To badly paraphrase England’s greatest Queen, “I have a weak and feeble body…” I have miserably failed to ditch the dreaded weed several times, even with the help of a shipping container of nicotine products. I’ve been worshipping at the altar of the god Tobacco since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (well since I was 14) and have been impervious to the risks, the health warnings and the images of diseased lungs on the packs. Only the ever-spiralling cost put any kind of break on my habit. As smoking became increasingly anti-social, I joined the pariahs at the margins. Ironically the smoking area at work was anything but anti-social as lights were offered and hot gossip exchanged between puffs; it was also a great leveller as gaffers and workers communed in sin.
The smoking lark couldn’t go on. Not with my dodgy circulation and not unless I wanted to be legless in a decade or so. So last year, I had a chat with the smoking cessation nurse at the local quack’s. At first, she suggested I should attend a quitting clinic. I politely declined. Opening circles and tales of woe weren’t on my agenda, not after 25 years in social care where opening circles and tales of woe were part of the job description. When she took one look at my medical notes, my concerned nurse decided to push the nuclear button and prescribed Champix, the anti-smoking wonder drug. Now we’re cooking on gas, I said to myself. Champix is manufactured by Pfizer, adding to their very profitable line in little blue pills.
My last cigarette was on the 1st December 2013 and I haven’t smoked since. During the treatment, I experienced no withdrawal symptoms and no cravings, even when on the sauce. A minor miracle. There was a price to be paid of course. From the long list of possible side-affects, I endured long nights of restless sleep, disturbing dreams and terrible flatulence. I almost blew Liam out of bed several times and felt drowsy and bloated for three months. It was all worth it. I am now a non-smoker.
Liam came out in sympathy. His last fag was also the 1st of December and, apart from the odd patch to relieve the pressure points, he hasn’t had a nicotine fix either. A major miracle. He’s a real trooper with Spartan self-discipline, my Liam, and my number one crutch. As it were.
I’m struggling just a little to give up the dreaded weed (okay, I’m struggling a lot). Most of the time I bear my cross with the help of nicotine patches as my tobacco crutches. But, an evening on the Devil’s brew at the local ale house invariably sees me falling off the wagon: a relapse is odds on favourite every time. It’s another bad habit I must try harder to break (along with liver-dissolving binge drinking, artery-hardening titbits and talking to myself). A word of warning to other patch addicts. Don’t wear the bloody things in bed if you want to wake up calmed and rested. Last time I left a patch slapped on my arm, I tossed all night like a tart with crabs and had crazy dreams in vivid Fifties Technicolor. I wager few people these days dream of sleeping with Doris Day. Nothing smutty, you understand; after all, the virtuous Miss Day shared a cinematic bed with Rock (leather queen) Hudson. The minute I woke up, I panicked that the sheets weren’t fresh enough for the Febreze-fragrant star of the CinemaScope screen. It’s enough to drive a restless boy into the arms of a shrink.
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It doesn’t usually do to go back, to try and relive a moment. Invariably, it leads to bitter disappointment and anti-depressants. Sometimes though, there’s some old magic left in a tired old formula. Such was the Absolutely Fabulous Olympic Special shown tonight on Auntie Beeb. I loved every witty word, every caustic comment, every grotesque caricature and the sound of every sacred cow being slaughtered. Watching deliciously unreconstructed, post-menopausal Patsy light her fag from the Olympic flame was worthy of a sackful of gold medals. Perhaps I am being carried away by Olympic fever but Ab Fab was absolutely fabulous.
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Let the Games Begin
We’re hoping to start our East Anglian adventure in a brand spanking new city-centre designer pad with a high spec and low bills: a six month probation while we try the city on for size.
Ancient Norwic is a young person’s university city with a vibrant crowd and a thriving arts scene; these old nags aren’t quite ready for the knacker’s yard just yet. I’ve chucked my old floppy slippers in the bin. Now they were knackered. Ironically, I bought my first ever pair of slippers in the Bodrum branch of Marks and Sparks, a soft shoe shuffle designed to keep my little tootsies warm during the challenging Bodrum winters.
We’ve been struggling to become a fag-free family, frequently falling off the wagon, usually after a session on the sauce. This time, things will be different. We’re determined to kick the filthy habit (famous last words, I hear you mutter at the back). The £8 a packet price tag would drive us into the greasy hands of Blighty loan sharks. Yes, my friends, times have changed. They’ll be no pipe and slippers for us in our new gaff.
My father died when he was 50. My mother has been single ever since. In fact, she’s been a widow for much longer than she was a wife. She calls herself ‘the only virgin in London’. She says this without the slightest hint of bitterness or irony. My mother is now 83 and still runs for buses. She’s been to Bodrum just the once, for my surprise 50th birthday party. She loved it and spent her time chain smoking and solving puzzles. ‘Keeps my brain active,’ she says. She has five children, eleven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She loves us all even when we’re not that loveable. Liam calls his mother-in-law ‘One hell of a woman.’ You can say that again.
Happy Mother’s Day to the only virgin in London.
Book Tour Intermission
Liam and I spend most of our festive time in Blighty apart. It is our habit. He dispenses TLC to his folks while I tour the Capital like Elizabeth the First dumping myself on various friends and family. Two experiences stick in my mind.
I joined Liam at his folks for a couple of nights and helped with the festive shopping. Picture it – Tesco’s, Christmas Eve, 2011. A cast of thousands weaving over-laden shopping trolleys through the heaving aisles like bad-tempered dodgem drivers. Their faces gave the game away – London during the Blitz. The frayed staff wore festive plumage and forced smiles, praying to the Baby Jesus for closing time. It was as merry as Christmas Day at the Queen Vic.
We shuffled our way along the mile-long till queue, manoeuvred the unfamiliar hire car out of the bumper-to-bumper car park and snaked back to the house, emptied of festive joy. After we packed away the calorific goodies, I stepped outside the front door for a cheeky cigarette. I spotted a corpulent covered lady in Horn of Africa robes wander down the road towards me. A young boy skipped along at her side singing Jingle Bells. She smiled as she passed. That simple, single act of cheer recharged my yuletide spirit. I stepped back inside to recharge it further, courtesy of my father-in-law’s bottle of Jameson’s.
Have you checked out the cheery book?
We were wandering down Bodrum’s bar street, a procession of cheap and cheerful bars and hassle shops. We normally rush by; casual shopping in Turkey can be a bruising experience best only tried by the foolish or heroic. On this occasion, Liam popped into a corner shop to buy some cigarettes. Keen to use the local lingo, he asked for them in passable Turkish. The po-faced assistant looked at him blankly. Liam repeated the request. Another blank look. After a brief standoff, Liam relented and repeated the order in English. The surly man behind the counter viritually threw the cigarettes at Liam, snatched the payment and slammed the change on the counter. Welcome to Turkey where hospitality greets you at every corner. I know there are arses-holes in every country but next time we’ll just shout loudly in English.
Part 3 tomorrow – Tricks of the Trade
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