Sunday, 11 October 2009
The smoking ban has been good in one way: it has illustrated the purblind, cloistered foolishness of modern British socialism.
What a disaster the smoking ban has been. We are told it has saved 40,000 lives, but so what? Even if the figures are true, that is a high price to pay for the loss of so many public houses and, most importantly, the loss of a coherent social experience.
Even since England “went smokefree” on July 1, 2007, the English pub, already spoiled in too many ways to count here, has gone into precipitous decline.
The first thing that disappeared, obviously, was the aroma of a public house: the mixture of beer and tobacco. I knew immediately this was a great loss, a black-ringed watermark in English history. I first sniffed this intoxicating, deeply adult redolence when I was about eight and was taken in the bar of a pub near where I lived by the publican’s daughter, a friend from school. It still had its Victorian appointments, a splendid circular bar, photographs of famous boxers all over the walls (a previous owner had been a famous fighter) and a space invaders machine that looked like a glass coffee table. That essence of stale beer, fags, cigars and pipes represented, much like onyx table lighters, sports cars and drinks cabinets later, all the heady promise and “glamour” of the adult world.
Incidentally, I walked past that pub a few weeks ago for the first time in many years. The builders were in. I walked up to the door and looked inside: there was nothing: it was an empty space; back to the brickwork on the walls and a new concrete floor, still wet. I can imagine all too well what that interior will be like when it reopens…
So, the smell went. What was left: the astringent aroma of detergent plus B.O and farts. The old internal stratospheres of smoke hid so much.
But this has been well said before. As I say above, the greatest loss is the loss of coherent socializing. Most of my friends are smokers; some light, some heavy. A light smoker, like my colleague Mark Brentano, will toddle out for one perhaps every half an hour. That interrupts the party no more than urination. But most of my other friends smoke far more heavily and, since the ban, have taken to spending the entire evening in beer gardens, regardless of weather conditions, or, when things get truly bad, going out about every ten minutes; but the weather has to be truly appalling for that.
I have to say at this point that I gave up smoking cigarettes in May, 08, because it aggravated chronic esophagitis. I miss them sometimes when I’m tipsy, but not much. But what I really miss is being indoors talking over drink and tobacco. I still like a good cigar, but cigars are an indoor pleasure, and therefore ruled out in pubs.
This will be the third winter I am expected to spend shivering in beer gardens under the sickly glow of the heaters and I have decided I am not going to do it. This means I will see less of quite few people I like, but as Steve Marriott used to say, say lar vee. I don’t enjoy drinking in those conditions.
Now, at this time of year, I find myself thinking nostalgically about something that we used to take for granted: closing the door to the beer garden in October and not stepping foot in it again until the following spring; being inside a warm pub on a cold evening (one with an open fire, preferably), in a mild fug of smoking and conversation.
But I hear a clamour of Cromwellian, socialist repudiation: what about health? What about bar staff?
Health: good and efficient extractor fans and air-conditioning had made pubs far less fuggy than in days of old. Plus there were no smoking areas. Quite often, with some artful arrangement, you could straddle the two areas quite easily, to the satisfaction of all bar the busybodies.
They say it has prevented many heart attacks. Well, certain chain smokers are likely to have delayed their coronaries for a few years, but their bad habits were a matter for them to deal with as individuals.
Bar staff? If you don’t want to work in smoky areas, don’t do it. Do something else. I stopped working behind the bar more than ten years ago because I was sick of serving rude drunks. What is socialism’s non-negotiable legislation for that “social problem”?
In the real world, the world beyond the torturously manufactured arguments that socialists employ to extend their power over us all, people avoid work that does not agree with them. I’m not talking about benefit chicanery here but simply getting another job.
Ah well, our rulers have very little knowledge of being workers.
The smoking ban has been good in one way: it has illustrated the purblind, cloistered foolishness of modern British socialism. In my area, every day, I watch as people – and many children – go about their business, driving, working, walking along the street, openly smoking skunk, an illegal, potentially highly dangerous mind-altering substance, all too aware that the chances of interference from the police are minimal, to say the least. But if I were to walk into a pub and light up a cigarette, the full weight of the law would be soon upon me.
How quickly those fluent and apparently perspicacious politicians of 1997 delivered us into moral insanity. The heavy interference of the state in such matters as smoking, and their apparent “success”, sets a grave precedent to future politicians. They already have their sights on controlling our alcohol intake: note the various powers being handed to councils about how and where drink is consumed; in the north they are starting to limit the sizes of rounds and sometimes having policemen present in the bar. This is all reported by the BBC and other pro-state, pro-political class media outlets quite uncritically and even admiringly. You have been warned.