When I was nine years old we moved to a different area but within the same town. It didn’t take too long to make new friends (and that’s a different post) but the road we moved to, I later learned, was the worst road in our borough. When I say worst, I mean we had the roughest, bullying kids, bad parents, lack of good influence and full of bad mouthed little terrors.
Where I lived, the road was shaped like the curve on the letter D, with a cul-de-sac running off each end. I was lucky that we were perched in the heart of one of the cul-de-sacs, shielding us from the horror that lay around the back-end of our road. This isn’t to say we didn’t have the rough at our end of the street, but we didn’t have it as bad and people rarely ventured into our zone unless they needed something or someone within it.
I wasn’t perfect and neither were my new friends, we were curious about things and one of those was smoking. I can’t remember who initiated the conversation nor whose idea it was to steal tobacco and roll-up papers from my parents but I don’t suppose that’s important. I took some Drum tobacco and papers from my step dads tin and we made a hide out at the end of the alley that backed on to my garden. I made a roll-up and had some matches that I took from my mums collection (she liked to take the easy light match packs you used to get in hotels) and we lit one up and gave it a try.
At first we didn’t take it down, but just liked the feeling it gave of appearing cool, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. I felt like a grown up, like one of those people in a film that everyone admires – only that admiration is for their personality not for their smoking habits but still that’s how I associated it in my youth.
The man, whose garden we’d made our den against, came to the end of his garden to check-up on what was at his gate – he was okay, but that scared us a little so we packed up and went on our way.
We’d be walking along the street within the first week of our trial, where I’d pick up half smoked fag butts I’d find on the floor. We went down the alley opposite my house where no other house backed on to, it was overgrown, so we sat in the grass half way down the path out of sight. I tried to light the fag-end but the match dropped on my trousers and burnt a very small hole. I was very self-conscious and decided to tell my mum what we had done, my friend afraid she’d tell her parents. I was grounded for the week and when my friend came knocking, my mum said she wouldn’t tell her parents but maybe it would be the right thing if my friend did. Of course, she never did!
It was later, when in senior school that we tried smoking again. We were in our first year and the girls thought it would be good to persuade an older pupil to buy their 10 Benson and Hedges for them and puff away. This time I tried it, I even took it down and I liked it! but I was an athlete and my conscience was greater and my knowing how bad they were, pulled me to the side that told me I shouldn’t. I held my ground but my friend never did – even to this day, she smokes (well at least I think she does – another post).
I can’t say I’ve not smoked since that day – I did like it, but while I might have had the odd puff or ‘drag’ as I was growing up, out at a nightclub or in a pub, I’ve never had more than a few ‘lugs’ – it makes me dizzy and faint (that and I know it’s not healthy and can lead to lung cancer).