by Grace
(London, UK)

For the longest time, I couldn’t smell cigarette smoke. It’s hard to imagine now, but not long back, people lit up without a moment’s hesitation in their offices, in restaurants, even on the bus. It was sociable. It was normal. Until fairly recently in London, you’d think a fight or a parade of the undead was underway if you saw a huddle gathered outside a pub on a frosty night. Mostly, I couldn’t smell smoke because it was ubiquitous. There’s this picture of me aged six months, perched on my father’s lap staring at a computer screen while he sits with his hands on the ancient keyboard, a cigarette dangling between his lips and precariously close to my cranium. I probably could have been the poster child for secondhand smoke with my childhood asthma battles, yet apart from one punished attempt to dispose of my mother’s packet that read SMOKING CAUSES CANCER, I didn't show hostility towards their pursuit. It just was how it was. My Dad had blue eyes and she was quite tall and they both smoked. I sensed a change when I returned from a good term in the fresh air that exists outside of the Big Smoke. At my college the new generation of nicotine-chasers had been outnumbered by the members of the Handlebar Moustache Society; indeed, there was often a crossover of membership. Arriving home that day for Christmas, I opened the door and shoved my suitcase over the threshold. There were a few moments of transition, where the crisp air had followed me inside and promised me the world. I could smell chicken roasting in the oven and the cut grass outside. They soon went up in smoke.

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