It’s coming up to the time of year when I stop visiting pubs, and sitting outside them in the garden. From about October to March, I don’t visit pubs at all, because I can’t stand being unable to smoke while I drink a beer. I hate it just as much now as I did on 1 July 2007.

So given that the past week or so has been lovely and sunny in England, I’ve used every opportunity available to enjoy a beer and a cigarette in a variety of different pub gardens while I still can. It has even taken precedence over my investigation of the Chelyabinsk meteor, even while it was breaking exciting new ground. For however exciting it all was, I’d still drop it all and head off to a pub for an hour or two.

Today looked like it wasn’t going to be possible. It’s been a showery day in my part of the world, and the satellite images (over which I can pore for hours) held little promise of any sunshine. But I went out shopping anyway, and when I was about to start off home, there was another dark shower cloud looming on the horizon, with bands of rain under it.

But as I watched it for a few minutes, and began to think that it might pass north. And there was blue sky behind it. Maybe there wasn’t going to be another shower after all?

So I took a chance on it, and headed to the nearest pub, and bought a half pint in the hope that the dark, ominous cloud really would pass by rather than pass over.

Then the sun broke through the clouds. It looked like I’d gambled right.

And then the first droplets of rain began to fall. It was fine rain, almost drizzle. I hunched over the roll-up I was rolling to try to keep it dry.

The rain got heavier. And I began to think that if it got much worse I’d have to head for cover, even though the sun was very bright, and the spots of rain on the table were evaporating almost as soon as they landed.

And then the rain died away, and stopped. I’d only been caught by the trailing edge of the passing shower.

And it turned into a glorious afternoon. So I stayed for another beer.

I don’t know what it is that I so love about sitting with a beer and a cigarette. I don’t really think about anything much. In fact I maybe even stop thinking. I just sit there gazing abstractly into space. In fact, I don’t think I actually see anything at all. I’m just there, with my beer and my cigarette. And somehow at peace. And I seem to need that little oasis of peace.

I treat pubs like churches. They’re there to just go inside and sit quietly, gazing contemplatively into space.

But I prefer pubs to churches. And today I thought that the real difference between pubs and churches (or at least the Catholic churches of my youth), was that in the church you sat or stood or knelt watching a priest drinking wine and eating bread (the Catholic mass is a ritual meal), while in a pub you can drink wine and eat bread yourself. And that’s so much better. And you can also talk, and smoke cigarettes. Or at least, you used to be able to smoke cigarettes.

I think if Jesus was around, you’d probably find him in a pub. He seemed to eat and drink quite a lot, by all accounts. He even knew how to turn water into wine, which must have come in really handy at parties and wedding feasts. And he seemed to like fast ladies. And he was very, very talkative. Perhaps too much. I like to think that he also smoked. Or would have, if anyone had ever offered him one. Gauloises or Gitanes, most likely. For Jesus was probably French. And drove a Peugeot. Or maybe a Renault.

Anyway, my church-going days are almost over for the year. What lies ahead is a four to six month long Lent of enforced abstinence. And then it’ll be Easter, and a renewal and rebirth of sunny pub gardens. In such manner the ecclesiastical year reproduces itself.

I forgot to add this video from Norway.

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23 Responses to Lent

  1. The Blocked Dwarf says:

    I think if Jesus was around, you’d probably find him in a pub.

    No doubt but I should point out for the non-theological that the ‘publicans’ whose company JC enjoyed often, were infact not publicans as we know them Jim. They were quislings, public contractors and tax collectors for the Romans.

    One more JC fact: it cost the women of the Royal Court a fortune to keep him in poverty. SO not only did he like the company of fast women but other women bank rolled him. Slick.

  2. The Blocked Dwarf says:

    I so love about sitting with a beer and a cigarette

    Ps. I feel the same way about sitting outside a café somewhere civilised and warm with a really decent cup of coffee and a cigarette. There was a café in the 18th arrondissement, that 30C summer of 2003 (?)…could have sat outside smoking all day….just watching the good paisans go about their business.

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    And soon if the Antis have there way there will be no smoking outdoors either. You can no longer smoke outside Starbucks in the US any longer (although many ignore the prohibition). We really need to find a way to stop the antismoker madness!

  4. jaxthefirst says:

    “In fact I maybe even stop thinking.”

    Precisely. That’s why the smoking break is so much more effective than just “a break.” I’ve never quite been able to work out what it is about smoking which enables a person, just for a few precious minutes, to stop all the hurly-burly of thoughts, plans, demands and worries which hurtle about in our minds for the rest of the time – all I know is that it works, and I’ve yet to find anything which is so effective, and yet from which a person can “snap out” of the moment the smoking break is finished and re-engage their minds to the job at hand. Alcohol or drugs will certainly “switch a person off,” but unfortunately it isn’t possible to “snap back” into mental activity in the same fast way (which is why alcohol and drugs tend to be pursuits followed in a person’s leisure time, when “snapping back” is unlikely to be necessary); tea or coffee don’t do it (unless, of course, they’re accompanied by a cigarette); reading a paper or a book or doing a crossword won’t do it because they take too long to be effective in the space of the average break, and talking to other people doesn’t work because, in a work situation one is generally talking about work matters (i.e. the very things one is trying to temporarily “switch off” from) or, if not, then any interesting conversations have to be brought to an abrupt close in order not to be seen to be “sitting around, chatting,” so the kind of pleasant, meandering, all-encompassing conversation which might be relaxing rarely happens in a working environment. But smoking ticks all the boxes – it’s quick, it’s effective, and its effects don’t linger around after the break is finished. After a smoking break, one returns to work relaxed, refreshed and newly ready to face anew tasks which may have been bugging you beforehand. Which is probably why smokers, when permitted to take smoke breaks, are the best, most effective, efficient and creative workers when compared to their non-smoking colleagues, whose breaks are necessarily less effective.

    No wonder there’s a recession raging when the best employees in organisations, rather than being permitted to work in the way which results in their being able to perform to the best of their ability, are instead forced to emulate the working practices of their less-efficient and less-productive counterparts.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      You just described union workers perfectly…………

      instead forced to emulate the working practices of their less-efficient and less-productive counterparts

      I actually had a union boss come up and tell me to slow down I was making the others look bad……………..I was a troubleshooter at a tire factory and fixed machines faster than any of them. They preffered whats called a campout……….sit there acting like your working when your just sky larking wasting time to run out the clock……….BS on that the faster a machine is operating the faster the companies making money and Im getting to fuck off until the next one breaks.

      • beobrigitte says:

        I actually had a union boss come up and tell me to slow down I was making the others look bad……………..

        That bit I could always live with.

        My first fight with the union was not about my speed; it was about my multitasking. I could easily get a number of things to be done in a time that sent my bosses into control mode (they thought I had skipped a few things).
        But then, I was extremely good at it and I am by nature not competitive. Soon enough, I was working with people who felt that element being taken out actually put in more effort. We weren’t competing, we were working together.

        Only last week I was told to monitor (???) a couple of people. I started my work day not in the best of moods as I expected a train crash meeting a plane crash. At the end of the week I was pleasantly surprised. I had insisted on communication. We all knew EXACTLY what the others were doing.
        Furthermore, the “weak” people I was working with began to see what needed to be done.
        I will have to write tomorrow my evaluation. The “weaker” members of staff began to work more independently – and it worked.

        Perhaps this explains my hate for all the backstabbing, brown-nosed, stupid yuppies. They can never be part of a REAL good team. But yuppie behaviour is encouraged. Good luck with that.
        I act according to what I do best – and what I remember to be a good team. Even if I have to pretend not to work as fast.

    • Barry Homan says:

      I worked at a newspaper about 5 years ago, the tail-in of production, packing papers on pallets for pick-up. There were lots of details, working in a freezing warehouse in the winter, lots of pressure. I smoked all the time, but I had my routine nailed down hard. I kept that joint clean and organized, and did the work of two people – every day, and took breaks only when time allowed.

      Then wouldn’t you know it, they hired a totally incompetent, head-up-the-arse bozo (from Somalia, I might add) as my assistant, a nerdy, anti-smoking little twerp, he f*cked up everything he touched. He was a liar, a whiner and played the “victim card” right and left – plus exhibiting all those annoying, distracting personality traits and habits right on his sleeve (like so many anti-smokers do, I’ve noticed). It came down to intense screaming-matches between me and two shift bosses – I demanded they get rid of him. It was me who got fired, the day before Christmas.

      The twerp took over my job. He completely screwed up everything, the department was in total chaos, or so I got told later by encounters with the route-men. The two bosses lost their jobs a year later, they were let off. Small compensation, but it gave me some smug satisfaction.

  5. harleyrider1978 says:

    Hell we all know and even the Nazis know the bans wont last forever,they always get repealed.

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Deliberate Suicide

      During alcohol prohibition, when the federal government required that industrial ethanol be poisoned with methanol to discourage diversion, defenders of that policy said people could easily avoid the hazard, which caused hundreds of deaths a year in New York City alone, by eschewing black-market booze. “The Government is under no obligation to furnish the people with alcohol that is drinkable when the Constitution prohibits it,” said the legendary dry lobbyist Wayne Wheeler. “The person who drinks this industrial alcohol is a deliberate suicide.”

      Antiprohibitionists took a different view. “Only one possessing the instincts of a wild beast would desire to kill or make blind the man who takes a drink of liquor, even if he purchased it from one violating the Prohibition statutes,” said Sen. James Reed (D-Mo.). Sen. Edward Edwards (D-N.J.) called the methanol mandate “legalized murder.”

      The government’s role in drug-related deaths today is not quite as direct as its role in alcohol-related deaths in the 1920s. While it required producers of industrial alcohol to add the methanol that blinded and killed drinkers, it does not require drug dealers to sell products of unpredictable quality and potency. But it does allow them to do so by placing the entire industry in the hands of criminals, depriving consumers of the protections they would enjoy in a legal market. Confronted by the resulting casualties, you can either join Wayne Wheeler in blaming the victims or join James Reed in wondering how any man who supports such a policy can call himself civilized.

  6. waltc says:

    Agreed. Smoking is Zen. A silent unarticulated “ohmmmm.”

  7. Rose says:

    I suspect that, that moment to relax on the back steps and look at what’s happening in the garden around me, is when I put the pressing questions I’ve been thinking about to the back of my mind and lose myself temporarily in pleasant distractions.

    It is quite remarkable how often the back of my mind comes up with the answer when finally left in peace to roam the data banks for a few minutes.

    • garyk30 says:

      You and Einstein.
      It is said that his greatest inspirations came while he was gazing at nothing.

      He was probably smoking his pipe at the time.

  8. beobrigitte says:

    So given that the past week or so has been lovely and sunny in England, I’ve used every opportunity available to enjoy a beer and a cigarette in a variety of different pub gardens while I still can.

    I have stopped going to pubs. In the service industry the customer is supposed to be king. Isn’t it confusing that the king gets kicked out the door when he/she wants to light up?
    Sure, for pub owners being dictated to treat kings worse than any animal (the RSPCA will be out to get you if you kick your dog out in the wind and rain!) must be a living nightmare. They need my money.
    And politicians need my vote, too.

    That does remind me to point out: the generations growing up with cigarette smoke are of sound mental (and physical?) health. In this “healthy”, dictated smoker hating society we have an increasing number of mentally ill youngsters…

    Something’s got to give?

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