THE PRISON DIARY OF JEFFREY ARCHER
'On the first night of my sentence in HMP Belmarsh a well-meaning prisoner approached me in "the cage" - the big, communal cell where they put each day's new arrivals from the Old Bailey until the initial formalities such as strip-searching, finger-printing and cell allocation are completed. This was the warning he whispered to me:
"You're a tall poppy so don't let them put you in a peter on the wing 'cos if you get the least bit lairy with any of the big faces they'll snooker yer 'amsteads or give yer a servin' with claret. So take the cucumbers! For Gawd's sake take the cucumbers!"
'Disadvantaged by my Eton and Oxford education I was unable to translate this advice, which was just as well for I would have been scared stiff if I had understood it.
'What my informant was saying was that as a high profile prisoner (tall poppy), if I was allocated a cell (peter) on one of the ordinary prison landings (wings) the hard men (big faces) might knock out my teeth with a billiard ball (hampstead Heath - teeth) or beat me into a bloody pulp (serving the claret) were I to get slightly uppity (lairy) with them.
'The punch line of rhyming slang horticultural advice about cucumbers was a reference to numbers. "Taking the numbers" means applying under rule 43 to be segregated in isolation for your own protection as a vulnerable prisoner.
'Applications for this Rule 43 protection are regularly made by jailed police officers, prison officers, and sex offenders. My adviser evidently felt that any passing Cabinet Minister would be wise to take the same precaution.'
I have decided to take Jonathan's advice and have therefore refused the cucumbers.
Prison Slang Glossary
Aristotle - Chardonnay