I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Monday, March 02, 2015


My Australian son-in-law recently emailed me on the subject of pipe smoking. He is not a frequent smoker, liking a good cigar about once a month for relaxation. Perhaps he relates to Kipling's view of the subject, "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke". He thought he would try a pipe and knowing that I once smoked them he asked advice about keeping the things alight. (The difference between a cold filling and a furnace which burnt the tongue).

I never smoked them to excess (and never smoked cigarettes), but enjoyed the relaxation and meditation of an occasional smoke. Gold Block tobacco was my preferred filling and the smoke's fragrance still brings back memories. (not often smelt these days though). About 35 years ago, one Christmas, I found I had run out of tobacco and never bought any more. Thus I gave up with no withdrawal symptoms, but preserved my pipes and paraphernalia as a memory (see image above - my favourite pipe being the one at the "south west" position). It was one reason for using the "Gandalf" self - image at my blog head.

I have no regrets. An old work colleague of mine smoked a pipe incessantly, it was seldom out of his mouth. He used to say that it was a marvellous ploy, when confronted with a difficult question, to gain thinking time by filling/ lighting/smoking the pipe, looking ruminative and sagacious. He died at 70, painfully, with cancer of the tongue after suffering operations to cut away most of his cancerous stomach - all caused by the lethal "dottle" which he imbibed over a lifetime.

Churchill smoked 8-10 large Cuban cigars a day throughout his life, but seldom smoked them more than half way (a good habit since the stubs through which the smoke has filtered contained concentrated carcinogens), giving the stubs to his gardener.  He lived to over 90 - his gardener died of lung cancer, but Churchill's constitution was not as other men's.

My advice is "never take it up".


Tom said...

Your picture of your set of pipes could almost have been taken out of my memory banks. Like you, Gold Block was a favourite of mine, until I found I needed something ever stronger.

When I stopped (Dec. 1990 - I record all milestones in my life) it was followed by six months of withdrawal hell. How anyone could imbibe dottle is beyond me, except for the occasional mistaken intake.

I agree wholeheartedly with your final advice.

Avus said...

It was pleasant at the time, Tom, but glad I gave it up. It was not a conscious decision and I have always been surprised at the complete lack of withdrawal symptoms - must have been lucky or did not smoke regularly.

The Crow said...

Your post has stirred some pleasant (and one not so pleasant) memories from my childhood, Avus.

My father was a Lucky Strikes man most of the time, but he liked an occasional pipe in the evenings of fall and winter months. I don't know the brand (I think he got it from a smoke shop where tobacco blends were fashioned by the owner) but it smelled of warm sweet bourbon.

His pipes were sacrosanct, as I discovered when I was about seven years of age and used a ratty looking one to blow soap bubbles. The ratty looking one was his favorite, was broken in just as he liked it, the bowl tempered with oils from tobacco - which the soap removed.

What does a seven-year-old know?

The Crow said...

PS: I'm drawn to the one at 6 o'clock.

Avus said...

A delightful memory. The "six o'clock" pipe was bought for its looks but was the worst of the bunch for smoking. It was made of clay and always burnt hot - I did not use it much.

Roderick Robinson said...

All very well saying don't take it up; far better to explore why anyone (and in particular - you) would ever be tempted to do so. Looked at from the outside it appears as a very strange, fruitless, deliberately ostentatious activity.

However to mean anything such an exploration must be profoundly honest. One typical justification is "peer pressure" but this is only skimming the surface.

Take your statement "enjoyed the relaxation and meditation of an occasional smoke". Could this be interpreted as an incapacity to relax or meditate without smoking? If so, this might be proof of a significant psychological defect. That you were predestined to smoke.

Another query: smoking is often conducted among people who actively dislike the practice and may even be sickened by it. How does the smoker reconcile what he's doing with such potential animosity?

But these are just a couple of questions among many. What does smoking say about the smoker and does this matter? Are smokers, by definition, weak minded? And so on.

The only half-honest statement about smoking I have read was by Evelyn Waugh: he liked the "swagger" cigars provided. But then this raises further questions. And the first, knee-jerk answers rarely get anwyhere close to the truth.

Also I'm well aware that I'm regarded as a Puritan blue-nose for even raising these points.

Avus said...


"this might be proof of a significant psychological defect"

I think you have hit the nail on the head!

Isabelle said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your stroke and hope that you make a good recovery. It must be very frustrating to be somewhat incapacitated.

Avus said...

Thank you for visiting and for your kind words.