And I Wonder

“Don’t stop the buck when it comes
It’s the dawn, you’ll see

Money won’t get there
Ten years passed tonight
You’ll flee

If you do that
I’ll be some
To find you

I saw that day
Lost my mind
Lord, I’ll find
Maybe in time
You’ll want to be mine

  • Gorillaz

From the age of 16 until the age of 33 I smoked. It was, of course, all the fault of the Church. I went to an Easter retreat by the Holy Ghost Fathers for prospective priests when I was 16 with my friend Milo and as everyone else there seemed to smoke we decided that we better buy some cigarettes for ourselves. We went to a shop in Kimmage and nervously asked for cigarettes. I asked first.

Cigarettes please.

“Which ?”

Which what ?

“Which brand ??”

Oh, I see….emmm, Gold Bond !

“10 or 20 ?”

Just the one please.

“We don’t sell individual cigarettes !”

Sorry, I meant one packet, 10 please.

The shopkeeper was now wondering if I should be allowed out unaccompanied. He took my money anyway and handed me my first packet of cigarettes.

Milo approached the counter.

“20 Lambert & Butler , please.”

And with that he had bought his first, and perhaps only, packet of cigarettes.

Why did you pick those ? I asked on our way back to the retreat.

“They were silver.” He replied, and we both nodded sagely.

Truth be told we didn’t really smoke any of them. I think we puffed on one from each packet , didn’t particularly like it, or the fact that it was blindingly obvious , even to us, that we were puffing on our first ever cigarettes in a vain effort to be cool.

I decided to give the proper priesthood a try and duly signed up to be a Holy Ghost Father. Milo still wasn’t completely sure , so he joined the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Priest” outfit in Maynooth. I didn’t smoke again until I left.

I think I was 20 and was in Dublin to meet up with someone else who’d left. We went for pints in Bruxelles. He smoked, I didn’t. Leaving the pub and  walking down Grafton St. he handed me a cigarette to puff on and for some reason I took it, started puffing and then I tripped on a kerbstone and inhaled for the first time. I floated down the street, and smoked every day thereafter.

Initially I smoked everything and anything, John Player Blue, Rothmans, Carrols, Silk Cut Purple, Benson & Hedges, Peter Stuyvesant, before someone told me that they only ever smoked Dunhill International, as that was the only cigarette that was only manufactured in one place, and so was the only one that was consistent. He told me that all of the others were made in whatever country you were in and therefore there were subtle differences in flavour and taste. As I mentioned I smoked anything and everything anyway, so this shouldn’t have been important to me, and as I wasn’t travelling anywhere further than the Oasis in Carrickmacross, wouldn’t have to contend with international flavour variants. But the Dunhill International came in a flat packet with two compartments of 10, side by side, each individually gold foiled, and the packet was a luxurious red , trimmed in gold. I was hooked. A cigarette snob.

The packet was also handy , when you’d smoked a few, you could keep your lighter in the packet. Extra double bonus cigarette coolness.

At this point  the closest that cigarettes came to killing me was whenever I tried to give them up. I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen having a coffee and a smoke and thought ‘That’s it. That’s my last smoke.’ And opened the little door on their range and threw the packet in and closed the door.

“Did you leave your lighter in the packet ?” My friend asked .

‘Christ !’ I said as I opened the door of the range to retrieve it.

There was a whooshing sound as what was left of the lighter was propelled in a wee ball of flames directly at me. I shut the door and once the shock had passed my friend laughed, and I laughed.

‘Can you smell something burning ?’ I asked after a moment or two.

“Go look in the hall mirror !” he said, laughing even harder.

I went and looked. The hair above my right ear was gently smouldering and my right eyebrow was ash grey, I rubbed it. It wasn’t just ash coloured, it was ash and it fell away, Righty was no more.

I bought a pack of cigarettes on the way home.

Several times over the next several years, and sometimes several times each year I gave up smoking, or at least said I had.

I found it very hard to stop, until I decided to stop. I stopped smoking on the most cliched day of the year, New Year’s Day, 2002, and haven’t even had a puff since.

I wonder now why I smoked to begin with and for so long. I think I enjoyed it. But the thoughts of it now would suggest that I didn’t.

I wonder what it is about listening to music in a field that is so magical ?

I wonder why the Bank of Ireland in Monaghan has a carved stone logo above the front door which says ‘Hibernian Bank 1824’. The building was built in 1870, and Hibernian Bank was only incorporated in April 1825.

I wonder why there is a blank stone plaque above the door of St.Patrick’s in Church Square.

I wonder why she said yes.

I wonder why time speeds up.

I wonder why everyone else has such poor taste in music.

I wonder why it’s a surprise to some people that Monaghan is the True Centre Of The Universe.

And I wonder why I’m so lucky.



Author: paul

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