In all the fuss and bother of salvaging my rickety shed and arranging a space for a greenhouse, one thing hadn't occurred to me.
Okay, I had to buy the felt, glue and nails for the shed, I'll have to buy the greenhouse, but I have no skill at all in putting these things together. If I had tried to put that felt on the roof myself I can guarantee I would now be hairless as a result of having to scrape a couple of litres of glue off me and would probably be wearing a permanent felt hat. The roof would look like something Frankenstein designed. Instead of paying for someone to do it, I have friends and acquaintances who'll do it for fun and whisky. These are not people I've known all my life. There are few of those and none of them live nearby.
These are people I have met through Smoky-Drinky evenings. In the past, I would have met them in the pub.
Frank Davis has often written about the effects of the smoking ban, not just on the hospitality trade but on the social lives of those who used to make regular use of pubs and clubs. It's not merely socialising, not just having a friendly chat over a beer and a smoke. If I had not bothered with Smoky-Drinky, if I had, like many, retired into the hermit existence with supermarket booze and TV, I wouldn't know anyone who knows how to fix felt to a roof or who knows about automatic vent-opening things for greenhouses, and how to make the glass stay in, and what it should be standing on.
People used to do more than drink and smoke in pubs. They used to get to know each other. They'd trade tips on gardening, decorating, cars, everything. They'd help each other out.
I've fixed computers for other Smoky-Drinkers. I've transferred their old VHS home videos onto DVD for them. We all have something to trade. The pub was where we made those trades.
Now, people are so isolated that someone can die in the street and people will step over the body. A girl can crash her bike into a barbed wire fence, stagger around with multiple lacerations and people just pass by. That is the world now. A world where ambulance drivers know less about the area they work in than the local taxi firms. A world in which doctors can decide whether you have surgery, and you can't.
It's not all because of the smoking ban, but that is a large part of it. We don't meet up any more. As a smoker, a lot of you out there wouldn't come near me because you're afraid you'll get cancer even though I don't have it and it's not a communicable disease. A lot of you certainly wouldn't trust me with transferring your videos to DVD. I might smoke while I'm doing it (actually, it's inevitable. All I do is set the things going and there's nothing else to trouble me until it's done - so I will certainly have a coffee and a smoke). Then you'd be scared to take them back in case the people in those videos turn out all lumpy.
It's also because of the culture of paedophiles and offense. You cannot speak to someone of a different race in case you say one word out of place and get arrested. You cannot approach a crying child in case you are assumed to be an abductor and arrested. There was once a saying, 'No man is an island, unless his name is Madagascar'. Okay, a comedian added that last bit. Can't remember who.
Now, everyone is an island. A fortress island. You cannot approach, you cannot relax in the presence of others because you have forgotten how. It's something that used to happen in pubs and clubs. They are disappearing because let's face it, if you're scared about a minimal risk to your lungs, you're not likely to chance it with your liver. Antismokers rarely visit pubs and unlike smokers, they don't buy much while they're in there. Beer and tobacco were the relaxation of choice for many. Take one away and there's little point in the other.
So the pubs die, the clubs die, and all those social links die. Smoky-Drinky keeps some alive, but it's not as wide ranging because Smoky-Drinky places cannot be open to the general public. You can't just walk in. If we allowed that we would be a public place and bang - no smoking. These places also cannot be run for profit of any kind. No money can change hands in there. If that happened, they would become places of work and bang - no smoking. Even though they are entirely private premises. Like pubs.
Next, the price of drink will become unaffordable for many. Then it won't be only the smokers who don't visit the pubs any more. Smoky-Drinky will expand. We'll move into brewing our own beer and maybe even growing our own tobacco. Illegal, perhaps, but those greenhouse guys know how to make the contents of a greenhouse invisible. And besides, when we are made outlaws, why would we trouble ourselves with the law any more? Current outlaws don't and never have. That's why we have shootings and stabbings in a country where guns and knives are banned.
I came back from being penniless and homeless via the underground economy with no recourse to benefits of any kind at all. I know how it works and I know how to work it. Now I am one of those decent. law-abiding taxpayers who gets fleeced by the government because we are such an easy target. I have no undeclared income. As far as I am concerned, I have never done deliberate harm to anyone who wasn't trying to harm me, so I have always been law-abiding. If I had been Puritanical, I would still be homeless.
Nobody will care. If a neighbour finds out about Smoky-Drinky future stills, tobacco sources or homebrew then they will no doubt be incensed and report it. But how will they? I have neighbours on one side who would quickly become involved in such activities. I have neighbours on the other side I have not spoken to in over ten years because they are Righteous to the core and generally disgusting people. It will not occur to them that tobacco growth is even possible. They wouldn't recognise a still if I battered them insensible with it although it's worth getting one just to try.
None of this is happening at Smoky-Drinky as yet, but if things continue as they are, these things will come to pass. If we still had the old pubs full of all walks of life, with gossip and chatter and smokers and non-smokers mingling without being wary of each other, none of it would be possible. Anyone with an illegal still would be found within days. Not any more. People don't trust each other now. The still owner is not going to say anything and he's not going to be drunk in the pub so he won't let it slip. There could be one next door to you.
Laws were never enforced by the police. Laws were enforced by the people who called the police to report illegal activity. Once you reach the point where nobody cares about anyone, a point we have almost reached now, the police are tied up with reports of 'he called me a bad name' and 'I don't like the look of that one' and other such nonsense. Meanwhile, gangs have guns and knives and nobody reports it because nobody really cares. It does not affect them anywhere near as much as the neighbour who parks an inch too close to their driveway or the teenage party that goes on past 11 pm. That's what gets reported. So little Damien next door has a new Uzi? How sweet. As long as he doesn't fire it while Daryl is trying to sleep for night shift, no problem.
In this world of chaos, does anyone imagine it would be at all difficult for someone above a 100 IQ to hide a beer production unit, a tobacco plantation or a still? Come on. Those cannabis growers use UV light which is dead easy to find at night using a digital camera - and not a fancy enhanced one either. It's also very easy to block from the windows. They only find the stupid ones. Most drug chemistry uses the contents of an average kitchen. I could produce anthrax using my kitchen if I was terminally insane, which, thankfully, I'm not. It's easy but very, very dangerous. Even if you do know what you're doing.
This new world of isolation will not curtail smoking or drinking or salt or fat or anything. It will make all of it more prevalent, just as the bans on guns and knives have increased their use by the lawless.
If this new government really want to decrease lawlessness, they cannot depend on the police - because the police depend on the public. If the public have the police tied up with noisy neighbours and street photographers and things that aren't really crimes, while not reporting the guns and knives and drug-dealers and so on, then the police are effectively neutered. The criminals know it.
Once the public are a set of isolated individuals, each with their own idea of what should be illegal, no police force can function and no laws matter.
The Righteous have not brought the rule of law. They have brought anarchy.
Give us back our pubs, stop setting us one against another, stop setting up scapegoats, and people will police themselves.
If you prefer the other route, well, I can work with that. If I have to.