As I once wrote a long time ago, “It’s three am and I’m alone”. Just that this time it’s without the bitter taste of any cheap cigarettes, or any crying females anywhere nearby, though in all possibility the girl that lives next door may start at any minute, but she’s only months old so that’s quite normal in her case.
One good thing about a sleepless night is the ever present beer that it seems to mystically provide, and the chance to one again visit the bits of the brain that aren’t in everyday use. Though these days the old burnable friend isn’t here to accompany me any more like he used to, filling the room with smoke and letting my mind wander with the wisps and curls he let fly out and embrace me and then wander out into the night. I really miss rummaging round in the top pocket of my shirt, or the inside pocket of my charity shop’s finest jacket to root out the packet of Royals, tap them sharply against my hand, take out a fresh smoke and light up and lose myself in five minutes ‘me time’. Five years and three months ago today I smoked the last pack that had cost me a miniscule amount due to the exchange rate from Sterling to Euros and said goodbye to an old and cherished friend that had helped keep me sane on many an occasion.
My brand of choice was always Royals. In fact it still is if I get the chance for a sneaky cig at a wedding or at New Year then if there are Royals on offer then that’s my poison. They used to come in packs of twelve or twenty four following the imperial measures: sadly these days, having given in to pressure, they come in packs of ten and twenty like any other run of the mill tobacco. I used to love the white packet with the red stripe, seeing the crest on every packet, feeling the weight of the packet as I “packed in the ‘baccy” as a good friend called it, and then tore away the protective paper to smell that fresh tobacco smell. Chris used to call them ‘oily rags’ and asked me why on earth I was smoking ‘Those beefy flavoured things’.
“Why don’t you just smoke an Oxo cube? It’d be cheaper” he told me often: I never changed though.
They were there for my delusions of grandeur, for the moments when I realized they were delusions. They were there for my failures and for my successes and they were even there in songs about both. I’ve never really been one for metaphor, and most of the things you’ll find written around here are based on personal experience. So as the reference at the introduction said, that pack of Royals was there even when all the lights were out and everyone was asleep.
“It’s three am and I’m alone,
With the bitter taste of my cheap cigarettes.
My arms around a crying friend,
God let me take all of her pain away”
I was sat in our front room when that was written. Strumming around on my dad’s twelve string and messing around with chord shapes. I’d been out that night with a girl from college that I really liked, but, as per usual with most of the feminine species, she didn’t really think the same about me. So, yet another boy had treated her abysmally, she was fed up and trying to cope with a lot of things at once and had taken me to the centre of town to sit on the monument of a December night, smoke, talk and, in her case cry. A lot.
The moment we sat down I had fumbled in my top pocket, rooted out a cig and put my arm around an already crying girl to listen to the story. The wind bit in, the words flowed on from both of us, and the night generally moved on not caring whether we lived or died or spontaneously combusted; the image however, stayed.
So my old friend, on a night like tonight I really miss your company, even though my doctor is certainly glad that you’re gone, I miss you. The song will always have you there, as will some of my other late night musings; it was time to move on.