Where was I? Oh yes, first night in jail. How uncouth. I really didn’t know what the score was with anything, and didn’t have a clue how to find out. Luckily for me some other “ladies” (as they like to call you in prison, unless you’re a man in a men’s prison I expect) came and talked to me and told me what was happening and showed me where to get things. It seemed I needed a flask, hot water, a bag of tea, coffee and sugar, milk and a small packet of biccies. Turns out they were right. Once that door’s locked there’s not a lot to do so a nice cup of tea goes down very well indeed. But not the coffee for that looked and tasted like gravy. Bleurgh. They showed me around a bit, told me what time we would be unlocked in the morning, just before breakfast, and that was pretty much it. It surprised me that all of the useful information was coming from other prisoners, not the staff, and in fact that’s just the way it is.
An officer came and introduced himself because I was new and that was about it, it was time for roll check and bang up. And bloody Children In Need. Rubbish. Now, there were a lot of things I was unsure about. Was there a time I had to turn my TV off? Was there a lights out time? No-one had said. And would I ever be able to go to the loo again as there was a chance, a very good chance, that I would be seen? Dignity, I came to accept, was a thing of the past.
So, Children In Need it was, while I tried not to think of my own children or wonder if they knew what had happened to me yet. I’d prepared them for the worst but still, I really hoped they were OK. At about 10pm I switched the TV off and wondered to myself if it was time for lights out. I was incredibly worried that I would get into trouble for staying up past the allowed time. I didn’t want to get into trouble at all, never mind on the first day. I cocked my ear towards the door. I could hear other televisions and the odd shout out. I put Children In Need back on. God, that really is a pretty woeful piece of television. Hey, I know live TV is hard but mistimed gags from earnest celebrities are awful and the films about the people they’re helping are upsetting. I know they have to be upsetting in order to make people feel guilty and donate but, jeez, didn’t they know I had more than enough problems of my own? And how was I supposed to donate anyway?
After a while I was sufficiently bored to turn the TV off and attempt sleep. I was also still very worried about watching TV too late. I turned the light off and got into bed. Only the light was still on! Well, a slightly dimmer one. How odd. I put the telly back on. It obviously wasn’t lights out yet. But I was really tired by now so thought I’d try and sleep even with the light on. And I did manage it, but not very well. Because the bastard light stayed on all night. I hadn’t expected 18 months of having to sleep with the light on, surely that’s a breach of my human rights or something? But I supposed I’d just have to get used to it.
In the morning I made sure I was up and dressed before they unlocked my door and once they had I joined the queue for breakfast. Oooooh, fry up! Bonus. Plastic cutlery though. Although not exactly a big surprise. And the people seemed…..nice. I was a bit puzzled. Which is an awful thing to say really. Despite my non-Bad Girls watching former life I’d still gone to prison expecting to see the stereotypes. You know the ones, scary tattooed women, butch lesbians, really hard-faced old boots. And OK, there were some, but most of the people were shockingly normal. I asked about the lights and was shown a light switch on the outside of the door. Duh! If only I’d known about that before I got locked in, maybe I’d have had a better night’s sleep. At least I wouldn’t have to spend 18 months sleeping with the light on and my human rights were intact. I couldn’t work out why the swines that check you haven’t hung yourself in the middle of the night hadn’t turned it off for me. Did they think I wanted to sleep with it on? Did I look as though I was scared of the dark? Bastards.
It turns out that going to prison on a Friday is not great, because the normal routine doesn’t happen over the weekend and there’s nothing to do. You can’t start on your induction programme (where you find out what jobs you can do, go to the library, get your levels of literacy and numeracy tested etc) because they only operate that on week days, you can’t ring anyone because they haven’t sorted out your money or phone PIN number and you can’t go to the pub. So I made friends. I got chatting with some of the people and that was that. They were really nice, and really friendly. I couldn’t believe it, I’d expected to come in and be intimidated the whole time and it was nothing like that at all. I felt so much better.
On the Saturday afternoon an officer came and told me I had a visitor. This was news to me. I’d had no communication with anyone apart from a very brief phone conversation on arrival to let my parents know I’d got there. I wondered who it was, how exciting! And then they told me it was my solicitor. Awwww maaaaaaaan. What could my solicitor possibly have to say to me? But it wasn’t my solicitor at all, it was my friend Mark, hurrah! Oh shit, he looked like he was going to cry. Luckily for him I didn’t feel like crying at all, so I told him I was absolutely fine, it was nowhere near as bad as I’d expected and that I was going to get through it and it seemed to make him feel better. I really believed it too. It made me realise, though, that although this was possibly the worst thing I could ever imagine happening to me, it was far worse for the people I’d left behind. I knew that they were really suffering, while I was feeling quite relaxed. Don’t forget, I’d been resigned to this for a long time, and it looked like it was going to be so much less shit than I’d dared hope.
The visitors’ centre was nothing like how they’re portrayed on TV either. There were comfortable chairs around a table, a calm and relaxed atmosphere and a shop run by volunteers selling drinks and sweets. I had a very nice visit with Mark and after a couple of hours I had to go back to my room to pass the rest of the weekend. Slowly. I watched a lot of telly and read the book I’d very sensibly taken with me. It was a very funny one too, Round Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks. It really helped get me through that first weekend because how can you be miserable when you’re laughing uncontrollably?
And so, dear reader, I shall leave it there for today. I apologise if I’m going into too much detail but there’s so much to say. Rest assured, however, that from now on I won’t be writing about every single day, we’d be here forever.