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No, nay, never October 16, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

I’ve been a wild smoker for many’s the year and I’ve spent all me money on ciggies and beer…

But that’s all in the past. Darlings, you wouldn’t think you could get so much blog-meat out of your lungs, but I’m going to give it a go. Bear with me (if you haven’t got something much better to do).

I’m sorry to say it, but I realise with ever-increasing certainty that my mood is as much controlled by money as it is the weather. Battling scum-kings to get the money they owe you makes me more livid than a bear with a personality disorder who’s been woken early from his hibernation by builders building a supermarket on his patch of forest, but the upside of this is that when they finally cough up and you can put the grievance to bed, my mood is so euphoric that I actually have to inject myself with a whisky+NightNurse cocktail to knock myself out so as not to annoy the neighbours with constant singing and leaping round the room for joy. If the sun is out when the scum-kings happen to cough up – luckily, a rare event in northern Europe – then I buy strangers flowers, heal the sick and stand on a soap-box in Alexanderplatz and tell jokes.

Yesterday, I was paid. And the sun was out. But I had a gazillion things to attend to so I halved the whiskey+NightNurse dose, sent an SMS to the Christian I borrow the soap-box off and told him he could do a double shift, and set about my errands. Paid some of the more manageable-looking bills from the pile. Wrote some rude e-mails to translation people. (No thanks, I don’t fancy working for 40 euros for a thousand words and you paying the invoice after 90 days, actually. PS. Fuck off.) Tried to distract the Russian as he was suggesting we go to Australia, the moon AND IKEA, and all before bedtime, and remembered, to my great relief, that I was completely out of my delicious inhalers. Russians adore and respect illness, so when I said I’d better make a quick detour to the quack, the Russian adopted a stern but caring expression, patted me on the back and wished me luck as I went into battle.

I’d hardly relit the cigarette which I’d only started smoking the night before to annoy the Russian but which was truncated by the predictably punctual arrival of the tram before I noticed the dreaded attempt at eye contact by not one but two cigarette-poncers on our famously boring street. I tried to look away, down, behind me, but they were not to be thwarted in their poncing. A youngish couple – late 30s, dishevelled. I instantly had wicked Daily Mail thoughts about their last moment of non-taxpayer-funded generosity being when one of them once bought their friend a penny chew. He asked politely enough for a cigarette. She giggled goofily, in the way that Andrea Jaeger did when she finally won a point in that Wimbledon final against Navratilova in 1845 when she was 6-0 5-0 40-0 down (probably a Navratilova double fault), if they could take two. I’ve decided the best policy on such occasions is to agree but with a look of foul distaste and, of course, total silence. They bounded off happily on their way and I worried about the world we live in and thought that she could easily get a job as a court jester and I couldn’t quite think of what he should do, though he had the looks for a certain type of singer, and isn’t it queer when you’ve been on the street for two seconds to have only smoked 2/3rds of a ciggie yourself and to have given away two.

I wheezed my way to the asthma quack. Stopped off to buy chewing gum to take away the stench of fag so that the doctor wouldn’t bollock me only to be served by a Hungarian woofter I’ve chatted to when out and about on numerous occasions. “What are you doing here?” I said to him, feigning surprise, interest and normality. “Working,” came his not surprising answer. “But what are you doing here?” he countered, thinking he’d better play along. “Um, buying chewing gum.” “80c please.” “Bye then.” We didn’t exchange phone numbers.

The doctor’s was lovely. The old but dim receptionist had obviously cut back on the booze and was a beacon of efficiency. There was one new receptionist who looked like a model. And the young, dim, plump one seemed to have settled into the job. “I’d like some drugs, please,” I said to the old but dim but sober one. I didn’t have an appointment, but she flashed my computerised file at the doctor who happened to be sitting in reception and is so tall and thin that I worried he’d be no good in an earthquake (and I did think of suggesting he have one of those weights attached to his head that they put on top of buildings in Japan, but then remembered we don’t have that many earthquakes here. Phew!), plus he wasn’t wearing a belt, so I was preparing to amass disdain for him, but he authoritatively said I hadn’t had a good, thorough check-up since 2002 and talked me into one without a drop of resistance. The young, dim, plump one was in charge of that and she was ruthlessly efficient. She hurried me down the corridor. Sat me in the booth. Made me put a posh clothes-peg on my nose and fellate the blowy-machine. I sat still and looked left, then right, and felt a little bit silly as I awaited instructions. She fiddled with her knobs then told me to breathe normally. Then deeper. Then she regulated my speed by chanting in, out, in, out. First it was regular speed, then frantic, then I had to do a big ‘in’ and then she’d holler, “BLOW!” And then another big in and BLOW! And again and again. I was putty in her hands. I thought she was probably the dominant one in her relationship, and imagined her boyfriend as being tall, thin and silent.

I calmed myself down and waited for my go with Herr Quack himself. An old Berlinerin beed witty with the receptionists. Another old Berlinerin’s eyes were so wide with indignation at this display of Schnauze that I was worried they might fly out of their sockets and land on my lap. A youngish couple dressed IDENTICALLY – identical dark-blue jeans turned up a mile, identical black leather jackets and identical caps – waited their turn and I wondered why he still needed his girlfriend to take him to the doctor.

The beltless doctor ushered me in. I assured him I was as right as rain but didn’t half fancy some drugs. He did the stethoscope while I worried if I could breathe in and out and still manage to hide my belly at the same time and then told me what the young, dim, plump one’s tests revealed. “Yes, no major change. Your asthma’s much the same as it was. Do you need the inhalers much?” (Scribble, scribble.) Then some technical spiel and telling me that if I wasn’t careful, I might have a nice little bout of emphysema to look forward to. The word emphysema sounded so terrifying that it was the first time I’ve taken medical advice properly, instantaneously on board. I remembered an old friend’s girlfriend – a nurse – from a former life telling me I’d be dead by 40. A combination of the beltless doctor’s words and a will to prove the nurse wrong did for me in one split second what I am led to believe Allen Carr does over the course of several chapters.

I will never smoke again.



1. Geoff - October 16, 2007

Good for you. I have just given up too, although it took a far more motivating reason than mere illness: meeting a hot man who said he wouldn’t date me if i smoked.

2. pleite - October 16, 2007

Geoff, that’s brilliant. But what’s done it for me is a very personalised threat. It feels a bit different from other times I’ve given up. A bit more whole-hearted. Perhaps if the Russian had threatened to run off with the milkman, that might have helped too.

Good for you too and hurrah for fresh romance. Long may it last.

3. Geoff - October 16, 2007

I suppose a very personalised threat would have made all the difference to me too (and I was being slightly flippant with my last comment; a close friend of mine was diagnosed with breasty cancer very recently – when something like that happens to someone close to your own age it is a great reminder that we are growing old and aren’t quite as invincible as we’d like to think we are, and taht was definitely the other major factor in forcing me to quit).

It’s still very early days, and haven’t spoken to him for a week (he’s been in Berlin, funnily enough), but fingers crossed and all that.

Best of luck with the giving up. It’ll all be worth it.

4. pleite - October 16, 2007

Geoff, I’ve been thinking precisely of invincibility of late. I’m slobby and 37 and smoke and drink and eat too much and I have asthma and everything and yet I seem to have been reasonably lucky on the health front. I’m quite glad to have had a bit of a jolt.

Well, I hope he gets back from Berlin full of enthusiasm for you.

5. Geoff - October 16, 2007

Ditto – I’m nearly 33 and a lazy slob, eat junk food perpetually and drink far more than is wise (a point I am regularly reminded of seeing as I work on the government’s anti binge-drinking advertising – a classic case of ‘don’t do as I do…’), and my mate is 37. So kicking the evil weed is a good start. Drinking may be a little harder to tackle.

He’s just got back from Berlin and I’m off out now to see him for dinner. Hurrah!

6. Sylvia - October 17, 2007

Good luck, Geoff. I’m glad someone’s having fun.

P, my husband gave up smoking at the start of this year. What tipped him over the edge was the new smoking law here in the UK.

I suggested he put the money aside to spend on something really good. He now informs me that any spare cash is being spent on the demands on the 3 woman KGB we have spawned. Rosa Klebb’s phone bills are very high.

He’s done it by just stopping. In the first month, he used patches, but they kept falling off.

The benefits:
The deathly pallor has gone – he looks like he’s in the land of the living.
He doesn’t smell so much anymore
He has become irresistible to diminutive blonde librarians who never got out of their Laura Ashley phase.

Do stick with it.

7. Mr D - October 17, 2007

Oh gosh, now I feel guilty: I’ve recently fallen off the waggon yet again.

This Sunday coming is my new date for stopping. I’ll be using nicotine gum again, as it works (despite having fallen off the waggon), and patches are just horrible: as Sylvia says, they fall off.

I’ve also found that patches leave me with horrible red marks, as my body attempts to suck them dry for all the nicotine they’re worth!

I find drinking to be incompatible with stopping smoking. I’ve tried only social smoking a few times recently, but for me it only leads to full-time smoking again. I realise I can’t do that: I need a total break.

Promising myself an iPhone when I stop hasn’t helped either. The promise is still there, but stopping smoking hasn’t lasted so long! So I’m now going to take strengh from you, BiB!!! Responsibility, or what?! As you give up, so shall I! (You don’t mind, do you?)

8. narrowback - October 17, 2007

Good luck to ya BiB tho’ I question your choice of a theme song for the venture…I’ve never seen a sober person sing “The Wild Rover”

the subject of quitting actually was quite salient this weekend and the B’hoys from Berlin were in for a visit. In addition to trying to explain the balkanized approach to smoking regulations that currently exist in the Chicago area (yeah, here smoking is unrestricted but at the establishment across the street it’s prohibited but at the one a block further south you can smoke within five feet of the bar itself) we also talked about the impending verbot in Berlin (why d’ya think I’m visiting in December?)

A bit later in life than the rest of ya (sheesh you’ve got at least 10 more years of smoking and boozing to go) I too have decided that I need to quit – again -for the umpteenth time. I’ve picked my date & despite the riducle from my mates I think I can make a go of it…it quit multiple times before..cold turkey, smoking pot as a substitute, patches – chewing on them at times. that skin transference just ain’t quick enuff…I was contemplating using a new drug Chantrix but a pharmacist friend just advised of some natsy side effects…regardless I wanna be done. it’s become too big of a pain in the ass

shall we meet for just tea my next visit?

9. Geoff - October 17, 2007

the smoking ban has been great – i’ve never been able to drink while quitting before, but sitting in a smoke-free pub has made giving up so much easier this time than previously. Although, red marks aside, the patches are helping big time too.

I’m also much less likely to slip back – I’ve fooled myself into thinking i an be a social smoker when pissed before, only to find myself buying fags the next morning. I know now after two previous failures I can never have a fag again.

10. Ed Ward - October 17, 2007

Trying to keep up with you hep young people and your slang… Is a “woofter” a gay dog?

11. pleite - October 17, 2007

Ed, it is, it is. Although I want to warn you, in case you are given a hep-test – this is Berlin after all – you must be able to point out that it’s rather old UK slang and has always been rather pejorative. I’m thinking Schwuchtel might be its nearest German equivalent, although I think that’s ruder, actually, whereas woofter retains a hint of the silly, even cutesy.

Geoff, mind you, if a doctor tells me I ever have to give up booze, then I might ignore that advice. And I forgot to put in a get-out clause for the non-smoking. If I ever discover I have some other life-threatening illness and ten seconds to live, I will instantly start smoking again. It’s been a hobby of sheer joy and pleasure for me. Though, yes, that social-smoking thing is a big, fat lie, isn’t it? I hadn’t smoked for over two years and never even thought about it and then someone offered me one in Russia, and drink had been taken, and I thought, “Oh why the bugger not, for old times’ sake,” and was of course back on 90 a day within minutes. And I can see the ban is going to make things easier. A few Berlin places have already brought it in. I’ve ended up in them (by accident, of course) and have, of course, survived the evening. It’s all doable. (Hope your dinner was heaven and that he didn’t give you duty-free from Berlin.)

Narrowback, we’ll be brave and drink booze and, if your stopping-date has been and gone, neither of us will smoke a single damned fag. Will it have been and gone by early December? I recommend you telepathically convincing your doctor to tell you something nasty on your next visit. Mind you, I don’t know why I’m so sure of success. It’s only been two days and I haven’t had a drop of demon alcohol in this time. I plan to tonight so will see how it goes. But I’m feeling determined.

Mr. D., no, that’s brilliant. We can beat this thing. We can do it together. You do it for me and I’ll do it for you. (Cue inspirational music and us jogging along a deserted beach, huge pecs bouncing up and down, and then having an inspirational, manly hug.) Mind over matter, and all that. I imagine I’ll do some serious passive smoking this evening but neither of my companions smokes (much) so direct temptation should stay out of my path. Slightly missing my only hobby already, it has to be said.

Sylvia, oh dear. Make him start again, unless you don’t mind him being irresistible to diminutive blonde librarians, but I’m guessing you probably do, a bit. But the looking-alive part sounds good. I could do with that. And the not-smelling. And the saving-money, though they’re not as expensive here as they are in the UK, of course, and I know I won’t notice the difference as I’ll probably unconsciously buy extra Jaffa Cakes instead.

12. Sylvia - October 17, 2007

re him being irresistible to librarians – it’s worth it for the comedy value.

13. liukchik - October 17, 2007

Jaffa cakes do count as one of your five-a-day, so extras are to be encouraged. Smoke-free pubs are bliss (once you get used to the smell of deep-frying and body odour that permeates every pub I have been in since it came in). And it means I am not tempted to smoke once drink has been taken.

14. pleite - October 17, 2007

Liukchik, a female friend has complained since living in Smokefreeland that pubs now also smell of other odours that men are especially good at producing. Luckily, I suppose my olfactory senses will remain deadened for a good few months at least.

Sylvia, I’m constantly encouraging the Russian to have affairs. “Darling, go and have affairs!” I say, but he doesn’t bother. Honestly, the youth of today.

Just sitting here having heart attacks as England plays Russia in the football. I’ve already done a Go-Ricki dance to celebrate England taking the lead. We seek our enjoyment where we can.

15. liukchik - October 17, 2007

I spent hours trying to get live streaming TV1 running from Russia, then they pulled the plug and show a load of pro-Putin nonsense. 2-1 now. All down to the Croatia game, then

16. Katchyta - October 17, 2007

BiB, I’ll bring the American Commit to Quit guide that I got for my students to the Stammtisch tomorrow if you can stand to brave another densely smoky venue. You can then decide if you are “stimulation”, handling, pleasure, relaxation, craving or habit smoker and see all these nifty strategies to help you quit.

Hope you rewarded yourself today for both the money and another (I’m crossing my fingers) smoke-free day. My best advice is to keep other, larger cylindrical objects in your mouth for as much of the day as possible. Ahem.

17. Geoff - October 17, 2007

I’m quite delighted England lost today. Means next summer will be much more bearable (although at the same time I’m quite excited by the rugby on saturday; Rugby jingoism is much more attractive than Football jingoism.)

You think the pubs smell bad since the smoking ban – nightclubs in the summer smell horrendous, what with all that sweaty dancing. Luckily I’m nearly too old for that sort of thing, I don’t know how I;d have coped otherwise.

(BiB – dinner was great, thank you, and then we got very drunk on cocktails in a posh hotel bar, which was quite entertaining. There were lots of suited men there, obviously for a conference, and they were staring like they’d never seen a real live homosexual before, let alone two)

18. pleite - October 17, 2007

Geoff, you don’t mean it! Londoners can still be shocked by the sight of a real, live homo! Mind you, I can still see my family bristle if the actual g-word is mentioned, and my ex’s family often like telling me gayness is a poor copy of the real thing and that my ex is a closet heterosexual and that lesbians are only lesbians because they can’t get a man etc. etc. For fuck’s sake. Why do people bother their arses (so to speak) with this? There aren’t that fucking many of us, so why not just let everyone get on with their effing lives? I often don’t even remember I’m a whoopsy until I’m reminded… And, yes, I’ll try to get enthusiastic about the rugby. (Oddly, the France v. England match was on German TV.) But seeing as South Africa have already beaten England 700-0 once in this tournament, I’m not majorly hopeful. But you never know.

Katchyta, I’m confident I’ll manage a Stammtisch with not even a hint of trouble. I’m about to head out for a pre-Stammtisch dry run and we’ll see what happens. If I don’t turn up tomorrow, it’ll be because I’ve already started smoking again and am too humiliated. And I’ve had the hoover attachment in my mouth all day long, I tell you.

Lukeski, it was shown (unfortunately) on Eurosport here and, annoyingly, both of us were home, so my Go-Ricki moment of joy was short-lived. Dang and blast. Alas, it doesn’t only depend on the Croatia game. If Russia win their last two games, they go through regardless. Dang and blast. And flip. And wank. And пиздец.

19. Geoff - October 17, 2007

Most Londoners don’t get shocked these days. We had our first date at Tate Modern which was full of middle class arty families who didn’t bat an eyelid at our drunken behaviour mid-afternoon. In fact some of them appeared to be shooing their children in our direction, presumably thinking it might be educational.

20. pleite - October 17, 2007

Ha! Excellent! Anthropological interest! Speaking of drunken behaviour, I’m off to drown my sorrows this second… and not smoke, of course. Glad to hear all is good on the romance front. Fucking hell. I can’t remember what it feels like to be starting out in a new relationship. All the best with it.

21. wyndham - October 18, 2007

Good luck to you, Bib. I’ve got the smoking down to nights out – which are about once a week these days. But if you can do it, with your wild and wicked ways, I can do it.

22. pleite - October 18, 2007

Wynders, you can, you can. I had my first boozey test yesterday. Passed off easily enough, though the evening was definitely missing something and I did think all the smokers looked fantastically cool and sexy and every time one of them lit a new cigarette, they were instantly festooned with fifteen gorgeous people, topless, of the opposite/same sex (Berlin’s that kind of place). Well, I’m already having a vague internal backlash. My hedonistic side thinks, “Fuck that shit, smoke,” and I am beginning to worry that I’ll have to give up sugar and coffee and booze and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. But I suppose being able to breathe does vaguely heighten the living experience. Boring, but probably worth it.

23. Marsha Klein - October 18, 2007

Ah, I thought you’d been sounding a bit fed up recently. I hate people/companies that don’t pay on time. Our firm (very, very small) is currently owed money by a supermarket chain (very, very big and filthy rich). This sum of money represents about a third of our annual turnover, but for them it is the equivalent of searching down the back of the sofa for loose change! Anyway, I’m glad you’ve been paid and I’m quite sure you’re not alone in feeling your mood is governed by money, or the withholding of it, don’t most people feel like that?

As for the giving up smoking, good luck and good for you. As a life-long non-smoker I don’t really feel qualified to comment (although I just did) and there are few things worse (all right , there’s quite a lot ,actually) than someone who has no inkling of your situation saying “Ooh, I know just how you feel”. So, to sum up, no real idea what you’re going through but I’m rooting for you anyway!! None of which is very helpful, I imagine?!

24. Mr D - October 19, 2007

Hee hee, well, I don’t touch strange men on beaches, and manly hugs tend to leave me exhausted, but it somehow seems quite all right to stop smoking with fellow bloggers. I hope that the shame of having to admit failure in Blogland – where I spend so many of my waking hours – might help in some of my weaker moments.

Sunday was too long to wait. Today I smoked the last four cigarettes I had left, and now I’ve got six pieces of nicotine gum, which should see me through the first day or so. After that, I’ll have to deal with the pain – and start teaching again! Won’t that be fun for my students?!

I want to smoke every time I see an attractive man light up. That’s one of my very many cues/triggers. But how on earth do I lose that one?

25. Geoff - October 19, 2007

Go to places full of ugly men? I know, it’s an issue. Problem is, men smoking just look sexier and cooler and it makes me want to be like them. I need to retrain my brain somehow.

26. pleite - October 19, 2007

Geoff, yes, retrain it somehow. Although I don’t know how that works. I think smoking has to become a non-event. A non-thing. Actually, I’ve now been out two nights with people smoking around me and it was finely manageable, but I got such a lovely waft of smoke from someone on the street and that was heaven.

Mr. D., well, we will miss it. I think that’s undeniable. I already miss it and am regretting my forthrightness about the finality of my decision. But I suppose it is an all-or-nothing thing. And yet I do think it was my only hobby and definitely my only skill. I was brilliant at it. Fuck. Longing for it to be discovered that it’s good for you and reverses emphysema. Holding my breath…

Marshypops, no, thank you. Those are the right things to say. It’s miserable stopping something you love doing, in a way, but then I suppose it just is so ludicrously bad for you and even for others, and even if we don’t know for sure about passive smoking, we DO know that smoking annoys the fuck out of non-smokers, and so I’ve bitten the buggery bullet and will cope manfully… And, yes, money is all too powerful. But no way round that (that I can think of).

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