Mark Solomons

For my 60th birthday, I’m taking up smoking

It's a selfish, unhealthy decision – and a joyous, life-affirming one

  • From Spectator Life
[Alamy]

Next month I will be 60. It’s an unwelcome landmark birthday as far as I’m concerned but they say that taking up a new hobby or pastime is a good way to combat the advances of old age. So I’ve decided to take up smoking.

It was either that or something physical such as cycling or jogging or walking football but, to quote Ronnie Barker in Porridge: ‘What, with these feet?’ Besides, older cyclists look ridiculous, serious runners tend to look ten years older than they really are and as for walking football… what’s the point? No, smoking is easier, more pleasurable, more relaxing and even allows me to multi-task. I can enjoy a Camel Blue while birdwatching, walking the dog or listening to Northern Soul – all of which I also plan to do more of in my sixties.

I do not intend to go back to the 20-a-day habit of my youth but there are certain times when a cigarette really hits the spot – such as before and after seeing Spurs lose, outside the pub on a summer’s evening or outside a bar in pretty much every other European country where there is a more relaxed attitude to the habit than here.

On a recent weekend break to Spain I watched happy locals chattering and laughing outside bars in Cordoba and Granada with a beer or wine in one hand and cigarette in the other and realised this is what I wanted. In Frankfurt, for a football match, I joined the throngs on the concourse and politely asked a policeman if it was okay to smoke. He obviously thought it was a stupid question and replied: ‘Yes, of course, this is Germany.’

I should point out I’m an ex-smoker rather than a novice. I blame the fact that I’m Jewish and turned 13 in the mid-1970s, so it was a year of bar mitzvah functions where it was customary to have a round ‘party’ tub of John Player Special cigarettes in the middle of each table.

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