July 12, 2013 6:27 pm

Mrs Moneypenny: No smoke without ire

One of my greatest wishes has been that my children would understand how hateful smoking is
An illustration of Mrs Moneypenny orbiting alongside the International Space Station©James Ferguson

Today I am celebrating a love story. Nine years ago, one of my younger colleagues took a break to go travelling. In Belize, he met and fell in love with a beautiful 19-year-old from Devon who had yet to take up her place at medical school. She is now a qualified doctor with a post at a central London hospital, and today they are getting married.

I caused consternation in her family several years ago by speculating in this column about when and if my colleague might be looking to take paternity leave, given that his then girlfriend was so young and with such a long course of study ahead of her. Unbeknown to me, her parents are FT readers and were somewhat surprised to see my musings. This time all I will say is that I can think of no one better to have children with than a doctor.

There are many times when I wish I had married one, such as two weeks ago when Cost Centre #3, playing cricket, top-edged a hard ball into his stomach. The resulting trauma to his internal organs put him in hospital. Much to his indignation, a pre-CT scan examination included parts one would usually only show to a consultant urologist. The final humiliation came when a nurse asked my 14-year-old son (who still enjoys building camps in the woods) if he was sexually active. Mr M tells me that this exchange ended in a sullen “no” from CC#3, generating in him, as a parent, both embarrassment and relief.

Quite different feelings as a parent were triggered by my discovery of CC#2’s cigarette stash. Neither Mr M nor I have ever smoked, and one of my greatest wishes has been that my children would understand how hateful smoking is. I failed with CC#1, and now I find that CC#2 has been smoking on the sly. My reaction was so explosive that I very nearly found myself orbiting alongside the International Space Station.

His brothers closed ranks behind him. The not-sexually-active one pleaded for understanding; CC#1 told me that I should not impose my life choices on others simply because I paid for them.

This last comment put me way beyond the ISS, out there with Pluto. I wrote this email to CC#2.

“Dear CC#2 – I am writing to try to put into context my reaction to the choice you have made about smoking. Please remember that Dad and I regularly support your choices even when we do not agree with them.

“Here are three examples: your choice of school in the sixth form. You know full well our reluctance to have you educated alongside people whose parents think that two weeks in Mauritius at half-term is normal.

“Your choice of prospective university, a specialist science and engineering campus. We are concerned about both the expense of living in London, and the lack of variety of undergraduates.

“A gap year. With six years of study in front of you we think a year off is an unnecessary delay, and also, science subjects are much harder to take an extended break from.

“In each case you assiduously set out to persuade us of your choice, and we have supported you. Despite providing you with almost all of your income, we do not use that power to enforce our preferences on you. I suggest that if you wish us to support you in your decision to smoke, you make the case for it.”

Some readers may wonder why I bothered even to give CC#2 the chance to defend his right to smoke, but in life, even my home one, I’ve always sought to consider opposing views (even if I do happen to be orbiting near Pluto at the time).

Not to mention that I desperately wanted CC#2 to see the madness of what he is doing. Or at least squirm.

He swears he will give up – but says he cannot manage to do it right now. Maybe during his gap year he will meet a doctor-to-be and she will stop him smoking. In the meantime, Matthew and Anna, congratulations.

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Mrs Moneypenny returns to the Edinburgh Fringe in August at the Aga Showroom; www.edfringe.com

mrsmoneypenny@ft.com

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Letter in response to this article:

Moneypenny must try face time with the ‘Cost Centre’ / From Mr Graham Miller

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