CH TWO 28
Fat Frank is looking for something in a drawer of the officers’ canteen kitchen. ‘Bingo,’ he says quietly to himself, ‘that will do nicely,’ and he wraps the small implement in a dish cloth and shoves it down the front of his underpants. If a pat-down search reveals anything it will cause disgust rather than discovery. He carries on with his tasks, humming merrily to himself as the usual routine continues.
The deputy Governor has graced the establishment with his presence today, bringing with him his copy of the Daily Telegraph, which he leaves behind when called away unexpectedly. As nobody else is keen on the ‘highbrow’ publication Frank swipes it for himself as he clears the table. He hasn’t even had chance to tackle the crossword, Frank notes, which will go down well with the buyer. His Lordship is more than keen to get his hands on what he calls a ‘proper’ newspaper and has been itching to get a list of the runners and riders for the forthcoming Cheltenham Gold Cup in which one of his nags is running. No doubt he will be running a book on the event or at the very least a sweepstake.
The guard doesn’t even bother to search Frank today or pass comment on the rolled up newspaper he is carrying, which is an unexpected bonus. He returns to his cell, which thankfully is missing the odious fellow detainee. The can opener is unwrapped and secreted in the hidey hole just in time as Drystone comes bowling in. ‘What ho old boy, did you pick up any treats on your travels today?’ Frank frowns at the man; ‘give us a chance will you, I only this minute got away.’ His visitor casts his gaze about the dreary room, his eyes drawn to the newspaper. ‘Is that today’s?’ He asks, picking it up to check. Frank takes it back, saying he hasn’t had chance to look at it himself yet. ‘I’ll let you know when I’ve finished with it, and then we can negotiate a price.’ Drystone shrugs, ‘fair enough,’ he says cheerfully, ‘see you later then.’
He stretches out on the bunk and quickly scans the pages for anything of interest. The usual accounts of doom and gloom regarding strikes, the IRA, and political comments interspersed with fillers on Springtime in Britain, World news, adverts for holidays in places most folk have never even heard of, Society columns, Court Circular, Births, Marriages and Deaths, a few obituaries and Business news with the Sports pages tacked on as an afterthought.
There is much made of the rugby and the Cheltenham Festival but barely a mention of the snooker or football. Oh well, that didn’t take long, thinks Frank as he folds the paper up again and drops down from his perch. No doubt his Lordship will get more benefit from it than he, and Frank will be happy to swap it for the usual five Woodbines.
The usual scene in the association area sees a game being played at the snooker table, several groups playing card games, some sitting reading worn-out paperback books from the library, Rocky knitting yet another scarf in West Ham colours and ‘Lord’ Thorndike at his usual place guarded by his acolytes. Drystone walks over to meet Frank and they come to an agreement, he hands over a Mars bar and takes the newspaper, checking it is complete before presenting it to his ‘employer’ who seems appreciative enough.
Now that he no longer needs to rent the tin opener, Frank returns to his cell and kills time waiting for Black to take his evening visit to the wash room. As soon as he is out the door Frank selects a tin of mandarin oranges from his stash, opens it with the somewhat rusty implement, drinks the juice and spoons the fruit into his mouth. It would be even better with some evaporated milk, but they don’t use it in the officers’ canteen: too common for the likes of them. He then crushes the tin flat ready to return it to the kitchen for disposal.
Drystone re-appears wearing a hand knitted hat, one of Rocky’s West Ham creations, which he carefully removes to reveal a folded sheet of paper and a pencil. ‘His Lordship is running a sweepstake for the Gold Cup,’ he explains, ‘and you are invited to take part.’ So much for the payment he received only half an hour ago: coincidentally the price is the same, and he hands the chocolate bar back before giving Drystone a number. ‘That’s L’Escargot’, he won it last year so you’re probably out of luck with that one but you’re name’s down now so hard luck if it comes in last.’ Frank thanks him for his concern and asks if he has picked yet. ‘That would be telling,’ smirks Drystone, as if he has some kind of inside knowledge. ‘I was on Arkle back in 1966,’ adds Frank, ‘he won it three years running, remember?’ Drystone’s knowledge of horseracing doesn’t go back that far but he is convinced that his selection will be victorious this year and made sure to get his choice in first.
He is about to leave, the hat back on his head, when he remembers something: ‘did you want to use the tin opener, by any chance?’ Frank for once has the better of the man as he says he won’t be needing it again, ‘they put the block on that little number,’ he lies.
Drystone is disappointed to lose his custom but is sure he will find other ways to compensate.