That’s the title of a book I read a year or two ago; a paean to cigarettes written by someone as a prelude to giving them up. Full of descriptions of the pleasures of smoking and vignettes of well-known literary and artistic smokers, it had of course the opposite effect on me. But following the recent trauma of a haemopneumothorax and the horrific hospital treatment needed, I’m making some effort to reduce my smoking. By dint of giving all my cigarettes to a couple of friends, with instructions to bring me one or two several times a day, I’ve got it down from 25 – 30 a day to 10 – 12. Much of the time it’s a matter of having a cigarette on the desk beside me, and saying to myself ‘No, I won’t smoke it yet; I’ll wait until the next cup of tea or shot of ouzo.’ This ability to defer a pleasure is generally regarded as a sign of maturity, of grown-upness. But I don’t actually rate grown-upness at all highly: I find the spontaneity, the lust for immediate gratification, of the very young far more attractive. Still, so far I’m not doing badly, but then I’m still feeling weak and fragile; I fear it may creep up again when I’m feeling better.
Now seems a good time to express my heartfelt thanks to the many people who have given me the benefit of their advice — usually in the form of a long highly didactic lecture that brooks no interruption — on exactly how to give up smoking. It really is most generous of these people to offer — no, to press upon me — their help, especially as in not one single case did I have to go to the trouble of actually asking for their valuable opinion.