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Arts & Culture

Prison boot-camp

Photo by Simon Frey on Unsplash



Part 7

After two weeks in residence, my numbers had finally been added to my phone pin. I had been checking everyday which was no mean feat in itself. Because as yet I hadn’t started a job or my Peer Mentoring course, I was still locked up pretty much 23 hours a day. Maybe once or twice a week, we would be unlocked for ‘association’ for an hour or so, but that time had to be used to shower, exercise or use the phone, and because of demand for all three you had to decide which one was the most important, as there was never time to accomplish them all in one day. There were three inmates phones on the wing, for close to two hundred prisoners, so as you can imagine there was sometimes quite a queue. I would try to run down to the phone at the end of my landing first thing in the morning as soon as the doors were unlocked for movement, but quite often the phones were switched off. Similarly at lunch and dinner time and it was pot luck whether you could actually get onto the phone, operating or not. Even if they weren’t switched off, sometimes they were just out of order, and it would take a good five or six days before they were repaired. On top of this, when you did manage to get through to someone, the calls were a maximum of five minutes, and then you had to wait another 20 minutes before you could make another call.

If I had to use my association time to check my phone by placing a call and waiting to see if it connected, I would normally not have time to also have a shower, even though I would be waiting at the door and sprint the 50 yards or so along the landing in order to be one of the first in line, and as gaining contact with the outside world had become of paramount importance, I had no option but to forego ablutions for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, finally when I had all but given upon ever getting phone access, miraculously one Saturday morning when I had punched in Tom’s mobile number, it started ringing, and three rings later he answered. I almost cried! He was in Amsterdam for the weekend, with Rob and Michael, and they all sounded so pleased to hear from me, and all said they’d been worried. They knew I’d been arrested, but had phoned the police and checked on-line to find where I was, and totally drawn a blank. Apparently the Police couldn’t provide any information because none of them were family, even though I had added Tom as my next of kin, and given them his phone number for my regulation phone call which had never eventuated. There is also a website which tells the public where a prisoner is being held, but my name had not shown on that either, so they’d had no option but to wait for my call. Tom promised to send me some money, and we arranged for me to phone him early next week to make plans for all the other tasks which needed attention.

It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, I was so relieved to finally make contact, and I also asked Tom to let everyone else know that I was OK, and that I was in court with another bail application at the end of the month. At this point I hoped beyond hope, and still thought there was a chance that I would be let out on bail, and had also discussed the possibility of posting a surety to facilitate it, but for that, I would need either my friends to be exceedingly generous, or to be able to access the money I had hidden away in various locations around London, mainly in betting shops, and whilst I was in here, there was very little chance of getting at that!

When they asked how I was, I put on a brave face and told them I was treating it like a boot-camp, and to a large degree I had been — it was the only way I could get through the day. They thought this was funny, but actually I was still terrified of venturing too far away from my cell, and would avoid others as much as possible. It was amazing though how a single phone call had the power to relieve all the stress, anxiety, and worry that had been gradually building up over the past two weeks.

I wondered what the prison service hoped to gain by denying access for so long. Sure, part of the problem was that because everything was done manually it took so long to physically type all the details into one’s file,and lets face it, I had come to realise that the prison service staff, which I had never ever given any thought to in the past were not the sharpest knives in the block, but this could not solely be blamed for the situation I had found myself in. The vast majority of staff on the wing had been deliberately hostile and antagonistic, regarding me, and others with utter contempt and disdain, and deliberately making things difficult. When they had heard that I had not been in contact with anyone since my arrest, and seen how obviously distressed I was over it, particularly when I had repeatedly asked them for advice or assistance on a daily basis for two weeks solid, they could very easily have organised a phone call from one of the offices. It had been done before I’d heard, so this behaviour was just blatantly bellicose. Either that or they were just too fat, tired and lazy, but whatever the reason, it wasn’t good enough.

Bill had also introduced me to the world of ‘Apps’. Apparently if you wanted advice or help with anything, the correct procedure was not to ask an officer, but actually to fill out an app, and post it in the app box, where it would be taken to the office and sent off to the correct departments for a response. This could take up to seven days,and usually did, however even for the most simple of requests, an officer’s standard response would more often than not be ‘fill out an app.’ I therefore filled out apps about my medical treatment, adding my phone pin numbers, requests to see the lazy Phoenix futures case manager, and every other concern I could think of. If they wanted apps, I would give them fucking apps!

The letters though, hadn’t been totally in vain. Miraculously on Monday when my new cell-mate went to check the list on the notice board for his visitors for the week, he came back to say that I had a legal visit booked for the following morning. Another monumental relief flooded over me, as I’d been so worried that I would end up in court with no representation whatsoever, and now with all these charges hanging over my I had no idea how I would navigate myself through this legal minefield.

That night I managed to ring Tom, and we discussed what needed to be done about my flat. The police were holding the keys as they had been the last ones there, and I had no idea how to go about retrieving them from in here, but Tom was already one step ahead of that, and had been on the phone to them to ask,and then sent through a typed letter in the wording they had given, for me to sign and send back, He had even included a stamped addressed envelope, assuming that I would have trouble finding one. He’d also been to the post office and sent me a £50 money order by first class mail so he thought it should arrive the next day. I had forgotten that my two scooters were also sitting outside the flat in Belsize Park, and he would need the keys for them in order to move them, but they were also in the flat, so it was a chain reaction which would take some unpicking.

Next I phoned Daniel Beckman, who brazenly announced that he didn’t want to be seen to be associating with me because he was paranoid that the police would think he was involved, which I found utterly deplorable. I had been good enough to provide him with food, drink, drugs and entertainment for months on end, mostly free of charge, and in return he couldn’t or wouldn’t lift a finger to help. I wanted my money though, and I was not just going to let that slide. Fucking parasite! I’d sort of known that this was how our friendship would end, and now kicked myself for being so generous towards him for so long. When I thought about it, I was not sure why, as there had been nothing in it for me at all — I was not in the least bit interested in him sexually, and never had been, and he had constantly used me for whatever he could get out of me, and I had continued to sit back and take it. If the police had thought he was in any way involved he would damned well have known about it by now, and anyway, he was giving them too much credit, as there was no way they even had the resources to tap his phone of put a tail on him, so actually it was just a raft of excuses to kick me into the long grass. I vowed to myself that one way or another, I was going to extract that money from him if it was the last thing I did!

Tuesday morning we were in lock-down. There had been an incident although no one told us anything, and there was no movement for the morning, so this meant that I would miss my legal visit. I was in a state of panic. We were now getting dangerously close to my court date, with less than two weeks to go, and my Lawyer knew nothing about me apart from what she had been able to extract from the court notes. There was however nothing I could do about it, so I just had to hope that she was able to book another visit fairly promptly. Meanwhile we spent the time watching bad morning TV as usual, me becoming increasingly anxious, and not in the least bit interested in Jeremy Kyles latest guests.

They unlocked us for lunch and we were instructed to collect our food and go straight back to our cells, with still no explanation,and no one willing to offer advice on what would happen with my legal visit. It was the same procedure at dinner,and I was becoming more and more worried. I’d spent the afternoon hand washing my clothes in the hand basin and bucket.There was supposed to have been a laundry service and a designated kit change day to exchange our sheets for fresh ones but so far, this had not happened in the two weeks I’d been here,and anyway, I figured if I sent my designer clothes to the laundry there was a good chance I wouldn’t get them back. Wayne had fashioned a clothes line across the bathroom from end to end, by ripping strips off the edge of our sheets,and tying them together, and then tying one end to the window and the other to the air vent above the loo.

As it was mid February, and still very much winter the cell itself was freezing cold despite the central heating pipe which ran along the back wall, as the windows were all broken and a constant draft blew in, however in the bathroom the window was still intact, so the temperature in there was markedly warmer. Clothes seemed to dry quite well there, whereas in the sleeping area they remained damp for days unless you laid them directly onto the heating pipes overnight.

To ad to my worry and woe, I developed a cold. Probably because I had been existing on a diet of drugs and more drugs for so long, my immune system was almost non existent, and I suppose the draft, coupled with the concentration of 200 men in a confined space at close quarters meant inevitably that head colds, ‘flu and other airborne diseases were bound to spread, and indeed almost the entire wing was sniffling, but it hit me harder than most, and I lost all energy, and took to my bed feeling sorry for myself. I managed to drag myself to and from the servery to collect my meals, and that was the extent of my exertion.

Wednesday was much the same, with total lock-down in place all morning, so another day spent lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. Just after we had been locked up for lunch, The door swung open again and I had been booked for my Hospital visit to have my throat biopsy. It was the last thing I felt like doing, but I knew there was no chance of cancelling and re-scheduling. I dragged myself from the bed and pulled on my clothes, as the officer stood waiting in the doorway. Back down the landing he led me, out through A Wing and into the reception where I went through exactly the same process in reverse as I had done on my entry, except that this time I was not permitted to wear street clothes, so after my strip search I was thrown a track suit to put on, then led back down to the original holding room and left there while they did the paperwork.

Surely it would have made more sense to have completed that before they came to collect me, but then I was beginning to realise that nothing made sense in here. The same procedures had been in use since 1891 when this prison was first built, and no-one had bothered to overhaul or update them in line with technology, so it was now little wonder that the prison service was at breaking point.

I waited for what seemed an eternity, and finally they came and told me the taxi was on its way. Two guards escorted me, one handcuffed either side of me in the back of the taxi, which wended it’s way through the back streets of Islington and across through Camden town, Primrose Hill and back down to Euston and UCL Hospital, depositing us at the rear entrance to the accident and emergency department. Then came the humiliating walk of shame through the entire hospital chained to a prison guard either side of me, panic-stricken that I would run into someone I knew. My apartment was literally just down the road and most of my ex-clients had lived around this area, not that I was particularly worried about them, but a number of my ex colleagues had also lived and worked in the area and I would have been mortified if any of them had seen me.

It was bad enough having to wait in the waiting room in prison issue clothes with an officer either side of me, and feel the eyes of all the old men and women I didn’t know boring into me. We presented our selves to the desk, and gave my name and the nurse consulted her list ‘You’re late!’ she muttered crossly. ‘Your appointment was for 2pm!’ The officers had only come to collect me from my cell at 1.30pm and by now it was gone 3pm. ‘Yeah I know, innit’ replied the officer. ‘Well I’m afraid doctor has gone for the afternoon now, you’ll have to reschedule.’ she answered curtly. I was livid! There was no reason for this tardiness, and both officers had acted with an arrogance which suggested that everyone should dance to their tune. ‘Yeah, no worries,’ replied the officer again nonchalantly. It didn’t bother him one iota, but as far as I was concerned it was a nightmare. I no more wanted a repeat exercise of this afternoon than fly to the moon. The test was already overdue,and from experience I knew that with cancer it was always best to act on instincts quickly, but now it would be god knows how long before I could have it rescheduled!

We moved back into the waiting area again to wait for the taxi to be organised. The officer couldn’t simply call the cab, which would have been logical, but no, he had to call the prison, who would then call the cab company and have them dispatch someone. This of course took three times longer than it should have because nothing or no one in the prison service ever moves quickly. When I complained about it, both officers were quick to assert that they didn’t mind in the least. The longer they were out, the less work they would have to do back in the prison. For me, every minute I was sitting out there in the waiting room increased the risk of being seen and was becoming more and more cross by the minute. Part of it was also of course because I was ill, and this had been a totally needless exercise in futility, all because these arrogant pricks had assumed that they could do what they liked, playing with other peoples lives and schedules out of pure laziness and belligerence.

Eventually the taxi arrived and we went through the whole process in reverse again. I never quite understood why, having been chained to two prison officers for the entire excursion, they then felt the need to strip search me again on our return, knowing full well that we had been literally joined at the wrist for the entire time!


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.

We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male. This is the seventh instalment in the serialisation.

A cautionary tale about Chemsex

The Chemsex Trilogy

Visit Cameron Yorke’s website

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Arts & Culture

Hoxton Street

London. Life.



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“Why are you limping?” asked Hamish, as he met Charlie for drink after work. They met in Howl At The Moon – it was busy with the after-work crowd.

“It’s a bit embarrassing…” mumbled Charlie, taking the pint of Guinness that Hamish had bought for him.

“A fisting accident?” asked Hamish.

“Nothing like that…” dismissed Charlie. “I’ve got a new job.”

“That’s great news!” said Hamish. “Why is that embarrassing? How is this related to you limping?”

“Um… well, I’ve taken a job with Sweatbox…” explained Charlie.

“Sweatbox?” repeated Hamish. “Sweatbox in Soho? Sweatbox the sauna?”

“Yes, exactly…” nodded Charlie. “They’re renovating at the moment. They called me in for what I thought was some training before they re-opened, but it turned out that the place is still a total building site so I spent the day lugging heavy boxes up and down stairs. Obviously, I’m not really used to manual labour, so now everything hurts. Everything.”

“Back it up…” said Hamish. “What do you mean you’ve taken a job with Sweatbox? What sort of job?”

“Um, just a general kind of team-member job…” shrugged Charlie.

“What the fuck?” laughed Hamish. “Why would you take a job like that? Are you that desperate for money?”

“Pretty much…” nodded Charlie, taking a long drink from his pint of Guinness. “It’s not just that – I thought it would be good for my writing and stuff, but mostly it’s for the money.”

“You are full of surprises…” grinned Hamish. “Wait, isn’t that going to be kind of awkward if I go to Sweatbox and I see you working there?”

“Why would that be awkward?” asked Charlie.

“Because I’m going to be in a towel, about to get my rocks off, and you’re going to be swishing around with a mop and bucket!” exclaimed Hamish. “It’s going to kind of kill the vibe a bit if I know that it’s you who’s going to have to wipe up my cum.”

“When you put it like that, it is a bit awkward…” agreed Charlie. “How often do you go to Sweatbox?”

“Not that often…” shrugged Hamish. “But probably more than you might expect. When do you start?”

“Not sure, to be honest…” replied Charlie. “I think they’re hoping to have it all open by the start of February. Anyway, how was your day?”

“Not bad…” said Hamish. “I spent most of my time working on Brexit-related stuff. Then, this afternoon, I had a meeting – I guess he’s technically my client, but he feels more like my boss. Without the money I get from him, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills.”

“He’s definitely your boss…” decided Charlie. “How did the meeting go?”


“I don’t know, it was weird…” shrugged Hamish. “He just kept saying how tired he was. How stressed he was. I’d gone in there thinking that I was pitching for more work and more money, but he just spent 30 minutes talking at me, telling me things that I already knew. After 30 minutes, he stopped, like he’d run out of things to say. So I said, is there anything else that you need from me today? And he said no. Total waste of time.”

“That’s probably how Theresa May feels…” said Charlie.

“Do not compare me to Theresa May!” declared Hamish, slapping the palm of his hand down onto the bar to emphasise the point. “Are you going to be able to get me a friends and family discount at Sweatbox?”

“I don’t know, to be honest…” shrugged Charlie. “I guess so. They give free entry if you’re under 25.”

“Are you suggesting that I could possibly pass for being younger than 25?” laughed Hamish. “You’re as delusional as Theresa May!”

This is the latest episode of the serial, Hoxton Street.

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