I sat out in my favourite pub garden today. It’s a walled garden, with the walls heavy with ivy and roses. Earlier this year it was a sea of daisies. And on sunny days like today, I sit out on one of its benches with a beer and a cigarette, and gaze into space. It’s very relaxing. And as I gaze into space I think about this and that, or maybe nothing at all.

It’s something I don’t seem to be able to do at home. I think maybe that’s because the gazing bit of it needs something fairly distant to gaze at. And at home there are walls a few feet away all around me, although there’s a view of a distant tree-lined hilltop out of one window.

Ten years back, when I used to buy myself a pint in the River in Devon, I’d always sit at an end table, gazing down the length of the pub. And when I sat outside, I’d gaze at the river as it flowed by.

I think maybe it’s just that when I relax my eyes, they automatically gaze into the distance. Unless there’s something right in front of them, like a computer screen or a book. In which case they focus on that. And it requires work to keep them in focus. Gazing is easy.

Church naves are good places to sit and gaze. Some of them are hundreds of feet long, and usually have something at the far end, like a crucifix or a stained glass window, on which to fix the eye. But the trouble with churches is that they don’t serve beer or cigarettes. So I don’t spend much time in churches.

I’ve said it before, but I often think that churches were once just like pubs. The word ‘mass’ comes from the Latin missa – meal -, and so I like to think of a lot of people sitting down to eat and drink and talk. It would have been a social occasion. But once the killjoys arrived, all that was stopped. No eating, no drinking, no talking, no smoking.

And so instead the missa moved to the pubs outside the churches. And in the pubs people carried on eating and drinking and talking and smoking and playing cards. Until, of course, the killjoys arrived there too.

The original missa was called the Last Supper. And as that has been described, and depicted in paintings, Jesus and his disciples were sitting around eating and drinking and talking. Maybe they were also laughing and smoking and playing cards and musical instruments. And maybe some of them were just gazing into space.

But of course it’s called the Last Supper because the very next day the killjoys totally nailed Jesus.

The killjoys always show up eventually. And they always want to regulate and control everything. They always want to stop everything. And whenever the killjoys take over something, all the fun goes out of it. They make lots of rules and regulations. Things have to be done in one approved manner. It’s called ‘improvement’ or ‘progress’.

You can’t just kick a ball around. You have to wear a uniform and proper football boots. And the pitch has to be so long and so wide with white lines round it, and a flag at each corner. And there has to be a referee. And the referee is a killjoy who hands out red and yellow cards, and sends players off the pitch. And the rules of the game get more and more complicated.

And eventually the game becomes no fun to play any more. It gets too serious. And that was the whole point, of course, from the killjoys’ point of view. They want to spoil the fun.

When I was at school I used to enjoy playing cricket. I was in the school’s 3rd XI team. We used to go and play other schools, and the other schools would always win. We’d score about fifteen runs, and they’d score about about two hundred. But I didn’t care. I just enjoyed playing.

And then one day a new games master arrived, and he called me over and he said that the team’s performance was totally dismal and it would have to improve. He said there would have to be a lot more practice to improve batting and bowling and fielding. He asked me if I’d like to be the captain of the team.

And I went away and thought about it, and thought that I didn’t want the team to improve. I liked it the way it was. And I definitely didn’t want to spend hours and hours practising. It wouldn’t be any fun. So the next day I went back and told him that I didn’t want to be the team captain. And not only did I not become the team captain, but he made sure that I never played for the team again. I had the wrong attitude, y’see. And he went on to become the headmaster of the school – although after I had left school, mercifully – because killjoys like him always work hard to get to the top. Which is why the killjoys always take over eventually.

That’s why David Cameron is a killjoy. And also Nick Clegg. And in fact, all politicians everywhere. In fact more or less everyone who gets to the top of any profession. Like Bill Gates. Or Henry Ford. Or Paul Getty. Or Michael Bloomberg. They’re not easygoing, fun people. They worked very hard to get to the top. And they were probably utterly ruthless. They wanted to win. And winning meant beating other people, triumphing over other people. And when they finally get to the top, they’re hardly going to buy everyone a drink, and hand round cigarettes. No, they’re going to screw everyone into the ground.

I like to think that Jesus was a fun kind of guy. A party guy. I like to think that he was a raconteur or comedian who hung out on the fun side of Jerusalem, far away from the killjoy pharisees. And that his natural place was some little bar, eating and drinking and talking with friends. And that when the food and the wine ran out (as they often did), he was adept at rustling up some more from somewhere.

And I like to think that Buddha was a fun guy too. I have a little wooden statue of Buddha that serves as a lampstand. It’s a laughing Buddha statue. So I think that Buddha laughed a lot.

And if you don’t ever see any pictures of Jesus laughing, it’s because the killjoys took over Christianity, and stopped all the eating and drinking and smoking and laughing, and wiped the smiles off everyone’s faces.

But the killjoys never win completely. They never succeed in wiping out all pleasure. Because there’s always a Jesus or a Buddha sitting in some little bar somewhere, swapping tall stories with friends, and drinking and smoking and laughing.

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13 Responses to Gazing

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    Heres a toast and a smoke to all the fun Kool people in the world!

    Those Ive never met,those I will meet and to those I have shared the free past with.

    Its all those people sharing freedom and liberty that create a life,a culture and a way of living that creates universal harmony the world over!

    Frank your Blog keeps that essence of life alive and well!

    We salute you and may the killjoys eat our shit!

  2. Junican says:

    If you read the New Testament, you will see nothing against people having pleasure. Indeed, such pleasure is applauded. People ‘break bread’ and ‘take wine’. But, underlying everything, is also the acceptance of pain and suffering – both ‘physical’ and ‘ephemeral’ (I almost conceded to the idea of ‘mental’, but found a better word!).
    The reason for the word ‘ephemeral’ is that the inter-relationship of ’emotion’ and ‘intellect’ is a mystery. I use that word ‘inter-relationship’ advisedly, since the ideas of both are incomprehensible.

    Imagine how unbelievably awful the Human Condition would be if the relationship between intellect, emotion, physical things was fully understood. If it were not for the ‘spiritual’, we all might as well commit suicide,

    You talked about the inadequacies of Christian Churches and sexual use (abuse) of kids by priests. But we might reasonably ask about the actual prosecution of individual priests for that crime. Were there crimes are are the crimes just rumours of crimes? If it is true that the Christian Church (being the Catholic Church) is under such pressure, then it ought to be defending itself with the utmost vigour. Any and every accusation must be individually pursued, if it is that important. Some sort of aggregate guilt is absolutely anathema to the Christian Religion.

    The HORROR of these sort of situations is that ‘Defending Yourself’ is seen, and reported, by the MSM as an admission of guilt!


    The curious thing is that all this blather and expense about the enjoyment of tobacco could have been avoided very easily.The easy way would have been to reduce tobacco levies to zero. Only then would the absolute effects be clear.

  3. waltc says:

    “Physical and ephemeral” reminds me of some lines from Wallace Stevens, a stunning poet, posing a paradox with some truth in it:

    “Beauty is momentary in the mind
    The fitful tracing of a portal
    But in the flesh it is immortal.”

    And the Bloombergs of the world also think their success stems from the fact that they’re smarter than everyone else of which their success is absolute proof. Unbreakable chain.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      All Bloomberg has proven is power corrupts completely!

      Now he is pushing for 21 as the legal age to buy smokes! It has always been my understanding that legal age is set by statelaw not city councils.

  4. chris says:

    There’s a “Laughing Jesus” picture that’s popular with some Christians. Try Googling it.

  5. beobrigitte says:

    As – quite often this happens! – you, Frank write about something I have been gazing into trees about when sat on a bench with a cup of coffee and a cigarette.

    I consider spending time gazing into space somewhere, letting thought go their own way, as VITAL. It provides a balance and relaxes.

    Only the other day I was thinking about the difference between doing something just for fun without competitiveness.
    We were one of the first women (girls!) football team locally in 1972. We were an abysmally bad crowd, playing. But we did not care about that. It was more important to have a laugh!
    The only time we played against a team worse than us we decided to actually lose. (That team was even worse than us; so it was quite a challenge!)

    You do not see things like that these days. Everybody is so busy out-competing others that I often wonder if they know the concept of REAL friendship.
    Sometimes this does involve reducing the pace in order to let EVERYONE catch up. Or taking the blame for something someone else did.
    I simply dislike intensely Yuppies like e.g. Bloomberg who, on his way up, even denied himself a 2 minute toilet break. (I guess his kidneys are not too grateful for that, but to him that was not important right then – he was on the way up!!!)
    Hands up, Bloomberg-figure. Do you have REAL friends?
    I have come to the conclusion that Yuppies are not bright people. They need to spend too much of their “free” time sacrificed in order to get somewhere. The REAL BRIGHT PEOPLE actually have FUN and still get where they want to be.

    It is a pity that the Yuppie anti-smokers mobbed their way into a position to dictate laws. It is great that something they just have no concept of is bringing them down!!!

    Btw, Jesus once helped out in a wedding do. The hosts ran out of wine, so Jesus talked to the host, had some carafes filled with water and changed them to wine.
    After that he sat down on his place and continued celebrating.
    I guess Bloomberg et al would just bully someone into bringing a few crates and then have the party in HIS NAME.

  6. jaxthefirst says:

    Since my employer decided to go all “anti” in the wake of the smoking ban and prohibit all smoking on any part of our company site (including cars parked on the premises), I’ve taken my lunch break off-premises. I’m lucky enough to work in a particularly pretty part of the country, so I jump in my car with a few sandwiches, some coffee and my smokes and park up somewhere where there’s a nice view (there are quite a lot of spots like that near where I work). And, whilst I’m having my lunch or a couple of post-lunch cigarettes I, too, often just gaze.

    And d’you know, it’s been something of a revelation to me, this whole concept of a real lunch “break.” Sometimes as I gaze I may also be listening to something interesting on the radio; sometimes I just have some music on and I’m not really concentrating on anything. I certainly never think about anything even remotely work-related. And as a result, when I return to the office after my statutory hour I’m thoroughly “chilled out” and ready for the afternoon ahead – far more so than any of my non-smoking colleagues who have grabbed a quick bite to eat in the staff canteen before heading straight back to their desks as quickly as possible, and far more so than I used to be when I did the same.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for claiming back some time to oneself just to “be” in today’s hurried world. Maybe that’s why, despite constant discrimination, unfairness and prejudice, smokers remain far more laid-back and relaxed about life than their non-smoking counterparts ever seem to be able to accomplish. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why smoking has always been seen as such an effective stress-buster – it isn’t so much that smoking per se alleviates stress, but rather the fact that the act of smoking – particularly now, post-ban – necessarily entails stopping whatever stressful or pressurised activity one is doing for long enough to clear one’s mind before returning to it, relaxed and refreshed and ready to address it far more effectively than one would if one had simply kept “bashing on” with it. Which is a rather long-winded way of saying that that could be one of the reasons why, even when the time taken for smoking breaks is taken into account, smokers generally are more productive, efficient and effective workers than non-smokers are.

    • XX I jump in my car with a few sandwiches, some coffee and my smokes and park up somewhere where there’s a nice view XX

      Aye. Great. But when, like most WORKERS, you only get one 10 minute and one 20 Minute break every eight and a half hours, then you derive in the country is fucked RIGHT up the arse!

      • jaxthefirst says:

        Very true, FT. I am lucky to work in an area where there actually are some nice “bolt holes” within easy reach. It can’t be so easy for people who work slap-bang in the middle of a huge city. But I think I’d have to find a way, one way or the other, to escape somewhere other than work in the middle of the day, even if the view wasn’t so nice, or I had to walk there. And you’re right, of course – I no longer take coffee/tea breaks because even with access to a good spot there just isn’t time to get there, have a coffee and a cig and get back. Which, of course, is an additional reason why I “vacate the premises” at lunchtime – and would continue to do so even in the unlikely event that I stopped smoking – just to get away from all the frantic work activity and give my mind a bit of space. I think that’s very important, and it’s only since my company’s smoking policy forced me to leave their premises in order to take a break that really is a break (for me) that I’ve truly realised that.

        • XX It can’t be so easy for people who work slap-bang in the middle of a huge city.XX

          Well…. we are very lucky in Berlin, in that there are still many “green areas”. But even so, when you need three to five minutes to even reach the canteen, then taking a “lunch breakl” can be problomatic.

          What I find REALLY annoying, is that those twats doing nothing in the office all day STILL get an hour for lunch PLUS two 15 minute breaks! Whilst the WORKERS, are as described in my last post.

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