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“One step above a special needs facility.”

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

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Part 11
With what seemed like The World and His Wife constantly putting the bite on me for tobacco, an ounce a week didn’t go far, but one day George came and sat on my bed, with a concerned look on his face. ‘I booked up some tobacco, double bubble from Uncle last week, innit.’ He confessed, ‘Now I can’t pay, ‘cos I got no cash on me spends account.’ ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ I answered, thinking he was about to ask for a smoke. ‘What’s ‘double bubble’ and who the hell is Uncle?’ He grinned at me. ‘You don’t know what double bubble is? Where ‘ave you been? It’s when you get ‘baccy on tick, ‘n pay back double on canteen day. Uncles this old Albanian guy on the top landing. I got an ounce off ‘im last week, and canteens tomorrow innit, ‘n I can’t pay. D’ya think he’s gonna be mad?

‘Where had I been indeed!’ I had no idea this sort of stuff went on but it got worse! ‘I’m sure if you go and talk to him now, before tomorrow comes and explain everything, you can come to some sort of arrangement.’ I reasoned ‘I don’t know man, these guys get a bit violent when you don’t pay back double bubble, innit. This guy on E uppers got cut 16 times wiv a shank ‘cos he owed half an ounce!’ Clearly I had been extremely naïve. I had no idea this sort of thing went on, but I was intrigued. ‘Why don’t you take me to see this Uncle,and Ill have a word with him for you.’ I offered ‘Aww Thanks man!’ He beamed, and off we went.

It crossed my mind that I was behaving like an Uncle as well at that moment, but I quickly pushed that thought from my mind. Up to the second landing we went, and knocked on Uncle’s door. ‘What’s the deal if I want to get some Tobacco?’ I asked ‘’Ow much you want? I give you sree and half ounce, you pay £50 direct to my bank account on outside.’ He answered. This didn’t seem to be such a bad deal. An ounce was normally £10 on canteen, so 3.5oz would normally cost £35, and this worked out around £14.30 per ounce, so far less than double bubble! ‘That’s cool, no problem, but we have another issue. George here has a problem because his Mother didn’t send him any money this week, so he cant pay his debt. What can we do about that? Shall I just take the 3.5, and give you back an ounce?’ George’s eyes opened in amazement, but I hated the idea of him being indebted to this guy and having to pay double the double next week, It would very soon spiral out of control, and besides, at this deal, we were paying back less than double. ‘That fine brudder.’ said Uncle. ‘You good man.’ He turned to George ‘This good man Georgie. You look after your new Uncle, eh!’ as he chuckled and smiled at me.

With the negotiations over he reached under his desk and pulled out an enormous box, full to the brim with Amber leaf tobacco, and fished out the three packs, handing them to me, ‘you want rizla too?’ as he threw in three packs of that and a disposable lighter. ‘You welcome my brudder, anytime! And Georgie, you look after your new uncle, and don’ you go telling none your frien’ ‘bout Uncles stash! They be all over ‘im when dey know!’ he added with a chuckle. ‘Come back anytime Uncle, we take a coffee, and have chat!’ It seemed I had made a new friend. He had given me his bank account details so from there it was just a matter of calling Tom and asking for £50 to be transferred. Quick and painless.

It got me thinking though that the officers must have known what was going on. George had told me that he also sold anything else you wanted as well. Spice, coke, even meth, but even if it was just tobacco, the rules stated that the limit on tobacco allowed in your cell was three ounces, and he must have had at least 50! With cell inspections on a regular basis, there was no way he could possibly have hidden it all, so the staff must have been in on the deal. And how on earth had he been able to buy that amount in the first place? Mind you if everyone was buying it and paying back double each week I guess it wouldn’t have been too long before quite a stockpile had built up, but that still didn’t change the fact that a volume of contraband that size was highly illegal!

Mark and I discussed it at length,and had a right laugh over it all, but anyway, I now had sufficient tobacco to supply the masses, although I had taken Uncles advice and hidden it from view, as the parasites from up the landing were usually wont to walk into the cell with eyes scanning like a supermarket checkout counter for anything new they could ‘borrow’. When I thought about it, it seemed I had been paying double bubble right throughout this entire ordeal. Not enough that I was paying for my crimes by being locked up, but I was also paying with the loss of my belongings, the destruction of my business, and the loss of income by not being able to manage my properties or share portfolio.

I had another problem too in that, having had to jump through hoops in order to be accepted as a customer by one of the most exclusive private banks in Britain, I was petrified that once they found out I had been locked up, I would lose all the privileges associated with that as well, as I would be deemed ‘not of suitable character’ to conduct business with them. Of course you might say that this was all my on fault,and that I had brought it all on myself, and that I should have stopped to think of the consequences before committing said crimes and you would be absolutely right, however, once you sink to the levels of depression and anxiety that I had, you simply don’t stop to think of the ramifications of anything. It’s almost as if you are on a deliberate path of self destruction,and self-flagellation,and you reach a point where you almost court disaster, reasoning that you deserve the punishment you are seeking.

Mark was still having issues with Catch 22, and his transfer, and kept going around and around in circles, with everyone he asked about it passing the buck to someone else. Catch 22 would tell him they were waiting to hear back from the receiving prison to find out if there was a spot for him, and the prison were saying they were waiting for catch 22 to complete a sentence plan as this was needed before he could be moved. He’d also had enormous problems getting batteries for his hearing aids, with healthcare telling him they had been ordered, but his old ones had long since run out, and now he was having to manage with no hearing in one ear. He wasn’t allowed to have them sent in, and yet they wouldn’t supply them. Similarly, I had still not heard about my cancer scan and this was causing me more stress and worry, on top of everything else, but they all seemed oblivious to it all. On top of this, I had still not had my appointment with the doctor, and I had still not received the lotion for my scabies, and I was becoming itchier by the day, and now had a nasty rash over most of my body. Perhaps it had been true after all that one caught nasty rashes every time one ventured south of the river, as I had often intoned!

For me, I had my secret weapon in Jayne, the sexual health nurse, but poor Mark didn’t have that luxury, and had been battling for a couple of weeks now to get an appointment with a doctor in order to have his problems sorted out. Jayne was horrified when I finally saw her two weeks after my last visit, and phoned the dispensary immediately whilst I waited. ‘oh, its been sitting here for a while now.’ replied the nurse. ‘well it’s not much use there is it!’ answered a fairly terse Jayne. ‘well we haven’t had anyone who could take it over to the house block.’ was the reply. It was 200m and someone manned the medicine hatch there every day. This was yet another example of employees who had no sense of responsibility whatsoever, although I had to say that on the whole the health care staff were pretty good. This was unforgivable though. I had a highly infectious condition, and one which could very easily have infected the entire prison.

I could accept that the average prison officer was not too bright, and that for many of them they wouldn’t have got a job anywhere else, in fact we would often joke that HMPS was one step above a special needs facility, and that it provided employment for the unemployable, and that was just the Governors but when they started playing Russian roulette with my health, this was where I drew the line. I still hadn’t had any word about my Cancer scan either, and when at the end of the month, I received a reply from University College Hospital advising that I had failed to show up to my appointment, I saw red. I took the letter down to the office staff and demanded a response, but their answer was that the Hospital had cancelled it. This of course was not true. They would not have been threatening to close my file unless I re-booked within 14 days if that were the case. When I pointed this out to them they reluctantly took the letter and told me that they would pass it on to the healthcare office, but I was not going to let it go that easily. I’d learnt by now not to hand over an original of anything, without keeping a copy.

On telling Jayne about it, her explanation, and one which made far more sense was that the prison didn’t want the expense of having to escort me down to central London, so they had just ignored the letter, hoping that I wouldn’t know that the appointment had been made in the first place. A couple of months later, after this had happened a couple more times, the hospital actually sent me a letter to confirm my appointment a couple of weeks before it, and the stupid mail room let it slip through the security process. Inmates are forbidden from knowing about these arrangements in advance in case they arrange to be broken out of the escort van to escape, so I shouldn’t have received it, but having read it, and knowing when the appointment was, I couldn’t tell the officers, otherwise they would use my knowledge as an excuse to cancel it anyway, but I waited in vain as the appointment day came and went for the fourth time now, and then took the letter down to the officer in charge to complain. Backed into a corner, and unable to come up with a plausible excuse, he resorted to an answer they used all too often in this situation, ‘Fuck off!’

Double Bubble
Double Bubble is the third book in The Chemsex Trilogy — a series of books written by Cameron Yorke about his experience with Chemsex, addiction, and imprisonment in the UK.

Read our interview with the author.

We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male. This is the 11th instalment in the serialisation. Go back to read earlier instalments.

The Chemsex Trilogy

Visit Cameron Yorke’s website

Cameron Yorke. Photo by Andres Payo (image supplied)
Cameron Yorke. Photo by Andres Payo (image supplied)

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Life

Wednesday Wisdom: Heteronormativity

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Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash
Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

I find it hard to shake my perception that dating is ultimately about finding ‘the one’ — that you may have to kiss a lot of frogs in the process, but ultimately you’re hoping to find someone that you really connect with, that you have amazing sex with, that you want to move in together and do domestic things with, that you want to introduce to your family, that you want to go on vacation with, that you want to grow old with and live happily ever after.

That’s pretty much what I’ve seen in my family, that’s what I’ve seen in movies. For some gay couples that I know, that’s exactly how it works.

It’s not difficult to understand that from all of our cultural and environmental influences, we’re being conditioned to aspire to a ‘good’ relationship that roughly fits that Hollywood ideal. This is heteronormativity in action.

One of the foundations of much of queer theory, ‘heteronormative’ is a term first coined by academic Michael Warner in 1991. Heteronormativity is the belief that the binary genders of male and female are required for people to perform the natural roles in life — assuming that heterosexuality is the default and preferable sexual orientation.

I’m not making any moral judgements about anyone’s relationship. If it works for you, then that’s great. If you want to settle down with a husband and live happily ever after, then all power to you — that’s what equality is all about.

But it is helpful to occasionally challenge ourselves by asking if our thoughts or actions are being influenced in some way by the heteronormativity that we’re all exposed to every day.

Here’s an example. A friend of mine has been with his boyfriend for years. They live together, they bought a flat together, they decided to get married. They’ve always had an open relationship — that’s worked for them. The weekend before the wedding, he was in the toilets of XXL — a club in London — getting worked over by two muscle-bears.

My instinctive reaction was — “That’s not right…” It’s the heteronormativity talking. In my head, marriage is about monogamy, and that if you were continuing to enjoy an active and open sex life then maybe marriage is not for you. But clearly I’m applying made-up rules to situations that don’t fit the heternomative model.

Obviously, an open relationship isn’t incompatible with marriage. Neither is a monogamous relationship. But this is an illustration of the complexity that we’re all navigating as marriage equality offers additional options for how we define our relationships.

It’s too easy to apply a Hollywood-happily-ever filter to our view of a marriage between two guys. But gay guys are different, we’ve been told that all of our lives, and in that difference there’s power — just because we can get married doesn’t mean that our marriages have to look like anyone else’s, the only rules that need to apply are the ones that make sense to us.

It’s important that we don’t perpetuate the perception that ‘good gays get married’ or that marriage is only meaningful if it looks like something out of a mid-career Sandra Bullock movie.

It’s not easy to find someone that you want to spend time with, to make compromises for, and perhaps it would be a lot easier if there was a black and white set of rules that all relationships had to follow. But whatever your sexuality, relationships are messy and complicated things that really only ever make sense to the people that are in them.

Embrace love, forget heteronormativity.

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