“Tobacconists in England look like Eastern Europe circa 1970. Cameron, Clegg and Milliband treat us all like children, I am sick and tired of them. They stand for a meanness of spirit that pervades everywhere in England. Pettiness, meanness, dreariness. That’s all I see from them. Meanness of spirit is very bad for the health no matter how long you live. Can’t they look into their own hearts and understand that many people in England are fed up with unthinking, bossy-boots politicians that believe us to be infants.”
David Hockney was inspired to create this art piece by the 133 different tobacco brands which were on sale in a tiny shop in Baden-Baden. This contrasts with just 50 on sale in one of England’s most famous tobacconists, Davidoff Cigars on Jermyn St. He’d have got on well with my second favourite Yorkshireman, J B Priestley, who, in his book, Delight (written 60 years ago) bemoans the lack of choice in tobacconists then- “The country is crowded with men who pay their four-and-something an ounce and yet could not maintain five minute’s talk on tobacco”, he wrote. Priestley’s favourite relaxation was lying in a hot bath smoking a pipe.. “and Elagabus himself, after driving his white horses through the gold-dusted streets of Rome never knew anything better; nor indeed anything as good, not having either pipe or tobacco”. Hockney as a painter and Priestley as a writer have both said that smoking helped them in their creative process. So did Jerry Lieber, the songwriter who, with Mike Stoller, wrote many of Elvis’s hits, and who died this week. He was asked what he and Stoller did all day. “We just sat around smoking”, he replied.