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16th of April, 2024



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The Ribbon

I went outside to smoke a cigarette. All rooms in England are for non-smokers, you’ll find, as are the rooms, apartments, and houses listed for rent in the local papers. The litany at the end of all the ads reads, “No smokers, canvassers, or DSS”, which stands for Department of Social Services. So, okay they hate smokers and welfare cases, as do we all. But the British have their own definition for ‘non-smoker’, which basically means you only smoke when you drink. Everybody smokes over here, and they all live somewhere.

The evening was cool; almost cold, really, as I suspect the evenings around here generally are. I stood on the corner of Osborne and Netley, watching the blackbirds getting ready to do whatever it is they do at night, when I spied a man, some yards away, bounding up the sidewalk with a jaunty gait. I held my cigarette just in front of my mouth, watching this figure with suspicion. He was short, about 5 feet tall, and round as a soccer ball. He was wearing light-colored trousers and a dark blazer, the left breast of which was adorned with an enormous, orange prize-ribbon.

As he approached me, his features became distinct in the bad lighting, and I realized he was positively beaming with pride. His face was ruddy, and split with a grin that wouldn’t have looked out of place behind a wheelbarrow full of poker chips on the way to the cash-out. I placed him in his mid-40s, but maybe his thinning red hair and roly-poly stature made him look older than he really was.

He halted just a few feet from me, and said, with oddly struggling words, “Good evening, mister!”

I looked him up and down, cigarette still burning between my shaky fingers, and replied, “hi, how are ya...” He wobbled his head a bit, then walked around me on his way up the street. I noticed something written in gold on his orange ribbon, and read it as it flashed in the lamplight.

I judged him more than a wee bit ‘differently-abled’, as they say. I watched as he cautiously crossed the empty street, looking both ways at least twice, then gingerly stepping into the street and crossing it at a run.

I thought about what I had seen written on the ribbon: “A Very Special Boy”. Hmm, I thought, I wonder who gave him that? Whoever it was, they made his whole day.

I put my cigarette out and walked back into the guest house.



.... believe it or not, there are a lot of those guys walking the streets in England.....


A Very Special Post.


I wish I was special.


Bless his heart! I loved this post.

So they've moved to having no smoking in rooms now? That's quite a step. Very different from when I was wandering around over there.

They smoked hand rolled a bunch, which I hadn't see before. Someone offered me one shortly after I arrived there and I said..."Thanks, no,'s a bit early in the day for me."


That's a joke a lot of people miss in Pulp Fiction; Vince comes back from Europe and rolls his own cigarettes, as they tend to do over here because Europeans are tightwads. I've always argued that they're not rolling joints in Jackrabbit Slim's, just regular cigarettes. Everybody else I know says they're rolling da spliffs, or whatever the kids call it today.

And Erica, I'm sure somebody will make a ribbon for you too, someday.


For a minute there, I'd have sworn you were talking about meeting Eric... Damned if he ain't always happy. Ribbon or not.


Hopefully, I'll be meeting up with the Straight Whites this week in London.


Poke him in the ribs, grin, and tell him I said "Hey"... ;)


<i>"And Erica, I'm sure somebody will make a ribbon for you too, someday."</i>

Word, Rube. There are lots of ribbons just waiting to be pinned on my very special ass.


I was going to say something witty right up until that last comment from Erica. Now all is blank. Damn.

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