... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Tuesday 2 February 2021


No one smokes in your house any more. Many smokers don't even smoke in their own home, so used have we become, in a few short years, to the idea of smoking as an outdoor activity: no longer luxury, but penance.  The image now is of smokers huddled, not stretched out in an armchair; huddled and furtive, pleasure eclipsed by guilt. This is something that has been done to us lately - our earthly, our most personal pleasures: food, drink ... love - have been sullied and seeded with guilt.

So there is not much call, these days, for ashtrays.

When I was a child though, ashtrays were an important part of life. My mothers, mock cut-glass, festooned with Players No. 6 filter tips, my fathers, brass, littered with untipped Woodbine dog ends. The photo at the top isn't my mother's ashtray, but one that lived on my father's table and was never used. The one he did use is now in Chertsey's back cabin, serving as decorative brassware.

We used fag ash and spit to clean silver (it works). We learnt never to empty an ashtray until the following morning, to be sure it was cold. Ashtrays were the last thing to go into the washing up water, after the cat dishes, to scrape off the tarry, dusty residue with a stiff brush. Ashtrays were dirty, and dangerous, but at the same time an everyday part of life.

My parents were both heavy smokers, but at the same time warned us very strongly against the habit. I understood the concept of addiction from a very early age. Neither my sister or I ever smoked, but while she grew up into a zealous anti-smoker, I have always retained a fondness for it, and a certain respect - admiration, even - for those who do what I don't dare to. I don't mind second hand smoke, and if a smoker visits me, I'll offer them that ashtray. But they'll insist on going outside, to do their penance.

Cups of tea so far this February: 22
Online meetings so far this February: 7

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