I’m not going to Glastonbury festival this year. I haven’t been for quite a few years now. Festivals just don’t seem exciting nowadays. It could be the pervasive mud, the astronomical ticket price or the bland bands. It maybe that I just don’t take the right kind of drugs anymore – I don’t think Statins liven up a festival quite like a few tabs of MDMA.
Strangely, given my past, I’ve never actually taken Ecstasy. It is slightly embarrassing to admit as it is one of the most popular party drugs ever and I never partook. I gave up taking drugs in 1986 just as Ecstasy hit the streets. It was a bloody stupid time to embrace sobriety. All my friends were loved up and I was fuming. In mitigation I can only say that in my youth there wasn’t any Ecstasy. Or XTC as the kids called it – apparently I don’t really know as at the time I was locked in a drug treatment centre talking about my feelings. The only XTC I was familiar with were making plans for Nigel.
In my day the festival drug of choice was LSD and I have certainly taken plenty of that.
Oh yes, I did my time at festivals back in the days when festivals were infragrant gatherings in fields. You know that bloke in documentaries – dancing badly on his own in the middle of a field, a glazed look in his eye, totally oblivious the band left three days ago? That was probably me.
There was none of this highly organised and wrist-banded weekend of music malarkey. There were no middle-class Solicitors from Islington in stupid ethnic hats bringing along little Jocasta and Ptolemy in their Joules wellingtons so they could experience music together in an organic setting. No-one just ‘did’ Sunday because Coldplay were on.
I am talking about the Stonehenge Summer Solstice free festival. During the time when you could walk up to the monument, stroke the Sarsens, embrace the Bluestones and talk shite about feeling the echoes and vibrations of past lives in the sacred landscape. And yes, you read that correctly, it was FREE. No giving a month’s mortgage payment to a ticket agency after registering your interest six months earlier. You just turned up when you damn well felt like it and joined the shindig. It had real bands – Hawkwind, Inner City Unit, Gong, Ozric Tentacles and the 101ers with Joe Strummer. It looked like a cross between a massacre at a Native American reservation and a Hells Angels Convention, tepees, tie-dye, black leather and chrome as far as the eye could see. A month-long, authority free zone. Yep, you read that right. One. Month. Long. None of this only doing a day bollocks.
It was an almost totally lawless environment. People did exactly as they wished. Most drugs were freely available and most people partook. The only exception in this free market was heroin. Even here, heroin was outlawed. One year, someone was foolish (or enterprising) enough to start dealing heroin from a tent, hoping to cash in on this gap in the market. When I passed his tent sometime later in the day, all that was left was twisted, blackened poles and smouldering canvas. The Angels had dealt with him in their own way.
Aside from this strange moral anomaly, like rapists looking down on pedophiles the event was replete with an atmosphere of ‘do what the hell you want and fuck authority!’ Police didn’t venture near the place. One year, two naïve coppers foolishly drove onto the site in a panda car. Within moments they were surrounded by an unwashed, drug-fuelled rabble. Like white cells surrounding an infection. I remember their bemusement turning to panic as their car was over-turned and they dangled upside down by their seat belts. I don’t think they were physically hurt but maybe their pride took a dent as they ran away, shooed like naughty children intruding at an adult’s party. The Stonehenge Festival was wild and exciting, and totally outside of mainstream society. Nothing like the unremarkable blandness of festivals today.
Some years later, when the hedonism police had finally clamped down on the whole free festival thing, I drove past Stonehenge in the early hours of the morning before the summer Solstice. The wind was driving torrential rain across Amesbury and as my headlights cut through the gloom, I was shocked to see Stonehenge surrounded by uniformed police. They had joined hands to form a protective ring around the stones. I have seen some curious sights over the years at Stonehenge, some drug-induced, others real. However the ring of sodden, forlorn policemen, silently holding hands around a prehistoric monument in the middle of the night has to be the most surreal.
When the Stonehenge free festival was axed in 1984, there were scenes on the news of coppers fighting Crusties who were unable to relinquish their annual pilgrimage. It was a sad day but the experiences of Stonehenge festivals changed me forever. It may have been a sudden realisation that authority could be challenged and that I did not have to conform. It may have been the atmosphere, the exuberance of youth, the sense of community and camaraderie that bound together such a diverse group of revellers. Maybe it was the feeling that something big was happening. Or perhaps it was just the experience of spending a month in a field taking drugs. Whichever. I don’t know. I just know that it changed my outlook.
Years later, Pulp – singing about the brand new rave scene, released their single “Sorted for e’s and whizz”. I heard Jarvis Cocker sing the lyric
“Mother I can never come home again, as I seem to have left an important part of my brain in a field in Hampshire”
I knew exactly how he felt.
For me anyway, today’s festivals have lost their attraction. Or maybe I am just getting old and I can’t deal with the toilets.
Do you have a drug problem? I mean an actual problem, not just
your dealer is out, or cuts his product too much and then says stuff like’ “Don’t worry it’s a creeper” I mean an actual problem. Are drugs the very first thing you think of when you open your eyes in the morning/afternoon. Do you have unopened mail that you are scared to look at in case it’s a bill or a court summons? Do you find it difficult to remember all the lies? Is living without drugs beyond your comprehension? I mean what would be the point of living drug free, what would you do, who would you be? Have you tried stopping so many times you have lost any belief in your self? Have you actually stopped for a while but found life unbearable without drugs? Once an addict always an addict isn’t that what they say? Have you started to do things you said you would never do? Have all your old friends been avoiding you for some time. Perhaps you avoid them out of shame. Have you robbed people you love? Are you reading this on a stolen lap top? Do you feel like a piece of shit?
Do you feel that slowly committing suicide one fix at a time is what you deserve? Do the people you hang around with scare you, are you way out of your depth. Is there one person in your circle of friends, no sorry my mistake not friends you don’t have friends, one person in your group who is even more fucked up than you are, one person that you associate with just so you can say, “I’m not that bad”. * Do you ever go out wearing a hat? Do you think you are being followed, are you paranoid or is your phone really tapped? Do you sometimes see things out of the corner of your eye that might not be there? Spiders, rats squirrels maybe. Do you sometimes think you might be insane? Have you woken up in A & E and not known how you got there. Do you sometimes have an insatiable desire for a Kumquat? * Have you ever woken up round the back of the flats with your pockets emptied by your “friends” because they thought you were dead and wouldn’t need any of your stuff. (You may have a problem)
Has someone you know overdosed and your first thought was, I wonder where he scored, that gear must be good.
Ok so maybe not all these things apply to you yet, perhaps you are still kidding your self that things are not that bad. Perhaps you think prescription drugs don’t count. I mean how can they count they are given to you by your doctor. You’re not out scoring on the streets like some dirty junkie, but perhaps in your more lucid moments you can see more and more of these things marching steadily towards you and deep down you know something’s not right.
Well cheer up for fuck sake. I know exactly how you feel. This is the blog for you. Don’t worry I’m not a therapist a counsellor or a psychiatrist. Actually I have no medical qualifications; come to think of it I don’t have any qualifications whatsoever. I’m a comedian that used to be a dirty junkie. I’ve spent years being treated by the so-called trained professionals and most of them don’t know what they are talking about so you just might be better off reading my blog.
I’m not saying you will be, but let’s face it in the words of Bob Dylan
“When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose”
• Questions followed by an * may not be significant.
In the news once again high-ranking police officers are calling for drugs to be legalised and once again nothing will change. We have a huge drug problem in this country and the problem is that drugs are illegal.
That’s right, it’s the bloody ridiculous drug laws that created, and now feed the whole drug problem. At one end of the scale they criminalise and endanger otherwise decent law abiding people who are causing no harm to anybody, and at the other end, they place the incredibly lucrative drug trade in to the hands of real criminals. Terrorists…murderers…advertising executives – the type of people who are not constrained by normal moral boundaries.
Who do the government think they are to tell you what drugs you can and cant take in the privacy of your own squat? Didn’t they learn anything from prohibition? Making drugs illegal is like passing a law saying children can only buy sweets from paedophiles. It’s about time somebody stood up and admitted the war on drugs has been well and truly lost. The troops never even got on the beach. Come on everyone, wake up! Can’t you see the police are not making any progress? They can.
I have personally spoken to very high-ranking police officers that freely admit (in private) that they are wasting their time. The problem is getting worse not better. Zero tolerance and stiffer penalties are not the answer, look at Malaysia, they hang their drug dealers, has that cut drug crime? No. It’s just made dealers more ruthless and addicts more desperate.
Ironically it’s actually the drug laws that make the rewards from dealing so great. The only way forward, and I speak as someone who has lost a huge part of their life to drug addiction, is to decriminalise everything. The whole lot. Let people go to the chemist and buy whatever they want. I know that’s not a popular approach to the whole drug problem and it’s certainly not a vote winner (that’s the real problem) but lets look at the benefits:
The price of drugs would drop drastically. Wiping out the drug cartels income over night.
Large numbers of police officers would be freed up to get on with fighting actual crimes.
There would be a huge drop in petty crime, burglaries, car break-ins, credit card fraud etc. All the traditional crimes the addict has to commit to feed an expensive habit.
The prison population would drop drastically. About 80% of inmates are there because of drug related crime
All this would save the government a colossal amount of money. Add to that the enormous income gained from the new drug tax the government would no doubt create and there would be a massive amount to invest in drug education and rehabilitation, further decreasing drug related crime and therefore the cost of fighting it. It’s a win-win situation.
I know people say there would be a huge increase in drug use but I really don’t think there would. If you could go to the chemist and buy heroin would you? OK, maybe you would, but let’s face it most “normal” people wouldn’t.
The people that want drugs buy them anyway; they are easy enough to get hold of. If they were legal and therefore less cool and exciting, maybe fewer young people would be attracted to them. I mean, where’s the street cred in waiting for the chemist to open? Yes, I know children will die but children are dying already and have been for years. Although nowhere near as many as you might think. All the illegal drugs put together only kill about 2000 people a year.
Paracetamol kills nearly ten times as many people as Ecstasy does. Alcohol kills about 6500 a year. Smoking kills 8,000,000 worldwide each year. *
No wonder drug users are not that worried about the health implications.
We have tried the present system of making everything illegal for the last god knows how many years and it’s been counter productive. Its defiantly time for a change. When I ended up in rehab after only 10 years on heroin they told me that addiction was insanity. Defining insanity as continually making the same mistake and expecting different results. If that’s true then our government needs to see a shrink.
Yes, yes, I know that’s enough. I am beginning to sound like a sanctimonious dope-head uncle ranting at a family gathering. So I’ll stop but you know I’m right.
Howard Marks is ‘Mr Nice’.
How has a drug dealer managed to market himself as nice? The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘nice’ as ‘agreeable, attractive, delightful, satisfactory, kind, friendly, considerate, generally commendable…’ Not words often associated with large-scale drug dealing. Howard Marks is a man who started to deal drugs during a postgraduate philosophy course at Oxford (possibly where he honed his tedious, self-satisfied rhetoric) and at the height of his criminal career, if you can call drug dealing a career, was importing consignments of up to thirty tons of hash from Pakistan and Thailand into America. He had links with the IRA and the Mafia – are these organizations known for their benevolence?
I was a drug addict for over ten years and was the consumer of plenty of Mr Marks’ product and just about every other drug you care to mention. In all those years I never met a ‘nice’ drug dealer or, for that matter, one who didn’t occasionally deal in harder drugs. In my experience, dealers were either addicts themselves, which makes them manipulative, ruthless and universally dishonest, or professional criminals just in it for the money. Which makes them even more manipulative, ruthless and universally dishonest. Either way, Marks wasn’t in it for the good of others.
It seems to me that Howard Marks is nice in the same way the Kray twins were nice.
Are there really any nice drug dealers?
Can you name anyone who is affiliated with the IRA or the Mafia who is truly nice?
Howard Marks PR people must really be earning their money. Not just for getting him the Mr Nice tag but also for convincing people to go and see this unbelievably tedious drug-addled old bloke mumble for an hour.
I’ve had more fun doing cold turkey in a derelict building.
Abu Hamza – entertaining after-dinner speaker and all round good egg?