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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it...

Here in the UK, like mostly everywhere else in the world, smoking is becoming unacceptable - and to a point this is just. But the hysteria has gone too far and the problem is that it is going to go further still. I've given up the cigs long ago and although I do think people should be allowed to smoke if that is their choice, I won't be particularly sorry to see cigarettes vanish altogether. Cigarettes represent a poor way to use tobacco in any case.

Pipe smoking is a different beast altogether - Ok now that we've got our designated smoking areas, can you please just leave us alone. Yeah tobacco consumption is not particularly good for you, no matter how you use it, but pipe smoking is far less of a danger than cigarettes. And I'll be dammned if I'll cast aside my beloved pipes.

Far from a habit, pipe smoking is a hobby and one that has its origins in ancient history - The Indians of North and South America over the course of a thousand years were only able to craft crude pipes made out of stone or clay. However, the European craftsmen were able to perfect the art of pipes in only a couple of centuries. Pipes themselves can be beautiful works of art. Craftsmen from all over the world have done wonders with simple pieces of briar or many of the other materials used in modern pipe making.

"When love grows cool, thy fire still warms me;
When friends are fled, thy presence charms me.
If thou art full, though purse be bare,
I smoke, and cast away all care!"

There are pipes to suit any pocket but the very best can cost several hundreds of pounds. They are precision instruments that must be smoked carefully and skilfully. Pipe historian John Loring's website HERE is well worth a visit. There is a vast worldwide community of pipe smokers and there is an interesting pipe smoking podcast put together by the Old Toby people which will give you the latest news on legal issues regarding pipe smoking as well as interviews with some of the world's most noted pipe carvers. Find the podcast HERE. is a wonderful website where second hand pipes are traded and sold - yep you heard correct - secondhand pipes or to give them their proper title, estate pipes. These pipes are renovated, cleaned and sterilised by professionals and they end up looking and tasting as good as new. Often the only way to afford one of the more pricey pipes is to buy used pipes. I got myself a Dunhill on Ebay for £40 which I then treated and cleaned up myself. Everytime I smoke it I am aware that new it would cost several hundreds of pounds.

Pipe tobacco can be likened to fine wines in the way they tease that palette and there are many varieties and blends available - Burley, virginian, cavendish, oriental,latakia...the list is endless. There are plain tobaccos, aromatic tobaccos and just about every other kind of tobacco.

Me I'm off to smoke a pipe of Dark Cavendish and read some pipe poetry:

O Blessed pipe,
That now I clutch within my gripe,
What joy is in thy smooth, round bowl,
As black as coal!
So sweetly wed
To thy blanched, gradual thread,
Like Desdemona to the Moor,
Thou pleasure's core.
What woman's lip
Could ever give, like thy red tip,
Such unremitting store of bliss,
Or such a kiss?
Oh, let me toy,
Ixion-like, with cloudy joy;
Thy stem with a most gentle slant
I eye askant!
Unseen, unheard,
Thy dreamy nectar is transferred,
The while serenity astride
Thy neck doth ride.
A burly cloud
Doth now thy outward beauties shroud:
And now a film doth upward creep,
Cuddling the cheek.
And now a ring,
A mimic silver quoit, takes wing;
Another and another mount on high,
Then spread and die.
They say in story
That good men have a crown of glory;
O beautiful and good, behold
The crowns unfold!
How did they live?
What pleasure could the Old World give
That ancient miserable lot
When thou wert not?
Oh, woe betide!
My oldest, dearest friend hath died,--
Died in my hand quite unaware,
Oh, Baccy rare!
ANDREW WYNTER. From Pipe and Pouch: The Smokers own poetry (now in the public domain and available on prject gutenberg)


Charles Gramlich said...

I've often had an urge to smoke a pipe. I just don't like the smoke that gets in my eyes. Plus I think I'd probably look goofy. I don't have the face for it.

Laurie said...

It's the only tobacco smoke I can tolerate - in fact I kind of like it. And I smoked cigarettes for years when I was a kid. Nice post - learned something.

Matthew Coniam said...

And a Happy New Year from one pipe smoker to another!

Oscar said...

Tried it for a few years off and on, mostly while I was aboard a ship of some kind where nobody cared whether you smoked or not. Just gave it up as no longer worth the trouble several years ago and I don't miss it a bit. Same with cigars. Cigarettes, yuck! Never could stand 'em.

Old Toby said...

Thanks for the shout out! This is Andrew with the Old Toby Podcast and we are getting ready to release podcast #3 for the new year! I just finished up an interview with Mark Tinsky, one with Erik Nording, Richard Carleton Hacker and a bunch or others. Check us out if you get a chance!