In praise of… pipe smoke

Published on 8 Mar 2010

Time passes and many things fade.

Whither, for example, pipe smoke? I used to love the smell of it in the crowd at evening football matches. Such a sweet and mellow aroma.

They say smell is the sense that can best transport you back in memory. So it’s a shame the smell of pipe smoke is so rare now.

Until recently, the occasional whiff would transport me back instantly to a world of horse dung and public hangings. Hang on, that wasn’t me, that was my grandfather. But, you know what I mean: inhale deeply and you’ll get the picture.

For a while, when I got older, I affected to smoke a pipe. My father had taken to smoking one, and it seemed to calm him down and give him a more realistic perspective on life.

Certainly, he never went morris-dancing on the streets of Leith again, though that may have had more to with the final beating he received at the hands of an angry crowd.

For my part, I felt calm and vaguely intellectual when I puffed my Peterson. I even wrote a feature article, in which I claimed the practice was catching on among young people.

It must have been in the days before the Press Complaints Commission. Even I didn’t believe it, but it had what used to be called “an angle”.

My pipe-smoking ended one day when I came home from work stressed out. Once again, the head had come off my brush.

I sat down to smoke my pipe, hoping to relax. But the damned thing wouldn’t light and eventually, like the angry man in Chewin’ The Fat, I hurled it across the room and it smashed.

I’d taken up the thing to relax, and it had nearly given me a stroke. I never smoked a pipe again. But I miss that sweet and mellow smell.

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