No Room at the Inn (23-25 Dec)
My strategy of non-association until my depression lifts is finished when I am shifted over to low Moss. Guard told me around Friday lunchtime and we were processed out of Edinburgh and arrived at Low Moss around three.
Low Moss is a prison near Glasgow made out of an old military establishment that was put up during the war. It's a scattering of wooden huts and portacabins and probably hasn't changed much in the last sixty odd years.
There are five of us from Edinburgh and when we arrive at reception we find seven guys arrived just in front of us from Barlinnie. So twelve cons are sitting in a small room waiting to be processed in. The Reception Passman brings in seven plates of stew and potatoes for the Barlinnie cons. We are told we weren't expected so there was no food for us. We sat there and watched the other guys eat. The stew looked good.
It took around three hours to process us all into the prison. Each con is called out to the front desk. You go through a few forms with the guard, then he goes through any belongings you might have with you. He decides what you can take in and what you can't. I get to keep my books and toiletries, tobacco, stamps and training shoes. He keeps my notebook and envelopes, tells me your not allowed lined paper in Low Moss. He doesn't say why he keeps the envelopes.
You then take off your clothes which are stored away and take a shower in a cubicle at the desk. After the shower you are led over to a dog box (which is like a cupboard with a flat seat). In there your jail clothes are waiting. You put on your jail clothes and wait for the rest of the cons to be processed. The first con through was in the dog box for almost three hours.
We are led over to Billet 1 (there are 12 billets in all) most of the billets have rows of two man cells in them but a couple are still dormitories. Billet 1 is the admissions billet and is a dormitory.
The Billet is about sixty feet long and has a row of single beds down each side. There is a locker in between each bed for your belongings.
The place is filthy.
Think Bad Lads Army then think squalor. There is a small tv in one corner with a few chairs round it. There is a bathroom with one urinal, two toilets (one out of order) with half doors and one working shower. The whitewashed ceiling is yellow with nicotine and there are tea stains and graffiti on the walls, in some places the plasterboard has been stripped off showing bare wood.
When we arrive there are eight admissions already there and two passmen, our numbers fill the billet to twenty-two cons. Usually cons are only held here for a night or two until they are allocated a cell but we are told the jail is full and no-one will be leaving till next week s we could be there for a while. I settle into a bed in the middle of the billet and am given a sheet, duvet cover and pillowcase which I am grateful for to cover the stained bedding.
Don't really get much sleep at all on Friday night as there seems to be a lot of excitement amongst the other cons. Most of these guys have been banged up for days at least are catching up on getting to know each other. The T.V. was on till at least three and in another corner a con has a cd player which bangs out 'Dire Straits' till dawn. My position in the middle of the room meant I got both at the same volume and couldn't tune into either. However we don't have to get up early as there is no breakfast at the weekend.
Over the weekend I gradually get to know the other guys. Most of them have short sentences and are out in a couple of months. I have a shoplifter on one side doing four months and a fraudster on the other doing nine. The shoplifter is broke and came in with nothing, so as I put my smokes out he makes roll ups with the doubts. I notice the other cons picking them up off the floor. By Saturday night, the minute I start to roll, cons will come up and ask for 'twos'. They ask for shampoo, shaving foam, stamps, sugar. It's not just me, everybody is asking each other and everybody is watching to see what each other has. There is nowhere to hide, and 'gear' that was brought in was burned or blown on Friday night, Saturday goes to Sunday (the T.V. stays on all night) and it is Friday before there will be another canteen issue. I get the feeling it could be a long week.
Sunday is another 'lie in'. Some joker guard wakes us with some 'tannoy' about getting ready for the Christmas Five Mile Fun Run. Because of the festive season our personal cash has not been transferred from Edinburgh yet so most cons have no money to get phone credits. I kept the 30p credit given to cons on Friday to let people know you've been transferred so I could make a call today. I decide to phone my youngest son and for a minute or two he tells me what Santa brought him. Other cons aren't so lucky and the situation becomes a bit tense as they complain to the guards. The guards say there's nothing they can do. After a long afternoon we go to the dinning hall for dinner. I was surprised to see an effort had been made and a turkey meal was provided. Although as the 'new boys' we were last up to the serving hatch and missed out on potatoes and gravy. It was a good meal and cheered the place up a bit. Then back to the billet for a night of T.V., Dire Straits and cups of tea.
Most of the cons are sitting around in groups and for a while we don't see much of the guards. Then about eight o'clock one appeared, at the door, a small Irish guy with a kind face, he spent an hour or so taking all the cons who wanted to, out to make a quick call to their families, I got to phone my oldest son. After he left the mood was really good. The music was up a little louder and there was a lot of laughter around. The guard didn't have to do that, but he could see we were all a bit desperate, I guess he was our Father Christmas this year.