Wait Till Thursday

It’s currently quite warm and sunny in England, and so yesterday I was sat outside in a pub garden with a beer and a cigarette when someone came up to me and asked for a light for his roll-up.

I was using one of the e-lighters I bought last year, and which are still working. He said he’d never seen one of them before. I explained that he had to slide out the element, and press the tip of his cigarette against it. After a couple of tries he got it lit, and sat down on a seat on the other side of my table, took in a big puff of smoke, and said, “I’ve quit.”

“So I see,” I replied.

He was a young man, maybe 35 or 40, clean-shaven, well-spoken, wearing some rather frayed and battered shorts and tee shirt.

“I’m meeting up with my girlfriend in an hour or two,” he continued. “She’ll kill me if she finds out I’ve been smoking. I’m going to have to buy some mints before we meet up.”

“I’ve been away for two weeks, on a contract. It’s been a bit of an opportunity to have a few beers with the lads, smoke a few cigarettes, and even eat some crisps too. It’s my last chance. Dinner tonight is going to be a ploughman’s lunch.”

A ploughman’s lunch is a cheddar cheese and pickle roll, maybe with an accompanying salad. He sounded like he was going back to prison.

He didn’t give his girlfriend’s name, but I was already imagining what she was like. A teetotal vegetarian antismoker. She probably wore a tracksuit most of the time, even when she wasn’t playing squash or tennis. And she had dyed, cropped blonde hair. And she worried about seals and whales and polar bears and global warming. They’d have sex every Thursday, if he’d been behaving himself. And she was probably called Mandy. I could see it all.

He looked at me with candid, steady eyes as he explained that he’d stopped smoking because he had an acid reflux problem due to a faulty valve in his stomach. The problem went away when he’d stopped drinking and smoking. His father had had the same problem, except that in his father’s case he only got the problem when he stopped smoking. So his father had carried on smoking 40 a day, on doctor’s orders.

In my turn, I said I had never tried to quit smoking, and never would. I told him about Dr W, the first antismoker I’d ever encountered, who’d shouted against the “filthy, filthy, filthy” habit. Not exactly a cool, rational, scientific attitude to smoking. Dr W was the antismoker who’d started me smoking.

He said he’d been in favour of the smoking ban. He said he thought it was inconsiderate of people to smoke in restaurants, while other people were trying to eat. I said I came from an era where nobody gave a damn whether anyone smoked or not. People smoked pretty much everywhere. Antismokers simply didn’t exist. Mad Dr W was the first one I’d ever encountered. People had been sensitised to smoking in ways they never used to be.

He said he used to smoke pot. I said I did too. I said I even grew some once, in the valley of a roof. He said he’d grown it too, but in a garage under lights, until his son had discovered it, and he’d told his son a whole pack of lies about how he was growing the plants for a friend, didn’t touch the stuff himself, and ended up cutting down all the plants, and throwing them all away. That was when he’d stopped smoking pot.

We’d already established that he had a tyrannical girlfriend. She was now joined by a tyrannical son. Was the tyrannical son the offspring of the tyrannical girlfriend? Or was he the fruit of a previous tyrannical wife or girlfriend? I never found out.

Other little tidbits of information followed. He was an engineer. He’d been in college in Cambridge.

We only talked for about half an hour. But in that time I found out more about him than his girlfriend knew, or his son knew. Listening to him had been like listening to a quiet confession.

“Don’t forget the mints,” I called out after him as he left.

But I couldn’t help but think that if it was me that was meeting up with Mandy, I wouldn’t be chewing a mint. I’d be smoking a cigarette. And I’d tell her I didn’t want another goddamn ploughman’s lunch, not now or ever again. And I didn’t want to wait till Thursday.

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About Frank Davis

smoker
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34 Responses to Wait Till Thursday

  1. Oh, lovely post! I agree. Poor fella.

  2. Judd says:


    This chap has it about right

  3. It happens regularly. I’ll be standing outside smoking and someone will slink up to me and in tones I would personally use only if I wanted to score Heroin or Kiddy porn (and I hasten to add I would never want to acquire either) they will ask me to ‘sell’ them a cigarette. Always ‘sell’ these days of obscene duty levels.
    Funny how it is never a woman asking. Most recently the guy, well dressed, good job, maybe mid 40s and judging by his accent and speech from a good , if not very good, school; tried pressing actual coins of the realm into my hand as he asked and dragged me off the street out of view. I kid you not.
    Of course I refused his filthy lucre, I would never refuse a man a smoke; I am a professional smoker and was brought up properly. Did however warn him that at the time I was smoking cigarettes perhaps a little stronger than he might be used to, especially if he hadn’t smoked for a while.
    Usual story, his wife was in the boutique down the road and she MUST NEVER FIND OUT he still smoked because they had given together (at her insistence I think).

    Lovely chap, but it was a bit soul destroying. Here was an adult, intelligent, monied, well dressed, well spoken man who probably makes financial decisions at work everyday that would make your head spin or presses complex reasoned cases at the bar and he was crouching in the shadows of the alley way for fear the Mother Of His 2.5 Perfect Kids & (as far as I told tell) the Love of His Life since Childhood would see him smoking.
    Even worse I’m betting at luncheon she’ll demand to know why he smells of smoke when they sit opposite each other over a hearty tofu salad and French tap water and he’ll say he was talking to me and I was blowing my disgusting vile cigarette smoke over him and , dear God, he can’t wait to shower when they get home…and did the lady who does his shirts bring round his ‘fun’ one with the mother of pearl (plastic of course, think of the poor oysters) buttons that he picked up in Juan-les-pines?

  4. Contrast and compare that with Anna Raccoon’s reaction when I saw her the other day: “You smell wonderfully of cigarette smoke, Dwarf” (she still vapes incase anyone was wondering). Of course I had showered and put on clean clothes before driving down to see her- that whole ‘brought up proper, like’ thing but when I drive I smoke a cigarette every mile or so and it was a 12 mile run.

  5. Judd says:

    I learned this a little later in life, if we knew then eh?, and would advise any ‘decent’ western young chaps who want a woman worth caring for not a perma whining materialistic ball and chain to look east a little, no not bloody Ipswich, and you don’t need to go as far as Asia (as delightful as Oriental/Asian ladies can be), try the lovely warm hearted passionate and splendidly old fashioned ladies from the Med.

    • Even continental women of a certain age. Not the younger ones of course but the ones who are old enough to remember a time when a woman never got to light her own smoke if out with a man. The ones who were genetically preprogrammed to be able to just chuck on a bin bag and still look sexy.

  6. Rose says:

    But I couldn’t help but think that if it was me that was meeting up with Mandy, I wouldn’t be chewing a mint. I’d be smoking a cigarette. And I’d tell her I didn’t want another goddamn ploughman’s lunch, not now or ever again. And I didn’t want to wait till Thursday

    My 41st wedding anniversary was in March, I married my best friend when we were both 21, we are entirely matched in all ways both good and bad and life has never been dull.

    As I’ve said before, always do your research.

  7. Rose says:

    Debbie must have got bored waiting for the new Tobacco Control Plan for England.

    Both she and the Observer writer must have forgotten that we already have a Display Ban so we couldn’t see these alleged illicit price stickers even if we wanted to, much less work out which packet they were on.

    How tobacco firms flout UK law on plain packaging
    9 April 2017

    “The whistleblower, until recently employed by Imperial Tobacco, one of the UK’s largest companies, told the Observer that all four of the industry’s main players were employing a range of branding initiatives involving pack design to differentiate their products before the new regulations come into force on 20 May. From this date, cigarettes must be sold in dark green packs of 20 that carry health warnings covering at least 65% of the box.”

    “The solution was to employ a separate agency to add promotional price stickers to the packets’ cellophane wrappers, a practice known in the trade as “stickering”, that, according to Sempah, involved “millions and millions” of packs and which the tobacco firms insist is not in breach of the regulations because it is not part of the manufacturing process.”

    “Ash has written to the other three major tobacco companies –JTI, BAT and PMI – saying it is aware that they have been employing a similar strategy.
    The health organisation has received a legal opinion from Peter Oliver, a barrister at Monckton Chambers, that suggests the strategy breaches the regulations which state that cigarette packets must be wrapped in cellophane that is “clear and transparent” and must not be “coloured or marked”.

    “Once again, the tobacco companies seem to be stretching the law to snapping point,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash. “They have already wasted thousands of legal hours and millions of pounds in fees trying to get the standardised packaging rules scrapped and failed miserably. Now it seems they are trying to get round the rules, by adding stickers to cigarette packs after the 20 May 2016 and claiming that this is not part of the production process. But, as our legal opinion confirms, such claims are false and the behaviour unlawful. We would like to see appropriate enforcement action taken against any tobacco manufacturer engaged in this practice without delay.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/09/tobacco-companies-flout-law-plain-packaging

    Dull stuff.

    Btw on holiday, which is where I was last week, we ladies have decided that our favourite tobacco pouch picture is still the naked young man on the satin sheets, which we all had round the table but on different brands.
    My husband had the Spanish non-smoker during back surgery one.

    Man whose photo was used as a cigarette health warning says the image of him in hospital has NOTHING to do with smoking – because he was having spinal surgery
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3941202/Man-photo-used-cigarette-health-warning-says-image-hospital-smoking-having-spinal-surgery.html

    Comment on the rather lurid chopped liver with bloodclots one “anyone can see that’s not a lung, it’s entirely the wrong shape”

    • nisakiman says:

      Their lives must be singularly empty if they can spend so much time fretting about whether tobacco companies are putting stuff on the cellophane or not. It speaks volumes, really.

      How much longer are we going to have to put up with these mean minded obsessives?

      • Rose says:

        They need to justify their funding.
        They all seem quite upset about the lack of a new list of things to do to smokers that they probably thought up themselves, but there’s a proper way of doing things, it needs to look official.

        Doctors urge Theresa May to publish anti-smoking strategy
        4 January 2017

        “More than 1,000 doctors, healthcare professionals and public health experts, including heads of royal colleges and public health institutions, are calling on the prime minister to publish the latest tobacco control plan without delay.”

        “The first tobacco strategy in the UK was the Blair government’s white paper, Smoking Kills, published in 1998. Other plans followed, including Andrew Lansley’s in 2011, then health secretary in the coalition government, which included a commitment to consult on standardised cigarette packaging.

        Some anti-smoking measures have been a response to EU legislation, such as advertising and promotion bans. However, says Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, tobacco control strategies have reduced smoking rates in England faster than in some other European countries, particularly among children”
        https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/04/doctors-theresa-may-publish-anti-smoking-strategy-tobacco-control

        Peers call on government to publish Tobacco Control Plan
        23 February 2017

        “Responding on behalf of the Government, Lord O’Shaughnessy said that mass media plans would continue to be part of the new plan. However he was unable to confirm a publication date for the new strategy. Although he said that the Government was at an “advanced stage” with the new Tobacco Control Plan for England, he did not give a date for publication, saying only – as the Government has repeatedly done in the fifteen months since the last Plan expired – that it would be “soon”.
        http://ash.org.uk/media-and-news/press-releases-media-and-news/peers-call-on-government-to-publish-tobacco-control-plan/

        It was asked about again in PMQ’s the other week, but Theresa May said they were still working on it.

        I wonder what they’ll demand next, there isn’t a lot left .

        Having to hop on one leg whilst queuing at supermarket tobacco kiosks, perhaps.

        • Although he said that the Government was at an “advanced stage” with the new Tobacco Control Plan for England,
          Ah right…this would the ‘government’ , cruelly imprisoned by Brussels, who has yet to reclaim sovereignty from our European Over Lords what do keep us in servitude and what makes all our laws for us?
          Suddenly my dire warnings about ‘smoking licences’ coming in on the back of Brexit seem even less ‘out there’.
          Remember Brexiteurs and Remainers, by voting in the plebis-cide at all you voted for this. I for one can’t wait to pay half a guinea for 2 gloriously British ounces of tobacco.

  8. Lisboeta says:

    I can’t imagine being in the sort of relationship where your partner mandates something contrary to your own wishes (with no chance of finding a compromise), and then you have to resort to lies/subterfuge to pretend you’re following your partner’s edicts. In any other context, wouldn’t that be called an ‘abusive’ relationship?

    Am so glad that Anna is still defying the odds!

  9. wouldn’t that be called an ‘abusive’ relationship?
    You have a valid point, a very valid point, there I think.
    By the same token, schools using small children to emotionally blackmail parents into giving up (‘please don’t die Mommy’) is actually child abuse- of a particularly nasty sort.

  10. Clicky says:

  11. chris says:

    Women always want to change men; it’s just the way it is. I would advise the man in the story to ditch the current killjoy and find someone who wants to change the things he wouldn’t mind changing about himself.

    • margo says:

      ‘Women always want to change men …”
      It’s not always that way round, when it comes to smoking, believe you me!!

  12. Smoking Lamp says:

    There are many ‘hidden smokers’ these days. They usually are found in alleys and car parks. It is sad that the intentional stigma imposed on smoking has left so many people fearful to express themselves. It is important o reinforce the reality that smoking is normal.

  13. Emily Wieja says:

    I think it goes both ways, though unfortunately it does seem to be often women who get on these managerial, controlling, health and self-improvement kicks. My boyfriend has never smoked a cigarette in his life but he’d never dream of telling me to quit. Nor would I dream of listening to him if he did so. But my mom apparently hid her smoking for years from my at-the-time-non-smoking-dad (this was in the ’60’s), then ironically after they split up he started smoking himself, at the age of 40.

  14. prog says:

    Bit of upbeat news.

    Was in a pub last next from about 9 to10.30 (my daughter’s 30th) and was mightily impressed with the smoking facilities. Not just the nice 1st floor terrace with a decent part cover. It was really the totally enclosed area, albeit in hall way at he foot of the stairs to access the official smoking area, that had a few tables, chairs, ashtrays and people smoking. There must have been going on 150 people enjoying themselves (the place was buzzing), point being that it reiterates what we all know – the vast majority of non smokers don’t a flying f**k about the smoking bans in pubs. And that at least this licensee knows what his/her customers want and is willing to push the envelope to provide it.

  15. jaxthefirst says:

    I, too, have never quite been able to understand the need that so many people (but, as highlighted here, most often women) have, whereby they start seeing someone who, presumably, they like, but then immediately start trying to change them. If it isn’t smoking it’s something else – they drink too much, they watch too much sport on TV, they’re too untidy, they spend too much time working, they play too much golf, etc etc etc. It just goes on and on and on and, quite frankly, I’ve always wondered why the half of the partnership who’s on the receiving end doesn’t just up sticks and go. Maybe if you’ve been ensnared by marriage and/or kids, that’s not very practical, but most of these tyrannical-type partners start down this line fairly early on in the proceedings, so there really isn’t any excuse not to leave.

    Surely being in a relationship means being in the company of someone whom you love and accept for what they are, and learning to rub along with any foibles which may irritate you a bit – provided they aren’t serious ones like being violent or being part of an organised crime syndicate – are all part and parcel of being in that relationship. Does it really matter if your other half prefers to spend his/her weekend mornings in bed rather than leaping up and “doing stuff?” Is it really the be-all and end-all if your other half would rather watch TV for a couple of hours every night rather than going out? Is it really the end of the world if one partner has the occasional cigarette or glass of wine even though the other has sworn off one or the other, or both? Honestly?

    It sometimes seems that many people are looking for a partner who mirrors themselves in everything they say, do and think and who isn’t different from them in any way at all and – as we are all individuals and so they’re never actually going to find such a partner anywhere in the whole world – they decide instead that they’ll find a suitably-malleable “type” and create a little twin-me-type partner from scratch, whether that partner wants to be that way or not. Which, when you think about it, is a really, really self-centred and nasty way to conduct a relationship. How insulting is that? “I like these bits about you, but I don’t approve of those bits, so you must change them.” No wonder splits, divorce rates and unhappy marriages are so damned common these days!

  16. jaxthefirst says:

    OT, but I’ve just read the excellent news over at Simon Clark’s place that, hot on the heels of Smokefree South West’s demise, Smokefree North West (or whatever it was calling itself these days), has had its funding cut and ceased operations at the end of last month!! Crack open the champers, dahling!!

  17. Joe Jackson says:

    Back to smoking outside pubs, it’s not often mentioned but, yet another unpleasant consequence of smoking bans is a plague of ‘nonsmokers’, ‘occasional smokers’, or ‘quitters’ trying to bum cigarettes off of anyone conspicuously standing outside smoking. This is rampant in New York, where I spend quite a lot of time. There’s actually a strategy, something like: “I believe antismoking propaganda and don’t want to admit I smoke, even to myself. So I don’t buy cigarettes, because I’d end up smoking them all. Instead I just scrounge them from anyone I see smoking outside a bar.”
    Now, I respect the commentator who feels he should never refuse someone a smoke, but in New York they’re $15 a pack, and really, these moochers are taking the piss. Why should I give a cigarette to a total stranger, any more than I should let them drink some of my beer, or eat some of my food? I’m not even having a conversation with them – often they’re not even fellow- drinkers/customers but just passers-by. OK, sometimes they offer to ‘buy’ one off you, but it’s always with a kind of ‘if you’re so mean that you’d insist on it’ kind of smirk. Well, I reckon if you want to smoke, you should get your own. And when anyone asks me ‘do you have a spare cigarette?’ I answer ‘sorry, no, I’m planning to smoke all of them’.

    • Now, I respect the commentator who feels he should never refuse someone a smoke
      Well in my defence I should say I don’t go in pubs (not since they told me they didn’t want my custom in 07) and as a result I don’t tend to stand around outside them and be a target for scroungers. I smoke on the street outside our flat. Being an anti-social dwarf I rarely stand in any kind of ‘smoking zone’ (infront of train stations etc). If I did I might feel the way you do.
      But back in the day when I was a poor student etc I lived off other peoples’ tobacco generosity a lot so I fell morally compelled to repay the favour. TBH I need all the karma points I can get!

    • nisakiman says:

      That scenario never occurs here in Greece, as everyone is smoking inside the bar / restaurant anyway. At least, in winter they are. Also, the anti-smoker narrative has never really taken hold here, so if people smoke, they smoke, and don’t feel any shame or need to conceal the fact. The only thing you will get asked for here is a light. It’s only down and outs who bum cigarettes, and they just hit passers by in the street. And they will usually be successful; there aren’t many here who will refuse someone more unfortunate than themselves a cigarette.

      Another aspect of smoking here, which seems to have largely disappeared in UK, is that when a smoker takes out his pack to light one, he (or she) will invariably offer you one. It’s still considered a social nicety.

      • largely disappeared in UK, is that when a smoker takes out his pack to light one
        Indeed! you are so right, that hadn’t occurred to me before. Damn. I would hope however that any Englishman is still gentleman enough to offer ‘her’ one ‘afterwards’ at least.

    • prog says:

      It’s about 40p/ legal ready-made in the UK, so hardly surprising smokers willingly share, even among friends, let alone strangers. That said, I would never deny a roll up to any one I thought was a genuine smoker that had run out of baccy.

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