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Smoking

The chance to smoke in comfortable conditions was provided by Speech Day. In the fourth year we were seniors; the junior school had its Speech Day in the afternoon and ours was in the evening. Thus the afternoon was free. Seven or eight of us went to the Granada, and bought a packet of cigarettes. My father had taken to Churchmans Tenners, ten for 4d; I thought favourably of them because their card-pictures were sepia photographs of footballers and boxers, and if he smoked them they must be all right. (During the war Tenners became a national bad joke because after 1941 when cigarettes were hard to get they were usually the only brand shopkeepers offered, and their quality was dreadful. Once the war and the shortage were over, they never reappeared.)

We sat in a row, watching a Will Hay comedy film. After a little while I got out my packet of Tenners. The others paid no attention, and I smoked them as my father smoked - one after another. I got through six: then I clutched the arm of the boy next to me and said: "I don't half feel bad." He said it served me right. The remaining four cigarettes stayed in the blue packet in my coat pocket for many weeks; I gave two of them away, but it never occurred to me that I was not going to smoke eventually. I resumed it after I left school, and became a heavy smoker when the Blitz was on.