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LIFE AFTER LIFE

Living in Spain after surviving 24 years in prison. Here I will be sharing my experiences as a writer and journalist, travelling all over the world interviewing dangerous people in dangerous places.

MEET DAVE, A SEAGULL AMONGST PIGEONS -part 5
20 January 2013 @ 12:28

Dave was first placed on ‘B’ wing, where Alan, a friend of ours lived. Alan was ten years into a very long life sentence and very much one of the ‘chaps’. That he regularly dabbled in relationships with young, effeminate prisoners was tolerated precisely because of his status. It seems that he took one look at Dave and it was love at first sight.
  The feeling was definitely not reciprocated. Dave clearly saw himself as a ‘chap’ in his own right now, albeit a gay one. To be a possession of another of the ‘chaps’ wasn’t attractive to him at all. Alan was persistent, but not threatening. Dave was adamant. The wing staff could see a situation developing and moved Dave onto ‘C’ wing, where Terry and I lived. 
  There was no ill feeling between Dave and I over the Parkhurst affair. In fact we were quite pleased to see each other. For me, I would welcome the opportunity to have someone intelligent to talk to occasionally. For Dave, no doubt he would welcome the added status it would give him, vis a vis the other prisoners on the wing, to be seen to be on good terms with me. Such was the life he was forced to live.
  Although straight himself, Terry was quite open-minded about gays. Like most other aspects of prison life, he refused to take it seriously and made a joke of it. Neither of us was about to take Dave into our lives and become close friends, and the feeling was mutual. He knew, as did we, that he would soon befriend a young and effeminate gay prisoner and become inseparable. That was the way he did his time. That and planning his next escape.
  With regard to escaping, Terry was a few years into his sentence and could see the end of it. He wasn’t interested. For myself, there were a number of factors. Firstly, Long Lartin’s over the top security seemed quite impregnable. I didn’t see the point of making an attempt just to get caught. I resolved to wait a while until I was transferred to another jail. As an ‘A-man’ I could expect to be moved every two years. 
  My second reason was that, in the first six years of my sentence, I had done two of them in solitary. I realised the damage it had done me, both to my mental and physical state. I was in for the long haul. It would do me no harm to have a couple of easy years at Long Lartin while I gathered my strength for my next, determined escape attempt at another jail.  
  As expected, Dave soon befriended Eddie, a young and slightly effeminate gay prisoner. He had been the sometime companion of several of the ‘chaps’ and was quite sought after, but, if not actually being mercenary, knew how to take advantage of a situation. He was putty in Dave’s hands though and soon the pair were inseparable.
  On every wing, the ‘chaps’ had formed themselves into ‘food-boats’. They would club together and buy food from the canteen and cook it themselves. The culinary standards were quite high and many of the meals very attractive. It made a welcome break from the dull fare of prison food. 
  I was the only ‘cook’ on our ‘firm’. Terry was always willing to do his share, but the results were inevitably dire. Consequently, I ended up doing most of the cooking. Together with all his other skills, Dave was an exceptional cook. It was Terry who thought of it first. He suggested that we allow Dave and Eddie to join us in a ‘food-boat’. Both jumped at the chance. If nothing else it meant that, as friends/acquaintances of ours, they would be safe from the many predators on the wing.
  At first everything worked out very well. With Dave, Eddie and myself all doing our bit, while seriously discouraging Terry from doing anything at all, we turned out some excellent meals. Our ‘food-boat’ was the envy of the jail.
  For all meals, even prison-prepared ones, the four of us would congregate in my cell. There, perched on chairs, the bed and the locker, we would eat and discuss the rumours of the day. With our different outlooks on life it was both funny and stimulating.
  In conversations, I had noticed a marked change in Dave. Gone was the shy, understated personality of Parkhurst and in its place was something altogether more harsh and destructive. There was a clear and underlying arrogance, which caused him to constantly belittle others. All this was done in private though, lest it get back to the subject and incur his wrath. Over and above everything else, Dave thought himself to be something very special. It all had an underlying bitterness that I was sure was a result of the solitary confinement. I had experienced similar feelings myself after long periods, but fortunately they had always abated. 
  Sometimes he would make outrageous statements. If talking about bank robbery he would say something like, “What you have got to do is walk in and shoot some old lady dead. Then everyone else will do exactly as they are told.”  This was ridiculous for a whole raft of reasons. Apart from any other considerations, by making the crime that much more serious, the police would look for you all the harder. Then, of course, the ‘chaps’ were just as sensitive to the feelings of little old ladies as anyone else, and sometimes more so. 
  Or, as a means of diverting the police away from the scene of a proposed armed robbery, Dave advocated exploding a bomb on a bus several streets away. When you reminded him that there were innocent people on the bus he would reply by saying that there were twelve innocent people on the jury that convicted him. 
  As an experienced bank robber himself, Terry might well have been expected to get annoyed. His easy-going character though took it all as a joke. “What does he know”, he would say to me afterwards. “He’s never robbed a bank in his life and he aint likely to.” We both realized that it was just talk and that Dave didn’t really mean it. I took it to be  another symptom of all the solitary he had so recently done. 
  Occasionally he referred to his sexuality, albeit obliquely. A favourite boast was that he had probably been with more beautiful women than most of the ‘chaps’. Once he said that he got a lot of pleasure out of walking on to a new wing, picking out the most attractive and effeminate little ‘raver’ that many of the ‘chaps’ were after, and stealing him from right under their noses.
  One day though, he managed to go right over the top with Terry. In many ways, Eddie was quite a sad case. Orphaned at an early age, he and his brothers and sisters had been moved through a series of orphanages. It was here that he had been sexually abused. One of the few highpoints of his prison existence was when he received a letter from one of his brothers or sisters.
  This day, Terry, Eddie and myself were sitting in my cell eating our meals. Dave was still to arrive. Eddie was perched on the corner of the bed, reading a letter he had just received. Suddenly, Dave breezed into the cell. Seeing Eddie and the letter he blurted out, “Oh, got a letter then? What is it?  Good news, like your mother’s died or something?”
  There was a stunned silence, followed by a ‘crash’ as Terry dropped his tray to the floor and jumped up. At first I thought he was about to punch Dave and the latter cowered back, but Terry was too much of a nice guy for that. Uncharacteristically raging though, he shouted, “I’ve had enough of this cunt”, and stormed out of the cell.
  Like myself, Terry had an aged mother. He was very close to her and when all one’s other friends had forgotten to keep in contact, it was always the old mums who stayed the course.
  I immediately accepted that this was the end of our ‘food-boat’ with Dave and Eddie. By now Dave was sitting quite crestfallen in the corner with his meal. I asked Eddie to leave for a moment whilst I spoke with Dave. I wasn’t angry, more, sad that the prison experience could turn people against each other.
  “Dave”, I said in a reasonable tone, “what the fucks the matter with you? You weren’t like this at Parkhurst. Why are you so bitter?” Dave sat there silently, saying nothing. “Why”, I continued, “are you always trying to sound so tough and vicious. We both know that’s not what you’re really like.” Still he sat there quietly.
  Now I was starting to lose my temper. “You’re only doing a ten, Dave. Why don’t you just settle down and you’ll be out in a few years. Then you ought to find some secure building, a bank or a manufacturing jewelers, find a way in and steal a million pounds, all non-violently. You’ve got the talent to do that.”
  “I wouldn’t want to get my money like that”, said Dave grudgingly. 
  “Who cares how you get your money, along as it’s not completely out of order. I’d steal a handbag if it had a million pounds in it”, I retorted. “You know your trouble”, I was angry now. “You wont be satisfied until you get your name of the front page of the News of the World.”
  “I suppose I wont”, retorted Dave in return.
  “Yeah, well then you could be in the position I’m in, doing an endless sentence, and you just might find you can’t handle it.” It could have been a prophecy.
  After that, Terry and I carried on eating together and Dave stayed with Eddie. Shortly afterwards, Eddie was released. It was just the opportunity that one of the wing predators was waiting for. 
  Ray was undoubtedly one of the most dangerous men in the system and had spent several years in mental hospitals. Originally from Liverpool, his twisted nature caused even the other scouses to give him a wide berth. Very powerfully built, in many ways he was like a need personified. If he wanted something he just took it, never mind the rights and wrongs of the situation.  
  When we first saw Dave fraternising with him, we knew he had made a mistake. For Dave there was undoubtedly the added status that the friendship would give him on the wing. He could indulge his increasingly prima donna ways and make disparaging remarks about others. But we knew that the piper would have to be paid. Ray was a confirmed prison homosexual. He had taken advantage of many weaker than himself. There was only one reason why he would befriend Dave and that was to fuck him. 
  We knew it had all gone very wrong when Dave popped up in the TV room. He had always been absolutely scathing and dismissive of the ‘mugs’ and ‘morons’ who spent their association time watching TV. And he wasn’t just in watching the occasional program, he went in as soon as the cells were unlocked for association and stayed until it was time for lock-up again. The reason was obvious. He was relatively safe in the TV room. There were scores of other prisoners, and two warders sat just outside the door. Ray wouldn’t attack him in the TV room.
  Although I was by no means an avid observer of Dave’s life, this little drama was being played out right in front of me. I realized his dilemma. He couldn’t go to the warders and complain, because that would make him a ‘grass’ and none of the ‘chaps’ would ever speak to him again. He could hardly fight Ray either, because he wasn’t big enough or vicious enough. In similar circumstances, a weaker man might have asked to be put on Rule 43, protection. Under this rule, prisoners who are being intimidated by other prisoners can ask to be put in the punishment block. It wasn’t much of an option for anyone. Call it ‘protection’ if you will, but it was still solitary confinement. And anyway, no decent, honourable, proud con would ever do such a thing.
  A couple of weeks passed and Dave was suddenly moved onto another wing. I still saw him about the prison and we acknowledged each other, even if we didn’t stop and speak. Terry and I did hear reports about him from a couple of the ‘chaps’ who lived on Dave’s new wing though. He was up to his old tricks….
 
To be continued..


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