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Chapter 56: Purple Lemon Cookies
Shrewsbury to Tregaron
…continued from Chapter 55
Through the village Halfway House, and onwards through the borders. A sign half swallowed by an evergreen hedge read Croeso I Gymru. Welcome to Wales. My rucksack pressed on my lap with every bend in the road and the valleys slowly steepened.
Ethan stopped growing weed about two years ago. He walked in one day and saw 50 grands worth of crop, cut and hanging, ready to go, long rows of green fingers. He looked at his mate and said he couldn’t do it anymore. He had to sort his head out. His sanity was being grated away like nutmeg. Too many trippers. Mushrooms, acid. DMT from time to time too. His smoking was getting out of hand as well. His nerves were stretched to their sinews. Fear of raids, the police and prison, enemy gangs. His kids were constantly in his mind. This was no way to raise children.
The van was full of garden furniture. The next drop was in Tregaron though he wasn’t sure where that was. The blue line on the map led off the screen. Ethan eyed it. The arrow at the top said 7.2 miles and the phone was connected to a tangled yellow wire. He tossed it back behind the steering wheel. It lay face up.
Ethan went on. He had a story to tell and plenty of time to tell it. It came out slowly, fragmented, bouncing between time, connected by a single ribbon.
He was a bright kid at school and might have done all right for himself. But a week before his GCSEs he got his face caved in by a kid with knuckledusters. The exams didn’t go well. He began selling drugs instead. His dad knew all the gangsters so Ethan’s mates would get him to pick up. “Go on!” they urged, “You’re the one that knows ‘em!” His dad wasn’t a gangster though. He was a door knocker. “He knocked on doors. Sold tea towels door to door.” Ethan tapped the window twice.
Ethan took a cut from his drug deals and seemed to be pretty good. He was always having to pick up from someone else though. Then a guy they knew got busted, so suddenly there were 40-odd plants up for sale. Ethan bought them, put them in his house and started farming himself.
He bought some seeds from the States. Several of his mates did the same, it was a famous batch, but most people got mugged off with fakes. He got lucky and his were real. It was the best weed around. Soon he began mixing his own strains, developing, experimenting, working out what did what, how did it make you feel? What did it taste like? Some were more popular with men, like Crushed Lemonade, with a sweet tangy flavour, others the women liked. Velvet Cookies had a rough earthy taste and was good for period pains.
He took pictures of the plants and put them on Instagram. They were big perfectly formed flowers, purple, like purple haze, and the perfect shape to match. He was known as the Bud Doctor and soon he had over 100,000 followers. His strains won international competitions. He was flown first class to Barcelona for Spannabis and won first place for Sativa. That one was called Purple Lemon Cookies.
Ethan's Instagram account didn’t last long. Selling weed is illegal after all. “People on insta are shallow innit,” he shrugged, “People have egos on there. If you have a bit of beef with someone they’ll just tell their followers to report your account,” he shrugged again, “and that’s that.”
But Bud Doctor was already well known. People knew his strains. He was the guy to buy from. He once dealt weed to Snoop Dogg: “I never met him, it was through a 3rd party but I did meet Whizz Khalifa.” He didn’t seem too bothered.
“What was he like?”
“Yeah he was all right. Didn’t speak to him long. He just said this shit if fireee!”
Ethan thought those kinds of rappers were trying to prove something. The gangs they surrounded themselves with were threatening and scary. It was different in America.
Around then Ethan was at the peak of his career. He said he was making around 30-40k a month and did so for about a year and a half or so.
“Got nothing to show for it though,” his tone was desultory, his hard-bitten face gave little away. “I sorted my friends and family out, smoked a lot, gambled a load too. I’d just go into the bookies and feed a thousand quid into the machines just so I could play. I wasn’t bothered about winning, I literally just wanted to get on the leaderboard.” He painted a dim picture, his tiny frame hunched over the blinking slots. Quite a contrast to the brilliant Welsh hills. “That’s when I began to be like what’s the point? Earning all this money just to sit here.”
We pulled into a petrol station and Ethan got a meal deal. I got a black coffee. He called the lady he was delivering to, “Hi love, I think we’re near yours. I’ve arrived at your postcode…”
“Ooo lovely, where exactly are you?” The voice down the phone was friendly and slightly American, “You might struggle getting the van down the drive…”
“Outside an Aldi.”
“Oh shit, you know what it is love? I put the petrol station’s address on my map, not yours!” They both laughed, “I’m actually 2 hours away… Sorry.”
He leant against the wheel and put his foot down. We spun round the roundabout back onto the main road. We were happy chatting and there was still too much to hear. He said I could come to Tregaron with him if I liked.
I asked if he missed his old job. Apart from the delivery side of things, it didn’t have much in common with this one.
It had its moments, he explained, but it was too dangerous. The nervousness of breaking the law. And nasty people lurk beyond the law. “I got stabbed three times, hit with a hammer, had machetes to my throat,” he reeled it off like a CV in an interview. People would put trackers on his car after he’d deliver and follow him to his depots. He was the Bud Doctor after all, people wanted his stuff. Most would sell an ounce for £100. His was worth £240.
One evening he was sitting with his girlfriend. They were having a joint. Suddenly the door blew open and in boiled five huge men in balaclavas. “Their eyes were bulging like mad,” Ethan fixed a cone of fingers to illustrate, “They slammed me on the floor and they’re like Where’s ya shit? Where’s ya shit!” He could feel the cold edge of a machete on his neck and saw his girlfriend kicking futile in the python grip of another. His two-year-old was tossed across the room. They took ten grand of cash from the cupboard and 20 grand of weed.
“Those guys actually fell out not long after,” He laughed, a touch of schadenfreude in his voice, a glimmer of retribution in his eye, “They started shooting each other. Killed one and then the police turned up. The others got a 30 stretch!”
It was another raid that broke the levy. He’d spent seven years developing a strain to produce seeds. It’s a different skill harvesting seeds. You need to think about the quality of weed but also how the seeds will fare in different temperatures, PH levels, soil types etc. But it was worth it. Selling seeds is legal and they go for 4 or 5 quid a pop.
Ethan was growing them in one of his house-farms. Upstairs he had 100 normal plants, downstairs he had 30 seed producers. They were nearly ready for harvest and there were around 10 million seeds in all. He spelt it out: around £40 million worth. I don’t know if his numbers were right but it didn’t really matter. It was his pension plan.
Then one day he got raided. They took everything, every last seed. Ethan had a breakdown.
We looked at the map. There was a track we could take to Tregaron and we’d just missed it. We turned around. Was this the one? We zoomed up it, bracken slapping the windows. There was a gate at the top and I jumped out to open it. The air was light and cool. The van buzzed over the cattle grid. I closed it behind, watched by idle sheep.
This was what Ethan was into now. Getting lost in the hills. He didn’t like cities. Maybe it was because he’d always lived illegally, he liked to know exactly who everyone was. There was no one around here.
We’d gone the wrong way so we turned around. I got out and opened the gate again. Bzzzzz went the van.
It took another hour and more wrong turns to make it to Tregaron. Then we couldn’t find the right house. We pulled into three farmyards in all. We’d get out, wince in the sun, knock on the door, but there was never anyone there. One yard had 4 ginger cats preening themselves.
In the end we found our lady. She lived in a muddled house just below the lane. The cobbled drive was quaintly overgrown. She came to the porch door and Ethan lugged the table over. She thought it was beautiful and a big smile filled the doorway. She wore bromide glasses, coin-shaped grey disks that matched her long grey hair. She must have moved here to get away. It was very remote.
Ethan said he was going to Swansea next. He thought he’d go over the mountains, “It’s slower but I don’t mind.”
“You’re better off going down and round the main road,” she advised.
Ethan looked a bit annoyed.
“Well,” she said, filling her lungs with sweet piney air, “It’s a beautiful day. We’ve got blue skies and white fluffy clouds. What more could you want?”
“A mountain…” Ethan replied with a subtle laugh.
We got back in the van and drove into Tregaron.
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