Every traveller has something they will take home with them from a journey and I don’t mean Syphilis or Chlamydia! What I’m talking about are things like hobbies or pastimes which may have been interesting enough to pick up along the way and so will be brought home with you. Perhaps you decided to pick up the jazz flute while in New Orleans or your visit to France inspired you to relearn French. Whatever it is, it’s these cultural ‘nuggets’ brought home that make our return to ‘the real world’ so interesting for not just ourselves but also those around us.
Modern travellers are like old world sailors (with less STD’s), they trek from country to country bringing home physical stories and reminders of the things they’ve seen, each and every one more enriched and wise for the experience.
Do you ever wish you were more distinguished? Or have you ever wanted to solve crimes with an oversize magnifying glass? Maybe you feel that you just need more ‘wizard’ in your life? Well read on.. and learn about the most recently acquired hobby in my life, the distinguished art of pipe smoking.
It’s fair to say that pipe smoking is not an all-together common pastime for anyone under the age of about 200 who isn’t also an English professor wearing a tweed jacket. Well good, I like doing things a little differently and who’s to say it’s not going to make a comeback like ‘fixie’ bikes did…
Fair London-town, where we lay our scene.
It was one of those infinitely rare sunny days in London and the city had come to life, people walked the streets, flocked to the parks in such numbers that a patch of grass had become quite a valuable commodity. I was wandering around Covent Garden and found myself staring into the windows of a rather proper looking Tobacconist shop.
Having never been a smoker the most interest I had previously paid a tobacconist was buying the occasional ‘victory cigar’, and only when the occasion called for it.
Looking through the glass I was struck at how the place seemed to be filled with ‘Rich mahogany and leather-bound books’ and English gents perused the many jars each filled with varying amounts of tobacco. The windows were filled with earthy colours, of deep reds and wooden browns and the whole place smelled like smoky chocolate.
I was intrigued… I entered…
Greetings, my good man! I exclaimed in the best officer-class English accent I could muster.
The owner sitting behind the counter eyed me suspiciously over both his glasses and the polished oak counter top.
I couldn’t back out now, so I kept the Monty Python sounding accent going as a pretext to explaining to him that I was an English Lord in town for a few days break from my country chateau (and wife) and I had decided to dabble in the gentlemanly art of pipe smoking, and he was to inform me about what’s what if he knew what was good for him! I also muttered something about releasing the hounds and tapped my cane on the ground no less than thrice, so he knew I was serious.
The old man smiled like your mum used to when you told her you wanted to be superman when you grew up, then proceeded to give me a complete tour of pipe smoking for the modern 21st century man.
Lord Shaw left the shop having purchased a small selection of aromatic pipe tobacco from the gentleman who was I think, just happy to see me go. I picked up an antique pipe while in Brighton, and after a quick sanitary clean I was ready to delve into…
..The Wonderful Art of Pipe Smoking – In 7 Parts
1) Setting: Only ever smoke your pipe when you are relaxing. If you are in a hurry there’s no time for smoking a pipe, go catch a bus or something instead.
2) Equipment: Pipe, good pipe tobacco (it must come from a glass jar or something similar and is never purchased from anywhere but a real Tobacconist), good tobacco makes your mouth water, yes even for non-smokers. Pipe tool (optional), pipe cleaners and lighter or matches.
3) Packing: To pack the pipe simply pick up pinches of tobacco and sprinkle into the bowl of the pipe, when it gets full gently press it down, you don’t want it too packed or too thin so practice makes perfect. I use a finger to press down but a pipe tool works too.
4) Spinning: This is personal preference I like to do it as I find it helps my tobacco stay lit for longer. Using a finger I push down gently on the tobacco, spin the pipe in a circle with my finger as the pivot. This twirls the tobacco wrapping it around itself and making it more tangled inside the pipe. I do this about 7 or 8 times.
5) Lighting: Use a flame to gently light the top of the tobacco, in a circular motion aiming to burn it evenly over the surface, while gently sucking air through the pipe. It should go out fairly soon, relight focussing on the less burnt areas of the tobacco (I can’t taste the difference between lighters and matches, but some can apparently).
6) Smoking: Do not inhale. That would really hurt and also ruin your experience; pipe smoke is held in the mouth and ‘tasted’ before it is expelled, like a cigar. Take small mouthfuls frequently to keep the bowl lit.
7) Cleaning: Use pipe cleaners to properly clean the inside of the pipe’s stem, ready for your next session.
It’s the experiences and attitudes we take home from a journey that can change who we are, I believe fervently that even the act of taking on the journey itself is enough to force changes to a person.
So how has pipe smoking changed me?
Well I feel much wiser and all ‘Gandulf The Grey’ now, and I can sit happily by a fire or body of water, wrapped in a cloak and murmur things into the darkness without coming across as too weird… That’s the side effect of a good pipe; you get away with so much more with it in your hand. You can wear funky coloured bow-ties, Sherlock Holmes hats, lean on a cane and wear as much tweed as you like… and apparently as long as you also have a beard, captioning a tug boat is not out of the question either!