One week down and the running commentary is running thin. Yesterday was rough; a red wine hangover demanded a smoke and I thought long and hard about stopping by the pie cart at the railway station for some Dunhill Blues. Instead I kept on walking and took the long way to work; through the subway as far as it runs, up the stairs to the far side of the bus depot, then up from the bottom of Molesworth St to the library.

After lunch today I came up Molesworth St again and ran into Paul on his way to Archives. We killed ten minutes mooching round the back of the library where last week I’d have been smoking. You can’t mooch alone without a smoke, you’d just look odd, but you can with a friend. ‘Course you can smoke and mooch with a friend at the same time if you really want – smokers are dexterous like that.

And cunning. Have you seen the new warnings on packets? They cover a good third of the available space with grotesques from the lab of smoking misery. My last pack I had to customise with a business card, cut up and pasted to cover the picture that accompanied the warning: SMOKING MAKES YOU BLIND. (Please someone, make the obvious joke.) My brother too has take to storing his tailor-mades in a Maoist souvenir cigarette tin. Very stylish and not a blackened lung in sight.

Three days

Panic is slowly subsiding. I know a smoke would take away the panic in an instant so I’m reminding myself that an hour later the same panic would be back. Let the panic subside and in time it will be gone. That’s the mantra in any case.

But three days is significant. It’s a temptation point, could go either way. I’ve been without for long enough to think I’m back in control, but not so long that the panic’s gone. There’s the tug to smoke and the thought that I could have just one little smoke.

Just one doesn’t exist. One more means one more after that and that, and then it’s three and more and onto a pack and in and out of days thinking back to those three days I did without.

What is it about three days?

My partner was in labour for three days.

Jesus suffered on the cross for three days.

Jane’s Addiction sang about it.

Hellen Keller wrote about three days to see (in 1933).

In a disaster you should plan on surviving without help for a minimum of three days.

The Pentagon had a ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran.

A lot can happen then, in three days.


It’s a numbers game, this giving up smoking. Yesterday marked the beginning of the latest attempt: 8 April, 2008. 8-4-8. 848. Sounds nice. Better than last week’s attempt: 1 April, 2008. 1-4-8. Not much to go on in 148. Perhaps I should have waited a day and started on the second, 2-4-8. There’s a nice growth in the numbers there, 2 squared and cubed. Of course by the second I’d failed to give up; I’d started on April Fool’s after all, so was kidding myself as much as anybody.

But 848’s nice enough. 808 would be nicer but there’s no 0 month, or if there is it’s squeezed in between December and January like some invisible Leap Day. I like 808 for the connection with 808 State, a band whose name I like and music I might have liked once, when I heard it. Haven’t heard it lately and can’t remember much about it, but the name and numbers stick.

Leap Days are a number unto themselves. They happen once every four years EXCEPT when the year is not divisible by 400. Then we don’t have them, to account for the ever-so-slightly-less-than-an-extra-day-every-four-years-amount-of-time that Leap Days attempt to rectify.

Back to the smoking. I just passed 24 hours without a cigarette during which time I’ve turned down two offers of a smoke. Next major milestone is 3 days. Then a week. Then 3 weeks. After that it’s just the rest of my life, and that’s a numbers game I’m not going into.