‘Decades-old routines are hard to break – but after 53 years, I’m smoke-free’

After 53 years, at long last I’m a smoke-free zone.

Mornings are the worst. Routines repeated for decades are hard to break. I loved throwing the back door wide open and sitting with a cup of tea and two cigarettes first thing.

Now, almost two weeks after giving up smoking, I don’t even like the taste of tea any more.

My friends said I’d be naggy and irritable by now.

After 53 years of puffing 20 a day, I braced myself for feeling ragged and climbing the wall with cravings.

But somehow, miraculously – other than mornings – I’ve been fine.

Maybe because it’s mind over matter. Not giving up means the surgeon not giving me the double hip replacement I desperately need. That’s what’s on my mind all the time.

Do I want a fag and to stay on my couch all day for the rest of my life? No.

People said I should have a spare pack handy in case my withdrawal symptoms got really bad, but I knew that wouldn’t work.

I’d have one, then five… only going cold turkey would work for me.

I smoked my last fag on November 8 and didn’t enjoy it because I knew that was it: The End.

Since then the fog has, literally, cleared. Donna, who pops in once a week to help me around the house, stopped in her tracks, sniffed the air in my lounge and said: “This is the first time I’ve never smelled smoke here”.

I could’ve sworn my home never whiffed of fags because I always opened the door but until now, Donna had been too polite to tell me the smoke wafted back in.

If my house smelled, then I must have too. But again, no one said.

My eldest son Jonathan has always hated the smell and each day, when he called in for a chat, he’d sit at one side of the kitchen and I’d be at the far side, next to the open door to get rid of the smoke. It’s been lovely sitting closer together this past fortnight.

Our Robert was always disapproving of my habit and forever mouthing on about it. He’s been giving me his best football manager pep talks and is pleased by my progress.

And I was thrilled to bits with the kind letters and cards you’ve sent me full of tips and encouragement – they really did keep me going.

To the lady who had given up smoking and hasn’t told her husband she’s started again, your secret’s safe with me. But if I can do it, you can too.

The biggest motivation of all is imagining myself at Old Trafford watching my grandson Charlie play (and following the smell of the onions to the burger van parked outside).

Being on the sidelines of his brother Freddie’s games cheering him on, and taking my granddaughter Caitlin clothes shopping and buying her a new dress. Those privileges are currently out of reach to me because I’m in so much pain. Now I’m working on it.

I don’t say this often, but I’m proud of myself.

Although as soon as I go out with my new hips, I bet I will get run over
by a bus.

I just can’t resist a chocolate treat

I like to be organised for Christmas so already had three big boxes of Celebrations hidden upstairs to say thank-you to people.

Then I got hungry.

It’s no good me hiding things away when I know where they are.

The big tub was taped so tightly I nearly opened my front door and flung it into the street. But I persevered.

Galaxies were the first to go – the solid chocolate ones, then the caramel. Then the Bounties. I don’t need to finish this sorry tale because we all know how it ends.

I’ll have to ask my daughter-in-law to put boxes of Celebrations back on my shopping list. She will roll her eyes as this happens every year.

Many people who give up smoking say their sense of taste returns. I feel pretty certain I never lost mine.

Tindall really tickles me…

I’ve been glued to the action in the I’m A Celebrity jungle. And I howled at Mike Tindall’s story of splitting his trousers and flashing his royal mother-in-law pants that had “Nibble my nuts” written across them. I bet Princess Anne laughed even harder when she saw the tiny budgie smugglers Mike’s wearing in the jungle.

Owen’s a favourite – he’s so sweet and so hungry, bless him. But if Boy George woke me with his chanting each day, I’d shove my walking stick where the sun don’t shine.

Qatar anger must not hit games
Qatar hosting the World Cup has caused a lot of anger and hurt.

I don’t want to sweep anyone’s feelings under the carpet or turn a blind eye to the unjust treatment of anyone.

But I also don’t want anything clouding the games we’ll see.

Wales hasn’t qualified for 64 years and I’m beside myself with excitement to support them. I know the dedication it’s taken each player to earn their place in the squad.

And it would be a shame if we didn’t celebrate the players’ achievements because we disagree with where they’re playing.

The first notes of the Welsh national anthem will have me in tears, I’m sure…

Success takes lots more than fancy footwear
Our Robert is urging grassroots teams to apply for the chance to receive a £10,000 Proud to Pitch In grant.

Of course, local clubs need investment. And it upsets me to think of talented players giving up or missing opportunities because a lack of money holds them back.

I wish players would realise football boots don’t need to have Nike and Adidas logos though.

Robert’s first pair were from Woolworths. And some of the world’s best players honed their skills in the streets of Mexico or barefoot on Brazilian beaches.

Look at Marcus Rashford, who has been so open about his childhood of poverty in Britain.

Football stars rise to the top of the beautiful game because of their focus, determination, stamina and drive.

So, of course, investment is very welcome.

I just wish more understood that playing in gear with three stripes or a fancy swoosh doesn’t automatically give you goal-scoring feet.