The first time I stumbled into the wonderful world of inhalants was in standard eight, when Rene arrived down at the rugby field during break as we all slumped around the base of the goal posts. He had a little packet of liquid ether, which he had somehow managed to pilfer from the biology lab.   We knew it could get you high because we had all seen movies where guys got their teeth pulled out after inhaling ether. After gagging on some of the stuff and waiting for it to soak through our skins for a while, we worked out that the best method was to simply inhale.

It was the first time I had ever been truly high. The afternoon exploded into rainbow shards, my ears warmed up and the whole sky took on a preternatural clarity. For a few moments, deeper conversations opened up in my mind and I took a little trip down the garden path of my subconscious. I loved it.

The best part was that the stuff wore off quickly so that we were reasonably composed by the time we reached class. The problem of course was that the teacher creatures – who we already thought of as grim parodies of a dysfunctional society – became laughable. How could we take them seriously? They had never inhaled Ether for one thing.

At about the same I discovered, in the furious pursuit of all things spiritual, that there was a psychic substance called ether. According to the new age books it was a type of rarefied energy that connected all things, another dimension behind our own through which we could chat, like one day we would be able to connect through the internet. The substance that we were inhaling was called ether. Connection? I think so.

The bad thing was that it only lasted about a week before evaporating completely and never again would we be able to find it in such abundance. For seven glorious days we had had our own etheric telephone.

Fortunately, young humans are bred with evolutionary opportunism and we simply decided to sniff anything and everything until we got the right effect. This lead to a few accidents, probably the worst of which was a friend being rushed off to hospital after inhaling sulphuric pool acid, but on the whole it was a merry little adventure which bred surprising results.

For the career sniffer the great cosmic pharmacy is your local art shop. There are so many things in there that will make you high, including, as we shall come to, the grand priestess of inhalants, Letra-Air airbrush propellant. Tak-off was a good one, a kind of solvent that dissolved glue. Glue itself was workable, although we always considered it as sort of lower class, like a cheap wine and its promised headache. Another piece of sneaky fun was to go into a supermarket and inhale all the propellant in cans of spray cream, which unfortunately involved removing most of the cream first.

It was a process of elimination that eventually led to our first major breakthrough. A cheerful product called Spray and cook, designed to keep cake and bread from sticking to the pan. Some of you may have heard of it, many would have baked with it and a disturbing number of people have it in their kitchen cupboards right now. Now this stuff, inhaled out of a plastic packet, got you world class high. The world dissolved into golden hues like you had walked straight into fairyland, a world of unlimited peace and comfort.

In a few days, our respective households had been cleaned. We were a professional crew, moving into the kitchens of friends and their families silently and efficiently, stripping out their stripping products, silently dropping the precious spray and cook stash into sealable plastic bags. Our work done, we would flee into the night, leaving a legacy of sticky pans and cakes that never came out quite so well again.

After our neighbourhoods had been cleaned, we scoured the streets of Yeoville and eventually found a huge stash in a cafe on ‘Drug Corner’, an intersection at the centre of Rocky Street where most of the pot and other drugs were sold. We would come to know this corner very well but back then it was quite intimidating for a bunch of fifteen year olds in the dead of night. Added to this was the paranoia of actually buying the can from the shop owner. No matter how you look at it, a teenager buying two cans of spray and cook at eleven o’clock on a school night was suspicious.

Fortunately the shop owners didn’t care and sold us the Spray & Cook readily before restocking. It was like we had set up our own spray and cook smuggling channel. They must have sold more of that shit than bread and milk; their Pakistani kids were going to university on our popping neurons. Eventually I personally dispensed with spraying it into a bag and simply punctured the can to inhale the raw fluid, like an Arab drunk on money fixing his mouth over an oil strike.

A direct consequence was that I ended up with an aweful lot of spray and cook cans and took to storing them in school kit bags which I kept in our roof. When my mother eventually found them, eighty six can in total, it took some explaining. All the bags had various friends’ names on them and in a widening sweep like the collapse of a drug cartel, the entire network of spray and cook cowboys were rounded up and taken to task.