I once* disgusted a very good friend of mine when I stayed at her house and she found me at the breakfast table alternating between mouthfuls of cornflakes and dragging heavily on a cigarette. She even said so at the time. ‘You’re disgusting’ she said to me. I didn’t know what she was on about. I was hung over and, in my world, I was just making good use of my time.
These days, I don’t smoke anymore. But when I did, I loved it. I was a real pro.
You name it – I’d spark up for it. Phone call to make? Let’s get one on the go. Listening to the best song ever made? Impossible not to. Gossip, random bollocks and ‘reveals’? Best get a fresh ashtray. Night out on the lash? Hope two packs will be enough.
You get my drift.
Of course smokers delude themselves that it makes them look glamorous. I certainly did. In my mind’s eye, I was Lauren Bacall – coat collar turned up against an autumn chill, inhaling seductively with an art-directed shadow falling favourably across my face. The reality? Looking like an out-of-work prozzie as I huddled in a shop doorway in the pissing rain, barnet plastered to my forehead, shivering my tits off and hacking my guts out (uncontrollably).
Not that any of that made me quit. In fact I didn’t even intend to quit. It was an accident (m’lord).
Although I do concede (that like many smokers) I had begun to formulate vague and sporadic thoughts of packing in – due to the impending threat of making just about everywhere on the bloody planet non-bloody smoking. The fuckers. So seemingly, the writing was more or less on the wall.
And then there was my first holiday abroad in ten years. And all that stood between me and a (freebie) week in Madeira was a 3-hour flight when I wouldn’t be able to smoke. Bugger.
At the time, one of my work colleagues at the NHS was scoring free nicotine replacement patches all over the gaff and offered me some for the flight. Knowing it was shit or bust – I took them. And used them. There. And back. And by fucking jingo, the fuckers worked.
A couple of days after my holiday, I ruthlessly got the flu. And as any smoker worth their salt will tell you – flu or not – you just carry on smoking. But this time I felt shitty on a level of shittiness never before experienced. And as I flopped around my gaff like a dying swan, I suddenly remembered I had a couple of spare patches floating around. So I tracked them down and slapped one on.
When my partner came home from work that night, I said, “We’re going up the pub”.
“You’re not well”, he said. Then I told him. I told him how I hadn’t smoked all day, because of the patch. And that the only way I’d know for sure that I could really, really stop smoking, would be if I went out on the lash – that night – to see if I could get pissed without smoking. So off we went to The Murderers Arms, at the top of the road, for a gargle. And I got rotten. I speed drank to give my hands something to do. But I didn’t smoke.
The next day, I scored my own patches. And took it from there. And I haven’t smoked since.
I think if I’d done some of the bollocks you’re advised to do when you want to stop smoking, like; circling some date on a calendar as your ‘quitting’ date and force feeding your last packet of fags to a resisting toddler (or similar) – then I wouldn’t have quit. All the dramatic cobblers of announcing ‘this is my last cigarette’ just puts too much pressure on you. I wasn’t expecting to stop. Yet unbelievingly, for a hardcore smoker – I did.
My partner decided to try the similar tactics (although I would never have whined at him to stop). Four days later, we were back in the Murderers Arms, and this time it was him speed drinking. For a mildly spoken geezer, it was quite strange seeing him get a bit lairy and lezbehavinyer with the bolt necks as he drank decidely more than his quota. And frankly, it all could have got a bit messy and gone a bit tits up. But it didn’t.
And five years later we’re still off ‘em.
Sometimes (but only sometimes) I miss them. Maybe if I’m on the juice and hear a top tune. Or sometimes when I see someone glamorous on the box – like my old mate, Lauren Bacall.
Going to work without a good clear out is no laughing matter for any film star worth their salt
I found this picture of her. Unnervingly, it appears that she’s at the breakfast table (guessing the cereal bowl's just out of shot) and having a snout with her morning cuppa (doubtless to induce a pre-work poo). So there you have it. I can go to my grave, knowing – with no shred of uncertainty – that I have lived my life, and at times looked just like Lauren Bacall.
*This is, in fact, a lie. I have disgusted this particular friend on far too many occasions to mention (or even remember). I can only hope that one day, she will find it in her heart to forgive me…