Making time stand still. Now there’s a gift. The ability to actually make time seem like it has been halted and that you truly are paused in the moment.
Bank holiday weekends can seem like that. You know, when you finish on a Friday and you KNOW that there is now work until Tuesday. And then when you start back on Tuesday you know that your week is shorter because you now have a four day week. Now that is controlling time. The weekend is just so much more enjoyable because of it. Who knows, you may even plan a weekend away – different accommodation – different sights – rest!!!.
It’s great, isn’t it? Your Sunday is extended until Tuesday, because (and let’s be honest here) the reality of a long weekend does not really kick in until you realise that you do not have to go to work the next day (or uni).
Then…BLISS…waking up on Monday morning, about to drag your lifeless corpse out of bed and it hits you, in your sleep-deprived mind.
And turn over and go back to sleep.
In the Bible, Joshua managed it, (Joshua 10:12-14 NKJV). It was for help whilst he battled against five kingdoms at the same time (and you thought you had problems). He was pretty much showing off as to how God was on his side, and he could drag out time for the infliction of misery on his foes. He knew how to ‘show off’ his God’s power.
But I don’t want to talk about either work bank holidays making time stand still, or (SHOCK HORROR) Biblical leaders making time standing still.
I want to talk about another authority that, seemingly, had the power to make the sun stand still, time come to a pause, and basically, inflict torture on you for no other reason than, well, they could.
Let me set the scene, in my youth I would have had outstanding warrants, that is, I may not have paid fines or Strathclyde Police (in the days before the joining of the forces), may have wanted to bring me in for a nice polite chat about some things they wanted to talk about, (I was a suspect in an unsolved crime, they thought I was guilty, they wanted to charge me).
In the lead up to a bank holiday weekend, whilst all you of a non-criminal disposition were excited about it, those of us that knew Scotland’s finest wanted a word with us, were extra careful after midnight on a Thursday, (or is that Friday). That was the magic hour when Strathclyde Police and every other police authority knew that they could hold us over until Tuesday.
It was called a long weekender!!!!!!!!!!!
We all hated them.
The sign of a police car, especially when you had outstanding warrants, after midnight on a Thursday (or was it Friday) caused all sorts of fight or flight notions to rise up. (Note to non-lawbreaking reader – flight was always better in these instances).
Let me try and explain why that was important. It’s after midnight. Even in summertime Scotland it is dark at this time. For whatever reason, you find yourself in the back seat of a police car, whilst they are doing a warrants check on you. For the most part, they already knew you had one, and that is why they decided to stop YOU. This was all about prolonging the agony of what was to come.
If (when) arrested you would be brought to your local police station to be interviewed, or if a warrant for arrest had been issued, to be thrown in a cell. In my case that would be Easterhouse police station, next door to my old (well my final out of three) secondary (not high) school – Westwood.
Car parked in their high-security car park (the wall was at least eight feet) and taken out with the handcuffs on, you were marched up to the very strong and safe back door. Entry was sought from those that were inside, and obviously, granted.
Marched around to the charge desk, and presented to the custody sergeant (as he was about to take legal ownership of you) “Do you have any sharp objects or anything else in your pocket that we should know about?”
“State your full name” (I am making most of the questions up now, as I don’t really remember them all, but it was along these lines).
“Stuart Patterson you are being detained under …yap yap yap”, stopped listening because it was Thursday night (or was it Friday morning) and I was now taking up some timeshare with Her Majesty’s constabulary.
Searched, sometimes strip search, degrading but probably necessary, although the drugs were normally long ditched by this point. All laces, belts and anything else you could use against yourself removed. Then you were turned around, marched down the wee corridor just behind, “Cell 4” or whatever.
The stark light from the overhead bulb ensures there is no hiding place, but where would you hide in this small rectangle anyway? A raised concrete kerb that doubles for a bed sits at the end with a with a wiry wool blanket for company. There is a window running parallel to the ceiling at the top of the wall. I sat window, but it is an opening covered over with an external grill that allows light to filter through. In the left-hand corner as you come in the door is a toilet. That’s all, no sink or anything just a very basic toilet.
Nothing else for it so you lie down to try and sleep, what else to do with all this time, but think. And you really don’t want to do that.
Just as you feel yourself drifting off…
BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Are ye awrite in there?”
“Are ye awrite”
Every hour they hammer on the door if they have to work why should you get to sleep. The purpose was to make sure you had not self-harmed, the effect was it made you want to.
Early, very early on the Friday morning, (definitely not Thursday night), you are told to get ready.
Hooray. Day trip. When I was younger, much younger than that day, it would be trips doon the watter to Helensburgh or Saltcoats. Normally on the train. Today it would be a bus, well actually a van we had nicknamed “re meatwagon”.
Inside the back door of this van was a metal cage door, just to remind you how you were seen.
This was no ordinary day trip though, you were going to some luxurious weekend accommodation. As Easterhouse was in ‘D’ Division of Strathclyde Police, you were taken to the cells at ‘D’ Division headquarters at Baird Street Police Station. A mainly four-storey brown, bland building just north of the city centre. The cells had their own ‘tower block’ and you were all gathered together from all over the division for the weekend.
Offloaded into the charge desk, I was processed (dear reader this would have happened to me quite a few times, and if I was really lucky I would go all the way up to Maryhill Police Station, a totally different divisional headquarters, as there was no room at the inn, Baird Street). I would be taken up in the elevator to whatever floor I was staying on. As there were no rooms with a view, it didn’t really matter, how high I was, life never felt any lower.
The cells were roughly the same tiny dimensions with the same concrete bed and the same utility toilet. I would be given my blanket, walk inside to the grey coldness and that horrible clunking noise behind me.
No matter your opinion of how cushy prisons maybe, a police station cell door clunking closed behind you, with the noise moving in waves around you, let you know you were going nowhere. Neither that day nor in life.
If you were really lucky and loved, the family may drop in a change of clothes, food or even, newspapers. Bu my third time doing weekenders my family had refrained from doing this. I think the hope was that I would take stock of my situation and make the necessary changes. I would rather have had the newspapers.
There was no recreation time unless you count the hourly, “Ye awrite in there?” as rec. No time out of the cell. I would lie on the cold concrete grave, and think of my cold dead dreams. Non-payment of fines weekenders were straightforward, you would go to the court that issued it, and they would give you time in lieu of payment. A charge would mean that you would go to court on the Tuesday, (it’s a bank holiday long weekender remember), for a pleading diet and bail hearing.
That ceiling really needed the paint freshening up.
That’s a lot of initials scratched into the wall. Gang tags everywhere. I wonder if anyone was ever charged with malicious damage for writing on a cell wall?
Key in lock, “Stand up, against the wall with your hands out by your side where we can see them!” roared the voice through the letter/foodbox.
Jumped to my feet. Back against the wall, hands by my side where they, (it was only a he) could see them.
“Ye don’t have any newspapers dae ye?”
“Naw, no this time.”
“Here, theres a Daily Record for ye. Ah’ve read it.”
Some of them were ok. They were guys just doing a job, and would offer a kind word, and a bit of grace. Some of them.
He stood and chatted nothings for a few minutes. Then the door clunked closed, and the noise waved its sarcasm at me for a few seconds.
Then back to the paintwork and history etchings.
Dinner was normally a fish or sausage supper from a local chippy, normally to cold to enjoy by the time I got it.
Weekend at Baird Street.
My life at this point was like the film, Weekend at Bernies, where Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman have to get through a whole weekend, pretending their boss, (who had taken out a hit on them) was still alive. The hitman is out to take the boss out, long story old film.
But our heroes had to lump about a dead body everywhere, pretending he was still alive during an American bank holiday long weekend. It was all to stave off the consequences of him being dead. I was dead. In the sense that all-purpose all hope had been robbed of my life. I was dead to what other people thought of me. I was dead to any serious contemplation of how to change my circumstances.
The only difference in the plot was that it was me carrying my body of death around with me. Pretending that all was ok. Pretending that I knew what I was doing, while death reigned in my mortal body. There was no way out, either of this cell or my life. I truly was a dead man walking.
Tuesday morning, early to rise, stuff in a bag, down the elevator joining with the other guests.
Into the holding room, ready for our morning transport. This morning we were off to the relatively new Glasgow Sheriff Court. I have written previously of how I had the honour of being one of the first people through its doors in its opening Monday.
The cells in the Sherriff Court are probably no more than 10′ by 6′. On the front is a door with a very large caged window door, and at the rear is a stainless steel toilet with a sink over it. There could be up to eight people in each cell, and hundreds in the court at any given time. The cells were crammed, and if you had someone that was anti-social, or was nervous about disclosing why they were in court, it could be a very tense time. No privacy, no space. Be dead to it all.
Moved from one cold grey box to another early morning, but the court for the custody prisoners was always the afternoon.
Pre court, the voice walks along stamping feet and shuffling keys, all noises, and calls out the names that are going in this sitting.
Moved to a larger holding cell, sitting waiting on your name being called again. Not a number yet still a name.
My turn, along another corridor, and up the stairs that brings me right into a very large, brightly lit room. Prisoner officer at my side, whispering instructions.
Time for the body to be told where the likely destination is for the next part of its charade of a life. If only there truly were some way of walking out THIS prison door and entering into life.
This POST is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
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