I heard recently that a substantial percentage of Scotland's prison inmates have severe mental health problems, and today I find myself in company of two nutters.
"Ah know your face fae somewherr," says one to the other.
"Mebbes," comes the reply with a knowing nod of the head.
The first man is a big personality, he fills the whole room with his presence. His voice is loud and he's overbearing, even intimidating. He takes a long good look at the other.
"You in Barlinnie at the riots, at Christmas?"
The other quietly smirks, "Ah wis".
The first man guffaws in an over enthusiastic show of friendship. "Ah knew Ah knew yer face. Whit year wis that? Ah knew ah knew ye fae somewherr."
"Eigh'y-six, Christmas eigh'y-six, it wis" says the other and he continues smirking.
They shake hands and introduce themselves,
They are men well into their forties, maybe even early fifties. The first is dressed in the high fashion of the streetwise; a 'Yankees' baseball cap, tan coloured fleece crewneck, slate grey bodywarmer, tight, tight Prada jeans and white, white trainers.
The quiet man is more rustic looking. He wears the dark green parka of the countryside fisherman or guys you see out with lurchers.
Both are rough and unshaven, faces set hard and mean, empty, expressionless eyes that people get frightened by.
The noisy one begins again, "Ei-ghy six, aye, brillyan' that Christmas. Bootin' the doors when the screws went by. 'Yer no' lockin ma door'. Do you mind Rab S.? Aye, he stieys roon the corner noo. We wir jist talkin' aboot that time."
The quiet one stays quiet but grins. "Aye, men'al" he says.
"Ye stieyin' local?"
"Ah've heard that's bad. How is it?"
(Jings, it must be terrible if he thinks it's bad I think to myself)
"Awright. Ye've jist got tae watch the young wans, that's aw".
The big one agrees, "Ah know, a pint a buckfast and they think thur John Wayne."
"Aye, they'll take emdy oan."
Then the quiet man continues, "Ah'm jist oot again."
"Ur ye? How ye copin' mate?" the loud one asks with sincere concern in his voice.
"Hard goin'," he says, "Tryin' tae exist oan £90 a week!"
"You're tellin' me," the other agrees heartily, "Ah don't think so! It's a joke - ye could spend nine'y quid a night in the boozers."
Yeah, it is a joke, right enough.