Booze and fags were always enough of a high for me so I was never a major drug user and it must be over 10 years since I did any at all, but in my time I’ve taken speed and ecstasy, did cocaine on one occasion, and smoked enough joints to know the difference between Afghan Black and Red Leb (hash being easier to get than grass in England back then). But considering I’ve only ever been an infrequent dabbler in them I do have a rather good drug story to tell.
One Saturday night back in 1985 I was on a pub crawl in Putney with some mates when, during the walk from The Spotted Horse to The Star & Garter, one of them got out a joint for us to have a puff on while we strolled down the high street. Being young and a little drunk we didn’t care if anyone saw us smoking a joint in the street and were feeling pleasantly buzzed as the dope mixed with the lager in our systems. But the evening was about to go tits up because when we got to the pub one of my idiot mates, unnoticed by me, walked in there while he was still smoking the joint and stubbed it out in the ashtray at our table.
About half an hour later we’re sitting having a beer when these two blokes came up to us and one of them says “Outside, boys” and showed us an ID card. I had no idea they were plain-clothes coppers and my first thought was that someone was having a joke so I said to him “That was a bus pass!” (I swear, it did look like a bus pass, nothing like the fancy badges you get in American cop shows) which didn’t amuse him in the slightest, he just said “outside, boys” again and held up the roach from our joint in his hand with a look on his face that said “we got you red-handed, you stupid little bastards.” It turns out that the landlord of the pub had smelled the joint when we walked in, found it when he emptied our ashtray, and called the Old Bill. The swine.
We got outside and they asked us where we got the dope from, made us empty our pockets and all that stuff. My mate who had the joint originally had left before the cops got there which was lucky because he had a big lump of dope in his pocket. Then a uniformed copper turned up who took me back inside the pub on my own and marched me to the Gents toilet. As it was a Saturday night the pub was packed and everyone saw me being taken into the loo, it was like one of those scenes in a Western when a saloon goes quiet and everyone turns around when the lawman walks in.
Thinking back I can’t remember if I already knew what they were going to do but once in the Gents he told me to strip down to my underpants and wait for the plain-clothes guy — yes, I was going to be strip-searched. I did what I was told and while I’m standing there in nothing but my skids people kept coming in to use the toilet and got a good look at me before the copper told them to get out, I’m sure they had a big laugh about it and the whole pub found out what I was doing in there. If I’d been a little less drunk — and stoned — I probably would have been mortified and more than a little angry but as it was I took the whole thing in my stride and was quite relaxed, I even had a nice chat with the uniformed copper. Then the plain-clothes bloke with the bus pass comes in, tells me to take down my underpants, turn around and bend over, and he then proceeded to have a good look up my arse — with a torch! A fine way to spend a Saturday night I must say, having a copper look up your bum in a cold pub toilet.
Satisfied that there was nothing up my rear end (the very idea!) he told me to get dressed and I was taken back outside where my mates were still being held, having no idea where I’d been. Apparently I was the only one who had been searched like that and when I asked them why they said because the landlord had fingered me as the one who had been smoking the joint. Either the landlord was blind or they were bullshitting me, to this day I think it was because I was an art student at the time and looked like one with my second-hand clothes and round NHS glasses which, in their eyes, made me the type who liked to indulge in the ol’ wacky baccy. Or maybe he was just getting me back for my “bus pass” crack. Luckily they decided it wasn’t worth nicking us for one joint so they let us go with the parting words “We don’t care if you smoke a joint, just don’t do it in public.”
So let that be a lesson to you kids: Just say no to drugs, at least if one of your mates is an idiot who doesn’t know that you shouldn’t walk into a pub with a lit joint. And if you’re ever down Putney way, pop in the Star & Garter for a piss and think about me.
Download: Police On My Back – The Equals (mp3)