memoirs of a mule r.j.saxon

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is based on true events that happened in 2 French prisons between June 2000 to July 2002. It is a story of events that became surreal, frightening, and funny. With an insight into the French justice system. A foolish person duped into the world of a small drug smuggling empire with saddening consequences.

Submitted: September 27, 2010

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Submitted: September 27, 2010

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MEMOIRS OF A MULE (by r.j. Saxon)
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The conversation was overheard in the local boozer; I was with my friends and work partners, the
Conversational Group sat to my left. I knew the person, but not to talk to, but I some how got myself
Talking. The first meet with him was the day after in Salford, at the home of a friend of mine, we talked
And agreed with the work in hand, all I needed was my passport, my driving licence,
Which was a provisional not full, but them sort of things don’t cause
A problem in this kind of work. My contact gave me £1000 for the journey, accommodation and any other
Necessities. The job was to start the morning after; I was given the keys to the van plus all relevant
Documents And a fake insurance cover. I was given the address to where I was heading which was to
Become one long journey. I started up the van and headed back home to think over the no win risk I was
About to undertake.
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My alarm awoke me at 6am so it was up, shower, breakfast and preparations for the trip. I put a bike, a tent,
A Sleeping bag and various items of camping materials in the back of the Bedford small back van, locked
My front Door got into the van and headed to Thomas cook to change some money, which I was going to
Need on the 3 day Trip through France into Spain. It was a short trip from where I lived in openshaw,
Around fifteen minutes into Manchester town centre. Then I headed toward the Mancunian way with a map
That lay upon the passenger seat, with this contained the directions to the hotel.
I was to stay at on my arrival in estepona (Spain). The first part of the journey,
was quite tedious a six hour drive to Dover, so it took a little longer due to the traffic in London, I made
A few stops on the way at various named service stations, had the odd burger, collected a few snacks then
Began On the road again. The motorway was flooded with traffic the usual commuter’s heavy goods traffic,
And holiday Makers. At least the weather was pretty warm, warm enough for jeans and a t-shirt, it was
Probably around tea time Time when I arrived at the travel desk in Dover there were lanes that were letter
Preferenced guiding the vehicles into orderly queuing positions on a strip of road that that forked off into
Different sections. I purchased a ticket, return for two weeks later,
The reason for a two-week ticket would take off any suspicion, than making a quick return. The ticket also
Allowed you to return anytime within the two weeks. I began queuing in the relevant section whilst the
Stewards of the ferry Company waved on the vehicles in front until it was my turn. It was a slow paced
Drive onto the ferry I followed the Procession of cars into the bays, which indicated on the ticket. Once
Parked, I made my way to the upper deck Refreshments; I took advantage of the £1000 expense money to
Purchase music tapes for the rest of the journey.
More fast food was consumed, and then I had a stroll around the ferry. I felt a little out of place as everyone
Seemed full of the holiday spirit whereas I wasn’t here for sightseeing. I sometimes have a
Weakness for fruit machines and video games, so when I saw the sign saying "Aladdin’s cave"
Weren’t many people telling me not to blow some money whilst I travelled the hour journey to France? I
Was in full flow now eyes glazed to the flashing and tempting lights of the electronic
Money makers, but who cared the money was free and for me to spend at my leisure a
Tenner here a tenner there and not seeing much of a return. It was the sound of the tannoy system that made
Me Realise that we were coming into the port of Calais, it was pretty lucky really because I was about to
Break another £20, which would bring the amusement total to £120. I made my way back down to the van,
In a bit of a flutter with a slight headache from all the flashing lights the ferry docked with a bit of a bump
As I was coming down the stairs from the third deck sending me off balance a little, but finally made it to
The car station. The parking area was full on boarding when I arrived. It was becoming quite empty and the
People behind me did not seem too happy as they could not move until I moved the van.
I got myself in adjusted my seating position moved a few crisp wrappers and and other shit
From my foot well and alighted down the large ramp that deploys from the back of the ferry.
The heat from the French air was warm and refreshing, it felt good to be miles from Manchester and
Nobody Knowing who you are and where you are. I don’t know whether it’s just me but the feeling I got
Once on French soil felt liberating, miles from home. I started the journey adjusting the driving routine, it
Took a car nearly Hitting me head on before I realised they drive on the other side of the road over there, I
Am not that stupid but I Think after smoking a spliff on the ferry it could impair your judgement slightly.
The first part of the journey was a Bit of a blur nothing more than taking in the sights of beautiful France
Along the long strips of road, just me the Van and vast fields the trip to my first port of call was "Orleans"
On the way I was taking in the sights nothing was A problem at the moment, everything was going well for
Now.
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It was getting late, and I was tired so I stopped in a town called Olivet (Orleans). The town was pretty
Quiet, apart From the sound of French music softly being played from some half empty quiet bars and the
Odd stray dog. I Managed to find a reasonable hotel for the night made my way to my room and made my
First phone call to My Contact in Manchester. I told him where I was so he could contact the guys in
Spain To tell them of my Whereabouts, I was instructed to only contact the guys in Spain when I reached
Malaga. I ended the phone call got ready for bed, ordered a movie from the hotel TV. Services, before falling
asleep Half way through it.
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I awoke around eight thirty, got dressed threw my rucksack over my shoulder and Headed down to the van.
The morning sun had been beating down on it since Sunrise, when I opened the,
Door it was like opening an oven on 220, I rolled down the windows put a towel on the Seat to protect me
From burning my arse. I realised now why other drivers had parked under a canopy, I think my Vehicle
was The only one that wasn’t; I would need to start thinking smarter than that. I started up and set off once
More. I hit a busy motorway on the trip down to the next town (Poitiers), I came to the town where the
Traffic had come to a standstill, I had only been on the road a few hours and I felt horribly hot and sweaty,
The heat was Overwhelming I just felt like getting out of the car for a little fresh air, but I was locked in
With cars from back to back the gendarmerie were at the side of the road Pulling vehicles. I felt slightly
Nervous, there was no need to as at the moment I was carrying nothing, but to this Day I will never know
Whether I was carrying money concealed in the van. The gendarmerie waved me past and I
Carried on. The traffic was beginning to disperse as my journey continued on to (Mont de marson) it was getting
Late, I was to find a hotel here in (Mont de marson) but the journey was starting to take its toll on me. I was to
Check in on my contact back in Manchester. I would spend the night here, and make an early start first
Thing in the Morning towards the border of France and Spain (Bayonne), little did I know this border
would Be the down fall of my journey on the return back home with the goods and which would leave me
with a Lengthy stay there.
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After monotonous hours travelling the journey to (Mont de marson), I was becoming very tired so I decided
To take Refuge in (Bordeaux). Instead of the planned stop in (Mont de marson), this seemed a better option
As this way in the morning I could bypass (Mont de marson), head through (dax) then straight through the
Border of (Bayonne) Into Spanish territory. After a restless night in a plush hotel, maybe the red wine
Contributed to that, I re-instated my journey. The usual feeling of an extremely hot vehicle awaited me and
The chocolate bar I had left on the Passenger seat had become a packet of goo. I set off negotiating the
Heavy traffic through (Bordeaux) centre, before getting to the motorway. The French sights on my way to
(Bayonne) were phenomenal, a few hours and a Few toll bars and shortening of my expenses later I
Approached the border of (Bayonne) and the Spanish territory. It seemed desolate but to my knowledge,
That I know now the problem arises on your return. I drove a steady Speed through the checkpoint for
Vehicles and into Spanish territory. It seemed easy enough I did not see any Customs officers hanging
Around so it was a smooth drive through. The next port of call was (Burgos) a few Hours drive in passing
The (Basque country), which separates Spain and France. To my knowledge there has been
Ongoing political disputes between these two countries, the journey started to become more of a chore than a
Pleasure.
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The novelty of the of beautiful landscapes had run their course, the views were still outstanding but now the norm.
I had played my music tapes in the car stereo until the vocal lyrics had become distorted, I reassured myself
There was only 1 more day of travelling until I reached my destination of (estapona), there I would be able
To chill, Get my shit together and call my contact in Spain, I called my Manchester contact,to let him know
I would be Arriving in (estapona) p.m. the following day, my message was relayed to the contact in Spain, I
Was to call my Contact back on my arrival in (estapona), he would then give me details of the the
following Days rendezvous with the firm who were to fix up the vehicle I was driving for my return. It was
Late Afternoon when I arrived in (Estapona) I quickly parked my vehicle a good few metres away from the
Hotel I was to stay in, I alighted from the Vehicle with a few clicks and creaks in my bones, and headed to
MyHotel to get cleaned and ready for a well Deserved restaurant meal no expense spared. I booked into the
Hotel, took my well deserved shower and headed to The Chinese restaurant situated right next door, I
Ordered half of the menu, ate like a horse and got myself a little Pissed and went back to my hotel, flopped
Onto the bed with the air con on full crank and mulled over my next few days’ events that were to take
Place, I eventually drifted into another restless nights sleep.
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I awoke around 8.30am to the feeling of being in the Antarctica; the air con had been on all night. I switched it off
And opened the patio doors to the bedroom a blast of hot air came rushing in warming up the room pretty
Quickly. I went back to the bed and lay back on the bed just staring into space and relaxing, hot breeze
Washing over me. My hotel phone began to ring it was my contact in (estapona). He told me that he had
Sent two of his workers to pick me up in 15mins. I got dressed, called my contact in Manchester and told
Him the present situation, he had been given my whereabouts by my contact in (estapona). I locked my
Hotel door and Made my way down to reception and met two guys smartly dressed sunglasses and a
Mancunian accent. I got into the bmw convertible that was parked outside the hotel doors, the van stayed
Where I had left it the night before. Our conversation was quite brief on the 10-minute journey to meet two
Other people that would perform the work on the van. We arrived at rooftop bar that overlooked a yacht
Mooring area the view looked far into the ocean. 5 of us sat down for coffees and sandwiches, while I was
Briefed on the actions I was to take, these people didn’t seem like the job was an important issue, as all of
Them were nursing a heavy hangover from lasts nights clubbing, I handed the keys to one of the contacts,
The time was now 10.30am. He had given me instructions to pick up the van at 5.00pm, this was enough
Time for the mechanics to take out the flooring of the van conceal 80 kilos of marijuana Close to the wheel
Arches, then weld down the floor a little sanding, then a coat of car spray paint to hide the weld
Marks. During this time I took advantage of the local town, and then had a spell on the beach. I had toasted
Myself after A few hours and had got myself a little sunburnt. I made my way back to my hotel at around
4.30pm took a shower and changed. 4.57pm I received a phone call it was my main contact in (estapona),
Which I never got to see he told me that the van was ready, its whereabouts and the keys would be under
The left wheel placed by the mechanic. The van was situated one mile from the hotel; I locked my room
Once more and headed for the van. At This stage my potential crimes were starting to hit home, but I passed
This off by thinking of my £5.000 reward on Return to England not bad for 6 days work. I found my way to
The van which had been parked amongst a few other Cars on a small dirt track car park which overlooked
The beach, I walked straight up to it and reached for the keys under the wheel, they wasn’t there I checked
The other wheels but to no avail, by this time I had allsorts going through my mind. I fumed back to the
Hotel hot, frustrated and annoyed at the sloppiness of the work. I rang my Contact in England he told me to
Calm down while he rang the Spanish contact and he would get back to me Straightaway. Now when it
Comes to paranoia I think I am in the top ten so when I got the call from my contact in England saying they
Had forgot to leave the keys but they would bring them to me, due to my English Contacts cocaine habit,
Which made him a little neurotic, he decided for some reason to start telling me if I am not
Sure that everything is going right, fuck it all off and get on the next plane out of there. I dismissed his
Judgement and told him it should be ok and I will speak to him when I get back, so that was the last time I
Spoke with him I put the phone down and the hotel phone rang immediately, the concierge told me there
Was an envelope addressed to me at the desk? I went down to front desk to find the two guys that I met
Earlier in the day had dropped off the van I don’t know why the keys were not where they were in the first
Place, but the van was now back in my possession I Went to it had a look around and nothing seemed like it
Had changed, it had the same look crisp wrappers e.t.c. In the back to make it look lived in, the mountain
Bike and tent added to the look. I locked the van and Went to spend one last night on fine dining, before
heading back to my hotel to bed with the alarm call set for 7.30am, ready to hit the road back toward the
French border.
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I awoke to the alarm call, got up, got my self changed made the call to my contact in Manchester, paid up
For my Stay with the hotel and set off for my 4th day of travelling, little did I know that there was a van?
Travelling half a Mile behind me with a hundred kilos of cocaine. I was enjoying the drive back the views
Of The Spanish mountains were breathtaking, at one point of the journey I got myself lost and ended up in
Central Madrid, that was quite Stressful as you could imagine a vanload of cannabis and police on every
Street corner. I had to keep cool for the Trip over the border, so I decided to test myself and my nerve by
Asking a copper the directions to France. It went well the copper gave me a small pocket map indicating
The route towards France. I carried on and thanked the Officer and after a good few hours driving I stopped
At another hotel in (Burgos), This would be necessary before the final major hurdle, which was the French
Border of (Bayonne). The usual night was enjoyed with the mini bar and room service. After my nights
eating and drinking I settled down for the night. The morning had arrived and I was up and out, I set off,
I had just passed (San Sebastian) and was now approaching the French border of Bayonne. I was dripping
In sweat from Top to toe, the border was empty and my heart was coming out of my throat, there were
Three (Douane) customs Flagging me down I pulled alongside the customs garage, which was fully
equipped with Dog’s car ramp burning Gear and enough tools to supply (snap-on). One of the customs
shouted me out of The car I looked like a lobster, after my day toasting on the beach. The French custom's
officer started Speaking fast and in an angry tone, I didn’t Understand a word of his French, until he
pronounced the word (Papiers), which I presumed it, would be my Documents. I reached to the glove
compartment on the Passenger side and took out the documents he had asked for. I passed them to him and
He immediately My passport from the paperwork, he then passed it over to one of the lady colleagues, she
Proceeded into the officeThe office. The officer that had passed on my documents, was quite Aggressive as
he ordered me out of the Van put the handcuffs behind my back, and led me into the garage to sit on a
stool, he then added another Chain through the handcuffs, onto a wall that had a bar welded in to it! I was
left alone in this garage for a Couple of minutes which felt like a couple of hours, my mind was a blank, I
could not think of anything, But if they found what was in the van, then I knew I was looking at a nice
prison spell; two Alsatians were On the other side of the garage giving me the eye they were loose so I kept
extremely still to avoid being Bitten.
The van turned into the garage and onto the ramps, the customs officer, who I first encountered
Came over to where I was and began screaming his French obscenities at me once more, then he went into
The back of the van and began throwing out all the items that I had placed there. There was a lot of customs
Officers coming and going, through a door to the left of me There were a lot of French conversations and
Computers tapping. In an office to my left from inside the rear of the Van I could here banging about.
After around fifteen minutes without any of the dogs that were at hand the customs officer
Shouted loudly to one of his colleagues "chocolat" "chocolat", another customers officer came running in, I
Thought this was all a bit much, for finding one of my melted dairy milk chocolate bars but this was not the
Case as in the centre of the van there was a small metal disc welded to the van floor, which is an inspection
Panel for Mechanics to inspect the undercarriage of a vehicle. The customs officer had prised this open
With a flat head Screwdriver, there was laughter from the two officers in the back of the van, as they shone
Their torch through the Inspection panel to each side of the wheel arches containing the 40 kilos on each
Side. One of the customs Officers came from the back of the van released the chain from the wall, but left
On my handcuffs, I was then Marched into a corridor where I was seated once more and rechained to a
Similar bar connected to the wall. Immobile for around five minutes, at this stage knowing that I was in
Deep Shit, all that I could think of now was to somehow, get friendly with one of the customs officers, to
let me have the bottle of red wine that Was in my rucksack that I had paid 37 euros for, Because I knew it
was the Last time I was going to get pissed for a While.
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I sat and waited for one of the customs officers, who began to bring in the brown cellophane wrapped kilo
Blocks Of cannabis. In front of me lay 2 tables 8 ft long, on top of the tables were industrial sized scales.
The blocks of Cannabis, were stacked at the side of the scales, I was counting the blocks as he was coming
To and fro, I got the Amount to seventy blocks, I found this a little strange as there should of been eighty,
But I was not going to Question anything at this stage; because the more you speak the more problems
Arise. He began to place the Blocks on the scales, this took a considerable amount of time as he was in and
Out of the customs office Answering phone calls and other issues, by the time that all the blocks were
Weighed it had taken around forty Five minutes, this was logged in some sort of manual that lay beside the
Scales. This was the last time I saw the Cannabis, after I had my photo taken with the goods with six
Customs officers standing behind me joining in for the photo shoot I was then moved to a small cell
Around four feet by six, it was painted in bright yellow. The door was slammed shut before I could ask for
Anything. I was left in there without shoes and just a thin Mattress and a bright light flickered at the top of
The room, I lost track of time at this stage, and I was feeling Tired and fell asleep, I couldn't have been
Asleep long, when the door to the room was opened and I was led into another room, which was the
Interview room. This room had a large window that overlooked the place where they Stopped me in the
Van. I was questioned in broken English by who seemed to be the head of customs, my guess
Due to all the medals he was brandishing on his shoulders, and the biggest table in the office. My
Answers to each of the questions were just a yes and no. The interview lasted around thirty minutes, before
I was Placed back in the holding cell, I didn't have a clue what was going on, it was now becoming dark, I
Could tell this as there was a gap about an inch at the bottom of the door, which gave a little light from the
Outside world. I had a dreamless night. I awoke to the door being opened once more this was the start of
The next day, I Was escorted, handcuffed and led, to a police van that awaited me outside the customs
check Point, this was the hand over from the customs to the local town, labenne (gendarmerie) police, I was
then Whisked away, which seemed about three miles to the police station in (labenne)? Here I was placed i
In a Holding cell, and I was held here for around four hours, the cell was not like your usual Manchester
prison Cell you was on full view it looked like a Scene from the (silence of the lambs), not as grotesque but
the cell Set up was. I was then taken to an Interview room, where an officer and a translator were present.
The Questioning began, with the officer speaking In French and then this was explained to me by the
translator present.
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it was the usual questioning, whom you work for? How much were you paid? Etc, it seemed like
This was the usual routine, questions that I have been asked before! But still handcuffed to a wall I didn’t
Have a clue where they thought I was going. I had to quickly make Up a cock and bull story that my job
Was to take a van out to Spain for sale there, this was all the information that I was given by my contact in
Manchester, of course this was total bullshit. That was up to them to find out. I explained that I was not an
Experienced criminal that they was used to but someone who was just doing something to correct my
Finances in England. (50% true). They didn’t buy it anyway and after that hour interview, I was placed
Back into the Hannibal lector cell where I stayed until the next day. It was a lovely night ahead on a
wooden bench about 3 feet wide 6 foot long and a 12 foot by 8 diameter room, at This point I knew I was
Going to have a lot of problems, I had not eaten for a while and I was real hungry.
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After a rough nights sleep, I was awoken by the sound of the police banging about, I didn’t have a clue
What time it was but my body clock told me it was early, the cell door was pulled loudly open and I was
Marched into a Basement garage handcuffed, there awaited two more (gendarmerie) police who roughly
Pushed down my head into the back of a small Renault police car. My details were passed from the
Labenne police, to the (Bayonne) Police, a few brief words were exchanged from each copper, and then we
Were on our way to the police station in (Bayonne) this journey took roughly 20 minutes. On arriving the
Police station we descended into a basement car Park similar to labenne, where myself and the two police
Officers alighted from the vehicle we walked across the Car park and into a lift to a first floor headquarters,
I was then released from my handcuffs and placed into another cell once more but this one was
A little upmarket compared to the customs cupboard, larger with a giant glass window and door totally on
View to All and sundry, same type of cell as labenne but a little cleaner. I was given a ham baguette an
Apple and a carton of orange there was a clock outside of the cell, which read 9.30am.
Once again the sleeping arrangements were shit but I managed to slip in a few hours before
Being awaken by a c.i.d. Looking character I was taken from my cell and led to an interview room, where I
Was met By a French translator, from now until my trail day this would be my go between to convince the
French justice System that I wasn't a habitual criminal. I sat next to the translator and the officer sat across
A desk from me as the Questioning began to take place, the same questions as the customs had asked so it
Was a good job I had been memorising my story, I was to take a vehicle to Spain for sale but ended up
Bringing it back due to the would be purchasers lack of interest and me not knowing what I had brought
Back, saying that I had been duped into something not knowing. It sounded like a pile of shite, but it was
The only story I could concoct as my Mind was set on not being caught; I stuck to this story even though
They tried their best to twist my words into Admitting that I was part of an international organisation,
which I thought, was quite funny, due to my lack of co-Operation my translator told me that because the
Officer did not believe a word I was saying (and I don’t blame him) that I was looking at a maximum of 10
Years Imprisonment, my heart sank I felt breathless and dazed. The interview was finished and I was told I
Was To spend the rest of the day, and night here before I was taken to the examining Magistrates court early
Morning, unlike English law of (innocent until proven guilty) the French like to do things the other way
Round. I was told that in the morning I would be offered a list of (advocats) solicitors, to choose
From and this would be my legal support up until my day of sentencing. I was to tell the examining
Magistrate my Story and hope that she could some how believe it and go light on my predicted future
Sentence. I didn’t know At this point, that this would be in 10 months time. I was led back to my cell and
Given a flea bitten blanket. It was now 1.25pm it was going to be a long wait until morning its hard when
You have a loud ticking clock effacing you outside of your cell minutes are like hours the only thing you
Can do is resort to your own mind and memories of a better place. It eventually reached 8.00pm and the
Police headquarters hustle and bustle seemed to quieten down and I slipped into a nightmarish sleep.
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The morning came too soon, there were no questions asked and I was quickly escorted to the nearest remand centre,
this was Bayonne, this was the real deal no messing about no glorified bollocks, this was more like 'Papillion'.
I was met by the most horrible screw you could ever meet.
he’s issue was in, take your shit, all that was left of your worldly goods,
what the customs "douanne" had not already taken, and whisked right down a corridor into the main prison holdings.
40 cells side by side, with the upper floor making a total of 160.
looking at this from above there were a flight of stairs at each end of the holding area.
I was put given a medical by the prison nurse then, straight into a cell 9ft by 6ft, cell number four.
the far left of the prison on the bottom,
one terrifying experience that’s hard to forget, this humble abode contained one ignorant psychotic Dutch guy,
who could only speak broken English,
i.e. hello, goodbye, thank you and fuck off, about as much use as a chocolate fireguard,
one Yugoslavian not a word of English, one French guy say no more,
and me, what the hell do you do when not one of each other speaks each others language.
The cell door slammed shut, I was given a few of my items I had in my rucksack a couple of shirts, pants,
couple of pairs of underwear and three packets of Marlboro cigarettes.
I wasn't much of a smoker but I think it was now time to take up the habit.
There wasn't any type of rulebook that gives you guidance into the settling in of your home,
I would have to play it by ear.
I felt a little intimidated by the prying eyes of my cell mates I took a look around and positioned myself,
onto the bottom bunk the only one available.
I realised that you would have to wait awhile for a top spot in this joint.
A couple of sheets were there for me so I made my bunk.
The three other guys carried on watching the TV, which was showing "precio justo"
which was the Spanish version of the price is right.
Quite amusing when I think of it now, as none of us could speak each other’s language,
and none of us could speak Spanish.
I climbed into my bunk and lit up a Marlboro. I had not took two puffs of it before the French guy above me gestured
to me dangling his arm over the edge of his bunk.
"Sil vous plait un cigarette pour moi". It didn't take a rocket scientist to work out what he wanted,
so I passed him a cigarette to which he replied "merci".
From my schooling days I knew that meant thank you.
There was silence in the cell as you would expect with the language barrier, I stared around the cell,
to my right was a sink and toilet close together,
a makeshift washing line that contained socks and underwear but I couldn’t see the washing machine,
just a bucket that was full with more clothing.
so this looked like the washing arrangements. One bucket between four.
This toilet area was covered with a mop pole and a sheet this was the only privacy you had.
The noise and the smell couldn't be hidden this place was hell and I had no idea what was to become of me.
It was around seven thirty at night and I began to think of my family,
I felt dizzy confused and alone, it wasn't long before I fell asleep.
the only way to escape this place, thinking and hoping tomorrow,
would have some kind of explanation of what was to become of me.
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The sound of unlocking bolts echoing around the cell startled me out of a deep sleep.
the solid old oak door to the entrance of the cell swung open the demented Dutch guy stood at the door.
A French screw stood on the outside of the door jangling his keys with a blank expression on his face.
The breakfast trolley had arrived and we was each given a large French stick, a small pot of jam,
a pat of butter and a sachet of coffee dried milk and sugar.
I got out of my bunk and approached the screw and said can I have a word with the head of the prison.
He looked at me as though I was from another planet,
as he slammed the cell door back shut locked it and threw back the two bolts secure.
The French guy above me just laughed.
the Dutch guy was talking to himself as he lovingly buttered a quarter of his French stick,
and the Yugoslavian guy was doing the same as he sat at a desk that occupied the cell.
This was the study area for us all. I sat back on my bed and wondered how long these people had been here.
I followed the ritual and ate some of the French stick with a little apricot jam on it.
I would of preferred strawberry but they were quickly snapped up by the other guys,
you know what they say first up best dressed.
I finished off my breakfast and wrapped the rest of the French stick in a polythene bag.
At this point I didn't know how long this bread was supposed to last,
I stepped toward the cell door and looked through the spy hole.
The metal plate that covers the hole from the outside was slightly bent,
giving me a forty five degree view on the left side,
I could just see the breakfast trolley serving prisoners on the cells affacing.
The trolley moved out of sight,
I sat back down on my bed, got a pen and the pad the prison had given me on my arrival along with two envelopes and two stamps.
I wasn't sure at this point how I could send this letter, as I don’t think the screws would let me nip down to the local post office.
But anyway I began to write my first letter to my mother,
telling her that I had made a mess of things and I don’t think I would be coming home for a while and that I loved her and I am sorry.
The next letter I wrote was to the local consulate, I was given this address on arrival at the prison.
His name was (bob hope) quite a surreal name don’t you think considering what I was in this place for.
The time was seven o clock,
the rest of my cellmates were watching the TV. Euro news, this time at least one of us could understand the language,
no prizes for guessing who, as it was French channel.
I finished my letters sealed them and asked the French guy in a waving gesture as to how I get these in the post.
He waved his cigarette and spoke the words (tous les matins place le poste en le Porte).
I didn’t have a clue as to what he was saying and thought to myself I don’t know why I asked him.
Then I realised before I set off on my journey I had put a French phrase book in with my belongings,
I looked in my possessions and there it was, I couldn’t believe it this was the answer to surviving in this place,
learn the language and learn the ropes. After an hours reading I had got hold of the simple needs of surviving in this place.
What the French guy had told me earlier is that every morning the post is collected by a screw,
you must make sure that you place the letter into the little slot that was on the back of the cell door.
I would do this at the night time ready for the morning.
The time was now eight thirty am and I was startled by the cell door being unbolted once more,
the screw shouted (promenade!). I had only ever heard of that word when visiting Blackpool,
but I’m sure he didn't mean that we were going for a walk on the golden mile.
I watched as other people passed the cell looking in, one of the inmates stopped and spoke to the French guy.
He jumped off the top bunk and made his way after him. The Yugoslavian followed. The Dutch guy stayed watching the TV.
The screw re-appeared and shouted and waved at me (allez). I quickly put on my trainers and followed this chain of inmates,
scared and wary of all the new faces, we walked down the prison to the end.
I looked up to my right and noticed a door with leaflets attached to it, with the word (biblioteque).
I needed to look up this word, as I did not have a clue what the fuck it meant,
I looked to my bottom left and noticed a kitchen area right effacing me.
I could see through the bars a couple of prisoners preparing the shit that was delivered daily,
we stopped as the screw opened up a metal door that led into another corridor which contained three other metal doors.
I took a quick peek through the spy hole of one of the metal doors,
and saw other prisoners walking around a small yard approximately thirty foot square.
One of the other doors was opened and we were marched into it. It was the same size as the one I had just looked at,
there were about twenty of us to share this walking area,
and these twenty were the dodgiest looking of characters I had ever seen....
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On my own I followed the procession of cons, listening and hoping for an English speaking person.
But there was none, just the sound of Spanish and French.
I knew this was going to be hard I kept my eyes averted from the other cons, This wasn't the place to start trouble.
There was no way out and by the looks of these characters scar faces, missing teeth, raggedy clothing
and potential murderers, who knows what, would happen. There were cons in pairs, cons in threes all talking and laughing.
There were a few that were like me walking alone,
the paranoia was intense but if anything was to happen it would be pot luck to single me out.
It was about fifteen minutes into the meaningless walk, looking at the scraped graffiti along the walls,
dates and names which derived from the nineteen seventies.
I noticed that on the floor was a square hole that had been cemented over,
I was later to learn that this was where the blocks were positioned for the guillotine,
the French abolished the chopping off of heads in the late eighties, lucky for me hey that I had missed this era.
Until the first incident happened, some words were spoken between a French guy and a Spanish guy,
And before you knew it the French guy was floored, with a mass of blood pouring from his head.
The procession carried on. The French guy sat in the corner cradling his wounded forehead,
as the Spanish guy carried on chatting and laughing with his friends like nothing had happened.
During this brutal incident the screws either ignored this or never heard. Even so it did not fill me with any sort of safety.
The cell that I had come from, I wished I was back in.
my heart was pounding and I wondered how long the endless walk would be before we went back,
so I just carried on walking averting suspicious eyes.
It was an hour later before the screw that let us out unlocked the door for our return journey to our cells.
I was relieved; the military march was the reverse of when we first came out.
I returned to my cell, the cell door was bolted once more and so began the arduous boredom of sitting on my bunk,
and listening to the odd lone rant and rave from the crazy Dutch guy.
A few hours passed as we watched French TV, before the door was unbolted once more, at just after twelve p.m.,
With dinner service in tow. I was starving, as the French stick didn't fill me up much earlier.
Four trays were delivered and as usual the Dutch guy took control of the waiter service.
I took my tray as the cell door was bolted once more. I sat on my bunk with legs crossed and the dinner tray on my lap,
I took a look at the meal in front of me, which I can only describe as horrid.
The four compartments of the tray consisted of one hand sized portion of some strange kind of meat,
what I learned at a later date to be horsemeat. It may sound nice to some people, but I much prefer rib eye steak.
The second compartment consisted of cold-diced carrot, peas and Swede. Mixed together with mayonnaise.
The third was what looked and tasted like sauerkraut and fourth and finally was dessert, which was a small tin foil tin of apple compote,
which looked like a Heinz tin of pureed apple baby food.
I took one bite of the meat and spat it straight back out, it tasted foul as for the rest I left for the other guys to dissect and they did.
I think you have to get a taste for the stuff before you can enjoy it but it wasn't for my palate.
I took out my bread that I had saved and went for a good old jam butty once more and hoped for a better meal at teatime.
Half an hour later the bolts to the cell went once more and the dinner trolley arrived for the pick up.
My cellmates lay on their bunks and napped like their body clocks were timed to perfection.
I myself joined in the fashion and drifted in and out of sleep once or twice being awoken by the jangle of the screws keys,
and shouting from other prisoners in cells somewhere in the prison.
It was two in the afternoon when the dreaded bolts went again and the screw shouting (promenade).
I was definitely going to give it a miss this time round, so I was left with the crazy Dutch man.
I don’t know what was worse, in the cattle yard, or the insanacell.
I just lay and stared at the TV. Which was showing (mcm music channel)?
The equivalent of (mtv), only this channel preferred to show ten French songs to one English and plenty of repeats.
After the other guys had come back to the cell, it was another couple of hours till five o clock,
before our evening meal arrived, boy was I hungry,
the trays arrived into the (clutches of Dutch), and I quickly snatched mine like an animal,
took the same seating arrangement and stared in dismay to the next offering. Steamed tripe,
herring in tomato sauce, new potatoes in mayonnaise and fruit cocktail for dessert lay before me.
I ate the potatoes and fruit cocktail but there was no chance of me finishing the rest.
Once again the rest of my cellmates helped eat my leftovers before the food trolley arrived once more for the pick up.
This was to be the final lock up for the night,
I took a shit in the minimalistic privacy suite, had a wash brushed my teeth,
with the prison issue wire toothbrush that I was provided with,
put my letters into the door slot and settled down for the night of French TV. Entertainment.
I think it was about nine p.m. I finally fell asleep waiting the morning once more...
................................................................................................................................................................................................
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The morning came with same events as the morning before.
I joked with myself and now thought that’s why the French invented the word (deja vu).
I made a point of giving my letters to the screw and he placed them into a box that he was carrying,
along with a collection of other letters. The in mail was distributed to my cellmates also.
This same routine carried on for two weeks. Until this time two good things happened to me,
in one day I received mail back from my family and the consulate.
I read my family letter first, which brought tears to my eyes,
it mentioned they would give me support and my father would be coming to see me as soon as I had words with my consulate
which was the next letter I read.
It told me of a date of which he would be visiting to tell me of the procedures I would need to follow,
to get me through this prison term and addresses of a company called prisoners abroad.
This is a charity that sends a magazine subscription to the unfortunates that are incarcerated in foreign lands,
also support and guidance to dealing with your incarceration. As I was flicking through this information,
there was a shout through the door to me in English, I jumped up and looked through the spy hole to see a large guy.
I couldn’t believe it.
This guy called Mario told me that there were more English prisoners in here but you need to put in for a cell transfer to the upper floor.
He slipped me a letter through which was written in French, asking the governor for the move.
I was ecstatic just the littlest of any hope in this place was enough and now I knew that a bit of my sanity would return.
I re-written this letter and handed it to the screw at the next bolt-opening event.
Day after day I waited and the food issue changed, as I found out about the prison canteen that is delivered to your cell every two weeks.
This was a choice of groceries that were brought in from local shops,
an order sheet had to be filled in twice per week along with a lump sum of money from your prison account,
these monies were held in the prison office,
monies could be sent to your account from relatives in postal orders addressed to the prison governor.
The standard prison food was o.k., about twice per week; the rest of the week was substituted with tuna and sweet corn.
After another week of patiently waiting for my transfer, the day arrived,
I had already been packed because while I had been in there I had never unpacked!
I was moved to the upper floor into cell forty. In there were two English guys who greeted me saying,' you took your time’?
The word had gone round that there was another English guy that had arrived.
I was happy for now but this was to be short lived.........
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The two guys I had moved in with, one was a so called Salford lad from the city of Manchester,
acting the goat thinking he knew it all, the other was the brains the two, a little more sensible,
anyway that was a different story,
I had accomplished what I had aimed for and that was to get from devils canyon downstairs at number four,
to where I was now, with the rest of the English.
It was around four o clock and the stories from the Salford lad were meaningless and boring,
the kind of stories that make you a little sleepy. These two had already been in this place for eleven months,
so that didn’t fill me with a lot of hope of getting out and spending my birthday at home,
which was to be in a few weeks time, but this was a distant dream.
My two new cellmates were still under investigation by the examining magistrate,
this is the person I mentioned earlier. His/her job was to hold you for as long as they can in the remand centre,
hoping someone may send you a letter that was incriminating to your case,
or you decide to break under the pressure of this prehistoric remand centre and tell them all and sundry.
It turns out that the two I was in with had been back and forth to the court rooms,
and the pair of them couldn't get any story to match. I was more concerned about my case,
but their case was quite amusing trying to cover up 140 kilos of cannabis in a van. Double what I had.
The next day came with the same routine, but today instead of the screw-shouting promenade, he shouted sport.
I had already been told by my two new cell mates that we have a sport area, but it had been in repair for the past few weeks,
so today was the day to mix with the whole of the prison population,
which included Mario and around five other Englishmen together with a few English speaking good Dutch guys.
We headed for the metal doors again at the bottom end of the prison and through a new door that had previously been boarded up.
Through this we passed the showers and into a blazing hot old looking open space,
half the size of a football field. In this area there were several people playing a French game named (petanque).
This was the equivalent of crown green bowling, only with smaller metal balls.
In the corner was a game of handball Basque country style, there was a small alcove,
which contained a table tennis area and gym facilities, also the sport officer.
I decided to take a seat on a concrete ledge,
that was on the side of the wall in the football field and check out the surroundings before approaching anyone,
the same routine took place here, a procession of inmates walking around, but on a bigger scale.
It wasn't long before overhearing an English conversation-taking place by three guys that passed me.
I decided to take this opportunity to introduce myself; I got up and slowly walked over to them.
The guys I met were Charlie a mature wise man.
A Dutch guy with a perfect take on the English language and a lot saner than the guy from downstairs.
And last was the guy named Mario, who helped me get to the upper level. My prayers had been answered.
I knew I could rely upon Mario to give me the ins and outs of this French hotel,
and most importantly of all was how to get the fuck out here....
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Mario explained to me that to get out of here, would be a long process as he had been here for two months already,
and his case was no where near finished, before he was found guilty or not.
He had been arrested on the way out from England, with a car loaded with £250,000 stashed in the door panels.
He would have to prove that this money was for business purposes and not for the financial means of drug importation.
He had told me that this would be a lengthy process to try and convince the examining magistrate,
we believed that we were all innocent.
The old guy Charlie had been in here for 1 year,
he had been extradited from Spain in connection with an alleged big crime syndicate,
involving large quantities of cannabis heading for England.
The Dutch guy had been under investigation by the French authorities,
and the Dutch police for the attempt of importing ecstasy into Spain. He had been here the longest of three,
1 and a half years.
These people were shady and very cagey and would not give much info away due to the fear of any prisoner,
giving the police info that they did not have.
If someone was to do this it


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