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Rear View Mirror: A bit of a weed on

Taxi driver Tony Schumacher on what's getting up people's noses there in the back

Written by . Published on November 11th 2010.

Rear View Mirror: A bit of a weed on

WHEN I was a kid, I’m guessing it was around about 1972 or so, I remember walking to school one day in a horrible, smelly thick fog. I can remember waiting to cross the road holding my mum’s hand, watching the cars creep past, headlamps ablaze like ghost ships in a film.

Most of it was dried oregano and talc. But users didn’t care, thinking they were Tony Montana and living the dream

I remember it was cold, and I also remember I didn’t want to go to school (I never wanted to go to school). I remember all of these things, but the thing I remember the most was the stench of that fog. It stuck in my throat and made me feel a bit sick.

There were a lot of smells back then: chip pans full of lard in the kitchen, cars that belched acrid smoke. Men used to have BO and didn’t care, maybe because one bath a week was all you wanted in a house that didn’t have central heating.

My mum smelled of Yardley and Blue Grass perfume, except when she came home from work, and then it was essence of Lemon Puff biscuits, which was always a bonus to a six year old.

I don’t recall fabric softener called “Golden Orchid”, in fact I don’t recall fabric softener. And our soap tended to be a large green brick and it was used on everything from floors to faces.

Before I turn into Billy Butler, what I am trying to point out is that smells are powerful things. Whether we realise it or not, we live our life with them flicking neurons as we wind our way down the street.

On a recent stroll through Huyton “Village”, I savoured Sayers, KFC, Waterfields and Greenhaighs bakeries and a fruit and veg stall (doing decidedly less business then the other shops I mention). But above all these high street aromas, one stood out more than the others: the smell of skunk cannabis. I counted it from different people four times, and not just the usual track-suited monkey clutching his nuts either. In the queue in the bank I narrowed it down to two young mothers, one of whom was smartly dressed and who appeared to be on her lunch from the council offices near by.

By the way, I’m not some sort of narcotic prude: I worked in the Caribbean and Miami for a while in the early 1990s and it would have been difficult to be judgemental when you are living with a Costa Rican during the heady days of Miami Vice on TV and Bobby McFerrin in the charts.

But drug use was still a taboo, to be indulged in small, trusted groups behind closed doors. Like witches huddled around a cauldron, some would share a joint, or very occasionally a line, but most of the enjoyment would be the thrill of the forbidden, the risk of discovery, which was a good job, as most of it was dried oregano and talc. But users didn’t care, thinking they were Tony Montana and living the dream.

When I came home I found an old friend had become involved in the heroin plague that had hit Liverpool after the riots, it had sneaked up on him and slowly swallowed his life like a python would a rat. He still hasn’t fully recovered. We spoke a few months ago and he told me how he feared for today’s kids and the casualness of skunk use, “It’s used so openly,” he remarked. “I used to hide my drugs, now it’s like sharing a bag of crisps”.

In the cab I smell it three or four times a night. If I chat to the beholder they will happily talk about it without a hint

of shame, many will offer some gratis, like my dad might have offered a Trebor mint. Some will tell you they are dealers “but only so I can sort myself out without having to pay”; a few will mention they would like to stop, but not many.

One Friday I dropped a particularly pungent passenger off in Kensington. The odour was overpowering. I’d asked him to open his window it was so bad. After he left I opened all the the windows, mindful my next passenger didn’t want to be stoned on arrival. I couldn’t understand why the smell wouldn’t clear until I realized I was parked near a pub where five people were smoking it standing outside.

Two things struck me, the first that they were prepared to observe the smoking ban, which carries an £80 fine, but were not bothered by smoking a class B drug in the street, which could potentially result in five years jail time; secondly, it was only quarter to one in the afternoon on a weekday. I felt a bit of a mug for working to be honest.

Labour tried to legalise cannabis and failed, a brave attempt at tackling a problem that isn’t going to go away. It's a bit like a New Orleans dyke, once it is breached its very difficult to hold back the tide. One wonders if it might be easier to give up the fight and move to higher ground before we are swamped.

All of this brings me, like the creeping, polite society, narcotic acceptance, to a few months ago. I pulled up at a pub in Norris Green. It was late on a summer Sunday afternoon.

A couple approached and gave the right name, and jumped in the back. They were slightly merry, and told me they’d been to a christening and had decided the night was young. It was one of those christenings where everyone dresses like they are going to the Aintree races, posh frocks and George-at-Asda suits.

Off we set and they chatted among themselves and I let them get on with it until I heard an almighty snort followed by a sniff, then again, this time from the male, I turned my head and enquired what they’d done.

“Just snorted some beak, sorry, do you want a line?”

I told them I didn’t and warned them they were getting kicked out if they did it again.

They both gave genuine apologies, with the bloke saying “It was disrespectful of us, really out of order."

“I’m sorry, we’ve already had a few lines,” explained his companion. “It keeps us going when we are out you see.”

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AlbertNovember 3rd 2010.

I wonder if all these hippies walking around in Legalise Cannabis T Shirts could have dreamed that scallies in Norris Green would be skunked out of their minds, committing suicide and frightening old people?

AlbertNovember 3rd 2010.

Ahem, not in that order, mind...

Colonel GingerNovember 4th 2010.

What we need is a good war.

redfoxNovember 4th 2010.

When I used to live in Huyton, Page Moss Parade above the betting shop in the early 1990's, me and the then fella used to dream that kids kicking in the shutters night after night would move on to hash, (at 14) that way we'd could hear the telly. Eventually they would and sit stoned round the back of the shops, vandalism by then would have moved on to the next set of ten year olds. I never felt threatened its true, but could never quite relax. Should have been me smoking it obviously. The one time I att half a hash cookies I wet my pants giggling...put me off for life!

DopeNovember 5th 2010.

When all the building work was going on in town I remember the stink of skunk from blokes in hard hats on their way to work up scaffolding at eight o´clock in the morning. I presume it's because alcohol could be smelt on their breath?

When I was in my teens and even twenties I was stopped and searched for drugs all the time by the police when I was completely innocent.
Now the blatantly guilty are taking the piss flaunting their criminality in public yet the police do nothing.

Why do those of us who obey the law even bother?

Pepe Le PewNovember 5th 2010.

Excusez-moi Monsieur but what ‘ave you agarnst the sweet smell of ze skunk ? Eef ah av meet a lady and want to canoo-del in ze back ov ze cab, what iss your probleme, why shood it get up your nose so mush ? Eh ? Let me tell you my perfume makes ze ladies melt in my arms and the smell of rampant skunk iss most powerful aphrozodiac zer is. Open zee bloody window. You English. Pah !! No romaaance ! You get no tip from me Monsieur. By ze way, zat is a not a skunk in your picture it is a bleedin' Pandere.

Wendy Havens shared this on Facebook on September 18th 2011.
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