Okay it wasn’t ‘crack. It was acid. And the thing is that we had just been talking about Mandrax... I best be a little bit clearer.
Last weekend my friend and I were yakking away. She turns 90 in September and wants to go white water rafting. (She also wouldn’t mind going for a spin in a race car at Silverstone if you’re offering... she was one speedy driver pre the whole bindness/ageness malarkey.) She was annoyed that now there were things her body just couldn’t do anymore...wished she had taken more risks earlier.
So we were discussing thrills we had missed in our youth and I remembered that as a teenager on parole from various ghastly UK boarding schools, I would head back to Zambia where the ultimate 80’s thrill was rumoured to be the ‘Mandrax Run’
Methaqualone is a sedative-hypnotic drug that is similar in effect to barbiturates, a general central nervous system depressant. Its use peaked in the 1960s and 1970s as a hypnotic, for the treatment of insomnia, and as a sedative and muscle relaxant. It has also been used illegally as a recreational drug, commonly known as Quaaludes (pronounced /ˈkweɪluːdz/ KWAY-loodz) or Sopors (particularly in the 1970s in North America) depending on the manufacturer. Since at least 2001, it has been widely used in South Africa, where it is commonly referred to as "smarties" or "geluk-tablette" (meaning happy tablets).
One established contact with a shadowy figure in a bar who would tell you to pick up an old rust-bucket car from a special location and drive it across two boarders and down to Johannesburg. The thrill was in ignoring the fact that the rust-bucket was lined with Mandrax tablets en route to what was then the biggest market – the South African Army. The game was to bluff your way through civil war encrusted Southern Africa, loaded with illicit drugs, and your reward...a wodge of cash and a shiny new cube of a GTI Golf to drive home with. That was if you hadn’t been arrested or shot. It was popular too. There were plenty of teenagers driving spanking new GTI’s in Lusaka. We don’t talk about the ones who didn’t make it back...
My friend found this fascinating. She said as a mother and a teacher, she seemed to have missed the entire 60’s drug revolution and wasn’t sure quite how. ‘How do they make you feel?’ she asked.
‘Well, it’s your birthday,’ I had said. ‘I could score you a tab of acid!’ We laughed uproariously but I had temporarily forgotten who I was dealing with and there was something in her eye that made me a little nervous... Actually I wouldn’t know how to score a Red Bull and vodka in a Red Bull and vodka bar and have always been a hopeless prissy wuss when it comes to anything more mind altering than Bacardi. But it did strike me that if you made it to 90 years old in vaguely one piece, you really should be entitled to any drug you want on the NHS. ( Perhaps not meth amphetamine..I watch a lot of CSI and I wouldn’t want her wandering the streets looking for a good time with a sawn off shotgun under her dressing gown... )
There was good news too this week. Dad few back to Zambia from hospital and by the time I had made contact to see if he had recovered from the flight, he had ALREADY done a sneaky farm clinic and been driving himself around Lusaka. Pretty phenomenal considering the doctors reckoned on 6 months to a year of slow recovery. He is loving being home too after months of anxiety, pain and hospital food. Hooray!!!
Then yesterday, after several weeks facing potential downsizing to Big Issue Seller due to an administrative error by my local Job Centre Plus, I was told with a muttered apology that my benefits had been reinstated. I am not going to be homeless after all!
This made me so happy I decided to teach Grace to fly. I use a ancient martial art technique called simply ‘Inflated Breast ‘which is crude but effective and hugely fun.