Smoking is bad for you

My recently retired pundit’s story of self harm through smoking without inhaling reminds me of the time I was almost responsible for the death of a friend, his girlfriend and myself.

We were en route to a superb Ian Dury and The Blockheads concert at the Hammersmith Apollo. At the time, my friend was a roving Mr Fix-It for a posh kitchen company, so whilst he and the object of his affections rode in the front of his van, I travelled to the gig lying on top of a pile of kitchen worktops in the back of the van. Despite this and the fact that the other two were non-smokers, I decided that I couldn’t last the journey without a smoke. So, whilst tearing along the M25 (London’s infamous orbital motorway), I lay back and puffed away. Amidst stage coughs and muttered complaints, my friend opened the driver’s window to allow the fug to escape. Once I smoked the cigarette down to the butt, I rolled over and, with a deft much practised one-handed movement, flicked the butt out of the window. However, rather than being sucked into the racing vortex of air passing by the van and disappearing into the distance, the glowing stub simply ‘bounced’ of the slipstream outside the window and neatly dropped between my friend’s legs. With burning embers threatening his crown jewels, he instinctively tried to remove them from their vicinity by raising himself off the seat. In order to do this, he unthinkingly moved his weight onto his shoulder blades against the seat back and his feet against the pedals. The van shot forward, lurching and revving wildly whilst friend and squeeze both tried to sweep the butt to the floor. They eventually managed to do this and he brought the van to a screeching halt on the hard shoulder. For some reason, I was held to blame for this incident despite the quite obvious contribution of the prevailing environmental conditions at the time. Pulse rates back to normal, we resumed the journey and enjoyed an absolutely brilliant gig – one of the best I have been to – during which my friend even spoke to me once or twice. The evening was also notable for another reason in that I had a stand-up row at the bar with the (piss) artist Peter Blake, the inspiration for Dury’s Peter The Painter on the 1984 4,000 Weeks Holiday album, who was holding court at the bar in the interval. He and his entourage were more than a little sniffy about having to rub shoulders with us proles so I saw it as my duty to tell him where to get off, as you do.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that I went home on the Tube, which one could smoke on in those days.

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