Two half chickens to go

By @returntogo

Are They Banging Up the Knobheads on the Fours? Are the screws all screaming “lads behind your doors”? Is your vape pen running empty? Has your canteen gone astray? Are you trying to think “it’s just another day?” Here it is prison Christmas – and nobody’s having fun. Fucked up our futures now – it’s only just begu..u….un.

I think that the most depressing thing that I ever did in prison was hanging up decorations on the wing. Yep, we really did that – some sort of ‘best decorated wing competition’. Until you have strung bunting from one side of a prison landing to another, it is hard to know just how grim Christmas can feel. It is like a child painting a flower on a concrete slab – the effect isn’t cheering or optimistic – simply depressing.

When it comes to prison Christmases, there are two types of people. The sensible people just try and ignore it. You hear old lags muttering “just another day” in the servery queue. For them, it is a distraction – a change from a routine which you cling to in prison. Pretend it isn’t happening and you can hold on to the routine you have established.

Then there are the enthusiasts. The “well, let’s make the best of it” crowd. Wing games, decorations, singing Christmas songs. God, I hated those people. You should get extra days for that sort of behaviour. I am fortunate that I only had to do one Christmas in prison – so for me it felt like an exception. There are lads in there doing their 10 th or 20 th . For them it really is just another day. Prison Christmases aren’t really seen as Christmases for them. They are simply seen as prison.

The thing is, no matter how much you try and ignore Christmas, it seeps through the cracks. The worst thing is the adverts – 30 second stories of families sitting around tables together, bright eyed children opening presents – carefully constructed to tug at the hardest of hearts. Remember too, that prisoners are probably the only people in the UK who still sit through adverts – everyone else is whizzing past them or watching on catch up. The adverts are hard, as is the constant stream of Christmas songs on the radio. The things that are celebrated – family, community, nice food – those are all things that none of us really have inside.

The only positive thing is for a couple of months new stuff appears on ‘canteen’ – mince pies, Chocolate Oranges and the like. When you are used to buying the same things, week in, week out, the ability to buy a box of Matchmakers feels like getting Scalextric as a kid.

For most people, though, the key thing about Christmas, and birthdays, is that they are markers of time. They are a solid indicator that their sentence is passing. People see them as milestones, that get them closer to walking back out of the gates. People even make reference to it – “two more half- chickens to go after this one” (referring to the customary Christmas dinner). It is something to get out of the way – to move past, like a dentist appointment. I know I was glad to get past Christmas and back to what passes for normal inside prison. It was a distraction – an unwelcome reminder of a world that you were not part of, going along just fine without you. ​

This Christmas, I will have been out for 3 months. My life is still crap. There are still problems that I can’t solve. Still members of my family that I won’t see. Still, at least I can fast forward through the adverts – and for that I am grateful.

This Christmas, I will have been out for 3 months. My life is still crap. There are still problems that I can’t solve. Still members of my family that I won’t see. Still, at least I can fast forward through the adverts – and for that I am grateful.

2 thoughts on “Two half chickens to go

  1. Another fascinating view into Christmas Kelly and written so we could almost be by their side as they walk the landings and sit down to eat. Shows how in the abnormal world that prison is Christmas is an even more abnormal time with such a mixed impact on the people there.

    Like

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