"What you reading?" the friendly middle aged and, dare I say it, slightly portly Police Sergeant asked me as I sat crossed legged on the 'easy to wipe blood, vomit, etc.' mattress in the cell.
"Fountain at the Centre of the World", I replied. "It's really funny."
"Not heard of it. What's it about?" he asked as he used a broom handle to fix the cell toilet in what was clearly a well-rehearshed maintenance task of his.
"It's a story about some anti-globalisation protestors. They're currently dressed as condoms and covered in lube so that the police can get hold of them and nick them."
He gave me a suspicious look, which then turned into a broad smile. "Very creative, it'd probably work", he said. "Anyway, that's the toilet fixed. Press the button if the loo breaks again."
I was going to continue reading, but my chain of thought had been broken. So I lay back and reflected on the turns of events that had to led me and many of my mates to be incarcerated in Abingdon nick.
It was the very wee hours of a late and freezing December night. I'd grabbed a lift off a mate - other friends were in a car a short way ahead of us. Unsurprisingly the dual carriageway was deserted. When, from out of nowhere, the darkness was pierced by flashing blue lights. And when I say lights, I mean many lots of lights. There were police cars and vans everywhere. At least six of them, maybe as many as eight. The closest experience I'd had to this was in my youth at Final Frontier when a particularly banging techo track was played.
We were told to drive up a little way, and on doing so we soon came across our mates that were ahead of use. Surround by police, and in handcuffs (my mates, not the coppers). PC Andy Nick (I kid you not) told me to get out of the car, told me I was under arrested on suspicion of going equipped to commit burglary, and handcuffed me.
A short drive to Abingdon ensued, followed by a very long wait to be booked in. A shift change on the custody desk meant it was over four hours before I was shown to my suite, err - cell. A quick phone call to a solicitor (tip: never use the duty solicitor) was followed by a long deep sleep. A sleep which was very rudely interpreted by a Detective Inspector (they're quite senior, right?) telling me I was now under arrest for conspiracy to commit criminal damage. Which can be a prison sentence for years. Hurrah!
This train of thought was hardly a Positive Mental Attitude, and I was now peckish - an odd thing with being in a cell is that you have no sense of time. So I pushed the bell for room service.
"I've been here ages" I said to the custody staff, "surely I must be entitled to some food by now?"
"No problem" she replied. "We've good a cooked breakfast, chilli, or pasta in tomato sauce. What do you want?"
"I can't decide" came the response from me, being as indecisive as I normally am. At least getting nicked hadn't changed the core of who I am.
"You can have all three if you want."
I did a double take. Yes! She really did say that. "Go on then" I said through a very broad grin. This was more like it! I knew there must be a silver lining to getting nicked. I had a total of 10 meals in my day long stay in the cell - I ate far better than I normally do at home!
Many hours later - somewhere between second lunch and first tea - I was told my solicitor had arrived and was ready to see me (he'd arrived many hours before, but had been helping my mates). After a quick chat about the pros and cons of giving a no comment interview, I was ready for my
integoration interview with the Detective Inspector. I'd decided to give a no comment interview as I knew I'd done nothing wrong, so though it up to the police to make a case against me rater than there being any possibility my words might be twisted and used against me.
Giving a no comment interview is surprisingly hard. You get asked loads of questions that are obvious - it's really hard not to answer them. But if you answer even one, it can call into suspicion any question later on that you decide not to answer. The key to a no comment interview s to answer every single question with "no comment". It's also very boring - for me and, I suspect, the Detective Inspector.
Post interview, the police decided to let me go. Not as an act of kindness, just that my 24 hours without being charged were nearly up. So I was released on police bail - to be at home between the hours of midnight and 6am (I kept to that. No, really, I did ;) ).
I have the best mates in the world, and a bunch of them were waiting in the police station foyer to say hi, and take me to the pub. They're so nice they even brought ciggies!
Herein ends part one of my tale. Tune in soon for part two - which includes house raids, pigs and bolt croppers!
UPDATE: Banged up - part 2.