memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

From The Guardian of 2nd June 2011

Dame Judi Dench, Sir Richard Branson, and Sting have joined an ex-drugs minister and three former chief constables in calling for the decriminalisation of the possession of all drugs.

The high-profile celebrities together with leading lawyers, academics, artists and politicians have signed an open letter to David Cameron to mark this week’s 40th anniversary of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. The letter, published in a full-page advertisement in Thursday’s Guardian, calls for a “swift and transparent” review of the effectiveness of current drugs policies.

 

The Social Worker

Maggie Mitchell was nervous. It was her first day at her new job: you’ve got to have a «first day», said her supervisor not unkindly, so it might as well be this one; it’s a straightforward assignment, there’s been a complaint from a local farmer about some travelers camping on his land, (with a permit I hasten to add); your job is to investigate the situation and then report back to me. I’m afraid you’re going have to go alone – we’re so over-stretched at the moment that I can’t spare you a partner. Interview the farmer first and then go to the site; don’t worry, they won’t bite! They’re just a bunch of harmless hippies.

So Maggie went to interview the farmer:

–          It’s not that I’ve got anything against them as such, I mean it takes all sorts to make a world, doesn’t it? Live and let live, that’s what I say …

–          Yes, Mr. Sargent, but what exactly is the nature of your complaint?

–          Well, it comes under three categories: sanitation, noise and drugs!

–          But I thought that, under the terms of your rental agreement, adequate washing and toilet facilities were provided?

–          They are, they are and the others on the site make use of them, but that lot on that painted bus don’t bother to use them; they just go in the bushes …

–          I see, and the noise?

–          Sometimes it’s unacceptable; they rig those big speaker things outside and play loud guitar music on them or they sound off those horn things they’ve got mounted on the front … at all hours of the day or night!

–          What about the drugs?

–          Well as I said, it was obvious that they were on something, sometimes, but they kept themselves to themselves and we all turned a blind eye if you know what I mean? But yesterday I came across a plantation of cannabis plants hidden behind some bushes among the trees on my land … at first I thought they were overgrown weeds … I might not know drugs but I do know plants …

–          When you say plantation how many plants are you talking about?

–          Oh, about ten or so.

–          Right Mr. Sargent, I’ll go and see what they have got to say about all this.

 

The Hippies

It was about 11 o’clock in the morning and Dozy, Dee, Beaky, Mick, Tich and Pete were waking to a new day. They were resurfacing from the deep sleep that follows a stoned rambling night, full of contemplative silences, helpless laughter, music echoing through their heads, flashes of insight, incoherent philosophical ramblings … in other words another session of sustained substance abuse.

The gang had drifted together some five years before. Five of them – three English and two Aussies decided to buy an old bus, paint it up, drop out, tune in and turn on. They dubbed themselves Dozy, Dee, Beaky, Mick and Tich, after a one-hit early seventies cult band. After a few months an American eco-freak called Pete joined them; he had come all the way from up-state New York, via Thailand, and offered as his credential his stash of 10 grams of excellent Afghan Black and so they ended up as Dozy, Dee, Beaky, Mick, Tich and Pete.

Anyway on this particular morning, some of them were on the roof of the bus, pulling themselves out of their torpor, when Dozy, who wasn’t the sharpest tool in that box, just gawped and pointed at the vision picking her way daintily through the mud towards them. It was Maggie. Dressed in a discreet grey skirt and jacket and with her long brown hair tied back in a professional bob, she was still a bit of an eye-full and there was a frisson of appreciation from the boys on the bus; Mick stopped shaving, wiping his face and looking self-conscious, only Pete remained in a trance. Aussie Beaky was their spokesman:

–          G’day miss, anything we can do for you on this fine morning?

–          Yes, good morning, my name is Maggie Mitchell and I’m from the Local Council. I’m afraid we’ve received a complaint from your landlord, Mr. Sargent …

–          That old farmer bloke, what’s he been on about?

–          Well, for a start, there’s the question of noise pollution and a danger to public health through bad hygiene …

–          You mean taking a dump in the bushes …?

–          Well, I wouldn’t put it quite like that but yes, among other things, not using the appointed toilet facilities …

Tich appeared, laden with a huge, battered tea-pot, some plastic cups and an old biscuit-tin:

–          Come on you guys, let’s all take it easy and sort this out over a nice morning cuppa and one of Pete’s special cookies … you too, Miss Mitchell, just chill out and join us, won’t you?

So they all sat or lay on the grass beside the bus around the giant tea-pot. Maggie paused for a moment and then hesitantly sat down on the grass with them, tucking her skirt demurely over her legs. There was a faint air of an oriental tea-ceremony about the proceedings, with the cookies at the sacramental center. Maggie sipped her tea and nibbled a cookie: it was sweet and spicy, cinnamon, a hint of paprika and something that she couldn’t identify. She tried to concentrate on why she was here. She felt hot and took off her jacket and began to relax and feel calmer; she felt a little light-headed and was compelled to help herself to another to another of those delicious cookies; from a distance she heard them discussing the dope plants – it was time that they were harvested, the leaves dried and then shared out … good grass … the merits of 5-paper joints over 3-paper ones … Maggie feels unreal disassociated her glance falls on the paintings on the side of bus those swirling colours she lies down and gazes at the sky she imagines going home and saying to her mother guess what mum I’ve got this incredible recipe for cookies … she starts to giggle at the idea. The others exchange glances of approval, look at Maggie, she’s well away. Way to go, Mags, good on you, says Beaky kindly.

Suddenly she realizes that she’s hungry, absolutely starving and there’s Tich serving out platefuls of vegetarian curry and nan bread – perfect food; she wonders dreamily what her boss’s reaction would be if he knew about all this and realizes that she doesn’t really care; someone hands her some headphones and she just lies back and loses herself in the music …

 

DISTORTION - PAINTING BY THOMAS MILNER

The next day Maggie Mitchell goes back to work and an angry boss: why didn’t you come back yesterday, he demands, and why did you switch off your mobile phone and where’s your report? This is just not good enough! She clears away her things and, stopping only to drop her resignation letter on her boss’s desk, she walks out of the building. (What a degenerate, thinks her boss sourly as he takes another pull from the bottle of whiskey which he keeps hidden in the drawer of his desk).

Now the group is called Dozy, Dee, Beaky, Mick, Tich, Pete and Mags.

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