One night, after a meal at the house with my wife Helen and Terry Gilliam, who happened to have dropped by, I found I’d run out of cigarettes (at the time I had a twenty-a-day habit). I looked for a half-crown piece for the slot machine up the road, but could find nothing. I rifled through drawers, flung open cupboards and slid my hand down the back of sofas with increasing desperation.
‘You’re an addict,’ warned Terry.
I smiled wanly. ‘I’m not an addict, I would quite like one last cigarette before bed, that’s all.’
‘Look at you,’ Terry persisted, as I began rummaging in ever more unlikely sources, in the laundry basket and amongst the marmalade, ‘you need your fix!’
‘Look,’ I hissed, tipping up the shoe-cleaning box and forensically scrutinising the contents, ‘I don’t have to have a cigarette. I never have to have a cigarette, it’s just a small pleasure, all right?’
‘Not if you can’t sleep without one.’
The only way to face down these taunts was to deny myself the single thing I wanted most, a nice firm pull on a freshly-lit, deliriously soothing, pungently bracing tube of tightly packed tobacco coaxed from a brand-new packet of Piccadilly Tipped. And that’s where the will-power came in. For the first time in many years I went to bed without a cigarette.
Not only did I survive without the second most satisfying smoke of the day, next morning I survived without the first most satisfying smoke of the day and I never bought a packet of cigarettes again. — Michael Palin, from his book Diaries 1969–1979: The Python Years (read for free)