I was talking to an old friend the other day.
It was one of those chain conversations, as I call ’em, where the topic is constantly changing as new subjects crop up out of the old ones, and a chance remark can set the whole chat off on a new tangent. That’s the kind of conversation I like as I never know what we are going to end up talking about.
Anyhows, one of the tangents led onto the subject of smoking. I should point out that my friend doesn’t smoke, or at least he has never smoked in my company.
“Do you remember the days when smoking was perfectly normal?” says he.
“I do indeed” says I. “The days when non smokers used to have a box of cigarettes on the coffee table in case visitors should call.”
“Right” says he. “When anyone called, it was part of the welcoming thing to offer them a cigarette along with a cup of tea, or maybe something stronger.”
“And people used to proudly display Waterford Crystal ashtrays or even Waterford Crystal cigarette lighters” I added.
“We used to have a strange thing in my house” he said. “On Christmas Day when dinner was over my mother used to pass around the cigarettes. Everyone took one, including two aunts who wouldn’t look at a trifle in case it contained alcohol, and those two aunts didn’t bat an eyelid at a six or seven year old being offered a cigarette. We would all light up and solemnly smoke our cigarettes in honour of the day.”
“Were you included?” says I.
“Indeed I was. Sure I was the six or seven year old. We all had to smoke them, though I didn’t really enjoy them that much. It was all part of the ritual.”
“Like a peace pipe” says I. “Those were the days.”
“They were indeed” says he. “In those days smoking and in particular pipe smoking were signs of gravitas. Look at the likes of Jack Lynch or Churchill.”
We spent a happy few minutes listing off all the people who smoked, such as Einstein, Brunel and Harold Wilson.
“Those days are gone” says he sadly.
“Isn’t this just a little heretical?” says I. “You being a doctor and all.”
He just laughed.