Home at 11.30 on a school night, sniffing my coat. It’s been a good few months since I last let a cigarette pass my lips. Tonight’s a school night, a strange night to jump off the nicotine wagon, but conversation was deep and my companion had Marlborough Reds. There’s nothing beneficial about smoking, not one bit.

Perhaps a temporary relief of stress, or a short-term substitute for another vice, but ultimately each cigarette is a minor health hazard. Booze is different (I telly myself), especially beer. Tonight both feel good, regardless of the facts. Each over-zealous drag is a rebellion against the toils of everyday, against The Norm and all its nagging restrictions. Each gulp is two fingers to the meetings in the diary and the moaners moaning about their moronic new year resolutions. We don’t let fiscal concerns or our Tuesday morning alarms constrain our smoking or our weeknight drinking. We have plenty to discuss: from the finer arts of Thierry Henry’s cool finishing to the inner torments of cyclical depression. We touch on the genetic susceptibility to alcohol abuse as I bring back alcohol heavy American IPAs from the bar. Putting the world to rights demands concentration, at least two cigarettes (or was it three?), a robust beer and somewhere warm to sit. And then, just as we get onto the interesting stuff (who was fit from school, or uni or long forgotten workplaces) the science hits me. The protracted but relaxing inhale becomes a forceful, lingering exhale as my mind beats the spell. Each puff turns from a moment of escapism to a contrived act of fakery. “Don’t let a gasp of that cancer smoke remain in your mouth” my mind tells me. “Fuck off brain” says the drink in me; says the petulant child wanting to stay up past his bedtime on a Monday, wishing he could afford to miss the last train. Luckily beer is synced with the angels, and with a dry glass and just over ten minutes spare, reason wins over. Soles of boot hits stone floor (thump, twist!) and another nicotine grave stains the floor of the heated beer garden. Now where’s that train ticket?

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