Tag Archives: smoking

The Beatle

As if on cue, the dead rose from Forest Lawn.  Discarded bin liners and copies of the Daily Mail stuck to their legs and they stiffly found their balance and staggered towards the mass of people paying homage to a distant messiah-like speck on the horizon. We nodded along to the music, raised our hands when directed to and shouted out the Messiah’s name as if he could hear us from 150 meters.

The whole day had been in jeopardy. Three months of unseasonably cold rain had made London’s green fields a sea of mud. The concert venue carefully segregated from the rest of Hyde Park had been turned into a sea of clinging mud and rough wood chip.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen the man perform now. Bruce, The Boss, Springsteen, whatever he is known as; I have been attending his concerts with loyal regularity since the mid 1970s. Then I was a young teen following the music that the older kids were listening to. Eventually the music became a reflection of my own life. But each time I had seen him play, the crowd around me had gotten older. I hadn’t aged; of course, I was still the child of the 1970s hung-over from Woodstock and embracing David Bowie. My arthritic hip prodded me in the side reminding me that youth was an illusion.

We had arrived two hours before he was due to perform. My wife suggested we sit on the plastic bin liners she had brought in front of a big screen on one of the few relatively mud-free areas of the venue. We sat back to back, drinking vodka and munching magic brownies as we waited for the show to begin. Others joined us on the grassy knoll and soon about 20 small camps filled the space. I took great consolation in the fact I was neither the oldest nor the fattest concert member- not by a long shot.

The brownies worked their magic and I sought out conversations with those camped around us. The man behind us, far too young for the woman he was with, smoked a cigarette which caused huge dismay to the people behind him. In that passive aggressive tone only a sanctimonious ex-smoker can recognise, the indignant woman invited him to blow his smoke in a different direction. I invited him to blow it our way not just t remind myself of my Benson and Hedges days but also to counter the aggression with a spirit of “all is cool.”

I made the observation to my wife that the knoll now resembled a cemetery.

As the chords of the first song were struck, the 50 bodies on the lawn began to complain in unison that they couldn’t see. Their small claimed patch of little England had been infiltrated by people actually wanting to stand, dance, interact with the performance. I struggled to my unsteady feet and hoisted my wife upright. I was a child of Woodstock, not the Stock Exchange.

And at the concert’s end, a Beatle walked on stage. I had waited 35, 40 years to see one of the Fab Four in the flesh and the moment had come in a muddy field where the Stones had played their legendary 1968 concert for Brian Jones. It was a defining moment for me in my 50th year.

And then the sound faded out. Curfew. The rich and powerful residents that live in the multi million pound apartments along Park Avenue had lobbied Westminster to ban any noise after 10.30. The moment was gone, evaporated.

I shouted out my disgust and raged against the system. I turned to vent my disgust that the free spirit of the 1960s was gone, replaced by the selfish gaining the moral high ground. The Beatles were either dead or had sold their soul out long ago.


Keep the Faith,


The Head


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Filed under The Big Wide World

The Nicotine Inhaler

I need to make a few things clear before we start:

1. I could care less whether it is fashionable or not
2. It is all or nothing: cold turkey is the only way it will work for me
3. It has little to do with health
4. I will not be sanctimonious. I won’t. I mean it.

Last night, Mrs Head and I made a joint-pact to quit smoking from Monday Jan 9. It seems a good day to make the commitment as it is her 42nd birthday. Officially, I am going to try to quit. Mrs Head insists she does not smoke. The fact that she buys, lights up and inhales nicotine in the form of a burning wrap does not constitute smoking it seems. Even at 41 years old she will not light up in front of her mother. So in some absurd but strangely accepted logic, it is just me who needs to quit.

That, dear readers, is between Mrs Head and her conscience.

I started cutting down today and as of mid afternoon I had smoked 5 less than normal. Twenty five a day is my norm- over Christmas it was probably sneaking up towards 40. I went from 8am to 1pm today without stepping outside into the alley next to the construction site that will be the Evangelical Church of Jesus Christ Built on the Rock and having one of my favourite Benson & Hedges.

Normally 7 minutes of every 90 are spent topping up the nicotine in my system. 7 minutes. 11 drags/inhales/puffs. That’s how long it takes me to finish a fag. I have it down to an art. Just enough time to go outside and breathe the East London air; just enough time to clear my head.

Withdrawal symptoms between occasional fags as I prepare for the cold turkey of Jan 9 have been soothed by one of those strange nicotine inhalers. One pops a cartridge of liquid nicotine into the middle and then it works just like a cigarette. Except there is no smoke. Or taste. Or enjoyment.

I am reliably informed by the office staff seated just outside my glass box that the inhaler looks exactly like a tampon applicator. Hence there are fits of laughter every time I put it to my lips and inhale. Irritability is a well-known side effect of chemical withdrawal so I don’t find them funny.

Fair warning, then, dear readers: the focus of upcoming blogs will most likely be trained on the internal chemical battle for my body. Will I cave and go back to my habit of the past 14 years (yes I started late) or will this be a milestone decision?

The school receptionist who is an enthusiastic smoker announces she is going to the alley. She says she is checking for stray cats but she comes back stinking of Bingo snout. I lift the tampon applicator/nicotine inhaler and suck so hard on it that the excess air in my system makes me cough.

The PA offers me a stick of gum. The chewing gum packaging is reminiscent of a 6 pack of condoms. It seems she has never realised. I make the observation and the office dissolves into giggles.

Perhaps my senses are sharpening already and emerging from their chemical dependent haze, dear readers?

I will keep you posted.

Keep the Faith,

The Head


Filed under Education, Family, The Big Wide World