Cigarettes and Alcohol
"I was looking for some action, but all I found was Cigarettes & Alcohol"
Great line from a great song, I've put the video below so you can reminisce of the days gone by when you really didn't give a shit about anything, and life was one big party of......
well, Cigarettes & Alcohol, fucking great wasn't it?
I remember it all started for me down my local park, where a big gang of us would hang out of an evening looking for something to take our minds from the inexplicable boredom of learning useless information in school earlier that day. I was around 14 years old.
We got up to all sorts of shenanigans there, the park was huge and had plenty of places to hide after we had run-up to 'The Parky' and told him to fuck off. He would usually chase us for 20 seconds if we'd managed to break into the tennis courts to play '3 and in', he wouldn't last much longer than that of course, we were young - he was old, we were fit - he was fat, we were fast - he was slow.
A general photo of The Park Keeper locally referred to as 'The Parky' or 'Miserable old git'.
We saw a few 'Parkies' come and go over the years, and in fairness, they were not all complete dickheads or old bastards, some of them seemed to understand that we had fuck all else to do after school but hang around the park. We weren't always up to trouble of course, and looking back, we were not really that much trouble at all, a bit noisy perhaps, yeah we used to drink a few cans on the weekend and puff a few cancer sticks, but we weren't mugging old ladies and damaging property (well there was that one time, but I was on holiday lol).
I think the elders perspective of trouble makers back then, was any group of youngsters who were basically out of the fucking house, and if there was a few of you, people used to cross the street to avoid you.
Sure there were those kinds of kids, the ones from that rough estate on top of the hill, but the old saying 'Tarred with the same brush' comes to mind. Most early teenagers back in the mid-'80s were simply bored out of their fucking minds.
'Cigarettes and Alcohol' were what we had, it made the evenings interesting, it was something to do and of course, at that age, it was a challenge just to get the stuff. That took planning, organising and cunning, a bit like that middle bit in 'The A-Team'.
For those whose parents smoked, nicking a packet left laying around was the order of the day, you could nick a bottle of spirits from the 'drinks cabinet' or 'medicine cupboard' as we liked to call, it if you had the balls.
For those of us whose parents didn't smoke, a real challenge presented itself. you would have to go and buy them in a shop. FUCK!
But where there's a will there's a way.
All hail the local 'corner shop' a place where very few questions about your age were asked, if at all, maybe once when you first go there, just keep a straight face and say yes to any questions, "are you old enough, sonny"...Ummm...YES. Job done.
Once the ice was broken and you bought your smokes there regularly, a bond was formed, a trust ensued between both parties, they knew we were underage, and we knew that they knew we were underage, the transactions were swift with little conversation....get in, get the smokes and get the fuck out.
After a short period of trust-building, you could push it a little further. Time to get that flagon of 'Strongbow' or 'Diamond White' you've had your eye on for a while, hey....what they gonna do, they've been illegally selling you 'fags', you're a regular customer and can be trusted. Boom, stage 2 complete, you're now good to go for the foreseeable future, plus, you can nominate yourself as the 'I'll get it for you' guy, for a small commission off the other lads of course.
Looking back, I remember that this smoking and drinking lark in our youth had a definite progression pattern to it, it went something like this.
Apprentice - Approx age 14
Buying single Cigarettes for 8p each, a couple before school and a few on the way home.
You had a small box of matches hidden in your bedroom somewhere.
You'd be on the floor, pissed as a fart, after one flagon of cheap cider.
You always had a packet of Polo's with you, to take swiftly if you thought you were gonna get rumbled.
You avoided your parents as much as possible, but when cornered, could put on the angelic smile of a simpleton and convince them that you were just out 'Playing' with your friends.
You had to get a paper round, the pitiful pocket money (if any) was no-way gonna cover your new 'Living Expenses'.
Skilled Worker - Approx age 15
Buying packs of 10 Cigarettes nearly every day.
You've now got a throwaway lighter, you've gone all out and bought the one that if you turn it upside down, the women printed on the side loses all her clothes.
You still end up on the floor pissed, but this time it took a mixture of Cider and low volume Lager.
You're still avoiding your parents at all cost, this is standard practice by now.
Your mate ditched his paper round so you agree to take it on, as well as your own, your 'Living Expenses' are now getting into 'The Notes' and your not quite ready to dabble in theft to pay for it.
Foreman - Approx age 16
You're on 20 Bensons a day now
You've upgraded to a Silver Zippo lighter and nothing gives you more pleasure than opening and lighting it with a sharp downward and then upward motion on the side of your leg, you tried it on the cheekbone but ended up in A&E.
Cider? "fuck off, that's for the kids". Skol Lager?" you can take that 2.8% shit and shove it up your arse". You have progressed now to the teenager elite drink of the time, Tennants Extra, and the can colour was black, so it was really cool.
You're not avoiding your parents like you used to, they are fucking avoiding you, it's just easier for them to ignore the puke and pissed stained jeans, the stink of alcohol on your breath, and that faint ashtray aroma that follows you around.
Financially, times are hard now, your living expenses are through the roof and you just can't take on any more paper rounds to cover it, and the last 'glass collecting' job at the local pub has been filled. You're up a certain creek without a certain paddle. Oh well, crime it is, a fiver from mam's purse here and there, she won't notice.
Yeah right, this is around the time that shit gets real and you start lying to your parents where you're staying on the weekend. Everyone does it "I'm staying over at Johns", while Johns saying that he's staying over at yours, but your both staying over at Steves because his folks are down the Caravan for the weekend, and his dad forgot to lock 'The Medicine Cupboard'. Party Time Central.
Here's a couple of pics, just to refresh the memory.
So, what the point of this post?
It all started when I recently thought to myself why do I smoke, and why do I drink, because after 30 plus years it is just something that you do, it is part of your lifestyle now and you don't really think about those questions?
I bet you any money, that when you took that first 'drag of the fag' the first reaction in your brain was NOT 'this tastes amazing, I am gonna do this for the next 30 fucking years, bring it on motherfucker, I've found my Eden'.
No, it was more like 'this tastes like utter crap, I think I'm gonna be sick, what the fuck am I doing'. Same for the first sip of lager you took from your old man's pint when he wasn't looking.
These substances are not inherently tasty, we just get accustomed to it, even addicted to it.
Look, I'm no preacher, I'm a working-class man just like you, I am currently vaping and I drink alcohol, I just don't do it as often anymore, I've cut back and I feel better.
And I'm certainly not gonna tell you how to live your life and what to do, that's up to you at the end of the day, It's your life, It's your choice, but when it comes to 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' just take five minutes and think where those original choices came from and have a think about.
If you enjoyed this post, please share with like-minded working-class men.
Thanks for reading lads, Please leave a comment or question below.
"Be Happy, Be Healthy"
"Live Long, Drop Dead"
Heres the Oasis video, great tune.
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