At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


What tobacco would mr. Badger smoke? I refer not only to the beloved character in Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame -- described as a gruff and solitary grey entity, who is nevertheless courteous, hospitable, and a very gallant fellow indeed -- but also to the illustration you will find at the very end of this post, and several other texts here. It is, more or less, a self portrait; drawn while on hold trying to connect with a customer at the other end of the country beset by rabid little monsters and elderly ladies.

He runs a store, by the way. The customer in question.
And might very well also be a badger.


Mr. Badger of the tale lives by himself in a large sett, that being a complex of tunnels and chambers underground in the middle of the wild wood. He's a very neat and well-organized chap, whereas I cannot claim such good habits. My own residence, which I share with a roommate I refer to as Savage Kitten, resembles naught so much as a bucket shop. Her room is considerably neater than mine, and it must be a trial to live with me.
She's always had her own room, though. We are not a couple, merely old friends from her college years.
No, I shall not tell you how long ago that was, suffice to say that she is nearly nine years younger than me. STILL nearly nine years younger; I do not know how she manages that, as I have tried to delay my own aging process. Nine years. Nearly.
Despite some minor success, she still lags that same length of time.
It's very irritating. Better she were a badger, but she ain't.

Evenso, I shall postpone turning into an old grumpus till an appropriate age. Approximately forty years into the future, I should think.

Sufficient time, perhaps, to find another badger.
Whereupon the solitariness will diminish.
I still won't be very neat, though.
And even less inclined to age.

Some things don't change.

Like most of the adult characters in Wind in the Willows, I also smoke a pipe. It was not a conscious imitation, but remarkable coincidence; many of the authors I had read, as well as their characters, were pipe smokers.
As a habit, pipesmoking used to be much more common.
The generation that built the twentieth century consisted mostly of men and women who drank strong coffee and martinis, struggled through incredible adversity, and smoked pipes.
Their influence loomed large during my childhood. My first unthinking foray into badgerhood was the purchase of a pipe when I was thirteen years old, followed two months later with the acquisition of some tobacco after I had turned fourteen. I have been drinking strong coffee ever since.

The early tins of smoke-weed did not resemble anything that mr. Badger (resident of the wild wood, somewhere in England) smoked. They weren't even English, but foul composts of mediocre leaf, heavily sauced.
In a word, dubious Dutch aromatics.

In mr. Badger's day and age, what we now call 'English Blends' were thought of as somewhat excessive and metropolitan, being at that time concoctions of dark Syrian leaf, fragrant Turkish, and enough flue-cured to provide a balance. Such mixtures were put up by specialty tobacconists in the big cities, who catered to the wealthy, the effete, the educated, and the upper echelons of the imperial civil service.

Out in the countryside, what was likely available and preferred was plain flake, rope tobacco, navy cut, twist, plug, and mixtures of flue-cured leaf with a little ribbon and some fire-cured. As well as perfumed dreck for rural degenerates.
Mr. Badger, Rattty, and the Mole, probably all smoked good solid Virginia cake. Most of the time. But I feel that mr. Badger may have experimented by modifying his tobacco, as any self-sufficient and inquisitive mustelid would naturally do.

Flakes are meant to be smoked by themselves. But they also make good base tobaccos for a more personal blend, with judicious additions of other leaves.

Most of my blending experiments have always been heavy on the Syrian and Turkish, what you might call Latakia dumps. These would NOT appeal to a short stocky English gentleman covered with fur, living so far outside the city that his residential environs are described as 'the wild wood'.

He would far more likely play around with something straightforward, modified to induce a contemplative mood, or provide solace on long winter evenings, when the drifts outside keep sensible creatures indoors by the fireplace. Perhaps with a book that he always meant to read, but to which he can now devote the time. Several hours with "Butterfly Collecting in the Hebrides".
Which sounds fascinating; perhaps I should finally write it.
A novelette, in the style of Stephenie Meyer.
Perfect for a bit of a giggle.

Lately I've been trying my hand at a medium Virginia flake with a touch of this and that. Something pleasant and contemplative. It's still mostly a gentle flake at heart, but a little different.

Suitable for after tea. Or a cup of Sumatra Mandheling.
Something that other badgers would like.
I think I've found it.

It's badger time.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


  • At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lately, I've been smoking quite a bit of C&D's Sunday Picnic. A vaper flake with izmir. A fantastic blend. You should try it, if you haven't.

  • At 4:41 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    I have tried it. The Cornell & Diehl flakes are all very good. And they age very nicely indeed -- Manhattan Afternoon and Opening Night are superb with a few years on them (I know this because I cracked tins of those recently).

    Perhaps I should open up some Sunday Picnic next; those tins are nice and bulgy at this point.

    I actually have quite a fondness for C & D. They're good people.

  • At 10:08 AM, Anonymous e-k said…

    Hmm, this badger looks familiar!

  • At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey, dat's mah cusin Leroy.... he's da black sheep o' de fambly.

  • At 12:26 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Not a relative of mine, thank heavens.

    But I approve of his pipe, even though I suspect he's smoking Mixture 79 in it.


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