Well, worra night! Well, worra day, actually! National No Smoking Day in good old Blighty. Nobody on the show had ever smoked so it fell to me – ex-addict – to reveal the truth giving up the weed. My daughter, now 20, was about four.
I had had a fairy dress made for her by the wardrobe assisstant at LWT. My mother paid. He had copied the dress faithfully from a Royal Ballet costume. Little did we know that the man would charge us Royal Opera House prices for stitching together some pieces of net and a handful of sequins. My mother coughed up £200 – the equivalent of the whole chorus line’s wages in Swan Lake. That’s about £800 in the 21st century. If you’re reading this in the USA, about $1600.
Bethy looked beautiful and ethereal in her pink dress. (I had another one made – a copy from Carmen. I must have been mad as the child didn’t even do ballet.) I then wandered past her puffing on me roll-up when she asked me a question. Ever the attentive mother, I bent down to talk to her and burnt a perfectly formed round hole in her pink puffy skirt. Had I stopped for longer she, and the dress, would have gone up in smoke.
So horrified was I at the near incineration of my daughter and her expensive outfit that I agreed to be hypnotised, on telly, for an anti-smoking film. The crew came to my cottage and we inserted links where I, in turn, beseeched and berated the smoking public to stub it out. I was then packed (if you’ll forgive the pun) off to a posh Danish hypnotist, a Doctor Pederson, who sat me down in front of the cameras at 4.00 sharp.
He put me under and asked me to think of something lovely from my childhood. When that failed he asked me to think of something lovely from my teens, which was a little easier. Then he asked to write my name (under hypnosis, remember) which I did. ‘Jennifear’ came out! Then he appealed to the side of my brain that felt guilty about practically setting my child alight and before you could say ‘pass me the ashtray’, I’d quit.
I left his consulting rooms at 4.50 a total non-smoker. He said whatever the circumstances were in the future, I would never go for a smoke again – and he was right. That must be at least 16 years ago now. Bethy’s pretty pink dress hangs in the wardrobe next to my Aunty Becky’s illegal fur coat, my two-piece blue and white French marriage outfit and a cape I bought from under the arches in Charing Cross. If an alien came to my house, they would think a person of restricted growth with very bad taste lived in the house along with a Native American shamen with an equally appalling dress sense.
Only a smoker could have told that tale. Let’s face it, non-smokers do tend to be lousy raconteurs. That said, the non-smokers on today’s show were lovely. Delightful nutritional therapist Glen Matten recommended foods to help us stop being agrieved, aggressive and generally irritable without nicotine. They included mackeral, goji berries and crushed nuts.
Ching he Heuang made a blissful tofu stir fry with so much chili that the taste would encourage the tongue to wag it’s finger at any invading nicotine. And Andrew Nutter made both ‘magic mountain’ salmon and lemon curd cheesecake. Magic mountain is a cross between mint and basil. It was shockingly good. The cheesecake – with its base of custard creams – was evil. Ching, who looks like a ming dolly, nibbled on her custard cream with the delicacy of a porcelain Geisha, while I scoffed mine in two bites with the indelicacy of a China Geezer. Still, each to their own. She’s very Zen, unlike me who’s more motorbike maintenance.
After the show I jumped on the 239 bus for my second tube journey of the week. I swear the seats are smaller, or maybe my bum is bigger, but I got to Old Street this time, just in time to hug my personal trainer and then lie on the couch for my new physio. God, she don’t half hurt me. Then I met my daughter in a bar. She drank. I listened. She talked about men. I drank. Then we had a Vietnamese meal. I rolled out of the restaurant back onto the tube, where the seats, I swear, felt even smaller, finally arriving home just in time for the ten o’clock news. Something was happening somewhere in the world but I turned it off – it was all a little too depressing.
Then I read an email from a little girl who went into a barber shop. She was eating a blueberry cake. The barber told her to move away. ‘Be careful’, he said, ‘You’re going to get hair on your muffin’. ‘I know’, said the little girl, ‘and my boobs are going to grow too.’
Sorry, I think it’s the MSG talking. C U 2morrer.