7th October


When they put me in the hole I thought, I’ll go mad. By the time they let me out I will be insane. So that was what I had to fight: going mad. I hated the bastards but hating them wouldn’t be enough to get me through. I had to beat them. Staying sane, not cracking, was what I had to do.

The cell was eight feet long by four feet wide. Three paces by one and the ceiling a yard above your head with a slit window for air. No chair or bed – just the stone floor and three thin, dirty blankets. It was the desert, it got cold at night, but you had to use one of the blankets as a pillow or your head would be constantly banging off the stone. There was a bucket to piss in and another with drinking water, and once a day they took them away and brought them back, empty and full, and I don’t think they took much care which one was which. Twice a day you got your punishment rations, two slices of dry bread. That was it, dry bread and water. If they caught you trying to make the bread last they accused you of hoarding and took away what you hadn’t eaten.

I was in for smiling on parade. I hadn’t been smiling, I’d been squinting into the sun. No point in arguing. If you argued they put you in a straitjacket and then they could come in and beat you up and you couldn’t defend yourself, couldn’t even cover your head with your arms. So I didn’t argue. Smiling on parade was just an excuse. They wanted to break me. I concentrated on staying sane.

I made lists, A to Z. Flowers, birds, trees, rivers, countries, capitals, poets, musical instruments, makes of car, makes of cigarette. When I finished one list I started another. I took myself somewhere else so I’d still be there when they let me out three days later. And I was. I saw the disappointment on their faces. I didn’t smile. I stared straight ahead. I’d been in the hole. I was better than they’d ever be.

Reader: Jimmy Hutchison
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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