But they were all very nice.

Clair said...

We had a family friend who used to manage the Locarno Ballroom, who went to prison for taking money to try and sort out his son's drug habit. Tragic.

I watched the first part of the Wormwood Scrubs thing, and just wanted to say to that bloke who'd secreted the glass up his bum, 'Oh, just stab yourself'.

Bright Ambassador said...

I've also visited a prison which housed mainly sex offenders. I wasn't an inmate, just delivering. Driving around the neat gardens I always felt I was being watched - pretty much the same feeling I got driving around miltary installations.
Some of the officers looked like they should have retired years before and I often wondered how they coped should it ever 'kick off'.

I agree with Clair, that glass bloke was quite clearly intending to be a complete pain in the arse (no pun intended). Nothing was ever good enough, you could tell he was stringing them along by the way he spoke to the camera.

That lady officer, who was chief officer of the segregation wing, was a lovely person.

I used to live next door to a prison officer. She was great but her cats loved shitting on my garden.

Mondo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mondo said...

I had quite a collection of friends who ended up in prison. Strange really - as we grew up in a very average, steady, ol' suburban any-town. There were no family, poverty, drug or behavioural problems and our school had a good reputation. One of my two best mates (I've mentioned him before) had a couple of older brothers who were always in and out - we used to joke they had season tickets it happened so often. The family used to holiday on the Isle of Wight so they could visit one in Parkhurst - he's dead now (drugs), and the last time I saw the other he was in handcuffs with an armed escort.

I know they were terrors, and even now I still meet people who shudder when their family name gets mentioned - I'll never make excuses or try and defend them. They could be nasty pieces of work. But luckily I never had any problems with them, they would take us to the Leisure Centre, drop us off and put our tent up on camping trips, or collect us from school in flashy cars, which as a teenager - it's just exiting.

Also had two mates that ended up in Chelmsford prison, which sounds a soft touch but apparently is bloody awful.

PS missed the Boy George thing.

Five-Centres said...

Look at us, all touched by prison life. Let's hope that's as far as it goes I'd either be top dog or wouldn't last five minutes. But I never want the chance to find out.

Clair said...

I see you as Grouty in Porridge, F-C.