Musings before the convention.

Musings before the convention.

The days are passing by and the date for departure grows ever closer.

An old man’s musings take him on strange journeys as preparations are made for our departure.

Reb and the Ian are busy packing, sorting and hoping that stuff will arrive before the pantechnicon they are hiring has to be loaded.

Isobel, bless her is auditing the underpant situation and sorting out shirts and other items of a chaps wardrobe.

A huge disappointment was finding my evening suit had been ‘borrowed’ by the grandchildren last November for their Guy Fawkes celebration. Strange thing is I witnessed the bonfire and remember thinking how huge the ‘Guy’ on top was. It was like a re-run of that film with Edward Woodddwoood in it, The Wicker Man’. No wonder the little buggers were sniggering as this vast object was consumed by flames. Must have taken days to fill, the sods.

When I brought this painful subject up with herself she informed me that for one thing the suit had the moth and on the other it was far too small when I wore it last which I had to admit was a while ago. A masonic cheese and wine do I seem to recollect, all got out of hand when one of the goats broke loose and ate the grand masters sporran!

Anyway, as I say, pondering and looking forward to the end of the month and such jollity as can be afforded thanks to the tireless effort of the committee, bless them.

So I sit back in the shed of dreams and put a sort of list together of what are essentials in your stout chums life.

Namely, what pipes and how many. Snuff boxes. Tobacco of course and the lighters and other peripheries of the gentle art such as pipe cleaners, reamers and tampers. Then came to mind one item you just don’t see any more, Ashtrays.

Which led me thinking ………………..

For those of a nervous disposition – or if you are under 18, Don’t look.



Ashtrays, some full, some with just one lonely fag, some waiting empty for the consummation of their sacred use the place was littered with them.

Ashtrays, where are they now?

Pristine or crusted, bearing advertising or plain. Metal cheaply stamped into simple functional shapes or spun from brass, cast in pewter or hammered from copper.

Glass, square or round, cut or decorated, clear or coloured like a huge jewel.

Ceramic ones with jolly pictures peeking out from under the buts. Or huge great pottery lumps hand thrown and needing two hand to lift them.

No home was complete without some, even if the householders didn’t smoke one would be proffered. Sometimes with the rictus smile from a hostess who you knew, just the moment you were out the bloody door, would open all the windows and asphyxiate the cat with billows of scented air spray like some fragrant gas attack from world war one.

Ashtrays were made from anything in those days. The more bizarre the more amusing, the more unsuitable the better. The ‘novelty’ ashtray was the gift of choice to someone you really couldn’t be arsed spend intellectual effort in choosing a present for.

It was a default gift that was always useful and gender and age neutral.

Then there were pictures of people I know, SMOKING!

People who now are clean from the weed, who abjure the demon tobacco as much as they would shun running naked through Tesco’s with their private parts painted scarlet and waiving a bouquet of condoms whilst shouting obscenities at the top of their voice……. Mostly, well some might, but I’m not naming names, YOU know who you are!

I had forgotten just how only a few short years ago in hotels, pubs and bars, people smoked. These pictures brought back to me a memory of that taint in the air of old smoke and the fume of fags.

Sometimes I go into my ‘shed of dreams’ of a morning and still the pipe smoke lingers and the place smells like an ashtray. Even I have to open windows and put the extractor fan on full suck.

Not nice, but fire up a fresh pipe and all is fragrant again.

You could smoke in your hotel room in some restaurants and always the pub.

Of all of these I only miss the pub. Oh all right, hotel rooms which are a sort of ‘home from home’ and a pipe before bedtime is a blessing. But a pint in a pub without a pipe of tobacco is like a tonic without the gin. It’s all right, but lacks what it takes to make a really soothing tincture. This is something that I miss a lot as do many old farts like me.2011-07-28_020740pm

Now of course we smokers huddle in dark, draughty corners that are open to the elements and the sneers of passers by. Oh how we have fallen us few, us benighted few. Once the target of slick advertisements, wooed by tobacco companies with gifts beyond the dreams of avarice. Now we are pariahs, shunned, the target of jibes, insults and a government inspired witch hunt that positions us only slightly lower in the hate scale than benefit claimants. So far.

Some smokers have taken to the vapid ‘vapping’. They stand proud in doorways and corners sucking in the steam like babes on a robotic tit.

I tried it, once. Its like having sex wearing a condom made of bicycle inner tubes. No, not or me.

As some of you know, I am a heavy smoker and indeed somewhat heavy to boot.

I glory in smoking serious quantities of the glorious pipe weed. Made for me by skilled tobacco blenders in Cumbria who with ancient arts also mill the finest snuff.

Snuff. taken in moderation, a superb prophylactic against all manner of airborne infection and a comfort when unable to light the old pipe.

Snuff, the secret weapon against the health fascists. Also, sad to say littered with health warnings and rather addictive.

So being fat and a smoker I am indeed an endangered specie.

Looking back at those days depicted in the old photographs I wonder if any of those people puffing then miss the weed at all.

Probably not, Isobel who gave up 15 years ago says she never does as do others I have asked.

But to you, dear reader, I have one question you might wish to ponder on.

Where have all the ashtrays gone?

Are they in boxes and crates in charity shops throughout the civilised, smoke free, world, or are they in some other dimension waiting, waiting till one day in centuries to come when ‘Thank you for not smoking’ signs will be consigned to history and humankind lights up once more.

A conundrum that I shall ponder on as I light a good briar pipe, filled with a fine Virginia leaf, and gently dream those pipe dreams beloved by the old and gently content.

11 thoughts on “Musings before the convention.

  1. All true. I’m a pipe smoker, a habit passed on by my Father who passed away from the embuggerance earlier this year. Of all the indignities that the cursed disease inflicted on him, the worst in my eyes was seeing him forget that he smoked a pipe. There is barely a handful of pictures of him without one of his many pipes. And even given that he was a Doctor, he still advocated the positive benefits of smoking a pipe.


  2. I had an ashtray nearly the size of my coffee table — I only had to empty it about once a week, even given my 3-pack a day habit. It was an ‘orrible thing of green glass, never properly cleaned. As I lived next to the police station I gloried also in smoking something illegal and blowing the smoke out my window at their wall. That was about the extent of my criminality though. However, unlike some, I don’t miss any of the vile weeds.


  3. The smell of pipe tobacco is one I still find comforting though I have never been a smoker. It reminds me of my childhood – my grandfather was a pipe smoker – Players Navy Cut. I remember sitting in the corner at my grandparents searching the bin for empty tins to be taken home for my father to use as storage tins for his nails and screws and stuff. And there were the Saturday afternoons when all you would see of Grandad was him sat in front of the World of Sport watching the wrestling and puffing away on the pipe – happy memories


  4. Aren’t those e-cigarette things boring – I’m surprised someone hasn’t made one designed to look like a pipe. It doesn’t have to look like a meerschaum or a Petersen – even something as simple as the old Newhaven would look better than those chrome and anodised monstrosities.
    Still love the smell of a good cavendish. Do I miss it? Oh yes – till I look at the scars…

    p.s. just to satisfy an old(er) man’s curiosity – boxers or b**l-stranglers and are they colour coordinated?


  5. To throughly misquote a certain Master Adams, all the ashtrays have quietly slipped through wormholes in the fabric of space and time and ended up on a planet entirely populated by their kind. I am intending on finding it and becoming a taxi driver for a while to learn their wisdom, and possibly their wit before returning to Earth and being sectioned.


  6. The aroma of pipe tobacco is almost a forgotten scent. I recall it in my fondest memories of my father. Even the smell of a cigar brings back haunting memories. He has sadly passed away but whenever I smell these aromas I think of him. I am a smoker and have found solice in the outdoor space that is our garden. This is right and good as my daughter (all grown up) doesn’t smoke, so I take a puff of nicotine outside in the fresh air. Better that than not smoking anywhere x


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