By Chris Drouet. (BP issue 2 -see notes about author at end)
I had been on remand in Brixton prison for almost four months and it was time to take the necessary steps to minimise the likelihood of yet another custodial sentence. The rehab route offered the best chance of achieving this. Phoenix House had quite a reputation for keeping people out of the boob. I wrote the suitably grovelling letters to Phoenix House and to my probation officer telling them that I had had enough of the life of crime and drugs and that I wanted to clean up and couldn’t do it alone, blah, blah, blah.
A couple of weeks later my friend Brian was visited by a mutual acquaintance but the visit was late morning and I was still banged up for lunch when he got back to the wing. He knocked on my door and told me to see him at slop-out and he’d turn me on. Naturally I am looking forward to having a hit and the lunch period can’t go quickly enough.
At 1 o clock the door opens and the screw tells me that Phoenix House are here to see me. Oh fuck, that’s all I need. Just when there is a fix waiting for me, they have to come, today of all days.
I go over to the hospital to see the people from PH but there is someone else there as well and they seem him first, so I’m over there all afternoon. When I get back to the wing I go straight to Brian’s cell and as promised he turns me on. I really needed a hit after all the bullshit I just gave PH.
When I finally get to Inner London Crown Court after another month or so, my probation officer and Cathy M from PH are there to do the bizzo for me. I had five or six charges and they were all hoisting* and all guilty pleas so the mitigation was everything. Cathy was doing her stuff when the judge says to me, “Stand up. I was thinking of sending you to prison for four years but I am very impressed with Phoenix House. What do you want me to do?”
Right on cue I say “I’d like you to give me another chance”.
“…So be it,” He says. “I place you on probation for two years with a twelve-month condition of residence at Phoenix House and let me tell you,” he continues, wagging his finger, “if you breach this probation order you’ll be brought back before this court and I’ll make sure it is in front of me and I’ll send you to prison for a long time.”…”
“So be it,” He says. “I place you on probation for two years with a twelve-month condition of residence at Phoenix House. And let me tell you,” he continues, wagging his finger, “if you breach this probation order you’ll be brought back before this court and I’ll make sure it is in front of me and I’ll send you to prison for a long time.
I couldn’t give a flying fuck what he said. I had my result and that’s all I cared about. Phoenix House? Don’t make me laugh! The question now is how do I give these two the slip? I’ll play it by ear and if nothing transpires I’ll just have to say something like, “Thanks very much for the result. I’ll be off now. I’ll see you around. Maybe.
The three of us get into a cab and we drop off my PO at the Elephant and Castle tube station. Cathy tells the driver that she wants to stop off at a tobacconist to get some cigarettes. When she goes into the shop I knock on the taxi partition and say, “Drive on. Piccadilly Circus.”
“…I dive on the floor of the taxi and the cabbie asks me what I’m doing and I say I just got out of prison this morning and now they want to send me back. “Say no more,” he says and put his foot down…”
I dive on the floor of the taxi and the cabbie asks me what I’m doing and I say I just got out of prison this morning and now they want to send me back. “Say no more,” he says and put his foot down.
I had some private cash and when I got to the ‘Dilly I scored immediately. A little while later I saw John S and I ask him if he wants to come to Selfridges to do some hoisting. He was game, so off we go.
When we got in the shop I told John to watch my back while I do the business. I was looking at some cashmere sweaters when I notice a store detective looking at me. We each recognised the other for what they were. I didn’t want to tear the arse out of it so I say to John, “Let’s leave it and try somewhere else. It’s on top here.”
When we leave the store I say to John, “hang on a minute,” and I wait by the door. When the store dick came out I confronted him and said, “Why don’t you fuck off a get a new yourself a new job because you’re no good at the one you’re doing!” He replied, “Next time Squire, next time”. I thought this was hilarious. Laughing, John and I started walking off up Oxford Street.
We had only gone a couple of hundred yards when we get stopped by the store detective plus two colleagues and a cozzer*.
“You’re nicked,” he says gleefully.
“What the fuck for,” I ask?
“Theft” he replies. Well what are we supposed to have nicked, I demand to know? “A cashmere sweater”.
“Where is it then you cunt?” They march us back to the store where the van is waiting to take someone else away to the police station so they sling us in as well. The copper asks what I was supposed to have stolen and he said that he would just go and get it. He came back a couple of minutes later with a cashmere sweater in a plastic bag. I said, “ You can’t do that, you’re fitting me up. I’ve got a good mind to give you a slap.”
He said, “You’re hard aren’t you?”
“ I’m hard enough to do you”, I said.
We go to Marylebone police station in Seymour Street where they waste no time in getting the charge sorted out for me. John wasn’t charged as the store detective didn’t actually see him do anything. I was charged with attempted theft. Bail was out of the question as they knew I was in court that very morning and I couldn’t give them any address other than Phoenix House. So true to form I’m kept in custody over night. What a fuckin’ drag. Out and banged up again in the same day!
All during the weekend I was entertaining hopes of bail. When I got back to court it was the same magistrate. A knock back on bail. As if I didn’t know. Back on bail once again to Brixton.
During that week in C-Wing, I write back to Phoenix House saying that it was all a terrible mistake and that I was confused and I beg them to give me one final chance. I don’t get any kind of reply before I go back to court. Well, no news is good news!
In court, my solicitor excels himself making a bail application. Although the magistrate ummed and ahhed a little bit, he did see fit to grant me bail.
I found out much later that while the bail app was being made the cozzer had gone out of court and phoned Phoenix House to see that everything was okay but they didn’t want to know. By the time he got back into the courtroom to give the magistrate the glad tidings, I’d already signed the bail book and gone. And I still didn’t go to Phoenix House.
By Chris Drouet, 1953-2009.
*Hoisting is a slang term for shoplifting
* Cozzer is, of course London slang for a policeman.
NOTE: Chris Drouet co-founded Black Poppy with Erin O’Mara and was a talented writer, artist and chef -as well as a brilliant shoplifter in his day! Chris was greatly loved and respected by many in West London and beyond, and although he gave up his wild days at age 35 or so, he remained on methadone and the odd pharmaceuticals until he sadly overdosed in his sleep, aged 60. We all miss him greatly. He leaves behind 2 daughters. xxxx