And it hasn't been very easy.
I've smoked since I was fifteen, and although I've never tried to give up before I have cut down substantially over the years. For the last couple of years I’ve been smoking a couple of times a week when I’ve had a drink, although when I drank I practically chain smoked. Last year I'd started having a few fags in the evening as well. I started to develop a constant cough, which got really bad if I was smoking. My best mate gave up in the summer, so I decided to as well, but I decided to wait until New Year.
I gave up drinking for the first couple of weeks as well in the hope that this would help. It did a bit, but the first Friday night without fags was still pretty unbearable, with the added misery of not being able to sleep, something I wasn’t expecting.
The following night I did something I don’t normally do unless I’ve had a few drinks and am feeling relaxed – I stoked my bong with a bit of weed and smoked that. It was an amazing help. For the rest of the evening until I went to bed – probably about four or five hours – I didn’t want a cigarette at all. This from one bong with less than half a spliff’s worth of cannabis in it. Another reason it’s a wonder drug.
These occasional bongs helped me through the first month. I’m not a social cannabis smoker though because it tends to make me a bit withdrawn, so drinking round at friends’ houses or down the pub was becoming a bit of a problem as I couldn’t rely on getting a bit stoned to take away the cravings. A couple of weeks ago a bought a nicotine inhalator which has helped a little as well, though it’s a bit embarrassing puffing away on one in the pub.
I was out in Clerkenwell with some new friends on Saturday night and had a pretty crap time. For the first three hours all I could think about was smoking and fags, I was totally distracted just sat there puffing furiously at my fake plastic fag. It was all a bit embarrassing and I nearly cracked and had a cigarette, it was all just too miserable for words. Then suddenly, as I reached a certain level of drunkenness, it all lifted and I felt like I didn’t need one. I think I might have turned a corner.
So anyway, it’s really hard and I hate it but I’ve been on various types of drugs and not smoked, been down the pub countless times and not smoked, done two months without a fag, I might be puffing on a crap plastic fag like a twat and running off home at the end of the night for a bong, but I haven’t smoked and I’m pretty pleased with myself.
Read David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet for the second time in time for the Channel 4 dramatisation at the beginning of March. The books are 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1983, although 1977 isn’t being filmed for budgetary reasons – I suspect they decided to skip that one because it has some difficult racial stuff in it, with the “heroes” being very much of their time by being racist too.
The books are set in Leeds and West Yorkshire in the titular years, and are very broadly fictionalisations of the Yorkshire Ripper murders, the premise being that the real-life rumours that there was a second serial killer operating at the time are tied in with police corruption and murky links between organized crime and prostitution, with the police murdering prostitutes and covering it up with the Ripper killings.
I originally read Peace’s books when they came out and were a bit of a cult thing in Leeds, and was actually pretty blown away. They’re stylish, strange and very, very grim, perhaps even more so than you’d think from the subject matter, being concerned with the oppressive atmosphere of the north at the time as well as the crime thriller subject matter.
Since then he’s deservedly gone on to become very well respected with a film dramatisation of what I think is his best book, the Damned United, due out soon as well – though that seems to have been converted into a twee shite comedy rather than the ‘this is how it feels being trapped in Brian Clough’s nervous breakdown’ feel of the book.
Reading them again has been very rewarding. Their dense style is opaque and difficult at times, deliberately so because it isn’t meant to be clear who is doing what, but on second reading I got a much better sense of what is going on. I think this could make for a successful TV adaptation as well by uncovering what is actually a strong narrative underlying the rapid, dialogue heavy confusion. My only fear is that they’ll shy away from the appalling attitudes to women on display, as showing how badly prostitutes were treated back then is probably the quartet’s greatest strength.
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