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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Why I loved the smell of smoking

I grew up in Africa. When I was two, my mother and father placed me in an orphanage as they were called in those days, and went off to America for a year to further their careers, My sister was farmed out to a family friend, whose children were about the same age as my sister, and who bullied and persecuted her shamefully. It seems she might have had a worse time than I did.

Granny and Grandpa ran The YMCA in the city near us. It was housed in a truly wonderful Victorian building with a vast elegant stairway with thick curled wood banisters polished to a gleaming shine by years of stroking hands. The stairs led up from the foyer to the pool rooms, meeting rooms and smoking rooms upstairs. And also, Granny and Grandpa's quarters.

On the weekends, Granny and Grandpa would fetch me from the orphanage (of which I remember nothing) and bring me to stay with them overnight. I think it must have been overnight sometimes, because I can remember lying in a very small bed next to a wall through which came the sound of pool balls clicking and dropping into pockets and men laughing.

But what stands out in my memory was the wonderful delight of going up the marvelous stairs and smelling the fragrance of cigarette smoke, pipe smoke and cigars and knowing I was home.

It was delicious!

And it was NOTHING like the smell of today's smoking. My memory comes from about 1946 before the habit of smoking was meddled with by Big Tobacco or Anti Tobacco.