Smoke Screens and Wild Women …

Smoke Screens and Wild Women …

I was never all that much of a smoker during my adolescence. Like most teenagers though, I was heavily influenced by pop culture and advertising. 


I saw an advert for Gauloises cigarettes in a French magazine called Paris Match.


It also frequently carried photographs of a beautiful French singer called Francoise Hardy.


Logic dictated that if I smoked French cigarettes, Francoise would get to hear about it and seek me out. It was certainly worth a try. Anyway, to cut a long story short, she lost her chance after a couple of packets.

I went through a phase of trying to roll my own cigarettes …


My friend Wilf could roll a cigarette with one hand. They were bloody works of art. He was a veritable magnet to wild women who liked to drink pints and beat you at arm-wrestling. On Wilfless days I had to resort to using a roll up machine. It wasn’t cool. I felt so ashamed.


What I needed was something a bit classy. This came in the form of Passing Clouds. These were elegant and sophisticated oval-shaped cigarettes which came in a glorious pink packet.


They cost 7/6 for 20. I was working weekends as a shelf stacker in Sainsburys at the time and only got paid £1 a day. So 7/6 was very expensive. But sophisticaltion came at a price and it came in the glorious form of  Marilyn who worked on the cheese counter. She could do things with cheddar that would make your eyes water. She smoked Capstan full strength and had tattoos and a decidedly dodgy boyfriend called Malcolm who worked at a sheet metal factory. Marilyn  and I were sitting at a table together in the staff canteen one day and I nonchalantly offered her a Passing Cloud. I remember her eyeing it suspiciously.
“Why’s it all squashed?”
I had to admit that I didn’t know. She stuck it behind her ear to smoke later and told me she was being promoted to the bacon counter. God, that girl had class.



25 responses to “Smoke Screens and Wild Women …

  1. I would give my right arm to work on the bacon counter. Okay, maybe my left arm. But I’d give my right arm for a friend called Wilf.

    • Wilf (Wilfred) was a couple of years older than me and was very worldly wise. Sainsbury was a great place to work over a weekend. They used to train new managers at my branch. You could put anything over on them. Dented tins and broken goods were sold at half price. So staff would accidentally dent their entire weekly shop whenever possible. It was jokingly called … dental work. Ah, those were good times.

  2. I love the sound of Passing Clouds! I don’t remember them at all. Probably just as well. Currently trying to give up with the help of a ‘vape’!

  3. Ah yes ……….. Francoise Hardy “All Over The World”! I still play that song regularly. 🙂

  4. Here in the states, “my friends”, certainly not me, bought Pall Mall cigarettes for a quarter (25 cents) from vending machines located in every service station, restaurant, and corner store. Unfiltered and aromatic, the long cigs were an image maker hanging loosely from a fifteen year old’s lip. Most of us saw the light and quit before our lungs filled with the black goo.

  5. We thought Balkan Sobranies were ultra-cool. Black, with gold tips. They also came in pretty pastel shades, looking rather like a box of coloured pencils.

  6. Ah, the good old days.

    I was a total failure as a smoker–I just couldn’t do it. I’m grateful now, but at the time? I was a social disaster.

  7. I remember those guys that could roll their own cigarettes with one hand. And sometimes they weren’t cigarettes. (Love your prose style — engaging and direct.)

  8. Silvathins. 37.5p for 10 or maybe even 20 when I used to smoke them circa 1971-72. Looked good in the mirror especially if I’d done my nails. I gave up smoking because I couldn’t afford to keep up with every one else in my tutor group. I think if I knew I only had a few weeks to live, I’d smoke one more time, though nothing would compare to a Silvathin!

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