You may be surprised to learn that prisons are venues of regular laughter amid the noise, the tears and the blood.
A couple of years ago I was leaning against a wall watching prisoners carrying lunch back to their cells when I heard a call of “scatter”. Naturally this is of interest to me as it usually involves an incident that needs dealing with. As a general rule I walk towards incidents because walking away risks something hitting you on the back of the head. Looking around I could see no incident but instead about ten smiling faces just staring at me. This was clearly not a challenge to authority but I had no idea what it was so we all stood in a smiling silence. “Let’s have a party” shouted a voice from behind me and the group, now about 20 strong, collapsed in gales of laughter. My years as a prison officer led me to believe something was going on, I needed to investigate.
KISS is a prison officers first rule “Keep It Simple Stupid” so my investigation was direct, I asked “what?” and a voice shouted “Shameless” and slowly the story emerged. It had been decided on the wing that I bore some resemblance to Frank from Shameless on Channel 4. I had never seen Shameless so the earlier clues flew over my head. This was not the first nickname I had been given since starting as a prison officer, in fact I consider myself to be rather over indulged in this area. Among my nicknames are; “ROOOOOD” Roud Van Nistelroy, strange digerey-doo breathing or “ROLF” Rolf Harris, horse noises during my “Mr Ed” phase and one unhelpful reference to the late great actor Cardew Robinson.
These nicknames come and go but “Frank” “Scatter” and “Let’s have a party” had taken on a life of their own and were clearly going nowhere so I decided to investigate. I told my wife the story and she, as a watcher of Shameless, burst out laughing. That night we sat down to watch Shameless together, “is that Frank?” I kept asking, not yet. Then a somewhat dirty crazy greasy haired idiot appeared “that’s him” said the wife. I was less than impressed.
Next day on the wing I gathered together the “nickname group” and gave them a tongue-in-cheek bollocking for likening me to a tramp like figure. “Ah but Gov” said one prisoner, “He has a lovely wife”
Finally if you see someone who vaguely reminds you of Rood, Rolf, Mr Ed, Cardew and Frank say hello, It’ll most likely be me.