Susan Morrison: Dads’ inside knowledge makes jail no big deal

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Like those great men of colour incarcerated for their beliefs, Ghandi, Mandela and Tommy Sheridan, although of course, Tommy isn’t quite so highly tinged these days, I have walked in the shadow of the prison gate. Barlinnie to be precise.

Whenever the M8 carries me past those high, dark walls, I must admit, I always give them a sidelong glance and shudder slightly. It’s like those castles in Hammer Horror films, where the whole town knows it’s there, but no one goes near it after dark, unless it’s to throw dead pigeons packed with fags over the walls, of course. Well, it’s assumed that folks are pigeon-chucking, unless the birds of Glasgow have taken up a B&H habit and kamikaze tendencies.

There are 1500 men in Barlinnie. It’s a small town in the middle of a big city, with its own roads, hospital, school system, laundry and parks.

The guards have the sense of humour you’d expect. So do the prisoners. On a brief tour of the place we met an inmate who was weeding with more enthusiasm than skill. The guard asked him to tell us the name of the building before us. It’s the old hospital wing. It’s been nicknamed Gaddafi’s Cafe. It’s where they kept Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, before shipping him down to Greenock for the fresh sea air.

Getting into Rancho Bar-L is no big deal. Some folk do it all the time. The guards’ grim little joke is that they’re thinking of a loyalty card system for their more regular clientele. Not Air Miles, obviously.

Prison, not even the gloomy shades of Barlinnie, doesn’t really seem to deter some folks from doing fairly terrible things. You’d think that having been banged up in a vast, chilly filing cabinet for humans, you’d make darned sure you’d never darken that door again, but no.

Take our gardener. He’s in his 50s. If you added the years he’s been out of prison since he was 17, it comes to a little over six years. He’s what’s known as a career criminal, if you regard his career as being as successful as Fred Goodwin’s. To be fair, Fred probably did more damage to a bank than any armed robber, so it’s swings and roundabouts on that one.

In the worst middle class patronising manner you can imagine (oh yes, I can turn Margo from The Good Life at the drop of scone) I suggested that visits to the prison might deter those young people in danger of going off the rails from a life of crime. They were very polite and didn’t snort in my face, but pointed out that the young persons to whom I was referring didn’t usually need to have prison visits arranged, since their mums bring them in to visit their dads.

Perfect parking will keep me out of Cornton Vale

INCIDENTALLY, having been inside a prison for all of two hours, I came out a babbling loon who won’t even park within sight now of a double yellow line in case it means a ten stretch in Cornton Vale. Don’t laugh. You know full well that the way this council runs the parking in this city people could be whooshed away by a sort of Judge Dredd of Parking to be incarcerated for edging into a Permit Holders Only spot.

Toaster market will collapse with all these present-free weddings

OH excitement, I’m off to a wedding tomorrow. I do love a good wedding. For one thing, I get to wear a hat, for another, I’m getting older, so I get to act like the batty old aunt and demand everyone get up to do the Slosh, Birdy Dance and insist on endless Abba.

This is the third wedding I’ve been invited to where the couple have asked guests not to buy wedding presents – they’ve been living together for a while, so they pretty much have all the tea towels, toasters and glasses they need.

It’s a worrying trend. What will happen to all those fish knives and fondue sets?

Getting the message

HE phoned me and left a message. So I phoned back and left another message to say I was sorry I’d missed his call, and please call again. He called back, and left another message to say he was sorry he’d missed my call, could I call again, so I called back but he was in meeting, I think, so I let him know I’d got his message and I’d try again the next day, but he called before I could get to my phone, so he went straight to messaging. I called back, but he was leaving a message on my phone whilst I was leaving a message on his phone.

He emailed, eventually.

Apparently, our phones will soon outnumber us. They are definitely getting smarter than us, since they’re the only ones who seem to be speaking to each other.