Just Letting off Steam…

Is there anyone of my generation out there who can honestly say that the’ve never smoked or at least had ‘a wee fly puff’ without their mammy knowing?My father was a heavy smoker – ‘Capstan Full Strength’ or ‘Players’ or  ‘Anybody’s’ if he had run out! 

We were often sent to the local General Store (an adapted railway carriage as I recall) to replenish my father’s depleted stock – no need for ID in those days! Jimmy, who owned the ‘outfit’ ran a very tight organisation – by that I mean any more than eight in the shop and you were gasping for breath. The ‘Handy Stores’ was always overcrowded. You see, it was situated at a bus stop and often acted as a shelter for travellers too. Jimmy was always harassed but he had time, when cigarettes were requested, to open a new pack, take out two cigarettes and replace those with a couple of ‘Pasha’ – a turkish brand. On returning to the house, my father would take the pack, open it up’, grimace, and commit the ‘Pasha’ to the back of the fire. (I’m sure he regretted this at times when his supply had run out). Without them, he was short tempered, silent and morose, so as a wee girl,  I liked him to have his ‘smokes’. If only we’d known……

There was no awareness then of the dangers to one’s health or to the health of others. It was sociable, cool and glamorous to smoke. This was nowhere more evident than at the movies – both on and off the screen, in pubs, restaurants, any public gatherings and in STAFF ROOMS (cough! cough!). I thought it was part of ‘being a teacher’!  I ‘learned’ to smoke when I was at college( the nuns had nothing to do with that habit – ‘Senior Service’ if you don’t mind, untipped ; remember when it sometimes stuck to you lip – ouch!) When I met Hugh, I discovered that he had the unique skill of being able to give himself a half-nelson or I should say a half ‘Nelson’ (his brand at the time). He always had lots of half cigarettes in his pockets – just enough for a quick ‘draw’ before school/Church/ concert/opera.

I very soon discovered that I really didn’t enjoy the habit and gave it up without a problem –  but then, I wasn’t an addict. I have sympathy for those who are addicts and are trying their damndest to do something about it. Where my sympathy begins to run out is with those smokers who, despite having been educated in the dangers of smoking, persist in doing so. We have made some progress in improving our environment but sadly not enough. So it seems we must resort, yet again, to the strong(?) arm of the law: drivers/ passengers caught smoking in cars (is this only around children ?)are to be prosecuted. Surely caring adults don’t do this anyway ? Surely caring drivers don’t still use their ‘phones when negotiating routes in increasingly heavy traffic ( have you seen these  drivers on roundabouts?!) Surely caring adults don’t still risk life and limb (theirs or others) by drinking (just the one!) and driving. Isn’t it time people took ‘a tumble’ to themselves and faced up to their own responsibilities or is there such satisfaction to be had in defying not just authority but common sense?  There is nothing more sad than to see a pregnant woman, cigarette in hand, standing outside a hospital(!) and know that in the near future, the little miracle that she is carrying will be subjected to pollution created by herself . Perhaps she will become the young mother, mobile at her ear, attempting to guide the baby buggy across a busy street with the ‘free’  smoking hand….. Ugh! It’s enough to drive one to blog!!



Once upon a time and a half (father was a steelworker) a teacher, desperate for ‘playtime’, a cup of tea and his smoke, discovered to his alarm, that he had no cigarettes.

‘Here, boy!’ he shouted desperately to a passing pupil,’ run up the road and get me twenty  Capstan and if they don’t have Capstan don’t come back with nothing!’

Interval was almost over before the boy, sweating profusely, returned. The frazzled teacher was waiting with his ‘Swan Vestas’ at the ready. Anticipating a monetary reward for his great speed and initiative the boy blurted out proudly,’ Sir, Sir, they didnae huv ‘Capstan’ bu’ a goat ye’ these…….’

Two hot pies.

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