Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

A week into the New Year I drove to town early to do a spot of shopping. The sun was shining, I felt well again, and I marched up the high street with a spring in my step. The still-thriving high street is predominantly Georgian, with here and there a few remaining Tudor merchants' houses. The foundations and old stone walls are medieval, and the narrow street runs steeply upwards between the ancient river bridge at the bottom and a textbook motte-and-bailey castle at the top. You can either park at the top and walk down, or park at the bottom and walk up. It depends how you feel.

I hadn't got far up the high street when I met Luke coming down. In streets as narrow as this one, you tend to look people in the face who are coming towards you. And even with a brain as clouded by drugs and alcohol as his, Luke recognised mine, and his lit up, revealing his trademark gaps in the dentistry, and he stopped for a chat.

If the town council ran a competition, with a trophy awarded every year to the person who takes the most illegal drugs, Luke would be awarded it in perpetuity. The last time I saw him, he was trying to negotiate his way into a reggae night at the local bistro and the bouncer wasn't letting him in because, apart from anything else, his trousers kept falling down. He lives in a van. He doesn't work.

He's permanently out to lunch. The local women players can't get enough of him.

I say stop for a 'chat'. I was on the receiving end, rather, of an inarticulate and incoherent account of a visit to Bristol, from where, he said, he'd just returned. The account was inarticulate and incoherent mainly because he was still clearly under the influence of goodness knows what cocktail of drugs. But in any case, words just could not describe the Aladdin's Cave of good-quality drugs and beautiful women eager to have sex with him that Bristol had turned out to be.

Luke described his experiences there partly in disconnected sentences and partly in vehement mime. The women in Bristol were gorgeous and weren't wearing much. Apparently they were all dripping. They came up to him, he said, these dripping women, completely off their faces on mud and coke, and snogged his face off. Sometimes there'd be two of them trying to snog his face off at once. …

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