Lawlessly Yours: Living life in the drunk tank

Bill Lawless
Bill Lawless
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The Asssociation of Chief Police Officers, otherwise the top rozzers, and the government, aka the Association of Eton Old Boys, have agreed plans for ‘welfare centres’, typically weasel words for drunk tanks.

This is the terminological equivalent of calling a dung cart a honey wagon.

I am amazed that they didn’t call on me for technical assistance, because when I was a seafaring man I experienced a ‘welfare centre’ in a dockyard nick in Klaipeda, a Baltic port on what was then on the wrong side of the old iron curtain.

It was particularly cruel because I was tacking back to he good ship MV Skagern, a Swedish vessel which was my floating home for a stretch in 1962, virtually a millionaire with an enormous roll of the local currency having pulled off the deal of a lifetime.

It happened in the bar bogs when a local sidled up and wanted to buy my suede jacket which had cost me a bomb in Malmo.

He offered me thousands of Litas for it, then a few thousand more for the sweater I wore underneath it.

The sucker departed leaving me with enough funds to buy the contents of the local vodka distillery.

It also left me wearing only a string vest in a temperature well below freezing.

I shimmered back to the dock side guardhouse where the goons booked me back in, frisked me and wondered how come I had signed out with a little money and reappeared hours later with a donkey choker wad of wonga?

No answer to that.

I was frogmarched into the concrete bowels of the cop shop and shoved very rudely in the welfare station, aka the drunk tank, where I was emotionally greeted by two other crew members and several locals who were totally steamboats.

The tank had concrete ledges for sleeping upon.

I was given one blanket, and Gawd alone knows what other occupants had done in it.

Come the morning I was booted out in the cruel hard world without a Litas to my name.

Not that it mattered.

I learned later that the currency could only be spent in Latvia where there was nothing to buy anyway.

Then the skipper fined me half a week’s wages for disgracing the ship.