Smelly pockets

I wore a scarf today oh boy, as John Lennon almost said. Rain and wind breaking the mildness that’s been haunting (in a nice way) the early part of autumn. I’m rather liking the chance to get a few more logs in, have no great ambitions for an evening beyond reading this or watching that. Along with a quiet glass of something.

I’m getting ahead of myself – there’s still a little light out there, and today is one of those rare days when I get to say something that’s never (or at least rarely) been said before. I had it a while back when I was in the shade of a pecan tree.

Right here right now, I may have the most beautifully aromatic pockets in the world.

I’ve been picking some of the last of the grinding pepper, the first small harvest of a particular szechuan pepper. There are a few varieties that are collectively known as ‘szechuan’, all of which belong to the Zanthoxylum family. I’ve had many handful from the young Z. simulans (one of the szechuans), Z. alatum (Nepalese pepper) and bagfuls of Z. piperitum (Japanese pepper) leaves over the last few years, but this is the first of the simulans. It’s pretty pokey. The corns are a livid red, like the worst eczema. Rub them and your fingers become infected with their lively scent. There is an edge to their smell that’s not wholly pleasant. A little like elderflower has something of the cat’s piss about it but is somehow no worse for it. Maybe it follows the fart principle: if it’s yours, it’s ok.

That aromatic edge reminds me of misspent hours putting a fat one together. I was never cut out to be a dopehead. I’d wince anytime someone wanted to ‘put some sounds on’, or responded to the question ‘how’s it going’ with ‘sound’ or ‘cool, chap’. Perhaps I’m being unreasonable, but it made me want to hit each and everyone of them with a heavy bat. I’ve absolutely no doubt that I was (and remain) a tedious arse in many ways of my own, but I stand proud and extol that I’ve never called anyone ‘chap’. I never saw what the fuss was about Bob Marley – although this may have much to do with having white 6th formers driving it down my throat when I was far busier listening to the Smiths, New Order and the Cocteau Twins. Obviously, tea should’ve been my drug of choice.

I was 14, I wanted to be cool, so I nicked a few quid out of my dads wallet* and through the coolest kid I knew I scored an 8th. I smoked it that afternoon with the least cool kid I knew, who just happened to be the kid who the coolest kid I knew scored it from. I guess I wasnt the only one desperate to be cool. I hadn’t a clue what to expect. I smoked perfectly unaffected for an hour or two – I suspect he loaded it up like a pro, nicely lined up to coincide with his turn for a puff. Finally, it kicked in and after a brief moment of paranoia, extreme nausea. A short run to the lav and an hour or two of repeated honking and I managed to put myself into some kind of order before dad came home from work (it was half term).

Apart from the odd puff here and there, it was several years later until I reacquainted myself with the rolling of a relaxant. It was the 1992, I was staying in a flat owned by the mother of my oldest friend, the mother who may or may not have been rather friendly with Mr Buttocks. It was the year when Denmark literally dragged themselves off the beaches to win the European football championships. Yugoslavia had qualified but were then disqualifed on account of war, breaking up of the country, genocide etc – the sort of thing that really shouldn’t interrupt the serious matter of a football championships. So, a few short weeks before the tournament began, the Denmark squad was invited to cut short their summer holidays and play in a tournament they’d failed to qualify for. Now, if I’d failed to qualify for a competition and was sunning it up after a long year of sweating in a shiny shirt I’m not sure I’d have bothered. If at first you don’t succeed, sit in the sun. Anyway, they played a blinder, beating the Netherlands in the semis and Germany in the final, scoring goals like this (reinacted is someone’s garden like this) as they went. It remains probably the biggest shock in the history of world football. Or was it all a dream brought on by Pete the Hippy’s homegrown greengiggler…I havent checked.

Anyway, Z. simulans has always had a touch of grass about it to me. And it turns out I’m not imagining things. Nosing around on the internet about the various peppers I grow here I discovered that Zanthoxylum simulans contains an essential oil, important in perfumery, called Myrcene. As well as Z.simulans, it’s found in bay, verbena and….cannabis.

*I nicked the odd tenner or fiver every now and again from a wallet he kept in an old jacket hanging in his wardrobe. There was never much in there, but I thought I’d get away with it somehow and he never mentioned it. It was just me and him and we were pretty skint and it would’ve made a fair difference. There are few things I feel more rotten about, and the silly bastard died before I could say sorry. Having said that, I remember he wouldn’t let me stay up to watch Dr No when I was about 11, so let’s call it quits.

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  • "Never saw what the fuss was about Bob Marley"?! Sacrilege. I need a cup of tea (and a spliff, obviously).
    Heartbreaking addendum. He probably understood that kids need to have these little rebellions. What a cool guy for not mentioning it.

  • Its not that I dont like Bob Marley, nor see the importance/huge influence etc but he's abit like Bob Dylan – say one mildly questioning word (eg why doesnt he put down the harmonica) and all hell breaks loose. And dont start me on the Clash and Oasis

    It's a fair cop guv *goes off to do porridge…keeps nose clean*

  • Really trying not to get drawn into this but…you can have Oasis, even the Clash, I suppose, although not really, but i can't let this pass. What on earth's wrong with Bob Dylan's harmonica?

  • La la la not listening. I can't watch things on You Tube now because i'm pretending to work, not that i would anyway. He's so cool. None of it matters. Leave him alone.
    Do only farmers 'soil for a fight'?

  • Xcellent post, maaaan. I can remember inspecting a pothead's bedsit in my early teens. It was such a cliche. He had stuck fluorescent stars and moons over the ceiling, and just before he lit up he dimmed the lights, then put on Dark Side of the Moon.

  • Have I heck as like….no sign of it I'm afraid..might have closed the window before you did the authentication wotsit? I did it myself on a blog earlier. can I tempt you to rewrite (I know you've got NY tomorrow, but first things first)