THIS ISLAND LIFE I’VE always wondered why the logo "Stop-tober" was chosen for the month devoted to helping people give up smoking.
Surely NO-vember would have been a more memorable and slightly less contrived choice? And locally, why not use the phrase Isle Quit to promote such a worthy campaign?
Despite these clunky promotional efforts, a lot of people on the Island are likely to take up the challenge — and they are in for the toughest month of their life.
There’s no point sugaring the pill; ridding yourself of nicotine addiction is not easy — I’ve been there, done that and got the tear-stained, spittle-flecked T-shirt, with the neckline gnawed in frustration.
Giving up smoking more than 30 years ago is by far the hardest task I’ve ever undertaken, which is why I will always regard it as my finest achievement. Nothing has been more difficult, yet more worthwhile.
Had I still been smoking at the rate I was in the early 80s, it would now be costing me more than £100 a week to sustain the appalling habit — that’s if my battered lungs had kept me alive long enough to tell the tale.
Those who have tried to give up the vile weed will be familiar with all the tricks I tried during the excruciating journey towards total abstinence.
First, I attempted to cut down on my 40-a-day consumption by pledging to have only one cigarette an hour. This ploy lasted precisely 61 minutes.
I then replaced cigarettes with Polo mints and was quickly consuming about ten packets a day as fillings flew out in all directions.
Then I swapped cigarettes for cheap cigars and was eventually fumigating home and workplace by getting through more than 20 acrid Hamlet a day.
The pipe then became my nicotine supply of last resort but, take it from me, nothing looks more absurd than someone in their late 20s puffing away on a briar, down the stem of which nicotine-flavoured spittle regularly coursed.
I then decided to give hypnotism a go, more in hope than expectation, and as this bloke was droning away in my ear, the only thought going through my mind was: 'Hurry up mate, I’m dying for a fag’.
However, he gave me an interesting piece of advice I’m happy to pass on to those about to put themselves through this ghastly ordeal.
To beat the weed you actually have to overcome two addictions — the physical dependence on nicotine and the habit all smokers develop of automatically lighting up at certain times, whether or not they actually fancy a fag.
These include the inevitable post-prandial puff, the obligatory cigarette whenever you are presented with a cup of tea or a pint, and the temptation to light up when the phone rings.
I’m told some people feel the need to light up after bouts of conjugality but this is not a subject on which I can speak with any authority.
However, I found these conditioned reflexes more difficult to counter than the craving for nicotine, because by this point I had started chomping on the special chewing-gum which had just come on the market and it proved to be a great help.
It was at this point I discovered giving up smoking was seriously damaging my health, because the gum induced bouts of severe heartburn and my chest became severely congested as the body continued to produce the mucus required to counter the effect of non-existent cigarettes.
Experience tells me the fancy e-cigarettes available nowadays could prove more of a hindrance than a help, because, though they may ease the yearning for nicotine, they will not help with the reflex to reach for a cigarette at a familiar time.
But whether you Stoptober or NO-vember, I wish you well. The means are hard but they more than justify the ends.
A clue to IW poet’s identity
AMONG the many pleasurable aspects of living on the Island is that someone always knows someone who knew someone who .… well, you get the idea.
The knowledge chain made its presence known again recently, after I mentioned a booklet Colin Attrill had found while clearing out a drawer.
It was called Amusing Musings of an IOW OAP and contained a poem about life on the Island written by the mysterious "ATS".
The doggerel wasn’t easily mistaken for Wordsworth but it had a certain rustic charm which rang a bell with Pete Cave, like Colin coincidentally, a former denizen of County Hall and a Havenstreet cricketer.
He wrote: 'I think ATS may well be one Mr Arthur Thomas Sheath, who was milk sampling officer in the weights and measures department at County Hall when I worked there during the 1960s.
'I spent many happy hours with Arthur near the rear end of cattle and around 1968 he published a booklet about Island dialect. I’m sure it was entitled Yer Tiz and he used his initials to identify himself as the author.’
So that’s another mystery solved.