5 days ago
When Angela Rayner termed the Tories “scum” she was attacked for her language and then the papers snapped her having a crafty cigarette outside the Labour party conference. That was the picture then used because, in 2021, all smokers are deemed stupid, ignorant and just rather dirty. Truly: smoking is the new evil.
313 days ago
The argument for the biggest assault on our civil liberties since World War Two and for actions that are wrecking the economy, causing suicides and job losses to soar and bankrupting businesses across the land is that we must act now to save lives. The monumental folly of this is demonstrated in this one chart below with data sourced from the ONS. Read it and then I challenge any one of you to disagree with me that all those responsible for lockdowns and other measures should be put on trial for their crimes.
401 days ago
My late Uncle Christopher Booker did not believe in the idea of passive smoking. It was one of the few areas where we disagreed. I cannot see that inhaling other folks’ smoke can be good for you although, as an ex-smoker, I really do rather enjoy the smell of forbidden pleasure and the evidence that it causes massive harm if done in limited amounts is far from compelling. However, the two reasons to ban smoking in the workplace are a) that you may make the working environment of your colleagues less pleasant and b) that you might just be damaging their health.
436 days ago
You might just remember that at the time of the last olive harvest, the great Greek smoking ban, driven by the EU, came into play. Reactions were mixed. In Miranda’s, there was a robust defiance and the air was full of nicotine, even when the Old Bill arrived to “nobble” my friend Vangelis. In the Kourounis taverna, Eleni was strict and ashtrays were allowed only outside.
448 days ago
No this is not, as a former Indian girlfriend would have said, the Mrs announcing that she bats for Pakistan. This is about generating a photo for her Facebook page which shows that she is pregnant. Well there you go… 25 weeks now. Apparently some folks did not know! I digress. Rather than head up to the hovel, our first stop in Greece – after the snake repellant store in Kalamata – was at the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni. There is bad news in that there is another new restaurant in town to tempt away trade already impacted by Coronavirus but that story can wait for another day.
699 days ago
I still have not worked out what it is called these days but other than the name nothing changes.
1498 days ago
St Nicholas' park lies next to the river in Warwick. A small and rather run-down cafe in its heart lies about half way between my alma mater Warwick School (then) for Boys and Kings High School for Girls up in the centre of the old town. On Monday I had an hour to kill as my father suffered a routine check up at the Hospital and so I enjoyed a coffee and tapped out an article in a place I last visited more than thirty years ago. It has not changed much although a charming and rather pretty oriental waitress brightened it up a bit.
1530 days ago
In most ways I am, as you might have gathered, the black sheep of my family. Am I allowed to use that phrase anymore? The rest of them work for the State, read the Guardian and believe in money trees while worrying about the poor polar bears drowning on melting ice caps thanks to wicked folk like Donald Trump and Margaret Thatcher. But in one respect I followed a family tradition in that I managed to get into the UK's leading seat of learning, that is to say Oxford.
1604 days ago
The snake patio is not to be confused with the snake veranda. The latter was the flat surface on the (illegally constructed) concrete roof above the rat room. It was surrounded by (illegally constructed) concrete blocks which have now gone. We did meet a snake there on our second visit to the hovel hence the name. It was where i killed an adder a few weeks ago.
1759 days ago
I did okay in 2016. The notable win being quitting smoking although that was not something I started until February 15. So I guess I don't need to start my 2017 resolutions right away. that is jolly useful as we still have a bit of Christmas cake and an excellent cheddar cheese from Uncle Chris to finish off. That brings me to resolution one.
1813 days ago
I think that about eleven minutes in I managed to send my dad to sleep with this podcast but I hope you make it to the end. I discuss correct and incorrect policy responses to two of the great evils in our society and, oddly, the answers are more or less the same.
1847 days ago
It is now just under eight months since I quit smoking and although I have put on a few pounds I feel much healthier and am determined not to go back. I am delighted to see that the percentage of adult Britons who now smoke is at a modern era low of 17% and it is falling. That is a good thing in that death from smoking related illnesses tend to be ghastly and I'd wish that on no-one.
1862 days ago
I have had an on off battle with my weight for forty years. 2016 has not been my best year. The scores on the doors as we head through September are Fat 8 TW 1. Giving up smoking on February 15th was a great thing to do but I put on a few pounds in the Spring. In May and June I worked hard in the fields at the Greek hovel and managed to shed much of the post smoking gain. Since then, comfort eating, and the odd cider, with a bereaved father and with a pregnant wife has been bad news indeed. But enough is enough. The fight back is underway.
1901 days ago
What made me give up smoking was playing soccer with my nephews and nieces on February 14 at a family get together. Within five minutes my lungs were burning as if I was suffering some sort of gas attack. I ended up playing largely in goal but even so at the end I felt miserable. I vowed to quit the next day and did just that. No patches, gum or e-fags just cold turkey.
1981 days ago
I was on the phone to the Mrs who had some good news to relay when I heard the unmistakable voice of my neighbour Charon outside. Then he banged on the door saying "Tom, Tom." I had no choice. He knew I was there. I could not hide. I opened the door.
When I say neighbour it is not as if he is just round the corner. As the crow flies his place is about another mile up the mountain. By road it is a two mile trek and Charon had walked over and was there on my doorstep topless and sweating.
It is not that I dont like him, it is just that he insists on speaking English to me. His English is better than my Greek but not a lot better. And so we have long exchanges of words which really cant be described as conversations. Sometimes I get out my Greek English dictionary and try speaking Greek words. However we go about it it is painful.
The one bond we used to have was the common language of cigarettes.
1990 days ago
I know I have been banging on about this all week but today I wake up having not smoked for three months and I am fecking proud of myself. It did it via cold turkey so there is no legacy nicotine in my body from vaping, gum or patches.
It was playing soccer with a range of nephews and nieces aged 7 to 16 on St Valentine's Day that made me quit. My lungs were burning after just a few minutes. I wanted to run but could not. Being outpaced by a 7 year old is just not on. Enough was enough.
And so today
2049 days ago
As ever the, normally, excellent V cars warns me that booking a cab at 4.20 AM for a 4.47 train is "at my own risk" as I really need to allow 45 minutes to get to Temple Meads from my home in Bristol. As ever I ignore them. The cab is early and we depart at 4.19 AM. By 4.25 AM I am standing outside the station. We got lucky with the lights. Sometimes it takes almost nine minutes.
In the old days this allowed me time for one leisurely fag before the station doors are opened up and I could wander in to buy a ticket and head to platform 3. Or sometimes, as today, platform 7. But as a non smoker of five and a bit weeks this is not a option.
I know what I am thinking about and also know that I should not be thinking of such wicked pleasures. It is not that I actually crave
2068 days ago
I comment on my smoking - after 12 days I am still clean and on the weekend's sport. Then onto ISDX and the silly claims by whichever pompous git runs it that it is the new AIM. I explain why it is not, what ISDX shares we own or wish we own (Mechan, Chapel Down & Coinsilium) and why we wont buy any more at all. I discuss the Alba pump and dump as the Horse Hill Gatwick flusher ( of mug punter cash down the pan) saga continuies. Finally my low point of the week: Independent Resources ( IRG) - it makes me feel sick...
2073 days ago
The Tory Candidate to be Mayor of Bristol is in my neighbourhood tonight holding fort at the local Conservative Club. Being a member - for the cheap booze - I am invited to go quiz Charles Lucas as he "seeks the views" of we folks around hgere. Hmmmmm.
Reading the website for Mr Lucas HERE it is apparent that he is not a proper Tory, the sort of chap who used to think that we plebs had a right to keep as much of our hard earned cash as possible. Instead
2153 days ago
In the summer, notwithstanding the little issues that Greece faces, Kalamata is bustling. Getting a hotel by the seafront can be something of a challenge. The beaches are packed and the restaurants bustling. God knows why. The regional capital is not exactly what you'd call pretty. For me it is where the Airport is before I head out to the joys of the Mani.
In winter it all changes in Kalamata. There is still the odd hardy soul who one sees venturing into the sea. I suppose its probably warmer than Whitby in summer but rather them than me. The hotels are mostly empty and I am paying less than 40 quid a night including breakfast to stay at one of the best places in town.
The seafront restaurants are shut for the winter. I dont particularly like them in summer
2153 days ago
After a whole day spent at the Kourounis taverna in Kambos I have finally met up with George, the sprightly 60+ Albanian who leads our olive harvest. I called lovely Eleni at the hospital to see if she had any idea how to track him down. She gave birth to a baby girl yesterday and admitted to being a bit tired but knows she will be back in the kitchen by Sunday and so is gearing herself up. She offered up an idea of where to find George's number.
Lovely Eleni's younger sister, who is really very, very lovely too, called and at about seven tonight in wandered George. In great relief I hugged the man for I was starting to panic. As ever, I bought him a Tsipero and myself an ouzo. And we sat in silence as he speaks not a word of English and my Greek is er...rather weak. But lovely Eleni's very, very lovely younger sister
2161 days ago
Oh no Paul Scott is giving me health advice again. If he promises never ever to waterboard me again with online retail gross margins I might just quit smoking. Away from that I look at car crash Slater & Gordon (SGH) following up from the earlier detailed piece HERE. In a similar vein I look at NAHL (NAH). Then it is onto EKF Diagnostics (EKF), Moneyswap (SWAP), Oilex (OEX), Forte Energy (FTE), Alliance Pharma (APH), Iofina (IOF) and the Fitbug (FITB) dog. There is no mention of Jabba The Hutt today, David Lenigas must wait for Gold & Bears on Saturday for his next drubbing. And boy will it be a drubbing.
2164 days ago
Smokers are evil and must be persecuted at all costs. Such is the zeitgeist in the non-flyover states of the USA today. All other minorities – apart from white, God Fearing Republican voters in the flyover states - must be protected at all costs but we smokers are evil. We are also nearly all black and poor and so perhaps used to getting a good kicking from the elites.
In the Starbucks in which I am working I am happy to accept that I must step outside for a fag. But there I am confronted with a notice saying
2224 days ago
I write as a meat eating smoker and loyal member of Comrade Corbyn’s Labour party here in Bristol East where our local MP is Kerry McCarthy, a vegan recently made shadow minister for The Environment, Food & Rural affairs. I am starting to worry that Comrade McCarthy and I might not see eye to eye when showing fraternal solidarity at our next branch meeting.
Comrade McCarthy is today quoted as saying: “I really believe that meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it. Progress on animal welfare is being made at EU level... but in the end it comes down to not eating meat or dairy.”
Hmmmm. Campaigns to stop smoking are because smoking cigarettes is bad for you – if you do it often enough you will get sick. So of course is unprotected anal sex with complete strangers. But we do not have bath-house taxes instead we have punitive cigarette taxes (which creates a mass criminal smuggling industry) because middle class morality insists on the right of the state to decide selectively what we should or should not put into our bodies. Cigarettes bad. The todger of a highly promiscuous Easyjet airline steward, okay.
But at least
2227 days ago
I cannot remember exactly when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I think it was around six or seven years ago. It was not a surprise. I had eaten and drink too much and the great West Ham supporting Tory blogger Iain Dale had described his symptoms and diagnosis a few months earlier. I knew what was coming.
There have been times since when I have managed it with medication and sometimes just by clean living and taking stacks of exercise. There have been times when I just let myself go. Four years ago I was a 19 stone 6 pounds blob and really all over the shop. But relationship breakdowns, work crises, near bankruptcy and a nervous breakdown did wonders for my (physical) health sending me off to walk around the mountains of Greece and Albania. I may have been a bit of a fruitcake but I sure knocked my body into shape.
Of course marriage and owning a restaurant are not good for the figure but I think I sort of have things in some sort pf check but perhaps I was a tad complacent. I know that Iain has also gone through such phases. However, the Mrs forced me to register with a doctor and last week an eye test showed the first – albeit minimal at this stage – signs of an issue in my right eye. I knew what was coming next.
This afternoon I strolled down to the doctors,
2237 days ago
Malcolm Stacey arrived in Islington last night in his pursuit of Comrade Jeremy Corbyn’s famous Money Tree. He felt that he was close to his quest. But did he get to meet the great bearded one?
As you know Getafix Stacey is worried. His potions based on cuttings from the money tree do not seem to be working. Why are shares in Advanced Oncotherapy not at 50p despite being featured here twice a week? Why is the FTSE 100 not at 8,000 as predicted? Perhaps the Money Tree he has been using in the depths of the Welsh forest is a fake or has lost its powers. But another old fool (sorry we meant respected druid) has emerged in North London.
As he wandered up Upper Street in Islington, wading through the litter of discarded granola bar wrappings, Malcolm sensed that the London of his youth had changed. This un-nerved him slightly but he took consolation from the fact that he was just minutes away from the last rally of Comrade Corbyn’s campaign.
Gone were the ramshackle shops of old. Next to the stern sign from the local council “anyone caught smoking cigarettes will be shot with
2299 days ago
I am in the open air on a roof terrace at the hotel Adonis here in Athens. I always choose to stay here as the view of the Acropolis is spectacular and I can tap away at my PC and smoke at the same time. There is an ash tray on my table and I grab a fag getting ready to light up. At the next table a Frenchman says “do you mind not smoking”. I rely “yes I do" and light up defiantly. He says “but there are children here”. I counter
2365 days ago
I am in terminal two where there is a smoking zone. That is to say you go outside.
Outside the wind is howling and you are clearly in the open air but still nearly all of the open frigging air is a no smoking zone. Please explain the health risks to others of me smoking in the open bloody air. There are none. This is just about health fascists getting to piss me off as I and a few other addicts are huddled in one small part of the open frigging air as opposed to in other parts of the open frigging air.
There is a suggestions box here. Am I allowed to say that folks with BO should be forced to stand in their own corner of the open frigging air too? Or is that smellyist?
2367 days ago
The Mrs wrote me a stern list of the jobs I must do before I leave for Greece. It does not matter that it is raining cats and dogs, today was my deadline. As such I now sit drenched from head to toe having done as ordered. I trust that she is reading this and feeling guilty.
The patch between our house and the garage, where I have now been sent to work, is the garden. It is where I smoke and where the cats do “their business”
2370 days ago
I had a routine doctor’s appointment at 11 and was dreading it. “How much do you drink? Do you know smoking is bad for you?” “No doc, when I said a bottle I meant a day not a week and no is it? When did they find that out?” But I was spared this little treat by Oakley, my morbidly obese three legged cat who started screaming at 10.40 and then showed himself unable to walk. His sole back leg was just being dragged along the floor.
I thought back to the demise of poor Kitosh, my old cat who behaved in this way as
2726 days ago
A treat last night: two episodes of Nashville to catch up on. That, and a delicious thyme chicken and grilled vegetables prepared by the Mrs – what more could a man ask for? Normally on such a TV fest I would nip out during the commercials for a fag but as of last night I am on the e-cigarettes and, as such, there was no need to move for my commercial e-fag break.
After all, an e-cig is odourless and all it emits is water vapour. There is no question of passive smoking. And so as Viking River Cruises tries to persuade us to book into a cruise down the Rhine for some wife-swapping with 90 year olds, I take a drag on the e-cigarette.
“Why can’t you go outside for that?” said the Mrs. I despair. So reviled is anything to do with smoking in the UK today that I expect this is a common reaction. It is enough to make me take up smoking Marlboro Lights again.
Fear not. I have not. Tonight’s Eurovision Party (heaven help me, it is friends of the Mrs) may be a tester but my resolve is strong.
2727 days ago
The procrastination has to stop. I promised myself that I would quit smoking by 40. It has been a new year’s resolution ever since. But as if 40 minutes ago when I finished my last Marlboro Light, I have started with an e-cigarette. Inhaling water vapour with a touch of nicotine has to be better news than the toxic mix I have been taking in for most of my adult life so here goes.
I am not exactly sure how many drags you are meant to take each time you pick it up but let’s see how it goes. At least I can now “smoke” inside without getting dirty looks from the cats and worse from the Mrs.
(twitchy) fingers crossed.
2732 days ago
It turns out that I have an hour or two to kill at Athens airport and so naturally decide to go to the Sofitel hotel, to sit outside rent an hour’s internet use to write another article about Quindell and have a coffee. I know that it will be expensive (11 Euro) but I will enjoy writing, smoking and having a coffee in the warm late afternoon air.
I write first and then go online to ensure that my whole hour is used wisely. Naturally Sofitel cuts me off after 45 minutes. But the articles are written and I ask for my bill and hand the chap a ten euro note and a 5 euro note.
In the west a waiter would return promptly with 4 Euro change (if he is sensible as one 2 euro coin and two 1 euro coins) and would probably expect a tip of a euro at least. But this is Greece and after more than five minutes the waiter has not returned.
I wander inside and he is sitting behind the bar polishing glasses not serving anyone. “My change” I ask and he hands over a plate which was sitting next to him with for Euros on it. No fucking tip for you Stavros.
The game he plays is simple. Some folks will have to rush to catch a plane, others will be to embarrassed to ask and so five times out of ten he will get to trouser 4 tax free Euros by behaving as he has done. Only once in a lifetime will he get a chippy Brit who: demands his change, gives no tip and then posts an article on the Internet saying that the Sofitel hotel Athens charges ludicrous prices and should be having a few words with Stavros the waiter about the way he does business.
Natch nothing will change, this is the side of Greece than leaves a bitter aftertaste as does my encounter with a bent taxi driver just minutes before.
I love Greece and will be back soon, but not everyone is so forgiving.
2856 days ago
Even if you are a lawyer from one of my fave firms like Kermans or Pinsent Masons, tasked with monitoring my scribblings, you are included in this message. I have enjoyed 2013 at a number of levels both professionally and personally. I look forward to 2014 with a few clear objectives.
No doubt we are all making a few New Year’s resolutions. Among mine are to learn Greek and to stop smoking again (I managed two weeks before Christmas but regrettably succumbed when under the influence).
At a professional level I have two more websites to launch (the first of which goes live next week) and then I am done on that front and the resolution is simply to build them patiently and organically in a way that allows me to write more of what I want to write and have fewer distractions.
Fingers crossed for my resolutions. I wish you luck with yours.
I wish all readers of this blog a happy 23-14 and all readers, bar any lawyers who might be reading, a prosperous 2014.
2900 days ago
I arrived back in Bristol at 2 AM Saturday morning and very deliberately had a last cigarette of the day. Then I scrunched up the packet and threw it and my lighter away. That is the sort of gesture I have made many times before.
I think my longest without a fag was five years. But then the mother of my daughter Olivia then ran off with her graduate trainee ( naturally not mentioning this when filing for divorce, that was down to my unreasonable behaviour, blah, blah, blah), and just to show the old health Nazi I took up smoking again. Sensible move. That really showed her.
Anyhow I am trying to quit again. I have been smoking far too much. It inhibits my ability to run up stairs and is making my cold last longer than it should. It is an expensive habit and makes me smell.
No doubt I shall fail to quit again. Christmas brings with it many temptations. But I do want to quit. This is not the Mrs bullying me, she never does although she’d like me to stop. And right now, although I feel terrible as I write, I really do want to quit.
2941 days ago
It is perhaps not the greatest film ever made but for those of us who instinctively mistrust and despise the political class it is worth watching at least once a year and with November 5 approaching now is as good a time as any.
The squalor of the 3p expense claim made by Liam Fox MP (personal wealth estimated at £1 million) just reminded me how much I loathed those who rule us. Fox wants to restrict abortion, he opposes gay marriage, he voted for a smoking ban (and then against), he voted for the illegal war in Iraq, he thinks he has a right to tell us how we should live our lives, what we should do with our own bodies. And then that we should recompense him three frigging pence because he cannot be bothered to walk 100 yards down the road.
Fox is by far and away not the most despicable member of the political class. He is merely one of many despicable members of that class who trough it big time as they make our world ever more authoritarian and unpleasant.
If you have never seen, the speech from V for Vendetta have a butchers and then get the whole movie out on DVD in time for Guy Fawkes night.
3007 days ago
It was late in the evening at Real Man Pizza in Clerkenwell and another hectic day at our quirky Celtic Italian restaurant was drawing to a close when this couple wandered in. They ordered and then asked if they could sit outside. Sure – no problem. And then the bloke asked for an ashtray!
How very European. When the smoking ban came in we, like all bars and restaurants, got rid of our ashtrays. Keeping hold of them would in today’s puritan climate be like stashing hard corn porn behind the counter. I may be a smoker but I have to accept that I am a filthy, disgusting human being guilty of the greatest crime on this planet.
And so when folks smoke outside Real Man they just drop the butts on the pavement. Camden Council pisses away thousands of quid a week sending round vans with posters saying that if you drop a butt on the street you can get fined £80 or whatever but that is what folks do. Because in Aitstrip One ashtrays are just another relic of the 20th century.
3038 days ago
I am terrified of falling asleep lest I wake up to discover that I have missed my 5.30 AM flight. But having said that I wish I was asleep if only to block out the sheer horror that is Gatwick Airport North Terminal.
Everything bar Costa Coffee is shut. If I have another one of its overpriced cups of poison I shall explode. The free newspaper it hands out is the Independent which these days is almost as unbearable as The Guardian.
It is a 600 yard walk to the nearest smoking zone (a tiny shelter which can fit about 12 people and appears to serve an entire terminal).
I can amuse myself by writing offensive articles for only so long. My next excitement is at 3.30 when the check in desk opens. Just 1 hour and 6 minutes to go. I might just have a cigarette as a treat in 33 minutes time, if only to give me something to look forward to.
3060 days ago
Filmed in Spitalfields on Monday morning I guess I feel strongly about three issues covered.
1. Tax, prohibition, smoking and what we put into our bodies
2. The corruption of the political class
3. My hero of the year - the PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden and civil liberties
3088 days ago
Robert Sutherland Smith is again proving that he is still alive with another guest post. Robert started his City career the year before I was born and is, I think, 157 years old. Fear not. He is very much alive and kicking. He and I have worked together for almost eight years at t1ps.com . He is my friend and he is a very funny and intelligent chap. He is now branching out to celebrate his 158th by doing some freelance writing over at various places ( including Shareprophets.com naturally) on FTSE 350 Income stocks. Robert is a speaker at the UKInvestor Show on April 5th 2014. He is a great one for focussing on yield. RSS today looks at BAT Industries. RSS writes:
My last review of BAT Industries was a bullish one, having examined the management strategy of this large and important international business geared as it is, by common consent (entirely reasonably so) to a long term, irresistible decline demand for its products. I noted at the time that analysts estimated on a consensus view that sales revenue would grow by 20% over the two year 2013 and 2014 to an annual sales figure of £16.7 billion by the end of next year along with a 20% increase in earnings and dividends to 248p and 162p respectively estimated for the year to 31 December 2014.
3149 days ago
Last week was International wimmins day, next week is International smelly, bearded, jobless and selfish cyclists day and today is National No Smoking Day. The common thread: it is the State (or State’s getting together) telling you what to do and who to idolise and who to demonise. I regard the whole exercise as a costly piece of thought control and would scrap all these days. If we have to have them how about “Hard working taxpayer’s day,” “International never claimed a cent in welfare day”, “National entrepreneurs, job and wealth creators day.”
Sorry big brother you were right all along. I will learn what I should put into my body and shall lambast myself for being a heterosexual, hard working, tax paying and generating white male. I am ashamed of all of the above.
Smoking is a filthy habit. I will quit one day. But I shall do so when I want to not when a state that discourages me only slightly from drinking does not discourage me at all from smoking pot, runs limited campaigns pointing out the dire health implications of having unprotected anal sex in bathhouses bashes me yet again ( with taxpayers cash) about the fact that I smoke cigarettes. This is the one day of the year that you can guarantee that I shall not quit smoking.
In solidarity, all non-smokers should scrounge a fag off a smoker today to have just one drag. It won’t kill you but it is the suitable two fingers to nanny state. I could go on but I am off for a cigarette.
3159 days ago
I am staying in a house converted into five flats in a leafy part of Bristol. The five flats are all owned on a leasehold, that is to say they are private property. And in the entrance hall a notice has just gone up with a big no smoking sign stating “It is against the law to smoke in these premises.” Well that is a lie is it not?
It might just be that the communal areas are deemed to be a public space and so smoking might be illegal there. But I do not think that is actually the case. The Communal areas ( a staircase) are commonly owned private property.
The flats are slam dunk private property. Not that it would make it a “crime” but there is nothing in the leasehold agreement about smoking. This is private property and, as far as I can see, it is not yet a crime to smoke in your own home. So someone has put up a notice that is a lie. Is it the (useless) management company?
Or is it a resident, some prurient liberal who believes in freedom when it comes to things they support ( smoking pot, roaming on private land, cycling through red lights, not having a bath more than once a month) but denies liberty to others on unacceptable matters such as smoking, foxhunting, owning a gun, reading the Daily Mail in public, etc?
3167 days ago
A train journey to and from Oxford today saw me visit Paddington where you used to be able to have a quiet smoke in the slipway leading down from the street onto the concourse. That is to say on either side of the slipway. But I see that, at great expense, one side of the (open air) slipway now has now been marked off with enormous “No smoking” signs while on the other side a short stretch of (open) road is a designated smoking zone.
We pariahs are encouraged to use the few ashtrays provided in our “zone” although they were overflowing at 11 AM when I arrived.
As the snow blew into our faces ( the no smoking side was sheltered) a large group huddled together, crammed into one tiny space where we are allowed to pursued our addiction. Since it is all in the open air what health benefit is achieved? At what cost? And to what purpose?
3174 days ago
By the time we got past Chippenham on the 9.45 from Paddington last night the carriage was almost empty. The lager louts who had got on at Swindon had left the train, much to my delight, and all was calm. I sat there writing an article and across the aisle a mother and her young son chatted amicable. And then a clear smell wafted its way along from the gap to the next carriage, the very powerful smell of weed. The mother and I nodded at each other – we both recognised what was happening.
A couple of minutes later the smokers wandered along the corridor. A lanky fellow with glasses, greasy hair and wearing a suit lead the way laughing out loud. He looked as if the suit was not his normal gab. What do you call a weed smoking loser in a suit? The defendant. Behind him was a man with little hair, obvious tattoos, wearing a parker and clutching a can of cheap lager. The scowl on his face was an ugly one and he strode menacingly along the aisle. I made temporary eye contact and regretted it as his look said very clearly “what the f*** are you going to do about it?”
The answer, of course, is nothing. As I am reminded ad nauseam, First Great Western operates a strict no smoking policy and the someone like me would simply not consider smoking a Marlboro Light on one of its trains. I am used to the pompous H&S message repeated after every station as I try to sleep or write saying that if you see anything suspicious report it to a First Great Western train manager or a Policeman. But in reality there is no-one on board that train to stop folks not only breaking train bye-laws but the actual law of the land. It is all a pretence.
Law abiding nice people like me put up with all the silly rules. The trash at the bottom of society does not give a damn and do what they like and get away with it.
Perhaps it is time that First Great Western recognised this and changed the oft-repeated announcement to “First Great Western operates a strict no smoking of tobacco policy on all its trains but if you are a tattooed monster who wishes to take drugs (and probably has not even got a ticket) go ahead and do what you like because no-one dares stand up to you.”
3187 days ago
Two years ago the EU ceased to subsidise tobacco growers in Greece, Poland and Bulgaria – folks who received £260 million a year as recently as three years ago. The problem is that their tobacco is a) not very good and b) costs far more to produce than tobacco from the third world so they need subsidies to stay in business. Now the EU wishes to restart subsidies. This is patent nonsense on three levels.
1. This is the same EU that is spending £27 million a yet trying to stop folks smoking. It claims that its campaigns are helping hundreds of thousands of people quit the habit. That is 100% unprovable and I would argue that this money is also being pissed away. But if they want to stamp out the habit why subsidise producers?
3252 days ago
UKIP was never going to win any of the three by-elections last night. The mainstream press knew that but happily suggested it might in order that the political and media establishment in the Westminster bubble could say that UKIP had not done as well as expected. UKIP is not a party of the establishment and it will thus get no favours from the established media. The way that papers such as the Telegraph took the spin from the established parties is the sort of dirty trick UKIP will have to get used to as it grows. And it will grow.
I write this not as a UKIP member or indeed committed supporter. Pro tem I am clearly a sympathiser. I think that the party has a good few loons in its ranks. Don’t they all? It strikes me that it can appear not to be libertarian at times on social issues. That may be unfair on it, but it is the impression one gets. However on a range of issues, notably the EU, smoking in public places and deficit reduction it is, for me, bang on the money. And though it wants to have MPs, right now it has nothing to do with the sleaze club of Westminster to which the other three main parties all belong.
3271 days ago
We seem to see a new Downfall parody video every couple of months. The Gordon Brown ones were excellent. Some of those since have been weaker.
Well here is a corker on the subject of “plain packaging cigarettes” and the lies and campaigns of the, er…Health Nazis.
Hat tip to the excellent Velvet Glove Iron Fist blog for this.
3284 days ago
As you may remember, having been booted out of the LinkedIn friends of Greece ( for pointing out that Greece was bust and uncompetitive – hardly a revalation) I am now a keen member of the LinkedIn Friends of Albania ( also LinkedIn West Ham Supporters, Friends of Israel, UKIP etc). But i am beginning to have second thoughts.
As it happens my Dad has bought my spare Albanian Lekke from me and landed in the country on Sunday night for a 10 day working holiday.
3319 days ago
I am sure that Gladstone and John Stuart Mill would be terribly impressed at the dynamic policy initiatives dreamt up this week by the Lib Dems. Actually I have not watched any of the Lib Dem conference and I suspect that neither has anyone else. A party that faces electoral obliteration discussing dull as ditchwater policies that will never be implemented cannot hope to compete in terms of TV time with catching up on missed episodes of the new series of Dallas. Nick Clegg you are no Bobby Ewing although I hear that after lunch Charles Kennedy can do a good impression of Digger Barnes.
I have, however, picked up on the news that the Lib Dems plan to reconnect with the public with dynamic policy initiatives to impose taxes on plastic bags and fizzy drinks. Heck, I bet that’s got Ed Milliband running scared. While it is easy to dismiss these plans as irrelevant I fear that they are not as they are exactly the sort of things that all three of the mainstream parties (plus the Greens) agree on and as such are bound to become law. The problem in both cases is that such laws are regressive (i.e. they stuff the poor) and also illiberal.
3372 days ago
As you know, on my first day here I, inadvertently, withdrew from the cashpoint machine a sum equivalent to 1.5 times the average monthly after tax Albanian wage.. Most of my Lek is in 5000 Lek bills which are proving hard to use. My breakfast bill including coffee was 350 Lek (£2). I rather desperately offered the waitress at the Magic Mushroom cafe (none served sadly) a 5000 Lek bill. Given that she has 5 tables and most seem perennially empty my guess is that it takes her about a day and a half to haul in that amount and so she flapped. I somehow managed to find 350 Lek in loose change but that is it.
I am out of shrapnel and down to 5000 Lek bills. My biggest bill here to date has been 800 Lek (supper and a stack of coffees), my second biggest 500 Lek ( an Enver Hoxha mug). And so I now face the prospect of having no spendable currency at all. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have just bought 5 packets of cigarettes ( cost 1350 Lek, £8). And now I have 3650 Lek in reasonable sized bills to keep me going for another 3 days.
3374 days ago
Last message from Greece – Albania beckons, farewell Spiros and White Fang
My last missive from Greece for a while. One last swim in the pool. 10 minutes to pack and then I shall be leaving the hotel which has been my home for most of the past two weeks. It is farewell Spiros and White Fang and off to Albania.
I shall miss this hotel. Okay the internet is a bit flaky. But I have not lost at Pool when playing the staff, the frappes are fine and since I am anywhere between 33% and 100% of the guests at any one time I have an almost personal service. Everyone in Corfu is called Spiros (after Saint Spiros) but my Spiros will miss me more – I suspect – than the Spiros who changed my money or the numerous men called Spiros who served me Greek salads. Not only was I 33-100% of his customer base but I was also his source of cigarettes as he “gave up.” Now he might actually have to quit. For Spiros it is cold turkey and no customers.
3388 days ago
No. Not the sort of dodgy websites so central to the training regime of Italian goalie Buffon, I refer to my hotel booking site. As I made my booking (no credit card needed, very handy) a message kept flashing up saying that I was pursuing the last available room and that 6 other folks were also looking at it. Cripes, better hurry up. Having been here for 24 hours it dawns on me that mine is the only room here that is in fact occupied.
So the pool is empty, there are no fat Germans/ Scandinavian pensioners on the sun-loungers, I have a dedicated service whenever I want a cafe frappe (milk but no sugar natch) or a diet coke and I have complete peace and quiet.
3394 days ago
I am being evicted from my hotel. Not I think because they are terrified of an attack by axe wielding Islamofascists following my recent comments about the late Ayatollah Khomeini and bestiality, not because of any licentious behaviour with Swedish birds. Shame. It just appears that there was a bit of confusion about the reservation and so I have decided to leave Crete (for that is where I have been) and head by ferry to Athens for a couple of days. There is a friend to see and hopefully the odd riot or two to watch and I shall take a prurient tour round the shopping district to report on just how bad things are. If you are seeking poverty-porn, I shall do my best to snap any images of urban misery and post them here.
And then? I have not had this much freedom in ages and this break is helping to purge my mind of a lot, if not yet my body of nicotine. I seem to be finding it a lot easier to write than I have done for a while and am enjoying it greatly. There is a temptation to go up to the North West and over to Corfu and back via Albania. There is a temptation to go wandering around the Mani and to once again visit the entrance to the Underworld. And there is a temptation to go island hopping which I have never done before. At this stage I have not got a Scooby but I shall make my choice by Sunday and keep you posted.
3398 days ago
I had to post certain documents back to London and so was forced to visit my local Post Office. It was even more instructive than the Bus Station visit of a few days ago. I should say that I ran there (one mile) in the burning heat and managed to run half way back. As part of the weight loss campaign I was quite proud of that.
Arriving at the Post Office which serves a small suburb of not a very large town I stumbled in a sweaty wreck. The place is open from 8.30 AM until 2.30 PM five days a week meaning that its staff (in this State owned enterprise) have to put in a back breaking 30 hour week. They are probably paid for 14 months a year and get to retire at 55 but that is not the point. Did I mention how many staff were crammed into this small office? Five. That is one member of staff for every 1.25 customers that I observed during my 20 minute visit – I needed time to catch my breath, have a cigarette etc.
3399 days ago
I am still not an ex-smoker. I am delaying that for a few more days. But the weight is falling off apace. However, I read today that the world has one more ex-smoker, namely Tori the Orang-Utang. Chucked lit cigarettes at an Indonesian zoo for the past decade, 15 year old Tori is as addicted as me. But I see that she is now being taken away to an area where the punters cannot feed her craving and she will be going cold turkey tomorrow.
Poor girl. Not even being given patches or chewing gum. Actually I too shall go cold turkey. It has worked all the 28 other times I have given up smoking (sometimes for years at a go). The only thing that really amazes me about this report is not the stupidity of man in giving Tori her fags (I assume that people are stupid and am rarely disappointed in my prejudice) but that not one of the London papers (normally zealous health Nazis) have mentioned the damage that Tori has done to the other Orang-Utans in her enclosure as a result of passive smoking. Surely an open goal missed by the smug media elite? Mind you there is still BBC coverage to come later.
3407 days ago
I write as someone on the cusp of becoming an ex-smoker rather than a smoker. My status is thus unclear right now but contrary to the assertions of a reader from Oxford my vehement opposition to the ban on smoking in public places ( and especially public houses) has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I am addicted to the wicked weed or not. It is primarily a matter of personal liberties – mine as a smoker and hers as a non-smoker.
I start by admitting that smoking is a disgusting and expensive habit which curtails your life expectancy. I have no argument with this. But as an individual I should have the choice about how I lead my life. If I want to smoke, drink too much, eat junk food and end up morbidly obese that is my call. I know the risks.
3412 days ago
I find myself reflecting on how odd it is, the way that we use paper money at all in 2012. Most of my transactions are, these days, done by card or online. Once every two weeks I draw out £200 from a cash machine and then steadily spend it. Once I quit smoking (again) that should be once every three weeks that I visit an ATM. Cash as a means of transaction is becoming less and less relevant to my life.
3413 days ago
A personal note follows at the end. West Ham supporters will understand the reference to Paul Ince, a man who is – unfairly in my view – known by Lucian and his pals as Judas. I digress. I have today signed two contracts with the UK’s largest website ADVFN. This does not mean that my relationship with t1ps.com changes.