View from the Bridge: 5

by John Morrison


5: Rolling up

Those who take pains to avoid eating meat aren't always so fastidious about the drugs they take. Some have been taking rather too many proscribed substances since the late sixties, which means that the height of their ambitions, thirty years on, is merely to keep track of their own saliva.

Dope Dealer is one such figure. As he sits in shadow, nursing a pint, his face seems to have imploded. He has the pallid complexion of the recently exhumed. It is almost reassuring to learn he is doing hard drugs: he could have looked that bad all the time.

He once had a frightening drug experience: he couldn't get hold of any. He had a lost weekend that lasted five years; now he's on extended leave from reality. The inside of his head, on a wet Monday morning, is a lonely place to be. The last event he can recall with any clarity is a Bay City Rollers gig. Buying drugs off this guy would be like buying a used car from someone who had just caused a 50-vehicle pile-up on the M1.

Gone are those utopian dreams, those hopes for a better world. The big questions remain unanswered; those of us who lived through the heady days of flower power are forced to admit, if pressed on the matter, that, no, we still don't know the way to San Jose.

Those whose IQs haven't yet slipped into single figures try at least to rationalise their drug habit - hoping that by taking drugs themselves, their children will rebel againgst them and not take any at all. It's a selfless attitude that typifies Milltown's responsible attitude to the demands of parenting. It will also explain, to social anthropologists of the future, why so many prominent public figures of the new millenium will be called Echo, Rainbow and Harmony.

The lucky ones, blessed with a modicum of self-control, confine their drug-taking activities to having the occasional shot of Night Nurse and then operating heavy machinery. One way or the other the air above the town is so thick with hallucinogenic smoke that crows invading Milltown airspace are liable to fall out of the sky.


*     *     *

Everyday life is chronicled in the local newspaper, the Milltown Times: a publication of few ambitions and even fewer readers. Even in a county of piss-poor parochial papers the Milltown Times manages to project an air of inertia and mediocrity. Old people read the paper merely to confirm that they haven't died in the night, or to line the bottom of the budgie's cage.

The pictures have a familiar look: hardly surprising since the gurning face of the town's mayor appears in nearly every one, presenting a huge cheque to the girl guide troop or chatting patronisingly to Milltown's oldest living resident.

There is always a selection of old photographs showing how Milltown looked when the mills were turning out corduroy and fustian, instead of being converted into cyber-cafˇs and heritage centres. People stand around in these pictures, gazing impassively at the photographer and giving the distinct impression that they have nothing more important to do. Very much like the Milltown of today, in fact.

Why try to parody the newspaper's headlines, when the real ones include: 'No Weather Records Broken', 'Milltown Man Creosotes Shed','Bus Route Stays the Same' and ' World War III Declared: No Milltown Residents Involved'? (Oh alright, two are made up...).

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