I grew up in a family of smokers who smoked in between smokes. My mum was the lesser of the these: she only smoked Superkings and bought them in packs of twenty at the local shop. When she couldn’t get Superkings, she would smoke other brands but the fact that she needed to get them from the shop did at least mean she didn’t smoke constantly.
My nan smoked EVERYTHING. She started on roll-ups in the morning but by lunchtime would be lighting up any old dog ends she could find: I once saw her put a match to one of those bang snaps kids threw on the ground just because she thought it was a dog end.
Occasionally my nan would stop smoking to answer the door to neighbours who would pop in for a chat…and a smoke. They would jabber away for twenty minutes, filling the kitchen with the sort of air Gandalf produced when he could find the right sort of weed.
My best friend was a much older guy called Ricky, who smoked. In fact, he was such a dedicated smoker that he would play computer games with the roll-up hanging between his lips and mountains of ash flying off in all directions. The only time he stopped smoking was when he actually got burned, at which point he would shout ‘F*ck!’ and spit out whatever butt he had left.
My street kid friends were early smokers. They would smoke in secret. I soon came to realise that ‘in secret’ actually meant ‘behind a shed but in my face’.
When I was old enough to leave school, I went to work at an estate agent in Broadstairs with a bunch of guys who were all smokers. The boss was really strict about staff not smoking in the office, so they would smoke in the lunch room, the basement, the car park, outside the front door and on the pavement. When they came back into the office, they brought most of the smoke with them.
I went to work at Blockbuster, where a lot of the staff smoked. They would smoke in the drinks room, the stock room, the front door, the toilets and the sweets room. I never ate a packet of crisps while I was there that didn’t taste like the inside of someone’s mouth.
I got a major book deal in 2003 and became a full-time author. The following year, I moved into my own house. I would get up in the morning and fill my lungs with uncontaminated air, breathing deeply and truly appreciating the smells in a house completely free from smoke. I would literally just fling open a window and just take in the breeze….
….which is when I realised that the world basically smells of wet dog and coffee.