guitarist > writer > coder

December 25, 2011

Anything to declare? – short

Read this first! Done? Sweet, you rock, thank you.


Another piece I wrote sometime between 1988-1991, rediscovered on the waybackmachine…

What is is, and what was is.

“Anything to declare?” she asks, as she guides me from the through flow to a table bordering the green channel.

“No. Just some cigarettes,” I mumble, just whoken up, sleapt on the boat back from Holland, wearing my friends jacket which makes me look rough. Rougher.

“Mind if I take a look in your rucksack?”

I have a choice? She works for customs and excise, they have the power to kick down my door and lock me away and maybe explain themselves afterwards. Like I’m going to say “No” and make a break for it.

“Sure,” I say.

She opens my bag and finds the video in its garish paper bag. It would have been hard to miss it; its not one of those small compact VHS boxes, but one of those large ones. Like you get in rental stores. Right now it is my rucksack.

“What’s this?” she asks. It must be a compulsory question they are taught to ask. She doesn’t look stupid.

“An adult video,” I reply.

“Do you know its illegal to bring adult material into the United Kingdom?”


Our friendly by a table chat comes to an abrupt end.

I accompany her between some screens and disappear from the real world into the realm of customs and excise. I’ve heard about the strip searches, the rubber gloves, and the room where the toilet empties onto a conveyor belt where people in more rubber gloves have the delightful job of examining your waste products in the hope of finding products that get you wasted.

I’m escorted into a room, while the video is taken away to be viewed. The chances of it being a rip off – a couple of episodes of a Dutch soap, or an hour of a goldfish circling it’s tank – are slim, and I think the cover alone is enough to convict me. A lesbian extravaganza that would drive a blind man mad. It sold me.

“Do you have any drugs on you?” A customs guy asks. The female officer has left for the moment.

There is a bag of grass in the video – they are going to have a hard time missing it – so denying that I also have hash on me seems pointless. I give it to them. Ironically, I brought it from England to Holland, and almost back again. Strange but true.

“Anything else?”

“You found the grass in the video?”

“I’m not sure, let me check…”

He returns.

“Yeah, we found the grass. Its being checked in the lab with the hash.”

I’m stripped searched. It isn’t too bad – I take my clothes off in front of them, they check them, and I put them back on again. No finger exploration to pop my cherry.

I’m allowed a phone call, so I call the number for the family solicitor that my Dad gave me some time ago.

“I don’t practice criminal law,” the solicitor says. “I’d recommend being honest with them. Do you want me to notify you father?”

Yeah, what the hell. I’m not exactly experiencing a “Salvador” James Woods situation here, but it might be useful for someone to know where I am. I’m sure a call from his solicitor saying I’ve been nicked for smuggling is going to make his day.

And while you’re at it, could you tell me why I have your number if you don’t practice criminal law, and, not being married or a house owner or in business – I hardly need a bloody solicitor who doesn’t?

Never mind.

I’m taken back to a room to be interviewed by the female customs agent. She is quite attractive in a “it helps if you have a thing for women in uniforms” kind of way, and we hit it off. A friendly “I can see you don’t really mind, and I’m just doing my job, so what the hell, why get heavy here?” hitting it off, not a “lets shut the door I’ve never done this before” hitting it off. Just in case you thought I was that good.

She has written a nice piece about how we met. She reads it to me, and its quite moving, but I correct her on one thing.

“I said I wasn’t aware that it was illegal to bring hardcore pornography into the U.K.”

“Are you sure?” she asks.

I know I’m carrying enough grass for a small party, but my memory isn’t that bad. “Yes,” I reply. In retrospect, how I missed my cue, I don’t know. But there you go.

She amends the statement.

“What were you planning to do with the drugs?”

Start a major hard drugs distribution syndicate in South London, with the aim of branching out into the South West in the New Year.

“Personal use,” I reply.

“Okay, and the video?”

I smile.

I was going to go home and masturbate over it for the next month, but now I’ll have to make do with fantasizing about you.

“Personal use.” I reply.



She smiles and I smile and we’re cool. We’re adults here, after all, and I’m not thrown by the female in a position of power vibe. And she certainly isn’t thrown by the typical male back from Holland vibe. It would be embaressing if she was.

They come back with the lab results on the hash and grass. Unsurprisingly – although they all found it quite amusing – the grass from Amsterdam tested higher for THC (the active ingredient) than the hash from the U.K. And they confirm the video is the genuine thing. I think one of them mentions “fisting”, but probably just to wind me up.

I finish up with the female customs agent, chatting about how I became a bus driver (for I was a bus driver when this happened), and how maybe I could spend my time more productively. Getting 140 people to work each morning is what? a waste of my time and theirs? Oh, you mean being a bus driver is wasting my talents? And you’ve known me for how long? A hour? And you can judge me already? Gee, thanks. I’ll be sure to drop by for some counselling next career change.

But this is with hindsight. At the time it was all quite civilized and pleasant, and she was genuinely apologetic when her boss came down to confirm that because I said I wasn’t aware that it was illegal to import hardcore pornography, I would have to go to court. And get a criminal record as a result.

I’m not too bothered, and thank them all for their time (yeah, I’m like that) and leave.

My friend meets me outside, and we have a joint on the train back home.

A couple of weeks later, I receive a letter from them. “Pay £50 and we will drop the drugs charges. This is a one off offer.” Or something to that effect. Signed “Blah blah, Chief Customs and Excise Something or Other”.

I wrote back: “I would love to accept your one off not to be repeated offer of a £50 fine in exchange for the drugs charges being dropped, yours sincerely, Blah blah, Bus Driver.” I enclose a £50 postal order.

I never heard anything more from them, and nothing more about the porno video. Can’t think why.

The moral of this story? There isn’t one. “What is is, and what was is,” as someone wise once said. Okay, they didn’t. I just made it up.


All characters appearing in this work are completely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Really.

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