I used to watch the snooker now and then, for characters like 'Hurricane' Higgins and 'Interesting' Steve Davies more than the game. It's a bit like cricket, there are long periods where they just knock their balls around interspersed with bouts of frantic activity. I've lost interest as I get older, not just in watching snooker but in watching TV. There are better things to do. Once you pass 50 as a smoker, drinker and dietary advice ignorer, you don't know how much time you have left and I am not going to waste it on mind-rot.
When I saw this photo of Hurricane Higgins, I couldn't believe it was him. Even comparing it to the older photos below it's still a shock. He has had throat cancer, multiple operations, and radiotherapy that made all his teeth fall out. He's in a bad way.
Sure, he drank and smoked a lot but throat cancer can come from other things too. In fact, the Righteous have been linking throat cancer more to alcohol than smoking these days. That actually makes a sort of sense, in that if you continually pummel a specific part of your body with a chemical, it's going to irritate. It might become an allergic reaction, it might turn to inflammation, it might just hurt for a while, it might be so damaged it's left open to infection, or it might trigger a cancer. Or you might drink bottle after bottle of that Polish vodka that forces your eyes to swivel right round so you can see what you've done to your brain, and never suffer any ill effects at all. It's mostly down to luck.
Because it's mostly down to luck, you could spend your days totally free of the merest hint of tobacco or alcohol and get throat - or some other type of - cancer anyway. That's the thing about cancer. Sometimes it just happens. It does not always have an external cause.
I don't understand why he is still toothless. The article says his pals are raising the money to get him some implanted teeth so he can eat again. His current frail state is mostly due to his inability to eat very much. The cancer, it seems, is gone and he is suffering more from the treatment than the illness at the moment. Then again, if it hadn't been for the treatment, he might not be here to suffer at all.
My grandmother had plastic teeth. On the NHS. My brother was knocked over in the playground when young, lost his two front teeth in a very messy way and still has plastic ones. On the NHS.
Why is the Hurricane excluded from the NHS plastic teeth? Could it be connected to the destruction of the NHS dentist, and the private-dentist insistence that only implanted ones will do? Or is there a medical reason? Anyone know?
Of course, even though there has been no definite link between this cancer and smoking (if there had been, it would have been trumpeted and we all know it), the Mail can't resist:
He currently lives in sheltered housing on the Donegall Road in Belfast and has suffered long-term problems with alcohol and smoking since winning the world snooker titles.
Alcohol problems are real. People do get addicted, or at least they believe they do which amounts to the same thing as far as the individual is concerned. Excessive and uncontrolled alcohol intake has immediate and obvious effects on someone's life. Very bad ones.
But... 'long term smoking problems'? What is that , exactly? If you turn up for work having smoked a cigarette, does it affect your ability to do the job? Do you see smokers in the gutter, gibbering over a pack of Dunhill in a brown paper bag? Do smokers come rolling home at 3 am after a night on the Capstan, with no memory of where they've been? Actually, I once tried a Capstan. A whole pack could probably do that.
I don't touch the whisky when I'm working. I know that my typing ability will suffer, I won't be able to consider multiple permutations of the results simultaneously, I'll miss something and the report will be a heap of crap and I'll have to do it all again. I can smoke while typing with no detectable effect whatsoever.
I don't drink when working in the lab, and I stay off the booze the night before a big sample set. Being hungover is actually dangerous in a very immediate sense in my line of work. I do not nip outside once in a while for a double Macallan or even a shandy. I do take smoke breaks and before any of you antismokers start - I'm self employed so I'm not costing you anything. Besides, if I have 36 samples to do, I can't go home until they are done no matter how long it takes. If I add a few five-minute smoke breaks to that, that's nobody else's problem. Even when I worked as an employee, it was nobody else's problem. Nobody else would be late home if I chose to take a smoke break. It didn't stop them moaning, of course, but nothing does.
If I was drunk at work, that would be a problem. A big, big one. Especially as my personal indemnity insurance would be voided if anything happened and I was under the influence. So if I let something loose and infected someone else I'd be cleaned out. Drink can be a problem if taken to excess.
Smoking is not the same thing at all. If I go out for a smoke break I wash my hands because I'll be putting something in my mouth and I don't want to chance it. The risk of the smoke break lies in contaminating the cigarette with work, not in affecting my work with the cigarette. The latter is no risk at all. No problem.
This is the same as conflating climate heretics with holocaust deniers, something New Scientist has now joined in with. Smoking is not alcoholism. Not even close, but it's going to be classed as the same thing anyway.
Poor Alex Higgins is set to become the next Roy Castle. Let us all hope he lives long and prospers because once he dies, here come the lies.
Roy Castle did not die of passive smoking. Nobody has. Alex Higgins has survived excessive first-hand smoking and drinking, albeit not very well but I wonder...
If his frail state is due to radiotherapy destroying his teeth (not smoking or drinking, radiotherapy) why has he not been provided with falsies?
Is there a true reason, or is someone, somewhere, just trying to make a point?
Hurricane, keep blowing. Snooker has become astoundingly dull since your day.