I’ll give this to my Mum: She was a bloody good smoker. I mean seriously great. Imagine this: a woman who for at least 40 years lay back in the bathtub every night, much like Cleopatra waiting for a denuded grape, dragging back enthusiastically on a Winfield Red, reading a mag, ashing precisely into her special bathroom ashtray. And staying there FOR HOURS. She had immense skill in the smoking-in-the-bath arena: She never dropped an ash, never upended the ashtray and her hands remained freakishly dry the entire time.
My whole childhood is filled with smoking. I remember cups of steaming instant black coffee and ciggies with a distinctive ring of red lipstick (‘It shows you care‘, she’d lecture). I remember the times she’d duck out for a fag with fellow conspirators during speech day at the boarding school I went to. On long car trips, the windows would remain steadfastly UP so her hair didn’t get messed up – we’d sit there in the fug, oblivious to the impact of secondary smoke on our pre-teen lungs.
She once pranged our new-ish Ford Falcon on her way to work at the local hospital after a particularly vigorous fit of coughing. She’d get me to light up for her in the car (this after she found out I was sneaking the odd durrie anyway). I think she smoked through her pregnancy with me, although she quit for my sister five years later.
Like most kids in the 70s, I'd trot down to the local shop to buy cigarettes for her - mum started on Ardath, then switched to Winnie Reds. 'Bumhole', who own the shop, never asked who the packet was for; he knew mum was a smoker and besides, the laws around smoking were pretty much non-existent back in those days.