Like all other writers in the world, I am busy working on my autobiography at the moment, and as the question of drugs is again in the air, I thought you might be interested in my memories of becoming involved in the big time...
When I was at school, I was always looking for ways of making money, preferably enough money so that by the time I left school I would be able to retire and live for the rest of my life on what I had already earned. For instance, I remember once, just after my 15th birthday, being summoned to the headmaster's office for a sex education talk. I knew it was going to be a sex education talk, because traditionally the headmaster gave everyone such a talk just after their 15th birthday.
Everyone said the headmaster found the whole experience profoundly embarrassing and, although he had done it so often, he still squirmed and refused to meet your eye. It was said that the kindest thing you could do was try to put him at his ease during the ordeal, though not many people went as far as a boy called Bruce, who patted him on the knee halfway through his talk and said: "Actually, sir, my advice to you is not to indulge in sex education unless you're really in love with the subject, otherwise it's just a joyless physical transaction, undertaken purely for money..."
"What do you mean, undertaken purely for money?" spluttered the head.
"Gosh, I hope you're getting paid for this?" said Bruce. "I wouldn't have agreed to partake in our little session otherwise."
The interview was terminated at that point, but it made Bruce's reputation as a school wit. In my case, the headmaster, clearly still nervous of the subject, beat around the bush for a while and asked if I had any idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to make a lot of money. He asked me how, with one of those gentle, mocking smiles.
Well, I said, I had noticed that sex education talks always seemed to fall to the lot of the head of a school, which was most unfair, as heads were not qualified for such work, and anyway seemed to do it so badly that the illegitimacy rate was already far too high, so I had plans to set up a service whereby trained people would be provided to give sex education talks to pupils, thus relieving headmasters of the onerous duty.
His supercilious smile had faded by this time, and he looked more wistful than anything.
"That will be the day, Kington," he said.
Nowadays, there are sex education officers swarming all over the place, and I never got a penny from the idea. But shortly after that I had a much better idea for breaking into the big time. It came from reading The Wizard of Oz. My favourite character was always the Wizard himself, who I thought had such a brilliant set-up, but my favourite scene was the one in the poppy field where everyone falls asleep with the poppy scent except the Tin Man.
There were lots of poppies growing wild round us at home, and I thought that if I could duplicate the effect and bottle it somehow, I could make a fortune selling the stuff to people who found it difficult to get to sleep in the more boring classes.
My experiments at what I now realise was producing drugs from the poppy plant were not blessed with immediate success. This was because I didn't realise that the vital bit of the plant is the seeds or even the pollen – I thought it lay in the petals. Constant rubbing of the petals produced no by-product at all, except a red dye all over my hands and a sort of rouge effect on my cheeks where I had accidentally rubbed my hands. The boys at school were merciless in their mockery ("Kington is a fairy!") but the girls were highly intrigued, if not jealous, and wanted to know where I had got my rouge from, especially one girl we all called Bossy.
"You're on to something there," she said. "Do you want to go into partnership? We could make this stuff and flog it to all the girls!"
I was so chagrined that I hadn't produced a high-quality narcotic from the poppy that I wanted nothing more to do with it, and said it was all hers. Indeed, I hadn't thought about it from that day to this until the other day, when I saw a picture of the girl we called Bossy in the business pages. She now goes under the name of Anita Roddick. Oh well, even if I never saw a penny, I'm glad the idea was not entirely wasted.Reuse content