Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

by , October 9, 2008

Walking up the river side in doom and gloom I got a flashback as the second hand smoke found my lungs with every pace.

Yes I was once a nicotine slave inhaling from a Park Drive Plain or a roll up of the finest golden Virginia or dark Kentucky tobacco leaf. The first toke of a coughing nail after a meal or on surfacing the mine was worth the risks involved.

Failing that I always had a chew of bacca burning and numbing my mouth to keep me hard at it with shovel and pick. A John Wayne spit to keep the juice from going down my throat and retrieving heartburn of the fiercest. Snuff was nasally inhaled during the shift, clearing and incidentally blocking my nasal passages

Smoking was a part of matchdays before I dared to try a drag. My dad would always have his Park Drives in his jacket pocket at the ready and the crowd around us in the Trent End of the 60’s kept the air cobalt and hazy as they enjoyed a break from the attacks of Baker and Wignall or the excitement of a Storey-Moore run toward the opposition. The old Trent Enders will tell you tales of getting home and finding someone else’s fags in their jacket pocket ! I must admit I liked the aroma of St Bruno pipe smoke which was dotted about in the City Ground on matchdays and the seasonal cigar fumes around Boxing Day. St Bruno, to this day reminds me firstly of my granddad Harry Peach from St Annes on Martin Street when we used to visit, he was the only pipe smoker in the whole family until I dabbled unsuccessfully some years later. I guess a pipe smoker in the old terrace days would have had to have employed a Sherlock Holmes Calabash with the hook shape in case there was a surge forward and just the chimney bit was protruding.

As a cigarette smoker I had the procedure sorted. I would keep my flip top 20 packet in one top pocket of my Levi denim jacket pocket and the other one for a lighter. No matter how jam packed we were I could do the whole process with one hand. I also learned to be courteous by blowing smoke sideways to miss the annoying health freak. Yes anyone who didn’t smoke back in the day was looked upon as some kind of weirdo; What, down at Forest match and worrying about your health?

When a match became exhilarating or even boring the idea of a smoke was welcome. The physiological effect of inhaling vaporised gas gives an immediate ‘high’ similar to endorphins (I am told). Then the mild stimulus of the nicotine to keep the experience pleasant and addictive. It does nothing to the result of the game though. I omit the danger it is causing to your health as well, which is scary when you go into it.

The check before leaving our house on matchdays used to be money, season ticket, fags; I knew immediately if one of the three was missing and stopped in my tracks. I must have at least 15 fags to cover my needs pre match and during the 90 minutes; less than 15 and I am visualising the shops or pubs along the route which I can visit for an emergency purchase. Back in the day when Players No6 were my choice. A Nottingham fag for a Nottingham supporter , how loyal can you get? Drinking Shipstones or Home Brewery I suppose before a game. Most of our gang smoked and the others like many on the terracing never complained, it was part and parcel of a game.

Now away matches were slightly different. You could sometimes struggle to get a Player no6 cigarette down the Smoke (aptly nicknamed London). There’s nothing worse than a boring game at Craven Cottage with only a Marlborough to smoke; they didn’t half make my throat sore the next day and cost the earth. I and many others in the 1970’s ignored the ever increasing warnings on smoking and never visualised a Forest match without a fag or ten. But even then they stopped smoking downstairs on busses and split the picture houses into ‘smoking and non smoking’ You could even find non-smoking areas in restaurants! I tasty steak and chips with a pint of bitter and then a fag to finish it all off; who on earth would want to stop that?

It appeared I had mates who now owned cars who didn’t like smoking in their pride and joy. We went to Wembley ’79 with a convoy of cars from Annesley and Johnny Cumbo wouldn’t allow smoking in his Ford Capri. The two backseat passengers had to wait until the Watford Gap Motorway services for their first fag since Junction 27 of the M1. Chango and Dobbin had climbed over the front seat as soon as the car stopped both with a fag ready to light. It didn’t help as we passed from time to time and I lit one up to show what they were missing; thanks to Rube (our driver) who just put up with us smokers, he was anything for a peaceful life at times.

It fell back on me in later years as we went the same route to Wembley 1991 for the FA Cup final. Keith Stanley an ex smoker and Pete Bignall the driver didn’t smoke but Dave Simpson and me occupying the back seat were ‘roll up’ men. I had turned to rolling my own fags after visits to Amsterdam and Cologne where Drum and Samson rolling tobaccos ruled. Pete said if we had to smoke then it was OK, we thought he doesn’t really mean that. But now I was a car owner and realised how tobacco fumes stink a car out real bad. We decided to resist the temptation and stick it out although the nerves were high on cup final day. We did do two each at the services, I feared I had rolled the first one too tight in high anxiety and I was drawing my shirt lap up my arse trying to get a hit of nicotine. Simpo (Dave Simpson) was making me jumpy by continuously getting his tobacco pouch and papers out threatening to roll a smoke, he would keep looking at his watch and counting the M1Junctions. Simpo was either desperate to get a smoke or just aggravating by making me as bad . I could have murdered a chew of bacca now and wondered if we had a spittoon then just maybe……. no we might splash back on the upholstery. Snuff could have given us the same but it was messy and for me only used down the pit.

A few years later when all seater stadiums including ours were encouraging non smoking areas. I said “I’ve been coming down here for a lot of years and damned sure I’m not moving ‘cos some health department want no smoking!” were they when we were only getting 8 to 10 thousand in the old Second Division watching the class of Sammy Chapman, John Galley and Miah Dennehy? You had to walk five yards to cadge a light.

So long after growing up I became an adult and stopped smoking. I did get annoyed from time to time when a smoker sat near me; I held back with the reformed ex smoker (holier than thou) attitude as I sympathised with their habit. Now the City Ground and many public places are smoker free and I must admit I like it. In a way I miss the second hand smoke but I wouldn’t turn the clock back; and future generations smoking in public will all be history.

But it sure seems like I’ve had twenty Park Drives after a walk up the Trent side after a game to remind me.

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