About this blog
This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.
Friday, 29 July 2011
WEEK 30--Buying Cigars
Another genuine first: I have never bought cigars before in my life. And here's where I bought them. The Chocolate Box in Walsall. When we lived in Walsall my sons were always amused by the idea of a sweet shop with a dental practice upstairs. Were they in cahoots?
I have vivid memories of trips to the dentist in Walsall, before I learnt not to take my small sons with me when I was having a check-up. I was powerless to repress them with my mouth crammed with surgical steel and latex-clad fingers, and was forced to lie there as the older one ran through his 007 impersonations. 'Do you expect me to talk? No, Mr Bond, I expect you to DIE! Mwa-ha-ha!' The younger one kept up a stream of observations and artless questions: 'Cool! blood! Are you going to drill her heart?' The dentist squeaked rather huffily*, 'No, I am not going to drill her heart!'
But back to cigar buying. I felt incredibly furtive as I approached the shop. Was I going to bail out and buy a quarter of aniseed balls, like blushing young men in a bygone era exiting chemists with tubes of toothpaste instead of condoms? To understand my furtiveness, you need to remember you can take the girl out of the manse, but you can't take the manse out of the girl. I don't think I've felt this furtive since I was six, and cadged half a tube of coral lipstick from a friend, then hid it under the box tree in the garden. I still remember the smell of it.
Oddly enough, I have bought cigarettes before, from this very tobacconist's in fact. But they were a prop for a murder mystery party. I was a Russian countess, and obviously I needed some pastel-coloured Sobranie cocktail cigarettes to pose with. I never smoked them. The cigars I fully intend to smoke (though not inhale). Hence the furtiveness. Coupled with that English affliction: the fear of making a fool of myself in a shop by not knowing what I was doing. Do you buy them by the tin, or by the dozen? Or do they come in twenties? Was the correct term actually cigarillos?
Oh Catherine, why oh why, when SMOKING SERIOUSLY HARMS YOU AND OTHERS AROUND YOU? Basically, because I always feel left out on holiday when the menfolk of my immediate family sit on the balcony puffing their fat cigars. I shall sit there and puff my thin cigars. Or quite possibly, let them burn languidly between my fingers. This is, after all, 'the world's favourite everyday pleasure'. It says so on the tin. (As far as possible from the picture of a man's throat horribly devoured by cancer.)
Yes, I know I could have bought them in a French tobacconist, but I was consumed by the following possible scenario: me requesting 'Cafe creme' and ending up with a cup of coffee, which I'd then have to drink, because I don't know the gender for cigar, and Grammar School girls don't like to make linguistic blunders; would rather not communicate at all. I'd then emerge from the shop and have to lie to my family and say I'd changed my mind, because I'd be incapable of admitting my ridiculous tongue-tied English anguish.
I confess, I love the smell of tobacco. I'm sitting here sniffing the tin. My current favourite perfume is 'Cuba' by Czech & Speake. It is not the easiest fragrance to love, perhaps. You can read the thumbs-down reviews on the perfume website Basenotes (http://www.basenotes.net) But here's the blurb from the Czech&Speake website:
Inspired by the old town of Havana, its Latin rhythms, smooth cigars, fine rums and exotic beauties, this fragrance bursts into life with the initial top notes of bergamot, lime, peppermint and a hint of rum. Layered with a melange of spicy and floral middle notes, mainly rose, clove and bay, Tonka beans add a subtle softness. The lasting base notes of tobacco mixed with the richness of frankincense, cedar wood and vetiver round off this striking fragrance.
Gosh, I need a little lie down after that. And maybe a cigar.
*A JKR tribute sentence, there. (Observed Hermione cattily.)