Before I moved from London to the Black Mountains of Wales, a friend insisted on showing me a Stewart Lee skit. In it, the comedian describes what always happens before he visits mates who've moved to the countryside: invariably, he gets a call that ends with his listless rural friend tentatively asking the same question: "Oh, and… can you bring some coke?"
I'd wager that any young city-dweller with a friend who has recently moved to the sticks will recognise this scenario all too well.
Forget the fresh air, sleepy pubs and proximity to farm shops. One reason people like me head to the countryside is to escape the ever-present temptations that come with living in a big city, i.e. the ease of having class A drugs – more often than not, cocaine – scootered over within 20 minutes or less.
Nay-sayers might point out that, instead of making this radical life overhaul, one could just stay in the city and develop something called "self-discipline". But that, famously, is easier said than done.
My brilliant scheme worked like a dream for the first five years of my rural existence. Not only could I not find any dealers, when I did, their coke was usually 85 percent pure filler – which meant that while I had the cleanest sinuses in South Wales, it provided no discernible buzz. So I happily renewed my friendship with my fried nostrils and explored more benign methods to enliven existence – a little home grown weed here and the occasional locally-sourced magic mushroom binge there.
This enforced abstinence not only helped boost my bank balance, it also made me feel morally upstanding, knowing that I wasn't contributing to the hyper-violent and environmentally-destructive process that kicks off cocaine's journey to my nostrils. And then the dark web came along.
Though dark web marketplaces have been around for nearly a decade, they properly hit rural areas about three years ago. And when they did, all my younger local friends suddenly started turning up to the pub with absurdly high-quality coke and MDMA. I soon discovered they were now getting class A drugs sent directly to their homes in perfectly disguised vacuum-packed envelopes every week or so from some anonymous guy via the dark web.
For those of you au fait with the dark web, this will be old news – but in that moment it instantly dawned on me that, even for city-dwellers, the time-honoured concept of standing three roads down from the pub waiting to buy a bag will soon be a thing of the past.
Online, the available drugs are discussed in loving detail by dealers expounding their virtues like a sommelier describing the fruity taste of an '86 Mouton Rothschild: "this is 96 percent washed Bolivian flake, not repress" and "these pills contain 140mg MDMA, straight from Amsterdam". There were even incredibly eloquent recommendations from satisfied customers describing how the "clean buzz lasted 25 minutes" or that "the come down was acceptable".
That was three years ago, and while I've never been on the dark web by myself – mainly because the need to buy Bitcoin for every transaction is way too complex for a luddite like me – high quality drugs can now be found in every tiny idyllic village from Land's End to John O’Groats. While you can rest assured that a toilet cistern in Soho will always be covered in white crumbs, that is now also the case at The Brewer's Elbow in your local hamlet.
Drug use is up across the UK, and while it's the cities that get the shout-outs in official stats, I can confidently say that the consumption of all types of drugs in rural areas has also dramatically increased. It's not the much-discussed "county lines" that's achieved this, but the combination of an extremely new technology, the internet, and an old one – her majesty's very own Royal Mail.
The moral of the story is that if you're thinking of moving to the country to get away from all those urban temptations, you need to think again. The war on drugs has most certainly been lost, and there is now no escaping the Class A "epidemic". Indeed, instead of fleeing the big city, you and I might have to do the unthinkable: we might actually have to develop some self-discipline.