I had a little bit of a shock earlier this week. I was at the Club. Thursday I think it was. Yes, it must have been because I was in the office that morning and had been talking to my invaluable secretary, Miss Drayton about ideas for a gift for Hope’s birthday next weekend. I pride myself on the quality of my gifts which Miss Drayton is always so very helpful with procuring. Unfortunately, on this occasion, neither one of us had felt entirely confident that any of our ideas were entirely suitable. In the end, Miss Drayton said she would give the matter further consideration over the weekend and we agreed to discuss the matter again on Monday. I do not normally visit the office on Mondays, but I will make an exception this week as I feel this is such an important matter.
So, it was definitely Thursday evening when I visit the Club. I had arrived in time to join a few of the chaps for a rather fine dinner before retiring to the bar for a frame or two over drinks. Now, I am not renowned amongst my friends as the most observant of chaps, but I did notice that one of the usual gang, young Harper, was absent and when I thought about it, I had to admit that I had not seen him for a week or more. Whilst it was not unusual for some of the chaps to be away for long periods as they joined various family and friends in exotic locations, Harper was not considered to be one of the globe-trotting set. In fact, he rarely left town at all, and then only during the summer to holiday with his family in a little villa they kept in Italy. I know he has recently broken up with his latest girlfriend which in normal circumstances would have led to a more frequent presence at the Club, seeking solace from his friends.
Anyway, I mentioned Harper’s absence from the bar to one of his regular drinking companions, Richardson. I had expected a simple “he’s taken himself off to”, so imagine my surprise when Richardson put his arm around my should and led me to one side of the group, whispering conspiratorially in my ear. It seems that unbeknown to many of us at the Club, Harper has for some time been having drug issues.
When Richardson first said this I immediately thought of anti-depressants or painkillers. I have often heard how addictive these can be, although I could not imagine why he would be taking such things in the first place. He has always seemed a very cheery and healthy chap. When I said this to Richardson he led me a little further away from the bar where he told me that in fact, Harper has been taking other non-prescription drugs and had been admitted to a clinic for treatment to break his habit. Well, I was more than a little surprised by this revelation. Young Harper a drug addict! The very idea of such a thing seemed so out of character and really not the sort of thing one expects of respectable Club members.
Not surprisingly I have no experience of such things. I have always considered that drug taking was one of those things that only celebrities and jobless young men did. To think that one of my own friends could be caught up in that rather seedy world came as a real shock I can tell you. I mean, I have read the papers and seen the news stories about all the drug-related crime and violence that plagues our society these days. From what I have read, most of the criminal activity in the City is linked to the drug trade. One only has to walk the streets of the city of an evening to see evidence of the damage it does to people’s lives.
I have to say that I really do not understand it all. Personally, the nearest I have been is when I started smoking back at school, but that didn’t last long. I only did it to be one of the gang, but I can’t say I ever really enjoyed it. Admittedly there was a certain frisson of excitement as we sneaked off to share our illicit cigarettes, but the act itself did nothing for me, other than induce a niggling cough and make my hair smell. The whole episode came to a rather abrupt end when my mother caught me smoking in one of the downstairs bathrooms. I have never seen her so angry as she launched into a lecture on the damage I was doing to my health. Since that day I have stayed well clear.
On reflection, that is one of the surprising things about the Harper affair. I have always associated drug taking with smoking, assuming that one leads to another. But Harper does not smoke and as far as I know, he never has. I suppose that this is one of those misguided preconceptions one often has regarding issues one has no direct experience of.
For me it was all about fitting in, being one of the gang. And I suppose that this is often the case with drugs. If those are one are taking them, then one would feel compelled to participate if only to ensure you can remain part of the group. No one wants to be seen as the outsider and not many of us have the strength of character to step back and say no, I am not doing that. I think it is safe to say that we all face these challenges at some point in our lives, it unfortunate that for some, it leads down a very dark and dangerous path.
Richardson did not want to say too much about Harper’s problems, but he did say he was doing well and should be back in circulation pretty soon. It would seem that he has been dabbling in drugs of one kind or another for quite a few years, but the breakdown of his most recent relationship had tipped him over the edge, as they say. Although Harper and I are not particularly close, I have to admit that hearing about his problems has been rather a shock. One does not expect to discover that one of one’s friends has a secret life that one knows nothing about. I believe that only a small number of people are fully aware of the reason for Harper’s absence from town, so I must be sure to keep the secret.
Talking of secrets, Dorothy rang me yesterday to tell me that she has proposed to young Angeal and they are going to get married! Of course, it is wonderful news, but I have to admit that I am still a little shocked by the idea that two women can, in fact, get married. It is still very much an alien concept to me. Anyway, I am going to their new flat to see them later this afternoon and I am sure they will be only too happy to tell me everything.