On the first day of spring 2003 the rain came down. I was running, across the road, past the Halal butchers, up Percy Road, over the curb at Haydyn park, past the school. Splodge, splash, slap and an inch of rain would burst up from under my sole. I was drenched through, and cold, but getting warm. Just up ahead there was a boy, hooded and marching off briskly in the drizzle. I slopped up to him and grabbed a hold of his shoulder. “Ace, sorry man, the rain came down and we got stuck under a fucking shelter!”
“Tchah! Fuck off, b'fore I open up ur face, geez! Making me wait around with hotrocks in muh pockets for nuttin'. Nah! fuck off away from me, tchah!”
“Ace, I'm sorry......”
At that, Ace turned around and we both stopped . His fist was clenched and I could almost feel the dense slap of it hitting me in the face, the blood falling in the rain, bursting open like an ink splodge and being washed away.
“I fucking warning you, yeah, you junkie cunt, stay away and don't call me no more! There's ten junkies to every fucking dealer, I don't need to be a waiting for no one.” And then he brought up a huge lumpy gob of phlegm, spat it on me and moved on.
Still not wanting to let the deal go I followed, silently, right up close. As he made to turn the corner he caught a sight of me behind him, turned around and stood up tall.
“You fucking following me now, geez!!! You want me ta put ya down on da floor? RIGHT FUCKIN' NOW!!!” Ace was up against me, pushing me back down the street with his chest. I reversed with him, wanting to get away but knowing it was too late. He didn't even punch me, just kind of smashed his palm into side/top of my head and knocked my hat off into the rain. I stumbled back, then scrambled clear. Ace didn't pursue. Instead he put his hands in his anorak pocket then bounced off in the wet, hollering insults and bobbing from side to side like the little gangster he thought he was.
The rain is relentless. It is now coming down in big cold blobs. I am running again, back to mum who I left waiting for me outside KFC. She couldn't keep up the chase to get to Ace and so I had gone on alone. On my way back I am fumbling in my pockets for loose change. The streets look slippery. London has never been so wet. A cold, irritating sweat is running off my skin with the rain.
“Did ya get it?” my mother asks as I hurry into KFC completely sodden. I shake my head. “Wot? He wouldn't serve ya? Ya fuckin' joking me ain't ya Shane?? He didn't give it ya? The Cunt!”
“Come on, we'll have to see Ritchie”.
Ten minutes later Mum and I are are pulling our jackets tight under a dripping 207 bus stop. I am peering out into the downpour down the road and mum is looking up. We keep seeing Ritchie but when he gets close it's not him.
“Where is this cunt?” I ask mum
“Phone 'im Shane, it's well over fifteen minutes! Tell 'im it's fucking pissing down!” I look at her.
“If he doesn't care we're fucking dying I'm sure a bit of rain won't wet his conscience.”
“Well fucking tell 'im we're sick, that we'll go somewhere else!” We had our moan, the same moan we always have, the same moan every junkie has, and then we bottled our anger and waited some more.
It is almost noon. At least five buses have splashed by and unloaded their charge. Ritchie still has not arrived. I pick out some loose change and try to dry it. My mother looks extraordinarily angry. I must look the same. “I'll go and phone him.” I say. Mum doesn't even reply.
“Shane, bro, listen up, you're not gonna believe this, but I'll be 'arf an hour, bro, tops! I'm just cutting da ting up. Serious. Take a coffee, dry off an' I'll beep you in thirty and give you a little bump for free, yeah? I know you like d'em big rocks!”
That I came walking slowly back told mum that not much would be happening soon. She screwed her face up, “''Ow long?”
“Half an hour. He says it's definite and he'll bump the rocks up.”
Mum's face looked as broken as the sky, kinda grief stricken.
“Come on, we'll get a coffee and wait.” I said
“He should fucking pay for it!” She replied
The rain is still coming down. It is not beautiful. The water in the gutters is over-flowing and rushing its way to drains like wild rapids. We are in the railway tavern café dripping wet. My socks are soaked because of the splits in the soles of my shoes. Mum is sipping a cup of scolding hot coffee and staring out into the mist. From every straggle of her blond hair rain drips and seeps in under her jacket. She looks so uncomfortable and makes me feel ten times worse. I turn and stare out into the downpour too. Occasionally we ask each other: “How longs it been?” Thirty minutes pass like an eternity. Cars splodge by and the occasional person runs for shelter. There are two thin girls, shivering, laughing and dripping wet, now taking cover just outside the window. They are blocking our view. A thin, vulgar arse in bright pink leggings - God, my life has led to this. My phone beeps. Text message: I'm around,T.
“Was that 'im?” Mum asks, jumping to life with the phone.
“Nah, it's Trooper, he says he's around.”
“Well lets fucking go to him then! Fuck this waiting shit. That fucking Ritchie won't be fuckin half an hour anyway, fat fucking chance!”
“Nuh, we've ordered. I'm not doing that. We'd have no fucking dealers left if we worked like that. Anyway, by the time we've phoned Trooper, got to him and waited, we'll have probably seen Ritchie and be home. If he's not here after 30 we'll leave” I rolled mum a cigarette. We kind of used them as timers. After about the tenth mum asked me the time.
“That's 45 minutes, shane. This cunts taking the piss!”
“Ok, fuck him. Lets go see T, hey?”
My mother nods.
We're both squeezed in a phone booth. It smells of urine and stale alcohol. Mum's wet hair is in my face as she tries to listen in down the line.
“Yeah T, we want three and three.”
Mum pulls an urgent face and holds up four fingers.
“Hang on, Four... Three B, FOUR W... yeah, four.”
“Be at Da Barrier in ten.”
“T, make sure you're there or text, I've no credit on my phone?”
“I be d'ere.”
Again we are splashing through the wet. Mum is running and I'm walking very quickly. My socks are squelching and my feet feel heavy. Every now and again mum stops to catch her breath. I frantically check the phone not wanting to miss the meet. The rule is addicts wait but dealers never do. They circle once and if you're not there they leave. If that happens the chances are they'll refuse to serve you again. Occasionally you'll get a call “Where are you, bro?” But that's as loving as they get.
When we reach the barrier there is a man there with only one arm. His face is jaundiced, almost flourescent. “You waiting for T?” I ask. He nods. We look at a bench nearby but it is soaked through.
“Whatcha after, the B?” he asks sniffling and nodding.
“Both.” I reply
“Both huh? Nice. Er, Mate, if I give ya two quid d'ya think ya could sell us a couple of hits of the white? Even just a pipe?” I lie and tell him it's not for me. He flattens his hair back using the rain as gel then starts jittering and fidgeting about. He's annoying the shit out of me. He's jabbering away talking nothing just to pass the time. Half of what he says is not even to me.
“It's fuckin hot here. I don't like meeting here. Got pulled 'ere once. Known T long? Fucking hot cunt. D'ya live round ere? D'ya have a phone?” I tell him I've a phone but no credit. He says something about pressing the hash key, dialling sixes, fours, asterisks and plus signs and like that you can make free calls. “That's what I do.” he says. I don't even ask why he hasn't got a phone. Same as I don't ask why he hasn't got an arm. I know. I know it all. There's only a few stories in this part of town. We stand together in the wet waiting for Trooper to show himself through the rain.
As Trooper rifles through counting the notes I have given him, water is hitting his dark brown hands. “It's too much!” he laughs “You must be fucked, geez!”
“What you talking about? Four and three = sixty.”
“Four and three? Whatcha chatting, Bro, I only have two and one! Thats what you ordered, man?”
“T! Come on!!! when have I ever seen you for that? When? You got nothing else?” T shakes his head “Nuh, I'm all out, gotta reload, bro. Two, three hours.”
“Fuck! The two? What are the two, white or brown?”
“Give us that. Will you defininitely be back around later?”
“Yeah, jus call me bro, call me.”
I take his crumbs, give him mine and the we both head off in opposite directions.
Mum knows something is wrong. The deal had taken too long and she must have seen Trooper handing me notes back. She looks at me like she's on the verge of a breakdown. “Don't tell me he didn't have no fucking white! Please don't fucking tell me that!”
“There's white, but only two.” I say
Mum's disappointment serves her well. Where she had panicked imagiining there was nothing now two sounds like heaven. Normally she would have had a full grand mal seizure because of that. At a quick pace we splash off home. The rain doesn't matter any more. Fuck the rain. Who cares about a little rain!
It's just gone two. The crack is all gone and I've one small hit left from my bag of smack. We're standing out in the open of cathnor Park. The place is being lashed and blast cleaned by the deluge. This time we are waiting for Dan. Normally we only see Dan when we're desperate, want small deals, or just to keep contact, but this afternoon he was the nearest dealer who would come out in the wet and so he picked up our business.
“Why does he want to meet us near the fucking swings when it's pissing down!”
“I don't know??? This is where he meets people... he thinks it safe.”
“Safe? Two adults hanging about in the rain near a fuckin childrens playground! Silly Cunt!”
As I'm already soaking wet I go and take a seat on the rubber swings. I sway gently back and forth. Mum gives me a horrible look then wanders over and jumps on one too. She looks at me and kind of screws her face up so as not to laugh. In the rain we start swinging. At first slowly and then faster and faster and higher and higher, mother and son, laughing, off our heads on crack cocaine, waiting for a two bob dealer to appear from God knows where and keep us happy. Just as I'm about to go right over the top bar I see a dark shadow slinking past over by the far side of the railing. It's Dan. He looks horrified and completely pissed. I jump off the swing and go and meet him “What da fuck, bro!” he screams “You're hotting the place up wiv dat shit! Fuuuuck!!”
“Yeah, and you're late AND it's raining AND it's even hotter two adults hanging around a kids park in the rain. That's hot Dan. What's the B like? Your last stuff was shit?”
“Pfff, 6 outta 10, so so from all reports. But the white's kickin'! Honestly. My phones red for that shit!”
Dan gives a sly little down turn of his hand, slips me the bags and takes my notes. He doesn't count them but puts them straight in his pocket. I clock that, knowing if I'm ever short I can meet him light and he won't realise until later. I sort the little blue bags (heroin) out from the white (crack). The white is ultra small. That's why he said it was good. Whenever a dealer says it's 'good stuff' he's preparing you for a small deal. He notices me feeling the size of the bags and the puzzled look on my face.
“They're point three, bro, bang on.”
I knew that was bollocks, but so was arguing. You pay your money and take what you get.
Mum must have seen the deal ending and had gotten off the swing. She is now walking slowly up ahead waiting for me to catch her up. “What's the size like?” is the first thing she asks as I join her.
“Small, but he says it's good stuff.”
“ ” she says nothing, and I'm thinking the same.
I'm looking out the window, the rain isn't letting up but getting worse. It is settling in for the day. The afternoon is dark and oppressive. I suck in a huge pipe of crack and nearly choke. My throat burns. Before I can say anything mum comes wandering in: “That's fucking shit! It's all fucking soda! God this'll be good. I knew we shoulda waited for T to come back around.”
I load up an extra big hit and suck it down. It makes me feel sick. 'Shit' doesn't mean it's not crack, just it's weak. It still gives enough to settle us down. If it wasn't actually crack there'd be a riot.
Not even an hour later mum is fidgety and irritable. She looks wired sad and sits down pretend watching the TV. I look at her. “D'you want a bit of the B?” She shakes her head. I look at her again. Then at the TV. Then the floor. “Are you thinking the same as me?” I ask. She nods, then says;. “D'you wanna phone?”
We scrape together more money. I probably give mum advance rent for the next year, and then we are pushing our arms into jackets and walking at a fast pace down towards The Church on St Stephens Avenue. The rain has not let up and now the evening is pulling in. The city smells of wet concrete and supper. We stand under the stone arch of the church and wait. A familiar black shadow comes floating by, it's Trooper.. “Just one of you” he says out the side of his mouth. This time Mum slips out I remain waiting. Every five seconds I check to see if she's coming back. Then she is back and looking amazingly happy.
“Everything ok?” I ask suspiciously
“Yeah, OK!” She replies handing me my two bags of heroin “The whites all in one, in a fucking piece of tissue, we'll have to divide it at home.”
“Did he give you extra?” I ask, knowing her sudden happiness has all to do with what came out off Troopers hand and nothing to do with life or the world.
“Did he fuck! I'd tell you if he had.” I don't press the issue. There's no point.
It's almost midnight, my crack is all finished and I've just taken a fix of smack. In the bedroom I can still hear my mother's lighter flicking and then her pottering around rushing from the hit. I'm pissed off. Her crack lasts a full hour longer than mine. “Just taking it slow tonight,” she lies “d'you wanna do my recycle?”
I make the inevitable mistake of doing that. Taking her days crack pipe, filling it with half a centimetre of acetone, swirling it around, pouring it out on a ceramic tile, setting the liquid ablaze, and then scraping up the brown residue that's left with a razor blade and getting four extra pipe loads of recycle. Of course, that overrides the effect of the smack and thirty minutes later I'm wired again and cooking up another fix.
It is just then that mum comes in. Her eyes are wide as saucers and she begins pacing around as though she's committed some awful crime. I look at her. I am feeling the same and have my wrist tied off and am jabbing for veins in my fist. “Er, Shane, d'you think there'll be anyone on?” she asks.
“There's always someone on,” I say, “Sinbad'll be on.”
She nods slightly and stands there looking at me with the needle. The she looks at the TV. Then at the floor. “Shane, are you thinking what I'm thinking?”
This time I nod and say “yeah,” pressing my needle down millilitre by millilitre. “We'll have to go out though, Sinbad won't come to the door.”
Mum walks over to the window. She pulls the curtain back to reveal a deep black night. The wind is blowing about and the rain is still falling relentlessly, being picked out by the street lights. There is nothing out there but wet and cold. The city is asleep... almost. We make our call, slip into wet jackets, then scurry downstairs and out into the night.
On the second morning of spring 2003 the rain came down. I was running, down Uxbridge Road, past the burnt out postbox, under the bridge, across the lights, onto the grass. My shoes were sinking down in the mud and I was slipping to meet my man. Sinbad. Shepherds Bush Green. Two and Two. The last dance of the night.
Hope Everyone's well... the post is a bit scrappy in places but I'll edit it over the days... Love & Thoughts as ever, Shane. X
**Note 1: B = brown. Heroin; W = white. Crack**
**Note 2: What is described in the above post is an exceptional day. From my experience (in London), scoring is simple and straightforward. 90% of the time it is done and dusted within 30 minutes. Most my dealers had cars, bikes or little scooters. It'd be one call and 10-15 minutes later the bell would be ringing.
On the first day of spring 2003 the rain came down. I was running, across the road, past the Halal butchers, up Percy Road, over the curb at Haydyn park, past the school. Splodge, splash, slap and an inch of rain would burst up from under my sole. I was drenched through, and cold, but getting warm. Just up ahead there was a boy, hooded and marching off briskly in the drizzle. I slopped up to him and grabbed a hold of his shoulder. “Ace, sorry man, the rain came down and we got stuck under a fucking shelter!”
God, we were cruel kids. But battered and beaten at such a young age in life, what else could we have been? What chance did we ever really have? When life tramps and kicks wearing 21up Steel toe-capped DM boots, what else can one do but kick back? And so we kicked back, but not at an invisible life that as yet we had no concept of, no, our return blows were directed against people, objects and possessions. We kicked, smashed and bottled our way through tender years, and in our wake we spilt blood, teeth and glass. More than just delinquency, vandalism and violence, this post is about friendship and escape. It is about what happens when young kids are united through abuse and face that world together. In a way it is about hope, in another about hopelessness. It is as much about death as it is of life. For as we live so we die, and in those days we died so much. This post is dedicated to the lost and the broken... this one is for Simon & Shelley... As always, this one is for You.
* * *
Simon & Shelley Maudlier were my best friends. It had been that way ever since I punched Darren Marsh in the throat for going “Urrrgghhh” when the Mayor kissed Shelley after she handed him a bouquet of flowers in front of full school assembly. In what should have been her proudest moment she stood there crying as the school jeered her presence - laughed as the Mayor kissed a greasy-haired girl who smelled of stale urine and burnt wood. As Shelley was led of the stage in tears, a pair of oversized brown corduroy trousers sat down beside me and a grubby nail bitten and scabby hand was placed upon my kneecap. That was Simon and it was the beginning of the first friendship of my life.
Like me, Simon & Shelley were the produce of alcoholic and drug addicted parents. For the first six years of their lives they had travelled Britain and Ireland going from flop house to flop house, from one social service unit to the next. Every time they were on the verge of being taken by the authorities the family would flee, until finally settling down in London. It seemed that from the womb all they knew were vile beatings, social services, alcohol and abuse. At least I had had half an hour of innocence before being hit by life. But not for them, they were born straight into the shit. It was all they knew and it had only ever gotten worse.
At the age of eight they were forced by a drunken carer to have sex with each other. This practice had continued over and beyond that, and for the years I knew them they engaged in sexual activity together. It was in their bedroom one day, whilst we were playing, that they confided in me what they did together. I remember Simon touching Shelley, then Shelley kissing him almost as a token of acceptance for what he had done. They fell back on the bed laughing, both looking at me with dark brown eyes. They showed this to me. They were proud of it. Not proud of the sex, but of the adult behaviours they were mirroring. At the time I laughed along with them. I saw nothing wrong with it. It was almost the same as badly smoking a cigarette or knocking back a teacup full of vodka - it was that kind of naughtiness and nothing else. Now it’s a memory which I can’t ever forget, and it’s sad, because they showed me this and then Simon retook up his Space Invaders game which hung around his filthy neck and Shelley returned to playing imaginary families with her collection of cheap naked dolls which she'd pulled from dustbins. And that image of us on the bed, of the broken innocence that it relates, forever reminds me that this is a cruel and unrelenting world, and that our place within it is a hazardous one. But at the time, it meant nothing. Sure, we knew what sex was - the physics at least- we had seen it all our lives, but we didn’t understand the intimacy or the morals... we had no oversight. All we knew is that adults and animals did it and there seemed no laws concerning where or with whom. It was a reflection of innocence, that is all. But innocence cannot always be understood or accepted, and the events of those years would be a 10 year timebomb between brother and sister that would explode and blow them both off the edge of the world.
After Simon & Shelly's confession and me realising that what was going on in their house was the backside of my own mirror, we became inseparable. Our days and evenings were spent together toughening ourselves up, bonding and preparing our offensive. Our first decision was to join a boxing club. We were weak targets for the bullies and in order to walk the streets and parks untroubled we needed to learn how to throw decent right hooks. So one Wednesday we joined Chelsea Boys Boxing Club and on Thursday we knocked each others teeth out. The three of us taking it in turns to square up to one another and direct our anger and pain towards a physical body. But we never hurt one another: we toughened each other up. And as we lay in the park, on the grassy hill with black eyes and busted noses, we joked and laughed as love and friendship throbbed and stung upon our young bodies. We felt tough not just against the other children, but against the adults too. The same adults who had heaped abuse upon us ever since we were born. We were fighting a force much more twisted and perverse than our immediate peers, we were fighting our homes and our histories. We were fighting ourselves.
Not many people realise just how violent Britain is. It’s a cruel, cruel place, especially for a kid in toeless shoes. There is no sympathy and little escape. If you can’t impress with a pair of £150 trainers and a half decent phone, then you’d better be able to impress with something else... and that ‘something else’ is usually violence. So violence became an everyday fixture for a while. Almost every evening we’d return home with some cut or other. Shelley as well. She kicked and punched and bit just as hard as any boy, and aftern when it was finished, we licked our wounds and celebrated our victories together.
Our friendship was an honest and equal one. It wasn’t based on toys or videos or clothes. It was based on understanding and comfort. Apart from that we didn’t have much else to trade. We had nothing alone and even less together. Between us we had half a parent, two pairs of trousers and a dress. My shoes were football boots with the studs removed, Simon’s were leather strapped sandals and Shelley went barefooted - soaking up all the piss, shit and spunk that South West London had to offer. On and off we would spend almost five years in each others company. Five years of escaping the hell which we were born into. With our six fists and our scarred and beaten bodies we used violence and delinquency as a means of escape... as a means to unprise life which had taken lockjaw around our necks. But in escaping one hell we started replicating another: stealing cigarettes and beer and vodka and imitating the actions of our elders. In a certain way we escaped our lives by joining it - we became a part of the hurt and the world that had made us. Instead of fleeing it we copied it, but in our replica world we were the kings of the castle... the abusers and not the abused. We became the enemy.
In the following year we took the beatings but fought back. We’d raise with bloody lips and swollen cheekbones and rally for more. We built up a reputation of recklessness, and if we couldn’t win with our fists, well, there were always cricket bats. There were kids stronger who hit harder, but our relentlessness scared them. When someone screams “Fucking stay down!” it means they’re scared, that they know eventually it will be them running. And we never stayed down. We had mouths and angers that could not be shut. Eventually we instilled fear and terror into those we saw as potential threats: those other cruel kids, with other problems, who were also looking for escape. If we were not strong we would be it, punching bags, the buffer that soaked up our peers domestic problems. We would have become the escape route not only of our parents and their problems but also of the other kids, and that would have been one hell too many. We were on the offensive from a very young age. The bottles and bricks which made up our homes now became objects to throw at the world. And my god, did we throw them.
We threw them at bus stops, policemen and ambulances. We chucked bricks on the motorway and through car windows. We vandalised vending machines, ticket machines and shop shutters. We set fire to post boxes, telephone booths and elevators. We pulled up parks and gardens and demolished garden gnomes. We roamed the streets inciting violence and bloodying the noses of anyone who so much as looked at us. We robbed the more fortunate kids and destroyed the toys of the rich. we done it all. Then we went to bed, woke up and done it all again. We didn’t care for nothing or no-one. Not the living, not the dying not the dead. Everyone and everything was fair game, and that is how we escaped our lives. That’s the exit we took. We were cruel kids preparing to die.
Our lives meandered on like that for the best part of two years and then one morning on going to see Simon & Shelley I received news that they had been carted off by the authorities and placed in a foster home.
“My kids... they’ve taken ma fucking kiz!!!” Bridgette slurred before throwing herself around me and breathing a mouthful of vomit and whisky fumes into my face. And that was it, they were gone, taken away by unknown and distant forces - the kind most children are only ever threatened with. I strolled back home alone and waited for news. I asked at school, I asked my mother and I asked Simon's mother, but no one seemed to know anything. Yes, they would be coming back, but when? well, that was anyone’s guess. Three months later they were back, and the first thing we did was scheme escape plans in the event it ever happened again. And it did happen again. Later in that same year they disappeared once more.
Simon remembered our plan. Within the week a letter was delivered to my house carrying their new address. I was ten at that time and along with my brother we boarded a train to the address just outside London. On finding Simon and Shelley we skipped the wall and all made the journey back to London. We stayed missing for two days, passing the time at a friends house in Shepherds Bush. On the third day we were apprehended by the police on Uxbridge Road and were all taken into custody at Hammersmith Police Station. My brother and I had been reported missing by my stepfather and Simon and Shelley by their foster parents. I wasn't beaten much by my stepfather as a child, but arriving home that day I took ten years in one sitting. I was so bruised they did not send me to school for over a week. I’ve only ever curled my body up to kicks once in my life, and that was it. But of course, in my family that was an expression of love. It was because he loved me that my stepfather kicked my ribs in.
In the following year Simon and Shelley returned, disappeared and returned again. They didn’t seem to mind too much as away from home they enjoyed proper meals, proper baths and proper clothes. We still remained friends but the separations took their toll and as I left lower school and approached my teenage years we slowly drifted apart and spent less and less time in each others company. The final break was when my own family split up and we left west London and was put in hiding from the hands of my stepfather. We were reallocated to the other side of London and Fulham was out of bounds. Contact with Simon or Shelley was impossible and it would be more than twelve years before I saw either of them again.
In that time we had all changed considerably. Our young accepting minds had started examining things, processing all those behaviours we saw, heard and done. Youthful innocence developed into an illness that plagued and ate away at us. We were all sick, suffering from memories and actions that had been forced upon us. With the end of youth and the coming of our real sexual awakenings we realised we had been corrupted... that certain fantasies and shames had been branded into our minds forever. We each tried to eject these, to vomit up our pasts, to reject history, but vomit leaves a very specific taste in the mouth and is a memory all of its own.
So it was, that the events that formed us also repulsed us, and when one cannot reconcile one's history with ones present then the only option left is to split, and that's what we done. But not just friendship and kinship, we split internally: we divided as people and as adults. Shelley became a young prostitute, Simon found his way in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and I ended up trailing them same old streets searching crack and smack and dreaming of the Black House. In the end our youthful hooliganism and cruelty had served for nothing. It was just a natural reaction to a life that was putting the boot in. All it done was deflect the blow - absorb the shock of the impact and delay the consequences for a later day.
More than anything else that is what this blog is about. It’s not about heroin or addiction or murder or abuse, it’s about consequence. But not always consequence of a good or bad decision, more the consequences of independent and external forces which we have no control over. It’s about history and the equation of all our yesterdays... it’s about who we are at this exact point in time. It’s about the consequence of living.
* * * * *
In 2002 at the age of 27 Simon Maudlier finally found his peace. It seems he died as a result of huge amounts of alcohol on top of prescribed medication. He was buried in a communal grave in Fulham without ceremony. As far as I know Shelley is still alive and as late as 2006 was still working the streets of West and Central London. Neither of them, nor myself have any children, and that is probably the greatest gift we can offer this world.
As always, I wish You all well and thank you for reading and making it all worthwhile. My next post will concentrate on my feelings towards Dennis Nilsen, his continued imprisonment and my thoughts concerning his controversial and as yet unpublished autobiography “History of a Drowning Boy”. Until then, take care & take heart, Shane. x
And then you are down. And you realise you’ve been hit. There is warm blood trickling from your nose. And then someone is pushing your face in the gravel while another puts the boot in. Hard, brutal, ruthless boots to the head and stomach. And then your ribcage rattles and all the oxygen in your body bursts out your mouth. You are defenseless, choking for air as a flurry of blows knocks your head this way and that. And then you lose a tooth... And then your sight... And then consciousness. Only when all is black does the pain stop. And then you wake up. Your assailants have gone - just a white van driving off in the distance. The skin from your knuckles is scraped raw from the struggle. You sit there, in the wet and cold, the cuts and blows stinging more than when you took them. And as you push the blood away and dust yourself down, you ask yourself: “Why? Why me? What did I ever do to deserve that?” And then it comes. You remember. Once again, you had broken all the rules.
My time in France is coming to an end. Five years here have taken their toll. I have lost one tooth too many and the invisible sculptor who chisels with a scathe has began hollowing out the flesh from below my cheekbones. The history that I have tried so long to hide is now unhideable. I’m beginning to look like The Man who looks like life.
But that has not always been the case. In London I was vibrant and full of energy. My face was clear and youthful and sweet. Sometimes I even charmed myself. But looking in the mirror now I feel unrecognisable to the man I was then. And not just physically. I feel something has changed below the skin. I feel I have died a little more.
France has not helped. In fact she has accelerated my decline. My existence here has been a constant struggle. There has barely been a week passed without some kind of drama or worry. If it wasn’t the police knocking down my door, or days spent waiting for my dealer, then it was relationship troubles, exploding ovens or apartment fires. Only the other week I was knocked up at 11pm and informed that my then partner of six years was in hospital after swallowing a belly full of her mother’s Xanax. It seems that life can never just pass, she always insists on leaving a calling card.
Two weeks ago I commiserated my 34th birthday. For the occasion I received one card and one death threat. That put my life here into perspective and I’ve had enough. Enough croissants, enough pain au chocolats, enough random police searches, identity checks and bureaucracy. I am tired of the language, the people and the bars. I can no longer queue quietly for an hour to buy tobacco on a Sunday. I can no more hang around for eight hours in stairwells scoring obscenely cut heroin. I am sick of it all. It’s five years that I have been here, five years that will not tick into six. I am preparing for the exit, ready to flee the country and flash my arse at the last copper I see.
But it’s not time to moon at the law just yet. I am in no position to do it. I’ve barely enough money to put a roof over my death, let alone flee the country. There are also medicaments and repeat prescriptions to think of. Until I can either transfer my script elsewhere or reduce and stop my medication altogether, I am once again constrained to my immediate environment - bound on an upside down cross. Even without the drug worries, five years leaves a lot of attachments. And so before I make my exit I must make certain things good, or at least plug the holes.
One of the latest holes to plug and something which has now become critical is finding a new apartment. A broken relationship and a wandering heart have left me with less than a month to find a place to stay. My habit of not protecting myself and trusting in others humanity has shot me in the foot again. My decision never to officially put my name to the joint property we shared has left me at the whim of another. And that is not a good position to be in, especially when that ‘other’ spends their days wishing upon you a violent and painful death. I should have learnt by now that humanity disappears with love. That if one goes west, one goes west alone. But I suppose I do not want to believe that. The world becomes too sad if that is the case.
My search for an apartment began full of hope and confidence. Me believing that within the same afternoon I’d be in a new place with my own keys. But France doesn’t work like that, there are no simple transactions here. “Six weeks, minimum,” I was told, “that’s the timeline you should realistically plan to.”
"Six weeks! No, that’s impossible. I’ve money for rent and deposit and have an income. How can it take six weeks?”
Eight weeks later I am still nowhere closer to finding a place. In fact, I am even further away friom it. My deposit I blew on four weeks in a hotel and 15 grams of heroin.
But I don’t regret that, money wasn’t the real problem. The real problem is that France is a country of bureaucracy... your money counts for nothing if you don’t have the correct papers. People live in fear of it. There’s no screwing up your payslips and overarming them into the bin here. That would be tantamount to administrative suicide. No, in France people tiptoe down the halls of bureaucracy, praying to all 5495 Gods that they have the correct papers. But you NEVER have the correct papers. And if you do, they’ll invent another one just for you. It is soul destroyingly frustrating, and if you are as disorganised as me, it’s impossible.
So, I didn’t post my dossiers off, I didn’t even fill them in. Instead, I holed myself up and spent my time numbed by opiates, telling myself: “something will turn up... a solution will come, it always does.” Well, that solution hasn’t come yet and now I am in the position where I have three weeks left at my current abode and then it’s shop doorways and pillows under the sky.
But it’s unfair to blame France for my woes. She is another country with a different language, protocol and laws. It’s me who is at fault, refusing to do the things that are demanded of me and trying to busk through the unbuskable. It’s me that will quote laws that do not exist and then stand there to a shaking head and the words “Well that’s not the information I’m in possession of Monsieur. Desolé.” All the little tricks that I had perfected and relied on in England do not serve me here. It seems impossible to get what I want, even what I need. And it’s now too late to backtrack. It’s too late to fill in the dossiers... too late to put my applications through. I’m down to the cardboard, burning my lips on the roach.
The time for property agencies, guarantors and carefully worded contracts has gone. That takes too long and is too long term and legal. No, what I require now is an unscrupulous businessman, someone with absolutely no morals and a nose for money. A person who’ll take my readies and then put me in a rat infested hole that is only worth a third of it’s price. I need that. This is no time for flat hunts and cosy apartment views. It’s a time for handshakes and notes in the top pocket, the oldest contract there is.
And that is me... that sums it up. Nothing is ever quite legit, but always on the edge. I sneak along the line of illegal activity, always something in my pocket which could get me into trouble. I break the rules and I take the consequences for doing so. And the consequence is stress and worry which leads to heroin which leads to sacrifice, unpaid rent and bank loans. This in turns instigates relationship failings, brothers, white vans and bruised ribs. And this, all of it combined, is the real consequence, because it shows on the face and under the eyes. It marks you for life with life and leaves one looking like the Prime Minister after eighteen months in office.
And that is the debt I pay to be able to write these words. They are not just there... they are not free of charge. I acquire them at a 50% interest rate. I will die closer to forty rather than eighty. I have surrendered more than just a few teeth. The truth is, the marks I wear are not the marks of living but the marks of dying, and that is the paradox of The Man who looks like life.
Take care All... Thanks and Best Wishes, Shane.
Labels: The Tindersticks
How and where did you first become familiar with David Lynch's work?
I first discovered David Lynch through falling asleep to a screening of his debut feature film 'Eraserhead' at London's Riverside Studios. I remember the opening scene, then some kind of furry-faced woman dancing on falling wormlike foetuses, and the closing credits. He was just another in a long line of great directors who had sung me to sleep. Of course, it was really the smack, but not always. I think I was around 25 then.
Over the following years I caught bits and pieces of his newer films, but it was not until I came to france and had a dope free period that I really became familiar with him. In that period I fell in love with film. It acted as my escape and there was no better escape than David Lynch.
I think I saw Wild at heart, Lost Highway, Eraserhead, Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive, Twin peaks (series), Twin peaks (film), Blue Velvet, Dune, The Straight Story, Inland Empire – in that order.
Then of course I separated what I considered his great films and watched them multiple times over. At 2pm I'd pull the curtains down on the day, close the world, and sink off into Lynch's universe... a universe that became mine just as much as his.
Explain to us a little of what Lynch's art does, the process of understanding his films, and why they mean so much to you?
Firstly, I don't think you can understand a David Lynch film, at least not past it's very simple pretext: a man doesn't love his wife (Lost Highway); A woman loves another woman (Mulholland Drive). I think anyone who tries to make complete sense out of, or intellectualize Lynch's films are wasting their time. David Lynch is an artist that goes past intellect. His is an intuitive art; you feel it – often reciprocating the actors emotions, before they have even acted them out. It is an experience.
So Lynch does that to me, he sucks me in to his chamber.
In Wild at Heart there is a scene where Sailor finds Lulu in a hotel room and there is a lumpy yellow vomit on the floor... Just sitting there. You can smell it. A beautiful young girl, clean, and vomit on the floor – it kind of doesn't make sense. But in that moment something really strange takes place and all of a sudden you are in Lynch's world.
And it works like that. There are always entry points to Lynch's show. He brings you in intentionally. It is not chance.
A camera crawls along a lawn, or zooms into an ear canal. The screen goes completely black. When the picture resumes someone is saying something normal in a really strange way, like they are acting badly or speaking words that do not quite fit their lips. And we're back. Music drifting in, and the world suddenly seems dreamlike and melancholic and scary and dangerous. It is not wonderland where Lynch takes us, but somewhere else. A place where we meet our own fears and complexes, a place where strong men break down and cry for absolutely no reason. And we never know why. All we know is we did. There really are no answers to great art.
Ok, you've kind of badly answered your own question, so here's one you can completely revel in: What is your favourite David Lynch scene, movie and episode of Twin Peaks? That's actually not one but three questions, please answer them all.
My favourite scene is Club Silencio/Llorando from Mulholland Drive. This scene is not only my favourite Lynch Scene, but my favourite scene of all time. It brings me to tears and almost leaves me paining for some reason I cannot explain. It feels like my past, present and tomorrow all merged into one. The hopelessness of the future sung out and echoed through time. But it's beautiful. You can watch it below.
(Silencio/Llorando works much better in the context of the movie. Nevertheless, as a three minute clip on Youtube, it's still an hypnotic piece of film.)
My favourite David Lynch film is either Wild at heart or Mulholland Drive. I can't quite decide.
My favourite Twin Peaks episode: No.14: Lonely Souls. For me it is one of Lynch's great pieces. There are scenes in there that will break you in two.
Finally, and just to force you to end on a negative note (maybe), are there any David Lynch films which are not Master pieces?
Oh, there are – three of them. And I'll go even further: of the three there is one that is absolute shit.
The shit film is Dune, which is not even worth watching. The other two are: Elephant Man and The Straight Story. Those two are both well worth watching, but would never have built him a legacy. The three I class as his money films, commercial endeavours he took to fund his real projects.
Ok, well that's it I suppose. Unless you've anything else to add I'm afraid you're going to end on a minus sign. Can you change that?
Sure, I think so. You wouldn't have asked me otherwise.
I WOULDN'T FUCK HITCHCOCK BUT I 'D FUCK DAVID LYNCH.
A lot of interesting Lynch stuff here. Collected interviews a treasure trove.
Labels: David Lynch
I first discovered Dostoevsky just as I was getting into junk. His book Crime and Punishment, with its anti-hero Raskolnikov wandering the slums of St Petersburg, I transferred to the streets of London where I was trudging around looking for dope in a coat that no longer worked.
Whilst waiting for dealers at bus stops or down alleys, I would think of murder and morals and ethics and warmth. I was unshaven and distracted – preoccupied with thoughts of what would become of me.
Two years later, in the midst of addiction, on the needle but stable in my habit, I found Notes from Underground. I picked it up for 50p or something in a Cancer Research charity shop. I was looking for pin-striped jackets.
I am a sick man... I am a spiteful man. An unattractive man. I think that my liver hurts. But actually, I don't know a damn thing about my illness. I am not even sure what it is that hurts.¹*
And in just that opening paragraph the world seemed to make a little more sense. I somehow felt that my existence had been validated. It was the key which unlocked a certain part of me, permitted me to be able to externalize an internal dialogue I had struggled with all my life. It also set in motion a feeling of rhythm... rhythm for words and how they should be arranged and strung together. That the book was only a translation of the original didn't matter. I had never read such poetical prose before. Without one swear word, or shocking event, it felt edgy and subversive and dangerous.
I travelled centuries with Notes from Underground. Discovered a poetry within it which I had been searching out for a long time. A chain of thought that was solitary and severed from any political or social ideas that were out on offer. With Dostoevsky I lost politics and found philosophy, a more personal kind of politics with no social agenda, just ones understanding of the world and ones place within it.
Come now, can a man who has presumed to seek out enjoyment even in the very sense of his own degradation have any amount of self-respect?¹
Notes from Underground, aside from any other facet of its brilliance, is a book that constantly poses questions – important, petty, sometimes nonsensicle, often unanswerable questions. With each paragraph there is a universe of stuff to think about: an accusation, a dilemma, a lie. This book forces one to think, to delve into oneself and others. To question motives, philosophies, structures, codes. In 153 pages (a long short story by today's standards) it is an enormous work. It is a work condensed to bursting point. It is a work that can force some to pick the pen up and others to throw theirs away.
I don't profess to understand Notes from Underground, well, not as it was probably intended anyhow. But I don't think I've ever understood any artist or work of art, not really. All I understand is what the book meant and continues to mean to me, what it taught me and what it inadvertently showed me. And that was....
Well, I don't know.... I never quite figured that one out.
Read Notes from Underground here
Free e-book download: Notes from Underground
Reviews of Ginsberg's Notes from Underground
¹ Translation copyright © 1974, Mirra Ginsburg. Bantam Books.
* Ginsburg's translation is the best I have come across. In terms of the original, I can't say, but certainly as a book in English it is by far superieur to the free download.
Labels: Fyodor Dostoevsky
I'm sick of this Hopping the Wagon shit, really. I can't even bear typing that out anymore and I really hate this nonsense of diaries of withdrawal. Actually when I started this blog I promised myself I would never do daily posts like that, for no other reason that it's just boring junkie addict crap. It makes me cringe! I really don't care about getting clean, not to that extent anyway.
So I'm stopping these posts and stopping thinking about how many days, hours and minutes since i last used. It only brings it closer to mind and only makes using even more attractive.
I've more interesting things to talk about than that... I'd rather tell you about the woman on the 5th floor of the apartment building across the road and how at 3am each morning we raise cigarettes to one another and blow smoke rings to the heavens. You'll learn more about life through little stories like that than crappy journals about quitting which really just repeat themselves every day. I just can't continue writing that kind of garbage.
All My Love & Thoughts Shane. X
ps: If anyone is wondering where today's earlier post went, I deleted it. It wasn't even worth the virtual space it was written on.
I'm sweating. For the second time in four days heroin is coming out my body. It's too much. It's too exhausting. Heroin cannot be a halfway house. One must either do it all the time or not at all. Trying to straddle some middle road is eternal damnation. No junkie can be happy having to economise like that, it's the worst thing in the world.
My friend Katy once told her imaginary drug counsellor that the thing that would make her better was two £20 baggies a day. If the system could give her that she'd be fine. Her reasoning was correct but two bags would only have helped her for a time and then she'd have needed three. But what she was saying was that she wanted some kind of predictability, some insurance policy that allowed her to plan and regain her proper self and emotions. Living for the giro cheque and begging to maybe get a bag every two or three days was tearing her apart.
A week later, she was tracked down and bashed up by some embittered ex-lover, her face smashed open on the sink in her bedsit. I found her wandering down Uxbridge Road with glazed black eyes and a split lip. People were veering and staggering out her way. It was like she was war and famine and disease and was there for the kids. She told me that she wanted to die, that she needed a fix. I said "I'll put you in for a fix." She hugged me and cried and then she was the happiest girl in town.
Katy died the next day - heroin overdose. That's what the street corner said anyway. I didn't really mourn her, I didn't know how to mourn someone like that. I suppose you do it with a tourniquet and a spoon and an extra strong hit. I don't know. Anyway, as usual, when street corners speak they speak a load of bollocks. A year later I found Katy sitting outside a courthouse rolling a cigarette and making little sketches. She was up on heroin possession and supply charges. That's how she took what she needed from the system. And then they took it back. She got two years and I never saw her again.
All these people that pass by are history. I remember them like that, like their faces represent a certain amount of time or a season or a sky. Their words and clothes and actions define a time. We're all history, that's for sure.
Tomorrow is Day 6. Not really but for us it is. I must catch up on my emails and mop the floor. Nothing too exciting there, but once when I was mopping the floor I found a small chunk of heroin. It must have shot off from a larger rock and sat there for god knows how long. Since then I don't mind soaping the tiles... the dishes, though, forget it... there's absolutely no future in washing dishes.
Day 4 followed in pretty much the same manner as the second half of Day 3. It's nothing serious. I have got a black-eye though. I nodded out in the bathroom and slipped and caught my eye on the corner of the little shelf which holds the shower products. I'll put up a photo tomorow.
No poetry today, so if you need a daily dose of that go here:
Chemical Addictions & Revelations
Heftman boasts that his words aren't brilliant. Heftman is a liar.
Until tomorrow (even though it's tomorrow already!), Love & Thoughts, Shane. x
Imagine skies of pink candy floss stretching out into forever. The city is bathed in a strange warm light, which feels like some peculiar weather pattern is on its way. Over there, great industrial chimneys bellow smoke, and down there, men are hosing down the streets and sweeping cola tins and empty packets of Gauloises cigarettes into the gutter. That's what Lyon was like this morning as I sat looking out the window at the bar owner on the corner as he set out his tables for another day of business. I know the old saying, that we'll reap havoc for the beauty of a pink morning, but as of now the day has remained unspoiled by nature or desire.
I actually feel surprisingly well. I only slept three hours because I kept having these vivid nightmarish dreams, and rather than close my eyes on visions of my body dying I sat typing random words into Google and seeing what it came up with. Mostly it was just porn, then I disabled 'safe search' and it was all porn. Then I took care of the hard on that had been irritating me all day. It felt like the greatest wank of my life... certainly of the last two weeks.
It's strange, but I always masturbate when I'm ill or in pain. It's nothing to do with pleasure and pain, but more about creating a sensation greater than the one I am suffering from. It's a kind of momentary and pleasurable escape. When I'm depressed my dick is very rarely out my hand, and when I've got toothache, well, I'm just a public nuisance.
Right now I'm off to buy some methadone. As it's from the same girl I score smack from I think there's probably a 90% chance that I end the evening tying my wrist off with a tourniquet. What even more makes me think that is today while I was out shopping I mysteriously decided to check my bank balance. When I do that, there is only one reason behind it: I'm thinking of scoring. I kid myself it's not... but it is. It's like when I draw out money I don't need. I tell myself Oh, it's just to be safe... just in case there's a n unexpected problem with the card or something. Before I've even finished the transaction, my dealers phone is ringing and I'm willing her to answer. Addicts may lie to others, but it's nothing compared to the bullshit they tell themselves. I'm no different. Constantly having internal dialogues with myself convincing the junkie in me that this will happen and I can do that, and if I use it like this and save on that it'll be fine - that I can afford another 5 grams. But it's all bollocks. Once you even begin to think like that it means you cannot afford it, that something or someone else is going to suffer for your excess.
Just woke up.
Someone once lovingly referred to me as the "hunchback of eternal pain" and that's what I feel like.
Swallowed 40ml of methadone. No coffee so had heavily sugared tea. Checked my emails and letter box. No death threats or court orders.
Outside still looks like winter skies. The season is definately on the turn.
Rubbish piled up near the door and fruit flies in the bathroom. I feel like I did the first time love gave me a low blow and disappeared down the road with her things: nostalgic, sad and happy. Two futures going off in different directions, and for the better or worse, things will never be the same again.
France is not a romantic place to be - it's not even a nice place to be. People say it is, but the daily details are the same and the lonliness is the same and the people are the same only they make no sense. I'd much rather be back in some West London ghetto, watching the rain extinguish burning cars and people punching phone booths because their dole cheque never arrived. That's beauty to me. Not really, but from a safe distance it is.
The last time I heard an accordian was in London. A gypsy wedding reception that spilled over into violence once the bar tab ran dry. The bride got glassed and the men stripped down to their vests and headed over to the park for some bare knuckle bonding. Gypsy weddings always end like that, it's half their fun. Divorces are even better.
I'm getting divorced, did I tell you? My wife of three days (Mythical Darts & Broken Darts), after ten years of quiet, surprises me with an email (a divorce petition). But that's another story...
Where are you going, and what is your motivation for your actions..Is someone going with you, I truly hope you succeed..But...and be honest now....do you really want to stop or do you feel you need to stop...I,d love to know
Kympton, no, no-one is going with me... there is no-one to go with me. I'm alone here. i've no friends and the only people I know are junkies from the needle exchange or dealers. That's nothing new, even in London I wasn't one to have rooms full of friends. I prefer to be alone or with one person.
My motivation... I'm not really motivated, but the reason is writing. I've been writing a lot (away from here) these past few months. I've been scratching out ideas and getting on with a couple of books. I had planned Christmas as a deadline I could have something ready by, and 2011 set aside for publishers or agents to post my work back with "fuck off" scrawled on it.
Over the last month, getting pregressively worse, my writing has fallen with increased drug use. My schedule is falling behind and it's something I'm passionate about. If I don't tide that flow now it wilI spiral out of control and everything will turn to shit.
One of my other writings consist of a persons wait for somebody. He is waiting for the return of someone/something he once had. That is written daily and stops making any sense when posts are missed, or important events hurried over because I was stoned and missed the day. And that keeps happening. That book is three quarters finished and if i carry on with heroin at this time it will remain like that, as another work that almost materialised but burnt out.
Also, I don't think living life as an addict is any worth on it's own. It can be interesting and useful and insightful only if one's observations from within it are gotten down and out. Apart from a heroin addiction I also have an urge to pass on my observations of the world, to write the things that no-one ever wrote for me. To explain from a strange place what I saw and why I saw it. To never have my books finished, ideas down would be a tragedy. Death is nothing. Death by heroin is no more tragic than death by old age. What is tragic is if that drug use consumes you to the point that you miss your own life. that it passes you by and only when death is sucking in at the cheeks do you realize that maybe you should have lived a bit... done something else.
If that sounds like regret, it's not. It's just saying that being a junkie is as hopeless as not being a junkie and having no dreams or ambitions or wants or desires.
So, I feel I need to stop for other passions in my life. Do I want to stop? Not really, no. If I could write and create and not quit I'd do that, but it doesn't work like that for me. Sure, I can scribble the odd poem under the influence or write a small post, but to invest the time to do something a little better, no, I can't on heroin. That's not a mental can't, it's a physical thing. I'm not awake long enough and have to spend far too much time searching veins and scoring and picking up needles, etc, etc. So, for 10 years (17 if we take into account my subutex addiction) I've given my days to opiates. Apart from this blog I've never given anything back from that. 17 years to get over 17 years, that's fair. But now it's time for something else.
Oh, and I'm skint.
That's it Kympton. Figure out for yourself what is the important sentence in that lot and if it holds good tidings for a successful break. I doubt it.
It is a cold day. It feels like there's ice outside. The sky is bright blue but fragile. It always feels like this when junk is seeping out your body. It's as if all the evils of all the world are hanging about outside waiting to descend upon you. Wind, noises, rain, smell, light. It is all there and all intrusive, like the the unwelcome touch of an unwanted lover. Coming off heroin feels like rape.
I haven't cleaned up yet, but I did scoop all my needles and little aluminium cups into a box. Not because they tempt me, more, if I'm truthful so as the filters don't get soiled and I can reuse them if I'm ever really desperate. I tried to ignore the mess as I stumbled around but I couldn't help thinking I'd never get my deposit back on the apartment. I think in eight months I've caused so much damage as it will need to be completely renovated. I've not tried to do that, door handles and shower curtains just fall off when I touch them. Since I've been here there's been one fire, one flood, an explosion, broken door, two sparking radiators, the shower unit has ripped out the wall and the light above the hob has melted. The bathroom units are all burnt where I've left cigarettes burn down as I either struggled to find veins or stood gouched over the sink thinking of removing the needle. What was a few months ago a fresh start is now just as stale as any other end in history. The place reeks of heroin, it is everywhere. I don't think it can be cleaned up.
Physically I feel better than this morning. Methadone takes about two days to get completely in the system and to work away all the little aches and pains. Those two days are not horrendous but uncomfortable. Make no mistake about it, what I will be describing in these posts is not heroin withdrawal, it is about the transition from two drugs to one. I am stopping heroin for a moment and sticking solely to my methadone script. If this were cold turkey or proper withdrawal there would not be a post for weeks. Any addict who says they wrote under withdrawal (as it happened) I don't believe. It is a crippling condition and does not leave you the luxury or poetry to describe your own dying. Imagine laying in some war zone with your guts spilled out and the good side of your head ripped off. How ridiculous would it be to ask for a pen and piece of paper? Not even the most narcissistic person in the world could get away with that... not even an Englishman.
The morning has just ticked past five. I feel like shit. Like I am going to survive my own death.
My legs hurt, and both sides of my body - from the hip bone and running up under each arm - are bruised and swollen. For the past three days, with needles so blunt you couldn't pierce an ear with them, I've been injecting in the long veins that run up along the torso. I've hit nerves, tender muscle, cartilidge and bone. I feel down and beaten and I haven't even turned the light on yet.
Except from the glow of my laptop and a muted Harry Potter film (which has been looping away in the background for two days now) the room is dark. I can just see shapes - a tap, a fan, a doorhandle. There are things on the floor, probably clothes, probably shot through with blood. In my bed there are cigarette ends and ash and tobacco. The ashtray is piled high like some weird game of Jenga. (A moth has just flown by - it'll be dead soon. The heat of summer is already on the turn.)
There is also a smell. It smells like sickness - like everything does when one is down with the flu. It seems to be coming from my fingers, my hair, my nose, my skin. Cold water seems like the worst thing in the world. I am ill. I know it, but cannot feel it. If it wasn't for the methadone I would not even be writing. Sometimes I want to die - just for ten minutes, until the world rearranges itself into a better looking shit.
Cigarettes taste like death too. I've just lit one. Now I want a coffee. A coffee would be great. But the energy used in getting that coffee would take the pleasure away of having it. I would only suffer more. Also, I'd have to turn the light on and then I'd see the mess: needles and cups and blood and half eaten things and bread in the sink and rancid bowls of cereal and me...
When I am better I am going to enjoy life. I'm going to go to the park and watch things and feel all the little pulls and annoyances of nature on my skin. If it's cold, good! I need it. I want to smell and breathe and get exhausted and have some natural kind of calmants. To sleep because the day was so long and the ride home so hypnotic, like that day trip I once had to Brighton, where the motorway lights sent me to sleep on the coach. I want that and the sea and the world and the stars. But more, more than anything else, at 5.44am on Tuesday 31st August 2010, I want a clean bed. Light fresh sheets, proper pillows and a soft crumpled blanket that is cold at first and then warm and then unimaginably comfortable. To wake up in a new world where all those old songs no longer exist...
Won't you help to sing
This songs of freedom-
'Cause all I ever have:
Tomorrow I am going on a three month break from this/heroin. That's my intention, anyhow. I will document each of those days in little posts. Whether it lasts one, two or ten, who can tell??? Going by previous records and my lack of resolve, I'll give myself three days before I'm back here again. Back fearing the morning light, cursing the first metro and dreading the sound of the bin men. Those who want to suffer or laugh along, feel free to pull up a chair....
(Posts will be written instantaneously. There will be no redrafting or spelling or comma checks. All faults are mine. Shane. X)
Today I met a Goddess. She had no teeth, skin the colour of boiled and beaten fish, hepatitis A, B & C and probably HIV. She came all the way across town to rob me of 55 euros – I'm a lucky man. Normally she won't get off the toilet for less than a hundred, but today she must have been feeling extra charitable.
The Goddesses name is Sonia. That's her real name, no fucking around with her. She gives it straight. She tells you “You pay double and get half!” All I ask is that she don't dip into the 'half'. Nine times out of ten she does.
If it wasn't for Sonia I'd either be dead or sober. For the last two years, ever since David was sentenced to 4 and a half years in St. Joseph's prison, she has been supplying me in methadone and heroin. Only once has she ever let me down.
When I see Sonia, I see beauty. I'm blind to all her tricks and scams and cons. It's like I'm in love. I sit waiting for her for hours, send her desperate texts asking where she is and convince myself that she will stand me up. And then I see her. And she looks so wonderful and I suddenly feel whole again.
In france it is the custom to greet one another with a kiss on either cheek. Sonia and I don't care a fuck for customs. We do it with an old-fashioned hand shake. Sometimes we even say “hello.” Mostly though she just says “It's really small but strong!” Then she turns her back and is gone.
For the next 12 hours she is no longer a goddess, but rather a “fucking robbing junkie whore!” and someone “I'll never see again! Nah, that's it, I'm sick of that bitch... really, I'm fucking serious this time!!!” Come morning the smacks all gone and to feel only slightly shitty I swallow three times as much methadone as usual. Before I know it I am withdrawing money I don't have and paying my rent with a cheque that will bounce into orbit when the landlord tries to cash it. But so what, I've just hit the redial button and Sonia's phone is ringing. In just under an hour my Goddess will come, rob me again, and then I'll feel a whole lot better.
My fondest Wishes to All and a huge thanks to those who have sent mails and continued supporting Memoires through the rainy season. Something beautiful will surely be posted soon...
Until then, All My Thoughts, Shane. X
Memoires of a Heroinhead is changing. The past is over welcome to The Now.
Part 1 of MOAH concentrated more on the past and how I may have got to where I am today. There was no blame, no bitterness and no self-pity. Some things came my way by chance, others I walked into with full responsibility. I just detailed the the events.
Memoires of a Heroinhead Part 2 will focus more on Me today, my life as a 35 year old heroin addict in France. Posts will be much shorter, but more frequently written.
I thank All the people that have stuck by this blog, for putting up with my excuses and lies yet loyally coming back month after month. It didn't help me get straight, but it did stop me getting completely wasted. I don't think there's much more than that any of you could have done.
Until very soon, All My Love & Thoughts, Shane. X
PS: Longy, do you remember my challenge of the month? Well it was too long for a single post. Part 2 is dedicated to You. x
PPS: Stacy, thank you so much for the books & I promise to put a pic up soon. The final Part 3 will be for you. XXX
Helen Roberts opened the door of Hammersmith and Fulham social services and all four of us pushed in. She gave a hurried look down each end of the road and when sure we had not been followed closed and locked the door. “Is that it?” she asked, looking at the large bag my sister and I were holding. “Is that all you've got?” It was 1987 and we had just fled the family home.
“He's gonna fucking kill us, 'elen!” my mother slobbered. “That door won't stop 'im... You ain't seen 'im after a drink. He's a fuckin' dang'rous alcoholic... not fit to be around children!”
“Yes, although when we spoke to Mr Levene, he said it was you with the drinking problem. That it's you who's not safe to be around the children. That you're drinking in excess of two bottles of vodka a day.”
“Yeah, did he also tell you he fucks men! That he brings perverts and child molesters back with 'im!” my mother retorted. She tried to do that thing that women do where they say something clever and then pout their lips and slam their hands on their hips, but in her state she just kinda stumbled a few steps forward and stood there growling with a whiskey laden face.
Helen peered in at her with concern. “Come this way, we all need to talk.”
We followed Helen up some stairs and through a security door into a family holding room. There were bean bags on the floor, boxes piled high with grubby toys, and story books with every other page torn out. At the very back another door led into a room that contained only two wooden chairs and a table. Helen, our Social Worker of the last three years, used this room to speak to each family member in turn. Rachel, my elder sister, was called in first. Before the door even closed shut my mother was in her handbag unscrewing the cap from her half bottle of scotch. She took a few huge swigs then turned to me.
“And remember Shane, if she asks am I still drinking you say “No!” If not they'll send you back to that bald cunt!” She took a final swig from her bottle then circled her lips with her forefinger and thumb. She somehow thought that by rubbing the alcohol from her mouth that it would render her less drunk. Of course it didn't and a moment later she was sat lurched over on her side with a pee patch breaking around the crotch of her jeans.
For some reason my sister returned having been crying. Mum gave her an evil drunk look and then turned away in disgust. Rachel flopped down on a bean bag anf wiped her fringe out her wet eyes. She must have cracked and admitted to the horrors of what we were all living.
It goes without saying that I didn't crack. I was proud to lie, proud to be Mum's impenetrable boy. I repeated all I was told and sat there looking smug and disinterested.
“Shane, there's little use denying it, I can smell alcohol on her breath!”
I just shrugged “Well she ain't drinking. My mum don't drink.” And then I was set free.
Of course, it was obvious to everyone that mum was paralytic drunk. She was flopped down in the cushions with the world a blurred view through top and bottom eyelashes. In front of the whole family Helen bit the bullet and came out with it.
“Lesley, we need to speak about your problem with alcohol. I can understand why it is you may have felt the need for a drink today, but leaving home with the children entails a new kind of responsibility. There is no way we can let them permanently into your sole care without taking steps to combat this.”
At first my mother just sat there furious, looking off to her side and slightly nodding her head. When she realised the game was up she broke down crying. At first silent tears, then sobs, then shrieks between caught breath. When she finally finished mascara was dripping off her nose and chin. She looked like something which had come in from a storm. It was then agreed that mum would stop drinking, take up AA meetings and visit Helen once a week to report her progress. To show how earnest she was, mum gave Helen her almost empty bottle of whiskey and in another pathetic alcoholic outburst she bawled, “Take it, just TAKE IT!... I don't want it anymore: It's killing me!”
We must have been in the social services all day as when the police finally arrived to escort us across to a hotel on the other side of town the evening dusk was hanging low.
I remember that car journey well. Not so much the sights but more the scents: my mother's lipstick, leather jacket, chewing gum and whiskey. In a way it seemed perfect for what was passing us by outside - like a smell track to a film. Driving through central London's early evening bustle seemed almost unreal, like a magic world that only existed in books or dreams. It was exciting and beautiful, but somewhere I felt, even knew, it was probably the worst possible place my mother could ever be.
Surprisingly enough for a whole month my mother did stop drinking. She began AA meetings, met Helen sober once a week and got us enrolled back into school. She applied for grants to buy us new clothes, made the court custody appearances that had been proceeded by my stepfather and even started talking about taking us on holiday. And then one day I returned home from school and she was lolling naked on the floor pouring out a glass of Vodka. “I've started drinking again!” she stammered, “but I suppose you fucking knew that already!” Spread out on the bed, sucking on a B&H, was Tony, her AA sponsor and the person she was supposed to call if she was having a crisis. He just laid there looking shot and blowing smoke rings to the ceiling.
In the hotel we had two rooms: R104 & 105. The first was for my mother and the second for my brother, sister and I. I went into the adjoining room and joined my siblings.
“Have you seen mum?” asked my brother raising his eyebrows. I just nodded, sent my bag crashing to the floor, then sat on the bed staring at theTV.
From that point on life returned to how it was. The only differences being we were in a new borough, in a newt house and with no step-father to lay down the law. As a result my brother Daniel and I quickly started exploring Victoria and going to all the places we were told we shouldn't. Because of its links with prostitution and its proximity to London's sex district of Soho, Belgravia was advertised as a dangerous area for children. But for us the danger was exciting. We'd wander around in the dark evenings peering into bars, the social foyers of large hotels, and the ringing and flashing games arcades. It was not long before we met other kids who either could not or did not want to go home, and with them we sat around Victoria's main station smoking and mucking about until the early hours of the morning.
My mother's drinking only worsened. She quit AA, quit seeing Helen and quit trying to make one bottle of vodka last. By the time she met Caroline she was knocking back two full bottles a day.
Caroline was a young 18 year old prostitute. I have no idea how my mother met her, just one day she was there... living with us. Her 'thing' was being paid to shit on men; that's what she did. She said that some men like that. Laughing, she explained that the best thing to eat if she didn't want to hang around too long was spicy curry or Mexican. Like many prostitutes I have since known, she seemed to take an enormous pride in her hustle, saying that no-one could “drop a load” like her. But we were young and it was just a big joke.
Caroline lived and slept with my mum. She drank but never to the extent that mum did. In fact, I can not ever recall seeing Caroline obviously under the influence. As with all my mother's lovers (male or female) it wasn't long before violent arguments started bashing their way against the wall. The next thing we knew Caroline had moved into our room. She said mum “needed mental help”, that she “was fuckin' crazy.” And she was absolutely right.
By this stage we very rarely saw mum anymore. She hardly ever left her bed, even less the room. She just laid there as the piss slowly spread, occasionally leaning over and puking up milky lumps onto the floor. Then she started locking herself in, and this is where the climbing out the window began.
Our rooms were situated on the fifth floor of the hotel with the windows opening up onto the street. From window to window ran a small ledge just over a foot in width. With my mother's disposition for suicide, and having locked herself in, it was the only route into her room so as we could check on her. For that reason my brother and I took it in turns to crawl along the ledge and into my mother's room. Once there, we'd make sure she was breathing, nick a few cigarettes, unlock the door and leave. And not just once or twice. We carried out that manoeuvre multiple times per day. One slip and we'd have fallen to certain death. But we were small, fearless and agile. It was a whole different story when my mother decided to climb out.
“So you think it's fuckin clever coming into my room, stealing money and pouring my drink away, eh!" mum shrieked, looking at me with hatred. “Well, we can all play that fuckin game!” And with that she pulled the belt tight around her dressing gown and began climbing out the window. At first we started screaming and then Caroline clung onto her legs so as she couldn't get out. Mum gave a frenzied couple of back kicks and was suddenly free, out on the ledge and raising to a stand, 100ft over central London. Then she started to walk.
No-one moved. We were all in shock and had even stopped screaming for fear of distracting her. I closed my eyes and had scattered visions of blood, brains, teeth and blond hair. I imagined the panic that would strike me when she fell, the silent milliseconds before hearing her body hit the concrete below. I thought of the horror I would feel looking down to see if she had survived. Mums body smashed and broken and dead.
The room was dry crying. Just large terrified eyes looking desperately at each other for help, as if by showing such extreme fear the other could produce some kind of a miracle solution to stop the others anguish. Of course no-one could and mums drunken ranting and screaming was drifting in from outside.
“Don't worry.. I'm not gonna jump! Though you'd all fucking enjoy that!” And then she was back in view; crouching slowly with an unsteady hand on the ledge. Then sitting, with her pale legs dangling down, mum leaned back into the room and looked at us upside down. “Well fucking help me then!” she demanded, looking like she was holding back vomit. We all rushed forward and grabbed a hold off her. With our combined weight we pulled and dragged down. After a moment she fell in, banged her head and her right tit fell out. She lay on the floor looking concussed and spastic. Slowly turning her head, and focusing in completely the wrong direction, mum slurred, “Caroline, I want you out of here you fuckin' little bitch!” Then she stood up, staggered to the door and was gone.
Caroline never left and by morning mum had even forget she had climbed out the window. She just remained even more in her room, bleached white and withering away to nothing. Her hair became matted and dread-locked and now she even shuffled down to the off-licence in her soiled, bloody, vomit crusted nightgown. On the rare occasions we saw her she'd either be steadying herself down the hall (usually with bags of vodka) or sometimes with a saucepan of tepid soup. And then just as quickly as it had started, one day mum called us in the room, and laying there like a queen on her deathbed, she said: “I'm packing in the drink.”
That was the first time I saw mum withdraw from alcohol. “It'll take three days,” she warned us.
“On the first day I'll have the sweats; on the second the shakes; and on the third: DON'T LET ME OUT THE FUCKING ROOM!” She kinda gave a loving laugh. In relief and joy we laughed along too. Things were finally going to be OK.
That marked a new pattern in her drinking behaviour. My mother would now binge – stop – binge - stop - binge. She could be sober for 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months, no-one knew, not even her. And then one day she'd be drunk and it would all start over again. The only sure thing in it all was that she was always drunk more often than she was not.
That small period in Victoria was probably the most isolated of our lives. We had no neutral adults or grounding forces around and really had to fend for ourselves. We done our own washing, cooking and ironing. We put ourselves to bed and got ourselves up for school. When we got home we'd take it in turns to be on suicide watch. We were children looking after children.
Whilst awaiting the custody hearing a temporary court order prevented us having any contact with dad (stepfather) and he was not allowed to come within a hundred metres of any place he knew us to be. As I'm sure it did my brother and sister, that hurt and saddened me. In a strange way I had grown to love him... to enjoy him for who he was. I had certainly never imagined that one day he'd not be there. That just kinda happened. Mum had asked us to make a quick-fire decision and we chose 'her'. 5 minutes after nodding our heads, Dad, the dog and the house were gone. It was a shock and none of us really thought through the consequences of that choice. It was only when we understood Dad could end up in prison if he approached us that it really hit home.
Our forced separation was sad, for us, but by far the saddest part was imaging Dad all alone. I was obsessed with that thought, of what he had done when he arrived home on the day we left. Did he find it strange the lights were out and the place silent? Did he at first call out? Sense a strange emptiness? Did he then realise certain things were out of place, missing? That Mum's room had been ransacked of a few important things? Did he then rush up into our room? See most our clothes and hand held electronic games were gone? Did he knock the neighbours up in a panic asking if they'd seen us? Did he break down and cry? As the weeks and months passed I became more and more preoccupied with what had become of Dad. If he was alright. And then I could take it no more... along with my brother we decided on a secret visit home.
It was a spring evening and the light was just on the turn. It was cold and wet and pale mauve. In a park barely 10 minutes walk from the old family home, my brother and I had just finished football practice. Instead of taking the bus home at the nearby stop, we decided to walk to the one a few stops further along the route, cutting by our old house to get there. “Just keep low and follow me,” I said to Daniel “if he's there we mustn't let him see us!”
Ducking down behind the cars on the opposite side of the road, I led the way. Like that we crept along until we were right opposite the old house. I raised myself just enough to be able to see. “All the lights are out. I don't think he's in.” I reported back “Shall we go across and have a look?” At my brothers nod we both came out of hiding and crossed the road.
The first thing that happened was Shandy, dad's dog, saw us coming and began doing back-flips at the window and licking the glass. We tried to calm him down but he just got more crazy, barking and whining. In the backdrop the place was a mess. There were bottles, betting slips and torn newspaper strewn everywhere. Down next to the fire was a grubby stained duvet and sleeveless pillows. “Try the bell.” I said to my brother “see if there's electricity?” Daniel pressed the bell and shook his head. “It must've been disconnected. He ain't paid the bill.” he said. “He's living here in the dark!” It was sad beyond words. Sadness of the like which can only ever be felt. Bending down, I lifted the letter box and peered through. The hallway where we used to play football and cricket in was now just a littered mess. There were clothes and books everywhere, unopened letters and boxes. A light switch hung by wires from the wall. Down through the kitchen I could see piles of dirty pans and dishes stacked high. But for a split box of economy teabags and a bowl of sugar the back cupboard was bare. The stairs leading up to mums old room had been stripped of their carpet; some of Mum's old clothes clung to the steps as if they'd been torn up and chucked down in anger. The bannister we used to slide down now had every other post missing or broken. Dads beige summer jacket hung at the bottom with the dog chain. It's strange because it wasn't like looking at home but felt more like looking back in time. Like in a museum, where behind glass they have created a scene from some bygone era or other. That's what I felt looking in. It was a reconstruction of a broken home.
By now the evening was almost dark. The house had descended into shadow and seemed profoundly empty. It no longer smelt like home but like the dust that settles on the top of an old box. It was a place of sadness and pain; a place where a man sat who had lost his children and didn't know what to do. A place where the owner didn't want to live there anymore. I let the letter box fall down and looked at Dan. “Come on, lets get outta here.” I said dejectedly, and without speaking a word of what we had seen we ran off and caught the bus back home.
We had now been in the Hotel five months, and mum, bedridden, soiled and dreadlocked took a turn for the worse... she got depressed! That on top of being suicidal was bad news. Now, for some unknown reason, she could no longer bare living in the Hotel and all we heard were sobs and wails trailing from her room. That and the sound of neat vodka glugging its way out the bottle and down her throat. Lucky for us good news would soon arrive and a week later we would be gone.
Of course that final week was a memorable one. It ended with Caroline leaving in tears, my mother going through the shakes and sobering up and an Indian tenant leaping to his death from a 4th floor window. The gypsies on the ground floor who caught his landing said his “head cracked open like a coconut and he bit his tongue off”. They also said he was “bollock naked”. Unfortunately all that was left when we arrived was the blood. A dark red stain in the shape of Ireland.
Two days after that we received a letter from the council saying they were pleased to inform us they had found us a home, albeit another temporary one, in Maida Vale, North London. Before the bottles and puke piled up it was the most fantastic and luxurious place we ever lived. Mum later told us what we already knew, that out of pure desperation to quit the hotel she had been fucking the manager Mr Patel, who in turn had written to the council nominating us as the family most likely to benefit from re-housing.
Benefit? Not really, no. The next seven years just brought more of the same. All that changed is we were growing up and growing wiser. We stopped phoning 999 after each fake suicide attempt and instead of tipping mum's drink down the sink we tipped it down ourselves. Soon we were just as wasted as her and twice as reckless. Mum would eventually lay her alcohol demon to rest, only to fall into the arms of crack and heroin addiction in the same year. But compared to alcohol abuse, crack and heroin are nothing... as it turned out, they were the best years of our lives.
Thanks to Everyone who has stuck through this blog and stuck through this post. As ever it is appreciated more than I can possibly say.
Love, Thoughts & Wishes, Shane. X