Tag Archives: heroin

I met a man with a family. He left home to see what it feels like to be homeless…

Manchester – Piccadilly station

When I was at college, one exercise we did was to record a normal conversation, then transcribe it exactly, word-for-word. When you do that, you realise the chaos of conversations. No sentences. Thoughts and sentences bounce around randomly, half-finished and intermingled. That interests me.

In my online blogs, I tend to ‘clean-up’ what is quoted, so it reads – I hope – more smoothly. And I cut for length. But below is a full and exact, un-cut transcription of a conversation I had at the weekend.

I was in Manchester on Sunday, at Amanda Fleming’s horror short film festival.

On Sunday night, I was sitting in Manchester’s Piccadilly station and was approached by a man asking for money. I almost never give money to beggars because I am always dubious what they will spend it on. 

But I had just bought a pack of two tiramisus from a nearby Sainsbury’s Local. So I gave him one and we ate them together on the bench.

He told me he had decided to live on the streets for a day to see what being homeless was like. He told me his very small daughter had died a few months ago. And (although this was Sunday) he had left home on Friday to see for a day what being homeless was like.

I obviously never necessarily believe what I am told by people asking for money. So I cannot guarantee anything he told me is true. 

But I switched on my iPhone during the conversation. Obviously, a vast invasion of his privacy. I will no doubt rot in hell. But I have obscured any details which could identify the man who may or may not be who he said he was. I have called him David. That is not the name he gave me. Everything else he said is quoted exactly.

BEWARE: This is quite long but, with luck, progresses interestingly!


JOHN: When did you leave home? Friday?

DAVID: We’ve really been depressed. All the family’s been depressed because of the loss. Me wife said: “You need a night out with your friends.” So every weekend she’s dressing me up well: “You’ll look nice tonight.”

Anyway, I got wrong train. I got there 15 minutes. They were only 15 minutes behind me. So… But they were on the next train. They were only 15 minutes.

JOHN: You decided you wanted to be a homeless man for a day?

DAVID: Yeah. I want to go home now. I want your advice on how to get to (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY) from here. Can you tell me how to get to (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY) or (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY) or…

JOHN: Best to phone your wife. I’m only up here for the day. Why did you want to be homeless for a day? Are you a sociology professor or something?

DAVID: I just wanted to see what they went through and I couldn’t do it. I could not do it. I am here, going home now.

JOHN: You started on Friday? Or this morning?

DAVID: Friday, I got the fuck beat out of me before my friends got there. I smoked.

JOHN: What? Weed?

DAVID: No. I train (PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS) believe it or not. I train them how to be safe when (THEY DO THEIR JOB), hopefully. And they call me a chicken coward, because I’m the one that can’t do it, so I teach it. There’s a slightly higher grade that I am on, but we don’t live very well.

JOHN: So you’re a (PUBLIC SERVICE) person.

DAVID: I’m a (PUBLIC SERVICE WORKER) trainer, I would say. Trainer, supervisor, yeah, yeah. I do training courses: gotta pass it. I’ve got a company. A few people work for me as well.

JOHN: So you decided you wanted to be homeless…

DAVID: I’m coming out of the hospital. I’m in Manchester. I discharged meself cos I’m pissed-off and I didn’t want to be near anyone. I’m not staying in that bed no longer. I’m not doing this. But there was a man and I said: “Could I have half of your cigarette?” 

And he said: “No.”

I said: “I’m not without money. I would give you a pound.”

(AT THIS POINT, A HOMELESS MAN CAME UP TO US) 

HOMELESS MAN: “I’m sorry for asking…Can you spare a…”

JOHN: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

DAVID: Ay. Ay-up, ay-up, ay-up. I’ve just been like this all day.

(THE HOMELESS MAN WALKED AWAY)

I’ve got five people in me family. Well, four people in my family now. Because of me wages… Because of me dad’s business, me dad says: “You’ll never ever, ever, ever raise £60,000.”

I said: “If you’d sell it me for 60,000… 60,000?” 

He says: “60,000? It’s worth ten times that,” he says. “If you ever raise £60,000 on yer own” he’ll sell a share of it to us. Anyway, I bought an ice cream van. I bought an ice cream van… Tell me when you’re bored.”

JOHN: No,no. You’re keeping me warm inside the station. This is good.

DAVID: It were very very hard with the ice cream van, as I found out and I had to go begging back to me dad, saying: “It’s winter time. I’m going out and I’m taking £15 and using £10 diesel, I’m using £3 stock; I’m making £2, £3, £4 a day, dad. Please bail me out. 

He said: “I told you this. I told you that.” Blah blah blah.

JOHN: I’ve always wondered what ice cream van men do in the winter.

DAVID: What they do in the winter is what I didn’t know. They save a lot of fucking money through the summer.

JOHN: Anyway… Back in the day and being homeless…

DAVID: Yeah. I tried it. What time is it now?

JOHN: When’s your train?

DAVID: I’ve no idea. I haven’t even booked to get. What time is it? Is it half past? It might not come.

JOHN: Almost half past ten. Where are you going to? (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY)? There’s one at 10.47.

DAVID: Where? Where to? Where to?

JOHN: To (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY). Platform 1. 10.47. That’s in 20 minutes time.

DAVID: How do I get to get from (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY) then to get to (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY) or (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY)?

JOHN: I have no idea. God knows.

DAVID: Is there one for (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY) or is there owt?

JOHN: No. There’s just Crewe, Leeds, Buxton, Chester… and Blackpool, for some reason. If you can get to (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY), you can get your wife to collect you.

DAVID: Yeah. You’re right. You’re right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But I haven’t got a penny to ring.

JOHN: (LAUGHS) Was this a very long-winded Can I have some money for the telephone routine?

DAVID: No. I’m sorry, mate. No. I will not accept. Please do not do that. Do not do that. No. I didn’t mean it like that. There’s free phones. There’s free phones. I didn’t believe it. I dialled my dad on his mobile. I dialled him on his landline. I dialled me wife. Are there any of me kids there I can talk to? I broke down in tears. I said: “Daddy’s staying out here another night if he possibly can… just to see what it’s like to be homeless. I’ll be home tomorrow”.

I don’t think I need any money to get a ticket. Are people still working in that little hole?

JOHN: The information booth? Looks like it.

DAVID: What time’s that train to (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY)?

JOHN: 10.47 – 17 minutes time.

DAVID: Something happened and I went absolutely berserk and I absolutely lost the plot completely, tried a few drugs, really dangerous stuff.

JOHN: Today? Or after the ice cream van?

DAVID: No. (LAUGHS) After the death of me daughter.

JOHN: Oh, yes. Sorry.

DAVID: You’re not following this right, are you… We’ll get there. We’ve a long time, haven’t we?… No, it were me daughter. At least I could laugh then. It were the first time I could actually laugh and say: “No, me daughter; not the ice cream man.” That’s first time I’ve laughed and said her name. Me daughter.

(PAUSE)

JOHN: That might be the last train to (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY). There isn’t another one on the board. You’ve got 17 minutes. That might be the last one.

DAVID: What, now?

JOHN: In 16 minutes.

DAVID: I’m gonna go there first (the information booth) and see if there’s one gonna take me to (ANOTHER NORTHERN CITY). That there (the tiramisu) were absolutely beautiful and I’ve had absolutely nowt to eat all day. I got a slice of pizza. 

Some dear said: “I haven’t got any money for you, sweetheart, but, if you want something to eat, you can have something.” 

It’s fucking dangerous out there; it’s shit; I’ve never seen anything like it. That spice – just with phtum phtum-phtum. You can see in street with… we buy each other… and there’s police there and… It’s in front of them. They can’t do anything about it. There’s nothing about it.

JOHN: Is spice the big thing now?

DAVID: Not where I live. I’ve never noticed it. That’s why I… “Can I have a drag of your ciggie?” and he said: “No!” –  Because he paid for it, obviously. A lot of money. £5. I says: “I’ll give you a pound for a drag.” He says: “Yes. But only two drags or three drags. Do you want three drags?”

I thought: He’ll charge me £1 for two or three drags? A roll-up, not a cig. A fuckin’ roll-up. But I got nowt. So I took it. 

I had two drags and I started having third drag and I started feeling funny. So I were walking about, didn’t really know where I was, very disorientated. Couldn’t find train station, bus station, nothing, slept where I thought I oughta sleep, got absolutely annihilated – me wallet has got money in, me phone, me credit cards got took off me; it’s cost me nearly £700 so far. 

It’s not too bad. I’ll get most of it back on insurance. I’ve got quite a good job. I’m not rich. I am not rich. But I have a good job as you can imagine – who trains the (PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS). 

JOHN: Is the drug problem in Manchester now spice not smack?

DAVID: No, it’s not smack. No, no. It’s… No, no. Spice. Spice. But I got…

JOHN: What effect does spice have? Is it like cocaine? Kapow!!

DAVID: Have you had cocaine?

JOHN: No.

DAVID: No. So you don’t know. Cocaine goes be-weugh! But, no, I’m fairly good be-weugh, but that first one we was talking about, the… the… eh… the heroin. That’s BANG! That goes straight in. But no, the one that you said…

JOHN: Spice or cocaine?

DAVID: That is the most subtle one. That is the one you will have a sniff of and not know what it’s done to you, whatsoever, cos it’s so subtle, yeah?

JOHN: I think coke is really dangerous.

DAVID: It’s not very dangerous. I’ve sniffed thousands of…

(A MAN COMES UP AND ASKS US FOR MONEY)

DAVID (TO BEGGAR): Mate, I’m the same as you.

BEGGAR: I know you, man.

DAVID: I know you as well. I’m the same as you do. I’m just trying to get ten bob out of him (POINTING AT ME) me’sen. I’ve got another 13/14 minutes yet.

(THE MAN WALKS AWAY)

I hope them things (information booths) are open. If, for any reason, I can’t, can you lend me some money for phone? You can come with me to see that I phone me wife to pick me up.

JOHN: I’m past caring. Here, you can have £2. It’s a story. It’s a story. It’s a good story.

DAVID: Can you put my details in your phone so I can give you the £2 back for being so kind to me.

JOHN: How about £60,000? If you ARE going to make a phone call – I don’t think you are – you’ve got 11 minutes to the train leaving.

DAVID: How far is it to the fucking thing?

JOHN: I don’t know. Platform 1.

DAVID: Platform 1. Do you buy your ticket and then get on the train and they come and inspect it?

JOHN: I guess so. Platform 1.

DAVID: Platform 1?

(A YOUNG WOMAN IN HER 20s APPROACHES US)

YOUNG WOMAN: Guys, I’m really sorry to ask, but is there any chance you can spare a little bit of change for…?

DAVID: Darling, I’m in the same position as you.

YOUNG WOMAN: Are ya?

DAVID: This is me dad. He’s just come out to give me some money.

YOUNG WOMAN: Alright. No worries.

DAVID: I’m sorry, sweetheart.

YOUNG WOMAN: I’m shitting it. I’m just trying to get home.

DAVID: I’m the same. Me dad’s good to me. He feeds me chocolate.

YOUNG WOMAN: At least you’ve got a dad. 

DAVID: I wish I’d got a mum and I wish I’d got a baby. They both died.

LOUDSPEAKER ANNOUNCEMENT: The train approaching Platform 1 is the…

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Chris Dangerfield – detained with a quarter ounce of heroin in his mouth

Dangerfield – a man, a mouth, a shining light

A few days ago, I posted a blog about performer Chris Dangerfield getting ‘clean’ from heroin by spending time in a Thai brothel. Our chat was shortened for length. Below is part of what I cut out. It refers to a time before he was ‘clean’.


“There is no heroin in Patong,” Chris told me.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because Thai people don’t have a lot of money and heroin is really expensive.”

“But,” I asked, “aren’t there lots of tourists in Patong?”

“Yeah, but how many tourists use heroin? They don’t say: Oh, let’s go to Patong and buy some smack. Anyway, I went up to Ko Samui a few times and was coming back through Customs with a mouthful of heroin and…”

“A mouthful?” I interrupted. “What would happen if they asked you questions?”

“Well they did,” said Chris. “But the mad thing is that, when you’re like that, you don’t give a fuck. I remember thinking: I could end up in a Thai prison but…

“You were off your head?” I asked.

“Yeah. I just thought: I’ll take the distraction. There’s a real self-loathing thing about drug addiction. You’d rather end up in prison than deal with Life on Life’s terms.

“Samui Airport is kinda like Tenko(A famous 1980s BBC TV series set in a Japanese POW camp.) It’s outdoor indoor. There are bushes. It’s not like a normal airport. You can run and you will be on the runway.

The open plan Departure Gate at Samui International Airport (Photograph by Binderdonedat)

“Anyway, I got to the bit where you put your bag in the box and the box goes through the scanner and I’m not shitting myself, but I am aware I have a quarter of an ounce of white heroin in my mouth and, if a dog turns up, I’m in a Thai prison – I’m in the monkey house that afternoon.

“So I put my hand in my pocket to check there’s nothing there before I go through the scanner and – Oh shit! – I’ve got a money bag with about ten used syringes in. My mate had won a holiday on a pack of crisps and he was in Samui, so I had been round his holiday house and I couldn’t leave all my spikes there – that would be unfair – or even in their bin. So I kept them on me and had forgotten because I was smashed out of my head. I had been injecting Xanax and heroin all morning.

“I feel the syringes in my pocket and the guards are waiting for me to go through the scanner, so I just throw them in the bushes casually, like it’s something I don’t need. Not a word is said.

“They always look in my bag when I go through cos the bag has my vape in it with loads of batteries. But they’re fine once they see what it is.

“So it’s OK and I walk off, thinking: Fuck, man, that was a bit stupid. And then she calls me – this female guard – Mistah! Mistah! And I think: Just keep walking! And then there’s another Mistake! Mistah! and then the sound of running feet and I think: This is it! You’ve taken the piss once too often. You can’t keep landing on your feet like the last 40-odd years…

“Then there’s this man’s hand on my shoulder and I turn round: Yeaeaahhh???…

“And I have the quarter ounce of heroin in my mouth.

“He marches me back up to the scanner and I’m thinking: OK. I need to think quickly. How much money have I got in the bank? How much is it going to cost me to get out of this?

“And then they tell me I had left my watch in the box… That was it… I mumble thanks: Mmmm, bmmmm, th… mmvmm… but I was shaking.”

“And now,” I asked, “since your stay in the Thai brothel, you’re clean of heroin?”

“Yes.”

Chris Dangerfield’s attractive YouTube Channel

“And you have a YouTube channel…”

“Yeah. Two months in, I had three-and-a-half thousand subscribers. And they donate money. through Patreon. And enough of them subscribe to make it possible for me to publish my novel.”

“You’ve finished it?” I asked.

“Well, I done 110,000 words. It needs copy editing and line editing. I’d like it about 90,000.”

“What’s it about?”

“My first Thai brothel detox.”

“That’s not a novel,” I suggested. “That’s documentary.”

“But half of it is about me growing up,” said Chris.

“That’s still non-fiction,” I told him.

“It’s autobiographical,” he told me, “but it’s a fucking story, alright?”

“What’s your novel called?” I asked.

Life By Vagina.” He laughed. “It’s a working title. It’s a re-writing of Death By Vagina by Blaise Cendrars. Have you read that?”

“No. What is the elevator pitch for Death By Vagina?”

Death By Vagina: inspiration for Chris

“A psychiatrist has a patient who is a psychopathic sexual maniac and, rather than treat him, he sets him loose on the world. My novel’s beautiful. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m very very proud of it.”

“Have you,” I asked, “approached a mainstream publisher with it?”

“Yeah. And I’ve had interest. But fuck them. What? For 10%?”

“7½% for a paperback,” I said.

“I’ve got three-and-a-half thousand YouTube subscribers,” said Chris. “By the time that novel comes out, I’ll have about 10,000. If half of them buy it…”

“When will it come out?”

“Maybe August?” said Chris.

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Chris Dangerfield – ‘clean’ from heroin after brothel visit – but now called Nazi

Chris Dangerfield had afternoon tea with me

What do you do if people start calling you a Nazi?

Well, if you are Chris Dangerfield, you send me an email and suggest I write a blog about it.

What do you do if you have a heroin habit and want to stop?

Well, if you are Chris Dangerfield, you go to Thailand and live in a brothel for a while. He has done it before.

“So,” Chris told me when we met two days ago, “I went to Thailand for eight weeks and did my Thai brothel detox.”

“Is this the third time?” I asked.

“Well, I done it four times. First two times was mild: a little codeine, a little Valium problem. So I go out there, nip it in the bud. And I nipped a few in the bud while I was there, I can assure you. I deflowered many.”

“Well I can’t put that in the blog,” I said.

“No. You can,” Chris told me, “Use anything. I don’t give a fuck any more. I’m done with humans. This is ‘next stage’ Dangerfield… Second time I went out there, I had almost a proper mild smack habit…”

“Chris,” I told him, “you have never had a MILD smack habit.”

“No, no,” he insisted, “it takes a while for me to get back in properly. That second time I thought: Nip it in the bud again. But the third time, yes. Big smack habit. Wall climbing, black foam coming out of my arse, the full…”

I interrupted him: “Black foam coming out of your arse?”

“Yeah. Smack really fucks up your gastro intestinal tracts. Some literal and figurative and metaphorical dark stuff comes out. But this time, man, new level. I’d been using a lot for the last four years.”

“That’s as long as I’ve known you,” I said.

“No, John. It’s been eight years.”

“Oh God,” I said. “Anyway, you are now Mr Clean, are you? When did you get back?”

“About three weeks ago. But I’m going to go back out there in a couple of weeks.”

“To the brothel?”

“Well no, but yes. Not to stay.”

“The same brothel on all four occasions?” I asked.

“The same madam. Different locations, because her enterprise is growing. She was a streetwalker when I first met her.”

“So you,” I asked, “have made that woman the entrepreneurial success she is today?”

A Chris selfie taken in Thailand back in 2014

“A part of me likes to think that when, weirdly, the truth is she saved my life at least twice. An amazing woman. She instructs all her girls – about 40 of them spread over the three shops. All the working girls come from Isan, north east Thailand. They all speak Thai, but Lao is their first language. In Isan, they are working in fields or factories for 10-20 baht a day. In Patong, they’ll take 6,000 baht a day. What would you do?”

“So you are totally clean now?” I asked.

“Let’s not jump the gun,” said Chris. “I’m off smack.”

“So anyway,” I said, “why did you want to talk to me?”

“I like you, Fleming, because comedians read your stuff.”

“And?” I asked.

“People keep calling me a Nazi.”

“Well,” I said, “you do seem to have decided to go Breitbart and become a British Steve Bannon. Anti-Islamic and all those things.”

“I am 100% anti-Islamic, yeah. I’m anti-religion. I’m anti-theist.”

“You can’t attack Islam en masse,” I suggested. “For a start, there’s Sunni and Shi’ite.”

“There’s kind-of one set of books, though,” countered Chris. “The Hadith, the Sunnah and the Koran.”

“But,” I said, “there’s only one lot that want to chop our heads off.”

“Alright then, I’m anti-Sunni,” said Chris. “I’m anti-Sunni and I’m anti-Wahhabi. But, hold on, how does me being anti-theist make me a Nazi?”

“Who’s saying this anyway?” I asked.

“Comedians,” said Chris. “Where do they get that from? I went out to the French House (pub in Soho) the other night. People I’ve known for twenty years. Five of them called me a Nazi!”

“Why?”

“Well, this is my point. If you’re not sort of militant Left now, there’s only one option left for you. You get called a Nazi.”

“Your postings,” I said, “do sound like you’ve gone a bit Alt-Right, whatever that means.”

“It means white supremacist. You’ve just casually called me a supremacist, a separatist! I’m not!”

“So you are not Alt-Right,” I said. “What are you?”

“I’m a conservative Marxist.”

“What is a conservative Marxist?” I asked.

Christopher Hitchens: a Conservative Marxist? (Photo by Fri Tanke)

Christopher Hitchens?”

“What,” I said. “Not who. Define it.”

“I’m not a conservative Marxist. But I was Marxist for most of my adult life from about the age of 19.”

“Do you not think,” I asked, “that it’s a circle? If you take extreme Left wing and extreme Right wing, they end up in the same place?”

“Well, it’s not a circle, John, it’s a horseshoe.”

“So what happens,” I asked, “in the gap of the horseshoe?”

“I just think it’s strange I get this accusation. I get it a lot.”

“I have to admit,” I told him, “that I’ve not read the Koran. But most religions are OK. It’s organised religions – churches – that are often a bad thing, not religions.”

“You haven’t read the Koran,” said Chris. “You can’t go more than three pages without it telling you how to torture and kill infidels. It’s a vile, barbaric book.”

“What you are saying,” I told him, “is not going to look good in print.”

“I don’t give a fuck, John.”

“So how are you going to persuade people you are not an Alt-Right neo-Nazi?

“I’m not. I don’t give a fuck about what they think, really, I will carry on putting Pepe memes up so they think I am.”

“Pepe?” I asked.

“You seriously don’t know Pepe?”

“No.”

“You have got to include a picture of Pepe in the blog,”

“Pepe’ a green frog. It’s Lord Kek of Kekistan.”

“Are you sure you are off the smack?” I asked.

“Don’t you understand,” said Chris, “that Kekistani meme magic won Donald Trump the election? He was the chosen one of the Kekistani people.”

“I have no idea what you’re on about,” I said.

“Do you know about. 4Chan?”

“No.”

“4Chan invented the internet.”

“I thought that was Tim Berners-Lee. Or the Web, anyway. What is 4Chan?”

“It’s an image board. It’s very famous, John. Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet but these people invented the content. They weaponised autism.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s how people on 4Chan track people down.”

“What’s 4Chan?”

“What do you do all day, John?

“I fantasise about Lewis Schaffer becoming a mainstream success.”

“Well, there’s a militant anarcho-communist violent – I dunno what you’d call ‘em – gaggle of cunts? They protest anything that they think is Nazism and Fascism. They ‘bash Fash’. That’s why they call it. They bash Fash. They’re middle class idiots and they turn up with banners and sticks and they’ve been smashing up property in Berkeley, de-platforming speakers and all that. But the other day they got the shit kicked out of them at a Patriots’ Day Rally in Berkeley.”

“Are you trying to shut down Islamic free speech?” I asked.

“There is no Islamic free speech,” said Chris. “It’s a religion. Come on, I’m not trying to shut down anyone; I’m trying to keep free speech alive.”

“Who are you going to be voting for in the (UK) General Election?” I asked.

“Oh, Tory. I will be taking a photo of that ballot paper and sticking it on Facebook with a big Up Yours and a picture of Pepe.”

“Have you always voted Conservative?”

“No.”

“If you were a Marxist earlier in life, you couldn’t really vote Labour back then, could you?”

“Didn’t vote,” said Chris. “When you want an armed revolution, voting for Tony Blair doesn’t really cut it. I am not a Tory, though.”

“So why will you be voting Conservative?”

“I’ve probably made myself look a lot worse”

“I don’t want a Socialist in my fucking country. They’re incompetent. There are literal Rivers of Blood behind Communism that make the Nazis look like a flash in the pan. We are talking hundreds of millions of people die when inevitably Socialist/Communist states become dictatorships and then everyone gets murdered and starved.”

“It’s a horseshoe?” I asked.

“If they want to bash Fash,” suggested Chris, “they should be punching themselves in the face.”

“So,” I said, “you called me in to the middle of London to make yourself look better…”

“I think I’ve probably made myself look a lot worse, though, haven’t I?” Chris laughed.

“Well,” I said, “That’s a good blog ending, then.”

… CONTINUED HERE

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Comedian Chris Dangerfield is in love

Chris with water  in Edinburgh in August

Chris & some water in Edinburgh this August

Three days ago, I posted a blog in which Chris Dangerfield gave his opinion on the Dapper Laughs kerfuffle. Some of what he said did not fit comfortably into that blog. This is part of what I did not post…

“You’ve recently been to Cambodia,” I said to Chris.

“Yeah.,” said Chris. “Went to Cambodia. Went down to Phnom Penh.”

“When was this?” I asked.

“That’s hard to say,” Chris replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because of the nature of my visit,” he laughed. “I got on a tuk-tuk (motorised rickshaw taxi) at the airport when I arrived and the driver asked me: Do you want something to smoke? – I said Yeah – So he gave me some weed… Do you want some tablets? – Yeah – So he gave me some Xanax – And he said Do you want some China White (heroin) – Yeah.

“This was the first Khmer I had spoken to and he offered me weed, Xanax and heroin. I took all three of them, went to my hotel room and spent a couple of days crying.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Remember when I last talked to you (in September),” said Chris, “I mentioned I had left the love of my life? I went out to Cambodia essentially to escape a broken heart and, predictably, the broken heart came with me.”

“But now,” I said, “you are back together again?”

Chris in a famous UK chemist chain - a company which, he says," history suggests got rich on the back of the Opium Wars"

The drug section of a famous UK chemist chain – a company which, Chris says, “got rich on the back of the Opium Wars”

“Yeah. I sat out there for a couple of days shooting heroin and having Xanax for breakfast and thought: I need to get home, I need to get clean and I need to give that relationship a chance while I’m clean. Because there’s no chance while you’re using.  That’s bullshit to think that. How can you have a relationship while you’re using?”

“So why didn’t you get clean last time?” I asked.

“That is a question I’ll probably asked myself forever until I am clean.”

“But, you’re not clean now.”

“No.”

“So what about your relationship?”

“Well, I’m giving it a go now.”

“But you’re not clean.”

“But I’m trying,” said Chris. “I’m certainly trying. A couple of weeks ago, I was doing a gram a day of white Number 4 Burmese – the strongest smack in the world – and now I’m doing about 0.2 of a gram a day. By the time me and her go to Thailand in a few weeks, I’ll be down to an oxycontin a day.”

“Oxycontin?” I asked.

Chris Dangerfield yesterday with abandoned police bike behind

Chris Dangerfield in London’s Soho district last year

“Oxycodone,” Chris explained. “The brief must have been to the pharmaceutical companies: Can you make some heroin? Because all our addicts are giving Afghanistan and South East Asia money, so we would rather them be buying black market American-made goods.

“So, yes, oxycodone: that’s the plan. I’m on 0.2 (of heroin) at the moment; I hope before I leave it will be 0.1 and then I’ll get the oxycontin down and, by the time I come back, hopefully I’ll be clean or just a bit of ‘codeine’. To go from a gram of white heroin on the needle to a couple of dihydrocodeines a day, I’ll be happy with that.”

“How long have you known your girlfriend?” I asked.

“Four years, on and off. I’ve never felt like I do about her. It feels like real love. I actually make concessions for someone else’s feelings, which is something I’ve never done before.

“I love her like I’ve never loved anyone else. I have feelings for her that are new and I think it deserves… I mean, I want to be clean anyway. I’m done with this shit and I want that relationship to have a proper chance.”

“When did you start taking heroin?” I asked.

“I was 23.”

“And you’re how old now?”

Chris Dangerfield and his girlfriend

Chris Dangerfield and girlfriend this week

“42… Well, I think I started taking drugs when I was around 14. But I’m done with it. I’ve been talking to the American writer and musician Mishka Shubaly who does the music for Doug Stanhope’s podcast. He’s been five years clean of alcohol and he’s been an amazing person to communicate with.”

“And,” I said, “as for your girlfriend…?”

“I love her – I really do. Like any love affair, it has its ups and downs. But there’s nothing new there with the smack and it’s stopping me doing other things. It’s time to love, to create and to relax: and they are three things – the last one, anyway – that heroin interferes with. No, it interferes with all of them.”

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Comic Chris Dangerfield, the serious heroin problem and a new wonder drug

Chris Dangerfield at home in his bath yesterday, thinking of getting clean

Chris at home in his bath yesterday, thinking of getting clean

It is no secret that comedian Chris Dangerfield has a heroin problem. He has talked about it on stage. When I met him yesterday, he was sweating a lot and he had  just broken up with his girlfriend.

“You can say in your blog that I’ve just come out a relationship,” he told me. “Just mention that I didn’t leave her because I didn’t love her. I left her because I’m not well.”

“If you get clean, though,” I said, “then maybe…”

“I’m not going to get well and get back with her,” he insisted. “That’s a step backwards. It doesn’t work like that, because I’m a different person when I’m not using.”

“But you told me you’re going to try a new way to get clean,” I said.

Ibogaine,” said Chris. “It comes from a West African root called the taberthnathe iboga and it’s full of psychoactive alkaloids but they’ve isolated one which is called ibogaine. It will never get used medically because it’s a one-shot medication, so there’s no money to be made from it. If you give a junkie methadone every day for ten years, someone’s making a fortune.”

“But with ibogaine?” I asked.

“Ibogaine,” said Chris, “makes your withdrawal last an hour instead of two or three weeks. Most junkies won’t get clean cos of fear of the detox: it’s so unbearable.

Chris Dangerfield photographed in Thailand last month

Chris trying to get clean in Thailand in April

“When I done that withdrawal in Thailand when we talked for your blog back in April, I still couldn’t walk after four weeks. I didn’t sleep for nine days – and I only knew that because I kept a calendar because I was going out of my mind. With ibogaine, the withdrawal lasts an hour.”

“With just one jab?” I asked.

“It’s not even a jab. It’s like a pellet… Ibogaine has been around for a few years now, but there’s been a resurgence of interest in it recently. There have been a couple of fatalities but, because it’s been done in people’s bedrooms and things by hippies…”

“So someone might have a weak heart,” I suggested, “and…”

“Yeah,” said Chris. “When you do it in treatment centres, you’ve got to have a full body check like heart, blood pressure, CT scan. They give you a test dose to make sure you’re not allergic and then, if that’s OK, they give you four more and then you vomit and there’s a lot of nausea – about 60% of people vomit for an hour or two. They tend to top you up with a bit more if you do that.

“And then you go on a very introverted trip for I think it’s about ten or twenty hours. They put an eye mask on you and you stay wired up to a machine to measure your heart and blood pressure and all that.”

“A trip?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Chris, “like a DMT kind of ayahuasca sort of LSD kinda trip.”

“So you hallucinate?” I asked.

Chris taking the chaise longue view yesterday

Chris taking the chaise longue view yesterday

“Yeah. But you hallucinate your past. You confront your past as a third person and what they’re saying is it re-sets your addiction. You get to see all the things that led up to the reason you’re happy to jab heroin in yourself all day long. So not only does it get rid of the withdrawals – I mean, three weeks down to an hour is incredible – but it also has an effect on your addiction.

“You come out of it 24 hours later a bit physically weak because you’ve been lying on a bed not eating and apparently you can’t drink much on it… but the desire to use any drugs has gone in about 80% of cases.”

“But,” I asked, “isn’t a lot of the desire to use drugs psychological? This sounds very physical.”

“But they’re saying on top of that,” Chris told me, “it removes the psychological desire to use drugs. Addiction’s a weird one. It’s like it’s been turned into a disease, which I don’t go with.

“With someone like me who has been using since they were a teenager (Chris is 42), there’s a certain amount of hard wiring. They’re saying ibogaine re-sets all of that. So you don’t get a bit of fear in your life and think Oh shit, man, I want some Valium! or Oh, I’ve had enough of this! I want to get on the heroin! Instead, you actually deal with the fear and pain in different ways because of what ibogaine has done with your brain.”

“They are surely,” I said, “going to charge a fortune if it’s a one-off treatment.”

“If I wanted to do it alone,” said Chris, “I could get it on the internet for about £20. But I will do it in a medical clinic. There’s one out in Thailand.”

“Not in London?” I asked.

“They are doing it in Britain,” said Chris. “But, if I go to Thailand, I can get clean and have a holiday.”

“I still feel,” I said, “that I’m going to go to Thailand to get off heroin is a flawed concept.”

“Well,” said Chris, “it has worked several times. It just doesn’t last because I have to come back here. I’ve got clean in Thailand countless times.”

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The new female comedian who is my flatmate at the Edinburgh Fringe

For anyone who read my blog yesterday and may be wondering, my co-host Kate Copstick did not turn up at our increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon. She woke up in agony in the morning. With luck she should be at our show today. No doubt more brief news will follow tomorrow.

Someone who was at yesterday’s show, though, was my Fringe flatmate Sara Mason. She is a relatively new comedian who is picking up a few gigs in Edinburgh plus a few tips for a future Fringe show.

“So,” I said, introducing her, “you are an American, Swiss, French, English errr God knows what you are…”

Sara in an Edinburgh selfie taken today

Sara in an Edinburgh flat selfie taken today

“I was born here in Britain,” she said, “and then my parents emigrated to America when I was ten, to Beverly Hills in California. We were originally supposed to go for five years – my father was at UCLA (lecturing on psychoanalysis) – but he never came back.”

“And you went to Beverly Hills High School,” I said.

“I was two years ahead,” explained Sara, “because I had been through the British school system, which was better, so I was 15 when I finished high school, not 18 like them.

“I have a brother who is sadly no longer with us. He was on heroin and was a drug dealer and had the honour of being the worst student ever to attend Beverly Hills High School. Eventually they chucked him out. He had long hair and people said we looked alike, although he was 6’5” and had dark long hair and he was cool and I wasn’t very cool. I was into theatre, which was deeply uncool in Beverly Hills.”

“Why was theatre uncool?” I asked.

“In the Theater Dept,’ said Sara, “we were into theatre and Shakespeare and opera and classical music and I was a bit nerdy. I was on the Principal’s Honor Roll. That was so uncool at Beverly Hills where I should have been shooting up… although I did my fair share of drugs,

Beverly Hills High School’s gym

Beverly Hills High School’s gym, never knowingly understated

“Your friend would take eight tablets… and so, next week, you would take ten to make sure you had outdone them.

“They would do one hit of acid so you would say: I’m gonna take two!

“It culminated for me one day when I took four and had a really bad trip. But that was after having taken LSD every day for a year. I did all my SATs on LSD and did very well.”

“What,” I asked, “is an SAT?”

‘Your exams to get into university,” explained Sara. “I wanted to go to Drama School and my father was having none of that. So, secretly, I forged my parents’ signatures and transferred myself out of all the courses I would have needed to take to get into UCLA – because there’s a minimum. I talked my counsellor into the fact I was going to be an actress, so I should do drama classes and French classes and English and History but not the Maths and Science requirements.

“I thought I was very, very smart and got a job between classes, but I didn’t calculate for the SATs, because I scored so highly on the SATs in spite of the LSD that I WAS offered a university place anyway. So I ran away from home.”

Photo of Sara by Nathalie Kerrio

Sara in a photo taken by Nathalie Kerrio

“You knew the film producer William Castle, didn’t you?” I asked. “I know of him because, as well as Rosemary’s Baby, he produced The Tingler, where he wired up the seats of cinemas to an electric current and, at the shocking bits of the film, the audience were literally given an electric shock.”

“He was a lovely man,” said Sara,”with a huge cigar and was almost like a caricature of a film producer. But it wasn’t just him I knew. Debbie Reynolds was the local scout mistress for the Brownies in Beverly Hills. Can you imagine that?

Jamie Lee Curtis was in my brother’s class; her sister was in my class. Dean Martin’s daughter used to come to school in a yellow Jensen sports car or a Corvette and she had a diamond bracelet with great big diamonds spelling out the letters of her name. I had a bracelet made out of string. I was completely piss-poor and I wasn’t cool.

Joan Fontaine’s son had a crush on me when I was ten. It was so embarrassing! He used to follow me round and I had never heard of Joan Fontaine. He used to follow me around and sing I Carry a Torch For You!… I was thinking: You’re ten years old! I want to kill you! You are embarrassing me! Beverly Hills High was really odd, a surreal experience.

“My brother was cool from Day One. He managed to get arrested in primary school for drug dealing, but they had to let him go, because it was kitchen herbs.”

“Kitchen herbs?” I asked.

Sara (right), with Claire Smith of The Scotsman & Bob Slayer

Sara (right), with Claire Smith of The Scotsman & Bob Slayer

“Oregano, catnip, parsley…”

“Does that work?” asked someone in the audience.

“With nine year old kids…” said Sara. “That was his first arrest.”

“That is very entrepreneurial,” I said, “to sell parsley to kids.”

“My brother was so sharp,” said Sara. “Such a business brain. My brother used to lock us in his room and weigh out the drugs and I would help him, thinking: One day, they might think I’m cool. Although his friends used to call me Luscious. That was even worse. It was so embarrassing.

“My brother used to pretend he didn’t know me at school. On the other hand, Morgan Mason – James Mason’s son – used to tell everyone I was his sister.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Just to tease me. That was Beverly Hills High. It’s scary, because so many of them are dead now.

Sara in her favourite tree in Beverly Hills

Sara inside her favourite tree in Beverly Hills

“I went to the High School reunion and everyone I met was saying: I’ve been sober for 20 years. I go to AA every week. Every single person: Oh! I used to be on cocaine. Oh! I used to be alcoholic. If they’re not dead from a drug overdose or AIDs, they’re going to AA. All that money and all that corruption.”

“Well,” I said, “that’s the censored version of Sara’s life up to the age of fifteen.”

“That was a very censored version.” agreed Sara. “I remember at lunchtime when we were 13 or 15, we would all sit in the girls’ toilet, cross-legged on the floor, rolling joints, smoking them, smoking cigarettes and practising giving blow jobs on a banana. We didn’t un-peel the banana.”

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How German Polly Trope went from Britain into a US mental home and wrote her autobio-novel “Cured Meat”

Yesterday, I talked to writer Polly Trope in Berlin via Skype about her book Cured Meat – Memoirs of a Psychiatric Runaway. It is dedicated:

To those I left behind

She crowdfunded the book. The pitch is still on YouTube.

“Is it a novel or an autobiography?” I asked.

“I always find it amazing that some people actually manage to make up stuff,” she told me. “The things that are interesting in the book are the things that happened rather than the person. But some of them didn’t happen. What I really wanted to do with my book was to characterise lots of people I’ve met. I wanted to write about many many people, not just myself. And, even when I was writing about myself, I was trying to write about how things happened rather than myself. I was interested in capturing what happened like it was some sort of movie: an outside description of things. Some people say an autobiography has to be about the person writing it, but it’s also about lots of other people. Obviously some things are not completely accurate. I’ve tried to pick out things I heard about or happened which I thought were worth writing about.”

“Why didn’t you want to publish a straight autobiography?” I asked.

“The book is based on The Odyssey.”

“The book is based on The Odyssey.”

“People only want to read the autobiographies of celebrities,” said Polly. “I am not famous.”

“How did you decide on the nom de plume Polly Trope?” I asked.

“Brainstorming names. Greek mythological characters whose names could be turned into English. Polytropos was an adjective Homer applied to Odysseus. So Polly Trope.”

Polytropos actually means “having many forms” i.e. having different personalities – or “twisting and turning” i.e. versatile and capable of manoeuvring through a stormy sea.

“The whole book is based on The Odyssey a little bit,” explained Polly, “because that’s what I did for my degree – Ancient Greek & Latin Literature at King’s College, London. I went to London when I was 18.”

“And then you went on to get a PhD in Classics?” I asked.

“I started one,” said Polly. “I didn’t finish it. I went to America to do it.”

“And I know you checked into a mental hospital just two months after arriving,” I said. “Did something happen?”

“No,” said Polly. “I was already a bit depressed when I went there and I expected it would be really exciting to go to America and I would be magically happier when I got there.”

The woman called Polly Trope in her Groucho Marx disguise (Photograph by Joe Palermo)

The woman called Polly Trope in her Groucho Marx disguise (Photograph by Joe Palermo)

“Was this New York?”

“Connecticut.”

“So was it just depression?” I asked.

“Pretty much. I just felt really out of place; I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know anyone there. I tried the therapist and that was a really bad idea because then I went to the mental hospital and then it just really got very difficult.”

“Did they drug you up?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” said Polly. “It just blew everything out of proportion. It became almost unthinkable to stop.”

“I was in a mental hospital when I was 18,” I said. “The first thing they do, of course, is just give you drugs.”

“All the time,” said Polly. “All the time. All the time.”

On YouTube, there is a song Numb Enough written by Polly (with a video shot by her). Her lyrics include the lines:

And are you numb enough, and is your life on hold,
And did you feel the shock when it all fell apart?

“You were in and out of mental hospital for three years,” I said.

“Yes,” said Polly. “I constantly told my psychiatrist I wanted to stop taking the drugs and he would always say: Well, if you can’t understand how much you need them, then I must put you into the hospital so you know how to take your drugs. That’s a simplified version of what happened, but it was me trying to stop taking tablets and the guy telling me: You must.”

“You were still doing your academic stuff through all this?” I asked.

“I was trying to,” said Polly. “I had to go on leave of absence after a couple of years. Eventually I left for six months, then another six months and, at that point, I didn’t want to see psychiatrists any more and, after that, I just went back to Europe.”

Polly Trope: "It started with the psychiatric drugs and then I moved into non-psychiatric drugs.”

Polly Trope: “It started with psychiatric drugs and then I moved into non-psychiatric drugs.”

“When you became addicted to drugs,” I asked, “was that medicinal drugs or heroin or…?”

“Both,” said Polly. “One after the other. It started with the psychiatric drugs and then I moved into non-psychiatric drugs.

“I was prescribed sleeping tablets and benzedrines and those are also sometimes used as recreational drugs and I had those on prescription and then it just kind of moved from there into prescription painkillers and then to completely illegal opium stuff and heroin and… Yeah… And then, at the same time, I moved from America back to London and… Yeah… That was the transition. We’re talking about 2009 here.”

“And then,” I said, “as far as I understand it, you met a guy in a London casino one night. He was involved with brothels; he took you to one, asked you if you wanted to work there and you said Yes.”

“I had really big money problems,” said Polly.

“Did you do it out of desperation or interest or…”

“Both,” said Polly. “Interest not so much. I was never particularly against prostitution. I don’t think I was especially interested in trying it. But it wasn’t something I was particularly scared of or that I thought could be the worst thing that could happen to someone.”

“Were you still supporting a drug habit at that point?”

“Not quite. But it was very fragile. I had only been clean for about a couple of weeks or so. Everything was quite new. I was feeling quite good, but I was also broke. In a house. I had many many problems. It was difficult.”

“So you were sort-of on an up,” I said. “But this would have taken you down?”

“Yeah. Yes. Yes. That’s right.”

“How long did you do the prostitution for?”

Polly Trope

Polly in London: “Then I thought it would be good if…” (Photograph by Joe Palermo)

“April to December of one year. At first, he took all my money. After about three weeks. I kicked him out of the way. He was terrible. I’d been ripped off. I needed the money even more. Many of the women I met didn’t want to do it in the first place then, later, they got organised and stayed in the job because they were already there and it is quite a lot of money. It was a bit like that with me as well, although I didn’t feel I wanted to stay there longer than necessary. I was not trying to make lots of money. I just wanted to fix a few financial problems.”

“I was once told by an ex-criminal,” I said, “that most robbers have no financial target they want to reach, therefore they don’t know at what point they have reached a place they can stop doing it. So it ends badly. Maybe prostitution is like that?”

“And also,” said Polly, “people get used to more money and they increase their standards. I just had a bit of debt which I wanted to pay off.”

“So is that why you came out of it?” I asked. “You paid the debt and that was it?”

“It was only about £3,000,” said Polly. “But that was the beginning. Then I thought it would be good if I could save up for a deposit and some rent and, once you start paying rent, you have to do it every month, so… Then I thought I’m gonna start looking for a job immediately and, as soon as I find a new job I will take it... And that dragged on forever.”

“What sort of job were you looking for?” I asked.

“Stuff to do with writing and books. Things like editorial work or proofreading or translation. I didn’t realise it was not the right thing to look for. I had a degree but not much work experience. Nobody wanted to employ me. I eventually got a job through the Job Centre. I worked in a call centre for about a year and then I came back to Berlin.”

“In your dreams, when you were 14,” I asked, “did you want to be a writer?”

“Yeah,” said Polly. “I think I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t think it was a real job; I thought it was something you did on the side and still had to earn money some other way.”

“Sadly, you might be right,” I said. “And now you are…?”

Polly Trope reads her book Cured Meat

Polly: short stories which turned into a novel

“I’m writing little projects,” said Polly. “But I’m not sure yet. Probably something similar. Short stories which turn into a novel if you read them one after the other.”

“Basically,” I said, “your book is a series of chapters which are self-contained short stories but, when you read them one after another, they become a novel.”

“Pretty much that,” said Polly. “I’ve always been really keen on this idea that you could even read it backwards or you could read it in any order. I was really keen on the book being like that. The plot is just the way things happened. Some readers find it reassuring to know one thing comes before another and another thing comes later and they can remember it all. But some readers just want to know what’s going on now.”

“Where are you going now?” I asked.

“I have to get X-rays,” said Polly. “I have a very bad knee which may be broken.”

On YouTube, there is a song Fucking Princess written by Polly (with a video shot and edited by her).

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