"Uncle Smoke" went through more drafts than is usual for me, and I wound up cutting about a third of it for publication, including the bit that inspired the story. Perhaps, someday, I'll publish the rest as an appendix to the original. In the meantime, here's a taster:
Where shall we begin, my doves? At the beginning, of course; the center of the universe; the sparkling pinpoint in that black velvet night upon which all the fingers of all the gods alight – I’m speaking relatively, of course; there is no actual center of the universe, because all points are the center of the universe, depending on where you’re standing. But even that does my head in a bit, and we all know my head is cloudy enough as it is.
And you may argue that the city isn’t the center of the world, but the City is certainly the center of the city, the seed of the city’s conurbation; the starving beast bellowing in the bellybutton of Ye Merry Olde, an ickle furry green tattoo all that separates that ravenous brute from the hedgehogs and hollyhocks of the hi-tiddly-hi-ti what ho of the English everywhere else. (I don’t visit the Green Belt; a man as amorphous as I makes a point of avoiding bindy bits on principle, of course; and you should certainly avoid it: all that fresh air never did nobody no good nohow.)
So let’s take as written that the universe has a fixed center, and that fixed center is the city of London, and the center of the city of London is the City of London: the place where it all began, so we’ll begin there too.