Many years ago I discussed giving up smoking with an uncle, I was a 4o a day man and he had just ended 6 years as a ‘reformed’ smoker. I couldn’t understand why he restarted after such success at giving up and he explained it to me simply as “every day and every minute of every day for the last 6 years I have wanted a cigarette”.
Now I gave up smoking just before my son was born, he is now 14, that is 14 years smoke free. I have to stay away from smoking because I am rather digital when it comes to such matters, I either smoke or I don’t. Just to put 14 years in context I was struggling to justify the £3 a packet that they cost which is less than half of today’s price.
Now I know that cigarettes never leave us, I enjoy the smell of hand rolled cigarettes and love the action of rolling one. I stand outside in the rain with smoking colleagues to discuss work issues it never occurs to me to leave them outside to their poison and I do find myself recalling the process with fondness. The truth, as for most, is that I never actually enjoyed smoking I just didn’t enjoy anything that broke the habit.
This, you see, is the greatest power that smoking has over us it’s not addiction or cravings or habit it is the ability of humans to look to the past with rose-tinted glasses. I can’t really remember the smell on my clothes and hair, the yellow fingers or the cough but I can remember a mystic joy from lighting up, the pleasure of smoking and the purposeful break in my day that it created. I don’t think that any of my memories are true but we are conditioned to see the past as a happy place and remember only the good. When I had the accident it brought about a sudden rekindling of my desire for a cigarette and I put this down to having too much time on my hands* but this desire has remained.
Now is this recollection the result of the narcotic power or simply confused memories? I started to think it was the former because I have the same attraction to cigars, I would love to light a large and delicious** cigar yet I can count on my fingers the number of cigars that I have smoked in my life. But then I realised that this desire for the tobacco leaf in general is not an indication that it’s the narcotic properties sneaking into my mind, it’s simply that the mind hates to be cheated. My mind is annoyed that I have not followed its plan and so is looking for alternatives, if it can’t make me smoke cigarettes then the next plan is to make me consider the lavish splendour of a cigar.
Trying to ignore this voice in my head is made no easier when every book I have read of late has a cigar smoker in it. Book smokers are not like real smokers, did you know that? Real smokers stand outside in the cold and rain, moan about the cost of their passion and look grey but book smokers roll large and gorgeous cigars in their fingers to soften the packed tobacco, gently warm the fresh-cut tip and then puff against a brightly burning flame. And this is why I know that it is my mind telling me to smoke and not the narcotic effects on my body, because the mind tailors the memories and the stories to support its position like an errant partner everything is carefully sculpted.
So there is another enemy in the camp, not only do I have to beat these silly hands into submission but I now need to give my mind a shake and stop its game playing. In reality overcoming the mind is not so hard since I tend to ignore every good idea or sensible suggestion that it comes up with normally.
I won’t succumb to this odd mental debate though because, unlike my uncle, I am a stubborn old bastard!
Honourable mention of the day to Mick and Rose who I met up with last night, Mick moved to Waltham Abbey to be with his girlfriend and when he could not find work he walked into the local pub and asked for a few shifts only to be offered the Managers job and thereby demonstrate that the right place at the right time does happen.
Where Mick has lived by the sea for the last 9 years he is having to adjust to living on the edge of Waltham Abbey and he tells me that there are some issues that have caused him concern, amongst them:
- On walking to the edge of his comfortable radius he was most disconcerted to find that he had not seen a pub or shop, in Walton you fall over pubs on the way to the shop!
- Meeting Bambi the Reindeer. Yes I know that this is in fact just a deer but Mick has been here for 7 weeks and so met a deer at Christmas, given it was his first meeting he concluded logically (or drunkenly) that it was part of Santa’s team!
*forgive the pun
**not even sure where that word came from