For sale: one human guinea pig

Three husbands, five children and a string of disastrous jobs have left my friend Lulu skint

"HAVE A glass of wine," I said to my friend Lulu. It was Sunday afternoon and she had been helping me sort out old clothes for the charity shop all morning. That's what friends are for. Lulu replied that she would love to but she dared not; she was having tests on Tuesday morning and she wanted her body to be absolutely pure. Coming from someone usually referred to as Late-night Lulu, this pious abstention seemed a trifle optimistic - too little too late. Tests for what, I asked, pouring myself a large glass of rioja.

Oh, said Lulu vaguely, she was going to do another of those human guinea- pig things like the one she did last year for Alzheimer's, remember. I did; unfortunately Lulu didn't. I should mention here that my friend Lulu is always skint. Three feckless husbands, five children and a series of disastrous jobs - including running an all-night launderette in Oropesa del Mar, a sort of dormitory village for commuter tourists quite a long way east of Torremolinos (nobody washes anything on holiday) - haven't done much for her financial stability. She's always looking for ways to make a fast buck. Just before Christmas she tried to sell me a burglar alarm so small but yet so sensitive, she claimed, that I could keep it in the fridge. If she sold 10 of them by Christmas she'd get pounds 200 commission and promotion to area manager.

I said I had enough junk in my fridge already without adding a burglar alarm to the confusion, and to her credit she didn't harass me.

Last summer she told me excitedly that she was going to a clinic near Bournemouth to be a human guinea-pig for a new drug they had just invented to cure Alzheimer's, for which she would be paid pounds 800. Isn't it dangerous, I asked. What will they do to you? Lulu said it wasn't a bit dangerous; her friend Gerald had put her up to it. He had already done it. This did not bode well.

Gerald is an old friend of Lulu's (I think they met at the launderette in Oropesa del Mar) who is also permanently broke. He's 50ish, a retired wing commander invariably dressed in a white cashmere scarf with a flower in his buttonhole. You'd never guess that he lives in a squat near Lewisham.

Lulu said she had passed the preliminary test; now, she said, all she had to do was stay at the clinic, take a few pills, have a few brain scans, and Bob's your uncle - 800 quid. I telephoned her two weeks later. She sounded fine. "Tell me all about it. What did they do? Do you feel sick?" I wanted to know. "Never felt better in my life," she said, but she honestly didn't remember much about it. Two of the other guinea-pigs, a married couple, had been sent home half-way through the course and were furious because they had been relying on the money to pay for their new fitted kitchen.

This time round it was much more lucrative. She was getting pounds 3,000 to take a series of pills for a month for something called stress incontinence. I said I'd rather not hear about it, but if they were paying her pounds 3,000, the pills must surely have dangerous side-effects. At the very least she would probably end up with stress incontinence, which would seriously restrict her social life. Lulu said that for pounds 3,000 she was prepared to take the risk, and anyway they didn't seem to have done Gerald any harm.

Three thousand pounds does seem a lot of money for taking a few pills. I know that some of my daughter's student friends (male) used to supplement their grants by regular visits to the sperm bank. They were paid pounds 30 a shot. It was all very discreet. In the waiting-room they were not called by their names but by numbers - B52, P45, that sort of thing. And when their numbers were called they were given not just an empty test-tube but a selection of magazines (quality) and magazines (top-shelf) to read while they were about it.

Now, following the recent House of Lords recommendation to decriminalise marijuana for medical purposes, everyone's queuing up to be pot guinea- pigs.

I know a lot of people who would do it for nothing. Apart from selling a pint of blood in Thessaloniki for pounds 10 when I rang out of money back- packing in Greece donkey's years ago, I've never sold my body for science. More fool me.

When mad cow disease was first diagnosed three years ago a splendid old lady of 92 I know up in the Highlands wrote to a well known teaching hospital in London offering herself as a human guinea-pig for BSE research. "I've lived quite long enough," she wrote. "I give you carte blanche to inject my brain with anything you like, and if I do foam at the mouth at least I shall have done something to improve the human race."

They wrote back politely declining her offer. She sounded pretty batty already, they said.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick