Monday, May 16, 2011

Pipe lore: No Smoking

[Albert Lewis, C. S. Lewis' father] was a master of the anecdote, a fund of improbable stories, many of which for him epitomized the tragicomedy of what it meant to be Irish. One of the more bizarre 'wheezes' (as he habitually termed these stories and observations) concerned an occasion when he was travelling in an old-fashioned train of the kind which had no corridor, so that the passengers were imprisoned in their compartments for as long as the train was moving. He was not alone in the compartment. He found himself opposite one other character, a respectable-looking farmer in a tweed suit whose agitated manner was to be explained by the demands of nature. When the train had rattled on for a further few miles, and showed no signs of stopping at a station where a lavatory might be available, the gentleman pulled down his trousers, squatted on the floor of the railway carriage and defecated. When this operation was complete, and the gentleman, fully clothed, was once more seated opposite Albert Lewis, the smell in the compartment was so powerful as to be almost nauseating. To vary, if not to drown the odour, Albert Lewis got a pipe from his pocket and began to light it. But at that point the stranger opposite, who had not spoken one word the entire journey, leaned forward and censoriously tapped a sign on the window which read NO SMOKING. For C. S. Lewis, this 'wheeze' of his father's always enshrined in some insane way a truth about Northern Ireland and what it was like to live there.
--A.N. Wilson
from C.S. Lewis: A Biography

1 comment:

  1. Ha! Brilliant! It just goes to show you the silly hypocrisy of non-pipe smokers! ;)