I've written 5 published novels, ghostwritten 2 further novels and continue to write fiction and observational articles.
My greenhouse at the back of my little house in the woods was cleared out, fresh soil, clean windows and all. The book said give it a week but I watched the 50 little tiny pots like a parent, first thing every morning, a load of times during the day and last thing at night.
It was a week or so later that 43 pots showed the splashes of green that meant life, and soon after that, they were transplanted to the greenhouse.
After a month and a bit, I could tell which were males and which were females. The two little white hairs growing on the 3rd node waved at me loud and clear.
In a cull as heartless as Stalin's Soviet Union, the males were dispatched to a big fire in the garden under the Ceremony of the Males, involving saucepans and beating spoons, and a few eggs joined the fire at the height of the spectacle to mark its end.
I was left with 23 females and they were all looking dandy. The greenhouse was looking fluffy and exotic. And that was the first reality moment. Greenhouses are see-through and people walk deeper into the woods down the path right out front. Disguise needed.
The book suggested red Christmas bobbles, so as far as the wandering world was concerned, my tomatoes would be looking in fine shape.
And then we had to put the sound and video in one of the Stages at Glastonbury. It was 1995 and it was a week of baking hot sunshine, people on ridiculously high stilts, colour, and the smell, and beautiful bodies in the river.
The bands on our sound stage were Children of the Bong, Eat Static, Revolutionary Dub Warriors, Head and all manner of techno dub and lights and dancing.
The show went without a hitch and we got some great footage and all the while, back in my little greenhouse in the woods, my progeny were acquiring real sentience.
After the five hours or so back home, our van came down the long drive into the woods, still baking hot, windows open, knackered, just needed shower and bed, the smell started to hit us.
As the house came into view the smell turned to disbelief as most of the plants had long since breached the roof, slithering through cracks and gaps and now happily waving at anyone interested enough to wave back.
It was a growth spurt I'd never imagined. Just a week or so of 80 or 90 degrees and suddenly this. The water delivery system, Jimmy next door watering them every day, had done its thing and Jimmy had earned himself some sweet bud when it was all ready.
The postman said later that the villagers wandering past thought how lovely the herb garden was smelling and how unusual. He said it with a smile and left with the same smile and he earned himself some bud as well.
These were the same big swinging tubers as I’d seen in California and Amsterdam. They were bending the top of the plants over and the tricky bit was waiting the last few weeks till it was really done. But we did manage to snag a couple of smaller buds for a little celebration.
But celebration soon turned to reality. The plant tops were eased back through the gaps, the gaps were filled and the greenhouse was painted with that white paint that lets UV in but not unwelcome eyes.
We got three or four pounds from this summer in my little greenhouse and we sold two and a half pounds at such a ridiculously high price it had to be worth it. As Stella Artois used to say, “Reassuringly Expensive.” There was suddenly a lot of cash on the table. Dues were settled and I soon realised, if the fight for good was going to get a shot in the arm, I needed more cash and so I needed more space.
And this is where it gets a little supernatural.
We were in a pub called The Manor Arms in Streatham, South London. Super Marv the drummer was at the bar chatting to these two young lads, and he called me over. Not only had they just been to Glastonbury and had been in our tent but their parents owned a decent-sized barn in Caterham.
Their parents were always in Hong Kong or New York or what have you and they were just about to go to university for 4 years and wouldn't half mind a decent supplement of the green stuff to fuel their education.
The deal was I pay for power and water and such like and they get a half-pound of weed a month. The deal was done.
The lights were the cost. I’d still got the cash from the greenhouse sales so thirty-odd lights were strung up, the water was routed through the hydroponic system, CO2 was abundant and the walls were stuffed with egg boxes and cardboard and newspaper.
I decided to rotate it all and have a new harvest every month. Six defined stages happening at the same time. Within a few weeks, the clones I’d taken from the greenhouse were in one room and a new 200 Durban Poison seeds posted to me from Amsterdam occupied the main space.
It was beautiful. The fans were tickling everything ever so slightly and my hammock was string up to the rafters above the flowering room lights.
Being in England and with the ever-present spectre of a new winter looming, this was the only place to sit and read and puff on the ancestors of my current charges.
With winter came cold. So very cold and this year, the snow came as well.
It looked like all the classic British movie scenes, snow and silly cars, little tiny villages, everyone in the pub, something these days would have Hugh Grant in it. It was a truly beautiful setting, amongst which this slick factory of felony operated in silence.
Looking down on the scene from the barn, I suddenly got the same feeling I did when I saw the plant tops waving at me from my greenhouse, that nasty stab in your stomach and your ass at the same time.
It was really warm in here and what happens to snow on a roof when it gets warm?
I ran outside and the stabby feeling intensified as I looked up and saw my slick black roof clear of any of the snow that settled literally everywhere else.
I might as well have put a big sign up, saying, “bust me here.”
I padded out double thick and waited for the next snowfall. No difference. And then I read the local rag about a big weed bust about fifty miles away. Fucking helicopters. This time, they just saw a greenhouse uncommonly bright for the season and dropped in and had a look. But I soon found out what they had at their disposal.
They had infrared gear detecting how much heat was coming from your roof. In town, fine, that’s where the kiddies are kept warm. But a barn in the middle of nowhere, not so much and they can save themselves the equipment thanks to my roof as good as waving at them.
The snow was meant to last for at least a week but I couldn’t.
5 years and all the trimmings seemed to be the norm if people had even a fraction of what I had in the barn. The “greed is good” generation had themselves taken root and propagated and anything that might make us human fodder think about things too much had to be stopped. 5 years was far beyond the couple of months slap on the wrist idea I’d imagined and I started to get the fear.
Maybe now it was time for something else. I’d got away with it for a fair while but here was another epiphany, this time dripping with caution. It was the end of an era but what a fine era it had been.
My second phase of existence was right on track. We’d just achieved our first funds-relocation hack and a few charities would wake up to a nice surprise in the morning, care of a donation from some Korean bank. Funding for my third phase of existence seemed to be in hand. It was so clear. My babies had seen me right but there didn’t need to be the risk anymore. So stop with the plantation.
The next harvest was due next week but now it would start right now and it would be the last. Just a couple of days more for the helicopters to stay the fuck away as the flowering room crop was cut and manicured and bagged up. It was a massive relief but the fear stayed with me all the way through it, little scissors sticking to my fingers and my black sticky fingers sticking to everything else, leaving hash fingerprints that would last. I had to smile at how that would have amused the coppers..
Now, the rest of the barn needed transporting elsewhere.
Friends would take half of it, that’s what I’m giving literally everyone for Christmas this year, and the other half would find itself in every spare room or closet in the house, downsized definitely but a cracking reduction in heating bills.
The house was all set up to receive them and a van was hired. It would three or four trips back and forth before it was all done.
The first three trips were nervy with a slight sphincter tightening, but they went without a hitch.
The fourth and final trip reawakened the stabbing pains and this time, I honestly thought it would mean my undoing.
The van went in and the gate was shut. It had stopped snowing but it was still too cold for it to get slushy.
These were the last of the biggest plants, the ones that would have gone into the flowering room next week, and they’d only just fit in the van. The door was shut under duress and I drove off down to the gate, just easing off the gas, no need for fuss and bluster and too much noise.
The gate was opened and closed and I looked back for the last time. I was just about to turn right so I checked left and there in the lay-by just up the road from my gate was a police car and I froze. It wasn’t doing anything in particular, no-one getting out and needing a chat. Go to plan, go to plan, just fucking drive.
Desperate not to slip the clutch or worse, stall and get stuck in the middle of the road, I started to roll off right but suddenly another police car drove past the front of me and parked up next to the one already there. But again, still no-one got out, just more of them chatting now. Jesus, was this a cops chatting spot right outside my weed factory? What are the odds, and thanks universe for making it a soft landing, NOT.
I turned right and rolled off down the hill, sticking to a sedate 20mph. I wasn’t far from the roundabout at the bottom and that looked nice and empty. Then I saw the lights in my mirror, right behind me, no siren, just lights and I froze again in my seat.
And I also saw something that quite honestly made me laugh right there in the cab. A whole leaf, outstretched and free and pressed perfectly against the back window frame, like it was waving at the coppers. I guess it was my attempt at comedy easing me into the nearest jail.
I waited for the siren to come on and started to look for somewhere they’d need me to stop. Fuck it. The last day. The last fucking day. My mind turned to any excuses it could locate but they weren’t any good. There’s really not a lot you can do when you’re caught with a van full of weed plants. Unless both coppers were retarded, that was me done.
The same slow motion that had accompanied cop car #2 driving in front of me back there returned as this latest cop car overtook me. Jesus, calm down, I’m going to pull up over there. No need to go all Starsky and Hutch on me. But they didn’t pull up in front of me. They stuck their foot down, then their siren came on and finally they left me in their dust off down the hill and then right towards Croydon.
Holy fucking shit. My sphincter was twitching like a shitting dog.
3 cop cars as soon as I leave the scene of my felony and not one of them intended for me.
Holy fucking shit. Nice job, universe. How to put the shits up you and prove you’re doing the right thing at the same time.
Once the girls were all tucked up, I could only welcome in the dawning of my third phase of existence with an evening at The Hare and Hounds.
One of my nine lives had gone.
But I had eight left and the good news, this weed stuff had caught on like wildfire. I didn’t need to grow it anymore.