Penguins on the Ice Floe

Yesterday I bit my lip and voted Conservative for the first time ever in my life. I hadn’t really wanted to. I’d actually planned on not voting for the first time ever in my life.

And I didn’t bother to stay up last night to follow the election results come in. I wasn’t that interested. Whoever won, the Global War on Smokers would continue. So what did it matter to me?

Even when I woke up this morning, I wasn’t dying to know what the result was. I had my usual mug of tea, and my usual cigarette, and contemplated the odd thought that many Americans would probably have learned what the result of the UK election was before most of us sleeping Brits did.

One of the last things I read last night was a piece by political pundit Iain Dale:

My new prediction is… a Conservative majority of 122.

And as I was reading it, I thought that he undoubtedly knew far more about it all than I did about it all. My own guess was that the Conservatives would increase their majority very slightly, to about 30 or 40. But what did I know?

The actual result, as I eventually found out this morning when I turned on the computer, was a hung parliament. That was the result that was expected last time, when the Conservatives won a small majority.

What does it mean?

My first thought was that there are no experts. And that I should have known that already. Iain Dale had been spectacularly wrong. My guess had been way better than his. And yet it had been way wrong too.

My second thought was that we’re living in a politically volatile era. And in such volatile times people are being pushed and pulled every which way by strong forces. They keep changing their minds. They become unpredictable.

I don’t have to look very far to observe the unpredictability. I can see it in myself. I’m a case study in political unpredictability. For 35 years I was a completely predictable voter: I voted Liberal Democrat. I voted that way because I liked what was written on the tin: Liberal and Democrat. If there had been a Nice and Easy party, I would have voted for them. I only stopped voting Lib Dem when 95% of Lib Dem MPs voted, illiberally and undemocratically, to exile smokers like me to the outdoors. Since then my vote has been up for grabs. And for the past 10 years I’ve voted UKIP, because they’ve been the only party to have spoken up for smokers like me. In fact, it now seems it was really only Nigel Farage who was speaking up for smokers like him and me. For now that he’s no longer UKIP leader, UKIP have dropped their manifesto pledge for smoking rooms in pubs. So a few weeks ago I decided not to vote for anybody. It took narrowing polls and terrorism to induce me to vote Conservative yesterday. I voted for what I saw as the least worst party. So over the past month I’ve moved from being a UKIP voter to a non-voter and finally to a Conservative-voter on the day. How much more volatile can you get?

Theresa May made a wrong prediction too. She thought that the 20% lead that the Conservatives were enjoying in the opinion polls would translate into a strong Conservative majority in parliament. But the 20% lead dissolved like a mirage in the desert. And now she’s lost the slim majority she had. She hasn’t realised how volatile the electorate actually are. She was no more of a political expert than Iain Dale was.

It’s no different anywhere else in Europe or the USA or anywhere else in the world. We’re living in a rapidly changing world. And an unpredictable world, Thirty years or so ago we lived in a predictable, almost-unchanging world. That was the Cold War era, when the political map of the world was frozen solid. But now that the ice has melted, the ice is on the move everywhere. There may not be any Global Warming in the physical world, but there sure has been political Global Warming. Everywhere the frozen borders have started to open up alarming cracks and crevasses. Here in the UK the frozen borders between England and Wales and Scotland have opened up slightly. The same is happening all over Europe, just like it did in eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union. And people are being pulled this way and that, like penguins on the moving and fracturing ice floes.

Someone like me has a lot of identities. I’m English and British and European, born of Irish and Welsh and Scilly Isles parental families. I’m historically Roman Catholic, and a Christian. I’m classically liberal. I have an engineering university education (something I’ve only recently realised has had an enormous influence on me: Idle Theory is the product of a Bristol University science and engineering education). I was a pot-smoking hippie. And a Rolling Stones fan. And I’m white and male and over 65. Above all, these days, I’m a smoker – because this is what has framed my identity the most strongly over the past 10 years.

Everyone has a whole bunch of identities. And in everybody those identities are jostling with each other, pushing and pulling them in different directions. Perhaps in places like Syria or Iraq it’s a religious identity that becomes foremost, and Islamic fundamentalism is simply an Islamic identity restated and amplified when other identities weaken, and, for example, people stop regarding themselves as Syrian or Iraqi because these countries have effectively ceased to exist. A similar thing has happened with me, and my predominant identity as Smoker: it formed no part of my identity 10 years ago.

What will Britain’s hung parliament mean? I have no idea. Most likely another election in a few months time, when all the volatile dice will be given another roll.

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51 Responses to Penguins on the Ice Floe

  1. RdM says:

    I’ve been keeping up with it with, on freeview TV here.
    And the website video just now was in sync with the TV…

  2. RdM says:

    I was a pot-smoking hippie. And a Rolling Stones fan. And I’m white and male and over 65.
    Above all, these days, I’m a smoker

    I tick all those boxes!

    Out Of Control

    From the Havana Moon free concert, from last year in Cuba:

    • Frank Davis says:

      I was really only a Stones’ fan up until the departure and death of Brian Jones. After that I gradually lost interest.

      • RdM says:

        I had the great good fortune to get a free ticket, $100 odd value, to see them on their last tour here, late November 2014.

        A friends brother in the roadie crew.

        It was drizzling rain mist, the sound was being blown about by the winds, I was at the very back of the stadium, last shots, but it was still a great experience!

        The same friend bought and loaned me “Life” Keith Richards autobiography hardback book, and the equivalent unauthorised biography of Mick Jagger, I forget the title now…

        Still, aren’t they inspiring, 70+ yr olds grooving on stage, Mick leaping about like the consummate showman he is, several of them smokers, all very happy?

  3. RdM says:

    OK, I’ll be 65 & able to be a pensioner in only a few months… nearly all the boxes ticked. -)

    Meanwhile, a reminder of what independence means, never mind the idiot comments;- good audio! – I have this actual LP, this is a favorite track, although there are a few others too;-

    You only see the cover image here, but listen to the music & lyrics!

    Riki Tiki Tavi

    ~ R.

  4. I’m hoping John Major has telefaxed a copy of his ‘BASTARDS (Unionists)’ black WH. Smith’s note book over to Downing Street.
    Only thing of interest to me this morning (cos as a smoker I know whoever won was going to to continue to shaft smokers) was hearing someone from the EU confirming what I have been saying for a while; that the rest of the EU seems to regard Brexit as a British Issue, they have far more important things to worry about (although I’d question if the bloody Paris Accord was worthy of such consternation) and to be honest really aren’t that arsed whether we choose a hard or soft option.
    I’m secretly hoping SF will suddenly decide to take their seats in Westminster , just for shit and giggles to upset May and prevent the DUP blackmailing her too much.

    I should like to think that betraying smokers was what did for UKIP.

    • beobrigitte says:

      Mr Nuttall took 3,308 votes in Boston and Skegness – more than 10,000 fewer votes than the party’s result in 2015. He said it was clear “UKIP requires a new focus and new ideas” but was confident it had a “great future”.

      “The smokers’ plight will have to wait until after the election…” as a UKIP party member wrote in a comment recently did not convince me, either. I’m glad that I can vote only locally.
      It’s not “new focus” and “new ideas” UKIP needs. At least, after this result, the lobby-leeches will have dropped them.

  5. beobrigitte says:

    Yesterday I bit my lip and voted Conservative for the first time ever in my life. I hadn’t really wanted to. I’d actually planned on not voting for the first time ever in my life.
    I intend to waste my postal vote in a few month by adding a “none-of-the-above, I’m a smoker” tick box.

    What will Britain’s hung parliament mean? I have no idea.
    Since there is no-one speaking up for me I know what it means: continued persecution. Business as usual.

  6. Rose says:

    People will vote for lots of free stuff they think they’ll never have to pay for.
    Labour probably expected not to have to pay for it either as they were unlikely to win.

    People who voted for free stuff ended up gaining nothing but destroyed a possible position of strength for negotiating with the EU.
    Perhaps Brexit should have been mentioned rather more for the hard of thinking.

    • position of strength for negotiating with the EU.
      I think most of the EU would just be happy if May & the UK had a position….be it ‘strong’ , weak or typical British fudge. Britain has gone from being rubbish that the EU was quite happy to bid good riddance to to a joke. Most of the EU probably stopped regarding May as in any way a ‘strong’ leader the moment she called an unnecessary general election. One just doesn’t simply wander into Mordor nor does one call an unnecessary election about an issue that divided the nation at the plebiscide.

  7. So it seems UKIP lost more than half its voting support after it dumped its support for smokers people’s freedom to run their own lives and businesses and families.

    We should all work to repeat that message in every venue and on every message board discussing elections out there. And you Brit folks ought to do your best to get nice, short, to-the-point Letters to the Editors published in your newspapers with that point being made clear as well. The major media will never mention it otherwise!

    – UM, who realizes he’s poking his nose a bit across the Atlantic

    • smokingscot says:

      @ Mike

      I see your comment has been replied to over at Frank’s place, however I’m kicking in to let you know that UKIP’s percentage share of the vote virtually tanked.

      This article gives the detail. Down from 12.5% in 2015 to just 2% last night.

      That translates to about 640,000 people who still saw a reason to vote for them – and that should be a source of encouragement for UKIP. They can build on it, if they get back to basics and quit trying to be more Tory than the Tories.

      By comparison the Green Party’s share of the vote has plummeted as well, to about 2%, yet they have an MP because they they worked with other parties to restrict choice for locals. Basically the Lib/Dems chose to not put up a candidate and told their members to vote for the Greens. The Greens reciprocated where the the Lib/Dems could win

      And that’s the fatal flaw with UKIP; they simply are not strong in any one constituency – and no other party wants to do a deal with them, which is absolutely essential with first past the post system of elections we use.

    • nisakiman says:

      Gawd, I’ve just been reading the comments on that article I linked above…

      Addiction to nicotine is a medical condition. There is a reason why hospitals have gone smoke free (physical and mental health). The research is very clear that smoking already cause so much harm to people (both physically and mentally with cognitive decline, increase in suicifal thinking). I think the health system would be slammed (again as it seems to be these days) if it were promoting smoking.

      So much wrong with this comment I don’t know where to start.


      Stick to your guns! Well done hospital, that cancer causing smoke should not even be sold! Our family applauds you!

      However, there are also a lot of supportive comments, thankfully.

      • Unfortunately the comments seem to have been closed down five hours after they were opened! The oldest are from 15 hours ago and the newest from 10 hours ago. (Though maybe they’re all just asleep in the middle of a snowstorm down there! LOL!)

        • RdM says:

          Comments seem still open from my end…

          I’m still thinking of, formulating carefully, considering possible responses…

          Be polite, courteous, informed, well-researched… kind.

          Don’t rush in with anger or ignorance.

          Consider carefully, what effect(s) you might have.

      • beobrigitte says:

        The two comments picked alone make me want to throw up. I will not stoop down to their level. Instead my advice for patients in that hospital would be to flee the place.
        Perhaps all the “non-smokers-who-would-use-the-hospital-if-it-wasn’t-for-the-smokers” may wish to receive treatment there.
        I apply my thumb rule: hospital makes cash by number of patients. This can be reduced easily by going public (there are many ways to bypass the mass media, e.g. youtube, blogging etc. to put a dent into that nice and shiny anti-smoker armour).

        I feel for the parents of that girl. If I was them, I’d have to hurt that place to help with my grief.

      • Smoking Lamp says:

        It amazes me that outright hate speech against smokers is tolerated. No surprise as antismoker trolls like to rat pack any article that appears lenient on smoking bans.

        Sadly, the relentless propaganda and false claims about smoking have made a reasonable discussion near impossible. That’s why we need to keep getting the other perspective out. No surprise that comments were turned off early, the antismoker aligned media doesn’t really like dissent.

      • Joe L. says:

        The two comments you quoted are disgusting, however, they are actually part of the minority. The majority of the comments are actually supportive, and there are even a few commenters who claim to be antismoking but believe this has gone too far. That’s encouraging, plus the number of “thumbs-up/thumbs-down” score on comments also show a trend negatively for the hateful antismokers and positively for those who feel patients should be allowed smoking areas. I believe these are the reasons the comments section was closed so quickly.

      • Vlad says:

        Look from a different perspective…there are some US studies that claim hospitals to be third leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease. I don’t necessarily take them at face value, but they make an important, overlooked point – Sickness Industry, euphemistically known as healthcare industry kills, and it kills a lot. The less contact (save for real emergencies like car crash) we have with it, the better.

    • beobrigitte says:

      Sad, so sad. I do feel for the parents who thought they would help the girl by taking her to that place.

      • I just noticed that in one of the comments there’s a reference made to another smoking patient who suffered the same fate. :/

        • beobrigitte says:

          I saw that one, too. Under no circumstances would I take anyone there for any treatment simply because I get the impression that the “stop-smoking” lark eats up more cash than is available for treatment for REALLY sick patients.

          I wouldn’t trust the place to remove varicous veins, let alone fix a torn ligament.

          Btw, we smokers pay additional tax on a daily basis. I expect no less than first class treatment when all tge age related illnesses strike after providing this additional state income for many years.
          Ashites, we need more of your bullshit because I noticed last week a change. My die-hard anti-smoking hunchbacked relatives (bucklige Verwandtschaft) spared me the lectures and gave me an ashtray.

          I can only guess that they, too, had enough of the nonsense.

        • RdM says:

          Yes it’s very close to home here, and I’m in email over that, if silent here so far.

  8. Rose says:

    You learn something new every day.

    “Cigarette smoke deters midges, and it has been noted that since the smoking ban came into effect in Scotland this year, pubs and restaurants have struggled to control swarms buzzing in from outside.”

    Smoking kills, especially midges
    10th June 2017

    “Skye, and we are loving it. The mountains, beaches and Fairy Pools, but by day three I remember what it is I hate about the Scottish summer. Midges. It’s like childbirth. You forget until the next time. Midges have always loved me and here I am with 60 swollen bites on my face and neck – I stop counting at the scene of devastation that is my cleavage. On fire, at dawn, I head outdoors to stomp along the shoreline in the soothing sea breeze, watching for otters as the fishermen board their boats and head out to sea. Finally, as I’m contemplating a spot of wild swimming, it’s 7am and relief is mine. I lather on repellent and wonder, “Why me?” And “Why is it so bad this time?” Ah yes, because I’ve given up pregnancy and smoking. I know from long and itchy experience, midges hate both. Pregnancy I can no longer do, so when they finally arise, I’m reduced to bumming rollies off my children. The shame. And the loss of face, after my fuss about their occasional ciggies, now that I’m a born again vaper. “Please… just the one,” I beg Eldest.

    “Sure,” he says, looking smug and scoffing a blueberry muffin, identical to my swollen, scabbed face. “ Vapes… no use against midges ” Grrrr.

    So it’s not the nicotine then? How very interesting.

    Use of tobacco smoke against parasitic mite syndrome

    “The pathological condition that has appeared in Iraqi apiaries recently has caused large losses in honeybee colonies, dwindling populations and decreasing honey production. It is perhaps similar to the condition described by Dr Shimanuki as The Parasitic Mite Syndrome’. A trial has been carried out on two apiaries, one with 50 colonies and the other with 30 colonies using tobacco leaves burned in the smokers.”


    In early August there was a check up and comparison between the colonies that had been treated with tobacco smoke and those which had not. There was a great difference in honeybee populations; those which had been treated being more populous. The bees were more active in foraging and collecting nectar.


    Whatever the disease, I believe that tobacco smoke had beneficial effect on the colonies. We know that nicotine in tobacco smoke has some anaesthetic effect on insects in general, and it might have some lethal effect on mites and therefore some beneficial effect against the condition.

    We believe now that the immune system of the bees is in some way diminished. By using tobacco smoke we are either hitting the primary target, or we might be curing a secondary pathogen. In either case we are helping our bees to get better!”

    But just because a thing may be beneficial to you, doesn’t mean you have to like it, midges included.

    • Rose says:

      Sorry about that please could you fix it for me Frank.

      • RdM says:

        I don’t know what you thought needed fixing Rose, (or if it’s already been ‘fixed’) but I find I really like the bold text web quote (as it appears to me now).

        Great link! Thanks!
        There are beekeeping issues in NZ, beyond Manuka Honey…
        I should – shall – forward!

        • Rose says:

          If you can make use of it Ross, here’s a bit more.

          Dartmouth-Led Study: ‘Medicine Cabinet’ Reduces Bee Disease
          February 19, 2015

          ““Our novel results highlight that secondary metabolites in floral nectar may play a vital role in reducing bee-parasite interactions,” says the study’s senior author, Rebecca Irwin, an associate professor of biological sciences.

          The researchers found that chemicals in floral nectar—including the alkaloids anabasine and nicotine, the iridoid glycoside catalpol, and the terpenoid thymol—significantly reduce parasite infection in bees. The results suggest that growing plants high in these compounds around farm fields could create a natural “medicine cabinet” that improves survival rates of diseased bees and pollination of crops. The researchers studied parasite infections in bumblebees, which, like honey bees, are important pollinators that are in decline around the world, a trend that threatens fruits, vegetables, and other crops that make up much of the food supply for people.”

          “Plants produce chemicals called “secondary metabolites” to defend leaves against herbivores. These chemicals are also found in nectar for pollinators, but little is known about the impact of nectar chemistry on pollinators, including bees.

          The researchers hypothesized that some nectar compounds could reduce parasite infections in bees, so they inoculated individual bumble bees with an intestinal parasite and tested the effect of eight naturally occurring nectar chemicals on parasite population growth.

          The results showed that consumption of these chemicals lessened the intensity of infection by up to 81 percent, which could significantly reduce the spread of parasites within and between bee colonies.”

          “People should plant flowers rich in nicotine, scientists have advised after a study found that the chemical helps to stave off disease in bees.

          Nicotine is one of a number of compounds that occur in a natural “medicine cabinet” in the nectar of some flowers. It cut the intensity of infections in bumblebees by as much as 81 per cent, biologists at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, report in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

          Populations of most bee species are in freefall, partly because of infection. Half of Britain’s native bees are thought to have become extinct since the 50’s including two species of bumblebees.”

          That would be when DDT took over from Black Leaf 40.

          Development of DDT
          “DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was developed as the first of the modern synthetic insecticides in the 1940s. It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and the other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations. It also was effective for insect control in crop and livestock production, institutions, homes, and gardens.”

          nicotine (Black Leaf 40) Chemical Profile 4/85
          TRADE NAME(S): Black Leaf 40
          FORMULATION(S): Nicotine alkaloid, 95%; nicotine sulfate, 40% (56)
          TYPE: Alkaloid insecticide

          “PRINCIPAL USES: Sucking insects on plants but now largely replaced by organophosphate insecticides. Formerly used in greenhouses as a fumigant and as a paint roost for chicken lice and mites.”

          “Little hazard to birds, fish and beneficial insects.”

          “Approximate Residual Period: Very short, 1 day on plants; same in soil and water”
          http: //

        • RdM says:

          The author of this

          is a relative.

        • Rose says:

          Oh how wonderful. I have great respect for beekeepers.

          Nicotine Sulfate from Nicotiana rustica

          It consists of expressing the juice,which contains most of the nicotine, liming, clarifying, recovering the nicotine from the juice by liquid to liquid extraction with kerosene in a packed column, and finally contacting the kerosene extract with suphuric acid to produce nicotine sulphate of commercial strength (40% nicotine)


        • nisakiman says:

          Going back to an earlier post of yours (no ‘reply’ button, so I came down to this one):

          Comments seem still open from my end…

          I’m still thinking of, formulating carefully, considering possible responses…

          Be polite, courteous, informed, well-researched… kind.

          Don’t rush in with anger or ignorance.

          Consider carefully, what effect(s) you might have.

          Did you have any luck posting there? I posted on another article they published yesterday:

          Horrifying new cigarette graphic warnings revealed

          And the comment didn’t get past moderation. And I tried twice.

          “…after around 20 your chances of getting lung cancer are the same as a non-smoker”

          It might interest you to know that giving up smoking increases your chances of getting lung cancer by a huge margin. When lung cancer cases are split up into groups, it works out that 20% of cases are in active smokers, 20% of cases are in never smokers, and 60% of cases are in ex smokers.

          Of course the anti-smoking brigade will never tell you that, and try to suppress the statistics as it doesn’t support their narrative.

          The reality is that the anti-smoking zealots aren’t interested in anyone’s health – they don’t give a fig whether you live or die; all they are concerned with is stopping people doing something they don’t approve of. It’s simply “I don’t like it, so everybody must stop doing it”.

          Which is why most of what you read about smoking is either gross exaggeration and/or cherry picked statistics. Or outright lies. You only discover the extent of the deceit when you do a lot of research on the subject, as I have, because the MSM will just publish Tobacco Control press releases verbatim, without verifying the press release against the original research.

          ‘Passive Smoking’ is the classic example of Tobacco Control deceit. The largest and most comprehensive studies on ‘Passive Smoking’ have found no statistically significant association between exposure to ambient tobacco smoke and lung / heart disease, but that hasn’t stopped Tobacco Control ignoring those results and fabricating their own ‘statistics’ on the subject, and then using their vast resources (they spend more than the annual budget of a small country on their propaganda) to saturate the media with their version of the ‘truth’. As Goebbels once said: “If you tell a lie big enough, and keep repeating it, eventually people will come to believe it”.

          So they obviously don’t like posts which go against the narrative.

          I replied to another post today, but I rather suspect that it will be similarly deleted.

          Aha! I stand corrected! I just looked, and it got through moderation! Perhaps it was the reference to Goebbels they didn’t like.

    • margo says:

      I used to do a lot of camping in my youth, back in the 1950s. We were all well aware that tobacco smoke deterred midges. It was just a known fact, and non-smokers would ask smokers to light up.

    • Smoking is GOOD for the bees? LOL! That is an AMAZING catch m’lady! The Antis must do a fair imitation of a gibbering bowl of jello when they see THAT! :>


      • Rose says:

        Part of my study on tobacco plants has been on how bees react with the living plant.
        My garden is now visited by a great many bees of different varieties, which has been an unexpected bonus.

        Though I still don’t understand how a Yorkshire bee who has never met a tobacco plant in it’s life knows what to do with a tobacco leaf.
        Before the flowers appear you sometimes find them hanging underneath the leaves, clinging onto the central vein. They are more frequently seen using the upper surface of the plants for a wash and brush up.
        Clever things, bees.

  9. Frank Davis says:

    Smoke (and not just tobacco smoke) has long been used to suppress insects. It;s called fumigation. But it’s probably been completely forgotten, as an inconvenient truth, by the capnophobes..

    • Indeed, although as I don’t smoke in the flat I use
      -which some here may recall from the continental travels of their youths, it was traditionally brought to the table on a saucer and helped dispel the aromas of tobacco and garlic etc…as well as all manner of flying insects.
      I was surprised to find that it was still made….i mean…come on…an airwick you BURN?!?

      • Frank Davis says:

        When I lived in Brazil many years ago, there used to be little spiral insecticide sticks, mounted on a metal holder, which we’d light on our bedside tables when we went to bed, and which burned down to ash over an hour or so. They were quite effective at keeping mosquitoes at bay for an entire night.

        • nisakiman says:

          You don’t mean these do you Frank? We use them all the time here in Greece, but not normally indoors – they’re a bit strong for that. But summer evenings when you’re sitting out, it’s standard practice to have one burning nearby.

        • Frank Davis says:

          That’s right. Only our ones didn’t have so many spirals, and were brown.

      • Frank Davis says:

        I ordered some of that Papier Armenie stuff. No idea what to do with it when it comes.

        • Fold a strip into a zig-zag then light ‘blue touch paper’…it isn’t rocket science. There’s a helpful picture in the Wiki article. And if you find you don’t like the whiff then you could use the unburnt strips as interesting tips/roaches for your smokes. Think of it, all that anti-bacterial goodness washing into your body (apparently the burning strips were used as a meat preservative back dans La Belle Epoque ).

        • Frank Davis says:

          Meat preservative sounds like exactly what I need.

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