The Righteous insist they want us to stop smoking and drinking and driving and eating and sleeping and breathing... did I miss something?
The Taxman does not want us to stop, or even reduce, our use of petrol, baccy and booze. In fact it would do the Treasury good if we all doubled our consumption of those things. I'm going to buy some petrol this week, in fact. My lawnmower runs on it. One gallon lasts a couple of years so it'll be a lot more expensive this time than last time. Hopefully, by next time I'll have perfected my plan for a solar-powered hover-mower that follows a path around the grass whenever the sun comes out. I have a £30 Tesco mower in the garage awaiting a suitable replacement motor and enough solar cells. It's not as easy as it sounds, balancing the weight with the power requirements. But then, as every woman knows, the reason men invent things like this is that we are basically lazy and want a machine to do it instead. Preferably automatically and unattended.
I'm sure there are those out there who still believe that the government really wants us to live healthy, pollution-free lives but the truth is, if we did that, the Treasury would collapse. Witness 'Chopper' Osbourne's latest idea to increase his tax take. He plans to increase the price of booze. Again.
Some will say that this is to 'reduce consumption'. No it isn't. It's to increase the tax take. A reduction in consumption is the last thing the Treasury wants to see.
There's no mention of tobacco but that increase goes without saying. Again, it's not to 'reduce consumption', it's to increase the tax take. I now source my tobacco from friends who take *cough* frequent foreign holidays. When they tell Customs it's for their own use, they are not lying. They plan to use it to sell to me, and others. You know, many such suppliers are non-smokers. We're not as isolated as we are led to believe.
Soon they'll be bringing in whisky too. They already bring beer but I drink so little of that it's not worth the saving.
What never seems to filter into the dense heads of the Righteous is that it's only worth smuggling something when the profit is high. It's a risky business and you have to be selling below local rates or you won't sell at all. So you are dependent on a big price differential between your source and your market.
Two ounces of tobacco comes in at around a tenner in the supermarket. The 'foreign holiday' guys can sell it at six quid a pack and make a profit. If it cost seven quid in the supermarket, the difference wouldn't attract all that many people and the smugglers would give up. Then the Treasury would get more tax because fewer people will buy the imports.
Instead of seeing this, our government (of whatever colour) will continue to increase the tax and thereby drive more and more to the little guy with the van in the back-alley. His range of goods will increase too.
As for booze, well that is very easy to make and there is no way to stop it happening. I haven't built a still because it's not yet worth it. Besides, the stuff I like has to be aged for an absolute minimum of eight years in oak barrels and I've never been known for my patience. Good quality tobacco also takes years. However, the price will eventually reach a point where it's worth starting. I can sell the raw hooch to fund my booze and tobacco intake while I wait for the good stuff to be ready and by the time I retire I'll have an independent supply of both. Free, apart from a little effort.
Tobacco - you're taxing something that grows on its own.
Booze - you're taxing something that anyone can make. No training necessary. If you want to distil then you do need to know what you're doing but beer? Easy. You can make a strong beer at home for pennies per pint in a matter of weeks. Wine? Almost effortless and can be made with fruit grown in your garden or collected from the wild - and yes, if it grows on public property, it's wild. If it grows in someone's garden and overhangs the fence, you can't have it but if it's rooted beside a public path, fill your bag.
An aside - someone told me of a case of two neighbours who hated each other. One had an apple tree that overhung the neighbour's garden. The neighbour cut off the overhang and dropped it back over the fence. He had eaten all the apples but left the cores attached to the tree. Yes, he had munched around them without picking them.
The owner of the apple tree went to his lawyer but the lawyer said nothing could be done. It is legal to cut off an overhang as long as you return it, which the neighbour did. It is not legal to pick the fruit from an overhang, but he didn't, by strict interpretation of the law, pick any. He had left the apples attached to the branch, even though he had eaten them. So that's not illegal but it's pretty spiteful.
Basically, you can make all the booze you want at home and even if they made homebrew illegal, there's no real way to police it. So they don't sell brewer's yeast. They'll still sell baker's yeast and it's the same species. It won't make good beer straight away but if you re-use it on successive batches, it'll get better. Alternatively, buy a bottle of beer with the yeast still in it and use that. You want hops and barley? Visit a farmer. Malting isn't hard, it just takes a little effort. If you can't get hops, use nettles, but use the very young shoots that haven't developed stings yet or you'll lose all feeling in your tongue. All you need is a little practice.
I'm out of practice. I think I might go shopping for demijohns and buckets. As for yeast, well, that's not likely to be an issue.