When I was 17 I played for a local men’s football team, also with a few other local friends. That was a laugh, especially as the men were slower in their speed and reaction, so thankfully I had more time on the ball, as coordination wasn’t my forte. Occasionally there would also be youngsters on the opposition, so we sometimes had to pull our socks up. I played left back or centre back and will never forget the adrenaline rush I got from scoring a goal; all I had to do was just time my run at the near post sticking my head in the way of a corner.
Playing football in my local park allowed me to become friends with boys I’d grown up with, yet still without knowing them. Now I was free from my prison of boarding school and attempt to make some new friends. Like many people, I’ve had to find my way through life and learn along the way, and hopefully not repeat the same mistakes. One of my footballing friends was a few years older and was a known drugs dealer. It’s like with all sin, temptation comes via a freebie to eventually create a stronghold and then sooner or later you have to pay back, and for me, that was with my paper round money.
It wasn’t long before my smoking friends were taking advantage of my lack of a backbone and survival of the fittest was now in play. I once beat up one of the men for throwing an apple at me whilst climbing a tree as a child. He was now relishing in my weakness, frequently calling me ‘Rodney’ or ‘Tosser’ and occasionally he would give me a dead arm or leg as he was now considerably bigger and had the strength to go with it.
When alone, these friends of mine were quite friendly; but I was now starting to learn that most people hold their reputation in high regard. I was welcome in this gang, maybe as the butt of their jokes, but at that time I didn’t care, because of where I had just escaped. At least now I could numb the pain. Whilst stoned we did have lots of laughs and sometimes I wasn’t even mentioned.
I even had some exciting adventures, whilst in the pursuit of a spiral tribe, which took us on a treasure hunt around the southern counties. For two weeks on the trot, I’d been given broken promises that I could go to a spiral tribe and by the third wknd I now had a bee under my bonnet and I was consumed! I found out where it was and took a £60 taxi to Winchester. I saw other ravers and joined the crowd, walking towards the hardcore sounds & drum roll that came from the illegal rave and past the police en route.
I gave my friends the shock of their lives when I bumped into them. At least now they saw where my heart was and must have been touched by my desire to rave. They found it hilarious that I had paid £60 for a taxi and that I had no guarantee of a return journey, but I just believed that something would turn up. The driver was the cousin of my friend who was gracious enough to give me a lift home with the rest of the gang, for my last £5.
Weeks later my friends even tried to set me up with one of their experienced female friends, but they gave me no warning when I was suddenly left alone with her in the kitchen. My mean friends, never even gave me a spliff to calm my nerves. Eventually, my embarrassment ended by one of my friends checking up on proceedings and then I heard laughter in the next room.
West London college
I went to college, taking a BTEC National Diploma in Computer Studies and I was not comfortable. If it was not being out of my depth and always relying on the grace of the teaching staff to throw me a lifeline, it would have been the class prat who often bullied me. I came to college looking like a lamb ready for the slaughter. I used to also dress in hand me down clothes and unintentionally displayed my virginity. I can now understand why my friends called me Rodney. The college was made up of 50% Asian and the blacks and whites made up the rest. By God’s grace, I was made to feel welcomed by a friendly black man and woman, who introduced me to their friends in the canteen.
A week later I managed to get some money together and buy some baggy clothes (garments), so that I would fit in and yes the class prat noticed my change and persisted in abusing me. Somehow I was able to ignore him.
I impulsively invited myself to a dance in Greenford at the top of the hill. It was frequented only by black youths, which my friends from the canteen were talking about. At first, I just stood outside, hoping I would see a familiar face. I did! Popping his head out of the entrance, as if looking for me; a tall friendly man from college, had a face looking like horror, whilst shaking his head from side to side. God gave me confirmation of not going in when walking past 3 youths. I was blatantly barged in the shoulder. Ok Mr Laing, time for you to go home!
I used to enjoy playing table tennis, which was predominately occupied by a local gang who always looked sharp and had an intimidating presence. They always had a following of girls and sometimes they had to flex their muscle. I would normally play these young men and give them a good match. I would laugh inside if I’d ever beat them, as they now had the shame of being beaten by Rodney. I will never forget the joy I experienced when I twisted up one such a man playing indoor football on route to driving the ball into the bottom corner. Again, God must have shining down on me as I had two left feet!
I was becoming friendly with a girl, who once gave me a kiss on the lips and all I could do was turn red displaying my embarrassment! She never bothered me again.
It was a miracle that I completed my BTEC, considering that most afternoons I would be stoned from having a smoke at lunch with fellow users in the class. My friend had an adorable laugh, which sounded like he was choking and he even got me a job at a supermarket in Ealing, where he & other students from the college also worked. It was here that I had my heart was ignited when the best looking girl from my class at primary school said ‘hello Alex’, even though she was a with a model type male.
I used to also help myself to sweets that were loose and one day my manager caught me eating whilst working. He simply asked me if I had taken the sweet from the loose packet, and like a plonker, I said yes. Time for a new season!
The icing on the cake of my college experience, was the teacher overseeing the exam, saying ‘don’t do anything I would do’ as he went outside & left us alone for a good 10 minutes. Thank you Lord!
My parents turned the heat up so that at 17 I would have to go. I was at peace and I was the one consoling my dad as he drove me to the council office, where I sat for the remainder of the day with my belongings in plastic carrier bags. This was back in the day when you could just turn up at the council and that day they would house you, even though I had to wait all day. They called my parents for confirmation that I had left home before I faced my Krypton Factor challenge of taking all my possessions on the bus. My first home was a B&B in little India aka ‘Southall’, which must have been where I developed a fixation for Asian ladies in saris?
I was overjoyed as I now had peace! I was also able to listen to my hardcore music whilst smoking dope. I was the only white person in the B&B, but was made to feel welcome, a bit too much by one of my housemates one night. He had bought back a woman from a pub and after he’d had his way with her, he asked me if I fancied a go. I politely declined!
A few months later I was traveling every two weeks on the train, jumping my fare from Luton University to Southall to collect my only income via my benefit cheque. I had enrolled on the next course up from the one I had cheated on. What a plonker! I only chose Luton, so that I could live in the same house as a girl I fancied from college. I never did any coursework, as I didn’t have a clue. I got the shock of my life when asking a tutor for help. They just simply pointed to the library. What a transformation from college, where the tutors were only too happy to hold your hand.
Del Boy would be shaking his head at this one. I started to sell some marijuana at the University and for the first few months, I was enjoying the status that came with being a dealer on campus. I thank God that most of my customers were happy just to get a smoke until I met my housemate’s friend. I wanted to impress her one day, and told her that I was a dealer and the next day; this dodgy geezer took my drugs with psychology. “I will help you sell your drugs”, and it was only after I’d given it to him, I’d realized what I had done. This was a sobering moment and it was the beginning of the end.
I had made friends with a group of girls, who I’d spend time with including meals and a smoke after. I even got to share one girl’s bed, where I eventually made a move, but she turned away my advances, so I stopped. A week later she had a boyfriend who had a better understanding of the art of persistence.
My weekends in Luton were spent in a drum n bass bar on the high street, with a house party afterwards with banging beats and much smoking. I had no grant and I felt like I was floating downstream without a paddle, so I showed the first bit of common sense in a while and quit!
It wasn’t long before I was at another spiral tribe, this time in Uxbridge in the late 90’s. I took my first acid and impatiently I took another one an hour later. That evening back at my place, the acid took effect! We were all listening to music and smoking. I was amazed at the clarity of the music! I was asked for some food and I freaked out, as I was struggling to concentrate on a simple task like making a sandwich. My first and last dabble with acid!
I was at a friend’s house party when I was offered an E. This was just the ticket for me to lose my cherry when it wasn’t long before I started to feel like a stud in season. I was finding it hard to control myself as I would be leering over women, whilst still standing and chatting nonsense. I was one horny bunny! Then all of a sudden I started to heat up. I rushed into the kitchen to drink some tap water, but I still needed some fresh air. Just as I’d opened the front door I collapsed, scraping my head on the brick hallway on the way down. I looked up to see my friend smiling at the door. Again my first and last dabble with an E.
I once nearly got run over whilst stoned up. The driver recognized me, by virtue of being friends with Deryth. I was duly invited home, in order that I sort my life out! My dad had a work friend, who used to be in the army. He must have mentioned how the Army Air Corps was the future of the Army because, on arrival back home, my dad specified that I was going to join the Army Air Corps and I agreed.
I was recently reminded that at the outbreak of WW1 my Great-Grandfather requested a transfer from the Gordon Highlanders to the Royal Flying Corps, which was granted. He joined as a CSM and ended the war as a half Colonel! When the RAF started up, he transferred, losing a rank to Squadron Leader, but finished up as an Air Vice Marshall, Knighted. My Grand-Father retired as a Brigadier in the Army and my dad kept the Laing tradition by earning his commission in the TA, retiring as a Captain. My dad may have hoped I would make a name for myself and become me a pilot. Bless his heart!
My smoking buddies were aghast! They were all anti-establishment and didn’t think I was cut out for it. However, they agreed to help me lose my cheery and for me to have one last smoke before signing my life away.
Whilst out there, there was much speculation as to who would be the lady in question. Everything was going well until I was lured in by a hand signal. Afterwards, my mate said, it’s a pity you only took £50 & left your wallet with me. Yes, I had been fleeced! For the rest of the holiday, I had to make do with just smoking the butt ends and stealing fruit. The only difference, before and after Amsterdam was the shame. On reflection, I had actually lost my virginity as a young teenager by accident. Once I was curious why there was blood around the head of my penis and then I’d remembered I had just got carried away going solo. Help me Jesus!
Back home I carried on smoking with my mates until one eventful evening. I was dropped off home, but he reversed up the drive to set the lights off and beep his horn. It was after midnight. That evening had never received so much verbal abuse, and I was now livid and wanted to make him pay. The next day he answered his door all smiles, we started arguing and as his baby was asleep we took it outside. I surprised myself & the hypocrite as I started to display all my suppressed aggression which had been built up in childhood. He was outboxed and his desperation he told me to wait here whilst he gets his knife. I didn’t need confirmation to just start running away!
Whilst walking home I was pulled over by the police as my top was ripped and covered in blood, so I explained what had happened. They went to his address to check and later in the day, the man in question turned up at my door to vent his anger that I called the police on him and that he had to get stitches for his nose. His leaving comments were “if I ever see you again, I’m going to stab you”. Proof, that you can’t please everyone.
I was now able to concentrate on preparing for the army. My parents were quietly pleased with my outcome but were gracious enough not to rub it in. I had use of an athletics track in Perivale, where I did my cardio consisting of 3 x 400m and 3 x 1500m and sprint shuttle runs with a minutes rest in between. The Army Careers office was in Wembley and here I completed the entrance exams, to show I had the intelligence asked for. The Army Air Corps was one of the top choice regiments to choose. I was 21, a late starter in life, but I was excited at this new season I was entering. The best advice my dad could give me was “tell myself that this is going to be my worst nightmare”. Cheers Dad!
When I hear tragic stories of teenagers losing their lives needlessly to psychedelic drugs, I believe that God saved me, at least twice! I like to think that my honesty is my way of being a living sacrifice so others may benefit.