Déjà View – Pepsi Max

Posted in Intellectual Theft with tags , , , on July 18, 2009 by fitzjohn101

I find it a challenge to convey – without lapsing into SHEER BLOCK CAPITAL SCATOLOGY – my utter contempt for everyone involved with this example of the shill’s ‘art’. The ‘writers’, the ‘actors’, the ‘director’, the ‘conceptionists’ … you know, the creatives.

The Scenario: a forbidding interviewer asks an insouciant candidate “what makes you think you’re qualified for this job?” The candidate appears to consider for a split-second (the best piece of ‘acting’ in this whole misbegotten exercise) and then launches into twenty seconds of cartoon histrionics around the interviewer’s office, screaming and whimpering, before flinging himself into the corridor, then fleeing. All except one of the other candidates run like the wind. The remaining candidate is somewhat implausibly called into the office by the interviewer. Next time we see him, he’s outside the building, being greeted by two of his buddies, one of whom is the jacketless idiot last seen acting like a jacketless idiot, sticking his head in the interviewer’s fish tank. Our man coming out of the door got the job! Of course! Oh you pranksters, you. You fooled him, didn’t you? You guys! One of you (who presumably, if somewhat implausibly, already has a job) managed to scare all the other candidates off, so that you were the only candidate! Brilliant! You guys! And you … you can live with the fact that the only way you’re going to get a job is if you’re the only one who wants it. Can’t you? Of course you can. So the three of you, who were probably bullied at school, and will probably be (deservedly) bullied at work, set off down the street towards the camera, in your Brooks Brothers suits, busting rap moves in the way only whitebread shitbirds can. Enjoy. Enjoy your day in front of the camera. Enjoy your day in the sun. Enjoy your cans of tasteless sugarwater. You’ll never work again.

What probably happens next: His suspicions aroused, the interviewer looks out of his office window and recognises at least two faces in a trio of celebrating homunculi. Pausing only to rescue a flapping fish from his sodden carpet and deposit it back in the tank, he lifts a phone and calls the nearest precinct. Two hours later, our heroes are located in a bar drinking Pepsi Max by the descendents of Det Lennie Briscoe and arrested for Criminal Damage, Conspiracy and Fraud. They are arraigned, can’t make bail, and sent to Riker’s for the weekend, where they spend the weekend celebrating your man’s new job by being alternately punched and sodomised by men called Chuck, Dirk and Terry.

Intellectual theft: In Fight Club Edward Norton’s character hates his job, his life and the world. Eventually his boss calls him into the office for a showdown. Norton reads the runes, and seizes the initiative. In a piece of physical acting that would have Charlie Chaplin clapping his hands with glee, Norton beats the mortal bejesus out of himself, watched by a supervisor transfixed with terror. The next time we see him, he’s collecting his belongings, along with a pay-off and a pension check.

This is just the start. Much more to come. Much, much more. They’re not Creatives. They’re plagiarists.

Déjà View

Posted in Intellectual Theft on July 17, 2009 by fitzjohn101

Do any of you know someone who works in advertising? A Creative? If you do, you probably work in advertising yourself. And you probably call yourself a Creative.

It saddens me to tell you that you’re almost certainly wrong.

Actually I’m lying: there was a badly-suppressed look of glee on my face as I typed that last sentence. Because there’s a phenomenon at the creative end of the advertising industry, called creative burn-out. That’s what sufferers call it. In the real world it’s called Being Found Out. At whom is advertising aimed? All of us, of course. On whom does it work? Here; it gets tricky. The most complimentary thing I can say about the advertising industry is that it’s complicated enough to merit its own Uncertainty Principle, and possibly even Schrödinger’s Advertising Cat. If I buy something, am I buying it because I saw it advertised? Certainly, if a newspaper advertises on a Friday or Saturday night that they’re giving away a free DVD of … say, Withnail & I tomorrow, I’ll gladly shell out my €2, bin the paper, and pocket my DVD. I might even read the paper, but I won’t be buying it again until the next advert that tells me they’re giving away boxed sets of Laurel & Hardy, or at least a copy of Blazing Saddles, to replace my obsolete videocassette. This isn’t advertising, this is Hucksterism.

This is the 21st century version of the washing powder of my childhood, which inexplicably, but charmingly gave away a free plastic rose with every packet. We were all more naïve in the 60s, even Nana Fitzjohn, who must have been even older then than I am now.

But aside from ‘free’ DVDs, what do I buy because I’ve seen it advertised on TV?

Cigarettes? Ixnay . They don’t need advertising (neither do smack, crack or coke).

Alcohol? Nope. I’m shamingly set in my ways now. Guinness (and we’ll get to their extravaganzas at a later juncture), good wine, and good Irish whiskey. Good vintners don’t seem to advertise their wares; whiskey distillers are constantly fighting a sly internecine battle against whisky distillers. The real advertising battle in the alcohol field is between the producers of fruity alcoslops (you know who you are), for the vulnerable internal organs of the young, stupid and tasteless.

Food? Right. Every night I see a new food group advertised that I never knew existed.

Books? Oh, behave. OK, I read The da Vinci Code. But I’ll never get that afternoon back. At least I got a tan while I was doing it.

Clothes? I need new chinos, I go to Penneys. I need new shirts, I go to Penneys. I need a new tie, shoes or suit, Mrs F takes me to Barcelona or Madrid. When I need new chinos or shirts, Mrs F tells me to go to Penneys. I love my life.

Toothpaste? What’s that one we’ve got? The one that takes away the taste of last night’s sleep without making my face expand to three times its normal size, blowing the barnacles off my non-existent yacht, or causing an avalanche over my non-existent alpine lodge. Take empty tube to supermarket. Buy that one again.

Shampoo? That stuff that doesn’t make my eyes sting. The stuff we got in Newry. Makes me smell of tea-tree oil. Or mint. Or lemon. Whatever. That one that makes my hair not smell of tobacco.

Hair remover? Hair restorer? I’ll let you know, after Mrs F lets me know.

A Las Vegas wedding?

A Reno divorce?

A baby’s arm holding an apple? Yes, even thirty years ago, Fee Waybill was on this riff. He runs Bill Hicks pretty close as my patron saint of advertising.

The first thing we’ll do, let’s kill all the lawyers

Wrong priorities, but let’s give Hal VI some latitude – he lived in what was ostensibly a pre-advertising era. However, the first advertising icon – which I’ve actually seen – is carved into the lintel of an establishmant at Ephesus. It’s the Nike swoosh. This was when Nike actually was the goddess of Victory, rather than Marketing. Guess what the establishment was. Go on, guess. I dare you. Guess. It was a whorehouse.

In Marxist terms – Groucho, not Karl – “Your Honour, I rest my case.” Yet to come: Constant updates on advertising, advertising creatives, and the thefts they perpetrate and perpetuate. Enjoy.

The Grinding Inevitability of HIStory

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 27, 2009 by fitzjohn101

What do you say about a fifty-one year old man who died of a heart attack?

Well, going by today’s scan of the various media at our disposal, the sky – in terms of number of words – is the limit. Billions of words. So let’s trace back.

Man in Gary, Indiana fathers large number of children. Eldest five sons prove to be musically gifted.
Eldest five sons make their mark.
Father habitually tells son number five he is “fat, ugly and spotty”.
Eldest five sons become phenomenon.
Son number five turns out to be phenomenally gifted.
Son number five goes solo.
Son number five becomes ultraphenomenon.
World falls in love with son number five.
Father keeps telling son number five about his shortcomings (although he has, presumably, stopped beating the hell out of him).
Various liggers and hangers-on embark on project of telling son number five that he can do anything.
Son number five goes slightly odd, and decides he can do anything.
Son number five re-invents the art of walking.
Son number five engages in project to turn himself – via reconstructive surgery – into simulacrum of his only friend.
Son number five, who is now King of the World, decides that he is entitled to re-run his childhood, which he didn’t enjoy first time around.
Son number five gets into trouble for re-enacting his childhood with real child. Real child’s parents become millionaires.
Son number five marries daughter of former King of the World. Whatever this was meant to achieve does not occur.
Son number five resumes attempt to re-run childhood.
Son number five enlists British journalist to explain re-run.
Serious unpleasantness ensues.
Son number five persuades jury that this has all been a phenomenal misunderstanding.
Large proportion of world population has serious reservations about its King.
Son number five in serious financial doo-doo, owing GNP of small emerging nation.
Son number five, who has reportedly spent previous four years in wheelchair, under serious pressure from ‘advisors’ to embark on fifty-date residency at London gigadome.
Son number five expires after pain-killing injection from medical practitioner.
World convulsed by grief.

I’m not the only one who saw this coming, am I? It’s very sad, but the definition of tragedy is the sheer inevitability of it. The man had his doom etched in his bones. If, two hundred years from now, people are around to watch video of him moonwalking, I hope that they’ll note that he’s going backwards.

What Would Bill Hicks Do?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2009 by fitzjohn101

Bill Hicks had some famously harsh words for those engaged in advertising (“Just kill yourselves. I mean it”) which spring to mind whenever I see a comedian in a TV ad, because seemingly every comedian who’s ever been asked to analyse his or her trade cites the great man as his or her hero. Still, messiahs have always found disciples depressingly fallible, and when an agency invites you to trouser this cheque while reciting these words into this microphone, the thought “What would Bill do?” is probably not the first that careers through ones synapses.

A quarter of a century ago I worked as a gofer at a theatre in Liverpool. One of the actors that season – let’s call him Bob, to save any embarrassment – was a member of the SWP (Socialist Workers Party for those below the age of thirty), who in his programme biog pronounced that he “could not love anyone who voted SDP [Social Democratic Party, ibid]”. His prospective feelings for anyone who voted Labour, Conservative or Monster Raving Loony remained unrecorded.

The next time I saw Bob was a couple of months later on a TV screen. He was [playing] one of a troupe of gurning yaffles who yelled “Tell Sid!” at each other in an advertisement.  Sid was purportedly the only sentient lifeform in the UK who hadn’t heard that British Gas was being privatised, and that he was entitled to buy shares in a public utility. If he had the money.

I know, I know. Actors are playing a part. Richard Basehart, Sir Alec Guinness and Bruno Ganz have all played Hitler. That doesn’t make them Nazis. Playing Albert di Salvo didn’t imply Tony Curtis had any sympathy for the Boston Strangler. And actors are entitled to do ads. It pays the bills. It feeds the kids. And it can be crushing. You can graduate from the best acting school in your country, and a week later, to pay the fees for that school, you’re standing in front of a camera dressed as a prawn or a carrot.

I sympathise. But once you take that shilling, you have no right to proselytise. GB Shaw asked an actress, in the course of an argument, whether she’d sleep with him for a pound. No, was the vehement answer. A million pounds? Yes, she’d consider it. Then, he pronounced, they’d established her status – everything else was just haggling. I never did get to meet Bob again. I can foresee his defence – he took the money from British Gas and gave it to the Party. Subvert the System from the inside. Right. We all saw how that panned out. The system in the Eighties was so full of people ‘subverting it from the inside’  it’s astonishing that anyone got out with a breath in their body.

The ad that originally prompted these musings admittedly features no comedians, but it did prompt the question “Do these people really need the money that badly?” They can’t all have been bilked by Bernie Madoff. Are they in such pathological need of public visibility? Did Dubya’s memorable phrase about the  difficulty of  “putting food on your families” make such an impression on them?

As you may or may not be aware, there has been some fiscal unpleasantness recently, which has resulted in several corporate shake-outs. One of these has entailed an entity by the splendidly palindromic name of Aviva going round the globe collecting insurance companies like baseball cards. Now Aviva apparently need to inform the customers – present and prospective – of these companies that there’s a new sheriff in town.

To this end, a motley collection of celebrities have been corraled into a collection of bewildering ads which pose more questions than they answer, the first of which is detailed above. What this crew have in common – apart from their acceptance of Aviva’s lucre – is the fact that they’ve changed their names.

Cue Alice Cooper, morphed by the wonders of CGI into footage of him in his heyday, asking ‘would a glam rocker by the name of Vincent Furnier have made it?’. Well, now you mention it, Vince, I don’t see why not. I was probably a little staid in my early teens, but I for one was slightly put off by the moniker (my mother’s name is Alice, and she looked nothing like Vince). And I have it on good authority that Mr Furnier’s success was responsible for at least a dozen young Alices in the Anglophone world rushing into ill-advised marriages in the Seventies in order to rid themselves of their maiden name. Is that something you feel comfortable with, Vince?

Cue Bruce Willis, similarly CGIed alongside his younger self, careering a cab around New York in one of those Die Hard films I never got round to watching: over the roar of the engine, he asks us “Would Walter Willis have got the leading role?” Well, Bruce, I think you’re being unfair to yourself, and the name Walter. By your reasoning, it’s frightening to consider the level of world domination a certain entertainment corporation would have achieved by now, had it been founded by Bruce Disney. England’s football manager never felt the  need to change his name to Bruce Winterbottom; admittedly, nor did he win the World Cup, but the man who succeeded him, and did, was called Alf.

Cue Ringo Starr, besieged in a car by hysterical fans, in a flashback to his halcyon days. He turns to camera, flashing a shit-eating grin, and intones “Would any of this happened to me if I’d been plain Richard Starkey?” Well, Ringo (or may I call you Rich?), I think you’ll find it would have. However, there is one caveat. I think you’ll find it would all have happened to Plain Richard Starkey, the fame, the adulation, the money … so long as you kept hanging round with The Beatles. God knows, John Peel confessed that he got a job as a DJ in Texas just by claiming to be your cousin, so as long as you remained in close proximity to those three, you were in the catbird seat.

The second ad, as Rich Halls would have it, “is a corker”. An anonymous suit steps in front of a cascade of numerals, booming “I Am Not A Customer Reference Number!”

Good for you, man. Me neither. On the other hand, I have numerous customer reference numbers. They simplify things. I hope your name is something like Zizzy Zivvirixxy, and not Bill Jones, otherwise your phone bills are going to be catastrophic.

Next up is Elle MacPherson, frowning in a terrifying manner, yelling “Don’t treat me like an idiot!”  To which one can only reply “why not?”

Then we’re confronted by a scene of heartbreaking resonance: Macaulay Culkin, (who it seems will be trapped in moody adolescence until Social Services intervene) sits, alone, in a darkened cinema, staring up at a sixty-foot version of his equine visage, and intones “Remember me.” Leaving aside the rejoinder “For what?”, this is a wonderful film in itself. It’s Sunset Boulevard for the twenty-first century, condensed into four seconds. Whoever conceived it should be pelted with all the awards that his or her cranium can withstand.

Then it’s back to Ringo, unfortunately. A hapless chauffeur waits at Arrivals for him, bearing a placard emblazoned with RINGO. “Don’t call me by my stage name,” growls our hero.


Let me get this straight, Rick. People wouldn’t be waiting for you at the airport if you weren’t called Ringo. You said that in the other ad. You do remember that one, don’t you? What are we supposed to call you? (Apart from a couple of epithets that readily suggest themselves.) You don’t like Plain Richard Starkey. You don’t like Ringo Starr. Who are you this week? Reinhardt Springbok? Strobe Pancake? Give us a clue.

Ringo, of course, is a massively complicated person (much like Elle and Macaulay). The Last Beatle (no, not in that sense, I know Paul’s still around. I’m talking about that unpleasantness when he was parachuted in after the ejection of Pete Best), he’s carried a chip the size of the Dingle peninsula on his shoulder since pro-Best fans messed his hair before his first gig. Then John Lennon, when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world, remarked that “Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles”. Ouch.

More recently, he managed to alienate a whole city – the city of his birth – by denigrating its year as European Culture Capital. Fair enough, Liverpool started it by knocking down his birthplace in Madryn Street, rather than preserving it as a kind of scouse Bethlehem, but that’s no excuse for inflicting this sturm und drang on the rest of the world.

Reinhardt (you don’t mind if I call you that, do you?): I won’t call you Plain Richard, I won’t call you by your stage name. Just don’t call us. Deal?

Elle: I promise not to treat you like an idiot. Promise. You need to have a word with your agent and your acting coach, though.

Macaulay: Oh, I’ll remember you. I’m trying not to, but those four seconds are etched on my cortex.

Aviva: I love your name. Not only is it a palindrome, but it’s a double palindrome. (Look at it in the mirror). Your ads are hilarious. But in a sucky way.

What would Bill do? Laugh. I hope.

Fitzjohn’s Nicotine-Free Adventures In Dreamland

Posted in The Nicotine Diaries with tags , , , , on March 13, 2009 by fitzjohn101

The problem with dreams, I find, is the compulsion to share the funny ones while knowing full well that your audience is unlikely to share one’s amusement. Bemusement, perhaps, but …

Last night’s imbroglio began with a summons from Abraham Lincoln. He informed me, in a sonorous voice that sounded uncannily like Gregory Peck, that he intended to create unity by forming his Cabinet from those who had aspired to the office he was assuming, thereby creating a Team of Rivals. “Catchy,” I said. “Wherein do I figure, Mr President?”

“You will be my ambassador to the future.”

Stifling the urge to query the preposition in his last utterance, I assured him of my utmost respect, and asked what he expected of me. “We are entering calamitous times, Ambassador. I need to ensure that they are not repeated. You will record our decisions and actions in precise detail, and depending on the outcome, report to the future on what to do, or what not to do.”

So, I thought, no pressure there, then. And it’s my first day in the job.

With that, he strode out of the Oval Office, and made for the Cabinet Room. I felt a definite craving for a cigarette, and followed him. In the Cabinet Room, he introduced me to about twenty imposing individuals with impressive whiskers, who seemed distinctly, but silently unimpressed by his ambassador to the future. Their lack of awe was underlined when we sat at the Cabinet Table and found that we were one seat short. Guess who was left standing? Until, that is, a Marine (who may or may not have been an anachronism) brought a high stool and diplomatically created a space for the Ambassador to the Future. The advantage of the stool was that I was almost, but not quite, at the same height as the Team of Rivals; the disadvantage was that I couldn’t lean back.

“Gentlemen,” said the President, “feel free to smoke. Apart from the ambassador. Mrs Fitzjohn has communicated her disapproval to me.”

Instantly the air was thick with a blue-grey fug emanating from cigars, cheroots and corncob pipes.

The details of the meeting escaped me. For one thing I was seated next to Vice-President Andrew Johnson, who seemed to have taken an immediate dislike to me, and was taking great delight in blowing smoke into my face; for another, it’s difficult to concentrate when the Vice-President of the United States is taking a schoolboyish glee in ‘accidentally’ elbowing you in the ribs.

Whether it was a mania induced by passive smoking, or nicotine deprivation, I could take no more. I turned to the Veep, glared at him and hissed “I am going to get myself elected to the Senate just so I can vote on your impeachment, big boy.” Johnson gave me a less surreptitious elbow, and I discovered another drawback to the stool: a high centre of gravity.

When the Marine picked me up, my head was ringing, the only sound in the room. I drew myself to my full height, and announced “Mr President, I think it’s best if I withdraw.”

He nodded sadly. I considered leaving him with a warning about the Ford Theatre, but … these things never work out.

I woke up with an involuntary jolt, waking Mrs Fitzjohn. “What’s the matter?” she mumbled.

“I lost my job.”

She sighed. “Go back to sleep, Fitzjohn. That was months ago.”

I went back to sleep.

And found myself taking a call from a guy called Rahm, whose boss Barack had heard about my previous experience in the White House, and wanted to know if I was interested. I was interested, and turned up again at the White House at the appointed hour. Rahm gave me a mobile, a Blackberry, a laptop and the address of my new apartment in Georgetown. He then told me I couldn’t go to the apartment for three hours, as my landlord would be at work. Once ensconced, I should come to work tomorrow.

I spent the next three hours trudging through the Washington DC rain, discovering that I had no waterproof clothing. By the time I got to the new apartment, I met Sam, my new landlord, a pernickety individual who showed me round, turning electrical appliances off as I turned them on. When I unpacked, the mobile, the Blackberry and the laptop were all as dead as disco. Rainwater leaked out of every button. I sat on the bed and didn’t have the energy to weep. I opened a packet of cigarettes, which turned out to be a box of sodden tobacco mush.

I woke up with a groan.

“What’s the matter now?” murmured Mrs Fitzjohn.

“I’m not taking that job at the White House”.

“Mm. OK. Too far to move, anyway.”

Then she went back to sleep, and I watched her do that for a while.

That’s what I love about Mrs Fitzjohn. She lives the dream with me. Even when it’s a nightmare.

Smoking – A History

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 5, 2009 by fitzjohn101

My forty-eighth birthday in January meant that I’d been smoking for twenty-eight years. 20 ᙮ 365 ᙮ 28. Equals … dear God Almighty … 204,400. That’s 10,220 packets. When I started smoking they were 66p per packet; the current price is around £6.00. If we take a median price of £3.00 (€3.20) per packet over those years, that’s €3.20 ᙮ 10,220. Which is €32,704. Which divided by 28 years equals €1,168.

This isn’t actually looking so bad … financially, at least. When I visualise those 10,220 empty cigarette packets piled in a corner of Sudan or Mogadishu, and envisage what €32,704 could have done in those corners of the world, I get a little queasy morally. Until I remember that what €32,704 usually does in those corners of the world is not usually good. What it usually does is buy a lorry full of AK-47s.

Then I remember that I’m not a politician in either of those benighted countries, that I’ll never live as well as the politicians in those countries, and that I’ve done my small part over the years for tobacco farmers from Virginia to Zimbabwe to Havana.

By the by, in the unlikely event that all those cigarettes … all my cigarettes … could be persuaded to stand end on end, they’d be 1,913 feet short of the tip of Everest. Which would make the effort of standing them all on end somewhat pointless.

This is all about reverse psychology. Every time I’ve looked for reasons to stop smoking, they’ve leapt up at my face like yappy little dogs, but they haven’t convinced me.

Financial? Phooey. See above. I’m trying my best to convince myself with the new car, but the point is that we need the car, so we’ll afford the car, come hell or whatever.

Moral? Phooey. I live in a country which, to its credit, was among the first to ban smoking in public places. This tested this country’s ingenuity, its integrity and its resistence to change. It also tested this country’s respect for the rule of law, and I think we came out of that one OK.

Physical? When I was twelve I was seriously ill with bronchitis. When I was twenty the same GP, who’d looked after my clan for forty years, smelled nicotine on me and called me a fecking idiot. He knew my history, knew my uncles’ history. The problem was, he was wrong. It wasn’t nicotine that destroyed three of my mother’s four brothers. It was asbestos. Jimmy, Tommy and John worked on the docks, all came into contact with asbestos, and all died of emphysema. Like their father. My beloved grandfather. Who also worked on the docks, and came into contact with every goddamn thing. And died coughing.

I’m going to stop this one for tonight, because I’m getting angry. Jim, Jimmy, Tommy, and John are long dead now, but they did dangerous work well, and treated it as everyday stuff because that was what was expected of them. Over the course of their ‘careers’ they had things swung into them, on top of them … the fact that they got to their sixties astonishes me.

No Smoking

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 3, 2009 by fitzjohn101

“Giving up smoking is easy,” said Spike Milligan, “I’ve done it dozens of times.”

As I type this, Mrs Fitzjohn and I are almost forty-eight hours into The Great Nicotine Renunciation, and she appears to be coping quite well. Me? Well, I’m at home alone most of the day, and I’ve noticed a heightened level of awareness, such as the knowledge that if I have to watch or hear that Cadbury’s advert with the odd kids and the eyebrows one more time, something in this apartment is going to be badly damaged, and it may be the TV, so I’m having to be quite slick with the remote whenever I can bear to have the TV on and there’s a commercial break.

One thing they tell you on giving up smoking … one thing that some of them tell you on giving up smoking … is to stay physically active. Dispiritingly, this is something they also tell housebound pensioners during the winter months, so you can imagine the ebb I’m at. Besides, once the bed has been changed, the floors swept, and all the other chores done, there’s not that much to keep someone physically occupied around this apartment, and in view of my heightened level of awareness (especially my sense of smell), there is no way I’m going back to the local gym. I let my subscription lapse four years ago because the first thing I needed every time I left that midden was a cigarette.

So. If you’re reading this, you’re either interested in ways of giving up smoking, or you’re one of those odd people who revels in the agonies of others trying to give up smoking. To be honest, as we click up towards 48 hours, agony is not the word. There’s a recorded phenomenon among amputees, wherein they get “ghost” pain in their missing limb. And the strange thing is that awkward as the the last forty-eight hours have been, that’s all they’ve been – awkward.

I’ll let you all know how this pans out. Bear in mind that this has no medical or scientific basis. It’s about giving up after quarter of a century. (Or longer. I’ll tell you about that later). Bear in mind I have no Allan Carr magic formula, and perhaps in view of his end, neither did he. In this instance, Mrs Fitzjohn and I agreed, last week, a deadline of midnight on Sunday for our last cigarettes. This meant that we knew when we were finishing, and were ready. There were no surprises, there could be no denial.

Something else they suggest is an incentive to give up. Well, certain quarters suggest against a financial incentive, but Mrs F’s car gave up the ghost – she needed another one. We did the maths, and phoned around, and found that for half of what we spent on cigarettes per month, Mrs F could have a three year old car. She takes delivery of her new car tomorrow. Smoking’s banned in it. If I don’t post tomorrow, I’ll be down in the garage, with my mouth wrapped round the exhaust pipe.

That was a joke. Promise.

Next instalment: Smoking – a history