Sunday, April 30, 2006

Three weeks today not smoking and 540 cigarettes not smoked.

It takes about ten minutes to relocate to somewhere where you can smoke, roll up and smoke the thing. That's 90 hours or 3.75 days that I would have spent purely on smoking.
The maths is a bit dodgy of course...a large number of those cigarettes would have been smoked when doing something else. But the increasing number of social prohibitions mean that those 'smoking whilst doing something else' moments are becoming rarer.

What have I done with all those spare moments? If today is anything to go by I have spent an extra 3.75 days asleep. If yesterday was the example then I have spent an additional 90 hours acquiring and consuming sugar products. I was convinced the sugar was giving me a headache I had had so much of it. The two Krispy Kreme's for breakfast was overdoing it I admit.
Has it got easier? I'm too stressed out at the moment to make a judgement on that. Not being allowed to have a pint on the last day of the season wasn't fun. Luckily there are two, possibly three, other games where I can make up for it. That said going without alcohol has been easy in the wake of giving up smoking.

Microsoft have also been stressing me out with their anti-piracy measures. Not that I disapprove of them in principal but suddenly being forced into making decisions about it at this time has been a pain. Do I switch to Apple? Do I finally give Linux a try? Or do I just put up with the 'nagulator' that appears at login ((a solution to this has already appeared) until Windows bring out their new OS 'Vista'... I ended up paying into Mr Gates' tea-fund.

I am unlikely to be doing the same when the anti-piracy campaign is extended to MS Office. Has anyone ever bought one of these (retail not a cut down pre-installed version)? It costs a bomb.
This is my first blog written with
OpenOffice's Writer which costs nothing. If it hadn't been for R I might have gone fully open source. I think I'll have a look at Ubuntu anyway.
More happily I also got myself a nice mouse after the meal on Friday, though not a squeaky one as one of my fellow diners thought. A Logitech Pilot Optical – a bit pricey(cheaper here though) but it makes everything a lot more comfortable.
3w 11:05 smoke-free, 541 cigs not smoked, £62.76 saved, 1d 21:05 life saved

Friday, April 28, 2006

I had a day off from the office today but managed to find other staircases to clamber up (in the London Tube).

I had dinner with some old colleagues from my former office. I told them that I had given up smoking and was also forced off the booze by an unhappy coincidence. Anyway I chomped away on my Japanese-inspired food and sipped my paltry cup of Green Tea enjoying the view of that part of Ken High Street. Just before we got up to leave someone wrapped up with “...and Erik’s given up smoking” and everyone applauded. Touched I was. Touched.

Which reminds me of my brilliantly graphical anti-smoking campaign. (Forgot to sign the thing which might be a nuisance at Sotheby’s in years to come). Brilliant might be pushing it I admit but it’s a fun website and you must give it a go yourselves. Do I feel a competition in the making?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I have started to walk up the stairs at work. The idea is to get a positive feeling about my improved health. I have quite enjoyed it. I get up from my desk at random points during the day, head to the the central staircase where the lifts are. Walk down then turn into the rest area on the ground floor. I have a rest. I then go out through the rear exit of the rest room and climb the four sets of stairs. No crowds are waiting at the top ready to wrap me in a space blanket and hand over sponsorship money. I simply (slightly suspiciously) emerge from the fire exit and return to my desk where I fall face down and palpitate a lot.

It could get a bit boring. It will get a bit boring.

It also hurts.

I think I'll stop doing it.

At last my clear-headed decision-making abilities have started to return for the first time since giving up.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A bit nicer waking up this morning. No Anti-Torture Conventions were breached.

Still only half-way to consciousness so helping myself along with a coffee. This is an attempt-to-be-clever coffee. Its base is one of those plastic one-cup things that you sit on top of your mug with milk and some not very convincing Tate and Lyle Caramel Coffee Syrup that I picked up from Sainsbury’s last week. One thing about the “no almond syrup” shop is that they do serve it hot – sucking it through the hole in the lid is the nearest equivalent to inhaling smoke I’ve found so far. I burnt the saucepan boiling milk this morning in attempt to achieve a similar temperature. It’ll be a long time before I attempt one of Pret’s machattios or whatever they are called. This is a steaming double espresso “served with organic foam”. (Gates must be a tea man – Word’s spell-check is giving me lots of red squiggles with no suitable alternatives).

I think the British Transport Cafe has missed out with this entire coffee lark. I suggest the following

Tea – finest hand-picked pre-bagged Indian tea served straight and piping hot

Bovina – finest hand-picked pre-bagged Indian tea poured on top of fresh full cream milk

Reverso – same as above but the milk’s added last!

Blanco – lightly brewed with extra milk. Very Creamy!

Monsignor – our finest Bovina served in a tall mug and topped with a digestive biscuit.

All available in ‘Dainty’ ‘ Fair’ and ‘Cor Blimey’ sizes.

Better go and do some proper work now. Shame.

2w 3d 00:36 smoke-free, 425 cigs not smoked, £49.30 saved, 1d 11:25 life saved

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Seven days without alcohol. Seven days. That’s almost a month.

The seven days don’t include yesterday. I was so stressed out by the ban I needed a drink. I decide it fits in better with my calendar if I have a big drink tonight and go sober from tomorrow. I popped over to Mr and Mrs Z our local friendly off-licensees to pick up some bottles of Leffe. I take the front four bottles from the shelf. Mrs Z was serving. I could see a tiny bit of Mr Z’s knee sticking out from behind the chewing gum rack where he must have been slumped in a chair. He’d probably been quality-controlling some of his stock. Mrs Z’s a lovely lady who sounds a bit like the kid in “The Shining” doing the red rum number.

“Just these four please”

“redrum-redrum-redrum-three pounds change-redrum-redrum-redrum-goodnight”


I return to the flat and start knocking them back like there is no tomorrow whilst writing yesterday’s blog moaning about not being allowed to drink. 5 minutes later R comes back from her evening job and is glad to see I’ve got some beers in, but we realise there is not enough for both of us so R goes over to the offy to get herself some and I decide my four aren’t enough for the both of me so I follow on a minute later. R comes out of the offy clutching her beers as I go in to get mine. The front row of bottles had mysteriously regenerated themselves (had Mr Z really sprung up from behind the counter and replenished the shelves since my last visit?).


“Ha-ha…yes having ourselves a little party. G’night”

Return to the flat converse animatedly with R for thirty minutes slugging beer all the while then my brain short-circuits and I zonk out completely.

I didn’t feel too good this morning. However something positive came out of all this silliness. Another entry had been added to my “first time since stopping smoking list”. It was the first time I had got mindlessly drunk on the flimsiest of excuses and not had a cigarette. At no point can I remember even thinking about a cigarette. Progress of a kind I guess.

Definitely sober tonight though. The Long March begins.

Quitometer ---2w 2d 11:35 smoke-free, 417 cigs not smoked, £48.37 saved, 1d 10:45 life saved

Monday, April 24, 2006

(photo: Magnet Chick at flickr)

It’s just not fair I say, just not fair…

For months and months I have been waking up with quite uncomfortably itchy skin. It’s a bit of a nuisance but I’ve been able to live with it but R thought it was time for me to go to the Doctor's about it. So, ok, I’ll go.

I was looking forward to it. It was my first opportunity in years to say ‘no’ when a doctor asks me if I smoke. He was bound to ask as this was my first visit to the practice since moving into R’s flat at the beginning of the year.

(That’s not strictly true. I had to go and see the practice nurse, Sister C, a few months back. Her office was stuffed to the rafters with condoms, they were falling off the shelves, hanging from the ceiling, little motorised packets were whizzing in and out about my feet - the office was just a massive packet of rubbers. I cleared a few crates of Featherlites off a stool, sat down, and she leaned forward on her stool with her hands on her knees and a broad “nothing to be embarrassed about” smile on her face. “And how can I help you Erik?” I told her I wanted my ears waxed.)

After a brief wait I’m in the doctor’s room and he seems nice, about twelve years old, with long hair and well-kept fingernails. I explain the itching as intelligently as I can eager for him to ask me the smoking question but no joy there he’s too busy asking me what I think is the cause of the itching. He asks me to take my shirt off. The only skin blemishes in sight are the very distinct red square marks left by my nicotine patches as well as the fresh patch I’m wearing. Still he doesn’t comment…I know the patch is translucent but surely he can see it? And the big mosaic of square blemishes all over my upper arms? I jiggle my shoulder in the hope the patch will catch a bit of daylight and attract his gaze then, suddenly, I thrust my finger up to it and blurt out “I’m giving up smoking”.

“Good… good… excellent” he says and then asks me if I’m sure I don’t know what the cause of the itching is because he hasn’t got a clue.

I feel sad that I had to introduce the smoking subject without him asking me first.

“You think its eczema don’t you?” he says and tells me I better get tested for it "don't you think?".

He asks me how much I drink. I say all the things you’re supposed to say, truthfully as it happens, about units consumed, abstinence days per week… never more than four pints in one day. He looks at me as if I told him I’m on 9 litres of Diamond White a day.

And then he asks…”How many cigarettes are you smoking a day?”


I don’t have time to question his IQ as I reflexively shout “None. I don’t smoke. I gave up fifteen and a half days ago”.

“Oh I see…very good…well done”.

At. Sodding. Last.

And as a reward he tells me not to drink alcohol for SEVEN DAYS before the blood test. Is he mad? Is he human? I can’t drink even more coffee.

It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.

Quitometer ---2w 1d 11:52 smoke-free, 392 cigs not smoked, £45.47 saved, 1d 08:40 life saved and no sodding booze neither.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Breaking News...Socialism Flawed

I think I was still smoking when my partner R drew my attention to a leaflet from her flat's management committee which is run by the residents instead of the local council.
"The committee would like the items that have been stored in the sheds to finally go.... If anyone wants to claim any of these items please do so before Friday 21 April. All volunteers to help (chuck the remaining unclaimed stuff in a skip) would be most welcome - please let us know with a note or phone call to the office."

Oh dear. We have a fridge in the shed so can I please help R move it before they chuck everything out on Friday? "No problem honey sure I can manage that". Down I go to the shed, a bit of huffing and puffing and the fridge is safely stashed away.

And then it's Sunday morning and I am getting confused by some strange sentences coming out about me helping down in the shed with her and Kev.

It turns out she is the committee that issued the notice and I am one of the volunteers and we are the people who would have chucked away our fridge if we hadn't already moved it.

Now, if I was still smoking I think I would have not taken this quite as well as I did. When faced with all the stuff in this particular shed there would have certainly been a lot more huffing and puffing. I would have had less energy and less patience as I was constantly trying to work out when I was going to have a cig amidst all the throwing away of homemade gherkins and priceless Buddy Holly albums.

Perhaps it's a result of packing in fags. Or maybe AFC Wimbledon making the play-offs had more of an effect on me than I realised.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

(photo: fuyanyu at flickr)

Here's a picture of something from the dim and distant past. Well 13 days ago.

I woke up again with a bad feeling in my lung...though its hard to tell it might be heartburn or something.

The other day before I went to work I saw my freshly made coffee and I saw the door to the balcony and a large part of my brain thought I'd be picking the coffee up and walking outside and lighting up a cigarette. Even though the front of my brain knows full well that I have given up the background processes are still in smoker mode.

I am becoming impatient for more normalisation in my life when the fact that I'm not smoking will hardly occur to me. And if it does occur to me it will be as a weird reminder that yes, once upon a time, I used to smoke. It seems a long way off at the moment.

Preparing to go off to Hendon to watch AFC Wimbledon's mad dash to make the play-offs. The thought of all that gum-chewing I'm going to have to do is making me feel a bit sick. At least this morning I remembered to put my patch on.

I was advised to carry a spare just before I quit. I decided not to as I only had 7 patches to last 7 days and was worried I would lose or damage one when carrying them around. Then I forgot to put one on and learned my lesson putting a spare in my wallet as soon as I got back. Then later in the week I forget the patch again and had a panic on the way to work (I almost decided to phone work and take the morning off so I could get to my patch). I went in to work and immediately emailed R who, unlike me, remembered that I had a spare in my wallet. There was much rejoicing when she reminded me. I immediately flew off to the gents toilet to sort myself out returning some time later with a competely changed demeanour. I don't know what my colleagues thought I had been up to.

Todays quit-ometer reading is :

---1w 6d 04:21 smoke-free, 331 cigs not smoked, £38.40 saved, 1d 03:35 life saved

Friday, April 21, 2006

Well I was in a bit of a bad mood yesterday. What on earth was I thinking being horrible to Google?
(EDIT - I wasn't the only one though )

I’m a bit of a fan – Chinese things aside. I have the wonderful if not hugely used Google Earth (great for locating obscure away game football grounds). I have a Gmail account. And I just upgraded my Google Desktop Search which is really a fantastic ol’ thing especially now it’s got its quick search window that opens in the centre of the screen when you hit Ctrl twice. It’s much faster than Windows own location tools. As far as I know it’s still not Mac-usable.

One thing it helps with, apart from the obvious, which is searching for files and web pages visited, is launching programmes. And I think the floating “deskbar” looks dinky on my denuded Desktop environment. Minimalism is all the rage now don’t you know? This is the article that originally inspired me though this turned up the other day reiterating a similar approach and this makes a few other suggestions.

So what does it all add up to? Or minus up to? Here’s a screenshot.

One thing that doesn’t get on at all well with Google is Opera. But with its new Beta 9 out you can play with its pretty extensions, oops, I mean widgets. I got the clock that you can see here.

If R are ever tells anyone that I’m a geek just ignore her.

Today’s quitometer reading is:

1w 5d 00:51 smoke-free, 301 cigs not smoked, £34.92 saved, 1d 01:05 life saved

(I've found out what the life saved figure represents now)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What a morning. First thing I get confronted with is this monstrosity from google.

Then it's off to Mr K's for my smoking cessation session (try saying that when you're drunk). Into the kiosk, get shoved into the Anusol chair, desk slams down "How's it going...blal blah blah...very good..blah blah blah.." Don't think his heart was in it. Maybe he's a secret smoker and the guilt's getting to him. Next time I'm round there he gets to blow in the fag-ometer or I'm not playing ball.

Anyway he deals me up the patches (twice as many this time) and I set off for a coffee further down the arcade. Now this isn't any old arcade - every outlet, greasy spoon, grocery etc... seems to be a subsidiary of Basil Fawlty International. Customer service died before it was born in this dark alley.

So I go to Basil's Cafeteria Delicassiotansos or whatever daft name it has to order my Cappo with Almond syrup. Now every time I order this, every time, they say they don't have any almond syrup and every time I point to the almond syrup and say "Yes you do" and they then make me one. Today they don't pretend they haven't got any. Today they pretend they haven't heard me at all, thus getting around the problem of me correcting them and I end up with a cappo without any sodding syrup in it.

Mid-morning I decide to change tack myself and go up to Pret a Manger, which isn't in Fawlty Arcade, and end up behind another person who is buying the entire shop. Who are these people? Sub-contractors? Winners of competitions (eat for a year at Pret)? Anyway it gives me time to evaluate their coffee selection. I opt for Mocha which is "the chocolatey one" and made with some bird's milk and it looks easier to pronounce. Finally the woman in front of me has lost her voice from all her ordering and I butt in with my order and get the coffee. It tastes like a tramps arse.

Back home at lunchtime things aren't so bad. I have my regular cheese omelette and baclava write this then prepare for a nano-sleep before getting back to work.

The quit-ometer that AB sent me tells me

---1w 4d 05:48 smoke-free, 283 cigs not smoked, £32.83 saved, 23:35 life saved

That means 1 week 4 days 5 hours 48 mins without a fag of which I would have consumed 283. I don't know if the life saved bit is in minutes hours or seconds.

It doesn't include the number of bad coffee experiences suffered.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Technorati tells me this morning that there are 99745 posts in the blogosphere that contain the exact phrase “quit smoking”. (Presumably that is now 99746 posts).

Not many considering that there are now 50 million blogs.

So what is the point of all this waffle cluttering up our bandwidth? Does it just serve the curious and the nosey and the mean-spirited who can savour the actual and emotional illiteracy of others?

It seemed to me to be just that until I heard an interview on one of my podcasts (Richard Gile’s The Podcasting Network – The Gadget Show). In this interview Richard’s guest explained the purpose of the blog search engine Technorati as opposed to using Google. Google gives you access to all the websites you could dream of containing all the information you need. What it doesn’t provide, and this includes forums, is the first person experience of this product, that town, and whatever lifestyle you are interested in.

This idea rapidly grew on me until I started thinking it was almost a moral duty to blog out your experience of whatever it was.

Here is some of that moral duty, peppered with swear words mind you, in action- on the subject of smoking of course.

This chap acknowledges a miracle when one happens. This bloke keeps his hands busy with math. And I’d go on a strict diet before broaching the subject with this lady

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

When I got to our Easter Monday day fixture it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t put a new patch on before leaving the flat.

If it hadn’t occurred to me would I have noticed any difference? Would I have been just as well off using one of these things even though the ingredients are impossible to determine?

Another good win for the Dons. Will I indulge the thought of the play-offs yet? We will see.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Saving Money

Mr K’s anti-smoking pack includes a card where you put down your main reasons for wanting to give up. I haven’t done this yet but, already-bolted-horses notwithstanding, I will have a bash at it sometime in the future.

There are some suggested reasons on the card one of which is ‘saving money’.

Well I have got a little jam jar. Each day I stick in £2.80 which represents the price of 12.5g of Golden Virginia.

It is a bit of an arbitrary figure. Ignoring the incredibly cheap black market options there is quite a bit of variation in the price of legitimate goods. From Sainsbury’s I can get it at the equivalent price of £2.25. Even within my local off licence I can knock 10 pence off the price simply by doubling up the amount I purchase at any one time.

As well as the £2.80 a day I chuck in a bit of spare change every now and again to represent cigarette papers and lighters.

So, without actually counting it up, there should be about £24 sitting in there, now that I have reached Day 8.

But have I saved myself £24? Well…no.

For a start off I have my patches prescription charges to pay currently running at £6.50 per week.

I then have my other compensatory expenditure to factor in. For example, to keep myself occupied on Wednesday night, I went on a shopping trip to Sainsbury’s with the overriding motive of buying any fast-moving consumables that took my fancy. £30 got me some green tea, some spaghetti in an extra fancy packet and some moisturiser (why?).

And then I paid for the curry on Good Friday. Then lots and lots of expensive coffees. There will soon be chewing gum to add to my costs as the six-pack Rose gave me has been chewed out.

On the other hand home and pub drinking has all but evaporated. I don’t save with the home drinking because R hoovers it all up but the lack of pub visits and pints consumed has helped. My current account looked healthy enough last night.

In the long run I guess I’ll be saving money but the main point of the jar at the moment isn’t about net savings. On the dole £24 was the difference between despair and rejoicing. Nowadays it is less significant. The £24 is important because it’s £24 that I haven’t spent on smoking rather than £24 saved. If you know what I mean?

Changing the subject., for those of you who have enjoyed the links I have made to Wikipedia, a word of warning .

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter to all my reader

(thanks to davebluedevil )

Firstly a technical point. The comments section of this blog is now open which means you can post comments without having to register. Click on comments beneath the post you want to comment on.

Yesterday I added a few more things to my ‘first time since quitting’ list.

I went down to Kingsmeadow to watch the thoroughly modern AFC Wimbledon take on the might of East Thurrock United.

( I was a bit late for the game. When I arrived at Norbiton I had a strong urge for some decent coffee instead of the dishwater and UHT cocktail served at the ground. I decided to explore the other side of the tracks knowing there was nothing on the way to Kingsmeadow. I found an Italian deli, confusingly named ‘Sud Ouest’. I saw a Gaggia by the counter and that there was only one customer so popped in hoping to get served quickly. Unfortunately the other customer wanted 200g of absolutely everything in the shop, usually tasting samples of each before deciding to buy. I eventually got my, very delicious, cappo and hoiked myself over to Kingston Road. Of all the English football supporters arriving late for their games yesterday how many I wondered had been held up at delicatessens? Guess it’s pretty normal in Italy. “Oy, Lucio, you muppet, leave the dolcelatte we’re going to miss kick-off”?)

Despite it being in the open air I found it the smokiest environment I have been in all week but I managed to out-chew Sir Alex on the terraces without too much trouble. It was a bit of a high blood pressure type of game with us clinching the, very important, three points in the dying moments of the game.

In order to get there I had another rite of passage to complete – getting a train. Trains are pretty much all non-smoking nowadays and are a major challenge for smokers. Large parts of the journey are spent contemplating the moment of arrival at your destination. The biggest frustration is the train encountering a delay between stations. The cigarette you were going to have in forty minutes time has to be postponed and you’re not quite sure how long for.

My train down to Norbiton ground to halt within a minute of leaving Waterloo and I felt the old rage and frustration before remembering that there wasn’t going to be a cigarette at the end of the journey anyway. I had plenty of gum to see me through so no need to get stressed. Great.

Then it was off to Barnes to see BYT’s Easter show.

I have strong associations of both smoking and giving up smoking during my time acting with them back in Eighties. My most successful giving up to date started with my last cigarette in the Bridge Pub in 1981 where we ended up after the show last night.

The show was really entertaining and theatres are all non-smoking so no major problems there. The pub after was fine too. Despite all these positives the day as a whole was pretty hard and I should have reminded myself of HALT: these are the temptations of Hunger, Anger, Loneliness and Tiredness.

I probably took on too much yesterday and found myself flagging if not actually fagging.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Long Good Friday..

When I spoke to Mr K on Thursday he told be to make sure I kept myself busy over the long Easter weekend as it was a bit of a danger time.

The day started busy enough with me going completely spare when I found my patches weren’t in their usual place ( places in fact – either by the bathroom sink or by the PC). Luckily I was able to use the new packet I had just picked up – but I was concerned there was something wrong with my system and that I would have to fork out the full amount further down the line as treatment progressed. It turned out some rather ambitious flat-cleaning by someone who’s name begins with R (well it’s not going to be me is it?) resulted in it being chucked away. Luckily the bag had not made its way to the chute and the goodies were retrieved. No harm done – apart from the pre-breakfast screaming session.

Keep yourself occupied says Mr K, so having calmed down with the application of my daily dose, I looked at the list of possible actions and decided the best thing was to go back to bed. Which I did, sleeping until the early afternoon.

We then made our way to see an installation at Clare College Church by Max Dewdney. Had some great lamps with steam coming out of them. Then it was chill out time with the ducks and some in ice cream in the adjoining Southwark Park.

Then it was my first visit to a pub since patching up, The Dog and Bell in Deptford where I had a pint of Mitchell’s Dream and some twiglets. What was positive about the trip was that not smoking actually enhanced the experience of this very flavoursome beer.

So the largest part of the day had been occupied – it was time to fill in the middle of the evening so after having another micro-nap and watching Michael Palin’s Sahara on the UK History Channel, we headed off to the unusual environs of the Strand Inter Continental Hotel and it’s India Club, close by Somerset House. We had the Special for two (made a nice change from monkey nuts) and stuffed our faces before going to stare at the fountains and digest our grub in the square at Somerset House.

Then back home for a bit more telly, I think it must have been a Palin-athon that night as there he was chatting to camels again. R hopped off to bed, I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Then off to fly round the treetops and smoke cigarettes in my dreams.

So that’s one day of the holiday out of the way.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It was only two puffs....

…and, more importantly, it was only a dream. I was so relieved when I woke up to realise that I hadn't really had a cigarette. Even in the dream I hadn't had an urge for one - it just seemed to end up in my mouth by accident, twice, each time with me realising what it was after a single puff and then jettisoning it.

The relief I felt set me up for a very positive feeling for most of the morning. I marched off to meet Mr K the Chemist for my end of Week One meeting.

The smoking cessation programme I'm on runs something like this. Go to chemist and tell them you want to give up smoking. They either arrange a meeting for you to meet their specialist or they see you there and then (which happened in my case). This covers the range of support they can give (various Nicotine Replacement Therapy, NRT, Products. I don't remember 'cold turkey' or hypnosis getting a mention). They also emphasise setting a date which I had done the previous summer. You go away and think about what NRT you're going to use. During this time I changed my mind about using the nasal spray, which I had envisioned using, opting instead for the 24 hour patches. This first meeting is about 10mins long.

The next meeting is a few days before your stopping date. At Mr K's you pop round to, I’m not sure how to describe it, a kind of cupboard or kiosk round the back of the counter. You sit on a chair with ANUSOL written on it, he pulls a lever, a desk thing swings down from nowhere stopping at waist height and there's absolutely no way you can get out and he leans forward, his evil piercing eyes....sorry. I digress. He keeps chatting whilst filling out a form on the desk-thing then gets you to blow into a device that measures carbon monoxide and tells you things like " I can tell by this you have had a cigarette in the last hour" as if that's some kind of shock revelation to him or me. You finally snap and blurt out "Give me the bloody patches and release me from this thing man!"

He gives you some leaflets gets a paper bag containing the product and you slap £6.50 in his hand. It’s a bit like a crack deal except there's a lot more elderly women in the vicinity and the only bling I've got on are my spectacles.

The second stage is towards the end of your first week after stopping (4 days after in my case) and is very similar to the first one. You realise that the carbon monoxide test is just a lie detector. "I can tell by this you haven't had a cigarette recently" which, again, isn't big news to me. I know the dream felt very real but I would have been surprised if the two dream-puffs had registered on the machine. You score the patches off the old man as per last week, same strength, and arrange the End of Week Two meeting.

After that meeting a longer period of time is given, two weeks and after that you're at the final meeting when, presumably, you walk away with a sackful of the stuff and never look back.

And never have to go in that kiosk and blow that thing again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Morning number 4

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday my lungs felt pretty battered and bruised when I woke up.

Today they felt better. Perhaps that fits in with the 72 hour part of my stop smoking healthcards.

20 minutes my blood pressure returns to normal

24 hours- Carbon Monoxide is eliminated from my body. My lungs start to clear of mucus (not mine yet)

48 hours No nicotine is left in my body (bit daft as I'm using a patch) Taste and smell improves. (Only slightly-minimally so far)

72 hours my breathing becomes easier and my energy levels increase. Not the same as "Your lungs don't feel battered and bruised" but it'll do.

These little benchmarks have a positive effect. I am particularly looking forward to the mucus bit- but don't
we all?

But it should have an entry along these lines "After 4 days your brain will stop feeling like mush and you'll actually be able to do some work and stop confusing 'your' with 'you're' as I have already done twice this morning.

Improved smelling - good.
Improved spelling - essential.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Last night’s dream was even vivider.

A list of things I thought I’d miss when I gave up smoking but haven’t…yet

Unvivid dreams

Sitting on the balcony in the morning with coffee (and a cig of course)

Going for my mid-morning fag break at work. Smoking at my last office was a very social affair with quite a pleasant setting – ok, it was a car park. But it was a nice car park. I had to get a new job at the end of last year. Smoking at the new office involved standing almost in the gutter of a busy, windswept road bordered by austere office blocks. Socialising was minimal.

I still do miss my rewards for doing things – when writing a letter at work or composing this entry at the back of my mind is the thought of a cigarette when the task is completed.

So, almost day three over..

Cigarette count…zero
Monkey nut count…zero
Sticks of chewing gum…two

The next big challenge is going to a pub and enjoying it without a smoke.

I notice a fellow blogspotter lists amongst their remedies for smoking-related stress:

Hops: Is a tonic to the system. Will relax the body when nervous disorders
are present due to withdraw. Will relieve headache, nightmares, night
sweats and depression. Contains Lupulin which is a sedative and hypnotic

I think the sooner I get down the pub the better.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Is it still only Monday? Feels like Thursday.

AB told me that since giving up smoking he finds himself frequently dreaming of cigarettes.

The chemist who is overseeing my treatment told me that one of the side-effects of twenty-four hour nicotine patches is vivid dreaming. I am not sure whether the contents of the hamper or the nicotine patch caused it but I woke exhausted up from a dream of which I have only the haziest recollection.

Whatever caused the dream, and whatever the dream involved, I lay on the bed staring at the ceiling imagining I could feel the carbon monoxide in my lungs slowly stirring. Then off to work.

It wasn’t at all bad. I felt noticeably less strained than yesterday. The choice of a date in spring was paying dividends with beautiful sunshine pouring down on me as I walked into work.

I tried to create a substitute fag-break by moving myself off to the tea area at work for a few minutes to write a few ideas for this blog. It kind of helped.

By the mid-afternoon the strain started to set in again and my brain became increasingly full of cotton wool. Productivity ground to a halt and I skulked off early to home.

I still haven’t smoked a cigarette. Neither have I eaten a monkey nut. Nor given either of my feet a WaterMelon and BalmMint scrub.
Nuts in April

I live at my girlfriend’s flat. She’s an ex-smoker herself. Whenever I smoked here I would go out onto her little balcony. This had the added advantage of getting out of earshot as well as providing pleasant quiet moments looking at the flora and fauna (a solitary urban fox) and sipping coffee. Knowing I’d still want such moments she rather sweetly provided me with a hamper of goodies to make up for the absent roll-ups whilst sitting outside.

The contents of the hamper are:

6 packs of Orbit sugar free gum with xylitol for healthier teeth

250g of Garden of Eden Bombay Mix

1 Oral-B Braun powered AdvancePower 900 electric toothbrush

1 tar-free nicotine-free Crafe Away dummy cigarette with ‘New Tobacco Flavour’ (“You’ll probably save much more than £1.99 on the cigarettes you don’t smoke” it says on the packet. I very much doubt R spent £1.99 on the thing. I am still not sure what you are supposed to do with it- suck the end like a real cigarette or chuck the whole thing in your gob and eat it).

1 HBee Tongue Cleaner – “easy to use” “removes food residue.” Yum.

300g of Sainsbury Monkey Nuts (Standard Edition- the packet helpfully informs you that they are “roasted peanuts in shells”).

500g of Sainsbury’s Monkey Nuts (Basic Edition. Basic users apparently don’t need any of the background “peanuts in shells" stuff. They have to make do with the slogan – “simply nuts, not for monkeys”. Cut price marketing eh? You pay peanuts and you get…

2 whole coconuts…oh my giddy aunt. Where will this all end? No hammer included to open them with.

50ml of Nicogel water soluble aromatherapy gel with botanical extract of Nicotiana spp. I haven’t a clue what you’re supposed to do with this. Smear it on the Crafe Away fake cigarette before chucking in gob?

150g Sainsbury’s (Standard) Pistachios. No explanations. No slogans. No nothing.

75g Dormen’s Jumbo Pistachios – Finest Quality. Big. Not as big as coconuts. But still big.

200g Iranian Pistachios. The slogan is- “For goodness sake”.

25ml of MontagneJeunesse Watermelon and BalmMint deodorising foot scrub.

Well there you have it – life is to be one long nut-eating session interspersed only by the occasional tongue scrape and self-administered foot massage .

I’m not surprised she omitted the hammer from the box.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ah yes... the need to keep one's hands occupied...I guess that's my principal motive in starting this.

This morning when I awoke I reached for a box of nicotine patches, fiddled anxiously with the packaging and slapped one on my arm. Yes today I gave up smoking. Today I quit.

It has been nine years since my last attempt.

Following the example of a couple who set their giving up date one year in advance, and fired up by my chum AB, I have been carrying around today’s date for the best part of nine months. And now the day has finally arrived. It happens to be Palm Sunday but I didn’t know that when I set the date. All I knew was that it was a few days after my partners birthday and that it would be Springtime with all it’s rebirth and optimism. Perhaps it being the week of Christ’s suffering is more appropriate.

So far I have gone without for about eleven hours and... grrr…GRRRR… I am just about coping. Tomorrow is my first run at a normal working day and I can’t say I am relishing the prospect what with its usual stresses and strains

I’ll try and keep you posted.