Alex Massie

Conrad Black and Paul Pennyfeather

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Conrad Black, late of this parish of course, describes his daily routine after his first year in prison:

I get up just after 7 except on the weekends and holidays when it is possible to sleep in. I eat some granola and go to my workplace where I tutor high school-leaving candidates, one-on-one, though sometimes I have to deal with up to four at a time, around my desk, and talk with fellow tutors and other convivial people. I lunch around 11 with friends from education, work on e-mails, play the piano for 30 to 60 minutes, return to my tutoring tasks by 1, return to my unit at 3, deal with more e-mails, rest from 4 to 6, eat dinner in the unit then, and go for a walk in the compound or recreation yard for a couple of hours, drinking coffee well-made by Colombian fellow-residents, and come back into the residence about 8: 30, deal with e-mails and whatever, have my shower etc., around midnight, read until 1-1:30 a. m. and go to sleep. On the weekends it is pretty open...

The days and weeks tend to resemble each other. Time does go by quickly but a bit imperceptibly. I have quite a lot of e-mail and correspondence and limited telephone traffic. Essentially, I try to keep as well in touch with people and events as possible and I am lucky that many friends outside want to correspond. I psychologically live outside this facility most of the time...[Though] In some respects, there is less intrusion here of the irritations of daily life than on the outside. Not for the first time, it's obvious that Evelyn Waugh was right: "Anyone who has been educated at an English boarding school will always feel comparatively at home in prison." Actually, a low security prison such as Black's strikes me as being a pretty cushy number that may be considered preferable to the chilly conditions that still prevail at many an expensive educational penitentiary.

On the other hand, the second half of Waugh's famous line - "It is the people brought up in the gay intimacy of the slums who find prison so soul-destroying" - may not be as apposite as the first.

[Hat-tip: Jon Chait]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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