Thursday, January 06, 2011

Fings ain't wot they used ter be

I wrote somewhere once about New Year celebrations in prison, in fact it was about the New Year of 1990, or somewhere around there. At the time I was resident in HMP Durham, in the segregation unit there. When midnight struck, the whole world around me seemed to go mad - bells ringing, car horns blowing and explosions of fireworks... THAT was outside of the prison. Inside the prison almost every con would, and did, wait for the stroke of midnight and simply lose the plot. They screamed and howled like rabid dogs (most of them WERE rabid dogs ) and quite simply battered their cell doors until the very prison seemed to be shaking on its foundations. Of course, they were simply celebrating the fact that another year had begun and that meant a year closer to release. All over the country every prison did the same thing. The noise would be horrendous and it would go on for ten to fifteen minutes.

Contrast this year, just a few days ago. There I was, lying in my feather bed as a guest of Lizzie Windsor - an unwilling guest but a guest for a' that (quick reference to Rabbie Burrrrrns there) - and, as I lay in my bed, I could hear my retro alarm clock ticking away the final minutes of the year of grace 2010. Around me the prison was silent. Not a thing stirred, not even a mouse - although I expect a few of the rats were awake and sobbing into their pillows, those who hadn't sold their pillows for a mess of pottage (or a pot of message, either way does).

Then midnight arrived and, in the far distance, I heard a couple of weak 'pops' of fireworks going off as the local populace did their bit to celebrate - two bangers, a Catherine wheel and a rocket: £2.99 from Tescos.

Inside the prison? Not a sound. There wasn't so much as an apologetic cough. This is the way the year starts, not with a bang but with a silent whimper. The prison was silent as the grave.

Oh make no mistake - they would all be awake, all lying there in the dark in their beds, those who hadn't sold their beds for a set of mumbles such as promises (another reference there.) Oh they would be awake all right, lying there and, in many cases, having a little cry to themselves - these tough guys.

Gone are the days when cons screamed defiance at the gods and celebrated a year closer to release. These days nobody has anything to look forward to - they are going nowhere and what's one more year when you have thirty or forty or more stuck up your collective aristotle (as the cockneys would say)?

Nobody celebrates anymore - they have nothing to celehrate, and if they did they wouldn't want to get into any trouble. Well, be fair, they wouldn't want to lose their tellies and have to miss Corrie and Eastenders.

But all is not lost because it would appear that in Ford open prison they (some of them) must have gone on the drink and at some point indulged in a bit of drunken vandalism - fires, windows broken, things like that. All it was (reading between the lines) was a drunken celebration that got out of hand, that's all. I'm not condoning it, but I'm not condemning it either. Put it down to the pressure of the moment and call it a day. But the authorities won't of course. They will send most of the participants back to places like this and they will spend more years pointlessly.

Cons have changed and, as I said at the beginning, fings ain't wot they used ter be.

Finally, to all of those friends who read this drivel every week, may I say with the greatest of sincerity that I hope that the New Year brings each and every one of us all we desire for both ourselves and those we care about. In the words of the little feller in that book by somebody or other, whatsisface, "God bless us, everyone!" 

See! Another witty reference and nobody smiled! I don't know why I bother... I bet they don't let ME go to Ford... Two thousand and eleven? That's not a year, that's a gas bill... I'm still trying to come to terms with the 1970's... Why has my kettle not boiled? I put it on ages ago... I may need a lie down, all of this excitement - and the year just started too...Does anyone want to buy a bed?

The Voice In The Wilderness

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