“You’re a non-smoker,” observes the assistant chemist with a smile.
Her boss, an Inverclyde man and thus of a bearing similar to my moderate Ayrshire mien, offers a perfunctory but genuine “well done”. High praise indeed.
I have just exhaled into a carbon monoxide monitor for the 10th and final time, notching up a two on a scale of one to 10. In Glasgow, even the angels would struggle to register a perfect one.
My conversion from relentless sucker of hand-rolled cigarettes to smokeless fool (geddit?) has been a long time coming, and can in large part be put down to the efforts of my GP and the largesse of the Scottish NHS. Ten weeks’ worth of nicotine patches don’t come cheap.
As many of you will know, the minute you hit 40 the NHS is as keen as mustard to ensure your health and wellbeing are being catered for, as if the preceding four decades were but a lazy saunter in a spring meadow. Albeit one punctuated by an alarming bout of chickenpox, persistent spinal trouble from a herniated disc and all manner of gripes prompted by an appetite for less than beneficial food and drink. Throw in the typically male affliction of sallying forth regardless of the increasingly loud alarm bells in your head and you get the picture. Too much of it, you could argue.
You might feel as fit as a butcher’s beagle but the authorities are hell-bent on getting Scotland’s pitiful stats on heart disease, stroke and cancer down a degree or two, and rightly so. Men like me – peching bon vivants with a yen for meats of spurious origin – are ripe for the picking.
The doc was unequivocal. “We need you to stop smoking.” An easygoing type, I acquiesced and within days had signed up at a nearby chemist, ready to abandon 20-odd years of fealty to fags.
Avoid alcohol, they said. I told them what I did for a living.
Avoid stress, they said. I told them what I did for a living.
They advised me to keep busy. I told them what I did for a living.
You might want to remove the patches before you go to bed, they said. I kept forgetting, paving the way for a series of cosmic reveries that left me exhausted upon waking.
But I kept with it, standing strong in the face of trauma – car accidents, death in the family, spiralling vet bills, a bit of a cold. And now here I am in the chemist’s consultation room (in truth a cupboard filled with boxes of Lemsip and a vacuum cleaner) being released into the dreich wild like a fledgling, better equipped to ride the thermals of life than I was 10 weeks ago. It feels good.
Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.