Confessions of a Middle Class Woman



Sheilagh Matheson on the secret stashes we all keep….

May 2003

I’m standing in my son’s room surrounded by his debris, clothes, CDs, computer cables, books all over the floor and shelves. The only clear place is the bed I’ve just stripped bare.

I tossed his dirty sheets outside on to the landing, and now I’m gazing round, irritated but determined not to start clearing up the mess. It’s his room and his junk and he won’t thank me for tidying up.

But I still wash and change his bedding. I crouch down and pull open one of the drawers under his bed where I keep the clean sheets, neatly folded. But no, the drawer is heavy and sticks because it’s full of his jumble, thrown in there and forgotten about.

The next drawer slides open easily to reveal the fresh sheets and duvet cover and pillow cases, tidily sitting on top of the old electric blanket. I might as well chuck it out. I can’t remember the last time it was plugged in, or even if it still works.

I lift the bedding and drag out the electric blanket, and there, tucked underneath, is a scrunched up plastic bag and I know exactly what it contains before I’ve even picked it up.

“By the way,” I say to him on the phone, “ I want to talk to you about something when you get home.”

“What? What is it? Tell me now.”

“When you get home.”

“Oh God. Tell me now. Get it over with. What have I done.”

“It’s about an interesting little plastic bag of grass hidden under the sheets in your room. You’ve got some explaining to do.”

“What? Where?” He sounds genuinely surprised rather than guilty. “In the drawer under your bed.”

“I don’t know anything about that. I honestly don’t know. I haven’t done grass for .. well, I honestly can’t remember. Months ago. Where did you say it was?”

There was no yelling or shouting, no hysteria or panic, just a heavy guilt-trip from a disappointed parent. After all, drugs are everywhere. In every school, every club. He swore he knew nothing about it. His friends sometimes stay overnight so it could have belonged to one of them, hiding it in Sam’s room and forgetting where he’d left it. It could, just, be like that. Unlikely, but possible.

May 2013

Ten years on, and I’m out in the garden when my son knocks on my office window. He’s in my room, and for some reason he’s opened the top drawer of my desk. He’s holding up a plastic bag, half full, slowly shaking his head at me in reproach and indicating that we need to talk.

He comes downstairs and I walk inside and we meet in the kitchen.

“And what do you call this?,” he asks, holding up the bag. “Greens, eh? Mmmm? We’ve got quite a nice stash here, enough to last for months. How long has it taken you to get this? Spent a lot of money haven’t we?”

Times have changed. The tide has turned and he’s found me out and he’s right. It’s taken me ages to accumulate them. I counted them two nights ago after everyone had gone to bed, all slippery and shiny and sliding off the desk, with the brand name on exactly 185 discs. I was surprised there were so many and now, with my son holding the bag in front of me, I realise how bad it looks. Obsessive. Addictive.

I try to defend myself. “Well, obviously, I’m waiting for the right time to use them. They’re for the tennis club, but I keep applying and never hearing anything so I just keep on collecting them until they pick us, then I’ll dump the whole lot.”

He’s nodding knowingly, yeah, yeah, yeah. “And how are you going to do that? All in one go? They’ll see right through that. In dribs and drabs, skulking round the donation box?”

I have to admit to my compulsion. It’s Waitrose’s fault. They started it, one at a time, and it got out of hand. They give me one green plastic disc for every trolley load, but often I slip my hand into the cup containing them beside the till and palm two or even three. I look casual, don’t hurry, never snatch my hand away, give the checkout girls time to say I should only have one if they notice, but they never do.

It’s stopped being a thrill. Sometimes I even forget about them. I leave them in my coat pocket, or find them in the bottom of my handbag, or on the floor of the car. It’s as if I wanted to be caught.

I got my husband involved and I feel bad about that. Now he’s never off Waitrose’s doorstep, hooked on their reduced offers as well as the greenies. Waitrose promise to match every one, disc for disc, and give your charity money in exchange. But they never pick my tennis club as a worthy charity. It’s all promises, promises to lure us in.

I should stop this now. Brazen it out and slot them all into the collection box for whatever charity it is this week, disabled children, or a playground, or kid’s club. Who cares? I can’t go on like this, spending a fortune in Waitrose just to get a few more green discs. It’s eating into our life savings.

To tell the truth, I’m glad my son found them before we’re destitute. I’m going to pack it in and get rid of them, then shop locally instead of driving to the supermarket. A fresh start, that’s what I need.

I wonder if that’s how my son felt when I found his dope. If it was his..