Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thanks, Logie Baird.

You will be surprised how time can expand and contract when it is you and four walls. Trying to keep ourselves occupied was a major preoccupation, just finding any way to kill the hours and days which were, in turn, killing us. Sleeping was the main method, with adepts developing the knack of being able to sleep as much as 23 hours a day. Close behind came a radio addiction, followed by tape cassettes. Until there came that wondrous day in the 1990’s when luck and circumstance saw some televisions officially finding their way into prisoners’ hands.

Standing in the old prison shop at Horfield, we watched as a screw hoisted a whole tray of PP batteries and headed for the door. "What’s that all about, guv?". No one ever needed a rack of PP's unless you were starting a war - their reputation as a bludgeon, when inserted in a hefty sock, was legendary.

The screw confessed that he was heading for the punishment block, as they had been bought by a con on a lie-down from a Dispersal...to power his television. The ripple of excitement ran through us; if one man can have a TV, then this is the perfect lever to move management to allow the rest of us.

And he did, without much of a fight either. We were allowed to buy battery operated Casio handheld TV’s, with a tiny screen. Only a handful did. The cost of the TV, the licence and then the expense of running it was frightening. But it broke the principle.

A couple of years later, we were allowed any type of battery powered TV and a friend of mine had a 5" coloured - coloured! - TV. I was writing lots of letters for him at the time, helping with his campaign of innocence, and in return I could borrow his telly for one night a week.

Smuggling the telly between our cells, hiding it until the screws had passed, setting it up, tuning it in...the anticipation was immense. And staying up until dawn, watching anything really, just to grab as much of this marvel as possible. I just can't pin this year down in my memory, but Spin City was one of my favourite programmes, Channel 4 evening primetime if I recall.

Ever since, TVs have infiltrated our lives, in some ways to our detriment. But filling the empty hours has become far less of a struggle.


  1. I remember those small hand held tv's was like watching a flim on a pin-head. I don't have a tv at home, don't miss it at all, plenty to do, couldn't be without internet though ( and the odd half hour on iplayer).

  2. OK, next you need the intertubes. I can understand the security concerns of cell block broadband but t'interweb is the place to learn, and learning maketh the man.


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