On Friday, a Belgravia Police Sergeant kindly gave me access to the holding cells at this inner London police station as part of my research for Book 2. I asked him to shut me in one and the heavy metal door slammed shut so loudly it was as if the door was twice the size. The concrete cell of about 8ft x 9ft (each cell for one occupant) was designed to minimise any risk of suicide. There were no edges from which someone could wedge a belt or fabric. There was a foam mattress & pillow covered in thick plastic to easily wash off vomit and blood. A window of tiled thick clouded glass allowed in whatever natural light London could muster and there was a small metal loo, and a button to press for help. (The cells were almost all empty as those buttons were not working properly and Charing Cross was picking up the slack).

The sound of that door, the concrete walls & floor, the thick plastic, stale air, the oppressive compressed space sealed shut, the vacuum of freedom lost, I could not help thinking of the countless stories that led people to sit on that same mattress and stare at those same 4 walls, and as well, the service of the policemen who day in day out process and protect, no matter what they see, hear and feel. Very early Saturday & Sunday mornings are, predictably, the peak times, picking up the pieces.

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