Opium being harvested. Photo: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images
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Suzanne Moore: As I munched on the opium, I pondered the benefits of a drugs-based economy

Jean-Claude had certainly not been in love with me when I was conscious.

When I set off for India I knew only two things: what I had read in Midnight’s Children and that Indians were mad for whisky. I wasn’t sure if the second thing was racist.

Suffice to say that I spent the first two nights in a fleapit in Delhi, terrified by men knocking on my door all night long. “Johnnie Walker,” they hissed. “Give it, madam.” I’d bought some in Abu Dhabi but I was too scared to open the door and sell it to them.

But I got into it when I realised that you could finance a trip to Nepal by bringing back whisky.

The bit no one ever told you was how everyone got stuck in Kathmandu. After a few months in India, Kathmandu was a paradise. Brownies. Lemon meringue pie. Burgers. The hippies had turned the locals on, not only to shooting up heroin, but the munchies. The economy was seemingly based on drugs and patisserie, although once you ventured further afield the medieval poverty of the villages was truly scary. We would scuttle back, usually sick and craving sweet things.

It seemed to be the ideal place then to start eating opium. I was sharing a room with Jean-Claude, a French guy whom I’d become mates with on the road, but was having a peculiar affair with Daba. He was a beautiful Tibetan ex-monk. I was entranced by his long, black hair and er ... spirituality.

Except, like all eldest sons, Daba had no choice about being a monk and there is little spiritual about Tibetan Buddhism as it is practised. Having left the monastery, he now belonged nowhere.

Daba seduced me as we drank out of an ancient silver samovar.

“What kind of tea is this?” I said, as it hit the back of my throat. He drank this all day.

It took a while for me to realise that Daba was a lost alcoholic. But lots of things took a while to dawn on me as I munched my sticky little balls of opium. I carried on drinking “tea” with Daba, trying to see if me and Jean-Claude could get a cheaper room, and waiting to feel something.

Some days later, I was woken up by being slapped round the face by Jean-Claude.

“I thought you were dead.”

He was in a right state. I’d slept for 72 hours. No dreams. Nothing.

This was a bit alarming, I could see that. Not as alarming as what he said next.

“I love you but you cannot live like this. I want to save you. I want you to understand Jesus.”

Jean-Claude had certainly not been in love with me when I was conscious.

That was the wake-up call all right. I was on the next coach out of Kathmandu, with a completely pissed Daba, propped up by a weeping Jean-Claude, waving me off.

It could have been worse. I had an entire suitcase full of Johnnie Walker. 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 13 March 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Israel's Next War

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Our new relationship with the EU may be a lot like the old one

For all the tough mood music, Theresa May has left room for concessions.

I'm sad and dismayed, but that's democracy for you.

The Mail is in a cheerier mood. "Freedom!" is their splash. "Dear EU, We're Leaving You" cheers the Express' while "Dear EU, it's time to go" is the Mirror's splash. "Dover & Out!" roars the Sun, who have projected those same words on the white cliffs of, you guessed it, Dover. "May Signs Us Out!" is the Metro's take.

"Brexit begins" is the i's more equivocal splash, "The eyes of history are watching" is the Times' take, while the Guardian opts for "Today Britain steps into the unknown".

The bigger story isn't the letter but its content, which leads the FT: "May signs historic Brexit letter and opens way for compromise". The government is finessing its red line on the competence of the European Court of Justice. (The word in Whitehall is that Theresa May hadn't grasped the importance of the ECJ as an arbitration mechanism after Brexit and for cross-border matters such as flights when she made her conference speech.)  And the PM has done a good job of not ruling out continuing payments to the European Union, her best path to the deal Britain needs.

A lot depends on what happens to the British economy between now and March 2019. The pound is down still further today but whether that's a minor eruption or the start of sustained losses will have significant consequences on how painful Britain's best path to the access we need to the single market - paying over the odds for the parts of membership that the British government wants to keep and swallowing that £50bn divorce bill - is doable or not.

For all the mood music emanating from May, she's quietly done a good job of clearing the obstacles to a deal where Britain controls its own immigration policy, continues to staff Europol and to participate in European-wide research, the bulk of our regulation is set by Brussels de facto if not de jure and we pay, say £250m a week into Brussels.

Our new relationship with the EU may be rather closer to our old one than we currently expect.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.