Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Talk to the ashtray by James Leavey

I was twiddling my Nicaraguan corona over a cup of Gold Blend tea in Bewley's Grafton Street, thinking of this, that,  but mostly the other, when the first anti-smoking idiot of the day rolled up.

'Stop that, immediately!' he cried.  'You cannot smoke here.'

'If you used your eyes and what's left of your underdeveloped brain before you opened your ignorant gob you'd remember there's no law against unlit tobacco, even in this famous tea-room,' I growled. 

'Besides, it's nice thoughtful smokers like me who keep puritanical twats like you in clover with our taxes.'

The idiot's ugly mug boiled over and he muttered, 'Just wait until 2015, when we ban the whole lot of you in Ireland.'

'Yeah, well, we shall see what we shall see. Until then, talk to the ashtray.  Now fuck off, you pompous uneducated prick.'

I know, I know...it was much too subtle. 

So I underlined my perfectly reasonable point of view with a suggestive vertical jolt of my cigar and resisted the temptation to shove it up the idiot's arse. In the grand old days I would have offered to put sand in his Vaseline to help the stogie on it's way. For that's what the likes of him deserved.

Bored of bumping into beastly bastards, I decided to take a break from Dublin's unfair city (for smokers, that is) for the literary and seaside delights of Sandycove,  topping up my travel humidor at the Decent Cigar Emporium, en route.

The James Joyce Museum & Tower was open. I stepped inside and asked the friendly curator if I could take another sniff of the great writer's favourite leather cigar case.  

He'd first allowed me to do this a few years ago when I was filming BBC2 Horizon's documentary, 'We Love Cigarettes'.

The curator nodded and even let me slide my cigar inside Joyce's cigar case again.

Then I took myself and the anointed tube of fine tobacco outside and lit up, hoping Joyce's genius would rub off on my scribblings.

Fat chance.

'Jaysus, Mary and Joseph, the Great Man and all the other genius Irish writers and dramatists must be twirling in their graves at the very idea of the Elf & Safety boggarts taking over the world and turning it into an unused ashtray,' I thought.

Then  I took another reflective puff on my premium stick of fine Nicaraguan tobacco, 'It's not over till it's over. And while there are people like Mr Guy Hancock selling excellent cigars like this, there's hope.'


  1. Although a pipe smoker myself (rather than cigars) I cannot adequately express how much I enjoy your writing. It does me good just to know you're out there, a kindred spirit indeed. The only melancholy thoughts your pieces provoke are the reminders that I will probably never be able to one day smoke my Irish made Peterson pipes in an Irish pub, or my greater number of English pipes in English pubs. I shall wait for the bans to be repealed, or at least exceptions made (I hope), and then I will joyfully travel to both countries and spend some of my dwindling resources. Until then, if I have to cope with the damned prohibitionists I may as well stay here at home, San Francisco, where, I'm ashamed to say, the whole nasty business started.

  2. Thank you for your kind words. I also own a few pipes, including a Peterson Sherlock Holmes and Churchwarden. But I have always had problems keeping the damn things alight so I stick to fine cigars, which are easier, even if you have to relight them now and then (no hardship). There are now several pubs in England and Ireland with outdoor partly covered areas, which are good enough for warm and rainless days. But in the winter, in the cold and wet?! Fortunately there many smokers' sanctuaries in both countries, including two that are especially delightful in London: Boisdale Belgravia (covered area on the roof, fine wines and whiskies on tap,good food and live jazz downstairs) and Boisdale Canary Wharf (cigar-friendly balcony ajacent to one of the bars - great view, great company, very good food inside and more of the same upstairs next to Europe's longest whisky bar (over 1,000 malts). Both are owned and run by my old friend, Ranald Macdonald, who keeps the smokers' flag aloft. As forthe places in Dublin - just ask my friend Guy Hancock. Whatever happens with the bans, you are not alone. There are plenty of nicotine-friendly soulmates out there. Yes, we are on the run and yes, sometimes it is frustrating. But the great thing is the cigar and pipe and cigarette comrades are bonding closer than ever, and making new friends all the time. And even many non-smokers now stand up for us for they hate the hyprocisy and nanny-state as much as we do. It's not over until the last ashtray is filled.