“If you’re gonna take the piss Gary…make sure you can deal with the consequences…”
(Oh, how I would rue the above statement from my greatest of friends, Fitzer…)
Hello, and welcome again to another “Lost Chapter.” I am so taken aback with the reaction to this idea I had of sharing chapters that didn’t make the final edit of my book, “Joys of Joy, Finding Myself In An Irish Prison.” Since last week, my friends on Facebook have been voting between two “Lost Chapters”, and the chapter that follows won by a landslide. So, instead of me rambling on, let’s jump straight into a very embarrassing (but hopefully funny) time I endured during my shameful incarceration…
“Do You Know Who You Remind Me Of?…”
Life in Loughan House was notably improved with the arrival of Fitzer from Mountjoy. Even “Sarge”, our resident mood-swinger, seemed to stay up-beat and positive…and that is really saying something. Poor aul Sarge, a short, stocky Dubliner, with coal-black hair and a massive tattoo of the Liverpool FC crest on his belly, quickly earned the nickname of Kerry Katona due to his bi-polar mood swings. It was incredible to watch as he would go from unadulterated joy to “don’t even fuckin’ look at me” quicker than you could say “Atomic Kitten were shite“. And I should know, as he became the lad I shared a toilet with in our living arrangements in Pine Lodge. But his moods never stopped me from loving him. Alas, God love him, he would always put his hand out to be slapped….always. Like the time he lost a bet with “The Torment” (not a guy you wanna lose a bet to). Sarge’s punishment? He had to wear a dress for the day around the jail. It was fuckin’ hilarious. Miss Thornton provided said dress, and all credit to Sarge, he wore it with aplomb…in fact, if I’m honest, he wore it a little too well! I’m not sure if it was the separation from the opposite sex that I had to endure during my incarceration but, I remember doing a double-take when I first laid my eyes upon him in this figure-hugging little black number and thinking, “I’d bring her…I mean him…for a mocha choca latte and listen intently as he whined on about something or other…” – Snap out of it now Gary… come on man! 🙂 But Fitzer’s infectious, positive mood seemed to do the trick with good ol’ Sarge.
Fitzer wasn’t even in Loughan House a week, when he earned the title of “Jail Hero”. As he had only arrived, he had to double-up with another lad in the main house, which involved them sharing a room with bunk-beds. Luckily the lad in question also hailed from Dublin, and he was a nice (very tall…well over 6FT) guy to boot. This young man had explained to Fitzer that he suffered from a rare form of epilepsy, but that it seemed under control…so no need to worry. Au contraire, on only their second night doubled-up together, this poor lad had quite a serious seizure, and if it wasn’t for Fitzer….well I dread to think what might have happened! Fitzer just remembers hearing some strange noises coming from the top bunk…noises that woke him from his slumber. Next thing, he sees this young lad (who happens to sleep completely naked) trying to make his way down from his elevated bed. Fitzer caught sight of his face and instantly knew something wasn’t right. He jumped out of bed just in time to see the young lads face turn blue…he had swallowed his tongue! Without hesitation, Fitzer somehow managed to get his finger into the young mans mouth (something he knows he should not have done…but he panicked) and freed his tongue, just as the uncontrollable, and quite violent convulsions began. Fitzer had the wherewithal to know he had to let this young lad go through these convulsions, and so he just made sure there was nothing in the surrounding area that could have hurt him. Fitzer also shouted at the top of his voice in order to grab the attention of the officer on duty that night. And thankfully his cry for help was heard, as in rushed two officers just as the seizure was beginning to subside. The young lad soon began to calm a little as he slowly became aware of his surroundings…and aware of the fact that he was totally naked! Fitzer notes this, and not wanting the poor lad to feel any worse than he already does, he turns to the officer and says, “I’d say you got an aul shock when ya walked in…me in me boxer shorts, and this fella butt-naked shaking all over the place….it was not what it looked like officer…I swear!” This unites all in the room in laughter. Good man Fitzer.
But as for that poor young man, he had to be sent back to a closed-jail as Loughan House felt they weren’t properly equipped to look after him and his condition. He took the news really well I have to say. But he did something as he was leaving, and I know to this day he has no idea just how amazing his gesture was. He wanted to thank Fitzer, and so he left him with his iPod. You know the early model with the big wheel in the centre? That one. Doesn’t sound that amazing right? But it was the contents of this iPod that blew Fitzer’s mind. When I say this tiny device was filled with every song you can think of…every song…I ain’t exaggerating! It was incredible. All genres, all types of music from the best of today, to the classics of yesteryear. And it couldn’t have gone to a better man. Fitzer’s love for music was the first thing that we both realised we had in common when we first met back in “The Joy”. I mean, he lives, shits and breathes music…and all types too. He seeks inspiration from every musical avenue, so this iPod had all the avenue’s in one convenient place. He was so elated. Every time you would see him, he would be head-bopping away as he began trawling through the endless tracks, each one making him 12% happier! The only thing he lacked were decent headphones…so I came up with a plan…a plan that was to blow up in my “jaysis” face! 🙂
I was on regular TR (Temporary Release) as I was slowly nearing my release date. These bouts of TR are, in my opinion, essential in a prisoners sentence, as it goes someway (sadly, not all the way) to preparing you for your return to society. I was heading home to see my Mam, and hopefully Antoinette, that particular weekend…but I honestly had only one thing on my mind…GET FITZER THE BEST DAMN HEADPHONES…EVER! I wanted it to be a surprise as it’s very rare you get to do anything for this bloke…he just won’t let you. And yet he is constantly there for everyone around him. So, I was fuckin’ chuffed with myself when, on the day I was heading back to Loughan House, I made a quick stop in “The Sony Centre” in order to purchase amazing headphones for my amazing friend. I even burned the ear off the sales guy, as I explained in great detail who these headphones were for etc. I’d say “yer man” was only delighted when I eventually decided on a pair…a “whopper pair” if I do say so myself! I boarded the bus from Dublin back to Loughan House, and as the driver steadily brought myself and my fellow passengers to our destinations, I allowed my mind to wander. I began thinking of just how happy Fitzer will be when he sees these headphones. How he will really appreciate the thought that went into getting them for him. I feel a sense of pride as I have just done something for him for a change. “Jaysis Gar“, I think to myself, “you’ve done it now pal. He is gonna be fuckin’ delighted when he sees these.” I arrive at the gates of Loughan House, and as I present myself to the officer on duty at reception in order to say I am back and to have my bags searched, I also inform him of the gift that I feel will keep giving. He seems impressed. He fuckin’ should be! He tells me I’m free to go, and so I bound over to Pine Lodge (Fitzer’s heroics had earned him a room in Pine Lodge…proper order!) and head straight for Fitzer’s room. I feel slightly nervous, and note that my palms are actually fuckin’ clammy. Right…here we go. I enter Fitzer’s room and am met with a fantastic greeting. “Ahh Gar, me aul mucker…good to have ya back. It’s very fuckin’ quiet around here when you go home.” He bursts out laughing, but notes that I’m not joining in. “Everything ok pal?” he asks worryingly. Right Gar…now is your chance…hit him with your best shot… “Well bud, ya know the way we were both kinda blown away with the fact that you were left with the iPod that has it all”, I start, “and you know the way the aul headphones ya have are shite? Well, I wanted to do something for you for a change to show you that ya mean a lot, not just to me, but to all of us, ya bollox ya!” (“This is great Gar…hit him with them now” I think) “So, I got ya these. I asked the guy for a really good set, because I know how much ya like a nice round sound…I really hope ya like them pal…and thanks for being a deadly mate yeah?” My hands are trembling a little as I hand Fitzer his new headphones. He takes them off me…barely looks at them…flings them onto his bed…and says, “That’s grand isn’t it? Here wait ’till ya see this.” He then walks over to his open window where I can see he has placed a few slices of white bread. He begins pulling one of these slices apart and throwing the bits out the window. “Ya see?” he inquires, “All the cats come over to me now. They all know I’ll look after them…poor little fuckers!” WHAT?! ARE YOU FUCKIN’ SERIOUS? YOU WANT TO SHOW ME THE POXY BLEEDIN’ STRAY CATS??!! What an ungrateful bastard!! And when I point this out to him…well…he goes into a fit of laughter and basically slags the shite outta me (I later learned from his wife that, this reaction is just “his way”…the fucker 🙂 ). And the more angry I got, the more he slagged me. Next thing I know, “Gaga” has walked in and decided to join Fitzer in taking the piss out of me. Gaga is fuckin’ hilarious. A small in height, larger-than-life Dublin man with greying hair, he was a great man for the wind-ups…but he always…somehow…kept his nose clean. He’d get others to do his dirty work…and I was about to fall right into one of his traps! As all this “take the piss out of Gary” continued, Fitzer takes a mouthful from his water bottle…and that sent me over the fuckin’ edge. “Ya see you ya bollox?”, says I, “Ya care more about that poxy plastic 7-up bottle than you do about humans.” This brings tears of laughter streaming down Fitzer’s face. “Let me tell ya Gar”, he starts through laughter, “I got this bottle on me second day in The Joy…and it’s been with me ever since…I love this aul bottle”, and as he states this, he again erupts into a bout of laughter. “Well, fuck you and your bottle”, says I, as I storm out of his room, trying to stop myself from laughing…I didn’t want him to see that. And as I make the short trip across the narrow yellow corridor to my room, I can hear Fitzer and Gaga in knots of laughter. Two pricks! But soon, Gaga is in my room, and he quickly moves to say to me, “You should go in there when he’s not looking and rob that bottle and hold onto it for a while”. Little shit-stirrer…but it worked. I couldn’t believe I was about to play a prank on the first true friend I ever had…but his ungratefulness towards my gift spurned me on. “Get him out of his room Gaga” says I. “Not a bother” says Gaga, “and when ya do it, put the bottle in my room…I’ll do the rest”. You see? Always getting others to do his dirty work. So, Gaga removes Fitzer from his room long enough for me to creep in, grab the little “bastard bottle”, and place it inside a black Nike sports bag in Gaga’s wardrobe. And it’s not long before Fitzer cops this. “GAGA YA LITTLE FUCKER” he roars, “Bring back me bottle now pal”. He is laughing as he says this, and all the while, all Gaga replies with is, “I never took your bottle Fitzer. I never took it”. And, of course, technically the little fucker was right…I had taken it…God…what had I done?…..
The next day and a half were filled with Gaga writing anonymous ransom letters to Fitzer demanding all sorts of things in exchange for the safe return of this 7-up bottle. As for me? I couldn’t handle it reader. Fitzer began confiding in me. “I know it was Gaga…I just hope he doesn’t ruin the bottle. I’ve had it for me whole whack Gar!” Bollox! He doesn’t even suspect me. And a day and a half later, I fold like a nervous poker player. I burst into his room, like an over-dramatic, over-zealous soap actor shouting, “It was me…I did it…I took your bottle…fuckin’ Gaga has it now…but I took it…it was my fault”. The guilt I felt was unbelievable reader. I just couldn’t take it anymore. But the shock and hurt on Fitzer’s face when he realised it was me…someone who always had his back…someone who didn’t take the piss out of him…ahh, I felt like utter shite if I’m honest. Gaga comes bounding in, “Jaysis Gar, ya burst like a fuckin’ dam”, he laughs. Fitzer looks at Gaga and says, in a cold tone but with a cheeky smile, “You think ya know someone Gaga huh? Aul Gary wha?…he’d never do anything like that on me!” Himself and Gaga join together in a chorus of laughter, as I am longing for the ground to swallow me up. “If you’re gonna take the piss Gary…make sure you can deal with the consequences” says Fitzer to me. Ahhh shite! What’s he got planned?
I didn’t have to wait to long to find out….
“The X Factor” was in full swing, and amazingly, all of the prisoners housed in Loughan were feckin’ glued to it. It was so funny seeing supposed “hard-men” argue about the vocal range of that particular years contestants. Everyone had their favourite. Even I was enjoying watching this years show…well at least I was enjoying it, until Fitzer came thundering into my room one Saturday evening and said the words I was going to detest for a very long time; “Here Gar? Do you know who you remind me of? I mean you were both separated at birth? Stevi Ritchie Gar….Stevi.Fuckin.Richie!!” When I say that Fitzer was in knots of laughter, I really mean it. There were snots pouring from his nostrils. “FUCK OFF FITZER!”, I counter, but I know my retort is falling on deaf ears. And I make the rookie mistake of showing just how unhappy I am with being compared to this fuckin’ gobshite! (*note…I am sure Stevi is a lovely guy…sorry Stevi 😉 ). This encourages Fitzer further. “You’re every spit of him Gar…every fuckin’ spit! hahahahahahaha!” For those of you that don’t think you know this guy, or can’t remember him…let me refresh your memory:
(yes….he is a cry-baby like yours truly too 🙂 )
See what I mean? I was freaked. But Fitzer sought his revenge…and boy did he do a good job. He got every prisoner in Loughan House…every prisoner….to call me Stevi. He also got all of the officers involved too, again with them calling me…in front of everyone…Stevi! There is an intercom system in Loughan House that the officers use when they need your attention. And of course, thanks to Fitzer, in my case it would be, “BING BONG BING….Would Stevi Ritchie please report to the dinning hall…Stevi Ritchie to the dinning hall“. Brilliant. As much as I hate to admit it…it was brilliant. I was fuckin’ freaked! One Saturday night, as The X Factor was being beamed into our rooms and Stevi “Jaysis” Ritchie was about to take to the stage to “perform”, I am met with tap, tap, tap at my door. Then silence. Then, tap, tap, tap again upon my door. “I can fuckin’ hear Gaga giggling”, I shout back. Tap, tap, tap once more at my door. I give in. I open the door, only to be met by Fitzer, Gaga, and Sweeney-Todd all standing in a line, with sheets of blue kitchen roll held above their heads, like the Liverpool faithful hold their scarfs on “The Kop”. The lads were singing “Go Stevi, Go”, with the same written in black marker on said sheets of kitchen roll. I slam the door in their faces…and fall about my room laughing…I just didn’t want them seeing me doing that. It was really getting to me…which I knew was only fueling the lads further. One day I even cracked and said to Fitzer, “Come on man…Stevi “fuckin'” Ritchie? He’s accident-prone, clumsy, terrible looking, and he hasn’t a note in his hea…..” Fitzer is in stitches, and soon I am too, as we both realise I have just described myself…to a tee! “Ahh Stevi”, laughs Fitzer,” It’s alright. We all still love ya”. “Fuck off ya prick”, I laugh back. This onslaught lasted until Mr. Ritchie was eventually booted off The X Factor. But Fitzer and his beautiful, extremely funny wife, had one more trick up their sleeves…
Just before Stevi got the boot from the show, I was heading back to Dublin on TR, in order to spend time with my beautiful Mam, my incredible family, and the person I was falling hard for…Antoinette. Soon after I landed in Dublin and I was back in my Ma’s brightly lit kitchen, I located and launched my aging Dell laptop in order to have a snoop around Facebook. As I was still a prisoner, I wouldn’t post anything as I felt that would be disrespectful, but I enjoyed an aul snoop…well…I did…but not so much that day. Fitzer’s wife had decided to tag a fuckin’ photo of Stevi Ritchie on my page with the caption; “The bleedin’ double of ya Gary….GO ON THE STEVI!”. The little fecker! Soooo like her hubby too! The photo had a shit-load of likes and comments, and most were from my so-called friends and family. I rang her, only to be met by her laughing…very hard…down the phone….and soon I was too. Needless to say, I spent that whole weekend being called “Stevi” from my family and friends…everyone I knew in fact…except for my Mam. She was my rock…as always….though, I say “was”… that was right up until I was heading back to Loughan House. She stopped me in the hall of our home, and gave me the biggest of hugs. “Be safe” she began in that soothing tone of hers, “and take no notice of them slagging ya…you’re better than that…STEVI”. Well….she burst out laughing…and so did I. What a legend!
So, Fitzer got his revenge for “Bottlegate”, which only started because of how ungrateful the bollox was when I got him his headphones. Cats is it Fitzer? Well, I hope you and them mangy little shitehawks are happy together. Me? Jealous? NEVER!
COME ON STEVIE RITCHIE!!
The End…for now 😉
Thank you so much for making it this far, and I really hope this “Lost Chapter” did the trick for you. Yes, it is filled with funny tales, but we made our time as bright as we could. Myself, Fitzer, and all the lads we spent time with, made a conscious decision to block out the negative connotations that surround being incarcerated, and try to make what was a dark time in our lives, filled with shame and regret, seem a little brighter. Slagging included, I would have been lost without these men…especially my good friend Fitzer.
So, even in your darkest of times, if you look hard enough, you will find some light. Embrace this light. Let it wash over you. The power of a positive thought is quite remarkable….trust me…I know. And, as always, if you need someone to help you see your light, I am always here for you.
Thank you all for your continued support. You are all simply amazing, beautiful people 🙂
Over and Under ladies and gentlemen…let the light wash over you…you’ll be so glad you did 😉
If you would like to read my story, “Joys of Joy, Finding Myself In An Irish Prison”, it is available in Ireland in all good book shops, and online here:
Thank you 🙂