Happy Chip on a natural high
Thursday December 18, 2003
Welcome to the Northerner, Guardian Unlimited's weekly digest of the best of the northern papers.
SOMETHING FISHY ABOUT THAT CHIPPY
Ho, ho, ho - and a happy Christmas to one and all, especially to The Happy Chip takeaway in Newcastle upon Tyne, whose customers are said to be happy indeed. After the catalogue of horrors heard by the courts in recent weeks, the chippy in Waterloo Street is set to offer us some rather more cheerful - and scientifically instructive - legal debate early in the new year.
Fish and chips weren't the only thing on customers' menus, according to a curious prosecution spotted by the local Evening Chronicle as it trawled through the magistrates' court list. Not content with the vigorous buzz given by non-brewed condiment or mushy peas, the chippy is accused of dishing out "magic mushrooms" along with the battered fish and spud.
Since, under certain conditions, the fungi contain psilocin and psilocybin, the Happy Chip faces the charge of supplying class A drugs. The issue, hotly denied by brothers Thariq and Sajit Mohammed who run the chippy, hinges on how much preparation went into the mushrooms before they were ladled out.
The Home Office explains to the Chronicle that the 12 varieties - with names like psilocybe semilanceata or liberty cap - may be legally sold "in their natural condition". But once cooked, dried out or even frozen, they can cause euphoria, hallucinations or just plain tummy ache and selling them becomes an offence.
Newcastle chip shops sound exciting places generally; the brothers already sell what the Chronicle describes, under the commendable headline "Fish and Trips" as "legal highs such as herbal ecstasy and amyl nitrate". There was a time when managing to persuade the fryer to ladle free scraps on your chips gave most people enough of a high. But we live in a more worldly world.