High on Halitosis?

It has always impressed me how fashion, fads and trends become popular among the younger generation, although to be fair, I never gave it a thought when I was one of them, in those far off days I just got on with doing whatever my pals told me was fashionable.

I use the term ‘younger generation’ loosely. In the good old days (mine) this demographic was simply called - with a curled lip - “Teenagers!” But things have evolved over the years. As we approach the end of the third decade of the 21st century, ‘teenage’ now starts at age eleven and ends around age thirty-five. (extended to forty-five if you’re in Ibiza with your “Besties” at the time).

One common theme in each and every successive generation in Lanark, (other towns as well, but who cares about them?) has been the eternal pursuit of getting “high” as quickly (and cheaply) as possible and many and varied have been the ways and means (and substances) used to achieve it.

Those teenage years are when man (and her as well!) are supposed to grow physically, mature mentally, and get to like each other’s species more and more. Indeed, it is while relentlessly pursuing the union of XX and XY that most will experience the ultimate and most satisfying “high” of all!

For a while post WW2 there was a relatively easy way for many young men to experience the ultimate “high”, courtesy of HMG! National Service gave them a rifle, training, discipline, somebody to shoot at, and an incredible high when that same somebody shot back at them – and missed!

Since then successive generations of dedicated teenage scientists have pursued bigger and better concoctions to achieve that elusive “high” using whatever was available, from methylated spirits to LSD to Eldorado and pot (is it still called pot?). 

But whatever and whenever the time or trend, many and varied are the ways in which a small underclass of pariah teenagers in Lanark have attempted to totally frazzle their brains. From sniffing glue to psychedelic mushrooms, the search has been long and arduous, with little other than a lifetime of fecklessness to show for it. But hey, that’s what the NHS is for, isn’t it?

For a long time in the late 20th century, the most the most popular substance indulged in by the rebellious “We wanna be free!” generation, and the one most derided by parents, teachers and Helen Liddell (Monklands MP) seeking fame, publicity and votes, was Buckfast!

Ironically, Buckfast was (and remains) one of the few teenage trends that is legal.  In spite of having been vilified then and for years thereafter, and to a large extent thanks to the nanny state tenet of the Scottish Government minimum pricing policy, Buckfast Wine has undergone a renaissance and is viewed by a very large portion of the “teenage” diaspora as the healthiest, safest, and cheapest option available. Buckie is now cool, wicked, acceptable, even middle class, with the vast mainstream of our civilised and cultured teenagers, who view it as “Vin de pays Ecosse “

But the old adage of “The more things change, the more they stay the same” remains true and the small percentage of fun-filled young scientists researching bigger and better and faster ways to fry what brains they have (assuming they have one at all) goes on anew. Although ‘To be Frank’ (get it?) I think they have long past succeeded in that regard!

Now, in many dark and eerie areas in Lanark of an evening, there gathers a new generation of enterprising but wayward teenagers who have without doubt already frazzled their brains!

Gathered in the recesses of Saint Kentigern’s Church of an evening, these young entrepreneurs do not eat, drink, swallow or smoke the latest “Junk de Jour”, on no! They inhale it! The latest trend among this small cabal of on-trend teenagers while away their evenings (and much of their future) inhaling deodorant!

You name it, they suck it in by the lungful! Nothing but the best and all legally available from your local supermarket. “Nivea”: “Dive”: “Right Guard”: “Lynx”: “Beckham”: “Adidas”: and not forgetting “Rick Face” (Soon to be rebranded as “Rick aff yer Face).

Of course, it may be the case that I am entirely misjudging these teenagers, could it possibly be the case that there is a pandemic of halitosis among our younger generation and these brave young souls are simply trying to eliminate the contagion?

I confess that I have had some experience in this particular pursuit, which might explain some of my occasional erratic behaviour at our Community Council meetings. I once inhaled a large lungful of David Beckham’s finest! It was not deliberate though; I was aiming the spray at my left oxter at the time but slipped on a bar of soap! The experience taught me a lesson though and I realised why Posh Spice so seldom cracks her pan with a smile. I was pouting for a while after it too!

But, apart from shortening their lives by a few decades, are these trendy youngsters doing anybody any harm? What they are doing is not illegal and good for the local economy because they are Totally Locally and don’t buy anything online! Is what they do harming them or anybody else? Their parents – if they have any – don’t appear to know or care (they probably blew their minds in the eighties with some old-fashioned gear). Who needs brains anyway?

They can’t even be charged with littering St. Kentigern’s Church because I have been told  that there is a very nice and considerate gentleman who is so appalled at the state they leave it in after an evening of inhaling themselves into a coma, that he collects all of their discarded cans and drops them in the appropriate waste bin the following day. (Pity he couldn’t just drop them in the bin too!).

I’ve never met this gentleman, but I would hazard a guess that he has never inhaled deodorant, sniffed glue, swallowed exotic substances or washed them down with Buckie. He just quietly does his little bit for the environment of Saint Kentigern’s Church and is deserving of our thanks and a Burgess Ticket for doing so!



Frank Gunning shares his views on various local issues in his Let's Be Frank column.