Day 103

5.02: “Well I’ve been a smoker for 95 years, and stayed alive longer than Nelson Mandela and the all the Rolling Stones combined. So stick that it your pipe and take a life-prolonging puff.”

Bad news folks, Britain’s oldest smoker, as officially measured and crowned by the Daily Telegraph, has carked it.

Not-quite-103-year-old Winnie Langley started smoking after the First World War, which was a stressful time for everyone I’m told. Not only did she go on to become a walking rebuttal to the Moaning Minnies who practice conventional, evidence-based, peer-reviewed, joy-killing medicine, she became one of a rock ‘n’ roll icon when she sparked up a fag with the one of the candles from her hundredth birthday cake.

Read that article, because buried in it, there’s a grain of human truth. The broken-Britain-baiting Telegraph gives some weight to Winnie’s throttling back on the cancer candles, because she couldn’t any longer afford the habit. Inflation: hiss. Progressive taxes: boo.

But take a look at her reason for cutting them out altogether: “she could not see the end of a match.”

Seriously, that’s something like a triumph for the human spirit. A 103-year-old is so bloody minded that in spite of having survived cancer and, in the face of all the best medical advice, she persists in doing something that was very likely to kill her – goading it to do its worst, even – only thwarted by the fact that she survived to such a prodigious age she couldn’t find a thing she was actually holding.

That surely puts her in the George Best category of indefatigable idiots, doesn’t it?

If the Telegraph had really done its research, it would tell us who the second oldest smoker in Britain was that now takes up her nicotine-lacquered baton. Maybe write in, if you think it might be you.

6.54: That wasn’t bad. Stuart didn’t want to wake up at first, but neither did I. After that, bleary-eyed and fuddle-brained, we staggered on doggedly in to the world together, like Adam and Eve cast out of Eden, but if they’d hated each other.

~ by David Thorley on August 18, 2010.

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