Oolong Tea With Mussolini

Enjoy yourselves, people. There's nothing to be gained from living like this. It's not so much the booze I miss. It's the cigarettes. I'm absolutelyfor a fag. I'm cranky. I'm miserable. All I do is eat.

It's been three months now and it has to be said. I'm such a prickly and cantankerous teetotal non-smoker - I'm the worst ad anyone could possibly be for abstaining from anything.

Enjoy yourselves, people. There's nothing to be gained from living like this. It's not so much the booze I miss. It's the cigarettes. I'm absolutely dying for a fag. I'm cranky. I'm miserable.

All I do is eat.

I ate my way through half a menu today, then I ordered cake. I asked for custard too and I don't even like custard. Still I could've gone on. The family on the next table were very lucky I didn't wolf them down too. It's so boring not drinking or smoking. They're the most social habits I know. I really meet people that way. ASH won't like that one little bit. That's absolutely not what ASH wants to hear, but that's absolutely how it is.

Would I have met Six Foot Suzy - star of Tweed Run and Putney's own Jerry Hall - were it not for enjoying that post-gig ciggie outside Dirty Dick's in Spitalfields a few winters ago? I doubt it. Would I have bonded with my pal Marwan - whose family have become my own French family steadily over the years - if it were not for bumming a fag off him at Loekie's cafe in Arambol, Goa, a few years ago? No, I don't think I would have. And would I have crossed paths with the unstoppable Soho Pam - now sadly deceased and headed up to the great bookies in the sky - at the end of Greek Street to be subsequently charmed for a good half hour? Not on your bastard nellie. I've met some of my favourite people in the world as we've puffed away together, marginalized from the warmth of pubs and hidden from public view. You see, there's a unique camaraderie among those of us who - for example - have just stepped off a flight outside an airport as we huddle together for a light, a puff and a chat. It's a sort of solidarity between exiles. Bang on. That's it. A camaraderie that people who've never smoked could never begin to understand.

A month or so ago, after being discharged from hospital in a far-flung corner of Southeast Asia (see previous blog), I headed to a nearby Thai island to recuperate at a health spa. Best to keep myself out of the way of temptation, I thought. I wasn't partaking in any of the detoxes or anything like that. The great pull was the spa restaurant with a kitchen fully stocked with every kind of fresh fruit and vegetable imaginable, plus there was the added allure of vitamin-packed smoothies, healthy broths, soups and - my favourite - cold coconuts. A swimming pool and steam room was at my disposal, with a beach just ten minutes away. Recuperation. Where could be better suited?

One problem. I was surrounded by health fascists.

Don't worry, I'm not talking about you, Sanbao. And absolutely not you, Bettina, either. Nor you, Annabel. It's all the others. I'll say it again and I'll capitalize it this time. Health Fascists.

Imagine One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest with sarongs and colema boards and there you have it. Mention out loud that you might be yearning for a cigarette or - dare I suggest it - a drink, and suddenly the faces of these people turn into cow-pats. The Health Fascist will give you medical advice completely unsolicited. The Health Fascist will analyze every rumble and gargle of the stomach until they self-diagnose the worst of terminal tropical diseases. The Health Fascist will gladly lose hours evaluating the quality - and consistency - of their own stools. Yes. This is Cuckoo's Nest with enema buckets. Coffee enemas twice a day. Up the arse, out again and sieved for inspection. Just another day at the orifice.

One afternoon I attended an Oolong tea tasting session. Somebody - with a great deal of naivety - asked for milk. A disgusted silence fell over the table. Milk? By the looks on the faces of the dozen or so people present, it wouldn't have come as a surprise at all to see that person frogmarched outside there and then and shot in the back of the head.

Health extremists are not interesting. They are totalitarian bores with salad dripping down their bloody chins and self-righteous expressions on their faces. This is why the peoples of our country embrace the likes of John Lennon but can take or leave Dr. Gillian McKeith.

I've just read that last sentence back to myself out loud. It sounds pompous but somebody has to say it.

Not only am I craving a fag right now but I'm also hankering for the company of interesting, wild and eccentric people - and you don't meet those sorts of people eating f*cking cake all day then going to bed early, that's for sure. Give me Six Foot Suzy over Oolong Tea with Mussolini anytime.

I would elaborate on the subject of addiction without so much emotion and with more clarity if I could just tear myself away from these towering plates of food which are presently holding me hostage.

This seems to be the status quo now. Cravings which come from nowhere then hit you like a wave. Pining for wild friends. Eating everything in sight. Health Fascists.

For the love of God, people. Don't ever start smoking.

Matt Roper's cravings stopped shortly after writing this piece. He remains a non-smoker.

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