Discovering “Smoke: A London Peculiar”

Hooray for Smoke: A London Peculiar! For only £2.90 I spent a sublimely entertained hour or two reaffirming my love for London. I also wished, just a little bit, that my writing contained the humour gene, but sigh, I must be satisfied with the other components at which I tend to have more success.

Smoke, Issue 12

Smoke, Issue 12

I found Nicky Kemp’s contributions particularly amusing, smattered throughout the mag, tucked here and there…we’ve all been that evesdropper. Example:
0816, Thursday, Clapham Junction:
Girl (searching in her bag): Shit, I think I’ve left my mobile phone at home. (pause) Oh, yeah, no, you’re right, I am on it to you. Blimey, I’m losing it. Did I tell you I walked into a lamp post yesterday?
(Woman hiding behind her Metro on the 0816: Nicky Kemp)
Cara McVean’s short story, “Sleeping With the Man on the Train” was a humorous and light-hearted story about the daily grind and odd intimacy.
I totally fell asleep on the train to Edinburgh and, much as I tried to lean against the window (I’d requested a table seat, pretty much because they are more roomy and comfortable and easier to write at, but you sacrifice some personal space- meaning I shared with a few others-) anyway, my head kept lolling towards the guy sitting next to me. Fortunately it wasn’t as dramatic as McVean’s story, where the innocent commuter girl, intent on reading her novels, repeatedly cozies up to a fellow commuter in her daily snooze- however, I snapped awake before cuddling to the stranger and I don’t think I was guilty of drooling. Who knows?
I won’t cover all the little delicacies in Issue 12 of “Smoke,” but I will point out that I love every little thing included, from the pigeon pictures to “London’s Campest Statues,” which, this time, hails the Statue of James II in Trafalgar Square. It is camp, isn’t it? Fabulous.
I’m creeped out and completely entranced by the elaborate and mystical description of the N50 bus- Dubbed “Bus of the Month”. It seems to share the qualities of Harry Potter’s “Night Bus,” and come on, we all want to ride that, don’t we?
Photo from Smoke, Issue 12

Photo from Smoke, Issue 12

A quote:
“Smoke isn’t a political magazine. And not just because a magazine that appears only every four months- and sometimes achieves that only by not writing the months in the correct order- really shouldn’t be attempting an Election Special. Smoke is, we like to say, a love letter to London. Ah, London: with all your moods, your inconsistencies, your complete failure to ever do what you promised- as long as you can still set our hearts racing with an unexpected glance on the escalator, we’ll forgive you anything. Won’t we?
-Matt Haynes, Intro to Smoke #12

A love letter to London? This is one I plan to keep reading!

And Matt, for the record, I totally agree with your sentiments regarding Tess of the d’Urbervilles- I wrote an essay on Paganism in Tess, and I am a “bookish intellectual type” (I hope,) so don’t despair, we aren’t all stuffy old buggers! Hardy is not a “misanthropic old gloombucket” to all of us. Meanwhile I enjoyed the rest of “The Piper at the New Cross Gate of Dawn,” not just the Hardy bits.

One final question- perhaps covered in the first issues of Smoke, the lot of which (available individually or as a group) I plan to ask for as a Christmas gift- Why does Smoke begin with Issue 3? Where are Issues 1 & 2? Am I being too literal here? (Answers found in above link.)

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