Heather Chalmers discovered that her mother had something more topical than the bridge club meeting to discuss when she phoned on a Sunday
MY MOTHER, like bored and lonely women the world over, is inordinately keen on the something-for-nothing dream. That's why she queues up every Saturday to buy a ticket for the lottery. And that's the real reason, I am convinced, why my mother likes to grow her own tomatoes in the greenhouse out back. All she has to do is sit there while a bunch of sad little plants produce their rosy-red fruits. She can enjoy those tomatoes as if she had stolen them from the wild.

Recently, my mother rang her daughter up of a Sunday, as bored women do the world over, under the mistaken belief that Sunday phone calls are invariably cheaper than phone calls made at any other time of the week. "Heather," my mother started. Curious long pause. "Heather, I've just been reading an article in the paper ..."

"Oh yes, Mum?"

"Well, it was all about cannabis ..." Curious long pause again. "Apparently, you can buy these special lights by mail order, and it means you can grow cannabis from seed in a couple of weeks ..."

"Oh yes, Mum, fancy a go in your greenhouse, do you?"

"Oh NO, of course not, no, absolutely never!" Curious long pause. "Heather ..."

"Yes, Mum?"

"Apparently, loads of people do it. You get the seeds out of Trill. Apparently, birdseed has bits of cannabis in the mixture."

"Yes, Mum, I've often heard that said."

"And apparently, smoking cannabis is really good for aches and pains. You know these terrible aches and pains in my knees ..."

"Yes, Mum, I've heard that's true. That's why cannabis should be legalised. You know I've always thought so, although personally I can't stand the stuff myself."

"Oh, Heather, you can't just legalise it! It's an illegal DRUG!"

"Cannabis, hmm," I mused after my mother's phone call. "Disgusting stuff, I've always found it. Better for aches and pains, though, than the gin she secretly flings down her throat! And a dear sweet old lady getting done for possession, hmm. What a fillip that would be for the legalise- cannabis campaign!"

And so I wandered into a happy reverie, me appearing in court, called upon to defend the previous good character of my mother, stoned and sniggering even while standing in the dock. My mum, Grey Panther extraordinaire. Mrs C, prohibitionbuster par excellence. My old dear, the Rastafarians' unlikely figurehead and friend.

"Um, Heather ..." my mother said to me the very next Sunday. The usual curious pause. "Um, Heather, I read in the paper that these cannabis plants are quite distinctive in appearance ..."

"That's right, Mum. The leaves are feathery, with seven points to them, like a mutant hand. Don't you remember, my brother used to wear a silver one in his ear?"

"Oh really ..." A curious pause ensued, yet carrying no evidence whatever that obvious conclusions were being drawn. "And you know, Heather, one of the ladies at my bridge club says cannabis apparently has a very distinctive and pungent smell!"

"So it does, Mum. You must have smelt it yourself, in fact, when you've been visiting me in Brixton. Down in Brixton market, hmm? Down in Brixton market, you know, they smoke it openly on the street!"

"Why? Are they drug addicts or something? I read in the paper how taking cannabis is the start of a slippery slope ..."

"No, Mum, cannabis isn't addictive. It can just make you a bit daft if you smoke it all the time. Look, Mum, give me the word, and I'll go and stand at my street corner waving a tenner, and I'll procure you a lump of hash. You're obviously not going to rest, Mum, until you've got yourself completely stoned."


And so, the topic was closed. No more dreams of Mrs C, historic civil- liberties campaigner. No more fond thoughts of my pathologically anxious, pain- wracked mother, curled up like a baby with a big fat roach in her ashtray, a big and blissful grin on her face.

My mother is a lonely and frustrated woman with, I am convinced, an unrecognised talent for mischief-making. Would that I were brave enough to persuade her now to make merry, surrounded by fellow-anarchists by day, to slip by night into a comfy herby snooze. But this would involve confessing to my mother that I, her saintly daughter, have several times tried smoking a dangerous illegal drug. And I'm sorry, but I just can't do it. Neither she nor I have yet recovered from the shockwaves that ensued when she found out that her beloved daughter, aged at that time 28, indulged in dangerous and wicked extra-marital sex.

So I plan to buy my poor mother a budgie, a chirpy and compact companion for all those hours in her week when BT, she believes, is too expensive for her to talk to me. It won't cost her anything. I'll bundle a heap of Trill in with the bird.

Also, I seem to remember dropping a packet of jumbo Rizlas on the floor of her greenhouse last summer, the last time I was sent out to hand-pick a tomato from the Gro-bag for tea. There is, my mother informs me, a lot of money to be made from this cannabis racket. Something genuinely for nothing, at long last here we come.