Years ago I inherited a Martini glass which accommodates a quarter of a litre of gin, so that’s what I use every Friday when I mix myself a large one. Rowley Leigh’s barman told me that you should splash a little Noilly Prat in the chilled glass, swirl it round and flick it away. Use Bombay Sapphire, pour a glassful over the ice and shake it until the silver flagon is misty with frost, return it to the glass to absorb the traces of Vermouth, add a slice of lemon zest if you like and feel the spirit slipping like frozen fire around your mouth. I can’t manage more than three without falling down. Doing sex is tricky.
Every time I go through the mixing ceremony and sit for a while feeling the alcohol as it seeps into my liver, I fancy a cigarette. That is what actually happened in the old days: drink, climb onto your girlfriend and afterwards lie back with a Senior Service or, in her case, an Abdullah. I can’t remember the details. I stopped smoking thirty years ago after making a private contract to give it up only if, at some stage, I could start again. That time has arrived. Smoking is one of the great pleasures in life. The sermons of the self righteous cunts who lecture us about it are irrelevant to me. I know it’s dangerous and will kill you, but it’s my life and I can end it any way I want. When I sit down with my drink I still dream about flipping my old four star leaded Zippo and lighting up an untipped Perfectos Finos. It was the hit on the back of the throat that did it. I want to feel it again. I want decent cigarettes rather than the filthy Eurofags on sale in Britain today. Real cigarettes treated you with flavour and a jolt of carbon monoxide which sometimes made you lose consciousness for a moment or two. When that happened you knew you were smoking quality weed.
The health Nazis had little power in the seventies. Cigarettes were beautifully packed and came to you soft and moist, full of unadulterated tobacco and juicy nicotine. Today’s sad smokers, standing outside the office in the rain, have to suffer the modern Eurofag which has had all its guts removed and is outrageously expensive. These desiccated sticks would never have sold forty years ago; now the tax squeezed from them pays for the NHS.
Lambert & Butler Straight Cut, which were made in a factory in Drury Lane during the 60s, came in a silver packet and the cigarette carried no brand name: the paper was pin-striped and the tobacco was fresh. A Cuban woman worked there rolling cigars on her inner thigh – which was stained light brown and must have tasted interesting and certainly full of flavour. The latest wheeze of the health Nazis is to sell cigarettes in plain, unbranded packs and ban displays in corner shops. Will they keep those punchy warnings so we can choose between a packet of ‘Tobacco Kills’ and twenty ‘Smoking kills your babies’? Plain packets will go down very well with the kids because they will provide a new medium on which to be witty and provide an opportunity to create the renaissance of the personal cigarette case. Banksy would know how to design one.
Because we were meant to smoke after sex and drink before it, the health police are also beginning to campaign for the abolition of alcohol en route, in pursuit of the eventual eradication of enjoyment in sex. You can see the signs, the message on the bottle, the increase in tax, spurious government reports about the dangers of drinking, the persistent closing down of pubs.
The state war against fags and booze is so breathtakingly hypocritical that it makes you feel that you should smoke and drink just to irritate the ‘no smoking lobby’ in the Commons. When the tax taken from the industry becomes less than the real cost of smoking to the NHS, watch how quickly the Government bans fags altogether. The only answer is to get hold of real cigarettes, which are unavailable in the EU. You can buy them in Switzerland, which has democratically avoided anti smoking regulation and where the bars are full of happy smokers and heavy drinkers. And if you travel to South Africa and Virginia you can legally bring them back through Customs. I’ve got a box of Passing Cloud in front of me. Real tobacco unadulterated by dead-eyed Brussels bureaucrats. They arrived legally from South America, but there’s no need to do even that. Good old fashioned Virginia is available in London if you know where to go. Beautiful boxes with nice fat, fresh cigarettes wrapped in silver and tissue paper.
Smoking and drinking is a divisive issue. A few months ago, while you were enjoying your pre-lunch cocktail you could read the home spun tabloid vitriol about Kate Moss parading down a catwalk puffing a cigarette. It’s all a game for arch Glendas, like the Mail’s Jan Moir; a stout biddy who seized on Moss’s provocative action by suggesting that if we want to stub out smoking, we should ‘put Kate’s mug on every pack.’ Her advice to Croydon’s finest is that she is aging faster than a blue cheese in a damp cave. ‘Puff away, Kate’ she cackles, ‘never mind that your lungs are shrinking to blackened golf balls.’ ‘Fag Ash Kate’, she calls her, ‘doing her rancid bit to glamorise smoking on No Smoking Day. Oooh get her! Rebel without an ashtray’…whatever. The trouble for Moir and Plattell et al. is that young people would rather be seen dead than reading the Mail, so it’s poor old pear shaped middle England which has to suffer while Kate Moss and portly Moir are laughing all the way to the bank. Meanwhile we can get on with enjoying a glass of gin and a nice satisfying smoke with a bout of vigorous sex in between. The NHS will pick up the pieces while the Glendas can safeguard their private peccadilloes in the privacy of BUPA.