I could see, as Beryl tucked into her fried bread, fried eggs, and greasy bacon, that there was something different about her appearance, not least that her arms were covered in purple bruises.
'Oh, lamb - I had a heart attack.'
Apparently, after one of her breathless fits, Beryl was taken to hospital where they told her she had indeed had a heart attack. They next tried to find a vein - hence the purple bruises - into which they inserted 'stents,' she said proudly chewing a sausage. 'Look it up in a dictionary.'
I just have - 'a tube implanted temporarily into a vessel' is sense one, and sense two is 'an instrument of torture'.
'Did it hurt?'
'It's all right while they are shoving it up your tube thingies, but when it reaches your heart it hurts like hell.'
'Did they tell you it was OK to eat fried food after the heart attack?' I asked.
'I didn't ask,' she said, as she swallowed the last mouthful of cholesterol. 'But honestly, pet, I have never felt better in my life. All my depression is gone. I came straight home from hospital and cleaned the house, and today I am going to write an article, and then get on with my bloody novel. You haven't got any ciggies on you, have you?'
These people are brave aren't they? I say 'these' as this devil-may-care attitude has surely been shared by Christopher Hitchens, whose diagnosis of oesophageal cancer we've recently learnt about. This is a cancer that's almost certainly caused by drinking and smoking too much.
I used to smoke, and I used to drink a little immoderately, but I stopped the former and cut back on the latter. I didn't want to contribute excessively to my chances of dying too soon. Those who persist despite these fears are worthy of some admiration, I think.
There's a tendency to medicalise the whole thing, to think of it solely in terms of dependence. This is reductive. Why not believe it when Alex Massie says he smokes 'for enjoyment'?
It can all become very patronising and I can't think of less suitable subjects for that treatment than Dame Beryl, The Hitch and A. Massie. Rather, they have demonstrated a pretty serious commitment to living for today, one that deserves some respect.