LIFE STROY OF TERRY DONALDSON CHAPTER 9
THE PRISON RIOT
had been bringing in the so-called Dogmen; these looked lie real thugs in SS style overalls, walking around with dark glasses on like the secret policemen of Haiti or somewhere. Real animals, they were so-called because their original emit was to control the dogs which they kept and use in the prison for sniffing down drugs. These mutts were the most useless creatures under the canopy of heaven for actually finding any drugs, and never found anything, as far as I know.
But the Dogmen liked to stalk around the prison yard like school bullies intimidating smaller children. Some of them were on steroids, pumping themselves up into body building monsters, flexing their biceps as they moved around with their shirtsleeves rolled up. They must have though they looked tough.
They were actually members of a paramilitary unit, the Barbados Defence Force, which is the closest thing Barbados has to an army. You can tell a lot about the brainwashing they are receiving from the way these guys move, though, from their body language. By brainwashing, I mean, of course, their ‘training’, which is inculcating them with notions of elitism and an absolute contempt for the public they are meant to be serving. Barbados wil one day have massive problems as a result of keeping this unit going.
The ordinary prison officers, John Nurse, had seemed to conclude, were unable to get rid of the drug problem in Glendairy, which is why he then took the step of bringing these bods in. And real thugs they were proving themselves to be, too. Stopping people who were moving around the prison, searching them , but rarely if ever finding anything. Bajan criminals were too clever by half to be caught by western-trained dolts like this, and would always find places to hide their contraband which proved very elusive.
But the Dogmen were making themselves to be a nuisance.
On the farm, meanwhile, one of the officers had gone ‘over the top’ and seriously injured a prisoner by forcing him into a wooden box, then kicked the box down the stairs with the prisoner in it. He had then rained many blows with a truncheon on the outside of the box, and injured the man. This was all hushed up, as John Nurse’s priority was more to keep things bottled up and out of the public eye rather than to get t the bottom of any injustice and solve it.
Another had hit the British inmate Lavender in the eye with an iron bar after the former had attempted to defend himself from being beaten by a disturbed local inmate. Lavender tried to get to hospital but this was denied, as was his right to call the British Embassy.
Meanwhile up at the main building all the younger prisoners had been moved to the right side of A Corridor, in accordance with senior officer Moore’s desire to see all the younger fellas in one place. He always seemed to like going over there to talk with them, and on more than one occasion marshaled them all together and marched them up to the library, where he could talk to them uninterruptedly.
But what had been happening, for so long and in so many diverse places, was now all happening in one concentrated place- A Corridor.
John Nurse was at this time also attempting to introduce a series of additional fences and gateways throughout the prison, with the intention of restricting movement from one part to the next. One set of these fences had been introduced into the front prison, with the establishment of a caged area where football playing often took place. The other main area was on the inside of the back prison in front of the carpenter’s shop and the medical building. Here, were an additional two sets of fenced area, erected so as to give all the hundreds of men in the back prison the opportunity to exercise at least once or twice a week. There were men that had been years on D&E, and F&G who had been denied the opportunity to exercise, but had been kept in these dark miserable cells ad infinitum.
You can imagine the level of frustration and violence that stemmed directly from this deliberate, lock-down policy or repression.
Prison officers regularly got away with beating any prisoner that, in their books, made a nuisance, in other words, insisted on his rights. Even getting out off the corridor to see the doctor was a major difficulty, let alone getting in to see the doctor. Tweety bird was one, who would beat any prisoner with a long stick that annoyed him or gave him cause.
One really strong prisoner, whose actual name was Jones but was known as ‘Most Wanted’ had for some time been hassling these younger prisoners for sex, after first offering them drugs and extra food. There was one particular ‘pretty boy’ that had caught his eye, and what we heard was that he had raped him. The matter was brought before Carrington, for adjudication, but Carrington decided to do nothing, and allowed Jones to go about his business. This was typical of the way things were run in Glendairy, i.e. without any justice whatsoever. Only in this case the young men on A Corridor decided to act for themselves. If Carrington wasn’t going to dispense any justice, they would dispense their own. Now by this time Carrington had moved his office from what before had been a more strategically-placed separate building outside the main building, and by the wall where it was ringed by other officers and s set of gates and fences. Instead he had relocated to a refurbished in what had formerly been a chapel, alongside the dimly-lit and poorly protected corridor which led from the front to the back prison. This corridor was only about two feet wide, and had -in theory- a guarded gate at either end. Carrington’s new office was set in a totally unprotected area where there was absolutely zero opportunity for reinforcement, should the need arise.
The young lad could not believe it when he realized that Carrington was not going to go against one of his Bullermen. In fact, it was a close thing that he was not put into security for complaining.
He went back to A Corridor, where he was met by some of his mates. This lad I had seen going around a few times; he did seem very young and from his looks I was not surprised that he had become a target for the Bullermen. When his friends found out that nothing was going to happen to Jones, they grabbed hold of their ‘jukas’- home made knives- and led by ‘Badmouth’ ran round in a group to where Jones was still standing in Carrington’s office. They faced each other, Jones by now having drawn his juka, and ready and able to use it, too.
They advanced on Jones, but just then Carrington intervened, but one of them whacked him on the side of the head and he ran away out the door. Jones then threw a huge rock- where he got it from was not difficult to know, for there were thousands of these dangerous things just lying around all over the ground everywhere in Glendairy at any one time. This rock missed the person it was intended for, but struck someone else that was passing in the corridor, and took out the side of his face, making his eye hang out on its stalk, as he screamed in agony. Already it was like something out of a Steven King or horror film.
There was blood everywhere, all over the walls and floor.
People were screaming and running.
The pandemonium had begun.
Carrington was able to lock the door to his office before he was chased off by a group of young inmates all bearing home made knives. But it was Jones they wanted. There was the smell of blood out now and these hounds were baying for it.
Jones knew that the door wouldn’t hold them back for more than a few moments, so he turned round and began pulling at the set of iron bars up at Carrington’s window. Straining and heaving, he bent them back. It was like a scene out of one of Arnold Scwarznegger’s films, ‘Predator’, or ‘Terminator’, where the hunting creature steps through the bars of a trap. Jones was through in seconds, just as the door crashed in behind him. The gang of youths was right behind him now, but Jones escaped through the window with bare moments to spare.
Just then Lt. Col. John Nurse came along onto the scene, surrounded with a couple of soldiers bearing assault rifles, and pointing them ominously at us. Nurse looked good standing there in his red-banded cap. But all that parade ground servility was over now. He tried giving an order,
‘Will everyone retire to the Mess Hall.’ I attempted to follow that order immediately, but as I got to the Mess Hall Sergeant Paine, for some reason, saw fit to lock it, and thus prevent anyone from getting into it.
Back on the yard the situation was getting increasingly out of control. Officer Blackman was trying out some of his new aikido holds on prisoners that weren’t even causing any trouble. It began to look as though the soldiers with their shiny rifles might even be about to get kidnapped, or at least their weapons taken off them. Nurse looked up and saw that by now big balls of flame were already whooshing out of some of the cell doors, up on B and C corridors, which were the first and second floors, and faced outwards over the yard from their narrow balconies. Even down on the ground floor flames were beginning to lick outwards and take out the contents of entire cells.
Nurse made a quick exit, but Carrington reappeared and single-handedly made his way upstairs and began unlocking the closed doors to release those prisoners still stuck inside.
Although a hail of stones greeted him, he continued, eventually being joined by another officer. If he had not acted as he had, many prisoners would have died in the arson. After releasing the prisoners, Carrington then attempted to put out the flames in some of the cells, but the barrage of stones by now was too much, and, for his own safety, he had to vanish.
As the gang of youths had passed me- I had been standing by the Mess hall, trying to get in to get as far away from this fracas as I possibly could- I had stood by Sergeant Paine, actually one of the Dogmen but one of the better ones. Just as the gang of youths came close I had the misconception that they were coming for us. I screamed to him,
‘They are going to fucking well kill us!’ Paine freaked out; his hand shook so much he nearly dropped the key, but instead it stuck in the lock and he shielded his body as if to protect himself from the rain of blows he expected. They did not come. Instead, all the youths ran past us, further down to the entrance to the tailor’s shop.
This happened several times, and eventually everyone assumed Jones was dead.
Meanwhile all the officers had disappeared, probably for fear of reprisals or even of getting hijacked a very real danger at that time.
By now, Jones had made his way out round the back of the prison, and was running along the inside of the perimeter wall, dodging a fusillade of missiles; rocks and stones by the hundreds, thrown by a rapidly growing number of people. It was as if it were raining heavy pellets, a complete downpour. But Jones was trying to dodge them, while at the same time picking up rocks to throw back. But for every one he managed, perhaps two to three dozen were striking him. Blood appeared all over his body; his head, his face went gashed into shreds of flesh, and then he turned and continued trying to run again. He went further behind the Mess Hall, hopping over two, then three sets of fences to evade his pursuers. At first the gang of youths were unsure what to do, then they crashed through the first set of gates which led into the newly dedicated tailoring shop, then even further into the inner area of this workshop, from where at the back through its rear windows they were able to regain sight of their quarry.
It was there that Jones met with a massive flurry of missiles, and went down on the ground. But even this was not enough. Several youths came and stood over his body, and picked up really big stones- too big by far to actually hurl through the air- and brought them down with a smash onto his head.
This happened several times, and eventually everyone assumed Jones was dead.
Meanwhile all the officers had disappeared, probably for fear of reprisals or even of getting hijacked- a very real danger at that time.
I could see a few officers were standing by themselves on the inside of a perimeter fence over by the Superintendent’s building. They had sealed off the gate with a lock and were looking around, unsure of what to do.
I was standing just by the entrance to the kitchen at that moment, when suddenly about a dozen men rushed in and started trashing the entire place. Mason, the chief cook, was standing there as well, dressed very nicely in his brilliant prison whites. As the men came in he could immediately see that they were in no mood for parley and dashed to the side. Great pots full of white rice were overturned to the floor, and men dragged out from the kitchen stores stacks of knives, cleavers, and cutting instruments which they might be able to use in the coming sequence of events.
Then there were men carrying great stacks of tinned sardines, handing them out to whoever wanted them. I looked through the bars of the Mess hall gate and tried to see where was my friend Eddie Medford, my cell mate and an old time lag at Glendairy, having just done seven years out of a Queen’s Pleasure (i.e. indeterminate sentence).
I could see him, but because the gate was at that point still locked, I couldn’t get in to him. He was sitting there, calm as a Buddha statue, opening a tin of sardines, and munching contentedly. He was doing the most sensible thing in the entire prison. I had shared a cell with Eddie for about a year and a half up until that time, and had always felt his presence a reassuring factor; his advice and wisdom often invaluable.
There was a sudden rush, and a group of about thirty inmates made a mad dash up the steps into the reception building, where the cigarettes were kept. They soon reappeared, throwing great numbers of cartons about and onto the ground, where there was another rush to grab them up. People split cartons and stuffed packs into their pockets. Although I had had two cartons in storage up there, I had managed to grab back two pack, which was something!
Some of the lads started getting greedy, and made off with two or three cartons for themselves, not wanting to share the booty. In particular were some of the so-called British in this category.
Just then the sergeant in charge of the reception area, along with two female officers, including Miss Logi, came down the steps and walked away, with great dignity and a sense of resignation. No one interfered with them, All respect was given them- all along they had been OK screws .
By now the smoke was really building up, and people were streaming out from the main building into the yard. All of the normally closed- up sections were now being opened up, not by the screws, but by inmates just picking up the keys left lying on the ground, or even, in some cases, taking the keys off officers by force if necessary.
Just then I saw Miss Coombes come trundling along, pulling her little trolley as she came. Her eyes were white with shock at what was happeneing. I didn’t know it then but she had just been interefered with sexually by a couple of real freak of the prison. I asked Tanty, one of the redbands that subsequently survived the ‘washouts’ i.e. retaliatory beatings that were to follow, what had happened to her.
‘Just her bubbies were played with, and also her pokey,’ he told me, grinning inanely, as if this were supposed to be humorous. She made her way out to a gate, and from there she went on sick leave, so I later heard. Probably permanently and to everyone’s relief.
The air was hard to breath, and we all wanted to get away from the fire. There was a collective rush down towards the gate which led to the farm building, and within moments we were flowing through this, the screw on the gate just standing back to let us all pass without interruption. This was Tweety Pie, who had always like to throw his weight about a bit, now looking very humble and anxious to avoid any retribution.
The mass exodus down along the country lane led us all past the garden area, from where Miss Daniels was looking out at this massive influx of people. Short and stubby, she looked decidedly disturbed at seeing so many people running free into an area into which access was always tightly controlled. She could see that something was wrong. She started making her way to get out of the area while she still could.
The smell of smoke was heavy in the air, and then I heard the sound of shotguns being fired!
It was like a scene out of the French or Russian revolutions, such as the storming of the Bastille. As we passed by the entrance to the female prison there was an initial surge of a dozen or so fellas to the gate, and they started trying to kick it in. I didn’t know whether they wanted to liberate the female prisoners, or if there purpose was perhaps less altruistic! But just then some of the other inmates with more sense appeared out of the crowd and discouraged them.
‘Not that, brothers!’ they insisted, ‘Not that!’, and with that the matter was somehow settled, in the way that a collective consciousness makes a decision as it goes along, the decision binding upon all of the parts or members of that group.
From inside the female prison, though, we could hear the shouts of the women as they called out to us expressions of solidarity. Some were up at their windows and were calling out to us, although it wasn’t possible to hear the precise words.
As a group we surged along right down to the bottom, and made our way into the farm. This was quite a big area, and included not just the considerable size for the various corridors which made up this separate section of the prison’s quarters, but also various other buildings, such as those that housed the considerable amount of livestock which was used to feed the prison. Great sheds for the pigs, the sheep, the rabbits, the chickens, the ducks. Eggs and meat in huge quantities were produced down here but precious little of it ever made its way back onto the plates of us mere prisoners. Most of it went straight out of the prison on deals with local supermarkets; nobody ever knew where the money for all this went- that was as anybody’s guess. But it was a big and lucrative business, aided partly by the fact that in Barbados food from supermarkets is expensive. In fact the cost of living is very high- especially for the locals, who tend to get paid pittances for the work they do. I remember seeing- as just one example- at one Christmas a massive truck load of animal carcasses, stacked right up to its brim being driven straight out of the prison, after using the slave labour of the prisoners to load it up, finding willing workers for that back-breaking labour in the form of such broken-spirited drones as Jamaican Biggs, grimacing with the strain of the work with his sweat running down his face.
Similarly huge stocks of prison soaps, toothpastes, brushes, rubber boots, gardening equipment, cloth, supplies, computers, would all regularly vanish through the gates and we the inmates would always be told that there were no supplies whenever we asked for a new razor blade, or for a repair to be made on our worn-out uniform.
As for the food, hardly any of this meat ever came our way, except on the days when John Nurse had an official visit from the British Prison Inspectorate, and then all of a sudden we would get a first class meal, of which he would make sure the visitors would get a sample.
In groups the inmates forced their way into the farm, pushing aside the puny metal gate which had since time immemorial been its entrance, and chading the guards away. They scuttle up the steps to their office at the sight of so many peisoners suddenly turning up outside their gate, to the accompaniment of a hail of rocks to smash their windows as they hid themselves inside. At one point one of them put his hand outside the doorway with a revolver in it and started shooting. But it was apparent that one of his fello officers advised him not to continue, because he stopped doing it very shortly afterward. Doingsomething like that in a riot situation can really inflame a crowd and make them rush and kill, regardless of the cost of who might get hit by a bullet.
People were kicking in the cell doors that had been hastily locked, freeing the prisoners and bringing them out. I saw a great ball of flame rise up from the back corridor of the farm building, giving off a massive shroud of black smoke into the air. Just then I sawmy Irish friend Vino come out, with a knapsack on his back, his freshly-shaved head already red and raw from the sun. He was laughing. Apparently he had been in his cell when the whole thing had broken out, and had ben locked in his cell- as had many others- by the screws. This was their idea of containing a problem whenever something like this had started to break out before.
There had been a time when one fella had tried scuttling along K&L ‘s roof, in order to jump across the narrow point between this and the wall, He had been spotted, and after a series of shotgun blasts in his direction, he had put his hand up to surrender. He had tried to imitate the famous escape from Glendairy affected b Barbados’ most notorious criminal and repeeted escapee from police and prison custody- Winston Hall- a dreadlocked man who was simply amazing at escaping, having done so some three times in all, over about twenty years. In the end the police shot him down when they did eventually find him, claiming he was carrying a cutlass at the time. They weren’t going to take another chance of losing him yet again.
Well, now we had control of the farm, although we didn’t know for how long. Some of the men started tearing up the dozens of chickens which had been slaughtered earlier that day, and sinking them into makeshift frying pans, in which the oil was about six inches deep. One man even tried to eat a chicken completely raw, tearing into it with his bare teeth, and succeeding in ripping great chunks out of it.
Meanwhile a single pig had wandered into the scene, probably wondering what all the commotion was about. At first someone grabbed it by its hind legs, and was holding it up over a boiling vat of seething oil. They were seriously going to fry the poor animal alive, as it was, before someone else- I think a Rasta man with more sense, came along and stopped them. The poor animal squealed as pigs do in those circumstances, until they let it down and go it went with a smack on its behind. It squealed again, probably outraged at its loss of dignity, but never knowing just how lucky it had been.
Up in the sky we could see what looked like a great vulture flying circularly around the area right above the prison complex. It was clearly a huge spy-plane from where- we surmised- photographs were probably being taken and perhaps even a film made. The plane was banking steeply to the right constantly as it kept its starboard or right side towards us at all times. One of the lads said that he recognized it from flying over the sea space between Barbados and St. Vincent, from when he had done his runs between. It was large and green and definitely sinister-looking, like a harbinger, an evil omen of bad times yet to come.
From over the wall we could see people appearing on the outskirts of the nearby villages- Lickersih Village, and some other pace, standing up on the edge of the outer perimeter and taking photographs. There were soldiers in place by now, reinforcing the minimal police presence that had sprung up around the prison, with only a bare sprinkle of individual officers standing in the no man’s land area between the two walls. They were facing towards us, and had their hands on their weapons. No-one was in any doubt that they would be prepared to shoot whoever might attempt to escape.
Meanwhile we got on with the feasting. Someone commandeered my bucket and began filling it with already-fried chickens. It was soon filled to overflowing, and I was given a large number of chicken livers as a gift. They tasted delicious. I ate as much as I could because the omens were that we would soon be going on to leaner times. While we were down on the farm, no animal was harmed or killed, only those chickens did we eat that had already been slaughtered and prepared for food.
After a while a number of soldiers appeared at the ridge of the gate area and signaled for us to stand back so that they could effect an evacuation of the femaleprison. They formed a line, with their rifles poiting in out direction, as the gate to the femaleprison was opened and the women brought out, many of them overcome with the emotion of seeing old Glendairy burn down around them. The soldiers were reinforced with tear gas gun holders, who formed a line and looked as if we were about to get a whiff of tear gas for our troubles.
One of the gasmen was a really old copper, massively overweight who was huffing and puffng as he chugged along, a great strip of heavy silver cartridges strapped in a leather holder around his waist and a cylindrical –shaped cannon under his arms.
After the girls had all gone we were given the order to form a line, and we did, eventually each of us getting searched and having to hand over everything we had in our possession, including the cigarettes. Some may have managed to store their smokes away and get through, but I didn’t. I didn’t even smoke, but used to use my cigarette allowance as currency to buy extra cheese and milk, or get things done like my clothes washed for me.
We each of passed through a series of police officers who searched us. I had two policewomen, who went through my pockets and cleared me, taking away my bucket- still containing chickens- and my small knapsack, which we each of used to have and carry round the prison with us containing our items such as plate, cup, wash cloth and soap, maybe a book, and so on.
All of this was now taken from me.
I was passed through the gates and made to line up with several other inmates, and we were then led by armed soldiers through the yard into the central area caged area. Slowly but surely all the other prisoners were brought up from the farm and placed in this reservation. There was nowhere to sleep except the simple ground, nowhere to piss and shit except one corner we delegated off as this area. There was nothing to drink or eat, but eventually one of the officers brought out a hosepipe and ran water from it directly into our mouths as we wanted.
The moon came out overhead, and happily the fires had all been put out. Thousands of bats, which had presumably been living in total peace inside the prison underneath the roof’s eaves we could now see flying about, filling the night sky with thousands of jittering jagged sharp movements of bat wing. They swooped, ducked and dived as they went in search of their prey, mosquitoes. We wished them a hearty supper. I found my old mate Eddy, and opened up a can of sardines, which I shared with him. It wasn’t much, but it was all we had.
The Moon was large and luminous that night, and although there wasn’t much space, we all squeezed in together like the sardines on which we’d been dining. There was literally no room even to turn over. Outside the wire there were soldiers patrolling, who kept reminding us that they were under orders to shot anyone who attempted to escape from the confines of this vicinity.
We all went to sleep, hoping that the following morning would bring some hope and some kind of order would be restored.
From around the far side of the prison wall we heard a whining sound, then what looked like a great dragon head appeared over the top of the wall. It was a mobile crane with a lifting platform, on which were two soldiers, both armed with rifles. In the front of it was a single bright spotlight, making it look cyclopean. It was like something from a supernatural horror or science fiction film.
As the night wore on, this dragon appeared and then disappeared several times, the soldiers on the top spending their time looking down over the scene beneath them.
We saw several bodies being carried out or dragged out, even, by soldiers with masks over their faces. The word was that Nook Nook had been murdered, and I myself spoke with more than one man that claimed to have actually seen it happen. One of them, a tall Dutch inmate, also in on a smuggling charge, by the name of Ventro told me that Nook Nook had been caught trying to set fire to the carpenter’s shop, and the officer in charge had instructed Straightfoot, Bucky from the Bakers shop, and Leabert from the kitchen to do away with him. They put a rope around his neck and tried to strangle him, then, when that didn’t work, they took him out onto the unmarked cemetery area and hammered him on the head, killing him instantly.
Up above the carpenter’s shop the entire building for the officers’ quarters had been wiped away in a sheet of flame. Only because of the concrete floor had the bottom level of the building been preserved. Inside there, we could see, were some more sneaks, including the Colombians that had spent their entire time going around trying to impress everyone with what big dealers they were. Everybody knew they were grasses that the Americans had ‘turned’ after capturing them in their boat, offshore, with the several hundred pounds of weed on board, and made into their stooges. Black people are not silly, far from it, but these Colombians seemed to think people were tricked into maybe doing business with them on the out, after their time had been served.
Mobile electric spotlights had been brought in to the prison, too, by now, and with these the guards formed a ring of stadium-like light around us, bright and hurtful to the eyes, forcing you to cover your eyes or look the other way.
After I awoke, and went to the pissing corner to take a leak, it occurred to me that there were no longer any guards around to watch over us. This worried me. Maybe somebody would come along shortly, and bring some tea in, maybe even some bread. Even to see John Nurse again would be reassuring, hopefully he would make his reappearance and give us something to hope onto.
But as the sun rose and the rays became hotter, it became apparent that this was not going to happen. It was by now getting devilish hot, and we looked around forlornly, wondering what was going on. Was this a trap, to lure us out into the open o the soldiers could start shooting us? It looked like that. As we had gone to sleep there had been soldiers standing over us- what had happened to them?
There were none here now- not a single one!
Another hour went by, then another. Finally the men’s patience broke, and people starting ripping apart the shreds of wire in the fence and pouring through. Everyone was by now desperate to get a drink of water, at the least. I went through the wire and went over to the Mess Hall. By now the entire area looked as if a bomb had gone off. All over the ground were bars of soap, books, washcloths, shoes, solitary boots, you name it. It really looked like a scene out of a film, or a train crash.
I made my way over to where I could get a drink of water, from the taps in the back of the Mess Hall. It was glorious to feel the beautiful water going down the back of my throat and filling me. All around me were by now hundreds of men, many running up into the main prison to carry away booty- whatever they could raid from someone else’s locker. Already up on the second and third floors were gangs of men busting open people’s wooden containers and spilling out the contents, some forming semi-organized groups with the express purpose of this salvaging.
Like bands of pirates they were going merrily about their purposes, oblivious to the extreme unlikeliness of anyone actually being allowed to retain any of their booty when order would eventually be restored.
But none of this seemed to cross the minds of anyone. By now everyone was acting out of pure instinct alone, doing whatever seemed natural. In the face of catastrophe, I suppose it is a natural enough reaction and a way of coping with trauma.
Just then there was a flurry of additional activity form the top of the steps of the reception area. A team of four or five men had succeeded in dragging the prison safe all the way out, and were now preparing to throw it down from the top of the steps.
We all stood back, and after a cry of one, two, three, down it came, tumbling over onto its side and resting face up, with its handle in the air. From nowhere the leader of this team produced a hammer and a chisel , and began to bang away at breaking the lock. It took him the best part of an hour, but he managed to get the safe open and all of its contents cleaned out. There were dozens of men walking around with golden rings on each finger, dozens of gold chains, other people’s passports, Rolex watches. One fella had had five thousand dollars in cash in there, and he was now cleaned out. Everyone lost everything. Mobile phones, wallets, address books, family photos, ad infinitum.
Besides a mobile electric spotlight was a generator, and from this a dozen or so lads that had mobile phones were recharging them in preparation for the coming day. It was with these that they were able to make their calls to the many newspapers of Guyana, Trinidad, St.Vincent and other neighboring countries to inform them of the events which were still as yet unfolding in Glendairy.
I subsequently learnt that many papers in that region carried the story, even a television network somewhere.
The next thing to happen was for the main building of the prison to burn completely down. The roof of the prison had been made entirely of wood, a hard wood known as green heart or purple heart. Inside the main building was also a wooden staircase which led up to the second and third floors. Carrington’s new office had all been constructed with this same material, and in the back prison the entire roof was made of wood, tiled over with perspex down the middle of both parts to let some light in. Along the spine of F&G it was clear, but down the length of K&L it was of a green material, which gave the place a weird yet strangely peaceful glow of greenish light.
Someone had started firing all this now, and it was going up fiercely. The smoke was making it quite literally impossible to breath. We tried to look for a way out, but there was none. We moved downwind, in the only direction that was open to us away from the fire and the smoke, but were met with a hastily-constructed ring of razor wire in front of us.
There was a line of soldiers, now, some twenty or so of them, all wearing gas masks to protect themselves against the effects of the smoke. Many of us were wearing white vests, and we started taking these off, to indicate that we had come in peace and wanted their help. But they weren’t interested in helping us, only in keeping us pinned down. The officer in charge of them came close to me, and I spoke to him, asking him for help.’
Anyone who crosses this line will be shot’ was all he said to me in return, and then disappeared back from where his men stood ready to shoot us down.
The rehab building suddenly whooshed up into flames, as did the bakery, and other buildings. I had no clear idea as to which buildings outside my visual range were going but it seemed to be many.
The air was so thick with the smoke that I had to lay down and just hold my vest tightly over my face.
With my own saliva I was able to wet the entrance way to my mouth on the vest, so as to minimize the effects of the smoke. It was an imperfect mask, but it was the best I could come up with at such short notice.
This went on for hours. Eventually the fires seemed to burn themselves down, and we reformed a kind of survivor’s group in the middle of the caged area, with some of the men climbing back into the main building, and throwing down some mattresses, which made resting- and even sleeping, a little easier. Others, like Scubila, concentrated on opening up the soles of their boots to hide yet more quantities of drugs in them, aware that we would all be searched yet again, only this time much more thoroughly. He was sitting down beside me, carefully re-glueing the soles of one of his boots, hoping against hope that he might be allowed to keep his boots at least after the next set of searches.
There were quite a few like him.
Meanwhile the Rastamen had gathered in one side of the area and were forming a half circle. They were facing eastwards, towards the face of the main building, and were raising their hands in the interlaced finger-symbol of the six pointed star, which is their holy crest. This is done by the two thumbs and forefingers together, these forming the outer points of the Star of David, the remaining fingers forming its main body. One of them had resurrected the large picture of Haille Selassie which they now made to face the prison building, for them the ultimate symbol of the suppressive society- ‘Babylon’- the modern day continuance of slavery. They were chanting ‘Iya Bingi, Iye bingi’ over and over again, slowly, with meaning, with resonance.
Just then something strange happened. Up on the front of the building, for as long as anyone could remember, had been a clock, the time on which had been frozen to eight twenty. Without warning it crashed down to the ground and broke, thus epitomizing the breaking of the spell or influence of the past and releasing we that were alive in this time to move forward and be free of the past. It was a poignant moment for each of us, as well as collectively.
Beyond the gate, the officers had by now started moving some of the prisoners out on buses. One of the first to go was a Spanish guy known as Jesus. He had achieved a reputation in the prison for being the best blow job in the building, not that I ever tried him out, personally. For some mysterious reason one of the officers had take a shine to him, if you’ll pardon the pun, and given him a plum job in charge of the storeroom.
He was one of the first to get bussed out, just skipping out as merrily as you like, without so much as a backward glance.
There were others that the screws took out quickly, mostly known grasses and informants, lackeys and other arse-wipes. A lot of them were the Bullermen.
The atmosphere started to get very surreal. It began turning into a kind of Blade Runner lunar landscape, or a war zone. Something very surreal. I started wondering whether I was seing things. I think the fact is that there was so much crack and weed being smoked in the area that everyone was feeling the effects of it. I began to get very paranoid, feeling that certain people harboured a secret hostility towards me. In hindsight not everything that we sense through drug taking is mistaken. Far from it. A lot of what it shows us is really the truth. In this case, though, it was slightly ironic- I wasn’t even taking anything- yet somehow something I am sure was getting into my bloodstream and affecting me. I wondered if it was coming from the water that government agents might have infected us with, as part of some CIA style experiment.
I kept as far away from the other prisoners, especially the other so-called British, and sat through the night with my Irish mate Vino. We spent hour after hour together, sitting on pieces of cardboard, in the middle of the yard, telling each other jokes and just laughing the night through. I was still a bit paranoid of him, too, even. He also went into a paranoia trip, thinking that he was just about to be attacked by someone., I kept reassuring him that this was not so. It’s strange, but when your paranoid, nobody else’s paranoia seems real, only your own.
Eventually the opportunity came- so we thought- for us to go through and get on a bus.
I stepped through the gateway, and it was Officer Blackman that stripped me, made me kneel down on all fours and pull back the cheeks of my arse so he could look straight up it. It was what they call a cavity search. After that I was led along the area in front of the medial building and given a paper plate of stew and mash, along with a plastic spoon. With that, I was led into a caged area on this back side of the prison, running alongside D&E and, above this, F&G. There were hardly any other prisoners in either of these two cages, as yet. Eddy had just gone in before me, and I went and sat down alongside him. How he was managing without any of his medication I didn’t know. Some of the other inmates weren’t faring as well. Bob White, also on a QP sentence, was running around annoying the fuck out of everyone, being insulting. He was later to get his arse ripped up, quite literally, and that night, too.
In the middle of this area was a single chemical toilet. I was glad that I had already emptied my bowels before stepping through the gate. Hopefully I would be good for a day or two. Taking a shit here was already beginning to look a bit grim.
As the hours wore on and this space filled up it was beginning to get very crowded. By about 2 am it was chock a block, and so the screws started leading people into the next cage. This too, soon filled up to more than overflowing.
It was spooky. High above the moon, past full and leading two bright stars behind it, like a pennant, sailed across the sky. It was marvelous, despite the discomfort, to be out in the open, actually sleeping under the brilliant night sky in all its radiant glory, feeling the warm air around my body, and a sense of unity and love with my fellows.
Above in the sky we could see bats- or maybe these were birds- flying around, seemingly haphazardly swoop and soar, swoop and soar, as they dived and hunted their prey.
The next day we awoke to the most brilliant sunshine, breaking through a bridal gown of purple, blue and mauve lace that was the remnant of the night before. To one extreme side of the sky the moon was still there, still leading those two single bright stars, one silver, one blueish, still in their same train of procession. But to the other extreme side of our sky the sun arose with a never-before experienced sense of gold and brilliance. It was fantastic, a dawn that I have never seen either before or perhaps will again. It was like a banner, a symbol of a new age that was dawning in each of our lives individually and collectively, announcing the birth of a new era for the whole of humanity.
But soon the beauty of this sunrise was replaced with a weariness of the heats of its rays. It burned, it hurt, it wearied. Each of us started looking for a place to hide from the strength of its rays. The Caribbean sunshine is a nice thing if you can be in control of the dosage you wish to receive, such as in a tourist resort, alongside the side of a swimming pool with a big tub of sun cream by your side and sufficient shading nearby for when you need it. But if you have to work in it, as many local people still do, and as their ancestors certainly had to, it is not such a benign influence. It is a very harsh influence; one to shield yourself from as much as possible.
Men began stripping off long pieces of cloth from sheets that they somehow had managed to bring along with them, and began creating wider sheets capable of protecting them from the sun. These they strung along from one side of the cage to the other, or, if not long enough, in between corners, affording at least some protection against the sun.
Occasionally one or two of the officers would throw some bottles of water over the top. And these were always grabbed quickly, and stored up. You never knew when you might be getting any more. Even when a fellow Brit asked me for some of my water, my answer was for him to sort himself out. I wasn’t in business to wet nurse anyone that wasn’t already looking out for themselves. After all, that had been his motto all along up until then, anyway.
Eddie was my exception. Eddie and I went back a fair way, and when the food came along he tried to get extra for me when he possibly could, and I reciprocated. The first day in the cage was traumatic, and not just a few of us were prepared to sit there and take much more of this bullshit. Still no word as to what was going on, rumour after rumour ran and rippled through the prison. They were going to send the foreigners back to their own countries, was one. The more naïve of us believed that, especially some of the younger St. Vincentians who really wanted to believe that.
Soldiers- about twenty in number- were now completely surrounding us, at close range, just a few yards outside from beyond the perimeter. At one point a number of us collectively agreed that we had all had enough and started standing up, telling the soldiers that we were about to come over the fence. They replied that if we did they would definitely shoot us. They said it in such a tone that made me, for one, believe them. The other lads jeered at them, telling them that they were traitors, and were like white men, ready and wiling to open fire on their own black people. This seemed to take them aback a bit, and for a moment they looked at one another in uncertainty. But then after a brief moment back came that sense of resolution and purpose that comes with what some might call training, but what to others is brainwashing or indoctrination.
Later that day, Ronald yarde, a friend of mine from F&G days and a constant chess companion suddenly jumped up, and made a rush for the fence. He succeeded in climbing over the top of it, and scaled own the other side. One of the soldiers- it was a woman- some said from Guyana- knelt down and aimed her rifle at him, looking to her senior officer as she did so, for confirmation that she was indeed to shoot. His order was for her to open fire, and she shot Yarde, three times, hitting him- as far as I know- in the legs.
He went down like a sack of old clothes. I thought he had been killed. His body certainly wasn’t moving, at all.
Just at that point there was a tremendous rush forward of just about everyone in the cages. There was just about to be a mass scaling of the cages, and who knew what afterwards?
But the screws and the soldiers were up on their feet, ready for an immediate massacre, and itching for it, too. One was right in front of me, a big ugly screw whose name I think was Bourne, waving the wrong end of a shotgun in my face, moments away from opening up on me. I backed down. I didn’t especially want to follow Yarde’s example and become a martyr.
Everyone hit the ground just then, and the screws seemed to relax a bit. They brought in a stretcher very quickly at that point and assembled it around Yarde, as he lay there, motionless. Then they carried him away.
Meanwhile, throughout the day, someone was still inside the back prison continuing to set it on fire. From time to time flames would billow out of some of the cell windows as the arsonists repeatedly struck, setting fire to bedding and whatever they could find, determined manically to destroy as much of this hated place as they could for as long as they could. It was a question of the dog not being able to let go after the quarry had been hunted down. It was making life difficult for us outside. Yet again we had to resort to covering our faces, lying completely still and straining to breath through clouds of billowing and toxic smoke. Much of it smelt like plastic or rubber. There were so many highly combustible materials in so many people’s cells. Again and again the fire engine was called, and hosed down the noxious flames with great gusts of water. Then, off it would trot again, only to return an hour or so later when the arsonist struck yet again, albeit in another cell.
Come nighttime, and the atmosphere became that of a ghoulish carnival. By now someone had pierced the intersecting wire separating the two sections, and we were able to move freely back and forth between the two as we wished.
The sun had dazzled most of us with its constant radiance throughout that day, and it was delightful to feel the soothing power of the evening.
Up in the upper level of the medical unit we could see the sneaky faces of all the grasses looking down on us through the bars of their windows. From their expressions they thought they were cute that they were able to sit in the shade while the rest of us were stuck out in the sun. They were like little rats gloating down from a ship’s rail at men that are beginning to drown.
A line of what looked like boy soldiers moved in on a snake-like line and took up position around the cage perimeter. These were from the so-called Regional Defence Force, men and women soldiers from Guyana, Antigua, and other neighboring islands brought in just in case local soldiers proved unable to shoot their own people. John Nurse wasn’t taking any chances in relying on his own men for this one.
We were trying to sleep on the unmarked cemetery area, where all of the condemned men that had been executed in Glendairy since its inception in 1832 had been buried, in unmarked and shallow graves, face down, so as to prevent them from rising again on the Day of Judgment. I remembered when Patrick Graves – appropriately named, as it transpired!- had dug the graves for Josephs and Beckles, who had been on death row for years and had then only just received their notification of impending and imminent hanging. He had dug the three-foot deep graves side by side just outside the tiny exercise area which they used for one hour a day, so that they could see it. As he had dug their graves, he had uncovered several skulls that no-one had even known were down there. Who they belonged to, no-one seemed to know or care.
The policy of the prison system in Barbados is for any condemned man’s corpse to remain inside the prison walls after the execution, and not to be allowed to go into the hands of any family member on the out, or receive a Christian burial.
One of the famous stories of the prison involved the hanging of a local woman for the poisoning of her husband, who was involved with another woman. She had said to people that she was going to do this, but in fact it was his other lover that did the crime. Unfortunately, though, things went against her and she was accused of this crime, found guilty, and condemned to hang. Before she was hanged, she vowed that the breadfruit tree, which then stood just outside the prison’s main door, would grow fruit that would look like her head and face, and that this would continue until her innocence was acknowledged and declared. A few months later, this same tree actually did start growing such fruit, and the horrified prison administration, in answer to this, simply cut the tree down.
Again the beautiful moon and its attendant two stars floated up and into the dark blue sky. It was magnificent to look up and see this sight. Rarely does a man in his life actually avail himself of an opportunity to sleep under the stars, even though he may have his freedom to do so, it is not appreciated. So often we are too busy running around trying to make money or watch television.
Something supernal began happening. I kept thinking that I could see women walking around in the cage amongst us prisoners. In particular, white women, who moved with grace and in their long dresses, and with their long hair, talking with people they knew, sometimes laughing, or giving words of encouragement.
There may have been something heavy or heady in the air, true, but even then I wondered if what I was seeing was these men’s spirit guides come to them at such a crisis time as this.
Occasionally a small team of soldiers came along and threw some white bags with sandwiches in them over the top of the fence. There was a rush to grab what you could. Later on they brought in a slightly more ordered system of chaos and forced people to queue up in lines, but even here some of the locals would double back and pick up more than their share, even though it meant someone else would have to go without.
Every now and again there was a furroar as someone got ‘washed off’ or badly beaten. In particular Chuckie got chopped up by a bunch of people, and preferred to risk getting shot by the troops rather than stay in the cage with the rest of us. It was punishment time for these male rapists.
I managed to find a spot to get some sleep and drifted off.
Come the following morning we all awoke to the smell of rain, and, looking up, I could see what looked like the body and head of a huge grey-black dragon coiling and uncoiling itself over us as it floated in and moved over the island.
It began to rain. At first little spots began to hit us, then larger, until it turned into a veritable downpour. There was no protection or cover anywhere. Luckily, one of my friend, Stanton, came up with a small piece of cardboard, and somehow three of us, he, I and someone else managed to stand underneath this small piece of protection and get out of the rain.
‘Allah hu Akbar!’ I cried as the thunder spoke, and a huge flash of lightning appeared in the sky. It was massive, and almost deafening.
‘Jah Rastafari!’ called out some of the rasta men, echoing the same sentiments but in their own way, as our ancestors had also down, going right back to the beginnings of humanity in the presence of the thunder god himself.
Some of the lads had been unable to find any cover. Howard was one of them, but this was no time for sentimentalities. He started shivering when the rain died off, so stupid as to even keep on his clothes that had become soaked, rather than take them off and let them dry in the sun.
There was no time to deal with people that were going out of their way to be stupid. It just wasn’t the place for anyone that wasn’t going to be ‘with it’.
Most of us stripped off and hung our clothes out along the wire as best we could, and within a short space of time they were dry again.
The portable toilet was still sitting in the middle of the enclosure, like Dr. Who’s Tardis, but by now it had become completely blocked up with shit and people were crapping into the polystyrene hinged lid containers and flipping these over the top of the opening of the portaloo, where it was building up inside. Eventually even this filled up so people would just go off to one of the two farthest corners and do their business there. These corners were ringed off with a makeshift string and covers, to try and provide some privacy.
The heat was becoming unbearable, and I began wondering if I was going to die in this pace, so forlorn did everything look. It was as if we had lived to see the Day of Judgment which is mentioned in the Bible and the holy book of most of the world’s religions.
Now and again fights broke out, but by and large people were content to sit around, or sometimes go for a stroll, chatting with someone, listening to the rumours. Some tried selling me some of the knocked-off gold. Starliner asked me if I wanted one particularly exquisite gold ring. I forget how much he asked for it, but he was keen to get rid of it. With trembling fingers, he nervously pushed back his long dreadlocks and looked around anxiously. It’s possible that he had been smoking crack, certainly there was a lot of it getting smoke and at times the air was thick with it.
After a while a senior-looking police officer with a very conspicuous gold watch on his right wrist came out and, with a loudhailer began calling out from a lost of names.
People were transfixed by this, and a silence fell over the entire area. One by one the people whose names were being called moved over to the gate, and from there, were led out along the path back to where we supposed they would be shipped out on buses. Two soldiers, one on each arm escorted them along.
The screws were calling out the names of their favourites, mainly, although now and again someone was called out for a genuine medical reason, or just because they had been able to get a screw to put their name forward.
My friend Eddie was able to get out this way, suffering as he did from high blood pressure. As he went down the way I called out to him,
‘Eddie! I’ll see you on the other side!’ although as the words came out of my mouth I realized even then that my meaning must have seemed ambiguous, prophetic, even.
Some of the grasses were being pulled out, and pretty quickly, too. Imagine my surprise when some of them turned out to be the so-called British. Actually, I must have been the only one that was surprised. Most of the local men knew about them, right from the start, and, with the knowledge of hindsight that I now found myself in possession of, realized that the had actually tried to warn me.
The other grasses were led up from the carpenter’s shop where they had been sheltering. One of them was a Colombian, that had been going around constantly trying to trick people into going into business with him on the out. They were booed as they moved past, none of them even showing any surprise or shame, even, at the reception they were getting.
Then the grasses that had been holing up in the upstairs room of the medical building were brought out, and off, too they went on their way to a more comfortable venue.
One of them was Chukie, hobbling along from the stabbing he had received only a short time before. I am not sure if they had had time to treat his wounds; its unlikely they did much.
The crowd inside the cages was getting restless, but soldiering on stoically through this period of difficulty.
Eventually they stopped calling names and started on the remaining mass of us.
Long lines were forming or people desperate to get out. I saw Vino go and line up for several hours, before they took him out.
Eventually the crowd inside the cages thinned, and we that were left discovered the joy of having a lot more space around us. Quickly we had become acclimatized to having such a massive compression of space around us; it was even feeling quite lonely now that the bulk of our fellows had been taken away.
I hung back right till the end, and at a certain point a strange thing happened. The wind changed, and came cool, and from a different direction. This in itself was unusual, because in Barbados the wind almost always comes from the east. But there was suddenly a different kind of vibe in the cages. I saw Mr. Lickerish there, but wearing a covering over his face, to hide his identity. F the screws had seen him there they would have tried coming for him, as he was a security prisoner, awaiting the noose. Thus, he had nothing to lose by attempting to escape. Many a time we had chatted and I knew that he was more than he let on. He was a real thinker, and as I neared I overheard him telling a younger inmate about Malcolm X, and Marcus Garvey, both legendary leaders of the black people in their own right.
‘Terry’ he said to me, in a tone that was almost prophetic, ‘This is your redemption’. As he spoke he upturned the palm of his hand and showed me the burned-out hulk of what had been Glendairy prison. For a hundred and fifty years this place had been a living symbol of neo slavery, and for two hundred years before the prison had been built had been a slave pen and graveyard.
On some deep level, I felt as if a great boulder had been rolled away, and I was now free to climb out of a tomb that I had been in, possibly for all of my life.
‘You must write about what you have seen here, Terry’ he said to me.
I promised him that I would.
Then an eerie silence suddenly prevailed over the entire scene. It was as if I had made a solemn promise, an oath, and the spirits of all those black people that had died in this place over all those years had marked my words. Everyone and everything stopped moving. It might have been my imagination, but I had a sense of ‘The Last Post’ being played, not audibly, but by spirit buglers in some adjacent reality. Every man seemed to be standing still and to attention. I felt honoured -and humbled- to have been chosen to be the only white man deemed worthy to have been shown this, and to be present in the midst of it.
Eventually, even this sensation passed away, and it was patently coming round for my turn to present myself at the gate for the forthcoming bus trip, to goodness knew where.
We had heard that the next leg of the journey was going to take us to the children’s prison, or a disused naval base, even to a building used by the Barbadian Defence Force.
When the right moment came, I went over to the gate and was taken through, a soldier on each arm as if I was going to try and make a run for it. They led me down the path to where Officer Blackman was waiting, rubber gloved on each hand and holding a long black metallic torch. He told me to strip, and I did so, dropping my clothes straight onto the ground, I had to take off my shoes, and as I did so I saw the massive pile of shoes that was piled up, all kinds of boots, slippers, shoes, and sandals. Also there were hundreds of people’s Bibles and other holy books, personal photographs of wives and daughters, letters treasured from years of imprisonment. My denim cap went along with my sandals into the pile. I had to kneel on the ground and with both hands, one on each cheek of my bum had to pull back my anus so Blackman could look up into it with his torch, to see if I had any contraband hidden. Many prisoners had in fact been found with such things as currency, gold, passports, and mobile phones, and even their chargers, stuffed up in their backsides.
My forehead was placed on the ground, where Blackman had thoughtfully placed a piece of cardboard for just this purpose.
Then, I was told to put my shirt an trousers back on, handcuffed behind my back, and taken to where a bus sat waiting. Hamilton Scott, my old mate who had faithfully washed my clothes and done many errands for me in our time together, was right behind me, and he boarded the bus immediately after me.
As soon as he got on, he told me he was going to do his favourite party trick- to break the handcuffs. With a grunt and a tremendous exertion, he did! The end of one of the sides flew open- we were all amazed but he said it was something he had practiced many times when he had lived in the States, and had been arrested there on so many occasions.
When I got on the bus, I was amazed at how many people the screws had managed to squeeze in there. Built for about thirty people, there must have been about seventy or even eighty in there. I looked around for someone I knew, but all I could see were these very young men, all from the farm, which I rarely, if ever, visited.
They were all talking excitedly about what they had seen and heard. But there was a deeper vibe here too, one in which each man knew that he had taken part in what was to become one of the historically significant events of the opening century and new millenium – the storming of our modern-day Bastille Prison- Glendairy!
There was nowhere to sit, so I just sank to my knees, my hands behind me. I was squeezed tightly by my fellows from left and right, then Scott came into the bus and squeezed in. The screws locked the inner door, securing it with a padlock. Then we were moving, out along the pathway which led to the front gate of the prison, past the Superintendent’s car park, past Miss Daniel’s favourite – and lovingly tended- rose bush, then turn right, through the gates. The sight that greeted us as we did so truly amazed us. There seemed to be hundreds of police cars out here, all with their lights flashing- red and blue, red and blue, red and blue. As our bus made its way down the drive to the main road, one of them moved out in front and another right behind, their sirens blaring into action as we maneuvered into the road and picked up speed.
We suddenly started moving at a tremendous speed. It was too painful for me to remain kneeling, and unable to do anything else I just flopped back and stretched out my legs. That felt better. The shriek of the sirens announced to everyone on the island that heard them that some really top-level villains were being transported- the lads in the bus with me were lapping it up- this was the red carpet, all right; we were being treated as if we were real terrorists or something, which for us was ironic, as the overwhelming majority of us had actually played no part in the disturbances at all.
We spun through the highways and byways of Barbados that night, everyone being thrown from one side of the bus to the other as the mad driver took each roundabout at about eighty miles an hour. Luckily no-one was hurt, but seeing the beautiful land of Barbados, albeit by night and under these uncomfortable conditions was a joy in itself.
I smiled ruefully to myself that when I became a very old man I would one day look back on this eighty mile an hour drive with fond memories.
Eventually we arrived at what looked like a gigantic warehouse, ringed off with razor wire, coiled around itself and forming rows of three. Interspersed along the outer edge was a series of sniper platforms with the silhouettes of armed soldiers illuminated against the night sky.
The bus edged closer to the entrance and came to a stop. The inner door in the bus was unlocked by a female officer and she started bringing us out, two by two.
When she saw that Scott had snapped his links, she was wanting to have him awarded some special punishment, but, quick as an arrow, he was able to sooth her over with a tale of how it had happened inadvertently. She decided to let it pass, and we were brought out. She unlocked my cuffs, and I got down off the bus and went into a search area, Here Broomes, who I had known from my time on security was busy searching, and he checked me out, then let me pass. As I stepped into an inner cage area, which led into a great warehouse, I was amazed at what I saw.
It was similar to what I have since seen on television in the reportage of the Hurricane Ivan disaster relief operation in New Orleans, inside the big Dome where they housed all those people.
Inside here were hundreds of people, with dozens of beds going off into every direction. Rows upon rows, forming roads in the middle, with people sitting on beds, either singly, or in small groups.
From the side a disembodied voice seemed to be greeting each new arrival with the word that there was shower ‘Over there!! Use it!! Now!!!’ I did as I was told, even though I didn’t have any soap or wash cloth I still did what I cold and went under the running water. It felt wonderful, the feel of that naturally warm water running over my sweat-stained and stinking body.
The shower area had about half a dozen pipes on each side, and was full. Everyone was smiling; the vibe was warm and convivial, almost like a carnival.
Further back behind the shower room was the toilet area, where we had several plumbed-in loos, and a set of washbasins. Things were looking good.
Here we had a roof over our heads, we were protected at long last form the sun and the rain. What luxury!
I came back into the warehouse and looked around, to see what was going on and who that I might know that was around.
‘Terry! Over here!’ I heard from one of the beds by the side of the wall. Over there was Vino, and I went over. He was sitting there with a few others, one I recognized as a blow job artist that had formed a ‘fast friendship’ with a known Bullerman by the name of Badmouth.
I looked around hopefully to see if he could squeeze me in somewhere, even a piece of head-resting space would have done. But apparently this bed was someone else’s, so after a brief chat I had to move on to make my own arrangements.
I went round and noted that the muslims, along with Stanton, had congregated in one corner together, while the gangs had taken over the others. One was led by Jah Hall, a very mysterious black man with massively long dreadlocks and very high in the rasta tradition in Barbados. I knew Jah Hall from security where I had daily collected his bucket. He smiled at me, and I knew that I felt strangely reassured. He was sitting with his back to the wire of the inner enclosure, and around him were his son, also an inmate, and about twenty of the members of his team. In particular was Jet Li, who, as you can tell from the name, was an avid martial arts man.
In the other corner was Rebel, Problem Child, and others, while in the other corner was Sandeford, who I had shared a cell with and was dong a thirty year sentence, having had his original sentence of hanging commuted. He, too, sat surrounded by his soldiers, who knew themselves, so I understood, by their name the Ant Hill Mob.
There was always an ongoing history between these gangs, in the same way that there is with gangs in Los Angeles, New York, anywhere, really. I heard some of the stories of their chilling blood wars and wondered, now that all authority and restraint had broken down.
These gangs constantly warred amongst each other, forming alliances here, breaking them there, mostly over territorial rights within the island. They wore distinctive colours, such as red, blue, or black.
As I moved along I saw my old mate Troy Wiltshire, or Baggis, as he was more commonly known. It had been a little while since I had seen him and I noticed that he had since become a Rasta man, with his dreadlocks quite long. We chatted for a while, and I moved on, with him giving me bang as I did- this being the special sign of greeting, with the gentle banging of one fist against another.
Later that evening the food arrived and the officers on duty seemed determined to try and create as much confusion as possible. They were giving the food out willy nilly and at the hatch where the food was given out it was like a rugby scrum. Men were pushing and shoving, fighting to get in front of others and snatch as many of the little white bags for themselves as they could. Nobody seemed interested in making sure that the limited supply of food was going to be enough to go round. It was every man for himself and may the devil take the hindmost was the predominant attitude.
It was disheartening to see men reduced to the level of beasts, and an absolute absence of unity amongst we the prisoners. It wasn’t as if the food was any great shakes, either, only a small bread roll with just a hint of cheese spread inside it, along with a slice of sweetbread. That, along with a small packet of orange juice, was the meal for the evening.
And for this, men were prepared to totally disgrace themselves, even fight, for more than was their rightful share and even if that meant another man going without.
At first I managed to get a large piece of cardboard, as all the beds had long since been taken, and found a space where I could squeeze in without anyone being too hostile to my presence. It started as a width of about three feet, then narrowed to two as the beds on either side edged closer, till finally it became only one foot wide, and even became a walk-through alleyway servicing a different set of beds. I eventually got fed up with about thirty people an hour stepping all over my space to get through, and decided to move somewhere less hectic. None of the other so-called British inmates were interested in helping me out. Even if I had had a bed it would probably been taken from me once the gangs started turning up. In that situation there is little one man can do against a united and determined team of five or six, especially when they have the group vibe of hunting in their heart.
I spread the cardboard piece out in front of the entranceway to the shower area, where there seemed to be some space. It was a pleasure to have somewhere where people weren’t walking all over you. I took off my denim shirt and rolled it up as my pillow. Probably because there were some windows at the back of the toilet area, albeit since heavily reinforced and barred- that during the night a cold draught seemed to spring up, and I felt its chilling influence as I tried to drift off to sleep. This was bad news. I got up and looked around for something I could use to miminise the cold, and, in the corner by the bin, found it. It was a sheet of plastic that had been used as a covering for one of the new beds. I picked it up, and, using it as a sleeping bag, slipped into it. Although a bit of condensation developed inside it through the night, it served me well and I slept beautifully through each night of the fortnight that I spent in this place.
This place was part of an industrial area and was called Six Roads because it was located on a junction where six of the most important roads in Barbados converged. This warehouse had formerly been a place where fish was canned , but it seemed as though the operation had not been a great success. Barbados is periodically in trouble with one of its neighbours, Trinidad, over fishing rights, and this on-going scenario might have ad something to do with the demise of the cannery.
Up above the general area was a sealed-off observation post where up to a dozen soldiers and prison officers would perch themselves and look down over the chaos that engulfed us. Mostly they just nervously fingered their automatic rifles as they peered down through the wire from their balcony.
John Nurse came along, and was booed by some of the men, even one of them calling out ‘Rasole John Nurse’ in a sufficiently loud voice for him to hear it. Keeping his red banded cap on all the while, he spoke mostly on the need for the men to be patient and avoid using profanities in their language. Then he was off. There was an explosion of anger. These men had spent hours drawing up their lists of demands, to include such items as an immediate colour television, access to the press and TV stations, domino sets, to mention but a few.
Brutal Bob, in particular was very active in this side of what he called ‘the campaign’, and in bringing about a sense of order in general.
Along with Tanty, and Jet Li, the three of them managed to get the men organized into two queues, one for meat and the other for vegetarian diet. Many of the men went back a second or even a third or more time for extra food, but if caught out I meant an immediate beating.
One in particular, Earth, got caught several times, and no matter how many times or how badly he was beaten he still went back to get more than his allowance. He sat there on his bed, not more than a few feet from me, munching into his bread rolls, the opening of his very red mouth opening and closing methodically as he made his way through it.
Previously he had had a powerful position in the kitchen which he had used to enlist blow jobs or cigarettes out from those willing to pay these prices for the extra food he could provide them with.
When I saw how badly some of these men were being beaten, I was content to sit down with my own white paper bag and just eat my own food, quietly.
By now the screws were using a list of names to call people, to ensure that each man did get his own food and no more. It was a system that worked, and the food sharing became much more organized. Sometimes they would call out the list backwards, just to vary it a bit, which was at first confusing once you had gotten used to the list being called in its original way.
Then one evening one of the screws was found out to be hiding a big tray of prisoners food- fish- presumably so that he could carry it home for himself. There was an uproar, and the officer was forced by Sergeant Scantlebury- one of the most principled and genuine screws there- to hand it over to the inmates. The screw in question was scowling as he did so, though; he was known from the farm for hating prisoners and used to go around verbally abusing inmates as if drunk.
Everybody laughed to see his discomfort, though; it must have been the first time I had ever seen a black man’s face go bright red from embarrassment, or anger!
The next morning I was one of the first to wake up, and the vibe was absolutely haven. A wonderful sense of peace spread throughout the entire hall. I almost felt a physical presence of something there, as if I could actually feel the effect of al those peoples prayers for our safety that must have been made I Barbados from the time of the beginning of this calamity. The people of Barbados are a very spiritual and prayerful people, and there was this quality in the air, in our presence, of something very holy around us, as if watching over us.
From a gap in the roof above a single ray of brilliant gold sunshine shone down, cutting through the dust in the air and hitting the ground just a few inches away from where I lay. The silence was broken only by men beginning to rise, and take their brief strolls around the place, before it got too busy. One of the men jumped up and pointed to another fellow.
‘This one I caught fucking a sponge!’ he shouted, but the collective response was one of amusement, not anger, so the accused was allowed to get away with whatever his transgression had been.
That morning as part of the breakfast fruit was also given out; a banana and an orange for each man. These tasted like no fruit I have eaten either before or since. But as I was finishing, and about to throw the skins and peel away, one of the rasta men came up to me and stopped me, putting his hand out for my bag.
I gave it to him, and he continued collecting everyone else’s bag, too.
When these were all together, a small team of men gathered together and began cutting away the inside of these skins using the edge of plastic spoons. They soon had little piles of a white paste-like substance in front of them.
When they were finished, they brought their piles out into the spot on the floor where the sun’s rays were striking, and used this to dry the paste. Every now and again one of the men would have to get up and physically move the pile of paste to keep it in the presence of the rays, as the sun moved across the sky and the angle of its rays changed.
Eventually though, one of the Rasta men was satisfied, and the little pyramid of what had by now become a white powder was taken away
During the day men passed the time by playing five a side football, using a home made football of paper for the purpose, or played chess or draughts on boards they drew themselves with borrowed pens, and piece cut out of cardboard and polystyrene.
Sandeford started a Fight Club, where men parried blows with each other, but not to the head, only the chest. Sandeford did especially well, taking dozens of really heavy blows to his chest form the giant African before getting a draw.
We even had a wheelchair derby, in which we borrowed the wheelchairs from two of the invalided inmates and they raced each other round a makeshift track. Brutal Bob was good as one of the riders, and usually one. Some men were even betting their food on the outcomes of these races, but then Barbadians are known as great gamblers.
All in all, we were making the most of a difficult time, and getting through it, as a team.
That afternoon, though, something I the atmosphere began to change. There were hastily-convened meetings between each of the different gangs, with representatives from each talking with each other in what looked like high-level diplomatic maneuverings.
Then, when I went to use the toilet, I could see why. Inside the gate a man was busy bending back and snapping off the thinner of the bars that had been hastily welded on to reinforce the door.These he was then handing out to other men, who were taking them deeper into the toilet area and scraping them up against the walls. They were sharpening these lengths of wire- jokers, they were called, and nasty and deep stab wounds they could leave you with, too. Internal bleeding was always a greater danger than blood shed on the outside of the body, and these things, beig thin and – now- incredibly sharp- looked lethal.
As I looked round the toilet I saw perhaps a dozen men busy at work sharpening up their jokers, the ends they were holding in their hands they had wrapped in a cloth to prevent slippage. I knew that war was on the cards. I only hoped I wasn’t one of the targets.
That evening Mia Mottley – the Attorney general visited the adjacent section of the warehouse where the other half of our population was being accommodated. Through the aperture, high up in the wall between the two sections I could vaguely hear her voice although I couldn’t make out the actual words. There was some applause for her when she had finished, but she didn’t physically come into the section where we were.
Some of the lads that were able to climb high and get up to the window came back with the news that she was talking about parole, one of the greatest pieces of Barbadian legal bullshit and a never-ending roundabout of deceit that the authorities there have no intention of bringing into being. Yet, they bandy this word about when it suits them to.
They managed to use the paper from the white bags, and using just ordinary spittle managed to seal this up as ready-to-smoke rollups, with the mysterious white powder inside each of them, as the tobacco substitute. One of the Surinamese inmates had managed to smuggle a tinder box, sometimes called a thunder box into the warehouse which they now used to get a spark, then a light for their rollups, or spliffs. These thunder boxes were simple but effective devices which involved the striking of a piece of flint with a razor blade, and this would then spark onto a piece of already burned paper. Sometimes a thread of mop head was used with the same result.
The first spliffs were lit up, and as the men around universally dragged deep off them, some began to cough, others to have different reactions. A weird vibe came into the air. Even though I hadn’t smoked any, I could not help but breath it in from the air around me.
My vision began to be affected- things looked a bit cartoonish, or two-dimensional.
Then, without warning it began. The fist thing I saw was a big rush of maybe a dozen men from one corner over to where one man was sitting, talking with some people on his bed. They immediately went to work in beating him, over and over again, with heavy thumps and kicks reverberating throughout the hall. I could hear the man’s ribs actually crack and snap. Kicks from unshod feet were thrown in, again and again. The man screamed in agony, but the beating continued mercilessly.
Eventually, it was decided that he had had enough, and he was allowed to make his own way over to the inner enclosure of the caged area, and sit down there, to await the screws coming to take him out.
Slowly, desperately, he dragged his broken body over to this area, where he sat down, tenderly. He called out to one of the screws on the other side of the gate, but they just continued to look back at him, as if they couldn’t understand what had happened to him, or what he was saying.
Then the wolf pack moved off rapidly to its next target, and finding it, started the same procedure. They moved as if they were each the different legs and arms of the same great beast. This was no collection of different people- this was a collective mind, a single entity that was moving amongst us like a giant spider, picking off who it desired.
Now another man was suddenly encircled, and savagely and mercilessly attacked. One man had his long dreadlocks literally ripped out of his head, and was then thumped and stabbed till he ran to the protective area of the inner sanctum.
This was rapidly filling up with damaged men, who looked back at us through split eyes and ripped faces. Many were unable to stand, and had collapsed on the floor inside this cage.
Again and again this- and other- teams- there were several by now- moved through the hall like a brood of mythological giants, tearing apart whoever was on their list for whatever real or imagined transgression. It was a time for a lot of old scores to get paid off.
The people that were mainly singled out were those who had been bulling, chichi-ing (receiving), shacking-up (prostituting), or grassing. Now and again a man would suddenly make a dash for the sanctum, even though he hadn’t even been attacked, simply because he already suspected that he was about to get his payback. Occasionally a man was given just one or two blows and then allowed to run to the sanctum, such as Sandeford, who was a known Queen. Others got the living daylights kicked out of them, such as the young India-looking Guyanese boy, a seaman by trade and a man that had become a notorious chichiman. It even looked as though he had contracted AIDS, too, from his face which had become really thin since his arrival in prison. He squealed like a girl, poor man, when they beat him. I felt terrible, but far too scared to say anything or intervene. One thing I learnt is that when you are really afraid and on your own, the next man’s fate is nowhere near as important as you had previously imagined it to be.
One guy, Corry, who I had known a bit and even shared a cell with for a short while, suddenly found himself accused as a Bullerman. Apparently he had pressurized a very young man, Weasel, into having sex with him. I myself had seen him go off with Bubba Benny to the toilets and both come back after twenty minutes, but here was someone accusing him of a serious crime. What sealed his fate was the gold cap in the front of his mouth, and he was immediately smashed into the ground. Amazingly, though, he was able to pull himself up after about fifteen minutes of devastating onslaught and negotiate with his attackers for a chance to get to the sanctum. Their hearts softened, and they permitted him free access. He earned big respect by this bravery, and took his punishment like a real man.
Then they were onto Scott, who found himself accused as a grass.
‘What!?’ he cried out, and then, to Jah Hall,’ Jah Hall!!’
Jah Hall took one look over from his throne in the corner and with an imperial wave of his right hand signaled for the demolition team to ‘’Left he’, meaning, ‘leave him’, and it was so done.
I looked at Scott right after that, and could see that he was greatly relieved. He had probably rarely come that close to such a hideous beating, and gotten away with it. Bt Scott was always a very resourceful person, one of the reasons why he was one of my Inner Circle.
One of the more eccentric characters in the place, a man by the name of Azariah Phipps, but who we all called Grandpa, thought he’d try and get one of his old-time enemies in the prison dobbed in for being a Buller.
‘He’s a Bullerman!’ he cried out, pointing to a guy that was actually one of the biggest suppliers of weed in the entire prison, a man who had probably the most powerful people in the prison in his actual employ, including inmates and guards.
The wolf pack was not for wearing this, especially when the accused man leapt up and started hitting the accuser. At this the wolf pack joined in, and Grandpa got the daylights beaten out of him in just retribution for what he had just tried to put another man through.
I subsequently saw the old fart glaring out of the sanctum to where I would sit an munch on my food bags, over the next three days while these beatings or washouts, as they became known, took place. He looked as hungry as a cunt during that time, but would I go over and give him even a piece of crust? No fucking way, boyo, you got me right on that one!
Others got washed off, too. One Jamaican man, Anthony Grant, from Ochorios, who had worked in the kitchen but had misused his power for financial profit, although I don’t think sexually, was washed, if only a little. He had just one kick in the back from someone and then told to go and sit in the sanctum. This he did, but he wasn’t very happy about it and glared back. I hadn’t really known him before the burning, but in the brief interval at Six Roads I had talked with him a few times, and we had formed a kind of friendship. Then, whenever I went to use the toilet or have a shower he would try to speak with me and beg me to bring him some food. I shooed him away out of fear for myself. If I showed this man any consideration it might mean similar treatment for me.
I felt terrible, like a traitor, but at the end of the day I had to look out for myself.
At one point Huckle Sweet, a notorious chichiman but a generally much-loved rogue was smacked on the head as his nominal punishment, but did not put him in the sanctum- where he would have been without food for days, as the screws weren’t opening up those gates and taking anyone out, in all the days that the washouts went on for. Huckle was made to go round and tap every other chichiman on the shulder, who would then receive a nominal slap and have to go to the sanctum. One of these that he so pointed ot was a very skinny guy who had told me he was a Bajan muslim, by the name of Mohammed. I felt sorry for him, and helpless to do or say anything.
The punishments didn’t just end there. Guys like Badmouth, Sheep, and others would make additional forays into the sanctum and bring some of their victims back out, for further beatings and even to make some men fight against each other, like gladiators.
Others were made to beat their own heads against the walls, or had their heads put down the latrines. This went on for days.
I would just go to sleep while it was going on, sliding back into my plastic sleeping bag and drifting off, while all around me men would be crying out like in some dungeon or ancient torture chamber.
My piece of cardboard was beginning to break up, and become an intricate-designed puzzle or jigsaw, as the days went by, as each day I, like everyone else, would have to pick up my entire bed so the floor could be swept and wiped down. But I held onto all my pieces with ferocity. It might not have been much, but it was all that I had!
The Jamaican Preacher man was busy, calling on all of us to repent and receive the Lord as our Saviour. Over the previous week he had gathered together round about him about a dozen men for prayer meetings, in which they would also try and sing hymns. His voice could be heard over everything else, calling out the name of Jesus in an impassioned tone. This man had become semi-famous in Glendairy through his highly emotional outpourings, normally just before lunch, in which he would be joined by Monkey Man Kenny Mascoll’s uncle, who was also a holy man and was in for running down a woman tourist, and then driving off. Jamaican Preacher was a professional cocaine smuggler, who still hadn’t been paid for most of the ‘jobs’ he had done to the UK, and was already looking forward to the next opportunity to smuggle again.
At one point Jamaican Preacher man managed to get about thirty men all standing in a circle, holding hands, and praying all night long.
Eventually, though, Jet Li went over and gave him a slap and told him to fucking well can it. Many were outraged at this act of impiety, but I personally found it slightly humorous. These Rasta men weren’t taking any of this white man religious shit any more. Part of me could sympathise. For so long black people have been told to turn the other cheek and put up with centuries’ worth of exploitation. This attitude of servility has been fostered on them by the white man’s churches, with obvious spin offs and benefits for the plantations which they (used to) own. Well, even though the plantations have largely died off, and been replaced by a tourist trade, the status quo still has not fundamentally changed, and the black man still has to kiss the white man’s arse if he wants to put food on his children’s table
Meanwhile the screws did absolutely nothing to discourage or dissuade the beaters from attacking the other prisoners. Not one single word was spoken against them. All they did was to stand up in their balcony and look down on the scenes from Hell. It was like one of those paintings showing the underworld, Dante’s Inferno, or paintings by Heironymous Bosch.
Neither did they try to get any of the injured to safety, or offer any medical attention to the injured. It took three days for the gates to get opened, and even then that happened with half a dozen of the soldiers from Antigua, standing there with their rifles raised and pointing at the heads and bodies of each of the injured men, as these were, one by one, brought out of the cage, handcuffed behind their backs, stripped, and then flung in the back of one of prison buses outside where they were left for the night. The next morning after, the screws began driving some of these injured to the QE hospital. Even those that had been stabbed in the lungs, or had had one eye ripped out, were treated in this way. It was actually unbelievable.
Another thing I saw, that I can scarcely know what it was, was the appearance of a beautiful black girl dressed in a wonderful white wedding dress, standing there on the balcony looking down at me. Maybe my mind was making me see things, given the strain I was under, or maybe a spirit was showing itself to me. I have had such things happen to me before.
Meanwhile, in the adjacent hall things were going the same way as they had been in ours. A man by the name of Jah Fire was the one leading the washouts there, and we had our scouts up on the window looking through at what was happening. On one occasion one of them called out that Eggs was being made to shit himself. Eggs was one of the local fellas that used to come round and see me when I was on D&E and have his cards read. He would always bring me a couple of cigarettes, for which I was very grateful. It pained and saddened me to hear of this man being forced to humiliate himself this way. I was told that he was being done for being Bullerman, which, now that I thought about it, seemed possible. The lads that were doing all the retribution did not just beat people for no reason. They seemed to have a very strict remit that concerned only Bullers and grasses. You might have thought that in all the chaos someone there might have thought to take a wack at a white man just because the opportunity was there, but it never happened. No one was ever hit on the basis of race. One British inmate, Jason Miller, a black British fella from Chingford was beaten quite severely on two separate occasions, but because he was thought to have been bulling.
I subsequently spoke with him on the phone since returning to Britain and he told me that the lads there were seriously trying to kill him.
Just then there was the sound of rifle shots coming from nextdoor. Three shots suddenly rang out. We all held our breath: our scouts reported back that Bullets, a brilliant portrait artist whose work I had often admired, had been shot in the neck, and Packman had been killed. One other prisoner had also been gunned down, allegedly because he wouldn’t stop joking other inmates.
That incident seemed to cool everything down. The beatings tapered off and things began to return to normal.
We were at Six Roads- all in all- for about two to three weeks.
Somehow I made it through.
Then, eventually, the buses started up again to take people off to wherever it was that we were going.
After all the beaten people had been carted away things began thing out again for the rest of us. More buses came, and now whoever wanted to get out of this place and move on to the next was able to queue up and get away. Eventually things thinned out so much Jet Li and one of his assistants came over to where I was sitting and suggested it was time to move.
‘No one has harmed you’ Jet Li said to me.
I offered him my hand, but he rejected it.
‘No I don’t do that bitch thing’ he said, turning away.
He was quite a character, and went through some beatings himself, afterwards, from what I heard.
I quickly took a shower and lined up. I asked Vino if he wanted to come with me, but food sharing was coming up and he wanted to hang on for that. Howard was playing the fool and staying put on the mattress he had by now managed to get for himself, in a semi-open defiance of Jet Li’s strong suggestion. As I queued Scott was suddenly beside me and as the screw opened the gate he, I and the Jamaican Preacher man stepped through together.
Jughead, my old chess companion, was right behind us, but got stopped just then. We three were the last bunch for the bus out of there that night.
Scott and I were made to strip as soon as we stepped out of the external gate, where there were many, many soldiers waiting. These troops were all from Antigua and Guyana; they spoke English differently to the Bajan manner and looked a very different racial or tribal type; much darker, more African-looking.
‘White boy’ one of them said to me ‘What you in here for, mon?’
He cradled his automatic rifle- I think it was an M16- across his arms. He was short but very stocky, and there were coloured badges of things like triangles all over his camouflage jacket. On his head he wore the camouflage jungle cap
‘Drugs’ I replied.
When you are stripped naked, and made to sit in front of an armed man you have never met before, it can be slightly unnerving.
I looked to the side and saw a line of police looking back at me. There must have been about fifty of them there, all senior officers, by the look of their uniforms and the red strips in their caps. Great spotlights had been erected outside also, and cast an eerie and cold glow over the entire scene.
I had to pull back my bum cheeks again, thus affording the most senior police officers in Barbados a view into my innermost parts. I hope I didn’t dazzle too many of them.
Everything I was wearing was thoroughly searched; even the bar of soap that I had acquired was spilt in tow to see if there was anything hidden inside. I managed to keep hold of my water bottle; I knew it would come in useful wherever I was going, and in this I was to be proved right. When you end up in a completely new place, and haven’t been able to take anything with you, it can take days or even weeks to rearrange around you all the bits and pieces you need to make your life right.
I was then given a new T shirt, a pair of blue boxer shorts, and a pair of shower shoes, the kind you slip on and slide the thing between your toes. You can’t walk too well or for too long in them, but then again this wasn’t likely to be a problem we were likely to be experiencing.
I looked to the side and saw that Scott was going through the same thing.
I managed to hold onto my old uniform, though, even though I now also had the T shirt and pants. In this situation – where everything is difficult to get- anything you are able to hold onto is a good thing to have.
We were both handcuffed again, and put back on the bus. Just as Scott and I had been the last to leave Glendairy together, so, strangely enough, we were the last-in our batch- to leave this place, too.
The bus started off, and again I found my place on the floor. I wasn’t able to see much of the scenery as we trundled along, again at about eighty miles an hour, being thrown from one side to the other in a great heap. The other lads were having a great time, though, lapping up the notoriety that the flashing lights and wailing sirens seemed to confer, albeit vicariously.
The rumours were that the new place was going to be like a prisoner of war camp- our version of a Guatenamo Bay type camp. We arrived quite late at night; it was dark, anyway.
There seemed to be several buildings inside this new complex. Massive fences of razor wire had been thrown up all around the complex, which was right by the edge of the sea. It was the former US naval base that we had heard so much about; Harrison’s Point, right in the northernmost point of the island in the parish of St. Lucy. A red and white painted lighthouse stood right there, too, just outside the point where the wire fence ran out.
The buildings inside this great prisoner-of –war style film setting had huge letters painted up along their sides; A, B, C, and the building which we had been taken to D1, and D2 painted right alongside it. Our building seemed much bigger than any of the others, and this subsequently proved true.
D Block was made up of two stories, but ran for a length of some three hundred yards. It was fairly modern-looking, and apparently had been built to accommodate US marines some time in the 80s. It had last been used for the US invasion of Grenada, and since then had been allowed to fall into desolation. During our time at Six Roads the authorities had been going flat out to fix this place up, reinforce it, and make it ready to deal with nigh on a thousand prisoners.
Standing at the entrance way as I was led off the bus was what looked like the chief of police for the Royal Barbados Police, so resplendid and glamorous was his uniform. He looked briefly at me as I was led in, as he must have done at each of the other inmates being brought in, but didn’t say anything. He seemed deep in thought, and quite grim in manner. I was searched by one of the screws, and allowed to keep my old uniform. This was later to prove very useful. I was led upstairs and on the way saw my old mate officer Sobers and also Miss Logi. Sobers smiled and said something to me, and Miss Logi gave me a flicker of recognition. I was led all the way down a long narrow corridor, past dozens of cell doors on each side, through gateways which unlocked as I approached and locked behind me. The officer guiding me along was Mr. Shorey, who had helped me get the job as a bucket man on security. I had always liked Shorey’s style- he was one of the academic ones, and was studying nursing. I was later to see onto his desk and see the big books on biology and anatomy that he would be reading, in whatever spare moments he might have.
Right down to the end was I taken and the last door on the left was opened. The number outside read 13. Lucky for some, I thought, why not me?
INSIDE CELL 13
I stepped inside, and was glad that I had take advantage of my last opportunity to get a shit and a shower at Six Roads before making this leg of the journey. The cell was about thirty feet long and fourteen feet wide. On each side was a line of plastic mattresses, pushed edge to edge and each accommodating at least one man. I was the last in.
I looked around for a friendly face, but it was dark, and the only light came from the corridor where the fluorescent light was permanently on. I looked up to the ceiling and saw from the gaping hole where there had formerly been a lamp fixture that all the wiring had been stripped out. Over at the window there were two sets of metal grills in place, but the view was magnificent.
I could see the sea, the lighthouse, and from here, the highest point in the prison, look down over virtually the entire camp. A ring of big spotlights had been erected around the perimeter, and a wire fence which looked like something out of the East German border.
The spotlights did not move around, like in ‘The Great Escape’, but instead were fixed, and cast the entire area in light. It looked almost like a football stadium.
Then I heard a familiar voice. It was Scott’s. I breathed a sigh of relief- I was not alone!
‘Just ease yourself in there, Terry’ he said, pointing to the bed on the end. ‘You can sleep on the crack in the middle’, he continued, as if offering an explanation to the man who two men on either side who he had ingeniously managed to put me with.
The two fellas didn’t say anything, even if they might have been a bit put out it, was small change compared to what any of us had been through already
That night nobody moved about much. We didn’t expect any food, but it came anyway. There was a brief commotion at the gate when an officer and an inmate appeared. There was a cardboard box full of white bags and an urn of tea beside it. They had a set of paper cups to go with it.
Each man went and collected his food and got a paper cup of tea, then returned to where he had been sitting. The trick here was to keep your cup, because you never knew when you were going to be able to get a new one.
The next morning I awoke, and from the window could see the beautiful bright blue sea out beyond the perimeter. Far out there was a boat sailing across it, and beyond that what looked like a container ship sailing in the direction of Bridgetown.
I went down the narrow aisle and made it to where we had our buckets. There were thirty or so men in this cell, and we had three buckets between us. I took a hearty piss into the one that still had a bit of spare space. The other two were full right up already and in need of carrying out.
Where were the screws?
The whole place seemed deserted. I looked through the bars of the gate and was able to see into the cell opposite, number 12. By straining my head to the left, I could see only a little way back down the corridor, and the beginnings of the gate to the cell opposite, presumably number 10.
By straining it to the right I could see that at the very end of our corridor was a gate that seemed to lead to the outside. The sky was visible through it, and I got the idea that there might be a set of steps running down that side of the building to the ground.
Most of the men were still sleeping, and I made my way back to the middle ground between the two adjacent mattresses. The fella at the end was awake now. He was really thin, and seemed to be a bit nutty. It turned out he was an old crack freak, and had more or less done his brain in through smoking that shit. More than any other drug that I have come across, that stuff really does seem able to induce mental illness in its users.
His name was Dada.
I asked him why.
‘My daughter calls me Dada’ he said, in the voice of a seven year old. This was a man, some forty five years of age, talking, but it was obvious he wasn’t the full shilling.
‘She always comes and sees me. She brings me food sometimes. She has a nice bottom’ he added.
It sounded as though he had all the makings of a real tragedy here, and I got the feeling that I had heard enough. What he did for a living was just roll around and try and get as blasted on crack as he could. One night the guys in the cell, particularly Lestor Howell, one of our slightly wiser- and certainly more intelligent- fellows asked him why he chose to smoke crack.
Dada took a deep inward breath at that moment, considering his answer.
‘Because I get satisfaction from doing it’ he answered. There was no way he was even going to change. He didn’t have too long to go before completing this sentence, but given his predilection for smoking crack a return ticket to Glendairy seemed inevitable.
We worked out amongst ourselves who was out and in what order. First out was a thickset man in for noncing, or rape. A pleasant enough man, but I wouldn’t want to be a child or a woman and bump into him late one night. He had a couple of weeks to go. Then, a week after that, it was going to be Dada’s turn to go.
The screws came by each morning and fed us, but all we were getting were two fluffy bread rolls, lined with a thin smear of cheese spread. Still, it was better than nothing, and I downed it along with the paper cup of hot, sweet tea. Some days we got a drink called milo, a kind of cocoa drink. On Sundays we got coffee, and it was good stuff, too. Really tasty and nice. Never in my life have I had such good coffee as what I drank at Harrison’s Point.
On some days we got a slice of real cheese with our bread, and because I had been on the special diet list before when Mason from the kitchen reappeared I was able to get my milk ration back. Not that I ever drank it; it would always give me the shits so I would pass it on to Scott, who either drank it himself or in turn would give it to one of the unfortunates that he tended to take under his wing.
Dada was beginning to get out of order though. He wasn’t taking the medication they were giving him. Like many nutters, he would store up his pills and then take them all at once, or sell them off for extra food. He was getting aggressive towards me, as I was the only white boy in the cell and he thought he might be able to get away with it. He was encouraged in these actions by the malicious Tanty and his consort Cat. Tanty was groveling like man ti get himself a better position in the system, and managed to get put on giving out the food. This gave him the freedom to move about on the corridor, and the opportunity to nick some extra food for himself, but it was kind of unwritten that he would be expected to do a bit of grassing in return. This didn’t seem to bother him, as it had been what he was best known for at Glendairy. He was a real bitch, and would walk around with an American flag wrapped around his head as a headscarf, talking about his former partner-in-crime Shampoo, another stinking Bullerman.
Cat was just a bit simple, though not a bad lad. He only had another year to do, having just done about ten already for a robbery. He was one of those lads that had pumped himself up a bit since coming into the prison, and was now able to walk around with a set of biceps on each arm. Each morning he would call down to the cell beneath, making the sound of a phone ringing. It was annoying the fuck out of me, waking me up every fucking morning to hear that shit.
I didn’t say anything, though, as I didn’t want a bad vibe.
Dada was getting to me, especially with his talk about Jesus being a Blackman, and getting killed by the white Roman soldiers. This was highly inflammatory racist material, and was making me worried, especially as things looked as if they could easily get out of hand here n this cell. None of the other guys did I know- as chance was to have it all the fellas I had known and interacted with over the two years’ prior were in different Blocks. Up here in D we only had boys from the farm.
So, without Scott I would have had no backup. T wasn’t that the boys were especially malicious towards me as a white man; it’s just that in jail men get bored, and occasionally like to see some blood spilled, regardless as to whose it is.
‘I am right behind you!’ Dada told me, one day. He was pushing it, seeing how far he could go before I belted him. I was just getting ready to, when an interaction happened between him and Scott.
A young Jamaican lad had moved into the cell, and was parked alongside me. His trip was to sit there all day long, humming some of the crazy tunes he was busy making up. It was driving me nuts, especially as he continued even when I was trying to get to sleep. At one point it got too much. On the 999th time that day I had heard his tune, ‘Sting her every time, sting her every time’ I just snapped, and told him that I was trying to sleep.
He shut up then, but then dada had a go at him.
Apparently Dada didn’t want to hear any more of his fucking tune, and to emphasize his point started waving his long, talon-like fingernails right underneath the guys face. The guy shut up, looking like a right pussy hole in front of everyone for backing down so easily.
‘I just don’t want any trouble’ he said, sounding like a right scaredy-cat as he did so.
Dada took the piss out of him, ‘Don’t want any trouble’ he repeated his words, mocking him. Some of the other fellas in the cell laughed, but I hada sense of what was coming next.
It was Scott’s voice that I next heard.
‘Just don’t come around me, Dada, as you do with those two fools’ he said, referring to me as well as the Jamaican guy in the same breath, putting us both in the same category together.
Dada got up with a fury and started waving his long fingernails underneath Scott’s eyes. But not for long. Suddenly Scott lashed out and delivered a couple of solid punches right in his face, then a couple more to his lower chest. There was suddenly blood leaking from Dada’s mouth, running down the side of his throat and onto the floor. He turned his body round, to shield his front from Scott’s devastating punched. But Scott gave him a couple more, right in the kidneys. After that Dada was quiet, and didn’t say boo to a goose.
He was caught, though, wanking over Scott’s face. It was Cappell, one of the Guyanese inmates that saw this, and confronted him with it the following morning. I sat back, thinking I was now going to witness Scott totally demolish this cunt. This was going to be a real treat. This arsehole had got up my nose, and had caused me a lot of tension for nothing. Now , hopefully, he was going to get a heavier beating. But it was not to be. Scott just looked at him, and said,
‘So, you fucked me anyway, did you?’.
Cappell went on to describe how Dada had put his prick right under Scott’s nose as he had slept, and when he came had pulled back and sprayed it over his own bed.
Scott looked over at Tanty, and saw him give a slight shake to his head. This was Scott’s cue not to give out any further beating; Dada was being tutored by Tanty, and was being asked/ told to leave him alone. I think they might have even been related. Certainly Dada was related to Peter Coppin, or Peter Pan as he was more commonly known, one of Bridgetown’s most famous shoplifters.
It was a happy day when Dada left, and as I looked down from my window I saw him go jauntily along the path that led to the gate. Rumour had it that the authorities would let you go directly from here, and you could make your way to wherever you were going by local ZR minibus. Another rumour was that the screws would take you back to the old Glendairy building in St. Micheal, and there you would sign your papers and get the piece of money the prison handed out to you on your release date. This would always be your wages, namely the sum of all the little three dollars a week they paid to every man in the prison, even if you didn’t have an actual ‘job’ as such. If , ass in my case, you did, say, as a gardener, you would then have five dollars a week added to your account. If you worked in the sanitation, you would earn ten. So, as the years rolled by and a man’s earnings would amass, upon his release an inmate could look forward to a small, tidy sum; not enough to do anything big with but enough for a good smoke, if crack was your thing.
For many men it was this day that kept many of them going through all the times of difficulty; there would come a day when they would get out, make it to the nearest dope hole, and score. Then they would be able to ‘beam up’ and get high again. Many would return after that piece of money had run out. Some would smoke it off within a day, to return back to the prison on another charge within twenty four hours. One man was once rearrested at the gate, going out of the prison, because they discovered a crack pipe in his possession that he was actually trying to smuggle out! So, he didn’t even make it out, but came back with a further six months for possession of ‘cocaine paraphernalia’.
For a short while it looked as though the pressure in the room was going to ease off. Surely, they weren’t going to bring any more men into this cell? Couldn’t they see for themselves that it was already far too overcrowded?
But that is precisely what they did.
One lad reappeared from the past- Mario, who I had known from Mr. Sealey’s rehab classes. Mario was the one whose mum had had six other kids from as many different fathers. He had never known his own father, and this really grieved him.
The first day I stayed up at his end of the cell, near the door. They had brought Horse in from somewhere. I think he was getting his arse cut from not bathing, and getting a rough ride. He would take any number of beatings rather than have a shower. On one occasion someone even gave him a piece of soap, and when they inspected it upon his return to the cell, found that it was still dry. The next time, Horse retuned with the soap wettened, but still unused! All he had done was to put it under the running tap. The next time after that he was escorted- I think by Scott- who informed the screw that he was not bathing. Horse was watched as he was made to take a shower.
To take a shower we had to take our turn in being opened up and, two by two, make our way down the corridor to the bottom, where the showers were. There were toilets and sinks in here, too, and we made the most out of being able to wash our clothes as best we could. It wasn’t easy with ordinary soap, but this at least was now in plentiful supply, as was toilet paper and toothpaste. Unfortunately some prisoners took to sharpening their brushes into having finely-chiseled points at the end so as to be able to stab other prisoners, so toothbrushes started to get strictly controlled, and as the searched started up again, so many of these – and other jokers made form other materials- began to be discovered.
It was around this time that the chicken pox started its outbreak. It started with Mario, who caught it from outside, and he was the first one to break out in it, trying to hide the blemishes it was making on his arms and legs. This is the normal reaction of someone that catches an infection like this. But as soon as the other lads saw what he had, there was pandemonium in the cell. It wasn’t hard to spot the signs- the non-stop itching and scratching. He was made to stand separate from everyone, as far as that was possible. The best we could do was put him by the shit buckets, where he remained until the screw came to take him out. Where he went, none of us knew, but someone thought they saw him over by E Block, which was a much smaller section than ours, and in the middle of the square.
Unfortunately, the next day others started breaking out in it. Tanty, too, had it, and like the real cunt he was tried to cover it up, despite the fact that he was giving out the food to all the men along the top corridor of D2. He is probably the main reason why so many men caught it- initially dozens, but eventually hundreds- it may still be going on for all I know.
The reaction of the screws was to make our section of the prison the specially-dedicated chicken pox area, and to do this they erected a special partition which they thought would help prevent the germs from spreading down the corridor. Instead of going down the corridor to use the bathroom and toilets there we would now be going out through the back door, and down the step to the outside. Down at the bottom there were other showers, open-air ones. For shitting, a chemical toilet was now to be installed.
The Ellco truck turned up the very next day.
‘E -double L –CO: ELLCO- the only way to go!’ Scott would boom forth, every time the ELLCO portaloo truck came by and cleaned away the crap from the chemical toilets, doing a very good job, by the way, always leaving those diabolical craphouses smelling of artificial lavender. With a long retractable tube the truck operators would direct these great serpents down into the mouths of the loos, and switch them on from the back of the truck. The smell that was kicked up as this happened was unbelievable, and many of us had to cover our mouths and noses until it was over. Twice a day these loos were cleaned, and the number of flies and mosquitoes kept to a minimum.
We got our shower in the morning, after every other cell had been unlocked, buckets out, and showered.
Miss Amy was the portly, but pleasant female officer that was attached to us at this time. I had not seen her before, but she was easy to butter up. You had to give her a good ‘Good Morning Miss Amy’ as she came in, first thing, otherwise she would go into a bad mood and that meant slow openings for us to do our buckets, which meant problems. When the screws played up, they would start with tricks like these. Being late for buckets out meant that we couldn’t take any more pisses. The buckets then would be full right up to the very brim, and men would be bursting with the desire to take a piss. Men would be looking round for spare water bottles to pee in, anything, often unable to find anything. I heard that in some cells things became so bad with the screws playing up this way that the men revolted and began throwing piss down the corridors, at the screws even. When this happened, the screws would use this as their opportunity to start shooting. They loved nothing better than an easy target, and a prisoner can’t fight back. Snoops was one of those shot, and badly wounded, the bullet hitting him in the leg as it ricocheted, over in E Block.
Similar troubles would break out in G and H Blocks, where the real troublemakers were kept. Here most of the Rastas were kept, segregated for fear that their ideas of Black Nationalism tended to spur on the other inmates in revolutionary actions.
C Block also had a far number of bad boys, particularly my old pal Sandeford, who was now holding court over there and had cemented his position with a number of other Rastas.
Every now and again we on D Block would hear a massive booming sound of screams and outraged men’s voices as some weird shit or another happened over there. Then we would look from our windows down on dozens of soldiers running towards C Block with their rifles ready to fire. On one occasion I heard that Bubba Benny had been caught giving his beloved Chucky a blow job. The men there went mad when any kind of homosexual activity came to light.
One day the British Embassy came to visit. This was some two months or so after the burning- it had taken them that long to get permission to come in and see us. All I knew was a couple of screws turned up and told me, through the bars of the gate, to get dressed. This took me just a couple of minutes- there wasn’t much to it, just slip my shirt on and my short trousers over my boxers, and that was it. Then they unlocked the door and I was handcuffed, and taken all the way down the corridor and through the gate at the end. Shorey was there, still reading the same page on women’s biology, some two months down the line. It was a colourful, highly illustrated page on the womb.
I was then taken down the stairs, which opened up with a window on one of the most magnificent sunsets I have ever seen. Every shade of gold was there, intermingled with mauves and deeper shades of purple as the sun dipped beneath the sea and the deep blues and blacks of the night sky followed in its wake.
I was led out along the path which runs through the warren of outbuildings that makes up Harrison’s Point, out past C Block to my left, past E Block to my right.
As we rounded the corner someone called to me in a Jamaican accent from B Block, and I saw Mr. Broomes, from security, sitting on a chair outside A Block.
Then we went through another gate, attended by a female officer, and up to an administration building. Inside here, I was taken, still handcuffed, to see Greita Tait, of the consular department from the High Commission.
She was always very sympathetic, even when she might not have been able to do much I the way of intervening in people’s cases or immediate situations. She asked me if I had been beaten, and I said no. Apparently Jason Miller had been, I added. She already knew. Strangely enough, she seemed to cheer up at that. She asked me if I wanted to get a message to someone ‘back home’. I said not really. The next question was if my food was being taken from me, by other prisoners. I said no, but it occurred to me that although I was being treated alright, others might be getting shafted.
I later heard that Vino was getting his food taken off him, as was Howard, and the tall thin Dutchman, Ventro, one of many who claimed to have actually witnessed the deliberate murder of Nook Nook, as he put it ‘on the say so’ of the officer in charge of the carpenter’s shop.
That was it. She told me to hold tight and let this period blow over. I asked her about the possible transfer of prisoners, the exchange that had been talked about for so long but which had never come into materialization at least as far as we were concerned. She thought for a moment, and then told me that from what she had seen on T.V., Mia Mottley had said that this might be something that they could be looking at it the future. But as far as we were concerned, there were to be no easy get-outs from this piece of relatively hard nick.
I did tell her about the overcrowding, and the poor diet, and she sympathised but I could tell fuck all was going to happen out of it. For one thing sitting on the table right in front of me was her Barbadian passport, which told me all I needed to know. She was one of them. How someone can be a citizen of some poxy place like Barbados and still work at the British Embassy is something I can’t understand, because their basic loyalty has got to be in question whenever a contradiction arises between the interests of their country, and Britain. No fucking wonder we’re getting precious little back-up, I thought to myself. All the reports which the Foreign Office are getting about our situation and conditions is being doctored by these bastards.
So, on that sour note, my little break from the cell was over, and I was taken back. As I got back all the lads were excited, asking me about what was happening. In their naivety they seemed to think that a miracle was imminent. When I told them how low-key it all had been they seemed disappointed. Maybe they would have loved it if I had gone back with a cock-and-bull story about how we were all being airlifted out that night.
Somewhere along the line they brought the Guyanese in. There were four- Roderick Lake being the most prominent among them. I had previously seen Lake walking around the inner fence back at the front yard n Glendairy, round and round in circle. Although technically stuck on B corridor, he had hassled the Superintendent enough to be able to get permission to get an hour’s exercise a day, and even to get a bottle of spring water brought to him. All this was for his health, apparently. Lake was a character, and he and I would play chess throughout the days, with me beating him. When we played draughts, though, there was always a different outcome; at this game he was unparalleled.
We played with one of our makeshift sets; the black pieces were made out of cardboard, the whites out of the polystyrene hinged- lid containers.
I did quite well in the chess games there- Lestor Howell gave me a few close shaves, as did Grazettes, when he reappeared. I was a bit doubtful about playing chess with someone that had raped another man, but in the end it was only a game and who was I to fight someone else’s crusade? None of the other fellas here seemed to give a flying fuck, anyway, so why should I, I that wasn’t even one of their countrymen?
Lake would tell me some of the stories about his home country. It seemed vast- backing running right down from the Atlantic to the Amazon. It was a country of great natural wealth, with gold and diamond mining going on, bauxite, woods, and waterfalls, apparently having the highest waterfalls in the world. I remembered when I had read some of the Guyanese newspapers that had come floating round Glendairy, prior to the burning. It seemed a land full of kidnappings and murders, too, with a corrupt police force and judiciary system.
Cappell, who was also from Guyana, also confirmed much of what Lakes said, and added that his father was the owner of a golf mine. Lake’s dad had been one of the official photographers present on the scene of the infamous Jonestown massacre, a mass suicide of born-again Christians who had killed themselves under the leadership of the Reverend Jim Jones.
All this time there as fuck all for us to read, nothing for us to look at in the form of television or listen to such as radio or music, no letters from home, no writing materials. The word was that John Nurse had put us all on a six months punishment in this regard.
Then, out of the blue, the Reverend Daniels turned up with a big stack of New Testaments, all of which were hungrily gobbled up by us. I began reading the Psalms, and at this point had some nine one days to go before my release date. I remember this because I took on the job of reading all the psalms, every day, from psalm 91 right down to psalm 1, going down through the psalms one by one until the day came for my release.
I can still remember many of them, word for word.
I can remember getting to psalm 68, which mentions the name of JAH, of psalm 34, of psalm 23, and finally of psalm 1, which talks about trees living by the side of water.
Other times I would read through the whole 150 psalms in a day, every psalm, just about getting them all in before evening food.
The gambling was another device we used to get through the day, although not being a gambler, it didn’t appeal to me. Scott, particularly, used to love putting his future meals up as the stake whenever anyone suggested a game of cards. Whenever he lost, though, I would be there to go halves with him with my food, and when he won he would always come back to me with a slice of his winnings.
It was a sad day, really when it came for him to leave. I took the phone number of his brother in the USA, and promised to contact him through him. When I did phone this number, though, it turned out to be a wrong number, and to this day I still have no way of contacting my old mate Scott, even though I am in touch with many other Bajans by post and phone.
Yoga was one of the forms of exercise I tried to get back into. Some of the lads were really going for it, with sit-ups and push ups. I did some of this, but then branched out into doing some of the yogic postures I had learnt from attending yoga classes, especially Bickram’s yoga, which really strengthened the whole body, systematically. I would lean this way and that, stretch my body into all kinds of unusual postures, often to the surprise of some of the fellas, who would then follow suit, usually doing the postures better than I even though it was their first time actually doing them.
By now the women had moved into neighbouring F Block, which was just over the way from us. This was a great source of mystery, to actually see these exotic and mysterious creatures floating around again in their long skirts. It was a sight for sore eyes, not especially in any lustful sense but really more aesthetically. Some of the lads would call out their declarations of undying love, and on only a couple of occasions, when it went on for too long, did the female screws over there start to complain.
‘Think of this, you ad me, under the tree, K-i-ss-i-n-g’ as they would spell out the kissing word.
This would then be followed by,
‘Think of this, you and me, under the tree, F-u-c-k-i-n-g’, doing the same thing with this word.
The chicken pox was really spreading through the prison by now, and some men were coming ion with it and developing it in a really bad way. One of them was Boy, who was yet another farm boy and a very hard man, able to really take the pain from the truly awful spread of great gaps that were opening up in his skin. The lads were totally unable to get through to any doctor during all this time, similarly for a dentist. If you were in pain it was too bad. Nobody cared. There was no ointment for the many men with chicken pox and no pain killers, either. Even when several men went down with severe shingles they were given nothing. I know because they were in the next cell to me, and I could hear them crying out every night like babies for their mothers.
The nurse Callender- if he can be called that- was the most capricious bastard I have ever known. He seemed to think it was all a big joke, turning up to give out men’s prescribed medication but often only giving out a Panadol or two to men that were in the pain of chicken pox, shingles or toothache.
One inmate, by the name of Rudi, a resident of Nelson Street, got a severe eye infection and this started swelling up, really badly.
This went from bad to worse, and for over a week he went without any treatment. He sat there in terrible pain, constantly asking Miss Amy to intervene to help him get to the doctor before his eye swelled up too much and burst, which it looked like doing. Some of the more malicious lads were sitting back, secretly hoping it would fucking well burst, the evil bastards. Just in the nick of time Miss Amy got him over to the doctors, where he got it seen to, and treatment for it. The malicious ones in the cell were truly deflated at this lost treasure.
One day a famous Glendairy resident turned up, a man called Murderer. He was short, stocky, but looked well tough. It turned out he had done time with Tupac, the famous American gangster- singer in New York, in Sing Sing Prison, and other prisons in the States. In this he had much in common, especially with Scott and Grandpa, who had also traveled that same, or a similar route. He would entertain us all at night with his tales of going out on robberies on Friday night, just to get a bit of lubrication going for the mayhem that was the staple diet of his weekends. His father had been one of the original Black Panthers and had down some twenty years in prison in the States for having shot a State Trooper. He himself had bullet wounds all over his legs where people had shot him but he had refused to lie down. Instead he had always gotten right back up and shot them back in return. This man was like a leader for us, an example.
There came a day when he had a falling out with Cat, though.
Cat had gotten up early in the morning to playa game of cards. Cat always was an early riser, and even used to wake me up, as I have said. Well, this time he made the mistake of waking up Murderer. The latter got up, and ripped up the cards out of his hand, scattering them onto the floor. Cat complained, and then Murderer just picked him up, wrestled with him, and threw him back down onto the ground. There was blood all over the floor, as Cat went and curled up in a corner and began to cry. Grandpa looked over to me to see my reaction, but I just kept my face as blank as I could. I didn’t want to get caught in any crossfire. Little boys who think that by getting a set of biceps on their arms they automatically become big men have much to learn, and it is invariably guys like Murderer that are the ones that teach them otherwise. Murderer was one real movie star.
In the end, Murderer took pity on this big schoolgirl and read a couple of psalms with her, I mean him!
John the Baptist- an old friend of mine from D&E was now brought it, also suffering from the chicken pox. John I had always liked because he was a mystic, reading his psalms, and believing, as he did, in the Emperor Haile Selassie. John and I would often talk; he had idea about the world’s money supply and about history that interested me, even if I didn’t particularly agree . But it was always interesting to listen to him in his discourses. Now I had the chance to hear him more, though, I realized that this was a very high man, well respected by his people even if he had inadvertently killed his one true love, a girl famous in her own way in Barbados and called Bajan Betsy. John had just been given twenty five years, which everyone felt was far too severe, given that what had really happened was a domestic dispute that had gone wrong. In many prisons there are many fellas who have accidentally killed their loved ones in the heat of the moment, and have bitterly regretted that one single moment of anger for the rest of their lives.
John would get up early in the morning, along with me, and do some exercise, along with a man known as Harper, who was the mainstay of our exercise club, and a really strong man. Then, still before dawn, we would read our psalms by the light from the corridor.
It was a really spiritual vibe that we had blowing, there.
The Dub was planned for the night after next. A dub is when everyone gets together and takes turn in singing, or does a turn on the improvised drums, in this case an upturned plastic bucket, which does the job really well, I might say.
Some of the lads, it transpired, were known for their excellent singing voices, and Jason Phillips was one of them. He was now in our cell with the dreaded pox. I had known Jason from the rehab classes, in which Mr. Sealey wanted to put him down on H&I ‘for his own protection’. At the time Jason was getting pestered by some Bullermen, who wanted his pussy. When this came out in the rehab meetings, Sealey went mad, and wanted to get him off the farm, where it was cosy, and into the isolation block, where things were very grim. Jason freaked out at this, while the rest of us in the group nearly pissed ourselves with laughter over how he was going to get the fuck out of this one. But slide out of it he did, though.
It was unanimously agreed that he should lead the Dub, and he did so, with some very amazing songs. Some were from Bob Marley, some from other singers.
‘You can’t keep a good man down’ was one that I could make out, having heard this sung around Glendairy constantly, ending with the words ‘Solid as a rock, you just can’t stop me now’. Edward Gudge, another Guyanese that had just joined us, led on the drums, and a rousing performance it was, too. On the other side of the corridor, another singer made his contribution, which was also excellent. Some of the songs were thoughtful, some were rousing, some made their points without overdoing so. All in all it was a special evening. It ended with Bob Marley’s song ‘War’.
In our cell we started to have a particular problem with flies. For some reason, the first hour after sunrise we had about fifty of them in the cell. By the second hour we had a hundred. Now it was coming up to about 11 o’clock and we had twice that.
The screws had noticed it as well, and Miss Amy even went down the corridor to get a fly spray, returning with it just a few minutes later. She passed it through the grill and we began spraying in earnest.
Up till now, this place had not been all that bad, insect-wise. Whereas Glendairy had been full of cockroaches, some as big as your hand, running over you all night long, and plagued with mosquitoes during the long hot summer nights, Harrison’s Point, or the Rock, as we had started calling it, had been relatively rodent-free.
Murderer was leading the hunt of a fly-swatting party of about half a dozen, using elastic bands, pulling the band back between his fingers and, once he had a good aim on a particular fly, letting the band go. The elastic would spring forward and hit the fly, as long as it hadn’t noticed his stealthy approach and made good its escape by then!
Murderer was achieving a high hit rate, whereas the others’ attempts were mediocre in comparison.
I looked over to Scott and raised an eyebrow. He immediately took the hint and commissioned an Enquiry.
I played the role of Defence Attorney.
‘My Lord,’ I began, as we settled in for a morning’s role play, ‘It doth seem that our most precious cell hath become infested with flies, m’lud’. I placed a wash cloth over my head at that point, as a makeshift barrister’s wig. Scott put his on, too.
In the course of the investigation we discovered that the flies had come about as a result of certain people wanking during the night. Although barely perceptible to human nostrils flies , it seemed, were extremely adept at picking up this scent, and would home in on it, as it was a form of food for them. I suppose the human equivalent would be the smell of a good Sunday roast.
We looked around as to who it could have been. All eyes in the room rested on Horse, upon who, we could all see plainly were the white smears all over his boxer shorts from the preceding night’s revelries. An extremely dim view was taken, and he was asked not to do it. He was also asked to wash his boxers, something else he was very unlikely to do.
He would not stop wanking. The room was overcrowded now so many men were sharing their bed with another, and another man, also another madman, was put in next to Horse. There started to appear white stains all over his boxers, too.
‘They’ve been cock-knocking’, Scott said, in his authoritative tone. This was a Bullerman practice of rubbing two cocks together.
Murderer was getting pissed off, and leapt on Horse, thrusting a plastic toothbrush joker into his face. He was going to knife him in the throat when someone pulled him back at the last moment.
‘You’re too big!’ Horse protested, realizing that all his karate stuff probably wasn’t going to work on this really powerful body-builder.
Murderer gave him a few cuffs in the gut, and left it at that.
The following day it was the same old story, and the flies were back on top of us again.
Clouds of them, so that when lunch came you had to eat your rice and piece of fish quickly before any flies could settle on the food in the container or on the spoon as you passed it to your mouth.
The rumblings against the wankers were getting deeper, and more angry. The next step up in deterrent was the abolition of Horse’s food. This meant that all his food for the next day was banned, in other words, would be taken off him, and shared out between certain others. Scott as keen on this, as it meant extra food for him and he always was a bellicose, a belly god. When Horse’s food came to get shared, a hand flipped out and picked it out of the food server’s hand as it came through the hatch. The supervising officer noticed this, and commented on it. Scott was made to give the food back to its actual owner. The officer then stood at the gate and made sure that Horse was able to eat his food without interruption.
‘That’s a container shout!’ he called out to Scott through the bars.
Apparently elsewhere in the prison other men had been taking food off those less strong or supported than themselves, and the news of this was hitting John Nurse’s ears. If it had just bee going on amongst Bajans it would possibly have continued unabated, but when they started doing this to the foreigners the embassies got to know, and protests began arriving on John Nurse’s desk.
So, we had to think of something else.
‘Let’s tie him up!’ someone suggested.
This was the next thing to happen, and Horse’s arms and legs were tied up that night, so he couldn’t get to his wanking machine. Doubts began to be expressed at this line of action, though. The screws could look upon this very negatively, and we had already started hearing about what was going on in the containers that the admin had been bringing into the compound. So, we untied him, and the next morning one of the Trinidadian Rastas had a go, cuffing Horse in the mouth and receiving a karate kick back in his ribs for his trouble.
‘You can’t beat me!’ Horse shouted, defiantly, even though blood was running from his mouth, He had just had two teeth removed. The Rasta man, known to us as Jah Yut, had a graze on his knuckle from where he had connected with Horsey’s dental work.
Knowing something about Horse’s sexual history, all I could do was commiserate.
‘There is a small possibility of infection’ I said to Jah Yut, referring to the possible spread of HIV and Hep C through cuts and wounds, especially where blood and saliva are concerned. He looked at me shocked, and went and got hold of some bleach and poured it on his open wound, hoping against hope that he hadn’t contracted anything.
The screws were not giving out bleach – known by us as liquid- so freely any more, as a number of prisoners had tried committing suicide with it by drinking it. One of them- Catmouth- failed at this, but the next time he tried to kill himself by eating three bars of soap. He was eventually wheeled away to Black Rock, the mental hospital, where as far as I know he got to stay.
Jason Phillips was another one that did this, but in his case the screws couldn’t be bothered to shut down the whole corridor just so they could take him out. If prisoners wanted to self-inflict, let them, became the policy. People’s patience was running out.
The sexual stuff was simmering in that cell though. One of them turned out to be sleeping in the bed next to mine, a man that had ‘taken in’ a newcomer to the cell, a very attractive lad known as Caesar. Caesar had never been in trouble with the police before and was only about 18, if that. Boy George let him sleep next to him, but one night I awoke to the whole cell going mad. Caesar, apparently had gotten fed up with Boy George rubbing up against him and had taken himself in protest over to the gate, prepared to stand there all night until the morning came and he could get a cell change.
Murderer had woken up and found out what was going on, and suddenly there were six inmates all pounding the shit out of Boy George. He just sat there and took his punishment. When Caesar came over to deliver his portion of the necessary number of slaps Boy George looked up at him and said,
‘Why don’t you tell them the truth?’ before more blows rained down on his head and the screw came to take him out.
Tanty, too, got smacked out of the cell, not for anything in particular but because he was such a bitch in general. It was humorous to see this cunt that had stirred it as much as he could for me with Dada get his come-uppance and get chased out like a big sissy, clutching his mattress as he did so, even using it like a Roman shield against the guy who was trying to kill him with his toothbrush.
Life is good.
Another nasty incident was when Simple came into the cell, and wandered about, up and down, holding his mattress in his arms, and calling everyone Bullers and murderers.
‘That’s no way to get accepted in here, fella’ Scott said to him. He wisely shut up at that, and someone found a space for him to squeeze into- Mitchell, who used to run the shower gate. I came back up to the cell one morning after my shower to see both of them getting well bashed. Apparently they had been ‘in the act’; the punishments were most draconian. I felt sorry for them as the blows and kicks rained down on them but couldn’t say or do anything to intervene, nor did I want to. It was nice, now and again, to see a bit of action.
In the four months that I was in Cell 13, I fully accorded with its no-wanking policy. It wasn’t until I was on the plane coming back to Britain that I had my chance, and let me tell you that I was up and down that aisle to the loo like a monkey on a stick, especially as the in-flight film was ‘Sin City’- all those birds in stockings- phew!!