Nearly A Decade As An Ex-Smoker

Every year, I approach this anniversary, often tentatively, as if I don’t quite believe it.

To place things in context, I smoked from a young age, despite my initial aversion. Within a few years, I became a chain-smoker and would smoke between forty and sixty a day, often late at night. I smoked through flu and pneumonia.

I made countless attempts to quit but always relapsed, especially on the problematic third day – the most challenging day for people hoping to quit. I believed I would never succeed in stopping as I couldn’t imagine life without cigarettes.

I particularly liked the smell of cigarettes, the acrid taste, the sensation of the smoke in my throat, even when I couldn’t stop coughing. For me, the habit wasn’t disgusting, just addictive and costly, financially.

Nearly ten years ago, a practice nurse carried out tests and informed me that my true lung age was significantly higher than my actual age. The comparison to old age really shocked and worried me. After agreeing on a quit smoking date, I spent a week smoking ceaselessly, in order to prepare mentally. I reached a point where I felt ready and in the early hours of Monday 23 July 2012, I smoked my final cigarette. I have never relapsed. No secret cigarette. No drag on a cigarette.

I should mention that I didn’t stop cold turkey. I used Nicorette as an aid, and I still do. Some people disagree strongly with the use of Nicorette, but I can only state that it worked for me. The smoke itself is dangerous. The chemicals. Not small amounts of nicotine that one gets from Nicorette.

In conclusion, I would make three points:

A person generally needs a strong reason for wanting to give up smoking, especially after years of addiction. I don’t believe the financial cost alone is a powerful enough reason.

For many, no smoking means never having a cigarette again, even socially. The idea of just-one-cigarette/then try-again rarely works.

Cravings usually become challenging, unbearably so, after 48 hours of smoking the last cigarette (ie the so-called “third day”).

Of course other ex-smokers will have their own methods and techniques. Not everyone will agree with my approach – but it has worked for me for nearly ten years and I expect it will continue to do so.

Till next time.

The Weeping House – Poetic Fiction

I went up with the cello,
steering the instrument around the staircase,
to my bedroom on the first floor.
I had the largest room in the house,
overlooking fields and orchards.
It had a mattress against the far wall in place of a bed,
a writing desk with ink stains and a scratched surface,
a chair with loose legs,
an old-fashioned chest of drawers in the corner.
The curtains matched the carpet in colour.
A shelf that…

I mustn’t remember the grey-white building that had stood secluded off a country lane.
An entrance door situated around the side.
Ivy sprouting from walls,
untidy, unmanageable.
Broken chimney pots in the driveway,
A staircase that creaked, even when no one used it.
The building stands in ruins now,
surrounded by gnarled tree trunks like a row of weeping gargoyles.

No, I don’t want to see that house again.
But I do, and I always will in my dreams.

From an old novel attempt

Guilt By Association – Short Writing Sample

He coughs, clears his throat. ‘As I see it, we have two options. The best thing would be going to the police. But if we did…well, think about it. You wouldn’t want to be driven out, would you?  You’re innocent in all this.’

She pictures the scene. Journalists surrounding them. Cameramen chasing them to the car.  A woman with a mop of unkempt grey hair snarling that she hopes they all rot, spittle flying from her lips.  Afterwards, they return to the village  – to the whispers, the sniggers, the social isolation.    ‘What’s the other option?’  

‘The other option?  You play their game.  You give the impression you want to comply.  You arrange contact, and that is where I come in.’

‘And what’s your plan?’

‘You would simply have to trust me – that’s if you choose the other option.’

On A Lighter Note

Hi – I’ve settled in at the new flat. Just three weeks have passed since friends helped me decorate, but the time feels much longer.

I’m enjoying playing the piano on a daily basis again and reading to relax in the evenings.

I have little to post at the moment – just this old digital photo of my favourite animals over the years. Something light. The animals pictured are generally delightful but naughty!

Till next time.

When I Was Homeless

When I was homeless
I felt lost at sea
stranded in the middle of an ocean
surrounded by water and hostile sky
sometimes a helicopter would approach from afar
the propeller rising in volume
– rescue at last
only for the helicopter to pass over
disappearing from sight
a week passed
then another
a month
six weeks
I still had nowhere to live
I stayed in cheap hotels
plundering my savings
each day fear lodged deep in my body
gnawing away as it promised ruin and destruction
My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? –
but I was too angry to ask this question
and I sensed I wouldn’t like the answer
finally –  after seven weeks – I found my new home

New Flat

As readers may know, I lost my previous flat due to a fire on the upper floor on Sunday March 6. Fortunately, I was out at the time but really struggled in the weeks following.

My New Home

After an eight-week crisis resulting from an electrical fire on March 8, I finally moved into a new Studio flat last week.

I’m pretty exhausted, but am relieved to have got my digital piano back.

Soon, I will blog again, instead of just posting updates.

Below I attach a photo of the new Studio.

Till next time!

Update: A Solution At Last!

As my readers will know, a fire broke out on the floor above my flat on Sunday 6 March, causing vast structural damage. As a result, I had to leave my flat due to safety and I found myself homeless.

Although I wasn’t present at the time of the fire and was later able to retrieve my belongings, I felt unable to cope with the prospect of ongoing displacement, especially as London rents have risen sharply over the past few years and finding alternative accommodation proved almost impossible.

I spent nearly eight weeks in hotels, struggling with acute panic attacks. During this time, my GP confirmed that I was suffering from PTSD.

To complicate matters, I even caught COVID, although I made a speedy recovery.

I’m pleased to announce that I signed a Tenancy Agreement today in a location close to my previous flat. Thank you for your thoughts and concern during this time,


Happy Easter

Things are still uncertain. As you may know, a fire destroyed the top floor of the building where I was living on Sunday 6 March. As a result of this, I lost my flat. Complexity arose in the days following; suffice it to say, I’m technically homeless and not covered by any insurance.

Add a short bout of COVID, and the stress levels went crazy. I made a speedy recovery though.

Wishing everyone a good and peaceful and reflective Easter.