Pigeon English

Overnight, during a particularly disturbing slumber, my night visions incorporated scenes of being imprisoned in a Turkish jail, similar to that experienced by Billy Hayes in 1978 movie Midnight Express.

Unlike the character played by Brad Davis who attempted to smuggle hashish out of Turkey, though, my misdemeanour causing deprivation of liberty was smuggling Pontefract Cakes into the republic straddling Europe and Asian.

Quite what the Turks have against the offending liquorice candy was never revealed within the dream. But foot beatings with a stick, so graphically paraded in Alan Parker’s movie, were a regular occurrence as these visions played out. So much so that upon waking the soles of my feet were bl**dy killing me.

They say dreams have a meaning, but I can only guess what drove me down this terrifying sleep path. Life was tough in that prison; torture was common place. One example of prisoner violation being the forced removal of ear wax by trowel; contents utilised to make candles for the Istanbul prisons gift shop.

This gaol merchandising store also selling necklaces of what was alleged to’ve been inmates teeth. Although, looking at a selection of jewellery hanging in the shop vestibule, unless sharks have also been incarcerated there I suspect that allegation was wide of the mark.

The playing out of these night visions a truly daunting experience. The cells cold, mattresses uncomfortable and to rub salt in the wound Uber Eats wouldn’t deliver. Well, not without being paid with hard cash, of which I was bereft…… Please note – From this experience, it appears food delivery franchises are reticent to indulge in ear wax bartering in exchange for takeaway food products.

It should also be mentioned in despatches that inmate entertainment bore little to raise esprit levels. Movies were in Turkish, making them intelligible to a dreaming GJ Strachan, and the pool table was bereft of pockets; which if it’d had possessed pool balls and cues would’ve been a real pain in the ass.

I fruitlessly endeavoured to find a fellow inmate who spoke English; finding only one man possessing a smattering of my native tongue. Although, if truth be told, his complete knowledge of the language only extended to “What the hell are Pontefract Cakes, Gary?!

Lonely, I befriended a pigeon who I named Frankie. Whether it was a male bird wasn’t clear, and to be honest I’d little inclination to investigate it’s genitalia for confirmation. I’d imagine lack of intimacy while incarcerated to be tough; but not violating pigeon tough.

As the dream moved on at pace, in a foolhardy move yours truly attempted to teach Frankie some English. An episode tutoring me that parrots are far better mimics than pigeons. Although, on one occasion Francis did muster repeating the words Pontefract Cakes.

No doubt the randomness of these night visions will lead to some readers pondering “Bl**dy hell, what does Gary Strachan eat before retiring to bed at night.” Not to mention, inquiries like “What sort of idiot endeavours to teach a pigeon English?“….. Note – Other languages are available, but will be equally as difficult to teach a Columbidae.

At 6.25 am, sweating profusely, I eventually woke from this disturbing dream. This scene playing out with relief I hadn’t really been deprived my liberty in Turkey, along with a pigeon stood on my head.

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