Good riddance to era when the dreaded ‘weed’ ruled the roost

Country Living with Francis Farragher

ON an evening last week, as I made my way home from work, I came across the unusual sight of a couple of hitch-hikers on the stretch of dual carriageway near Galway city, that most of us still refer to as the Hogan Motors road. It was an unusual place to see ‘the thumbs up’ and both of them were sucking  cigarettes. So, that combination of trying to get a lift on a dual carriageway and puffing out cigarette smoke at the same time made their chances of being ‘picked up’ pretty remote.

It reminded me of a time about 20 years back, nay, maybe even another decade or so, when as a driver, I wasn’t as cautious about giving lifts to ‘thumbers’. The times were certainly different too as regards our attitude to smoking, because I have many recollections of passengers quite regularly saying to me: “You don’t mind, if I smoke, do you.”

Whether out of manners or a lack of assertiveness, I’d always say: “belt away, but as our attitudes have changed in 2018, such a scenario is now unimaginable. The prospect of a passenger billowing out smoke into the confines of a car interior is now a complete no-no, and I suppose rightly so, given the link between smoking and a range of fatal ailments from lung cancer to heart disease and stroke.

I grew up in a house in the 1960s where smoking was part of the culture, with my mother, and her siblings, all hardened smokers from their teenage years. My mother still lived into her 80s, despite burning her way through 30 or 40 Sweet Aftons on most days of her life, but lung cancer did take its toll on some my beloved aunties, as the years rolled on.

They weren’t from a generation given to vices and often would give lectures on the ‘evils of drink’ but they grew up in an era where there was very little publicity or awareness about the health risks associated with the dreaded ‘weed’. As well as that, back the years, they were quite cheap and were never too much of a drain on what were meagre enough financial resources.

My little trips to the local shop for my mother always contained the order of 10 Sweet Aftons, as she nurtured some irrational notion of economy by buying the fags in the small boxes. Needless to say, my trips to the shop were frequent enough and it would be an indiscretion of calamitous proportions if the cigarettes were forgotten, or lost, on the way home, even if all the other ‘basics’ such as milk, bread and sausages were brought back safely.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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