Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The ins and outs of smoking

Lighten Up with James Leavey  Column/blog no.7

The ins and outs of smoking
by James Leavey

I was sharing an ashtray in one of Dublin’s many smoke easies with a Dubliner cigar comrade the other day and happened to mention a Dutch lesbian lorry driver I used to know, one Muffy van Dyke.  And what a one. And what a pair too.

And I said how we used to joke about a virgin boy skater named Hans Brinker who saved Holland by climbing onto a dike and slipping his finger in its hole.

“He'd have had to do a lot more to get me going,” said Muffy. “For a start he'd have needed a tongue like an ant-eater.”

“I'm sorry to shatter your erotic dreams,” I told her, “but Brinker is a fictional character.  Still, you could always ask Amsterdam zoo if they'll lend you their resident worm-tongue for a night of debauchery.”

“Bejaysus, Seamus, you awful man,” said the Dubliner, a fellow dedicated nicotine companion who, like me was at that wonderful moment in time enjoying an Arturo Fuente Gran Reserva Churchill, which would awaken the dead at the end of the world, but very nicely, “how did you ever get to know her?”

“We worked together in a London pub, years ago,” I replied, after taking a long puff on my excellent medium to full bodied Nicaraguan stick of premium tobacco, “and we both shared the view that we wouldn't throw a beautiful woman out of bed.  It didn't stop us sleeping together, of course.”

“Did she smoke, Seamus?”

“Only afterwards.”

After a few more similar pleasantries, the Dubliner and I moved on to the subject of the most unusual place either of us had ever lit up in.

The Dubliner admitted to enjoying a Hoyo on the roof of a hospital.  “And you?” he asked.

“Well, there's a bit of a list to choose from...maybe if I just narrow it down to Dublin...?”

“That's a good start,” said the Dubliner. “But then Dublin always is.”

“OK then.  A few years ago the BBC encouraged me to smoke cigars in all sorts of places in Ireland's fair city, including on the Abbey Theatre stage and in a cell in Dublin's main prison.”


“No, really.  The cameraman and myself first had tea and biscuits with the prison governor, in his office, after which he took us to an empty cell and unlocked it.

“I looked inside and noticed it was the secure, temporary - one hopes, home of a young male prisoner, judging by the photos of his wife and children on the wall.  But what kind of disturbed me was the lack of an ashtray, suggesting he was a non-smoker. Plus, he couldn't open the window to let the smoke escape, what with the bars and usual security. And I didn't want to cause the poor man any more grief, not even from my second-hand smoke, than he was already getting doing his porridge. So I told the governor I wasn't sure it was the best cell for me as there was a lack of an ashtray.”

“What happened next?”

“The governor sent off a guard to fetch a suitable receptacle for my ashes and handed it over.  As our visiting time was running short I agreed to go in, sit on the prisoner's bed, and ignite the Montecristo No.2 that I just happened to have with me.”

“Did you also happen to have a cutter, some matches and/or a lighter?”

“Is the Pope a Catholic?  So I lit the Havana and took a few puffs for the camera.  Said my bit. Took another puff.  And we were out of there and away, unlike the poor sod whose cell I had temporarily invaded while he was exercising in the yard with the other prisoners.”

“Did you really feel bad about smoking in that man's cell, Seamus?”

“Oddly enough, in the end I didn't.  For I left him a partly smoked revered Havana that would be worth a small fortune in any prison – where an ounce of bog-standard rolling tobacco a.k.a. snout greases many palms.”

“Thanks be to jaysus you weren't smoking a Hamlet,” cried the Dubliner, wiping his eyes at the very thought of such a sad act.

“There are some lines I will never cross,” I growled. “I would never stoop that low.”

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