Many elderly and very respectable Victorians professed shame and bewilderment for the excesses of their youth during the more hedonistic Regency period. Some offered excuses. None of that here. Mind you, if I was to go back in time and meet my former self I know I’d be irritated as hell with him, and he in turn would be appalled at what he’d become. He’d also be relieved at the relative prosperity he’d later enjoy, frightened at the sacrifices. No, the young Keyton was a suck it and see hedonist – naïve, in many respects stupid, but too scared not to try.
The only negative decision I consciously made was not to experiment with acid. I’d read somewhere that it re-arranged your brain-cells, and I was too egocentric to risk changing mine. Stupid, too, since beer does the job more effectively by killing them.
Most of my time in Marrakesh was spent in a narcotic haze. The day began with fresh bread, honey, and a slab of hash cake washed down by mint tea. The effect kicked in midmorning and was maintained by smoking it until late evening. The day ended with a thick bowl of vegetable soup in the main market square.
That in itself was hallucinatory enough, smoke and small fires, drums and dancers, acrobats, story tellers flickering in shadow, strangers pushing you this way and that, and above, a brilliant African sky.
The youth hostel never lived up to its promise but the hash did. One night I lay down on the narrow camp-bed and stared up at a less than brilliant ceiling. Slowly my eyes closed and I felt my body grow numb. It began with my toes and then feet, slowly spread upwards, until all that remained was a torso on the bed. My legs enjoyed a parallel existence; they were no longer with me on a grimy sheet in Marrakesh. The numbness spread until only a head remained, and I remember grinning until that option too was removed. Not even a head… on a pillow. Disembodied, floating in space. And still the numbness spread until only a tiny spark remained – me – whirling in a heavy and rolling darkness. It was better than ‘Space Mountain’.
I can’t remember if I slept and then woke up with all my limbs intact and in the right place, or it was gradual process of coming back down to earth but it was like nothing beer or even the finest whisky could hope to replicate.
There are horror stories of ‘soft’ drugs leading to ‘hard’ drugs but I think that is more a mix of temperament, genetics perhaps, but more probably peer-group pressure. When I eventually returned to Britain the only mild craving I retained was for tobacco which vanished after three cigarettes.
Of more immediate concern was money. My lack of it. Gradually it dawned on me that eventually I’d have to return to Britain…and walking it might take forever.