Black men in England are 10 x more likely to experience psychosis than white men. But 3 recent studies of 60,000 children found black boys have fewer or no more mental health problems than white boys. What is going wrong? Listen to my BBC Radio 4 report https://bit.ly/2EbS8X0
Medical professionals assess up to 82% of people who kill themselves to be at no risk or low risk of suicide even if they’re seen in the week of their death. Could Artificial Intelligence do better? The first of my series mental health reports for BBC Radio 4 was a headline on the PM programme.
My first ever TV report on mental health went out on BBC1 earlier this year! While attacks on mental health staff in England have soared by over a third in 4 years one mental health Trust in a deprived area of East London has bucked the trend and achieved what they say is a world first reducing violence by up to 90%. And it hasn’t cost a penny extra and they haven’t used any extra medication. http://ow.ly/195y30n97UC
My story about life threatening practices at UK private rehabs – which after £300 million in cuts to state treatment now dominate the rehab market – headlines the news on Radio 4. Listen at the top of the programme and 32 minutes past the hour http://ow.ly/YmF730jgCey
My piece on the UK’s alcohol crisis that the government is doing nothing about according to one of their own MPs headlines the BBC news on the World at One on Radio 4. Tory MP Fiona Bruce – Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on alcohol harm – says the government is “neither recognising nor addressing” this crisis which is affecting millions of people. Hospital admissions for alcohol have doubled in a decade reaching their highest levels ever – over 1.1 million. The latest figures show deaths from alcohol have reached their highest level since records began. While the number of people accessing publicly funded detox and rehab for alcohol has almost halved since 2013 when £300 million of cuts to substance misuse funding started. And almost half of units offering publicly funded detox have closed since then.
I am back on the BBC! They liked my story about the “drastic” and “shocking” cuts to prison drug treatment at a time when even the Prisons Minister says the drugs situation in English prisons is “unacceptable” so much that it was headlining the news. Have a listen and let me know what you think.
I am a former correspondent for BBC Radio and Television, the Sunday Times, the Guardian and the Daily Mail. My assignments included: reporting from a barracks in Southern Sudan in a pair of hot pants, narrowly avoiding being possessed by a pig at a voodoo ceremony in Cuba and dropping acid with a bunch of Buddhist monks at a commune in California. I have reported from all over the world but was last based in Jamaica where I covered mainly crime and drugs, becoming rather too close to the subject matter. In the course of my travels I met the Queen and Snoop Dogg who became my closest imaginary friends. During my time at the BBC I was awarded an Order of the British Empire Medal (for never arriving on time) and couldn’t hit a deadline if it slapped me in the face.
I graduated from Oxford University with a 2:1 in English and an MA for sprinting around the library at 4am (due to cyclothymia highs). I spent much of my time there fantasising I was the Queen of Spain and, (unrelated to dope) a fried egg about to be hit by a train. I later graduated from Britain’s most exclusive rehab, with distinction, realising my life had taken a wrong turn. In recovery I was successfully treated at the Prison View psychiatric unit where I attended as an outpatient (7 days a week). I entered with 13 personalities and emerged with only 1.5 having recovered from a decades long battle with bulimia and self-harm.
I am celebrating a number of important milestones this year: 10 years clean from alcohol and drugs, 6 years abstinent from bulimia and self-harm, 3 years abstinent from shopping addiction and 23 seconds free of OCD (oops I’ve relapsed again). I am writing this after returning from my first trip abroad for over six years, having been stuck, totally grounded, in England because of my OCD. Apart from having to scan all 23,491 documents in my house, (in case an armed robber partial to eating paper broke in), which has taken the entire year, the trip was a fantastic success.
I am in remission from clinical depression, borderline personality disorder and PTSD. I have asked my therapist to marry me (so the therapy would be free).
I am not in recovery from an addiction to finding new mothers having spent 45 years on the waiting list for a parent transplant.
I got back to Jamaica at the beginning of December 2004 with a cocaine habit as out of control as a runaway bullet train. I was doing cocaine from 9am, not sleeping at all but crashing for an hour at 2pm the next day. I would be out at nightclubs every night, often on my own, as I was so wired I just had to get out of the house. I met a Jewish South African, Woody, at Kingston’s premier expat night club and, after a minor attempt at conversation, took him straight home to have sex. But I was so strung out on cocaine my ladyparts were like a vice and he couldn’t get his willy in. This was my first, but certainly not my last, experience of wearing a cocaine chastity belt. He was highly intelligent and I started going out with him (another advantage was he drank a lot). But he said it was off-putting kissing me as I tasted of cocaine. One night he had an important work function at his house. I left my cocaine at my mother’s house to try to stay under control. But halfway through the meal I announced I was “anxious” and would have to leave. I genuinely believed that cocaine calmed me down. I certainly felt, whenever I took it that a white light was flooding through my brain, obliterating any anxieties. I staggered back to his apartment, laughing and off my head, covered in mud, saying, “Guess what? I’ve fallen into a giant pothole.”
I would leave full and empty wrappers of cocaine lying around my flat. My helper (PC Jamaican term for cleaner) became a help-yourself-er as she stole my very expensive phone and various other things, realising I was completely off the rails.
One morning I’d been out all night at a club and had ended up at the house of some white Jamaicans. I was sprinting round the garden, pretending to be a humming bird. One of them said they would take me home (I wasn’t driving thank god). So I got into his car and swigged a bottle of pink liquid without asking what it was. I started projectile vomiting 20 feet away as the liquid was a heavy duty chemical for cleaning the engine of a car. I was so sick I couldn’t speak for days. But, not allowing that to interrupt my social life, I was out at a party that very night, doing sign language. When people asked me why I hadn’t gone to hospital I was mystified. Surely this kind of thing happened to everyone. Another day I was wondering round the supermarket for half an hour with a massive trolley, containing just 6 bottles of vodka and a tiny orange. I simply didn’t understand why people were staring at me.
I was commissioned to do a story about female sex tourism in Jamaica for Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. Jamaica had become the world’s number 1 destination for ladies from North America and Europe hooking up with fake “boyfriends” aka SpongeBob no pants. Of course the majority of the women thought these boyfriends were real. I went to stay with my English friend, Tristram, in the countryside as he said his girlfriend, 17 year old stripper Big Bazumba, had contacts with gigolos. Of course she did, they were part of the same union, “Sex workers need Wonga.” The gigolos I met were sitting listlessly around on the beach waiting for women to arrive. But they had zero interest in thirty year old, fairly attractive, me. They were looking for women who were older, divorced and desperate. I was driven, with Big Bazumba, at high speed around the Montego Bay area doing copious quantities of cocaine in the back of the car. Although cocaine was only about 10 pounds a gramme in Jamaica I was spending 90 pounds a day.
I found out that Big Bazumba had stabbed a girl to death the week before. She’d said it was self-defence as the girl had tried to steal her chewing gum. She was out and about, completely free as a client had paid the police to get her off. This was one of the things that had started to disturb me about living in Jamaica. There was virtually no rule of law as anyone who had money would pay the police to drop the case. Thus, at a very exclusive party, a crazed ex-boyfriend beat a girl up in front of everyone, putting her in hospital. But there was no investigation as his parents paid off the police. I had been frustrated in the UK with what I saw as the Kafkaesque maze of rules and regulations that were dreamed up by bored bureaucrats. Like, for example, that it was illegal to do cocaine. But it started to occur to me that if anything happened to me in Jamaica, no one would ever be prosecuted or even questioned, unless they were very poor.
The stories that some of the gigolos came out with were breathtaking. They had women sending them money from up to twenty different countries. And they would tell every single one of these women that they loved them and wanted to be with them. They would obviously schedule them carefully so they didn’t arrive in Jamaica at the same time. I was amazed the women could be so gullible. But many of them were middle aged and single in their home countries, they just couldn’t resist the attentions of these incredibly sexy gigolos. One Italian woman I interviewed (or tried to interview as I kept having to nip into the loo for a line) said when she’d come to live with her “boyfriend” in Jamaica he’d made her sleep outside in the yard with the dogs. But she still didn’t leave him of course. Better psychologists than me can explain why these women would stay with men who were not only rinsing them out but treating them like animals. I would say they were probably playing out some kind of fucked up dynamic with their childhood and their fathers. Some of the women, mainly American, were a bit more clued up and realised these men were playing a game. But it was a game they were happy to play, despite the high entry fees and degrading rules.
Back at Tristram’s house, Big Bazumba starting gazing at me with adoration and playing with my hair. “If I looked like you I could do anything,” she said. As a mixed race person my looks were very popular in Jamaica, where I was known as a “browning,” the highest beauty accolade. Although my friends, by this stage were saying, “you used to be so pretty,” as my skin was grey and my eyes were darting around like a meteor shower because of the cocaine. The staring and fiddling with my hair then escalated to her caressing my leg and trying to stick her tongue in my mouth. “I’m not gay….at the moment,” I said. “And anyway, even if I were, it would put me off a bit that you’ve stabbed a girl last week.”
“Why?” she said, her big brown eyes looking at me with surprise. “Oh I don’t know,” I said, “I’d just rather not date someone who’s so handy with a kitchen knife.” She then got into the bed under the covers with me, giving me a seductive look. “That won’t work,” I said. “If I’m going to die I’m going to kill myself, not get it together with someone who if I piss them off is going to stab me in the chest.”
Hurt, she pulled away and allowed me to go to sleep. But when I woke up both my cocaine and my car had gone. “Tristram!” I shouted, shaking him awake. “Big Bazumba’s stolen my car!” “You must have upset her,” he said. “She hasn’t done that for a week.” After frantic phone calls to Big Bazumba’s mobile phone, the car was retrieved and she came back again. Of course I forgave her immediately as she brought back my cocaine. Tristram said that her using had got completely out of control since she’d stabbed the other girl, as she was trying to snort away the guilt. I chalked it up to another of those “interesting experiences you have while taking drugs” and thought it would make a good party story when I got back to Notting Hill. Ironically Woody had accused me of being gay and flirting with a female friend of his when I’d been chatting, animatedly and in fluent Spanish, to her. Little did he know what I was actually getting up to…. Sign up for updates on this blog
With the return of my car I started bombing around the roads of rural Jamaica alone at 4am, which Tristram said was suicidal as only criminals were out at that time. But that was the point, I was suicidal. I knew I needed to leave Jamaica but, because of the terrible state my mother was in, I felt I couldn’t go. The only way out, I thought, was to press the ejector seat on the plane of life, without a parachute. Then no one, especially myself, could blame me for deserting my mother.
After I returned home to Kingston, I was hoovering up cocaine. I had done some incredibly powerful interviews about the sex tourism. But I was so strung out, mind like a roomful of confetti, that I couldn’t put the documentary together. Of course it’s difficult for me to remember the interviews, apart from the most extreme, as I was so off my head at the time it’s all been wiped from my mind.
At least I was eating healthily, I thought. I would have strictly organic, non GMO, preservative free meals until 11pm. Then I would go out bingeing on fast food, fried chicken and ice cream then puke and eat some more. To save time I would eat it all over the loo. The whole process was so quick I didn’t even need to move the television into the toilet like I had before. I was doing that three times a night, ignoring the doctors warnings that the losing combination of full time cocaine addiction and bulimia could make me drop dead of a fatal heart attack any time. I was hurtling towards the ground without being able to stop. Perhaps I thought I could fly.
On Christmas Day I couldn’t go round to see my family, spending it alone with a litre of Vodka and a large bag of coke. It was the worst Christmas Day I’d ever had. The next day, I saw the news of the catastrophic death toll in the Boxing Day Tsunami. But I couldn’t connect with the tragedy, as my life was crashing around me, devastated by my own cocaine Tsunami. I tried to give up cocaine for a few days but was drinking heavily and became so depressed I reached for the cocaine again. I ended up crying on the shoulder of my best friend in Jamaica, Candy, wailing, “I just can’t do this anymore.” I told my family that I was doing cocaine. This wasn’t a big surprise, as I’d made a hole in my nose so huge by snorting it that every time I breathed I made a loud whistling noise you could hear 50 feet away. How they hadn’t realised about the bulimia is a mystery though, as I would literally run to the loo straight after I’d eaten anything. I started looking, half-heartedly, into rehab options in Jamaica but decided that an open ward in hospital with male crack addicts from ghettos would be dangerous (for the designer bags).
I did my final interview as a foreign correspondent for the BBC at the beginning of 2005. Of course I didn’t realise this was the end of my journalism career, thinking that I just had a tiny problem with drugs that would take no time to sort out. I was so wired on coke my brain almost blew a fuse and I took a childish glee in snorting it, loudly and obtrusively, throughout the entire (telephone) interview. And the interview itself was on cocaine – the drop in the amount being smuggled between Jamaica and the UK. I giggled as I relished the irony. Afterwards Radio 5 Live told me it was a “fantastic” interview and they must speak to me again soon. I remember feeling very, very, happy after the cocaine interview thinking, “see I’ve still got what it takes.”
My upbeat mood was not, in any way, affected when I was burgled by my dealer, who pilfered all my bank cards. I assured my family that the break in was “not a problem at all.” I owed him money, of course. My identity and bank cards could easily be replaced, my dealer, on the other hand, could not. My family said I should call the police (the dealer was poor so there was a chance something might be done). But I said I couldn’t possibly call the police as my dealer was: “a good friend, practically my best friend” a fallacy I (tragically) believed. The only person I trusted more, I told them, was my main dealer in England – the shambling, psycho, crack-head with a penchant for punching his girlfriends who’d set up a tent in my sitting room. They decided I’d lost the plot and, despite my declarations that I couldn’t leave Woody, whose jealousy I interpreted as love, my family said I had to go into treatment. My bags were packed and I was forcibly escorted to the airport, accompanied by my cousin Michelle.
Before I left my house, I had a massive cocaine binge covering my suitcase, passport, laptop case and clothes (inconveniently black) in snow. By the time I got to the airport, I was so wasted my suitcase seemed to have developed a mind (and direction) of its own and some kind of fault with the wheels. To be honest it wasn’t just the suitcase, the walls and the other people seemed to be spinning round as well. Officials were alerted to my discombobulated state when I was completely unable to get my suitcase onto the weighing machine at check in. After assistance from airline officials, my bags finally went on their way all lightly sprinkled with cocaine. My cousin Michelle spent almost half an hour trying to wipe the cocaine off my clothes in the VIP lounge at Kingston airport. Luckily (you will see later why) we were travelling First Class. This was funded by my aunt, who was controlling my mother’s funds, not, as usual, my overdraft.
At Heathrow airport I got off the plane, and joined the queue for passport control. They frowned and gave me a funny look when I handed in a white British passport, coated in cocaine. The lady at the desk seemed to turn and make a signal to a man behind.
The baggage hall seemed to be a haze, all the suitcases and people looked the same. My trolley was travelling in circles instead of a straight line. There was a lot of faulty equipment on this trip. It definitely wasn’t me. As I reached for a bag that I thought might be mine, I lost my footing and fell onto the belt. Surrounded by suitcases, I felt a bit confused. But I only travelled along for a couple of feet before a friendly northern man helped me off.
I was arrested, snorting loudly, after Customs officials asked politely if I “had a cold.”
“An occupational hazard of working in the tropics…” I replied. It did not help matters that I mistook the red and green Customs exit for a traffic light which I (twitchily) waited to change. Sundry dogs, scanning machines, passengers and tea ladies detected that myself and my possessions were heavily (and visibly) coated in cocaine. “We think you have been in contact with a Class A drug,” the Customs officers said to me. “What on earth are you talking about?” I said. “Stop messing around Madam, you’re covered in cocaine.” Luckily, Customs decided I wasn’t a mule (they travel in Economy) but that I might as well be some kind of donkey as I was terminally stupid. I was charged not with smuggling but with “impersonating Scarface” and released into the custody of my family.
I was met by my father and Alex, my friend from Oxford, and sequestered in Alex’s house in the country. I suggested excursions to London, “I must see the latest waxwork of the Pope at Madam Tussauds” – in order to score. But, to avoid a less mind expanding form of incarceration, I was soon forced into rehab. After careful consideration, I felt St Chillin’s, Britain’s most exclusive rehab, would look best on my C.V. I might even bump into a celebrity. Sign up for updates on this blog Follow me on TwitterSend me a friend request on Facebook
When I finally got back to Jamaica, I had to borrow a bus from a local bus company to get me and my shopping back to my flat. I then called in a removal team of twelve people to unpack. Once this was done, I started getting quotes for a loft conversion as the clothes wouldn’t fit in the flat. But now I was in Kingston, where shopping was as limited as wetlands in a desert, I had to crack on with work. And although I was deprived of my retail therapy fix, I was trying on every outfit in the Boutique of Life in Jamaica and was about to get a lot more than I’d bargained for… I got very excited by a commission from the Sunday Times to write a story about buying your own private island in the Caribbean. I had visions of myself swanning around on a private jet, sporting the fake designer bags, and new designer clothes, hopping from island to island. Perhaps I would meet a rich, island owning, husband I thought. But alas there was no travel budget for the piece and it was scrapped.
As I’ve said before, fed up of the cacophony of confusion that greeted my English accent every time I opened my mouth, I’d adopted a middle class Jamaican accent instead. The British High Commission in Kingston, hearing this new accent thought I was a fake English person, though in fact I was a fake Jamaican. The BBC, who were now trying to employ more “native” ethnic minority reporters, loved the fake accent and insisted that I use it to do all my interviews with them. The middle classes in Jamaica speak standard English (with a twist). But as the number of people speaking Jamaican patois was increasing – both in Jamaica and the UK where Ali G was huge – the Jamaican government was moving towards recognizing patois as an official language alongside English. But as patois developed many people expressed concern that standard English in Jamaica was in terminal decline, and only had months to live.
In September 2003, I went down to the primary school in the Kingston Ghetto of Rema, which the Queen had visited in 2002, to see how Her Majesty’s English was faring. When the children sped out into the playground for their break I asked them what their first language was.
Sacha, a skinny nine year old with huge brown eyes, approached speaking in a strangled voice that she clearly thought was a proper English accent. “I jus talk Hinglish,” she said. “Cos I barn at foreign.”
“Oh!” I said. “Where were you born?”
“In Hingland,” she said with a smirk.
“Oh really?” I said. “Where?”
“Ah,” I said. “What part of England is that?”
“And what about the rest of you, what’s your first language?” I said.
“Spanish! “ they chorused enthusiastically.
“Um no I mean what language do you speak at home?”
“Patois!” they shouted. “Jamaican language.”
“Noa!” they said. “English a different language.”
“So when do you all speak English?” I said.
“When we are speaking to very important people like the Prime Minister … or you,” said Delano Campbell, a deep voiced ten year old with an intelligent, searching face.
Their English teacher Cynthia Roberts, came sweeping in. Her hairstyle a bun falling into a ponytail of corkscrew curls – popular with women in ancient Greece – was topped off by a striking pair of red plastic sunglasses. “English should be taught as a foreign language, yes,” she said, “because for most of the children, it is.”
Another teacher, Gloria Brebner, a dark, wizened but still vigorous eighty five year old, said the country needed more adult literacy programmes to teach people English. But she was pessimistic as to their chances of success.
“Jamaica,” she said, adjusting her tweed hat with a dapper purple ribbon around it, “is a place where people don’t really like too many rules and regulations so they find speaking English a drag.”
The police in Jamaica were, as ever, following their own regulations, “shoot first and ask questions later.” In October 2003, just after I’d got back to Jamaica, thousands of people rioted in the island’s tourist mecca Montego Bay, after the police shot dead an elderly taxi driver and his passenger. At first police claimed they had been shot at by the taxi driver but later admitted the taxi, which was riddled with hundreds of bullets, had been fired on by mistake. Another case of the police and their glasses becoming sadly alienated. Earlier in the year, in May, officers of the notorious Crime Management Unit shot dead three people – two women and a man – in a house in south west Jamaica while attempting to arrest a man who was not there. Mr Invisible was never found. Two months later, in 2003, the unit was disbanded. The most notorious incident, also involving officers from the Unit, took place at Braeton just outside the capital Kingston in 2001. Seven youths aged between 15 and 20 were shot dead by police, many at close range in the back of the head. The police had been searching for the killer of a schoolteacher who they believed was in the house but none of the dead youths had criminal records. The police had some unlikely explanation – probably that they’d run out of handcuffs and the police van had a flat.
There was also controversy in Jamaica about the erection of a pair of statues in the centre of Kingston to commemorate the population’s emancipation from slavery. Because of the size of the male statues d*** many complained that the statues were obscene and racist in their depiction of black people. The male, stocky and heavily muscled, had huge hands and a …….projection that appeared to be well over 14 inches long. The woman had breasts of a firmness and size that would give Jordan a run for her money. At least the statues were popular with one section of the population: vandals.
But was the offending male organ really that big? I decided to unleash my trusty tape measure and check. This was harder than expected as I was restrained from touching the statues by nervous security guards who feared another assault on their charges.
But with the help of a fishing rod, a bottle of coca cola and a friendly Canadian engineer I established that the…particle would scale down to a human size of six to eight inches. Which for an un-aroused obtrusion was – in the words of my family doctor – “huge.”
“It’s definitely the biggest penis in Jamaica,” said the engineer – a short, plump, twinkly eyed, man whose day job – when not measuring…….pike with fishing poles- was running the biggest bank in Jamaica .
A blonde American woman –short, plump and middle aged with white socks, shorts and a tropical shirt approached the statue in excitement, her camera twisting and flashing.
She babbled excitedly that the statue epitomized Jamaica – a wonderful, perfect, paradise.
“What she really likes about it is the size of his willy,” said her boyfriend with a wry smile.
I asked her – under my breath – if she’d ever had any experience with Jamaican men.
“Darn no,” she said and laughed. But she said she knew plenty of girls back home who had and they kept coming back for more. Continuing in this vein, I asked her about reports, in the British press, that Jamaica was the world’s number one destination for female sex tourists from North America and the UK.
“Well,” she said laughing, “this statue explains why. It certainly works for me.”
This did not surprise me as the sight of white women, with no obvious physical charms, being escorted by lean six packed lotharios, who clearly charged by the hour, was common in Jamaica’s tourist resorts.
A tall robust woman, with firm curls and a firm face jogging by, poured scorn on the idea that the statues celebrated Jamaicans’ freedom from slavery. She thought they showed black people in a very primitive light, “like the highly sexed animals the slave masters thought we were.” She added that nobody even called it Emancipation Park.
“They call it Penis Park.”
But Janelle, an art student writing an essay on the statues, said she had no problem with the size of the …pickle because it was in proportion to the body.
“And black men do have larger penises” she said, her long eyelashes fluttering coyly over her large brown eyes. This was obvious – she said – from the size of condoms in the shops which started at extra large.
A dark barrel shaped woman in a tight grey sleeveless t-shirt, jeans and flip flops sidled up with a gigantic male companion by her side. Both were correctional officers from a nearby prison.
“I don know why people fussin so much.” Jamaica – she said – had much bigger problems to deal with than the big penis on a statue. Sign up for updates on this blog
As for me, the only dick I was really interested in was the (frequently erect) one attached to Shagger, who I’d phoned, not expecting much, when I’d got back to Jamaica. Shagger, a Colombian Venezuelan, had picked me up at Miami airport and said we had to get together. On our first “date,” he admitted he was in a relationship, living with a girl in LA, but said he’d had umpteen liaisons with women as he travelled round the Caribbean. He swore absolutely blind he wasn’t married. Although he was very good looking, tall and tanned with practically a sixteen pack, I didn’t really fancy him that much (as he looked like the tadpole fancying lodger I’d had). But after copious quantities of alcohol, and feeling incredibly lonely, I ended up in bed with him. At first I said I couldn’t have sex as I had my period but he said red was his favourite colour and he didn’t mind. The sex was electric, just like in a movie, moving from X rated wrestling on the bed to humping on my treadmill to both of us having an orgasm in the kitchen sink. And his stamina was phenomenal, I never busted him with Viagra, but as soon as he came 30 seconds later he was ready to fuck again. Sex with him went on for hours. The next day my whole flat was covered in blood and I couldn’t let my cleaner in.
We destroyed the bathroom of his hotel, hooked up in the gym and had sex in a bush at a party where 2,000 people were 5 feet away. And this wasn’t just sex it was SEX I had so many orgasms I would have to beg him to stop. And when my driving instructor picked me up from his hotel I couldn’t walk or sit down.
As always troubled by my ethnicity (I’d spent most of my life claiming to be partly Cuban rather than half Jamaican) I lived in a total fantasy world where I was South American and Shagger was my perfect lover. This fantasy was cemented by the fact that, during sex, we only ever spoke Spanish. As I stared into his jade green eyes, (through my own green eyes purchased for £5.99 at Vision Express) I thought this was the best high I’d ever had, better than ecstasy and cocaine. And as long as I was with him, which was all the time as he was obsessed with me too, saying “I just can’t get enough of you,” I never had to come down. I stopped doing cocaine completely when I was with him as why would I need to – here was 80 kilogrammes of the most gorgeous cocaine I’d ever had. The chemistry between us was like an electric storm. I told him I loved him, I thought I did, but he said, “this isn’t love.” Every sexual encounter was a secret battle, if only the sex was good enough I thought he would leave his girlfriend and stay with me.
I became obsessed with my appearance, moving into my hairdresser and camping out in the gym, totally neglecting work. This meant that I looked amazing all the time, (apart from just after we’d had 6 hours of sex when my hair looked like an Afro cactus) but was practically unemployed. And as I was so highly sexed men’s jaws would just drop when they saw the two of us. I was high, not just on the sex but because at last I felt beautiful. He was clearly, I see now, a sex addict and would get off on juggling multiple women around. He had about fifteen phones so would be talking to his girlfriend on one phone while his driver answered the other phones saying he was in a meeting. And I was a sex addict too, I just couldn’t stop, although I would scream at him that he was a liar and that I hated him. We were both lying to each other. I never took off my green contact lenses for the entire duration of the relationship, pretending I had green eyes. And he, of course, was married.
As his contract in Jamaica came to an end he announced his departure from the island, saying our relationship was over. I decided to retaliate, doing one of the nastiest things I’ve ever done in my life. I had his home phone number and called his girlfriend saying I was his “other girlfriend” in Jamaica and that he’d had affairs with eight different people while abroad. I also emailed him to (falsely) say I was pregnant but never read his reply. After he’d gone back to LA, he emailed me suggesting I’d screwed up his life. But this was unfair, it was his dick and his sex addiction that had screwed up his life, he got caught because of me.
I was devastated after he left, didn’t know what to do with myself. I limped back into work. I’d been commissioned by the BBC to do a story on the burgeoning number of Strip Clubs in Jamaica and met Tristram, an English aristocrat living in the countryside who had a penchant for Jamaican strippers. He referred to himself as a “strip-o-phile.” His girlfriend, Big Bazumba, a stripper at least 40 years younger than him, was living with him at his house. As we sped from one strip club to another around the Montego Bay area, hiding from the police, he pulled out some cocaine and we did it off a hunting knife in the back of the car. This was exactly the kind of thrill that was missing from my life in Jamaica I thought. We went to Kingston, doing oodles more cocaine. This was just what I needed to cheer myself up I thought.
I was not only depressed about Shagger but in despair about my mother. I was struggling to fit in in Jamaica, had little support, and felt myself going down the tubes. I really needed to go back to the UK. But I felt such a sense of obligation to my mother that I couldn’t leave. My mother was still crying and screaming all day, causing intense distress to me and everyone around her. I thought the only way out was to kill myself then no one could blame me for abandoning her.
I got so drunk in a club I collapsed out cold in the toilet. Then, not wanting to be separated from the alcohol, I spent the whole car journey home, kicking the steering wheel (and the man who’d rescued me) almost causing a car crash. Of course I couldn’t remember any of this as I was in blackout. When my family heard about this incident and questioned me about my drinking, I said it was a “cultural thing” they just didn’t understand. Everyone was like me in England, I swore. I genuinely believed this was true. So, instead of cutting back on my drinking, I decided what I really needed to keep it under control was more cocaine….
On my way back to Jamaica in September 2003, in Air Jamaica economy, I had been sitting next to a deportee, a convicted drug dealer, on the plane. Before I decided I had to fly everywhere first class, I was always sitting next to a drug dealer or deportee and they always wanted my phone number. In fact every drug dealer I’ve ever met has wanted to go out with me perhaps seeing an attraction between me and their product that I missed myself. I rang up the deportee thinking he would know where to get cocaine.
I went to Waterhouse, a ghetto in Kingston, late at night with the deportee. We then spent the next three hours driving around picking up the dodgiest looking men we could find as they might know where to get cocaine. I thought quite clearly, “it is highly likely that I will be gang raped here and then have my throat cut.” But I didn’t care – I was on a mission and I had to get my drugs. We eventually ended up at the home of a fat local drug dealer. When I asked him if he had cocaine he said “how much do you want, one kilo or two?” “A kilo,” I sputtered, “I was thinking of a couple of grammes.” He laughed and said he didn’t have a scale that small. I left the ghetto carrying about twenty five grammes of cocaine. Though in denial about my alcoholism, I was not in denial about this, I knew that having that quantity of cocaine in my house, I would get addicted to it. Concealing the massive bag of cocaine in my chest of drawers I started doing cocaine as soon as I got up at 9am in the morning and drinking at 10 am to take off the edge. There were other things I did on cocaine that I can’t get into now. I once went to the supermarket, circling around aimlessly with a massive trolley for half an hour and leaving with only four bottles of vodka and an orange. I didn’t understand why people were staring at me. When I had a repeated problem with my credit card I would get into irrational rages screaming at people in shops.
With more cocaine than I could handle but gagging for my shopping fix, I went to the UK in the spring of 2004 for a shopping hit. I went mad in the shops and had a room full of clothes all unworn with their tags still on. It’s a pretty good indicator of being a shopping addict, that 70% of your clothes have never been taken out of their bags. The night before I was supposed to fly back to Jamaica, I had a liaison with a man I’d met in a club (who left without sex as the room was such a mess) and didn’t start packing till 5am. Of course when my father took me to the airport I missed the flight. It was at this stage that my father said I was “an eternal teenager” which I thought was a compliment. After our fifth trip to the airport together, I became distracted buying magazines in Duty Free and was so late my luggage was removed from the plane and went to Cuba instead. The shopping deprived Cubans thought paradise had arrived as they fleeced all my suitcases of my still tagged pristine clothes. I went back to Jamaica, doing no work but spending three months doing an insurance claim.
My career with the BBC and the Sunday Times was falling apart, I was so obsessed with shopping I was on eBay 20 hours a day. My new obsession, apart from the fake designer bags, was getting a fake designer watch and (for those snowy nights in Jamaica) a fake designer sleeping bag. My email inbox from that time was totally choked up with emails from eBay looking like I was running an eBay megastore. But my patience was wearing thin with the limited shopping opportunities in Jamaica. Like any desperate addict five thousand miles away from their drug, I had to go back to that shopping Babylon, London, to shop again. Sign up for updates on this blog Follow me on TwitterSend me a friend request on Facebook
Next week: spiralling out of control, moving my “best friend” into my house, then saying I can’t go out with him as “I might get addicted to drugs.” Refusing to pay the mortgage as I’d spent the money on a Dior bikini and five pairs of matching sunglasses instead.
In March 2003, ignoring the protests of up to 30 million people around the globe, (and my mini demonstration waving a chicken leg in the back of my car), the United States and the UK invaded Iraq. It seemed unreal seeing it on the television, almost like a video game, with the green night vision pictures looking like something you’d see on Xbox. I was outraged that the British government were taking us into a war that was not supported by the majority of the UK population. Tony Blair was clearly taking lessons in democracy from the Dear Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il. The war was opposed by most of the world’s population, not authorised by the UN, and the evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was as solid as a straw hut in a hurricane. I totally lost faith in Tony Blair, who was the only Prime Minister I had ever voted for and resolved not to vote for him again. Of course the majority of these weapons were not found during the invasion of Iraq. They might as well have been looking for chickens of mass destruction instead. The BBC story that the dodgy dossier published in September 2002 on weapons of mass destruction had been “sexed up” hardened my view of the illegality of the war. I thought that the governments of the US and the UK had told a bunch of porkies to justify the war as big as the giant Bangur pig in Nepal.
But on a personal level everything was going extremely well. The rent of my house in Notting Hill was paying me almost double what I’d been earning in my staff job at the BBC. So with oodles of money coming in, in exchange for as little work as the idlest footballer’s wife, I discovered a new addiction, shopping. I was staying with Susanna at her flat in Notting Hill, but practically never saw her as I was out from 8am till almost midnight, combing the shops for items to complete my perfect wardrobe. Sometimes I didn’t eat all day power walking up and down the streets hunting from shop to shop. If only I had another pair of shoes, trousers, metal studded g string, my wardrobe would be complete. As I had no interest or need for recovery yet I had not heard the slogan “one is too many a thousand is never enough.” That was exactly true of my shopping. The more my tiny room at Susanna’s flat clogged up with new purchases, so the bed entirely disappeared, the more I wanted to shop.
I was particularly obsessed with Selfridges on Oxford Street and would often have to be escorted out by Security when it closed at 9pm. As I was often there at 10 am when they opened the next day, I suggested to the management that it would be better if I moved in. One time I had been exiled from Selfridges at 9pm but then had to break back in, through the unwilling security guards, as I’d left my handbag inside. I was always leaving my handbag in strange places, and it was stolen while I was prancing around buying exotic lingerie at Agent Provacateur in Notting Hill. I also had an obsession with buying fake designer bags, amassing a massive collection. I was the fake bag equivalent of Philippine Shoe Queen Imelda Marcos. Again I kept thinking if I just buy another Dior bag to add to the (fake ) Fendi Baguette, Gucci Gigolo and Louis Vuitton Lollipop I would stop. Not all of it was fake I started buying designer shoes and expensive clothes. As well as designer hedge croppers which I was sure would come in handy (when I finally had a hedge). I would turn up at Susanna’s flat near midnight with bags of shopping as exhausted and starving as if I’d done a polar trek. I didn’t really consider that this might have made her jealous as she was a struggling single mother on benefits. But Susanna, a sweet natured soul, never held it against me. Though we did row a lot when we were drinking leading to threats of my being evicted at 3am. I refused point blank to leave, saying I wasn’t going anywhere as Selfridges was closed.
Although I barely had time for a love life, what I had was as satisfactory as a month old piece of bread. I was seeing my BBC boyfriend, Mike-R-Phone, who was a wonderful man, kind, caring and had so much in common with me. But the relationship was as lacking in spark as a fused plug. And when Tarzan came to London and unexpectedly wanted to re-kindle the relationship, I decided I’d better juggle the two and said I couldn’t see Mike-R- Phone as I had a flu. Happily re-united with Tarzan, (how we forgive men who are hot!) in a 5 star hotel in London, Tarzan started playing with my nether parts. Suddenly something happened that felt like an earthquake was erupting in my groin. This was very alarming, not pleasant at all and I immediately dialled 999 saying I needed an ambulance. When I explained the symptoms to the emergency operator she said I was suffering from an orgasm and should just lie back and enjoy the ride. This had never happened before, was entirely earth shattering and, after I got used to the sensation, made me as keen on Tarzan as a besotted fan of Leonardo di Caprio. I dumped Mike-R-Phone, manufacturing a row but actually because I fancied Tarzan much more. But Tarzan was soon up to his old tricks again, criticizing my vine swinging skills and saying he didn’t want a relationship. Of course I now know what this means. He didn’t want a relationship with me, he went on to marry someone else. Once again I was bereft although being absolutely knackered from the shopping really took off the edge.
I met a short Irishman at a club in Notting Hill who developed an obsession with me phoning me every 5 minutes and saying we should get married. Apart from the fact I didn’t fancy him, I was slightly put off by the fact that he said, if his wife was ever unfaithful to him, he would cut her into pieces and throw her in the Thames. Luckily he was working as a surgeon on the NHS, so he was being paid by the taxpayer to cut people up. I had BUPA so hoped I would avoid his surgical attentions for the rest of my life. Nonetheless I enjoyed the attention and spent a considerable amount of time with him.
One day when both of us were pissed on cider and vodka and hanging out with a girl I had met in a club, we suddenly fell into an enthusiastic threesome. She gave him a voracious blowjob and I snogged the face off her. She then tried to have sex with him but I put my foot down about this, he was mine to reject. You might have thought, now all my lesbian fantasies had come true, my world was rocked. But she was blonde and I’d gone off blondes as I wanted to snog Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls instead. And I did get put off when the girl’s dog tried to make it a foursome by enthusiastically humping my leg.
When I finally headed back to Jamaica, I was shattered by the shopping and had to hire a Winnebago to transport all my luggage to Heathrow. The Irishman was driving, still professing undying love, amid obscure and random threats. When we got to Heathrow, he had to procure a trail of family sized luggage carts as long as the Heathrow Express. And when I finally got to the check in, the woman asked, “where are all the other passengers from the coach?” When I answered that I was alone she said I would have to pay ten times the cost of my flight in excess baggage fees. I got on the flight to Jamaica, 10,000 pounds overdrawn, but mystified as to why this was. I was earning 6,000 pounds a month so surely that meant I could spent 6,000 pounds on fake designer bags? The, quite frankly, unduly restrictive concept of “disposable income” wasn’t something I understood at all. It would take a crash in my life, (and the removal of all my cards) for it to finally sink in. Sign up for updates on this blog Follow me on TwitterSend me a friend request on Facebook