Digging for phlegm ...

Smoking is ace. You get to be really anti-social, smelly, and escape out of boring situations at least once per hour for a "quick fag". (Note to our American Cousins. A "fag" in the UK is a cigarette. So saying "Can I bum a fag, mate" is socially acceptible here in the UK. Note for UK folks. Do NOT say that phrase in the US).. I confess, I have used this to my advantage many times in the last six years since I started smoking.

What ? I waited till my thirties to start smoking ? Yes. I worked in Holland a *lot* and only really started smoking whilst there. You see, at that time, I suspect it was compulsory.. I did hold out *five*years..

Anywhoo, some of the downsides. Its a useless drug. You only get a mild buzz first thing on the mornings, and end up feeling like you have lungs full of tar. Everything stinks of cigarette smoke, and you have the continual "Do I have enough to last me till I next get to the shops" anxiety. In other words, if it wasnt horribly addictive, no-one would do it. Lots of physical downsides, no upsides, and EXPENSIVE. Here in the UK, it costs £5 for a packet of 20. Thats $10 US, or about €8 Euro. Prices in the US are about $2 a packet, or €3 in the EU. So *really* expensive.

Now, given that the only person I *really* fear is SWMBO (She Who Must Be Be Obeyed) and she stopped smoking about 14 years ago.. I gave her *hell* when she smoked. You can imagine the hell I've been getting at home.. Many a wintry snowy day (much like today in fact), I've been outside in my dressing gown and dutch clogs, shivering whilst I puffed.

A few weeks ago, I went to see my friendly back consultant. He did a "cold reading". You know - when you go visit a "psychic" and they say "You will meet a tall dark stranger", etc. The medical equivalent is "You are overweight, you drink too much and you smoke.". Hell. I *didnt* do 7 years in medical school and I know that. Give me the drugs, dammit! Anywhoo, this nice, professional and unusually effective back consultant told me to lose two stone (28 pounds, 14 kilos) in weight "or else". Mmm. I wondered what he could do...

The only way I can lose weight is to exercise. I'm a 20th generation fisherman/trawlerman - so I'm naturally predisposed to being short, fat and hairy. And holding onto every single calorie as if my life depended on it (as I can imagine it did to my forefathers). And to exercise, well... You cant really exercise whilst carrying around four pints of "tar" in your lungs. It gets messy. Gyms tend to frown against dribbing phlegm down other members leotards. Believe me.

So I had to quit smoking. Its day six now. And this is another great thing about smoking. Anytime you "quit*, you get off literally with murder. I can imagine Pol Pots' defense, if the hideously evil geneocidal maniac ever made it in front of a Jury, his defense would have been "Well, I quit smoking". Just about anything is permissable. Now, since I know I have an evil temper and a wicked tongue, I have hid myself away in my home office, refusing to interact with others. For their safety...

Another useful part of my contracting career has been working at some "Big Pharma" firms - such as Cheese International. And one "perk" in terms of working there is cheap drugs. Such as nicotine patches for £5 (instead of £20). So whilst there, I stockpiled enough to allow me to quit for years..

Anywhoo, aside from the obvious downside of finding a non-hairy part of my body (check out the YouTube videos if you think I'm kidding on this one!) I'm actually prepared to stick one of these babies to, the only other downside has been the constant "mining for phlegm". Lovely. You see, as your lungs clear, the wee hairs in your larynx (the Scylla) start to work again, and start to clear debis from your lungs. So every hour or so, I dissolve into a hacking cough (Sorry to anyone I've been in a teleconference with in the last three weeks!) and get to gob up quite dramatic quantities of wobbly grey phlegm. Every one represents at least a weeks worth of tar, and given my calculations, I'm now clearing out parts of my lungs left unused since 2003. Nice.

Can you imagine "Casablanca" ? As it actually happened ? "Play it [cough, hack, spit] again, Sam!".. ."Of all the bars, in all the - oh - hang on - [hack, spit, *clang*] - to walk into - oh sorry - [spit] - you had to walk into mine?"

You see, smoking really is great..