I’ve never smoked. Well, not quite never. I’ve had a puff on about as many cigarettes during my life as I have fingers on my left hand, but I as I didn’t inhale and didn’t smoke the cigarette to the end (apparently you have to do both of these things to count as having smoked a cigarette properly in the eyes of cigarette smokers) I’ve never smoked and will therefore never die.
Looking back, it’s odd that I never started smoking, because when I was 16, virtually every one of my friends smoked. Even the ones with asthma. Even the ones without lungs. And yet, firmly and stolidly, refused to take participate.
It’s not because I didn’t like the taste, I’d never tried it so I never knew what I was missing. If anything, the smell brought back fond memories of my grand-parents front room in Allowenshay and be allowed to watch Bullseye on ITV.
No. It’s because peer pressure didn’t work on me. I was either, to put a positive spin on it, a fiercely independently-minded teenage iconoclast, or to put a less positive spin on it, relentlessly geeky and unfashionable. I will leave it to you, and the considerable photographic evidence, to decide of the two it might be.
The other reasons – not that I needed reasons to be self-important and holier-than-thou in those days – were that my grandfather, the one with the TV set that picked up the third channel, had recently died of lung cancer, and seeing him in hospital a few weeks before he died made a rather strong impression on me in terms of smoking’s causes and effects, as you might expect.
And secondly, to be indiscreet, by that point I’d kissed a girl who smoked and had found the experience utterly revolting.