WHISPERING SMITH: Why can’t I mention my rare puff on a quirley?

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IT always irritates me when asked the question, on a medical form, “Do you smoke?”

It is not the question that irritates, but more the yes or no answers offered you.

“Are you a smoker?” “Have you ever been a smoker?” and “How long is it since you gave up?”

Where is the space to tell whoever it is who is prying into your lifestyle that you, like a good many people, are an occasional smoker?

I, sometimes, have a stogie down at the allotment, while I am surveying the day’s labours and sipping a warm beer.

I may have a very occasional quirley if my son or daughter are indulging likewise in the garden and, dreadful though it may sound, I could be tempted into lighting up a Gauloise on a sunny French evening in the company of friends and while enjoying a glass of good wine.

My point is that there should be an accepted response on these probing forms that simply allows you to reply with: “Very occasionally.”

IT WAS a sunny morning one day last week, so I pop out to the Arundel Wetland Centre.

Somewhere between Littlehampton and Arundel, however, the weather turns nasty, and by the time I arrive at the centre, there are grey skies and drizzle. Even the ducks are looking depressed by it all.

It’s too wet for a walkabout, so instead I buy a mug of coffee and sit in the café by the large windows overlooking the water, watching a newly-arrived gaggle of Canada geese occupy the island which is usually smothered in seagulls.

Off to my right, there is an elderly gentleman. He is sitting, slumped in the comfortable armchair by the picture window overlooking the large lake.

He has a huge, long lens camera on his lap, his mitten-covered hands are folded at the lips of his nodding head, as if in prayer, and he is fast asleep, dreaming, I suspect, of kingfishers and cormorants.

TAKING coffee with my gloomy old friend this morning, he told me he had woken up in the middle of the night and, unable to get back to sleep, had pondered upon the wording of his tombstone and decided upon: “What was that all about?”

I thought that quite apt.