I turned 65 today. And I became a pensioner too. Next month I start collecting a full state pension. Which will be helpful.
For most of my life I’ve had an easy life. I was never homeless. I was never broke. I was never sick.
But now, late in life, I’m in a fight for survival like I’ve never been before. Because 5 years ago, with the UK smoking ban, I was pretty much expelled from society. Smokers like me are no longer welcome anywhere. It’s cost me most of my friends, and much of the sense that England is my home country. So it’s an existential struggle in which I’m now engaged.
I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. I should have sat myself down one day, and pointed out to myself that the forces of antismoking darkness (which I first encountered in the 1960s in the person of the joyless Dr W) were steadily growing in strength, and that by simple extrapolation of the trend they were likely to be a power in the land in the coming century. I might also have pointed out to myself that there was a similar trend taking place with greens and environmentalists and vegetarians and the like, and they were going to be a power to reckon with too. But I dismissed Dr W as a lone nutter, and I dismissed the environmentalists as misguided idealists. It was like watching the tide coming in, and telling myself that, no, the water would never get to where I was sitting, under the pier on a rock covered in barnacles and seaweed.
Even as late as 5 years ago, I couldn’t believe that they’d ban smoking in pubs, ban smoking almost everywhere. People had been smoking all around me all my life. My grandfather smoked. My father smoked. My mother occasionally smoked. My brother smoked. Most of my friends smoked. They couldn’t ban smoking in pubs, could they?
But then they went and did exactly that. I now I feel like an exile in my own country. And at war with the state, and the medical profession, and the media, and many of my former friends as well.
I think they expect me to give in under this enormous pressure, in the face of almost complete exclusion, and quit smoking. But to do that would mean giving in to bullies, giving in to frauds and cheats and liars. But while I can forgive myself a lot, I could never forgive myself for doing that. Smoking has become my symbol of defiance, far more than smoking weed was a symbol of defiance in the 1960s.
They also seem to think that they have seen the future, and that there’s a one way tide, and that they’re riding that tide, and that people like me will simply be swept away. They seem to think that people like me are unenlightened throwbacks to a former age, and that we are slowly and remorselessly being drowned by the rising ‘progressive’ tide of smoking bans and windmills and vegetarianism.
But I don’t think human history is a one way tide. I think that the tide rises, and it also ebbs, and that history is a to and fro process. I don’t think there’s going to be any ‘smoke-free’ world anytime soon. Or ever. I think that one day Britain’s smoky pubs will return, and also all the smoky little bars in Europe and America and everywhere else they’ve been forbidden. That’s what happens when the tide starts ebbing.
Smokers like me may have been caught napping, but we’re fully awake these days, and we’re resisting, and our resistance will only stiffen.
I don’t know how long I’ll live. My ‘plan’ was to make it to 70 – the proverbial three score years and ten. And that’s only five years away now. And so I think I’ll be spending the rest of my life fighting the antismokers.
And in many ways it seems to me that 65 years is a good age for a man to take up arms and fight for what he believes in (which in this case happens to be freedom). Because it doesn’t really matter if I die now, after having lived a very pleasant and carefree life. What seems an awful shame is when young men go out to fight and die. Young men with their whole lives in front of them. Like my 22-year-old Spitfire pilot uncle, 70 years ago. He was fighting for freedom too.
And I’ve begun to enjoy fighting the new Nazis that have overrun us. They think that they’re invincible, but I don’t think that they are. And I think that the tide they’ve been riding is beginning to turn, in small ways, here and there.
And I’ve gotten to like the idea of going down fighting, perhaps after a nasty dose of gout, or emphysema, or influenza. Or maybe just falling downstairs. Whatever way it is, it will be just like falling in battle, with my horse cut from under me, and my armour pierced with arrows. Because I’m fighting every day these days, and I intend to carry on fighting and fighting and fighting, like I’ve never fought before.
So they can do their worst, these enemies of mine. It won’t matter to me. Because I have nothing to lose, not even my life, which I will soon lose anyway. I’m not like them, with their terror of ‘premature death’. I’m never going to dodge tobacco smoke, or burnt toast, or the second glass of wine, just so that I might live another year or two longer in their killjoy world.
And that’s one small chink in their armour. Nobody who is terrified of smoke, or carbon dioxide, or bacon, is ever going to actually fight for anything. Because they might get hurt, or – even worse – die a dreaded ‘premature death’. They always use proxies to do their fighting for them. Like the law, or the police, or the media.
They set out to destroy us, but we will destroy them. It may take us a long time to defeat them, but we will defeat them, and we will completely defeat them. And I too will share in that victory, even if I’ve been dead for years.