Unwelcome at the Welcome Inn

For the past week or so I’ve been toying with an idea for a cartoon of someone sitting smoking outside a pub. I thought of a number of possible variations on it, including sitting outside a derelict or ruined pub.

Today I fired up Manga Studio 5 and produced a sketch outline of it. It went through various iterations, before arriving at this night scene:


I was a bit surprised that it had developed in this way, and that I’d added a background treeline. But this evening I realised that I had been drawing from memory.

Back in July 2005, when any smoking ban was completely unimaginable, I was invited to somebody’s birthday party at a large country house in Somerset. But before I arrived the hostess impressed upon me that smoking wasn’t allowed anywhere inside. And since I was going to stay the night, I was put under oath to not smoke in my bedroom – something that didn’t bother me too much, since I’m not in the habit of smoking while I sleep.

The party began in bright sunshine on the spacious lawns surrounding the house. A band played as everyone stood outside, drinking and smoking and chatting.

And then, when the sun set, all concerned began to drift inside to get something to eat. But when I went in, I immediately felt uncomfortable without a cigarette. Parties where no-one is smoking are as unfamiliar as parties where nobody is drinking, or nobody is talking. So I got myself a plateful of food, and topped up my drink, and headed out to the only place that had been designated as a smoking area: a pergola about 100 yards from the house.

I soon found out that I wasn’t the only one to have this idea. For when I reached the pergola, I found that most of the seats around it were already taken. The occupants included the entire band that had been playing during the afternoon. There was no lighting. And no tables. And all concerned were sitting silently eating, drinking, and smoking, or just gazing quietly into the distance at the trees surrounding the lawns. For most of them, this was probably their first experience of a smoking ban.

I spent the entire evening out by the pergola, apart from occasionally returning inside to top up a drink. And so did most of the others. Eventually, as the indoor party wound down, I found my way to my bedroom, and fell asleep.

In retrospect, the entire episode appears as a dark premonition of what was shortly going to happen everywhere – the smokers exiled to the outdoors, and the social division, the disbelief and bewilderment.

Many of the people present on that occasion were friends I’d known for 30 years or more. And that was the last time I ever saw most of them.

If anything is different today, it’s that my estrangement has only got deeper. Back then, I was simply excluded from the indoor party. But now I am estranged in lots of other ways. I’m socially estranged, but also culturally and politically estranged. The Welcome Inn could be simply a pub, but it could also represent society as a whole, or various cultural events – concerts, art galleries, museums -, or the mass media, or the political parties. The Welcome Inn could also represent England or the EU. And I’m sitting outside. And I’m always sitting further and further outside.

There was one other feature of that night in July 2005: the hostess whose birthday it was never came out to the pergola that night. Nor did she mention it the next day when I departed. Although I couldn’t help but wonder what she thought when a quarter of her guests spent the entire evening sitting in darkness 100 yards outside the house,

But that also was prophetic. Non-smokers never notice the smokers outside. They never see the social division that is taking place. They’re completely oblivious. One day, three or four years later, with the country-wide smoking ban in force, I ordered a snack at my local pub in Devon – a place I only visited when it was sunny enough to sit outside by the river.

“I’ll bring it to you when it’s ready,” the bargirl said.

“And where will I be?” I enquired.

“Where you always are,” she replied cheerfully. “On the table in the corner by the window.”

“I haven’t sat there for nearly two years,” I told her. “These days I only ever sit by the river.”

She simply hadn’t noticed. She was completely blind.

And so is the government and the media and nearly everyone else.

About Frank Davis

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27 Responses to Unwelcome at the Welcome Inn

  1. Phil Day says:

    Been reading your blog for a couple of years without commenting but felt l had to this time.
    Found this post very poignant and certainly recognise the feelings you express, Although l don’t smoke now l do remember how l felt when PH started to target smokers – in addition to the isolation you describe l felt bullied at work and also at home. I was working in acute psychy at the time ( l still despise these sadists who force psychy patients to forcibly stop smoking ), my partner at the time was working in icu and bought all the propoganda so l couldn’t escape – these bastards destroyed my work life, my social life and my home life.
    While l don’t always agree with your opinions l do appreciate your efforts to fight a serious wrong so thanks Frank.

    • Frank Davis says:

      these bastards destroyed my work life, my social life and my home life.

      They only ever succeeded in destroying my social life. They never destroyed my work life or my home life. So you’ve had it far worse than I ever did.

      It’s my hope that people like you will one day tell people what happened to them. Because otherwise nobody will ever know.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    Another one for the graveyard.

    Navi Mumbai: Caught smoking, teens decide to kill themselves
    By Faisal Tandel |Posted 10-Apr-2016

    In a case that reveals how vulnerable teenagers are in the face of fear, a 16-year-old, who was rescued by a fisherman, after he and his friend jumped off the Vashi bridge, revealed that the duo had decided to take the drastic step because they had been caught smoking cigarettes. Incidentally, this wasn’t the first time the boys had been pulled up for smoking cigarettes…

    According to the police, the residents then confiscated their mobile phones and decided to take the youngsters to Wadala police station when the boys managed to escape. After evading the residents, Gaddam and Patekar boarded a local train from Wadala and got down at the Vashi railway station. They then walked down to the Vashi bridge and jumped into the creek.

    Gaddam landed on a swamp ground and was rescued by a fisherman, but Ruthik drowned.

  3. Thank you Frank. Beautiful post.

  4. Rose says:

    That’s a very sad picture, it’s also the truth.
    I remember parties and I remember pubs full of friends to chat to, but that was nearly 10 years ago and from what I can see as I pass, the pubs have turned into creches or restaurants. The days of passing a pleasant evening amongst friends in a welcoming pub went the day the leaden hand of the state came down upon our innocent revelries. Fond memories, but I think we’ve had the best of the English Pub until England recreates itself again as it did after the Puritans lost sway,
    We can’t continue having every aspect of our lives minutely examined and undermined by people who profit from it and as more and more people are drawn into the healthist net the sooner it will pass.
    At the moment we are at the wrong end of a political fashion but being joined by thousands every week.

    Do as I do, think about cancer before you have a glass of wine, says chief medical officer


  5. Cecily Collingridge says:

    Talking of “derelict” and “ruined pubs”… all hope is lost for the Hope Inn near me that is going to be demolished in the next 3 months: http://www.bridgwatermercury.co.uk/news/14402116.No_hope_for_the_Hope_Inn_as_Bridgwater_loses_another_pub/?ref=mr&lp=1

    It didn’t have a garden and being sited on a main road into town meant it wasn’t at all pleasant to stand outside for a cigarette with all the traffic going past. Smokers and their friends were very discouraged after the ban. The loss of the building altogether is a loss of cultural heritage and degrades the streetscape. It is telling that no plan could be found to retain it as a local amenity of any sort with a different social purpose. Everybody loses out when meeting places disappear.

  6. harleyrider1978 says:
  7. Cecily Collingridge says:

    My son’s winter wedding was in such a country house in Somerset some years back (but post ban). Despite being a not very well or mobile ‘mother of the groom’, I spent quite a bit of time after the ceremonies and meal in exile with others, getting frozen outside on the grand entrance steps. I was windswept or rained on in unsuitable attire wishing I’d at least brought a dry plastic bag to sit on as I leaned against the damp balustrade for support, very conscious of the apartheid, remembering how happy and inclusive weddings used to be. However, at least I was usually fortunate enough to find myself in the company of a bunch of very jovial, hardy, younger gentlemen in uniforms (members of the RAF sword party), fully armed with drinks who entertained everyone royally outside and who sometimes gallantly offered to track down and hold up an umbrella in challenging wind conditions over me or any other odd lady courageous enough to ruin her outfit and coiffeur. There was a roaring, open fire in the big hall where I’d discreetly try to warm up and dry off. However, a disproportionate amount of time was spent hiding in the ‘Ladies’, resting and trying to repair the damage to my dignity and morale. It was an occasion tinged with such sadness that should not have been there.

    I was more recently invited to a neighbours’ evening wedding reception at the local rugby club last December. As my mobility is even more severely constrained these days, I have to make enquiries before answering an invitation. The venue didn’t have any kind of shelter or seating in the designated smoking area outside to make it accessible for me and as the outside, night-time temperature was going to be very cold, I felt I couldn’t go.

    With people so geographically scattered these days, weddings are those rare opportunities to gather, for family generations to mix and meet new additions, for old friendships to be renewed and new ones made. No exception was made in the law to ensure no barrier stood in the way of these vital connections as there should have been.

    You are right about estrangement and the blindness of others.

    • Cecily Collingridge says:

      Scrap my sentence on exceptions in the law… I don’t know what came over me. There shouldn’t have been any law, full stop.

      • Rose says:

        [Article 8]
        24. This creates an obligation to provide universal protection by ensuring that all indoor public places, all indoor workplaces, all public transport and possibly other (outdoor or quasi-outdoor) public places are free from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

        No exemptions are justified on the basis of health or law arguments.”

        Click to access art%208%20guidelines_english.pdf

        How the hell did our country get signed up to something like that.

        • Harleyrider1978 says:

          Rose they just made their own treaty illicit!

          Law is the basis of the treaty and health is the so called basis for the law. If one does not support the making of the other there is no law.

    • These stories must be SO numerous – but they are never HEARD. It’s so, so sad. Thank you for YOUR story Cecily. And you are right about there shouldn’t have been a law – but, unfortunately, there is. I have a fantasy of it all being repealed, and happiness returning to the country. But then, I’m old. Young people, brought up in the new smoking-arrid Britain, have no idea what is was like when it was a more relaxed place and less anal. They have NO idea.

    • Frank Davis says:

      the blindness of others

      Well, for a start it’s not happening to them.

      But also, it’s because it’s all about Me these days. Which reminds me of one anti with whom I was talking about the smoking bans, and he said “Well, I like it!!” as if that was all that really mattered. They want everything their own way, and don’t give a damn what anyone else might like. They’re completely indifferent.

  8. Lepercolonist says:

    The cartoon reminds me of the oxymoronic ‘hospitality’ industry in today’s anti-smoking society. Hospitality my ass.

  9. nisakiman says:

    I note that sadly Tom Jones’ wife has died. According to the Daily Mail It is not known what time of cancer she was suffering from, but his autobiography released last year, Sir Tom revealed his wife, a grandmother of two, has twice had cancer scares,and was a heavy smoker who had developed emphysema.


    The fact that she was ‘a heavy smoker who had developed emphysema’ was repeated a few times in the article. The DT, however, which carries the same story, makes no mention of smoking or emphysema.

    The power of the media.

    She was 75, by the way.

  10. nisakiman says:

    Frank, I don’t seem to be able to comment. Spam folder maybe?

  11. nisakiman says:

    Well that posted, but I tried three times before to no avail.

  12. nisakiman says:

    I give up.

  13. caprizchka says:

    Nobody noticed either that in all Western nations, unmarried, widowed, and divorced women are now in charge, hold most of the money, and the politicians pander to them. Naturally, it has been determined that they know what is best for us all, from the wee little child with asthma to the sanctimonious church lady. Other people? Seen but not heard. Heard but not seen.

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