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This is a question Your first cigarette

To be honest, inhaling the fumes from some burning leaves isn't the most natural thing in the world.
Tell us about the first time. Where, when, and who were you trying to show off to?

Or, if you've never tried a cigarette, tell us something interesting on the subject of smoking.

Personally, I've never ever smoked a cigarette. Lung damage from pneumonia put me off.

(, Wed 19 Mar 2008, 18:49)
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Crie de coeur

I believe it is customary to apologise for length. In that case, sorry.

I was born in Paris in December 1985, and my name is Jim - partly because my mother’s favourite film is Truffaut's 'Jules et Jim'. At the heart, it was always just me and Maman - though, over the years she had lovers who came and went, for longer or shorter times, sometimes she would find a new lover before getting rid of the current one. Some I liked, some I didn't. She is a liberal, an intellectual and a fun person to be around. I've got no complaints about her at all, she made me the man I am. Of course I was curious about my father, when I asked her about him, her eyes would go a little far away but there was always a smile, though sometimes a tear as well. 'He was an Englishman, a very nice Englishman. When you're older, I'll tell you all about him, when the time is right.'

When I was little, I hated my strange foreign name but, as you do, I got used to it - I grew into it. As I'd always knew my father was English, I'd always studied hard in my English lessons.

When I was 18 Maman thought that the time was right to tell me about my father. She took me out for a meal a few days after my birthday, we both drank a bit more than usual and then started on the tale:

It was spring of 1985. Maman had been living with Jean-Claude for about six years, he was 36, she was 30. For about three years they had been trying for a baby but with no success. They were not married, but Maman thought that when she got pregnant, then, perhaps... Anyway, things started to go wrong. Maman worked as a social worker in a hostel for young people, this meant that about two nights a week she had to sleep at the hostel. One day, as she got back to their flat after a night at the hostel, she noticed that both sides of the bed had been slept on. She had suspected for some time that Jean-Claude had been cheating on her, but now he was bringing his woman back to their bed. She confronted him, he denied it. Weeks went past, things were not right, Maman didn't feel the same way about J-C anymore. Things he did annoyed her, he became more distant - what to do?

And then it happened. One day at the hostel she spotted a young man talking with some of the residents. Her heart started beating wildly and she realised that she could not be in love with J-C anymore, as one sight of this man had made her feel like she did six years ago when she was young and beautiful and J-C was funny and sexy. She told me his name and that he was 21 years old, very handsome and English. He spoke very good French with a lovely English accent, she spent that night with him and that was night I was conceived.

Now she had a problem. The Englishman went home and so did Maman, but J-C could see a change in her. He choose this moment to announce that he was in love with a younger woman and was moving out. Maman swore and shouted a bit and said 'Hah! I too have a young lover, get out and don't come back.'

She wrote to the young Englishman, but didn't say that anything was wrong, just that she missed him and wanted him back as soon as he could. She was so mixed up she didn't know what she felt now. She was messed up over the break up of her relationship, she felt like a young girl in love with an impossible love. She wanted to declare her love but was afraid of scaring him off. Then she discovered she was pregnant and she knew it was his baby and she knew she wanted to keep it and to try to make a life with this man.

He visited her just one more time. Maman was so tense that she found she couldn't tell him her news. She knew that he found her attractive but was totally unsure what he truly felt. But then she found out very soon. He told her that he was in love with someone else, a girl in England and that he couldn't return again.

Maman was in shock a little. She found how deep her love was now, she knew she wanted him to be happy and that if she told him about the baby then it would spoil everything. It was obvious now that he wasn't in love with her, but she had the chance of keeping a part of him forever as well as giving him the gift of freedom and happiness.

When I was born and was a boy, she called me Jim, she thought that it was tribute enough to my father to give me an English name. She said if I wanted to know what he looked like then just to take a look in the mirror.

And that was the story she told me. And that was the night I smoked my first cigarette.

I matriculated in 2003 and applied to Montpellier University to study English, but first I decided to take a gap year, working and travelling around England. I waited at tables in Covent Garden, was a barman in Highgate and a few other places too. I stayed in Youth Hostels in Cumbria, Cornwall and Yorkshire; I ate Cumberland Sausages, Cornish Pasties and Yorkshire Puddings; I drank beer, beer and beer - from Royal Oak to Tetleys to Fullers London Pride via Jennings, Banks's, Shepherd Neame and, on one un-memorable night, I drank several bottles of 'dog'. I also had some lovely encounters with some lovely English girls - and one or two Scots and Welsh too. Oh, and some Irish.

One of the highlights of the year was watching the final 6 Nations game in my favourite Hampstead pub, with a few French mates and a lot of English ones, when Les Bleus beat world champions England to take the Grand Slam. 'Appy days, as we say. We were planning on taking a live rooster to the pub but when we couldn't find one, we made a compromise and left a box full of Kentuky Fried Chicken bones in the gutter on the way home in stead.

The second year of university (2006/7) I spent at Leeds University. What a year. What a year. My gap year and my studies had given me fluent English but when I was with women, I tended to pretend not to understand everything - that way I always knew who fancied me, who was talking dirty etc. and yes, I did take advantage - you bet. One memorable weekend I spent from Friday afternoon to lunchtime Monday in a house in Hyde Park which was shared by five female students. I don't remember much about that weekend, but I had some strange bruises and teeth marks on me by Monday morning.

But it wasn't all beer and boffing as they say in the Midi. I also used some of my spare time to search for my father and in February 2007 I registered on this fine website, for to improve my understanding of English as she is written today. At one time, I considered using the QOTW as the subject for my dissertation: "B3ta Question of the Week answers, and the insights they give us into the apparent polarisation of the written English language into the pre- and post-internet generations"; I may still do this just for a lol. Yeah, right. WTF?

To search for my father all I had was his name and address from 1985 - when I was a little boy I'd searched through my mother's drawers one afternoon when she was out, and I found a letter from my father to her - she'd written his address on the back of the envelope. When I knew I'd be in England for year, I made sure to copy it out. As you would expect, I found the house in North London where he used to live but the people there had never heard of him or his family. That was at Easter, then I registered with 'Friends Reunited'. There were five people with his name but only one fitted the age and location of my father.

His profile matched as well. He spent a few years 'bumming around Europe' after school before meeting his wife in 1985. And he had one daughter, born in 1987...my little half-sister. Should I try to contact him? The bad news was that he hadn't been active on the site since 2001. I started shaking so badly I had to go outside and walk around to calm down. I ended up at the pub slowly sipping a pint of Samuel Smiths at a corner table, thoughts whirring round my head. I stalled. Half of me wanted to drop everything and pursue him but I was scared. He was still married - at least six years ago - a daughter not much younger than me, a wife - how could I burst in on this? I stumbled home close to midnight and logged back on. I tried sending a very brief message just ‘do you remember me?’ It failed to arrive. Part of me was relieved, part frantic.

In the morning I was a bit calmer. OK, I had a lead now, there was no rush was there? I had a lot of work to do so I buried myself in it, I also drank quite a bit and found solace in the arms of some women. All too soon I had to return home. I decided to ask my Maman what I should do. But wait, was this a good idea? I felt she still held some feeling for this man, should I disturb her as well? Merde.

To cut a long story shorter than it might be...I finished my course at Montpellier and applied for jobs in the UK, got one working for a company in Manchester - moved here last November. I took up the pursuit of my father again and through Google, I think I found him. Where he now lives and works. At Christmas I went home to stay with Maman, determined to speak to her about the matter. I didn't tell her that I'd found him, just that I was looking - she wasn't at all surprised. She said she expected me to do that and that she could tell it was on my mind when I got back from my year in the UK. She wished me good luck and said that if I found him to please ask for his forgiveness for keeping the secret from him, and to send her good wishes.

I got back to Manchester and decided to book a week's holiday in March as work would allow me some free time then. I made arrangements, checked electoral roles. Then, at the end of January I was reading the QOTW as usual and the topic 'Stalking' came up. At last, I thought, I will tell the story of how I tracked down my father. I sat down and started writing - it was pretty hard, so I read some of the other posts and then I saw the story from Che Grimsdale and all of the pieces fell into place - I couldn't believe it - I had truly found my father.

I was going to send him a message, I wanted to post 'Therese's story' myself then and there, to tell you all my side of the story. But I bottled it. Apart from anything else, I was trying to erase some of the images conjured up - some things you don't wish to know. "You were conceived in Paris" is fine...intimate details? No thanks. I did print off all of Che's postings - nearly five years' worth. I read them non-stop over a weekend, I don't suppose many people know their father quite like I do - so intimately and yet not at all. At least once a week I sit down to compose a message but I haven't found the right words until now.

So now, Che - Dad, it's over to you.
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 8:51, 12 replies)
Good Lord
If this is all for real, then we truly have a B3ta event. I wish you all the best.
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 9:05, closed)
B3ta - Bringing families toghether
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 9:12, closed)
The saga continues...

*starts writing notes for 'I was Jean-Claude' post*
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 9:15, closed)
Very well written
But I smell a teensy windup!
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 9:34, closed)
Pooflake, I've got something to tell you...
I'm really your mother and I had you when I was 12. Oh the shame!
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:01, closed)
it reeks of untruth
I should know
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:02, closed)
www.b3ta.com/users/profile.php?id=11307 - Che

It's his b3ta day... I smell a wind-up.
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:06, closed)
Ah! Jim Lad
Own up now - who is this?
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:06, closed)

I imagine I’ve been a big disappointment to you…

If it'd been me, I would've abandoned me too...
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:08, closed)
Fair cop but society is to blame

OK sir, we'll be charging them later.

Happy b3ta-day to me,
Happy b3ta-day to me,
Happy b3ta-day dear Che-e,
Happy b3ta-day to me!!
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:14, closed)
^^ Sings along
And clicks story for the imagination behind this and the irony of finding someone through the Stalking QOTW...
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:22, closed)
Zut alors!
I only wanted to give a boost to the old 'entente amiale'.

It doesn't make me a bad person.
(, Wed 26 Mar 2008, 10:34, closed)

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