So, here it is everyone a bit from my new book due for release later this year. Hope you enjoy, READ ON . . .
“There was not really any difference between Wormwood Scrubs and all the other prisons I’d had the misfortune to be incarcerated in. Still the same old grey walls, and dingy cells that housed three people. The food was more-or-less the same, only a marked difference in location served to distinguish any difference. But the buildings all seemed to be the same; a grey interior of sadness amplified by the imposing walls. They were cold and bare, and all you really had to look at when staring at them by day or night. An endless void of ‘cold stone’ all around, that seemed to be crying out aloud for victory over its captives.
Unlike Wandsworth, disciple at the Scrubs was far more lax; it was still a highly secure prison, but internally association periods (in the early evenings and at weekends) were more liberal and it was possible to visit the cells of other prisoners on the wing and exchange books and stories or even play draughts or chess if people felt so inclined. But in general, the prison was still very overcrowded and three prisoners to a cell was the common norm. Only the cells on the lower floor near the serving tables contained just two people and these were allocated to prisoners who helped to regularly served out food.
Different ‘jobs’ were assigned to many other prisoners, by the chief officers in charge of the wings, which usually involved cleaning duties, working in the laundry room or preparing food and washing up in the kitchen.
I was lucky, and escaped the more menial tasks by being assigned to help to serve food at meal times. My cellmate was called Jim Young, ‘in’ for embezzlement, and he was also assigned to help serve out meals. This basically involved scooping out ladles of soup or food from huge pots lined up on tables to prisoners as they filed past holding out their aluminium trays. Talking was permitted, although some of the remarks were virtually unprintable: my usual reply was . . . “Don’t blame me, I didn’t cook it”!
But one advantage of my ‘cushy job’, was that it offered more freedom to move around as it was necessary to go ‘to and fro’ into the kitchen.
One advantage of this was that you could obviously associate more freely with prisoners who had ‘kitchen duties’. Another, was that here were quite a few ‘inaccessible’ items of food in the kitchen which turned out to come in very useful!
Jim and myself saw this as an opportunity too good to miss, and we began to plan a way to use all this ‘fresh food’ to full advantage; by fermenting some ‘illicit alcohol’, which we could hide in the kitchen.
Now, the kitchens were very large and steamy. I recall that there were two huge aluminium sinks in there, where certain prisoners were selected to do the voluminous washing up. On the other side there were long shelves, installed underneath these numerous White containers which contained such ingredients as rice, potatoes, chickpeas, obviously used to protect these from the excessive grease and moisture. It did not take us long to empty out two of these plastic containers, fill it up with water, and add ingredients to it, designed to make a crude wine or beer. Everything was put into this, from potato peelings, diced up apples, orange peel, grapes (when these were available), and other pieces of fruit that could be allowed to ferment. There was of course the added advantage that some prisoners had access to yeast in the kitchen, and of course, sugar was quite easy to come by. When finished, these two containers were placed amongst others under the shelves, yet ironically in full view of prison officers who had not the slightest idea of what they contained. The concoctions certainly brewed very quickly – the kitchen heat obviously helping.
In less than a couple of months, we had succeeded in brewing up alcohol that was really a cross between beer, Chinese rice wine, and vodka. It tasted terrible! But we somehow managed to transport this to our cell in plastic jugs where it was shared with a couple of other prisoners. It may have been vile, but was nevertheless extremely strong, as those drinking it readily confirmed.
But we were not to be quite so lucky, as before the second barrel of illicit brew had been consumed, two prison officers discovered the half-empty barrel whilst searching the prison kitchen. Whether this search was instigated by rumours that might have been inadvertently released by some other prisoners, is uncertain. But it is a fact that the prison held a special internal inquiry to attempt to find out who had performed this terrible deed of making ‘illicit alcohol’ right under their very noses.
Speculation aside, I can say that within only a day or so of this inquiry being announced, I was suddenly moved to another wing of the prison. . .”
[Adapted from “In the Shadow of the Highgate Vampire” (Vol 2) by David Farrant