Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Book review: "INHALANTS" by Mark Pownall (1987, Franklin Watts)

Now, as every child knows, the REAL 'skinhead cult' is all about the Spirit Of '69. Spinning Trojan and Pama 7"s; neat number 1 crops; button-down Fred Perrys, loafers 'n' crombies; having a laugh and having a say. Taking a pride in your class. Taking no shit from no-one. A fiver in your pocket for an honest, hard day's graft. Then down the local to pull a foxy chick in a feathercut, talk about the football and drink 10 pints while stomping around to Alton Ellis and Prince Buster.

It's a far cry from the travesty SKINHEAD became in the '80s! Glue-sniffing dropouts...leave it out, mate! Gave the cult a bad name! Skins were always clean, self-respecting...it was about sticking by your mates, through thick and thin, and the right to work - not the right to hang around Trafalgar Square, glugging Blackthorn Dry, and ponceing money off American tourists, like a bunch of scruffy, dirty, bleedin' 'ippies!

Sorry, reader - are your eyelids drooping? Mine too! Oh come on - is there anything more BORING than a self-righteous skinhead revivalist, harping on about some fucking 2-Tone tour he didn't even attend, acting like a besotted teenager whenever he clocks a vintage Ben Sherman shirt (((NEWSFLASH - THEY ARE WORN BY 45-YEAR OLD PUB LANDLORDS))) and telling us all to "Leave out the bleedin' politics!" No, you fuck off! We'll talk about what's going on Iran, or whether queer-bashers should be kneecapped, should the topics take our fancy! Shit, even the Climate Camp's a safer bet for an interesting chinwag than listening to YOU wank on about how many buttons a skinhead's allowed to leave undone on his lambswool cardigan. Cardigan.

Nah, gimme the real skins - the ones bleached out of history by the mod degenerates who never got over Richard Allen. Skins like the cover star of "INHALANTS" - Mark Pownall's incendiary investigation into the secret netherworld of solvent abuse. Altogether now: Skin-heads, skin-heads - we are the new breed!

If I ever start a two-chord Oi! group called Bostik Frenzy, this is going to be the front cover of the first EP. Yep, kids - toss that DVD-R of 'This Is England' into the nearest skip - if you ain't got the bottle to tattoo an entire side of yer mush and take a hearty draw on a portion of toluene, you ain't worthy to mouth the word "SKIN"! Nothing less than total commitment, if you don't mind. Downloading a few Cock Sparrer tunes, shaving your head and getting mum to bring you back a Harrington from Covent Garden (((for legal reasons, I'd better not mention the shop - but their clobber's notorious for falling apart))) won't cut it anymore! Personally, I reckon the '69 loyalists are just jealous - they never got invited to appear in Gilbert & George artworks.

Anyway, back to INHALANTS. If you have children, I urge you to read to the end of this book review - it may just save one of their lives. Or it would, if anyone actually sniffed glue anymore. Pownall's no fool, he knows his stuff - after years of heavy engagement on the frontline of...of...er..publishing schoolbooks about drugs, his masterpiece, INHALANTS, remains the first and last word on the Evostik menace. Incidentally, I'm not fucking around here - this post is for the benefit of ALL you BTi viewers, whoever you are - so turn off the dubstep, stop fidgeting and shouting abuse at your monitor, and listen to what Pownall has to say:

Mention inhalant or solvent abuse and people tend to think of groups of teenage delinquents sitting around in a derelict house, breathing in fumes from crisp bags full of glue. This is the picture we have from the horror stories in magazines and newspapers and on television.

It's a fair point - that's all they ever seem to show us. We get bombarded with these images, usually sourced by lazy journalists who crave sensationalist shock stories to make young people look worse-behaved than they actually are. He continues:

But is it true? This book looks behind the often misleading headlines at who really takes inhalants, why they do it, and the harm these substances can do.

Hereditary peers, perhaps? Suburban couples? Acclaimed authors?

'Who really takes inhalants' can be summarised as follows:

Oh, right...OK, it IS generally teenage delinquents, hanging around derelict houses - or, if you get really unlucky, hanging around the Campbell Buildings estate in Waterloo (don't bother, it's long gone). If you enlarge the image, you can see the youths in the inset picture have daubed the names of their favourite punk bands all over the walls - Stiff Little Fingers! Joy Division! PiL! 999! Zoundz! And, er...Toyah. I dunno, there's always one...

Kids today get a bad rap. I doubt many of these outraged of Wallington types recall the dark days of the 1980s, when every late night walk home past the medical utensils supply unit on the edge of Brickwall Industrial Estate resulted in a chance encounter with a gang of violent, glued-up bootboys. It was always the ginger one with the stick you had to watch out for (or punch out first).

Speaking of punk, does anyone remember that really rare Crass flexi from '81? I think they gave it out to the audience when they played the Nissan Hut in Luton. Sadly, it won't be reissued, as the ex-members of the band are all arguing like a bunch of babies over royalties, or something.

'Punks' spending a sunny afternoon chilling out with BOBBY BABYLON??? Bet you a tenner they're Toyah fans

But in case this is all sounding too slanted towards punks and skins, let's not forget the crippling effect inhalants had on our Muslim Mod brethren:

Pownall details some solvent-related horror stories, seemingly sourced from the basement of Hell itself:

The cost of continuing to use inhalants can be a miserable life centred on blotting out everything. A few users go to great lengths to maintain a source of supply for their habit. One ran to a friend's house for more glue - without any clothes on. His parents had taken away his clothes to try and stop him sniffing.

I know, I know - the old 'force your child to sit bollock-naked in his bedroom' technique normally works a treat when the little sod takes up smoking. But we're up against a more formidable drug here, altogether - INHALANTS! All the headlines go on heroin busts or cocaine smuggling, Pownall whinges. Meanwhile, though: Two Scottish shopkeepers were found guilty of supplying 'glue kits' to young people. They sold blobs of glue, from a stock of several gallons, in crisp bags.

Fucking hell - why do we never hear about this side of the drugs war? Why does the media drone on about smack, but turn a 'convenient' blind eye to the perils of paint-stripper? Isn't this just rank hypocrisy? Few shopkeepers break the law like this so the number of prosecutions has been small. Oh.

I don't like shopkeepers much, anyway. Shower of thieving bastards. I remember the days when having a fun night out with your muckers DIDN'T cost an arm and a leg!

Coke's plummeted, mind you.

Hang on, though - there's a supposed dearth of publicity about the dangers of inhalants, yet Pownall obviously spent a hectic afternoon at the national newspaper archives in Colindale, dredging up a plethora of headlines warning of the deadly effects of this evil habit. Well, you can't fault his research:

I think "SNIFF OF DEATH" actually knocked the '86 Royal Wedding off the front page of The Sunday People. Anyway, we've read about the nightmare of solvent abuse - what can be done about it? Well, Pownall's not just here to state the obvious - he's been pontificating over the solution, and has a few suggestions for our consideration. Arrest all glue sniffers and cart them off to borstal, or some remote island? Maybe not. A friendly visit from a social worker? Hmmm, might do the trick. Ban all glue, deodorants and cleaning products across the UK? Excellent, but perhaps a tad impractical. Confiscate their clothes? Don't even go there.

How about putting warning signs on certain products? Aha - YOU nod your head, thinking that's the way forward...but Pownall's just caught you out! Doing that will obviously alert habitual bag-heads as to the strongest, and therefore BEST adhesives worth nicking from the local hardware store - enabling them to get PROPERLY blitzed in derelict houses, giggling their tits off as Space Invaders bounce around the walls! See, it's a tough nut to crack.

By page 50, the philosophical enquiries are starting to get a bit desperate, not to mention tedious.

Some people give up smoking by taking tablets which make cigarettes taste revolting. The same principle could be used with inhalants. Some form of horrible-smelling additive could be put into inhalant products to make them too unpleasant to breathe in.

Finally...Mark, can we go with this one, and wrap up and hit the pub?

But this proposal, designed to curb inhalant abuse, would also put off the ordinary consumer. Finding something which worked well on a range of products, and which itself was not flammable, and did not cause allergies or pose a risk to health from ordinary use, would be a difficult task - maybe even impossible. Scientists at the UK's Ministry of Defence tried to find such an 'aversive' substance but found nothing really suitable.

Great! So, conclusion: inhalant abuse is here to stay and the MoD - supposedly pulling out the stops to protect Britain from SS20 missiles and crazed Libyan gunmen - in fact spent the 1980s pissing around down the lab, attempting to make nail polish remover stink of shit, purely to save our streets from naked teenage skinheads frantically searching for the nearest derelict house party. Fucking Hell's bells...

Let's not forget the REAL victims in all this, however. The law-abiding youths who liked nothing better than to while away their Sunday evenings constructing miniature Bristol F.2 Fighters - only to find themselves turned away by the shopkeeper (not in Scotland, obviously) and unfairly branded...'SNIFFER'!

If, for some reason, your child decides they'd rather abuse inhalants than, say, ketamine, coke or ecstasy, call the National Children's Bureau, 8 Wakely Street, London, EC1V 7QE, on (01) 278 9441-7.
You should submit this to Strange Attractor lol.
"When I inhale the stench of London, it makes me vomit blood. Petrol sniffing is my only escape from the nauseating fumes of millions of rotting decaying cretins sleepwalking into the abyss. Burn the fucking lot of 'em, I say."
I'm a Tippex man myself
well let me tell you this,. all sniffable glue is now unsniffable. ,. not only does it taste bad, it dosent work ., I know.

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