Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Everyone Smokes In Jordan

    We walked into warm sunshine. Aisha’s high heels clicked on the flagstones. I took in the crisp air, a welcome change from England’s damp autumn.
   Aisha delved in her jeans for coins to tip the valet. She turned to me, shading her eyes against the sunlight. ‘Settling you in has been a problem. We’ve been looking for flats over the past couple of weeks but it’s been hard to find something for the budget your company specified. I think I’ve found somewhere, though. Do you feel up to looking at it later on?’
   ‘Yes, yes I would. That’s great. Thanks.’
   I’d assumed from her husky voice she was, in common with Ibrahim and the rest of Jordan, a smoker. But if so, she didn’t do it in her Lexus, which smelled faintly of leather and her rich, musky perfume.
Olives Page 14

Oh my, but the Jordanians smoke like chimneys. I remember someone telling me that the Israeli Dimona reactor was responsible for Jordan’s high cancer rate – he was smoking at the time. Whenever in doubt, in Jordan it’s always better to blame the Israelis.

Another theory to account for Jordan’s high cancer rate is that the soil is unusually rich in uranium. And everyone will sit around the table, nodding sagely and tap their ash into the ashtray in the middle.

It doesn’t really bother me. I used to smoke heavily myself and enjoyed it thoroughly. I gave up in August 2001.

I had a Jordanian client due to hold a celebration event just after 9/11 happened. I flew out to consult with them on 10/11. Someone at the airline had decided not to give passengers newspapers, each of which carried, of course, the images of those aeroplanes smashing into the World Trade Centre towers. The mood in Jordan was odd, a combination of sympathy for the awfulness of the tragey, and a sense of ‘now you know what it feels like’, perhaps a fierce, grim satisfaction.

We sat around the boardroom table and debated whether the event should go ahead or not. Of course the decision was made to cancel, but not before we’d kicked it around for an hour or so. I had beaten my sixty a day habit three months before and now I was locked in a room with a bunch of Jordanians who were all chain smoking as we weighed the big decision. My fingernail marks are still etched in that mahogany table.

So I made Aisha a smoker. Was that wrong of me in these PC times?
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