28 Apr 2010

In which Hestia remembers smoking....

poster from: www.motifake.com
I've never been a smoker.  Unless you count that one time in the Brownies when my father clocked me standing outside the Church Hall puffing away merrily on an Embassy Tip.  Just that one time, but it was the beginning and end of my foray into the cancer sticks.....

Ah, the 70s!  Those were the days when you could buy fags singly.  For about 10p each. Dressed in a Brownie uniform.

It was not a very switched on decade (see: Life on Mars and Asbestosis) but for small girls who wanted to live dangerously it was the business.

Picture the scene. Dianne and I are puffing away madly between bouts of eye-watering coughing outside the Brownie Guide Hall. We are cool.  We are the dog's bollocks.

An hour later the Brownies are finished and we are running through the car park to blessed freedom and a bag of chips....when my gaze alights on an unmistakable manky orange Opel Ascona parked across the road.

Of course, lots of people drove them in the 70s, but because dad worked at Ravenscraig Steelworks, his car was permanently bi-coloured - orange on the top, muck on the bottom. My best friend, Diane, the other culprit in this tale, thought that two-tone effect was the actual car colour.

The other reason that I knew it was dad's car was because he was standing beside it, his face a deep shade of apoplexy.

He beckoned me over and stuffed me angrily in the back of the car.  He told me that he'd spotted me earlier, dragging away madly on my ciggy.  I knew it, even at 11 - I was utterly fucked. Caught inflagrante with my fag: The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name was over before it began. He was going to kill me.'

We were alone in the house when we got back. I was sent to the toilet to wait. Unusual, but bear with me.

Dad appeared in the loo doorway with a full packet of Embassy Tips.  Wordlessly, he sat me on the edge of the bath, lit up a ciggie and handed it to me.

Dear Reader, he made me smoke until my eyes were streaming, my lungs aflame and my stomach churning like a washing machine on a spin cycle. 

I ended up kneeling in front of the toilet, throwing up noisily and weepily. Suddenly he burst into tears too and begged me never to smoke again. The crying was more terrifying than the anger or the enforced smoking.

After that, I never even so much as kissed a bloke who smoked - well, not for a second time. I certainly never had sex with any of them.  Well, not for a second time.

These days dad would be reported to Social Services for Child Abuse or something.  But I prefer to see it as an act of tough love - both his parents had died of lung cancer, but, being a child, I hadn't thought about that.

And Diane, my fellow Brownie smoker?  It would make for a brilliantly moral ending to the tale if I reported that she died of some fag-related illness some time later.  But she didn't. She 'left school early' (euphemism for got knocked up at 14 and disappeared off the teenage radar). I never saw her again.

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