Byron Rogers

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Byron Rogers

Holy smoke | 22 May 2010

I have seen the last of the things that are gone, brooded the poet Padraic Colum. But then so have we all. We have seen them clustered outside the plate-glass doors of offices or under the flapping canvas awnings ouside pubs, these last irreconcilables inhaling in the wind and rain. And the crazy thing is that they are acquiring a tattered dignity, which presumably was the last thing the authorities and the doctors thought would result when they got their ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces. But what happens when their ranks thin, when eventually just one is left, as the last old Jacobite was left in some Paris café? Will our descendants need footnotes to appreciate the touching little human drama of the night Princess Margaret stubbed her fag out in the Papal Nuncio’s steak? Will they puzzle over the post-coital smoke (which the American columnist Florence King said was the thing she missed most about sex), or the cigarette denied a Texas prisoner as his last request before execution, as this was considered bad for his health? Will they just accept that or see it as the blackest of black humour? The young already need glossaries to understand coffin nails and gaspers; they need to have the kindness of Woodbine Willy explained, the vicar who moved through the Trenches distributing fags; and as for jokes involving the slogans ‘cool as a mountain stream’ or ‘You’re never alone with a Strand’, a campaign which failed as punters actually came to associate the brand with loneliness, they just look on blankly.

Holy smoke | 22 May 2010

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