Wednesday 28 February 2024

Granda’s Pipe by Eamon O'Leary, strong tea

As I walked through our village the other morning, the smell of freshly baked scones, cinnamon swirls, and dark roast coffee wafter from the deli. How lovely to savour such aromas on one of the rare crisp sunny days we’ve had this year.

It sent me thinking of fragrances from bygone days. Not a pleasant one, but for some unknown reason, mothballs came to mind. That camphor odour which made my eyes water and clothes stink is thankfully no longer with us. I’m not sure what’s replaced them, but I’ve seen a few rogue moths hovering about of late.

What I really miss is Granda’s pipe. Granda or Jack as we called him was a martyr for his pipe. When we went to visit, the ritual was the same. Every morning, he’d plonk his diminutive frame in front of the open turf fire and while keeping an eye on the cast iron kettle, start proceedings.

Using a penknife as old and worn as himself but sharpened weekly to razor like keenness on a wet stone, he’d separate stem and bowl and scrape out the previous day’s remnants of ash and tobacco. They’d not be discarded but piled onto a piece of newspaper. Then he’d start on the stem. This involved quite a bit of blowing and sucking, and only occasionally, for reasons best known to himself, did he resort to using a pipe cleaner.

Time to refill. Taking a plug of Mick McQuaid tobacco, he’d cut tiny flakes from the block into his palm and gently massage them with the blackened pad of his thumb. With great care, the pipe would be filled and topped off with the grey ashes. After brushing any stray bits from his trousers into the hearth, and before putting on the silver cover which looked like the top of a pepper box, he’d sit back, strike a match, take a few decent pulls, and disappear into a woody, spicy, sweet-smelling cloud.

Definitely not healthy, but I miss that smell.  

About the author

Eamon regularly reads his short reflections on RTE Radio ( Ireland's National Broadcaster). A number of stories published by Cafelit have been featured. He hopes to finally finish his collection of humorous childhood memories before the year's end. He is a winner of the Southport International Short Competition.

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  1. I know just what you mean. I miss my stepfather's Kentucky Nugget pipe smoke and ... the smell of fertiliser and animal feed stocks in Jim Mildenhall's barn.
    I was five years old and have never smelt anything so rich and heady since. :D

  2. A great description. I could almost smell the Mick McQuaid. Just a couple of small points:- 1)'WAFTED' from the deli. 2)'WHET' stone.
    Keep em coming Eamon!

  3. Excellent Eamon, I can just imagine the various smells from the mixtures contained in the pouch and that face in a trance as he enjoys “ his time” during the day. Keep the good work going.