Showing posts with label crack. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crack. Show all posts

Thursday, June 16, 2016

book review: My Name is Angel by Rhea Coombs

This is the autobiography of Rhea Coombs who was for some time a street girl in South London. I wanted to read it because some of the places that she writes about are familiar to me. She used to ply her trade in New Park Road near to Brixton Hill. What she wrote has filled in a few gaps in my understanding of what went on, including what it is like in a hostel for drug addict girls and what it is like inside a crack house

Rhea tells us about her childhood. Her mother was a hippy and they moved around a lot. It wasn't an unhappy childhood but she didn't have a stable home life. From early teens she lived with men who were abusive. The third one seems to have been a violent psychopath who harmed not only her but also her son.

She liked to go to raves and took speed and ecstasy. When crack cocaine became available, she and her friends tried it. She worked for a while in Soho in one of the clip joints. These are places which I hope don't exist any more where men are fleeced often for hundreds of pounds.

She writes of her relationship with an Indian man from a privileged background who worked in the clip joint threatening tourists if they didn't pay exorbitant amounts of money for overpriced drinks. She said she met him years later in a hostel when he was ravaged by crack and heroin. Later she worked for Nigerian fraudsters using stolen cheque books.

Rhea lived in a hostel for some time. I think this could be St Mungo's in Clapham. It couldn't help her at all with her problems. She doesn't mention Tooting Bec Common, but she does say she went to Clapham Common at night to pick up men, often taking them back to her crack house.

As a crack addict she avoided crack houses to begin with but ended up helping to run one. She details the selfish lives of the visitors. One of them took up residence uninvited in her flat and only left when threatened by her ex-partner. The ex-partner could then see how she lived and decided he would look after her children. Addicts might begin with smoking heroin, would progress to injecting it into their arms (Rhea details the procedure for both crack and heroin), and then inject into the groin when they ran out of functioning veins. Often they have to have legs removed because of abscesses. Other health problems include heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, hepatitis and HIV.

This is the only place apart from Sebastian Horsley's autobiography where you are told what it feels like to take crack and heroin. Eventually she comes across Spires, gets off drugs, gets her children back, and starts working as a drugs counsellor for Spires.

Rhea charts her descent into deep drug addiction. Cannabis was the start, then speed and ecstasy. Millions of people will have done this and not gone on to addiction. She starts using 'base speed', which I had never heard of. It comes as a paste and is 10 times stronger than ordinary speed. .

Her first experience of crack.
To those who have no wish to be chemically altered it's difficult to describe just what it is about the sudden euphoric rush, the sense of absolute confidence in your own invincibility and the (very) temporary filtering out of painful problems that crack offers. Wise people lead even, tranquil lives and decide to forgo that moment of euphoria because they understand only too well the jittery paranoia which trails in its wake, the compulsive picking off of invisible blemishes on the skin, the maddening imprint on the brain of the first joyful experience, which is never quite repeated. That taste which lingers deep in the DNA can literally drive users crazy when they can'd get their hands on more.
Her first experience of heroin.
The first time I tried heroin my whole body was suffused with a peaceful glow. I could taste it first of all on my tongue, then all my tastebuds woke up to it, swiftly followed by a warm rush through my veins - liquid safety. Nothing could puncture my bubble of protection once the drug took hold. It gave me a lightness and a heaviness of being, all rolled into one. I could feel my troubles being rinsed away, I had a sensation of being bathed in holy water. My pain was cured (for a while).
Her experience of 'speedballing'.
I developed my own rituals within rituals and soon learnt how to speedball - injecting crack and heroin together. Speedballing is the most dangerous way of all to take illicit drugs. I started off by smoking a small hors d'oeuvres rock of crack followed by a speedball main course, and finally a heroin-only dessert, after which I slumped into a syrupy sleep. I had got to the point where I couldn't bear to use crack without heroin or heroin without crack. Only that specific, intense blend would do.
It's not just her own descent that she charts.
Not everyone fitted the stereotype of estate dweller with few prospects. One beautiful young woman, whose accent sounded to me exactly like the Queen's, began, timidly at first, to frequent crack houses. She had expensively high-lighted shoulder-length blonde hair and designer clothes. By the time I met her I was a very experienced visitor to crack houses. With a group of other people, I offered to score her some crack to protect her from the volatility of the crack house she was about to enter. 
'The dealer in theat house is quite heavy,' I warned her. 'Would you like me to go and score for you? I'll meet you back here on the edge of the estate in fifteen minutes.' 
Gratefully she pressed £100 into my hands. To my eternal shame I headed straight for another crack house and spent her money on drugs for myself and the group of people I was with. I occasionally see her selling sex on the streets of south London. Her looks are beginning to go and she's lost a couple of teeth. Crack is a great leveller.

Friday, March 20, 2015

street girls in Liverpool and Croydon

When I was a visitor to Liverpool I looked for street girls and couldn't find any. Now I live here it seems that I have found one or two without even looking. Soon after I moved into my new flat a young woman asked me for money in the street where I live. I didn't give her any money and I didn't want to talk to her. A few days ago an older woman asked me for money.

I saw her talking to a man and guessed that she was begging. Then she walked towards me and called 'Charlie!'. I continued walking away from her. She called 'Charlie!' again. I turned round and said 'My name's not Charlie'. She said that she needed some money because something traumatic had happened to her and she needed to make a phone call. She did look quite distressed so I decided to give her a pound.

She asked me if I came from London and I said I did. She said what part of London and I said Croydon. She said that she used to live in Croydon, in Pawsons Road. There is a Pawsons Road in Croydon and it's not a well known road so I thought she must be telling the truth. I asked her if she knew any of the street girls that I had known in Croydon.

I asked her if she had known Trina Schofield. Trina is someone I met a few years ago. I had met lots of street girls when I went to Tooting Bec Common more than ten years ago. I have talked about many of them in my early posts on this blog. Trina wasn't one of those though.

In 2008 there was a group on the internet that discussed street girls. Trina's name was mentioned. I could see she lived not far from me. Steve said she was "the best deep throat I've ever had". Someone called pervez aktar said "best blowjob in the world" and "she gives the best head in the world". However, she could be very unreliable. Steve said "Don't try to work out what's going on. You need white brown and meth and it will make perfect sense".

I got her phone number, phoned her and went to her flat. I saw Trina three times in all. The second time it worked out quite well but she was too unpredictable. The last time I saw her she went off with my money. Years after that I saw a newspaper article about her. The headline was 'Vulnerable Croydon woman died after taking heroin with friends'. Apparently Trina had injected a mentally ill woman with heroin who then died.

A few years ago I met a woman I will call Amy. I liked her (unlike Trina) so I won't say her real name. The first time I saw Amy she was begging outside McDonald's in the North End Croydon. She said she needed money to get somewhere to sleep for the night. The second time I saw her was in Beulah Road. I spoke to her briefly and I asked her if she knew Trina. She said she did. I saw her a few more times, once at a bus stop.

In 2012 a woman who I had known from Tooting Bec Common contacted me by email. She had found out that I had mentioned her on my blog. I will call her Bernie. We corresponded by email and I learned a lot from her about the Common and the women who went there. You might ask how does a street girl keep in touch with someone by email. She mostly used a BlackBerry. Bernie knew Trina very well, she told me they often worked together.

Anne Marie/Anna/'Mummy'
Bernie sent me two accounts of her life. One of them was a day in the life of a street girl. I put both of them on my blog - she wanted me to - but she asked me to remove them after friends started asking if she had written them. She said that she had known someone who she called 'Mummy'. I thought she was referring to a black woman called Jodie but it was someone else.

Mummy died of an overdose. I got this photo of Mummy from the internet group. Someone had taken photos of her and other prostitutes working in the Kings Cross area of London. I put some of these photos on my blog and Bernie recognized her. I think Mummy had worked on the Common but I never met her.

One of the last emails I got from Bernie was worrying. She said that her best friend Stacey had died. She said that she was worried about being evicted because she was in arrears with her rent. She had been out to try and earn some money but had not made anything. Bernie didn't reply to my next email to her.

Weeks later I was going into Croydon on the bus and I saw Amy walking along. I got off the bus and rushed along North End trying to find her. I thought I had lost her but then I saw her. I went up to her and said that I had spoken to her before. I said that she had told me she knows Trina, does she know Bernie too? I wanted to know what had happened to Bernie.

Amy took me into McDonald's. I offered to buy her a coffee but she said she would prefer it if I just gave her the money. She told me that she and Bernie were good friends. Bernie had had a stroke and was now in hospital. She said that Bernie was being looked after by her father.

It's quite common for crack addicts to get strokes. I did get one more email from Bernie, a long time later. She said she's in a hospital in a particular area of London and she's getting better. Someone said there's a well known hospital in that area for brain injuries.

I had met Trina, Amy and Bernie under different circumstances so it surprised me that they all knew each other. But then I suppose it's not really surprising that drug addicts would all know each other. More recently last year in Croydon I met a black girl called Angel who knew Trina well.

The woman I spoke to just a few days ago said she hadn't known Trina, or any of the other street girls I named. That wouldn't be surprising if she left Croydon quite a few years ago.

She asked me if I'm a bachelor. I said yes. She asked me if I liked a drink. I said yes. She asked me if I would like her to come to my flat sometime and we can have a drink together. I said that I'm not sure about that because I'm a bit wary of people living in this area. She had also asked me what my name is and where I live but I told her I would prefer not to say. I can only assume she makes money from prostitution. I'm not sure, the only way I could find out would be to invite her in, but I'm not going to do that.

She saw someone on the other side of the road and said she had to go and talk to him. As she went off she said 'What's your name again?' and I replied 'Peter'. That's not my name. I have decided that I don't want her to come to my flat. I don't want to have anything to do with these people. It's not worth the risk. It might lead to people tapping on my windows in the early hours of the morning or maybe even a burglary. They're not all bad people though. Amy and Bernie were nice, and I feel sorry for Trina more than dislike her.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

documentary about street girls

I like to watch documentaries about drug addiction and prostitution. A few years ago I watched one about three girls who lived in Whitechapel in the East End of London. It was part of a series called Wasted. Stacey and her two friends Laura and Kelly were homeless and it showed them squatting first in Tower House, a large derelict building, and then in a nearby house.

They were addicted to crack cocaine and heroin but the documentary didn't seem to mention the crack cocaine. I think this may be because it is easier to have sympathy for a heroin addict than a crack addict. We think of heroin addicts as being forced to do things to avoid withdrawal symptoms. There are no withdrawal symptoms from crack.

Addicts can be prescribed methadone, which removes withdrawal symptoms. In Switzerland doctors can prescribe heroin, and this seems to get better results. Although I am against drugs, I would support something similar in Britain. Obviously, a heroin addict who is prescribed methadone or heroin is still an addict even if they stop buying heroin on the street. But at least their prescription is pure and unadulterated. Heroin addicts frequently die because they can't easily control the dose they take. And they won't need to get involved in prostitution or theft to pay for heroin. In their own time they can reduce the dose.

Crack cocaine is a different type of drug and I can't see how prescribing crack could work.

Laura had something wrong with her arm which meant she couldn't brush her hair easily. I expect it is quite difficult for homeless addicts to get to see a doctor. It was very sad to see and it makes you want to try to sort them out with their health problems by taking them to a doctor, dentist and optician. It shouldn't be that difficult to get them somewhere to stay, perhaps a hostel to begin with, get benefits sorted out and a methadone script.

Laura talked about her life. She said that she got into trouble early on but it was when her grandmother died that her problems really started. Laura was blamed by her family for the death of her Nan. They said the stress of Laura getting into trouble made her grandmother ill and caused her death. Laura wasn't allowed to attend the funeral although she loved her Nan. Her parents rejected her.

Stacey wrote poems about her life. One of them was quite powerful. However, through looking on the Internet I can see that she did not actually write it. She had a version of a poem possibly originally written by Larry Jackson for a woman called Miriam. It is called My Name is Cocaine. This is my own version.

My name is Cocaine
Coke for short
I came to this land
Without a passport
Ever since then
I've been hunted and sought

I'll make a student forget his books
I'll make a beauty neglect her looks
I'll make a teacher forget how to teach
I'll make a preacher not want to preach
I'll take your money and make you dirt poor
I'll take your sister and make her a whore

I'm a compulsion too tough for the man
I'm the reason for the battering ram
If you decide to climb on my back
You'd better ride me well
For the white horse of Crack
Will take you to hell.


There's one problem with this poem and that is that 'coke' is a street name for ordinary cocaine, whereas 'crack' is short for crack cocaine. Although coke and crack are both cocaine they are not the same, crack being much stronger and much more addictive.