European Championships 2008
Somebody tell me, please, why my chosen sport isn’t an Olympic discipline. I have just returned from the European Championships in slow pipe smoking. As far as the press is concerned, it never happened, despite the fact that a new world record was set by Gianfranco Russcalla from Italy. He managed to make three grams of tobacco last for a whopping three hours, thirty three minutes and six seconds. The whole of Europe was represented in one way or another. All races, colours and creeds and not one harsh word was spoken during the entire event. Pipesmokers are and always will be the most tolerant of people. Surely that alone must attract some attention? The event was hosted by Europe’s oldest pipe club, Hald, in Würselen, Germany.
For those that don’t know the rules, here’s a brief summary. Everyone is given a pipe, three grams of weed, two matches and a tamper. You have five minutes to pack the pipe. You have one minute to light it, which is also the first minute of the competition time, and then you simply smoke as slowly as possible until there is only one man left. You may not relight the pipe. It is a gentleman’s sport, so if your pipe goes out, declare it so immediately and leave the table.
And here’s one for the anti smokers – despite 320 men and women all puffing away on tobacco in one enclosed and draught free hall, no-one died. If we are to believe the propaganda, then at least 32 should have fallen down dead on the spot just from the “passive smoking”. Not that anyone could get more passive than 320 pipe smokers all doing their best to get all the smoke they can get out of the pipe, down to the very last atom of tobacco. I suppose the difference between us and the anti’s is simple. We have accepted our own mortality and won’t be looking to find out what “killed” us and deprived us of eternal life. We’re too busy enjoying life, not worrying about the inevitable end of it.
Digression ends. Back to the subject matter.
I thought I did rather well. I managed to keep it going for one hour and five minutes, which is less than a third of Gianfranco’s time, but I thought it was OK. It gave me the 100th place out of 320 participants. The silver banded pipe was delivered by Aldo Morelli, an Italian pipe maker of some note and we smoked a slightly aromatic tobacco, which tasted awful compared to my own beloved blend. That’s called suffering for your sport. Never mind the discomfort, keep going!
Do we have cases of doping? Well, I saw one guy with a nicotine plaster on his arm. I don’t know if that counts! I don’t think Epo or speed is going to help here. We’re trying to slow it down, so you be the judge.
The pipe exhibition was good too. All the best names were represented and there were some lovely examples of the pipemaker’s craft to be looked at and viewed with both awe and appreciation. Had I not just recently bought a few meerschaums then my pipe collection would have some very elegant additions now.
When briar meets pipe, it’s art. Beware, art is expensive.