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Falcons And Memories.......

Discussion in 'Pipes' started by Falconeer, Apr 21, 2010.

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  1. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Falcon Memories by “Falconeer”

    I've always said that pipes don't just hold tobacco – they hold a lot of memories of people places and times. I was just polishing up my Falcons this morning and found my mind drifting back.....

    My Falcon Dublin with its straight sided bowl brought my Old Man to mind.

    Dad never really smoked a pipe though he did buy one once and smoked one fill of Gold Block in it before clashing it into the back of a drawer in frustration with the thing.

    It was actually a pretty good pipe – it was a French made system pipe; a “Rocket” brand with a nylon stem and a threaded briar bowl – as I found when he gave me it a few years later saying “Here you might as well have the b****y thing, I never could get get it to work!”

    That pipe actually gave me my very first introduction to pipe-smoking, when in first year at secondary school I sneaked it and a fill of his dried out Gold Block out to my shed and smoked it puff about with my pal and ended up throwing up spectacularly afterwards for what seemed hours. Didn't put me off though – I just swore I'd get good at it!

    I had that pipe for quite a few years until I discovered the one major drawback in its design – it would float if dropped in water. I was clearing a blockage in the stream that flowed through the garden of the cottage in Crawfordjohn, bent over to haul out the final tree branch when it dropped out of my pocket as I heaved the obstruction clear and disappeared into the fast flowing torrent I'd released. I did try to get a replacement but by that time they were out of production.

    My Bulldog brought very different memories to mind – November 1973 to be precise. There'd been major riots at Gartree maximum security prison after a foiled escape bid, and I was on detached duty there with colleagues from my own prison. We'd got the jail back but here was little left of it other than the shells of the cell blocks and there wasn't an unbroken window in the place.

    It was getting towards a freezing dusk when a young officer about my own age who'd just been transferred to us came up when he saw me lighting up and asked if I'd any pipe tobacco to spare as in the rush to get there he'd left his at home and could only get convict issue “Black Bell” ryo tobacco in the remains of the canteen.

    I was nearly out myself but we mixed his cigarette tobacco with the remains of the Condor in my pouch and shared it between us. Bob James as he was called smoked a Falcon with a Bulldog bowl, and we went on to become good pals.

    Facial hair was in then, I'd a “Bandito” moustache down to my jaw, but Bob had the most magnificent set of mutton chop whiskers, extending down to his moustache, I've ever seen. Bob had a great sense of humour, a way with people that got them eating out of his hand, and was the only Jehovah's Witness I ever met who didn't try to ram his opinions down your neck.

    A brave guy, Bob volunteered for duty in the Northern Ireland prisons at the height of “The Troubles” but it all was too much for him in the end and he suffered a nervous breakdown – even courageous guys can reach a breaking point. I always think of Bob when I see a Bulldog pipe and hope things worked out well for him.

    And then of course there's my Algiers bowl, bringing back happy memories of the first Falcon I ever bought. I was only 18 and had just got my first week's pay from a vacation job in the brickworks, was all spruced up en route for a date with my girlfriend when I dropped into the big tobacconists at Falkirk bus station and invested 30/- ( £1.50 now ) in what was to become one of the best investments I ever made – I got over 20 years out of that pipe!
    Needless to say the sun was shining that July day, I was young, carefree, in possession of all my hair, in love and had money in my pocket – no wonder, in the main, Falcons are associated with happy memories for me!

    Apple shaped bowls seem to give some Falcon smokers problems – they say they are too wide for their height and difficult to light up, but I've never found them so and in fact they are just about my favourite pipe shape. In Scotland for some reason when I was young this shape was always called a “Turkish” and I've never known why though I suspect people thought it's shape was reminiscent of a Turban.

    Again mine's associated with a good day in January 1974 – I'd been to Birmingham for a Promotion Board, had passed all the exams, satisfied the interviewers and been told I would be posted on promotion within three months. I came out of the building into the cold pouring rain, went into the big tobacconists opposite ( which I'd clocked when I went in with my fingers crossed for the selection day ) and selected a new Falcon with a rustic apple bowl. It was love at first sight, and even more so at first smoke. I've never been without at least one Apple in my rotation ever since – and I still think of it as a “Turkish!”

    Related in shape to the Apple is Falcon's Genoa, another of my long standing favourites. I'd got my promotion, had been transferred to the Department of Employment, passed my probationary period in my new grade when the job I really really wanted came up – Occupational Guidance Counselling – careers work with adults involving conducting three hour assessment interviews, aptitude testing interest profiling and counselling techniques.

    There was a cachet to this work – only the best of the best interviewers had a chance. The selection took place in London and lasted three days. Less than 1% of applicants got through initial selection and candidates could be failed at any stage up to the last day of the three month training course. This was the only course in the Department a person could fail without it having an adverse effect on their service record or promotion prospects and I was delighted when I got through it.

    Those of us still standing at the end of the course went out for a mega beer up in London before making our hung-over way to Kings Cross Station and home the next morning. I'd time before the Edinburgh train to visit the tobacconists, select a Genoa Falcon and a very pleasant 6 hour journey home breaking in my new pipe in the smoking compartments – sadly now consigned to history!

    Now as most people will know there's eight bowl shapes to the Standard range; when I started smoking a pipe it was the norm in Scotland for guys to only own one or two pipes, one for everyday use and one for “good” but it was always my ambition to have a pipe for each day of the week.

    Until I retired I never actually owned a “full house” of all the shapes – I ran with rustic and smooth versions of my favourites plus a Dublin and Bulldog, so my collection consisted of Apples, Algiers's and Genoa's....and Boy did those pipes see hard service, distant places, major life events, and a variety of climates.

    I walked the West Highland Way and continued down to Northumberland with an Apple and an Algiers in my pockets. I cycled the length of Britain ditto. My Algiers attended both weddings and was smoked furiously while pacing the floor awaiting the birth of my children and accompanied me to Dad's funeral. I've smoked my Apples on top of Mount Tiede in Teneriffe, on the Libyan and Sahara Deserts at dawn and my Genoa accompanied me across Almeria's Red Desert on a hired motor cycle. I think it could be said that I've truthfully given them an objective long term test and they've satisfied me.

    Over the last couple of years I've actually completed the set of shapes and acquired a Billiard ( never liked this shape when I was young ) a Plymouth (ditto) and a Dover ( and how I could have ignored this one beats me! )...and of course they've brought in new memories.

    The Billiard is Durham city with its magnificent cathedral and castle in the snow and received its first smokes as I photographed dusk over the river and the Old Town with its street lights just coming on. Buying that pipe in a rather remarkable pipe shop in Durham Market also led to me meeting two real characters – the guys who run the shop.

    In my mind they are always “Mr. Grumpy” and “Mr Cheery.” When I first went in it was Mr. Grumpy behind the exceptionally well stocked counter, resplendent in a thick loudly checked tweed three piece suit complete with pocket watch and chain, looking rather like an elderly Sherlock Holmes but with “designer stubble.” He launched into a moan about teenagers annoying him by asking to see special edition Zippos but never buying any – a rant that was interrupted by his colleague coming through from the back shop - “Never mind the Old B****r!” he said, “He's always like that; and by the way I should point out I'm not his Gay Partner! Now what can we do for you?”

    I'd quickly get to like these pair, trading jokes and exchanges and never leaving their shop without a bargain and some “freebies” on any subsequent visit.

    The Plymouth, which just feels so right in the hand to me, was bought in one of Northumberland's historic market towns, Alnwick ( said “Annick” ) with its preserved butter market, ancient stronghold of the Earls Percy, and charming Chantry set beside the river. I found it when I went into what I thought was just a newsagents until I saw the unusual sign “Pipe Smokers Welcome!” then noticed the display of Falcons, Petersons and MM Corncobs.

    This pipe was broken in while waiting for the moon to rise over Bamburgh Castle when I was doing a particularly impressive set of Northumberland night photographs and I attribute the success of the project to its soothing influence – patience not being one of my strong points, or so I am told.

    And last but not least comes the Dover, another one that fits well into the hand, polishes beautifully and just seems to be the pipe to accompany me on a cycling and picture taking day – we've both had some enjoyable early morning rides to catch the mist burning off of the Stag Rocks, Beadnell Harbour and the long long golden sweep of Budle Bay.

    That of course is just a snapshot of the memories my Falcons hold for me, and doubtless if I'm spared we'll build up many more together........

    What memories do your pipes hold I wonder?

    Happy smoking

    Gerry
     


  2. Rugbysh9

    Rugbysh9 Active Member

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    Great post Gerry, thanks for sharing :bing:
     
  3. Zenigata

    Zenigata Member

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    Ditto to rugby. :lol:

    Might I add, The fondness of memories to recollect upon items we cherish is only the sweetest of treats.

    Cheers,
    Joshua
     
  4. Bri2k

    Bri2k Active Member

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    Those are some wonderful stories, Gerry. You have an unsurpassed talent for painting a picture of the past and drawing the reader into it.

    I was interested to hear you mention a Dover pipe. I have a Dover Oval estate that's a fine smoker but I'd never heard of the maker before and don't know anything about them.

    Bri2k

    P.S. Since this is my 200th post, I'm going to add one of my memories:

    Last March during a snowstorm, I was home in my chair smoking a Peretti Canadian filled with Low Country Santee, a bourbon and branchwater on the side, reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes while the wind howled outside. The pipe lasted me for more than a couple of stories, and I was never more relaxed or content.
     
  5. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Bri2K - I've just picked up a three volume, illustrated by Paget boxed set of the complete set of Sherlock Holmes stories - small print's a little difficult on the eyes but the drawings are superb!

    Happy smoking

    Gerry
     
  6. Marc

    Marc Active Member

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    Nice story Gerry I enjoyed reading it very much but pipes to me, are just pipes, no memories or stories to share here. Sorry! :( P.S. Your a very talented writer. :lol:
     
  7. Dondi

    Dondi Active Member

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    Thanks for the share Gerry! With your talent for observing/recording human nature (and for reading between the lines), no wonder you had no problems getting through the Occupational Guidance Counseling gauntlet!

    I only have 11 pipes so far (and surely plan to add more), but only two of these were bought over the 'net - these from our fellow PSF member, Mark Tinsky. All the rest were bought face-to-face, and in fact, it was the many hours I spent with the patient and knowledgeable Chuck Levi at IRC that remains my fondest pipe-buying memory to-date. I ended up with two Petes and two meers. It was only weeks later that I found out that Chuck is the current owner of IRC!

    Over the past few months, I have been sorely tempted to press the "buy" button and satisfy my PAD, but only once got around to actually doing it -- an order which I then promptly cancelled shortly thereafter (when they asked me to provide photographs of the front and back of my credit card)!

    Your post has helped me come to the realization that it is the personal interactions during the course of the purchase which provides the canvas on which to start painting the memories associated with a pipe! Those initial moments of handling and fondling, that long pause while one inspects the worksmanship, and that crucial moment when everything clicks, and the decision is reached... "I must have this pipe!" ;)
     
  8. rusty

    rusty Member

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    Iv just found this while browsing around, and what a great read Gerry, I enjoyed reading it. Its also given me the idea of getting some sherlock Holmes books to read. Now Iv never been a big reader, nothing grabbed my interest enough, but being a big fan of the Basil Rathbone films and loved watching them, and remember smoking that old meersham lined pipe while watching one long ago, which I asked help to identify, funnily enough. You have motivated me to give reading a try, I dont know you even have me wanting to try the tobbacco too, you've certainly influenced me, and I thank you sir. :thumb:
     
  9. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Hi All,

    Rusty see if you can pick up an edition with the Paget illusrations (charity shops etc) Conan Doyle said to Paget that he'd drawn him as he saw him. Conan Doyle gives little descriptions of Sherlock's pipes - "A greasey (sic) clay", which I take to be an African Meer, "A long Cherrywood when he was feeling disputatious" and "an old brier(sic)".

    Peterson claims he smoked one of their pipes but this is clearly falacious as he was a fictional charcter, but if you get a Paget illustrated edition you'll see him with a Military Mount straight billiard, slightly longer than today's. Obviously Paget (or his brother who was the model) had a Peterson.

    The bent pipe came about because the first actor to play him, William Gillette found it easier to deliver lines with a calabash in his mouth than with a normal pipe.

    Think I'm an expert on this? - talk to Peter (Introibo) his knowledge is far greater than mine,

    Best as aye

    Gerry
     
  10. rusty

    rusty Member

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    Ill certainly keep my eyes open for these Gerry, It always helps when there are pictures too.
     
  11. dubhdarra

    dubhdarra Active Member

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    given my recent experience of falcons i'm thinking of adding a few to the lineup, hoping they pay as much back in sentimental value as yours have. great story gerry, thanks for letting us in on it :groucho:
     
  12. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Hi All,

    Thanks again - I actually think any things that are with you for a long time pick up memories, but pipes and watches particulary so as they are personal and things you picked up in the first place because you wanted them - once I get batteries for my camera I'll post a pic of something that I found in a Charity Shop in Ashington yesterday for £1.75 ( just over a Dollar U.S. ) which I've been hunting for for years,

    Best to all

    Gerry
     
  13. adryazad

    adryazad Member

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    ahh gerry, reading your post only makes me hope that my pipes will tell a great story in days to come.
     
  14. Unforgivin

    Unforgivin Active Member

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    Gerry, you should write for a living....oh wait.

    Ever think of writing a book? You might be surprised at the outcome. :cheers:
     
  15. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Hi,

    Thanks again - when I get the time I'll put all my pipe stuff together and put it out under free public licence - I've said this before, but I'm lucky to be retired and for me retirement is time to try to put something back into the things that have given me so much pleasure in my life.

    Just remeber though, I'm just an Old Guy with a pipe - don't really know B****r All - just learned a little from the many mistakes I made, and am aware I still have a Helluvalot to learn!!!

    Best as always

    Gerry
     
  16. Jack Karneval

    Jack Karneval Member

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    Wow!

    Falconeer, people like you are the kind of people that truly capture the essence of pipe smoking for me. To me, the act of smoking a pipe, owning a pipe, buying a pipe, etc really sets it apart from smoking a cigarette or a cigar, or anything else. This is something I've tried to explain to people, but it's something that just never comes out the way I want it to, especially to those that don't approve of smoking. When I read your stories Falconeer, you immediately give pipe smoking that sense of significance that sets it apart and makes it something special.

    Reading the responses and writings on this forum from you and everyone else continue to make smoking a pipe a better experience for me, thanks!
     
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