One of those 'Life List' things...

I haven’t felt that ill in quite a while. At least not since I stopped drinking.

A couple of years ago I thought about smoking cigars. Obviously to learn more I bought a book called The Sensible Cigar Connoisseur and read it. I didn’t quite realise how complicated it can be. It isn’t just a case of lighting the flat end and puffing away you know.

All this undoubtedly stems from watching Gomez Addams and Groucho Marx, the similarity is uncanny. Both these fine gentlemen must have been an influence as well as a film called Smoke, about the customers, and the proprietor, of a cigar and tobacco store in Brooklyn, New York. Another subliminal influence is a cigar store in the Royal Exchange in Manchester that I used to walk past, when I was at Manchester Polytechnic, back in the day. The window would be full of these big heavy glass jars full of cigars of all shades and sizes.

After I finished reading the book I looked around on the internet for cigar stores that would deliver bundles of cigars by post. Yes, I could have just walked into the store in Manchester and asked for a couple to try. But I’m not all that comfortable knowing nothing about a subject and asking for help. So, I look at the prices of the ‘starter kits’ on a few web-sites and think that it’s a lot of money for something that’s just going to go up in smoke.

Rachael at work came back from her honeymoon in Cuba with a cigar for us in the office. Just the one mind. So Andrew and myself try it out in the smoking tunnel at work. I think I was more eager to give it a go as I was the one who cut the end and brought in matches specially. Leo didn’t want anything to do with it, muttering something about his oppressed brothers in the plantations and being symptomatic of the white regime.

A few weeks ago my Dad is sorting out his office and holds up this box of cigars still with the cellophane around the box. To be completely accurate, the glue holding the cellophane together had turned to dust with age. The box was labelled ‘Alvaro Especiales’ and contained 25 ‘Elegantes’ all individually wrapped. They must date from my Grandma’s visit to California back in 1979 I think. Could they really be any good? I took them any way and with my fathers words, “You’ll make yourself sick!”, still ringing in my ears I headed home.

They can’t be any good after all these years surely.

Just to check I did manage to find them on the internet. And they are sold in exactly the same box. The problem now was that if I smoked one how would I know if it was bad or not? Simply Cigars sell a starter pack of a humidor pouch, matches, a cutter and 6 cigars (3 varieties) for about £45. Before Easter I placed an order. That order arrived today.

Because I didn’t want to stink-up my little semi-detached penthouse flat with cigar smoke I had decided to walk to the cemetery and smoke there. I had put one of the new cigars, and another out of the box, into the zip lock bag that the cigars came in. So with my cutter and matches headed out.

Cutting the end of the new one wasn’t a problem. Getting it lit was a little tricky. It only seemed to light in the centre but another match sorted that out. Remembering the cigar smokers mantra, “DON’T INHALE!”, I just started puffing away, swirling the smoke around my mouth. From what I read on the internet this afternoon if you smoke it too much it could leave a nasty taste, if you smoke it too little it’ll go out. The ash was nearly an inch long before it fell off of it’s own accord.

I can’t say that I got a buzz from it, like booze or coffee, I just enjoyed strolling around, listening to my iPod, smoking a good cigar after work. The first one done I started on the second.

I didn’t notice any difference between the two. The aged one certainly didn’t taste all that dramatically different from the recent purchase.

After 2 hours walking around, looking at gravestones and shopping trolleys in the stream, I headed home.

I switched on the TV, sat down on my sofa and haven’t felt that ill in a long time. Honestly all the blood drained from my head and my face was covered in a cold sweat. Not good. Not good at all. I did think that I was going to be sick. Only one thing for it… bed, under the duvet with my eyes closed all I could see was smoke rising out of my mouth.