Category Archives: Drugs

That Don’t Impress Me Much

In which The Author bursts someone’s bubble

Yesterday the rain managed to hold off all afternoon, so I decided to walk home through Aberdare Park. It was approaching four o’clock, and small groups of teenagers from the new ‘community school’ were making their way towards town.
‘Now hang on just a minute,’ I hear you think. ‘Isn’t the new community school just outside the town centre? Surely, if they were heading home they’d have been going in the same direction as you?’
Well, yes, in a manner of speaking that’s true – except that the new school wasn’t completed on schedule. It didn’t surprise me one bit. I’ve said for a long time that the last building project in this country to be completed on time and on budget was Stonehenge. It came as no surprise to anyone else, apart from the education authority, of course.
Having prematurely closed the three schools which were due to be amalgamated into the new super-school, RCTCBC had little choice but to reopen some of the existing buildings at the start of September. (They couldn’t reopen the Lower Girls’ School, of course, because they’d sold that off during the summer, as I told you in Last Chance to See…?) Staff and pupils alike are currently spread over three sites a couple miles apart, and it seems that a great deal of the school day is spent in simply getting from one to the other. Depending on whom you believe, the new building will either be completed by Xmas, or by next Easter, or in time for the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. I’ll try and keep you posted.
Anyway, I was on the slight incline between the lower gates and the Industry Statue, heading for the middle gates.
Gratuitous Industry Statue photo to compensate for lack of photos this week
Gratuitous Industry Statue photo to compensate for the lack of pictures this week
At the same time, three teenage lads in school uniform were coming the opposite way. They were talking among themselves, and one of them deliberately broke off from his mates and walked towards me. I don’t know why, but I was instinctively braced for trouble. However, I was wrong. Instead, he pretended to accidentally drop something from his pocket and it landed on the tarmac between us.
At the same time the lad said, quite loudly, ‘Oh no, my drugs!’
I glanced at it before walking on; it was a miniature Ziploc bag containing a small amount of some green substance.
I was out of earshot before his mates were able to reply. I didn’t bother to look back, either, so I don’t know what happened next.
I can only assume that this kid, on seeing a fairly long-haired old hippy type walking towards him, had decided that he’d earn some kudos by openly displaying his stash in public.
Well, if he should happen to read this, I’m addressing this next bit directly to him:
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I was incredibly unimpressed by your whole act. For one thing, you need to develop your sleight of hand a bit. Anyone who saw it could tell that your ‘dropping’ of your stash was anything but an accident. Also, your shocked tones at realising you’d ‘dropped’ it might have worked in a school nativity show, or maybe an am-dram production of a Frank Vickery play, but you really need to work on your delivery before it sounds convincing.
Furthermore, when you’re a little bit older you’ll have to be a bit more circumspect about the whole possession schtick. You’ll soon learn that you shouldn’t advertise the fact that you’re carrying anything in public, in case you get stopped and searched. You certainly won’t produce your stash in front of a total stranger, who might well be an undercover copper or a police informer.
Most importantly, when you get older, and after you’ve spent a bit of time with the sort of people I used to hang around with, you’ll discover that a little bit of green really doesn’t count for anything. The big boys and girls – the sort of heavy people whom you’ll eventually come into contact with – will just laugh at your pathetic, trivial, infantile first steps into the world of drugs.
I’m talking about the sort of people who’d smoke your little stash for breakfast and then send you on your way. I’m talking about people who will take all your pocket money in return for a little bit of dope, make you run errands for them so that you’re ‘obliged’ to them, and eventually set you on the road to small-scale dealing. You might have some minor run-ins with the law, and maybe gain some ‘respect’ from your wannabe gangsta mates, but that’s as far up the ladder as you’ll get. It’s only the big boys and girls who get to live in the big houses, drive the expensive cars, and set up the front businesses to launder their takings.
You, on the other hand, will have to mix with the worst sort of lowlife, the ones who take every prescribed and non-prescribed substance known to humanity, because they think it’s a ‘cool’ way to spend their time. I’m talking about people who will do literally anything for money, just to feed their habits. I’m talking about people who become so desperate for their next hit that they’ll steal anything that isn’t nailed down, betray the trust of their families and friends, and end up in a sad, socially-isolated circle of junkie mates.
I’m talking about people who don’t usually make it to my age. Their lives tend to run out pretty quickly once they get into that pattern of existence. It’s unusual to meet a smackhead much past the age of forty, believe me. By the time they’re in their thirties, their bodies are pretty much washed up. Even the ones who manage to steer clear of the hard stuff aren’t always safe. I’ve seen friends of mine lose their sanity by playing with forces they don’t understand. By contrast, I fully intend to live well into my eighties, or even longer, and keep my mind in gear for as long as I possibly can.
So, little boy, I hope you now understand why I didn’t pay any heed to your pathetic attention-seeking behaviour yesterday. I’ve lived far too long, seen far too many things, and seen too many people whom I used to know fall by the wayside, to be impressed by your little baggie. Please keep it to yourself from now on – or I’ll acquaint you with another meaning of the word ‘grass.’ When I do, try to think of it as just an interesting form of extra-mural education for the weak-minded.

Dream Topping

In which The Author contemplates a good night’s sleep

In recent months my chronic lack of sleep has reached the stage where it’s gone way beyond being a joke. The trouble is that I’m locked into a vicious cycle, where insomnia leads to depression and depression leads to insomnia. There doesn’t seem to be any way to break out of this endless loop. My sleep pattern has been fucked for years, and it seems to be getting worse. In fact, the last time I had any decent, uninterrupted, restful sleep was under general anaesthetic at Llandough Hospital (see Déjà Vu.) I’d give anything to relive that state, to be honest.
The daily two-hour-plus commute between Aberdare and Cardiff was where the rot set in, I think. Almost inevitably I’d fall asleep on the train on the way to work and/or on the way home. I was also justly famous for my lunchtime power naps, which is when the situation really became serious. They would fuck up my night’s sleep even further, because I’d been napping in the day – which all the experts say is a cardinal sin. Once I’d established that pattern, it was almost impossible to change it.
I can almost certainly get by with only three or four hours’ sleep a night. It came in handy when I pulled that all-nighter proofreading Josie’s thesis a couple of weeks ago (see Meanwhile, Deep in The Author’s Subconscious…)
On the other hand, there was an episode of The X Files about a guy who’d been surgically treated in a Black Ops programme so that he could go without sleeping at all. Unfortunately, the procedure turned him into a homicidal maniac. (Mind you, Margaret Thatcher claimed to need only a few hours’ sleep every night, and she was a raving lunatic by the time she stood down as Prime Minister. Truth is stranger than science fiction.) The CIA and other shady organizations around the world are alleged to use sleep deprivation as a means of torture. It’s a classic brainwashing tactic, as anyone who’s seen Michael Caine in The Ipcress File will know.
Every time I mention the problem to my GP, I get the usual list of suggestions to try and help me relax. None of them work as a long-term solution. I’ve tried every trick in the books (and believe me, I’ve read a few of them) in my relentless quest for eight hours’ sleep, but to no avail. Here are some of the Top Tips you’ll find in every self-help book on the subject of insomnia:
  • Have a nice warm bath.
    Yes, that usually helps me unwind all right, but on rare occasions I’ve unwound so much that I’ve almost dozed off. Waking up in a bath of lukewarm water doesn’t do much for your sense of well-being, believe me.
  • Have a warm milky drink at bedtime.
    Okay, and then I’ll have to get up at least twice in the night because I need a piss. It’s hardly going to be at the top of my ‘to-do’ list.
  • Don’t do anything stimulating, like watching a film or reading an exciting book.
    I wonder what they’d recommend as an alternative. Anything starring Bruce Willis in a white t-shirt is probably off the menu. Maybe I should try chick flicks or the novels of Jeffrey Archer for some mind-numbing entertainment instead.
  • Practice some relaxation exercises and/or visualization techniques.
    I’ve tried a couple of self-hypnosis tapes over the years. I gave up with the first one (which was a freebie from a rep in work) because the guy’s voice was so incredibly annoying. The other one worked for a very short period – in fact, the exact interval between the end of the recording and the cassette player switching off with a loud click. (Note to manufacturers: surely it’s possible to develop some sort of ‘sleep’ system, whereby the machine turns itself off silently…) I’m not sure whether I’m suggestible enough for these techniques to be effective, to be honest.
[A digression: About two years ago there was a comedy hypnotist at the White Lion, and I decided to go along to check him out. C— came with me, but she bottled out of taking part, as it was the work of the Devil, apparently. Anyway, the guy invited us to join him on the stage, and then asked us to perform a simple visualization exercise. During this preamble he walked behind us and touched us on the shoulder if he felt that we’d ‘gone under’ enough to take part in the show. I was one of the lucky participants.
However, while he was putting us well and truly into the trance state, something distracted me and the spell was broken. I felt a bit exposed on the stage with everyone else (there were about eight or ten of us altogether), so I had to play along for a while.
After pretending to be sunbathing on a very hot beach, riding a horse in the Grand National, and doing various other daft things, I decided to come clean. I told the guy that I’d been fully conscious throughout the whole thing. He didn’t believe me, and told me that I was still under the influence. He warned me that when the music started, I’d join the rest of the group in dancing to a disco era Bee Gees song. Sure enough, he started the music and I stayed perfectly still.
I looked him in the eyes, said, ‘Told you,’ and walked back to my table. A few minutes later, Kev confessed that he too had been making it up as he went along.
The truly bizarre part, however, was that my friend Maria, who had been seriously put under the ‘fluence, had re-enacted some ballet moves she’d learned as a child. When we told her about it afterwards, she had absolutely no recollection of the past forty minutes or so. Even when Dai B. showed her the video he’d taken with his phone, of her springing around the stage like Dame Margot Fonteyn, she was still none the wiser. Weird…]
  • Don’t drink tea, coffee or alcohol before bed.
    Well, I don’t drink tea or coffee anyway, and this is now my twelfth alcohol-free day. (Not my twelfth day ever, I hasten to add – I’ve signed up for Sober October along with a couple of friends. The idea is that people sponsor you to spend a booze-free month for Macmillan Cancer Support. I haven’t bothered getting sponsors, but it was a good excuse to have a break.) It hasn’t made any difference at all.
  • Try resetting your body clock by force.
    Been there, done that. About eighteen months ago I managed to stay awake all day, all night, and well into the following afternoon in an attempt to force my body clock back into sync with the rest of civilized society. I took Stella for her usual afternoon stroll into the Country Park, and when we returned to the pub I settled down to read the paper. I woke up about an hour and a half later on the bench seat, with my jacket over me and Stella lying at my feet. Rachel told me later that I’d nodded off ‘like Gaz on a bad night’ (see The Power of Suggestion) and she’d covered me up in case I felt cold. I was wide awake all night as a result. My uplanned mid-afternoon nap had thrown me right back to Square One. That was the end of that idea.
  • Make love before going to sleep.
    Yer ‘aving a bleedin’ laugh, incha? Like sleep itself, sex is just a distant memory for me. Even the strange erotic dreams I have in that post-REM lucid stage of semi-wakefulness don’t fill the gap. The imagined concept of a thing is not the thing itself. Just dreaming about sex doesn’t compensate for actually doing it.
Anyway, the self-help books are full of useful hints like these and many more besides, However, one major factor isn’t something the medical profession can really help with. I had a very long period of disturbed sleep when I had the impingement in my shoulder, which made it impossible to get comfortable in bed. The intermittent pain in my back isn’t conducive to lying comfortably either. My body stops my mind from relaxing by constantly reminding it that I’m getting old and creaky. The last thing I need is to develop a codeine habit by constantly popping painkillers. At least one of my friends has swapped a heroin monkey for a codeine one by the long-term use of OTC and prescription analgesics.
The biggest problem, though, is probably the fact that my bed is nearly twenty years old. I can date it fairly accurately, because Sam and I went to Courts in Aberdare when I was looking to buy it, and I was still living in Llwydcoed at the time. I bought my house fifteen years ago, and it definitely pre-dates the move.
[A digression: We had a rather unfortunate moment with the salesman when I was trying to choose a headboard. He showed us a couple of upholstered monstrosities, and then pointed to one which consisted of a series of vertical struts with a curved piece across the top.
‘Well, of course, if you’re into bondage—’
He didn’t finish this sentence. Sam and I both collapsed laughing; she blushed to the roots of her hair, and we excused ourselves to Servini’s café for a cold drink to ‘make up our minds.’]
Assuming that the bed itself is at fault, it seemed logical to attack the problem head on. There’s no way I can afford to buy a new one, so this afternoon I did the next best thing.
A number of my friends have waxed lyrical about their memory foam mattresses over the past few years. Once again, they’re a bit out of my price range, but earlier this week B&M had a new stock item: a memory foam mattress topper. It’s the same size as a standard double mattress, about an inch thick, and is designed to be laid on the existing mattress. The advertising material claims that the synthetic compound ‘moulds itself to your body shape’; even better, it’s supposed to retain warmth and help maintain one’s circulation; most importantly, it was well within my budget. I decided to treat myself with the money I hadn’t spent in the pub, and brought it home at about six o’clock this evening.
At the moment, it has yet to top out my mattress. In fact, even as I type, it’s lying on the floor of my bedroom. You see, it was supplied in a vacuum pack for easy transportation, which meant that it was compressed to a few millimetres thick. The enclosed information leaflet says that it should achieve its normal shape within about twelve hours at a temperature of 25° C, but that it will take longer at lower temperatures.
Well, fuck my luck! If I’d bought it last week, when we had our Indian Summer, there would have been a fair chance of my south-facing bedroom reaching optimum operating conditions. As things are, it will probably be tomorrow night (at least) before the drop-scone-thin piece of foam attains its full size. Furthermore, you’re supposed to allow 48 hours before using it, so that any flame-retardant chemical residue can disperse into the atmosphere. That takes us to Monday night. Roll on…
I might as well stay up again tonight, reading or listening to music, or maybe going for the hat-trick and writing a third blog in one day. Last night I forgot to take my Mirtazapine, and I was still wide awake when the dawn chorus kicked off at around five a.m. If I take it tonight, will I get some sleep, or will I just have another batch of weird lucid dreams instead, like the ones I had this morning?
I’m quite looking forward to Monday night, in fact. If the mattress topper lives up to its bill matter, I’ll be a very happy man. If it doesn’t, fuck knows what else I’m going to do with it. There’s no earthly way to pack the bloody thing back up and return it for a refund, that’s for sure.