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1st April, 2020

Now that Britain is sodden with illegal drug abuse, which must surely be one reason its middle class is purblind about the destruction of the civilisation that formed it (it prefers to lie awake at night worrying about the temperature of the Earth in 250 years’ time), the present writer feels it may be worth touching on the subject, drugs being analogous to drink.

I contend that one of the most consistently overlooked periods of Britain’s Fall is the Nineties, that decade which really began with the Fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and was finished off in spectacular and nightmarish style in 102 minutes of carnage and mass murder on September 11, 2001.

I was 20 when the Nineties started, 30, naturally, when they finished and, as Captain Grimes says of the First World War in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, ‘I don’t suppose I was really sober for more than a few hours for the whole of it.’ Of course, I exaggerate – but only very slightly. Apart from a shortish period at art school, I spent the decade working in odd jobs, on building sites, in bars, delivering televisions and washing machines and that kind of thing. I also endured spells on the dole, sometimes unavoidably, sometimes electively. I used to be ashamed of those trackless days but as the years roll on and one’s perspectives change, I see now they were a very useful primer in the hard edges of life, where, as Kipling says in The Man Who Would Be King, you see ‘things from the underside where the lath and plaster is not smoothed off’. Plus they were not without a romantic side, in all senses of the word.

One of the reasons the careerist shits of modern, micromanaged British state and commerce are so unbearable is that they have never tasted that end of affairs, indeed would be horrified at spending a minute drifting in the manner I did.

Drugs added salt to this soup of a period. Alcohol was a given, like your meat and two veg, but drugs had a special, recherché air. I took against Ecstasy, largely because it was the driving force behind a highly influential and repellent music and cultural revolution, the effects of which are still with us today in the proliferation of bad art, bad pop music, bad incidental music, bad soundtracks, bad pub music and above all, sappy and stupid thinking. I did take it a few times and had interesting experiences on it, but I didn’t like what it represented and I didn’t like its squalid and sad death toll, yes a minute one statistically, but still a horrible way to die as the gurning wide-boys in bomber jackets counted their dirty cash. For me Ecstasy smelt of Huxley and Orwell’s nightmares. LSD I enjoyed, but that must be dealt with in a column of its own.

Hashish and speed suited me much better. I was one of those people who felt that speed was a better upper than coke, a view perhaps influenced by the price of cocaine in those days.  There isn’t space here to delve deep into the subject of cannabis: any honest analysis of usage tends to tie people up in knots, see for example Baudelaire’s essay on it. I am vehemently against its legalisation and advocate a strong police war against its use, because I know whereof I speak: ultimately it does no one any good, and now that it has mutated into skunk, it is a clear and a present threat to civilised life. That strange heavy, herbal smell you encounter everywhere in London? That is skunk, gentle reader. Tomorrow’s jihadis are smoking their way to psychopathy on it as you are reading this. Where’s the Old Bill? Painting rainbows on their cheeks, but I digress.

I have many drug stories from the Nineties, indeed I one day intend to collect mine and other people’s into a literary cabinet of curiosities, tales of delirium, delusion, exhilaration, joy, misery, sexual excess and deviancy which I hope would be read with interest by mental health professionals and the general reader alike. I have seen people drug themselves into states closely resembling the end stages of tertiary syphilis and, upon emerging, claim they had a wonderful time. One tale that will definitely make the collection is as follows:

In the early Nineties I found myself working for a labour agency fitting out a new departure lounge at one of our major airports. I worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week for £3.75 an hour – dinner breaks were knocked off your money.

I became friendly with a carpenter, a chippie in the parlance. We bonded over our taste for, as Withnail & I has it, ‘rare herbs and proscribed chemicals’. Dave was a big advocate of hashish over grass. Skunk was uncommon in those days and a lot of grass was a mephitic, seed-infested vegetation known as ‘homegrown’.

Soon Dave offered to pick me up in the mornings as he passed my place.

That first morning is a vivid memory: I climbed into his car at 6.15am on a Monday. He immediately produced a joint not that much smaller than the infamous Camberwell Carrot from Withnail, lit it and stamped his foot on the accelerator. He drove like a maniac and played heavy, Ecstasy-driven dance music. When I arrived to start my 12-hour shift at 7am I was mighty stoned. Coming back at 7pm, the process was repeated. This went on for months.

Before long we had got friendly with two Australian chippies, who, like all Australians I met in the Nineties, were devotees of the Doors and drugs. Now and again I’d take a Saturday off and one day towards the end of the job I proposed that the four of us should have a drink after work on a Friday: ‘a drink’ euphemising a great deal more than a pint of beer.

The chippies both lived near me in south London and were keen. Let’s call them Bruce and Sport.

Dave drove us back from work and soon we were in the pub, where he pulled out a large bag of speed. I was an old hand at this drug but Bruce and Sport had never taken it. One by one we went to the loo to partake. When I returned the chippies went off for their share. Feeling the drug mix with the lager I started to get an agreeable ‘buzz’. Dave said: ‘We’ll have a laugh in a minute. They don’t know how speed gives you the penis of a toddler.’

It was perfectly true: a side effect of amphetamine sulphate is that it shrinks your manhood to a distressing size – temporarily. Bruce, the taller of two, and somewhat rabbit-like, was wearing one of those Australian bush hats with one side bent up. He came back from the loo beaming. ‘I can fucken feel it already!’ he said. Sport reported a similar effect.

We started to talk excessively, another more notorious side effect of the drug. ‘Got any LSD?’ Bruce asked, all teeth, teeth which he was beginning to grind. Sport was beginning to drool ever so slightly. Of course Dave had LSD. He sold them a strip in a manner so blasé he might have been selling them baccy.

Now we were tipping the beer down and it was not long before the loo was needed again, another side effect. Bruce went first. Dave and I grinned at each other in expectation. Bruce emerged from the loo a troubled man: eyes close to wild – as well as being, naturally, drug-dilated. He gabbled to no real end and eventually, Freudianly, placed a hand over his crotch. I took pity on him and explained. ‘Oh fuck,’ he said, relaxing. ‘I’d just popped three acid,’ he said, ‘then I looked down and it was fucken gone.’

Three acid: to some that would be a conservative dose, to others something very close to inviting a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

After that it all got a bit messy as they say, with many beers and whiskies drunk. We ended up outside the local college lying on a lawn smoking dope. Bruce lay like a starfish projectile-vomiting to the side while simultaneously laughing hysterically: not a sight you see every day of the week. Sometimes he would break off to impersonate an Aussie Rules commentator he liked, as if his intoxication was a competitive performance. Sport talked obsessively about Jim Morrison to no one in particular.

I made my excuses and left.

The following Monday Dave and the two chippies were missing. He turned up on Tuesday looking rather worn down. I asked him what happened. ‘They came back to mine and we tore the arse out of it all weekend doing mixtures [ingesting a variety of drugs]. We tripped right out. Them two thought they was dogs. Going round on all fours fucking barking. Drove my missis mad. Fucking wouldn’t come out of it, would they? In the end I rang up Warlingham Park Mental Hospital and had ‘em nutted off.’

Not long afterwards the job ended. I never saw them again.

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