Another Smoking Section interview of me by Emily, this time about the Smoky Drinky Bar.
I still hadn’t recovered from a hangover after the party in the Smoky Drinky Bar the night before, and I thought my thought processes and speech were both a bit slow.
The Smoky Drinky Bar is an evolving project. It works very well when there are a few people in there. But most of the time there’s hardly anyone there, because too few people know about it. And also I can’t spend all my time there, and neither can anybody else.
My current idea is to show up regularly at 7 pm UK and stick around a while. But I may try other approaches. So might other people.
Something I heard in the Smoky Drinky Bar a few days ago – about how smokers in someone’s family had fallen out with antismokers in the same family, and were no longer on speaking terms with each other – set me thinking that it must be something that’s happening in almost every family. What are the chances that any extended family is entirely made up of smokers, or non-smokers, or antismokers? Pretty well zero.
And that will mean that the families of more or less anyone you care to mention, including Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond, etc, are likely to be experiencing the same divisions to one degree or other. Or are likely to have knowledge of such divisions. Maybe that’s why government is beginning to show signs of disenchantment with the antismoking drive: government ministers and civil servants are beginning to see the cracks in society opening up around them in their own families.
In the past, families were made up of smokers and non-smokers who got along with each other. Antismokers didn’t exist. The first antismoker I ever encountered was Dr W, in whose house I once lived when I was aged 17, before I started smoking.
Smokers and antismokers can’t co-exist. The smoky environments that the smokers like are the ones that the antismokers don’t like, and vice versa. There’s no compromise environment that they can share. It’s either one or the other. And that’s why the antismokers are so utterly uncompromising in trying to stamp out smoking everywhere.
I thought Dr W was mentally ill. And I still do. There were a lot of weird things about him – like, for example, his inability to laugh. Being antismoking was just one symptom among many that he presented.
Unfortunately it’s a mental illness that seems to be very catching. Most of my former friends succumbed to it at one time or other. It was like watching the plague stalking the land. One day they were perfectly OK, but the next day they were covered in spots, and coughing and sneezing. And I would flee.
But I think I’m immune to the disease. I think that Dr W vaccinated me against the antismoking disease. So much so that it was largely through meeting him that I started smoking a couple of years later.
We’re living in a time of plague. The antismoking plague is now a global pandemic. It seems to particularly afflict the medical profession.
And it may be a plague that has been around before. Sat with a beer and a cigarette in a sunny pub garden yesterday, I was entertaining the idea that the Protestant Reformation that had started in the early 16th century was actually an antismoking epidemic. For it started at almost exactly the same time that tobacco began to be introduced throughout Europe. What were the Protestants protesting about? What did they get rid of in their churches? Smoke. They got rid of the smoky candles and incense that filled Roman Catholic churches. They also got rid of the paintings and sculptures that cluttered their walls. And they also got rid of all the Latin mumbo jumbo, and replaced it with their native language. They set out to purify and simplify and modernise and clean up the church, perhaps in the same way, and at the exact same time, that Nicholas Copernicus was also purifying and simplifying the solar system with his new heliocentric model of it. Protestant churches were smoke-free churches. They wouldn’t have said that smoking was like pissing in a swimming pool, because they didn’t have swimming pools back then: but they might have complained of people “pyddlinge in ye fonte”.
It almost seemed a plausible hypothesis: the Protestant reformation as antismoking epidemic.
And speaking of smoke, has anyone heard of the time When Doctors Literally Blew Smoke Up Your Arse?