15 APRIL 2000, Page 54

No life

What a racket

Jeremy Clarke

To be invited to an all-night rave in a nightclub at the age of 43 is some kind of an honour I suppose, and I tried to rise to the occasion for my Julia's sake. But inside Anaesthesia it was like the Black Hole of Calcutta, and the music (if that is what it was) had a hellish quality about it that frightened me.

After standing around, and trying not to look as miserable as I felt, I decided to go for a pony and trap. It was the only way I could think of escaping from the nauseat- ing din. I informed Julia of my intention, and she told me to try the upstairs gents as it was the only one with a cubicle. Julia, bless her, is a mine of information. I pushed through the heaving, lunatic crowd and on up the thronged staircase. There were two queues in the upstairs gents: one for the urinals and one for the cubicle. I joined the latter. It was a very Slow-moving queue but I wasn't in a hurry, and it was a relief to have at least one wall between myself and that awful, pounding racket.

The first time the cubicle door opened, four blokes and a girl came out, one after the other, like the finale of a conjurer's trick, then we all shuffled forward one place.

After this the bloke in front of me turned round and said, 'Want any Chaz, John?' `Chaz?' I said. ‘Chaz, man. Chaz,' he sneered, with all the usual contempt of the drug user for anyone he thinks is 'straight'.

Then the penny dropped at last. It dawned on me that I was probably the only mug in the queue intending to use the lava- tory for the usual reasons. Everyone else was queuing for the privilege of using it as a table from which to snort their illegal drugs. The long, mysterious silences, punc- tuated by deep sniffs, while people were inside the cubicle bore this out. As did their running noses and streaming eyes when they finally emerged.

When it was my turn to go in I saw that the toilet lid was a complex mosaic of long, brown cigarette burns where punters had put their burning fags down for a moment while they chopped their gear into snortable lines. That lid would have made a decent entry for the Turner Prize, I reckon. I gave the waiting coke heads the full sound effects in Dolby stereo, and when I came out again they looked at me in dis- gust, as if I'd done something anti-social or illegal.

A few days later I was telling my mate Terry about all this. Terry is a carpenter by trade, and he responded with a revealing story about a new gay club in the West End he is currently fitting out. The club's owner turned up on site unexpectedly a few days back. After having a quick look round, he took Terry into the half-completed toilets and asked him if he'd ever taken drugs. Terry, who looks a bit like the rock singer Jim Morrison did towards the end of his life, said that he had. Good, said the owner, because he wanted to ask Terry's advice on to how to make the toilets in his new club convenient for drug users. He didn't do drugs himself, he said, but he was keen to encourage the use of class A drugs at his club as it was always good for business.

He and Terry discussed the competing merits of marble, titanium, PVC, glass and Polished wood for doing lines on. The owner thought that marble would be the best all-rounder — black marble, perhaps, to make the white powder show up. Terry said that in his opinion it didn't really mat- ter as long as the hand-driers were posi- tioned as far away as possible. After that the club's owner took Terry into a half-finished room at the rear of the building. This room, he said, was going to be for customers wanting casual gay sex. It would always be pitch dark inside, and members seeking an anonymous encounter could feel their way in and start off with whatever came to hand first. Because it was dark, he hoped that the chronically shy and the aesthetically challenged might feel able to join in with growing self-confidence.

Again, though, the owner said he wasn't sure how to furnish a room of this kind and wanted to hear Terry's valuable opinion on the matter. What furniture, if any, did Terry think ought to go in a room like that?

After thinking long and hard about it, Terry suggested an umbrella stand. But this was quickly overruled, on the grounds that it might prove hazardous in the dark.