I had an odd and unsettling experience on the train a couple of days back. Three lads boarded and settled into the carriage where I was sitting. Two were ordinary boys pretending to be bad, but the third, who they seemed to only vaguely know and had hooked up with on the platform, was clearly a different kettle of frogs.

They’d all a bit of drink and weed on board. The thing with that is that it’s different to gauge what’s going on. A drunk is readable, as is a stoner. But someone who’s been mixing it? Very tricksy. Added to which the third individual (who I shall call Crazy Larry) had burns on his hands, which I would imagine were more likely to have come from smoking crack than arc welding.

They were very loud and knockabout centring their attentions on the people who were ignoring them. So far, so predictable.

On showing interest in what I was doing (making some college notes from a book on commercial veg growing) they were a bit thrown by my actually telling them properly what I was up to. Having breached their cool they responded by asking if I could grow them some cannabis if they gave me some seeds.

They were again slightly wrong-footed when I replied by asking whether I’d need a lighting rig. This started a surprisingly earnest conversation about growing weed.

And I can tell you those boys have some serious, and I mean serious horticultural skills. They could get a place at this college no bother.

Throughout all this Crazy Larry had thrown in various comments including, it has to be said, some really good specific plant cultivation details.

But all of a sudden the mood turned and he looked me in the eyes and said “Give me some money.”

“I ain’t got no money,” I replied somewhat untruthfully.

“Give me some money.”

“I ain’t got no money.”

“Give me some money.”

“I ain’t got no money.”

“Show me,” he said.

“And get my cards snatched – you must be joking”,  I thought.

We’d reached a stand off and I was expecting the inevitable.

The other two lads clearly weren’t keen to be party to this and one pointed out that there was CCTV in the carriage.

This was not enough for Crazy Larry (by now there was clearly some amount of face involved) and he continued to stare me out.

“What’s the best thing for growing weed in?” I asked. “Do you need a hydroponic set-up?”

He shook his head. The other two joined in, pouring scorn on this suggestion and we were off – the moment had passed. We were back taking about GYO. There was some dispute about whether you need both male and female plants, or should just grow female. FYI Males = white hairs, no buds. Females brown hairs, buds.

Crazy Larry then embarked on a full set of instructions for growing cannabis outdoors. Briefly -plant under protection in April. Harvest when it falls in October. A lot of it seemed to have be learned at his father’s knee including how to create makeshift cloches.

I kept the conversation going by asking various horticultural questions (to be frank, they knew so much I could have taken notes and I was genuinely impressed). The talk was still going on when the train arrived at my station.

By that time the menace had retreated, but I was still glad to get off.

Odd to think that amongst all the things horticulture has given me, one of them is some knowledge that stopped me from being mugged.

That might sound dramatic but I’ve been around long enough to know that, at one point, that was very much what was on the cards.

Now what do I do with all my newfound knowledge?

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