Celtic Illumination, part 68, ♫ He’s in the jail house now ♫
I have to admit that it wasn’t the first time I had spent the night in the guardroom. It was the first night I had spent, in a cell in the guardroom, as a customer. Each course at Locking had to perform guard duty on a rotating basis. Once, every three weeks or so, you would spend a couple of days living out of the guard room, surviving on ham and cheese sandwiches. They were horrible, wrapped in cling film, tightly squished together in a brown cardboard box, and it was only the difference in colour between the ham and the cheese that allowed you to tell them apart. They all tasted the same.
We provided a twenty four hour guard for the station and patrolled the buildings on the hour, every hour. They were a clever bunch at Locking, for people like myself would find ways out of, or around, this duty, but you had to perform your duty to the letter, signing a signature sheet at every door you checked. It was a horrible experience, with eighteen men in one room, bunk beds that had seen better days with shared and open facilities.
For our initial briefing things got a wee bit serious. A warrant officer came out and showed us a pick axe handle. He explained that we would be armed with these. One each. Quite naturally we laughed at him. Yes, we chortled, it was a solid lump of wood that you could probably do some damage with, but hopelessly ineffective against an AK47 or the like. I think every course that he briefed gave the same reaction for the warrant officer took our ridicule in his stride. He then proceeded to give us a very detailed brief on how to kill someone with a pick axe handle. It wasn’t a simple swipe to the head but if I remember correctly there were three main methods of attack that would kill an opponent, without question.
However I wasn’t in the back of the guardroom with eighteen other sweaty bodies chomping down on mankie sandwiches and wondering if they were going to get to try out their pick axe handle. I had a room all to myself. There had been a slight problem in getting me to go through the cell door, as any self-respecting prisoner will tell you. It is your duty to resist; it’s all part of the experience. They eventually managed to get me inside the cell and decided to leave my belt and laces in place, which was just as well as I was in my zip up boots and wasn’t wearing a belt, not with legs like mine. I curled up in the corner of the cell, the orderly sergeant was still screaming at me though the slit in the door, and went to sleep.
The following morning I woke. It took a second or two to acclimatise to my surroundings, as any Ninja trained candle maker will tell you. I sat upright and allowed the suffocating headache, which was a hangover, to settle comfortably on my poor wee head. It was easier not to move, so I didn’t. Limb by limb my body came back to life along with associated bruises and cuts. The events of the evening before came back too, bit by bit.
Eventually someone checked on me, ‘the prisoner’ and coffee was brought. It was wet and hot, that is all I cared about. The orderly sergeant was relieved of his duty and a new chap took over. As my luck would have it, it was the Flight Sergeant in charge of my course. After he had checked the keys and practised some synchronised counting out loud, with that day’s guard, he invited me to come and sit with him and have a wee chat.
It was all very civilised and I have to say I was keeping an eye on the clock as I wanted well; needed, to get to the mess and get some breakfast inside me to combat the hangover. I wasn’t listening to what he was saying. He wasn’t angry with me or being nasty. I think he was being compassionate. He said that he understood that every eighteenth birthday should be a memorable event, I was allowed to leave.
After breakfast I went to my room and probably spent the remainder of the morning standing in a hot shower. Saturday evening was one or two medicinal pints and an early night. Sunday dragged on like most Sundays tend to do, no matter where you are in the world. By Monday morning I was back to my old self except I was now an adult and I was summoned to headquarters to have this explained to me.
I was taken in to the student office and bollocked. In a way their behaviour was very similar to the thuggish priests at Violent Hell, they didn’t really know what to do or say, so they shouted at me. This lot took things a little further. A priest was called for. I was encouraged to go for a walk around the camp with the priest, which I did. It didn’t take him long to work out that I had virtually no respect for priests, of any shape or form, and if he came too close to me he would be getting a first-hand demonstration in self-defence. We returned to the office where once again I was standing before the boss.
He made me an offer. He said that I could go. I could go to my room, pack all my stuff, they would get the tickets and I could go back home, no questions asked. On the other hand I could stay, but if I elected to stay I would have to realise that I was now an adult and would be treated accordingly. I decided to stay. I think there would have been too much shame to go home after everything I had been through, but what I wasn’t aware of is that I had absolutely no control whatsoever over the key points in my life, the top secret cabal, who were coordinating my progress to become the finest Master Candle Maker in the world, were in charge.
I was allowed to leave the office and return to my course. I had been advised to take some time to think about what had happened at the weekend and I did, I tried for days and days to work out where all my money had gone. I passed my 1A1. The staff were pleased, they determined that I had changed my ways, passing the exam was proof that I was coming in to line and would be a good little student for the remainder of the course. I was even getting very good at standing still and calling myself names.