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From a young age - say from as early as twelve - it never occurred to me not to start smoking as soon as I could. Many of the adults I knew smoked, including my father. My mother, a non-smoker, tolerated his smoking with equanimity, emptying and washing his ashtrays, cleaning up the litter he dropped near his chair from the makings, and bringing home his tobacco and papers along with Smoking fiction stories weekly groceries.
Many of my friends' mothers did smoke, unashamedly as I recall, without a smidgeon of the guilt that has afflicted generations of smoking mothers ever since. My tennis partner's mother smoked, and he and I had great fun taking it turn and turn about to pass her cigarettes lit up and ready to go as she drove us the twenty-five miles each way to play in the Saturday morning tennis comp.
Most of my high school teachers smoked. On visits to the staffroom, knuckle poised at the door, straining to make sense of the guffawing conversations going on inside you'd be aware of the trickle of smoke seeping out from the gap under the door. When the door was finally flung open you'd be nearly laid flat by the billowing smoke and the acrid-sweet smell of smouldering tobacco. Beyond the smoke cloud you could just make out the teachers' outlines barely visible in the hazy air. Two of the young women teachers I admired were smokers.
One taught music and one of my friends, the only student taking Leaving Certificate music, enthralled me with tales of the teacher's Smoking fiction stories during their cosy one-on-one lessons. How she'd rush in to the lesson, slender heels clicking, circular skirt swirling, gasping that she simply had to, had to have a cigarette.
We breathlessly came to the exciting conclusion that the music teacher was addicted. The other teacher was a slender Elizabeth Taylor lookalike. Inky-black curls cascaded down her graceful neck. Her eyes were deep blue, her lips full and pouty, the tilt of her nose sculptured perfection.
She taught the cultured few doing Latin for the Leaving Certificate. I wasn't one of them, but I occasionally caught a glimpse of the elite group on a sunny day around a picnic table studying their Latin outdoors.
Scurrying past I'd catch the tantalising whiff of fresh tobacco and glancing sideways spy the Latin teacher stylishly place the long white cylinder between her ruby-red lips and take in a sweet, deep, satisfying drag. My big escape when it finally came Smoking fiction stories not to Manhattan or Montmartre but to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Sydney to train as a nurse This was not from any altruistic motives.
I had no particular compassionate urge to administer to the sick. Owing to a predictably poor Leaving Certificate result, my choice of future careers was limited. It also came with the opportunity to take up smoking full-time, which I did with gusto. The hospital was a would-be smoker's heaven. Visitors, the senior nursing staff, doctors, medical students, ancillary staff and most of the trainee nurses, fearlessly smoked their way around the corridors and in the lifts, the living quarters, the lecture hall and the canteen.
Gigantic stubbing-out ashtrays were placed at entrances to the wards for the convenience of doctors and visitors. Ashtrays for use by theatre sisters, anaesthetists and surgeons dotted the operating theatre restrooms. Non-smoking nurses pretended to smoke. One of our group was so allergic to cigarettes that just sitting in a smoke-filled space gave her swollen weeping eyes and alarming attacks of sneezing and wheezing.
Undaunted she heroically persisted, ing the rest of us as, oblivious to her plight, we filled our bedrooms with companionable streams of soothing smoke. It wasn't as if we didn't get a warning.
During orientation week a pale-faced tutor sister with mournful eyes and a droopy veil spoke to us about smoking. I do not smoke, she said. Many of you will take it up but you don't have to. When I started training, my roommate smoked and every time she bought a packet of cigarettes I put the money in a money box. Tutor sister's washing machine story cut no ice with me.
Apart from it never entering my head to buy my mother a washing machine, a droopy-veiled tutor sister in white clunky shoes was no competition for Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart smoking their way through Casablanca.
Or Audrey Hepburn drawing on her elegant holder in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Halfway through my first year I was allocated the role of night extra, a position requiring work that had nothing to do with nursing but lots to do with domestic tasks - cleaning, running messages, making suppers for senior staff and washing mountainous piles of baby bottles in the Diet Kitchen. My night-extra duties included waking nurses rostered on the early shift by banging on their doors and loudly calling 'nurse, nurse, wake up'. Early into my new role I was approached by a senior nurse advising me that she found early morning waking difficult.
I need you to bang loudly on my door several times, open the door and turn on the light, she said. Then, she went on, I want you to get a cigarette out of the packet on my bedside table, put it in my mouth and light it. Weirdly, I didn't find this at all bizarre and faithfully carried out her instructions leaving her hunched over the bed, blinking in the sudden light, sucking up the first fag of the day.
We loved the gear that came with smoking. We earned a pittance but somehow still found money to indulge in classy Oroton cigarette cases with clever pop-up lids, Ronson gas lighters, cigarette holders and smart little ash collectors that we popped into our handbags, useful for a quick smoke on the bus or the train or in a taxi. The TarGard, a snappy invention that arrived in s, was both decorative and useful. Decorative because it came in Smoking fiction stories range of luminous colours that you could mix and match with your wardrobe. Useful because we naively believed it filtered out all the harmful tar.
It never occurred to us that the black stuff oozing out onto the tissues we used to clean our TarGard filters was but a small sample of the yuk going into our lungs and circulating around our bodies. In those innocent days we were happily unaware of the downside of smoking, not just the health risks but the negatives that went straight to the heart of our vanity; dry skin, tired, red eyes, reeking hair, breath and clothes.
In spite of our mania for liberal showering, frequent teeth cleaning, breath spray and the application of lo of deodorant and perfume, we must have stunk a lot of the time. Nevertheless, smoking was fun. It was companionable, a comfort in trying times and the romantic association with exotic men and women lingered in my mind for a decade or so Smoking fiction stories my youth.
Arthur Gleason's chapter, Enchanted Cigarettes 1in his book Golden L about soldiers in the trenches in World War One, beautifully captures the strong Smoking fiction stories pull of smoking:. Tobacco connects a man with the human race, and his own past life.
It gives him a little thing to do in a big danger, in seeping loneliness, and the grip of sharp panic. It brings back his cafe evenings, when black horror is reaching for him. Of course, it's a stretch to compare myself with a WW1 digger in the trenches but to read Arthur Gleason's exultation of smoking is to understand its attraction and the emotional dependency it creates, a much more lethal factor than the simple physical addiction that for most people passes quite quickly and uneventfully.
I was still a dedicated smoker when I went off to do midwifery training. At the maternity hospital smoking was a happy part of the scene the way it had been at the Children's Hospital. Barely a murmur was heard about the risks of smoking in pregnancy. On the contrary, it was acknowledged by some health professionals and the general public alike that as smoking in pregnancy tended to produce smaller babies it could be seen as advantageous - smaller babies, easier births.
One morning in the early hours a woman was admitted to the labour ward following a hair-raising flight from a remote area where she'd had a traumatic birth nearly killing her and her baby. As we were wrapping the shocked woman in warm blankets one of the hospital professors wandered in. The professor nodded to me and we pushed the head of the bed through the cubicle door out into the corridor and propped the woman up.
The professor fumbled around in the woman's hastily assembled bag and found a cigarette. He placed it between her lips and lit it for her. She took in several rapid gulps of smoke, squinted and shuddered.
Bluish smoke swirled around the dimly-lit corridor. Her terror and exhaustion faded into fragile relief. Thank you, thank you, she whispered. The tables started turning in the seventies. The days when smokers ruled, and non-smokers just had to suck it up, were on the wane.
Non-smokers became assertive and there seemed to be more and more of them popping up from wherever they'd been hiding. Smokers started crumbling under their dogged advance. Lists appeared detailing gruesome deaths of celebrities attributable to smoking including my old favourites Humphrey Bogart and Susan Hayward.
The Marlboro man image was slowly changing from a rugged, active individual of the great outdoors to a wheezing cancer-ridden hospitalised wreck. The battle hymn of the self-righteous anti-smoking brigade gradually started nibbling away at my self-respect.
As well, I was getting older, growing up and moving beyond my childish notions of the glamour of moody addictions. There comes a day to most smokers, whether they admit it or not, when the romance and charm of their habit fades and Smoking fiction stories that is left is the addiction. Being relatively young it wasn't the distant fear of cancer, heart attack, stroke and black limbs that was at the forefront of my increasing smoking anxiety as I knew too many people smoking away into old age without obvious health problems.
Rather it was my increasing awareness of the yellow tone embedded into their wrinkles, the stale smell in their clothes, skin and hair and the glaring lack of glamour as smokers age. Ashamed of my smoking but too addicted to stop I became, like Jackie Kennedy, a closet smoker for a while. I made several serious attempts to stop. The first one, involving weekly visits to a hypnotist, was at first successful and I managed to go several weeks without smoking. On my fourth visit as I was relaxing drowsily after a night shift I became aware of the hypnotist winding a few compliments into his soft urgings to give up the smokes like, what a little cutie and how he'd like a kiss.Smoking fiction stories
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