The Outsiders

The Outsiders


I remember it well. That first cigarette. Behind the old and now defunct cricket pavilion. Leader of the pack ,then as always, 15 year old John “Gordon” Packett.  Puffing on my Gold Leaf tipped and going greener with every puff , he said those immortal words “Hugh you look really good smoking”. Looking  good; smoking: Bogart, Belmondo, Brando, Dean,Thompson. I was joining an immortal lady killing line.I was a made man.

Thankyou Gordon. Thirty years later I gave up. Packett  went on to be a successful stockbroker in Canada and the UK and then got the tango bug and now runs a successful boutique  hotel in Buenos Aires. We stayed with him on our world tour. He now famously has 45 pairs of tango shoes,he once proudly claimed he never went out with a woman over 25!

There was a time when we all smoked. Even the saintly Vivien had a year or two drawing on Gauloisses. But now of the 100 or so people I still know well enough ,only a few  still smoke. Sarah who still does it  semi surreptitiously. That is she  disappears every four hours for five minutes. But her husband Ron who was a two  pack a day man went to a hypnotist and gave up  four years ago.

Eric has given up so many times that that he should  write a book. In fact he has written several but not on his least favoured subject. At least he now smokes in the open,there was a time he tried to hide the fact  from his long suffering wife, Irena. He snores so much he needs what looks like a diving bell to sleep in.

Tom carries on dragging away on his Benson Hedges. He claims to be down a ten a day but we all know that  after afew beers  that could double. But Edward who we also worked with who used to in great macho style bite off the effeminate tips of his cigarettes now has gone clean. As has the ever smooth Trevor who until recently looked like he was going to keep the age of steam going on forever.

Nick though despite constant ill health and bouts of absistinece keeps Imperial Tobacco happy. Though his wife Caroline who at one point kept him company  light for light has come over to the land of the clean and dull. My dear boy, Leo Beckham Thompson smokes as do many of his friends when the  drinks and fun flow the fastest. His   wife Vicky has fought a Stalingrad of a battle against her long habit.

When I was  a school teacher in the very late 60s I not only beat the children but smoked  in front of them. Both now capital offences. Near Putney Bridge  tube, there is the fading cigarette ad on the side of a house. “For your throats sake smike Craven A”. But the brand we should be looking out for is the one that “four  out of five doctors recommend”. Who can forget the doctor smoking in the Madman TV series when he is making a gynaecological examination? E cigarettes? Don’t make me laugh,do they suck them after sex? Come on.

All  this inspired by the most wonderful book No Smoking by Luc Santé. A wonderful essay with 200 of the most glorious smoking photos. See link.

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2 Responses to The Outsiders

  1. eric ormsby says:

    Hey, Old Amigo,steady on there! A “diving bell?!” My mask is snug and trim. It may make me look like Darth Vader but I haven’t snored in years. And I well remember, you did look good with a cigarette dangling from your lip, though you’d cadged it from me. Ah well, the persecution of us pariahs goes on apace…

  2. Johan Vivian VAN DIJK says:

    My mistake was that I never could lead the interesting and dissolute life. I can’t even write about it.

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