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Put That in Your Pipe and Smoke It

Where there’s smoke there’s fire. With so many people giving up the dreaded smoking habit I was intrigued by a gentleman who visited our house last weekend.

He smokes a pipe. Well, I assume he smokes it. He seems to spend more time unplugging his dottle.

I just queried “dottle” in my Macquarie Dictionary – the dictionary my pupils were advised to use in the 90s – and the word was nowhere to be found. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary of 1970 vintage was more forthcoming. A “dottle – a plug of tobacco left unsmoked in a pipe: 1825”. The origin of the word is dated 1440.

Now the gentleman in question has caused some havoc with his dottle. Once, while stopped at lights in the city, he decided to empty his dottle out of the car window. He gave his beloved pipe a couple of sharp taps on the side of his car. Horror of horrors the whole bowl of the pipe parted from the stem and rolled into the gutter. The lights changed to green.

Most unperturbed, our pipe-smoking friend, opened his car door and retrieved his “bowl” from the gutter. You can imagine how many car horns let him know “they were not amused”.

On another occasion this tobacco-loving man tried to remove his dottle by banging his pipe on the inside of the car door. Unhappily the dottle was still sporting live embers and the inside upholstery of the car door received a regular old singe.

If you’ve ever had a pipe-smoking visitor you will most likely find traces of dottle in the most unexpected places. And your supply of matches will very quickly disappear with the constant relighting of the dottle.

Which reminds me of the time Mr Pollyanna was an avid smoker of cigarettes. We’d packed the five kids and baggage and were off on our annual holiday to the beach.

Along the track I sniffed a suspicious burning smell, which appeared to emanate from the back seat area of the car. Himself stopped the car, and opened the rear door to investigate.

“Nothing burning that I can see,” said he.

But as he bent down to inspect more closely, I spotted a cigarette butt (which Himself must have thrown out of the window), quietly smouldering its way through his hair.

The kids thought it a great joke, but their Dad did not see the humour of the situation at all. These days, Dad has dispensed with cigarettes and wild, wild women, but is still partial to his wee dram of whisky.

And I suspect Pollyanna is happy he’s chosen the bottle and not the dottle.


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