Jail/bail diary of Master Jamie

Jamie and Willie Jamie and Willie
By Squinter

Day 1. I can’t believe my fellow Ulstermen clamped me in chains and brought me here to Maghaberry. It’s bad enough they’re beating us off the streets in East Belfast – now they’re locking us up too. Rabbie Burns got it right when he wrote, ‘Was it for this the Wild Geese cast the grey wing on every tide…’ I also can’t believe the kind of people they have in here. There was a smick staring straight at me and he didn’t even know how ridiculous he looked: six stone nothin’, white anorak, wispy beard, stupid woolly hat. Then I realised it was me in the mirror. A big officer with a walrus moustache snapped on a pair of latex gloves and told me to get undressed. I asked him what was going on and he asked me if I’d ever seen Midnight Express. I hadn’t, thank the Lord.

 

Day 2. I could eat the Lamb of God, but of course Deuteronomy 6:32 doesn’t allow it. They gave me two rounds of toast and a cup of milky tea last night and I asked them did they have the number for the Jade Palace in Templemore Avenue. They laughed and took the food away. They brought me more toast and tea this morning, although this time with a boiled egg, and I told them I didn’t want it. They asked me if I was going on hunger strike and I told them yes, and thirst strike too. I could have sworn I heard a voice in the distance calling, ‘Somebody turn the friggin’ heatin’ up!’ There’s a pool table and computer games out there, but the men playing seem a bit rough, so I stayed in my little cell and read the Bible. I kind of hoped the loyalist people would take to the streets en masse to demand my release, but according to the radio Ulster is quiet tonight. I thought, how soon they forget. But then I remember there’s an Abba tribute band and a rollover on the draw in the Con Club tonight and I fall asleep feeling a little bit better.

 

Day 3. Bumped into Willie [Frazer] as we made our way towards the shower. We were both wearing shorts and flip-flops. I felt like hugging him but I don’t think Deuteronomy’s too keen on that either. He flicked me playfully with his union jack towel, I flicked him back with mine and for a moment we were back outside City Hall with the winter sun on our faces, Willie in his UDR cap and me in my beanie. Then reality kicked in and a screw told us gruffly to move it along or get a room. Resisted the temptation to take a mouthful of hot water in the shower – Ulster demands more of me. No Pantene, no Lynx, no hair wax – just a bit of soap the size of a 20p piece which Deuteronomy orders me not to drop. This is pure hell. How much more can a man take? I’m beginning to understand what the 36th felt like when they went over the top at the Somme.

 

Day 4. Can’t believe I was thirsty after only two days without water. I asked for the prison medic and he told me dehydration takes its toll very quickly. Then he asked me why my cell was so hot. ‘Give it to me straight, doc,’ I told him, ‘how long have I got?’ He told me a day or two at the most. I fainted and when I came round I asked the doc to bring me a pen and two litres of Coke. In my new statement I explained to the loyal people of this province that me and Willie might start a new hunger strike, but then again, we might not. It depends. I was munching on a Mars Bar wondering about where our campaign goes from here when suddenly a shadow fell over the room. I looked up and there was big Willie filling the doorway, with his gear in a bundle under one arm and a bag of tuck shop sweg in the other. ‘We’re sharing a cell,’ he said simply. He smiled that big, goofy, specky smile of his and suddenly I knew everything was going to be alright.

 

Day 5. I have asked to be moved to another cell away from Willie. There is no doubting his commitment to Ulster but he keeps asking me to pull his finger and that joke is wearing very thin, especially because he’s a big lad and this is a very small room. He insists on talking about people he knows who have been mordhered by the IRA and I agreed it was all terrible, but after nine hours he’d only got to 1977. Hamburger on the menu at dinner time, but Willie just stuck to the bread and water because he said it was IRA horse meat – or chuck steak, as he calls it. Willie has great plans for a ‘Love Ulster’ type demo in Dublin, but the problem is he’d like me to go with him. I saw the YouTube footage of the guards and the Northsiders in action at the last one and I have to say I really don’t think it’s a good idea. I told Willie I didn’t think it was a good idea for him to call me a Lundy either. There’s been an awkward silence in here for a while. Which is good.

 

Day 6. I hear my mum’s been speaking up for me, which is good to hear. I think even my worst enemies would have to admit when they saw me on TV at all those demos that she turns me out lovely. They laughed at those mittens through the arms of my East 17 anorak, but they came in handy in the bad weather. Got my first parcel today courtesy of the Ulster People’s Forum. Unfortunately it came in a union jack box, which is against the rules in here. Imagine, the union jack being banned in Her Majesty’s Prison. You couldn’t make it up. And speaking of things you couldn’t make up, I hear the First Minister’s been having a go at the police and the judges over me being kept in here while the Ra’s all let go. It almost makes me sorry I had a go at him at all those protests. But it’s nice to know Peter can forgive and forget.

 

Day 7. Willie’s decided to try a bit of body-building seeing as just about everybody else in here is at it. He’s got himself a leotard and a thick leather belt. All he needs is a waxed moustache to complete the Victorian strong man look. There’s dirty books everywhere in here, although I’ve resisted the temptation to have a look because as Deuteronomy says ‘And the Lord will smite with righteous fury he who casts an eye on Razzle or Readers’ Wives for cursèd is the man who covets Dirty Debbie from Dagenham.’  The prison officers – screws is the word the other prisoners use – have started calling us Godber and Fletch, although I’m too young to know why. The Ulster People’s Forum have promised to send us up some snout, although I don’t know what that is either. I used to think it’s what a Catholic called a Protestant, but to be quite honest with you I’m not sure about anything any more. I see the papers are claiming that I ended my hunger and thirst strike with an lamb biryani from the Taj Mahal after just half a day. Of course, those of you reading this diary will know that is a damnable lie disseminated by republicans and their media puppets. In fact, it was a chicken curry half-and-half from the Jade Palace. Oh, and I stuck it for 13 hours, not 12.

 

Day 8. The hours drag by in here but as a world-renowned author I have decided to put all this time to good use by turning my hand to poetry. It gives flight to my creative impulses and I hope it will also give some much-needed hope and inspiration to the Protestant people of Our Wee Country:

 

I was just a simple fella from the north of County Down,

Loyal to my people, to Ulster and the Crown.

A law-abiding Christian with no time for hoods or punks,

Although the cops once caught me with a knife hid down my trunks.

 

Then late one Monday evening in the city of Belfast,

The ruthless Fenian hordes they tore my flag down from the mast.

Sinn Féin’s bloody hand was stamped upon a cruel wrong,

But this foul deed was mostly done by Naomi ‘Lundy’ Long.

 

I called upon my people to rise and fight the foe,

Like we did at Dolly’s Brae and Derry all those years ago.

Stout-hearted Ulster soldiers heard the bugle’s urgent blare,

The 15th Ulster Leggings and the Queen’s Own Leisurewear.

 

Brave Dowson to my left, fearless Frazer to my right,

We marched them o’er the Lagan bridge to face the coming fight.

And under that bare flagpole, on freedom’s door we knocked,

Or half of us did for, sad to say, the other half were blocked.

 

From Portadown to Sandy Row, from Coagh to Tigers Bay,

We watched the ramparts burn by night and Jeremy Kyle by day.

And when the dread day came and I was forced to up and flee,

I took to the fields and hiked three days to my mate’s in Donaghadee.

 

The fascist cops they tried and failed to bind me up in chains,

They might have guns and armour, but they can’t beat me for brains.

I tried to duck and dodge them, with all my heart and soul,

But then their satellite found me in my best friend’s glory hole.

 

So as I sit here in my dungeon, my head held proudly high,

With sausages for dinner and a slice of apple pie,

My heart is sore for Ulster, whose hopes on me are pinned,

And my thoughts are drowned by the warm, wet sound of Willie breaking wind.

 

Day 17: They’ve moved me to the loyalist wing, or as I like to call it, the People’s Army wing. It’s a bit of a relief as I’ve been getting a lot of stick from other prisoners and my personal safety was clearly in danger. One of them shouted, ‘Yer ma’s nat keepin’ ye lovely nigh, Jamie’ and I heard one of them saying in the dinner queue, ‘Ah wudden know where to hit him to save him.’ Clearly they see me as a threat. But that kind of talk is bound to rattle any man and so I packed up my beanie and my designer T-shirts and made the short trip to Bush House where I was piped in by the lads and then formally welcomed by the c/o, whose name is

Pliers, and the Quartermaster, who’s called Knuckles. I think I’m going to like it here.

 

Day 18: I’ve been doing a bit of weightlifting and, to tell you the truth, I don’t feel at home on the bench presses. I’m not exactly what you would call ripped and the only tattoos I have are one at the bottom of my neck saying ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ and another on the inside of my left wrist reading ‘YOLO’. Also, I feel uncomfortable at the idea of shaving my head, oiling my torso and lying on my bed for tasteful Facebook pictures. But everybody else likes doing it, so good luck to them. I took a walk round to Pliers’ cell and he was in there with a lock of his mates. There was a funny smell and their eyes looked kind of funny. Pliers smiled a big stupid smile and asked me if I wanted some Hula-Hoops, but I said no. I told him I was a bit bored and asked him what time the classes started at. For some reason everybody started laughing. I miss Willie.

 

Day 19: Visit from a couple of Ulster People’s Forum comrades who updated me on the goings-on outside my bleak dungeon. Apparently they’ve been hard on poor Willie as regards his bail conditions. He’s not allowed to go near any protests, he’s not allowed on the internet, he’s not allowed to talk to the media, he’s not allowed to talk about anybody that was ‘mordhered’, he has to remove the union jack lid from the toilet in his house, he has to sign in twice daily at Andytown barracks and he has to tune in to the Angelus on RTE. I had hoped that Willie had prepared a speech from the dock like those old-time Chucks like bold Thomas Emmet, but when the judge asked him did he accept the bail conditions, Willie just said,

“Hunderd per cent, your honour.” That’s not much of a read for future historians, but on the bright side, it will fit on a T-shirt.

 

Day 20: Watching the St Patrick’s Day rabble on the news. Tricolours and green top hats all over the Holyland and music and dancing in Custom House Square while Protestants are batoned off the streets by the PSNIRA. This isn’t the city I grew up in (well, I grew up in Donaghadee, but you get my drift). Speaking of music and dancing, Knuckles and a few of the boys have a banging sound system kicking out some serious party tunes next door, which was nice eight hours ago but it tends to grate a bit when you’re trying to write. Speaking of which, I’m five chapters into my latest book, The Passion of Jamie, which tells the story of one man’s struggle to give the loyal people of Ulster their dignity and pride back. My agent and pastor got an email purporting to be from a film company, expressing interest in buying the rights and asking whether I’d be interested in flying first class to LA for lunch at Trader Vic’s. Pliers and Knuckles both sniggered when I told them and said they thought LA was more likely to be Lower Andytown than Los Angeles. What kind of people do they let into the People’s Army these days?

 

Day 21: Looking forward to the Northern Ireland Russia match tonight – it’s something to lift the gloom that has descended since A Hundred Per Cent Willie left me in here on my lonesome. Obviously I won’t be the mascot as I’ll be stuck in here watching it on TV, but I’ve written to the IFA asking them if they’ll let Willie take over as ‘Windsor Footie’ just for the night. I’m fairly sure the terms of his conditions don’t prevent him from putting a big foam football on his head, but I could be wrong because the judge was a bit rough on him. Update: I’ve just been told the match has been called off because of snow on the pitch. Have the IFA never heard of shovels? If the flag protestors had shown that level of commitment we’d be in a 32-county communist republic by Easter.

 

Day 22: The electric went off for a while and for a glorious few moments before the back-up generator kicked in I didn’t have to listen to

Pliers’ favourite CD, ‘DJ FTP’s Twelfth Trance Floorfillers’. There was a lot of panic and confusion among the screws because they were afraid some prisoners would use the darkness to try and escape or that Pliers would try to get at the drugs cabinet. There was a big cheer when the lights came back on, although a couple of the lads in the middle of a Linfield-Rangers FIFA 2013 World Cup final on the PlayStation had to start the match all over again. It’s true what they say – prison’s hell.

 

Day 23: Knuckles has sold me a pay-as-you-go mobile phone and he threw in a handy demonstration of where to hide it during cell searches. I think I understand now why some people in here also call him the Tardis. It was very kind of him, although when I asked him about payment he mentioned something about a trip to Thailand when I get out and a rendezvous in a lay-by on the Ballygowan Road. First thing I did was to ring the Stephen Nolan show to try and get on and clear up some of the mischievous nonsense that’s being spread about me and Willie, and especially about that hunger strike. I wrote down what happened.

– We’ve got James from Lisburn on the line. Morning, James, what do you want to say?

– Well, Stephen, the first thing I want to say is that people don’t understand how hard it is to go four hours without food and drink.

– Wait a minute, I think I recognise that voice. Are you Jamie Bryson?

– No, that’s a ridiculous thing to say.

– Why have you started talking like Barry White?

– Beep.

You see, that’s what the loyalist people of This Here Province are up against. If that had been Gerry Kelly, Nolan would have invited him up to his big country house for Coca-Cola and prawn cocktail crisps.

 

Day 24: It’s only three months to July, give or take, and the boys have started rehearsing for the Twelfth parade they have round the yard every year. They’ve a wee band in here, the Pride of Maghaberry True Blue Loyal Sons of Drumcree. It’s cross-community, which means it’s UVF and UDA, which is very encouraging. They asked me if I’d like to play a drum and I told them thanks, but pointed out that it was very unlikely that I’ll be here come July. That got a big laugh, I can tell you. I’ve decided to humour them, so I’m banging away at a snare drum for all I’m worth. They won’t let us have uniforms on security grounds, but that’s okay because everybody in here wears the same thing all the time anyway – Shoukri boots, tracksuit bottoms and Superdry T-shirts. Their playlist is short but familiar: The Famine Song, The Billy Boys, Build My Gallows High and A Soldier of the UVF. Or as the lads call them on the list they give to the screws: Sloop John B, Bohemian Rhapsody, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Agga-Doo.

 

Day 25: Up on a charge after they caught me on the mobile to the Ulster People’s Forum. I called to ask them why Ulster hadn’t mobilised in support of me when I got scooped. I also wanted to know why the flag protests seem to be over without anybody telling me about it. They were saying something about the wrong kind of snow on the bus routes when suddenly I felt a large hand on my shoulder. The Governor wanted to know where I got the phone from, but I thought of Ulster and of the men going over the top at the Somme; I thought of Orange standards swaying gently in a warm summer breeze; I thought of Windsor Park and the Giant’s Causeway and the Pickie Pool.

But most of all I thought of Knuckles and I knew that no matter what happened, I would say nothing. So it looks like I’m in for a spell in the hole. Oh, well, look on the bright side – I suppose anything’s better than an

attic in Bangor.

 

I CAN’T believe it – one minute I’m rubbing Deep Heat into Knuckles’ bad back, the next I’m standing in Belfast Magistrates Court and being told I’m free to go. As the magistrate reads out the bail conditions I smile and wave to supporters. The screw beside me frowns and points to bail condition number 47: ‘No smiling and waving to supporters.’ I raise a hand and whisper “Sorry, your honour,” and the magistrate continues.

After about another 90 minutes he’s finished and he asks me if I agree to the bail conditions he’s just outlined. To be honest, there are that many of them I can only remember a few, but I nod anyway and say, “Yes, your honour, yes, I do, yes.” I don’t fall into the Willie trap of saying, “You bet “One hundred per cent, yih cert ye” because that would be just embarrassing.

Outside I’m carried head-high by a throng of supporters to a waiting car. My brief points to item number 139 on my list of bail conditions and I read ‘No being carried head-high by throngs of supporters to waiting cars’, so I get down and walk the last few yards.

The city’s not the city I remember from when I was first locked up all those weeks ago. There are people out shopping; there are people out strolling; there are people going into bars and restaurants. It’s as if the flag protests never happened and suddenly a wave of sorrow and anger washes over me. I tell Stewarty, my driver, to do a burl round City Hall and my dark mood deepens as I see that bare flag pole without a loyalist or a union jack in sight.

The laughter of the young people on the benches outside seems to be mocking Ulster and I want to get out of the car and scream at them about the injustice of it all. But by now I’ve read bail condition No.226: ‘No annoying people who couldn’t give a monkey’s.’ This is the last time I will see Belfast for some time as, according to my bail conditions, I have to stay out of the city or I’m straight back in the clink. Oh, well, Belfast’s loss is Donaghadee’s gain…

We drive back to Bangor in silence. As the traffic thickens I pull up the woolly hood of my white East 17 anorak so I won’t be recognised because you never know who’s going to come up behind you (one of the invaluable lessons I learned in jail). But Stewarty reminds me that I’m not allowed to conceal my identity so I pull down my hood and stick on my beanie. Slumped in the back seat I study Stewarty’s profile as he concentrates on his driving. What a brick – no complaints, no messing about, he’s always there when he’s needed most. And that makes me think that maybe, just maybe, with people like Stewarty by my side there’s hope for our wee country after all. I’m smiling to myself as the car pulls up beside my ma’s house. I lean forward in my seat and place my hand on Stewarty’s shoulder. I tell him that this fight is not over, that it’s only just beginning. I tell him how much I appreciate him and that some day we’ll look back on all this madness and laugh. I tell him to keep the faith and I tell him I know he’ll take up the baton while I’m temporarily out of the race. I squeeze his shoulder hard and he looks me straight in the eye and says, “Nat a bather, Jamie son. That’ll be £28.50”…

 

I’m beginning to think prison wasn’t so bad. At least I had a bit of company there. In here it’s just me and my ma and it wasn’t long before we just ran out of things to say to each other. I’m allowed out during daylight hours but I keep bumping into people and I’m afraid that if I stop and talk to somebody wearing union jack trunks they’ll do me for ‘consorting with loyalists’ and so I tend to just stay in. I’ve stopped watching the news because it’s not fun any more without the flag protests. Even Nolan appears to have lost interest and it seems that every morning all he wants to talk about is nonsense like welfare reform and hospitals and jobs. I tried Frank Mitchell on U105 but to be honest it’s much of a muchness. The TV during the day is better than I thought it would be. The Jeremy Kyle Show’s fantastic – it’s very entertaining plus it’s so good of him to have so many flag protestors on day after day. Apparently there’s not many flag protests going on at the minute, but there’s still plenty of activity on Facebook and Twitter and texts. Since I’m banned from all three I can only imagine what my loyalist comrades are getting up to, but I’m sure they’ve got something planned to keep the flame burning. I see a piece in the paper saying that there were 40 people at the City Hall demo on Saturday. It’s very comforting to know that the numbers are up. It’s strange having no mobile phone or laptop because making videos of myself for YouTube is something that I had grown very fond of over the past few months. I suppose I’ll just have to look on the bright side and say I won’t miss the bills. In the meantime, I’ve begun work on my third book. The first one was about three Rangers’ fans on a trip to Ibrox, the second one was about how we can make God relevant in the modern world. Given the huge success of the books, I’ve decided that my latest work will be about how to make Rangers relevant in the modern world with a subplot of God and two mates on a trip to Ibrox and the hilarious adventures they experience on the boat. I am writing it on an A4 pad with alternate lines in red and green ink. I think it looks very nice…

 

I get the bus every day to Newtownards to report to police as part of my bail conditions. I’ve stopped wearing my East 17 anorak because the driver made a crack about me being in that Doritos ad with the Mexican band. I think the coat makes me too conspicuous – drivers are bumping their car horns at me when I’m standing at the bus stop and the oul’ doll beside me with the tartan shopping trolley is starting to give me funny looks. The PSNIRA at Newtownards think the whole thing’s hilarious. The first day I arrived the desk sergeant said, “Good morning, Mr

Mandela.” I’d complain to the Police Ombudsman, but what’s the point? They make me sit there and wait with all these lowlife bail jockeys who’ve been up to all sorts and they’re always cracking jokes about my beanie or my ma keeping me lovely. I can hear the cops behind the glass sniggering and I wonder would they treat Gerry Kelly like this. After making me wait they take me into a small room where they watch while I sign a form confirming I’ve been sticking to my bail conditions. And then it’s back home on the Bangor bus in time for Bargain Hunt and Loose Women. I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to watch those.

Must ask Willie…

Please follow and like us:

Tags: ,