Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Pipe Dreams

ONE CAN FIND A GOOD DEAL of literature about smoking pipes. Style, elegance, gentlemanliness, timelessness, all are emphasised, with a vague suggestion that they are to men what trunks are to elephants and utterly indispensable. And of course all this is true. One wonders how our esteemed editor has got on with his this year. We must say it would be like adding gold to gold - elegance to elegance - but we trust he feels the addition worthwhile.

For, you see, a good August evening, with a good book, and a good pipe, reminds me that it is quite simply the only thing. It is either pipe leaf, or modern crisps, when it comes to accompanying your pint, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the latter is more disastrous for your health.

And it is a beautiful art.

It requires work. But not too much work. It must be gently suckled; and yet not too gently - it needs a bit of bite, and no drool; and also you must not pump and pump at it, but lightly play upon its bellows with a breathing regime no less controlled than a choir’s; you want to keep it pacifically going, not consume it in a firestorm; and indeed respiration no less measured than a public orator’s is further required, when you are in the midst of good talk. Many have been the pressing debates upon the affairs of state in the parliamentary chambers of the local inn, suspended, alas, by an improperly timed puff and some rousing conclusion. Many the tears uncontrollably shed. Many the cries of “Order! Order! More ale! My eyes! My tongue!”

Pipe smoking is much more than doing a small impression of a steam train (though it is certainly nothing less).

But of course a good deal of this sentiment, as with many of our joys, requires, for the now, the past tense.

We should all feel privileged to have lived in the last time when a man could still cross the threshold of inn, feel the huge warmth of its fire, espy a vacant seat in an adjacent nook, order a damp mug of something local and set about a good pipe. The whole thing rushes upon me as I think of it!

Perhaps you have filled your pipe in advance, and it has sat carefully primed inside your jacket or coat pocket for your entire walk. Yet perhaps not - and perhaps now, with a forefinger and thumb stained with the homely odour of your wet dog, you come to rest beside him, and withdraw your pouch, for you have construction to see to.

In the leaf goes - drizzle of gamey brown by drizzle of gamey brown - tamped down each time, with all the delicacy of a gardener embedding his new plants - then that first match flaring! - and the first sizzling of the topsoil! Puff. Let it burn and go out. Wait a moment. Your pewter tankard has arrived.

Then the second match.

And ah, how it crinkles with the heat, with all the joy and noise of a childhood bowl of Rice Krispies; and ah, at the end of that first igniting breath, the release and - slightly delayed by the length of the pipe - how it now pours forth, the white, profuse smoke, curling out in slow waves and sluggish eruptions, easing out rhythmically with your breath, like the contented exhaust of a vintage biplane, or the comforting billows of a campfire, or the ghost of a waterfall flowing upwards.


Thou small cauldron of joy!

It is brought home to me that it is no bad thing that our gentleman’s club remains, for now, ethereal, for it is the only means by which it can proudly - and quite rightly - ignore the soft-Stalinist anti-smoking laws, against which some abolition movements should promptly be drafted.


Beaverbrook said...

I'm afraid it went quite terribly at first, and irritated my esophogus to no end. I bought a brand spanking new corn-cob pipe, and nearly dispensed with it after suffering day after day in throat agony, particularly in the mornings. But then I realized what the problem was. The damn pipe was new!

So for any of you gents starting out with a new pipe, make sure you go slow at first. It takes about three weeks to break one of those babies in, before you can go full hog. My advice is to hire yourself some cheap labour and have them puff on it for a good month. If they complain that its irritating their throats, tell them it's because they need to break in their throats to enjoy it!

Wellington said...

What an enjoyable little read. I'm going to guess that the writer of this post majored in English lit, for the gentleman author takes a noticeable delight in language.