Wednesday, 26 May 2010


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.


TheFatBigot said...

Many years ago a flat-pack greenhouse was purchased for my brother's residence.

It came with a single A4 sheet of instructions, teasingly called "Erection Guide".

We followed the instructions to a tee only to find things just didn't look right. It was inside-out.

The following year we re-felted his garage roof and it's still going strong without a single bubble or tear.

We conclude the inside-out greenhouse wasn't our fault because if we can lay a felt roof that is pristine after almost twenty years the greenhouse must have been the fault of the Erection Guide.

Frank Davis said...

Amen, LI. And amen again.

Billy The Fish said...

Excellent post, LI.

What has always astounded me with the 'justice' system so skewed is why we aren't knee deep in vigilantes, all clamouring to sort out the toe-rags that the police can't touch. Sadly, you've hit the nail on the head.

Nobody cares about anyone other than themselves anymore. It's a grim place to be.

A few weeks ago, I was on a bus in south London and two youths started giving a third one a good smack. Nobody moved for half a minute. We all sat and watched, including the driver. And me, I'm ashamed to say.

Why? I wasn't brought up to walk on by? It wasn't because I was concerned about catching a stray punch from some sixteen year old chav, it was that I was worried that when plod came, I'd be nicked as well.

How does a society as far down as ours turn this around, LI? We're walking toward a Clockwork Orange future and I don't know how to stop it...

Anonymous said...

Spot on LI. I recently moved to a new part of the Country and find myself isolated. I've realised that all my life I've met people via the pub but now the few that are open are empty and there is absolutely no where else that people meet.
Front doors shut in the evening and most people sit at home (many alone).
For me, this is the single issue (out of very many)that I will despise the Labour party for.
Is there any hope of change?
Any political party that open the doors to cancer inducing pubs would be slated big time, but would probably give us a large part of our Country back.

P.T. Barnum said...

I don't know the derivation of the word, but in the light of your thoughts here I find it highly significant that drinking establishments during prohibition were called speakeasys - a place to talk freely.

UK Survivalist said...

Spot on as always LI. I do wonder about growing tobacco, not a smoker myself but I am a keen gardener could be fun to try... although convincing my smoker friends to inhale something I've grown may prove to be harder.

Trading skills for skills is something I wish I could do more of, sadly as you point out finding people and knowing them sufficiently well is the hardest part. My wife has better luck at this than I do.

Blueskybeach said...

RE you're previous Blog...
Just import all your LiveJournal stuff to Blogger:

Good luck

Furor Teutonicus said...

As far as I know, there is NOTHING illegal about brewing your own beers and wine, OR growing tobacco.

So long as it is not to be sold.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Furor: I think it becomes taxable once harvested. However, 'sampling' doesn't count for taxation, so as long as you don't cut the lot down in one go, you're laughing ... technically.

Anonymous said...

Great post LI. I can sympathise with the commenter who can't meet people. I've stopped moving now, but each time I did, I would go to the local and eventually gravitate to a new circle of friends. The pub at the end of my lane shut last year. Having no place where people can meet is, in my opinion, a more serious problem than most people think. Isolation eventually ends in more neighbour disputes, depression, further isolation, prescription drugs etc. I agree with you about the homebrew and stills. Just look at Scandanavia. And I am an outlaw. I buy Golden Virginia from a corner shop. It costs £8 a pack. The shopkeeper is also an outlaw as is the person who brings it to the shop. But if you met me, you wouldn't guess. I have a good, interesting job. I shout at cyclists on the pavement and tell people on the train to turn their Ipods down.

JohnRS said...

LI - all too true, but very sad....and as far as I can see we have no way to punish those that caused this.

Bucko said...

Trading skills for skills is another thing that the government just dont like. If you swap a favour for a favour, they get no tax take out of it. If you are forced to hire a professional then they do.

Furor Teutonicus said...

There is another, but related, side to the problems of pub closures on the community.

Where I lived near Bathgate, there was a social club where every dinner time and evening you would be GARUNTEED to meet virtuly the whole scheme.

As Central Scotland schemes go, it was not too bad at all.

Since the club closed, the place has become like Helmland on a BAD day.


Because the people, and particularly the men, from the scheme, would be up and down the road virtually the whole day. Because they knew everyone, if wee Jimmy Mc Haggis wqs seen with a can of spray paint and a box of kitchen matches, they would be rapidly confiscated, and wee Jimmy would get a clip around the ear, and a boot up the arse.

The place was "self policing".

NOW the club is not there, that end of the scheme is free range for the bastards.

Last I spoke to someone from there, about a month ago, in the streets around where the lads would be "patroling" as they were too and fro from the club, 15 cars were burned out over two weekends. The "youth club was burned down, rebuilt and burned down again, the same with the swing park. The place is so full of "graffitti" that on some buildings it is hard to tell what colour they were origionaly MEANT to be.

ALL because the club closed.

Dr Evil said...

In 1992 the EU decreed that duty is payable on tobacco grown at home. HMRC says only duty is payable when the tobacco is ready to be smoked (ie cured and shredded) not on the leaves or plants. In practice they don't actually collect this from home growers.

They are quite open about the duty being to deter people because this tobacco is unregulated as to its tar and nicotine content and because it is "detrimental to health". Buying seeds is perfectly legal as is growing it.

Spartan said...

l have decided to fight back and help people beat the UK oppression on tobacco and alcohol. l'm setting up a consultancy to enable people to get the full benefit of EU shopping despite the many tactics used by UK Customs to deter it.

UK Customs have guidelines to the amount you can bring back but they quote the guidelines to EU shoppers as though it is the law. Most people are intimidated by their tactics and scaremongering so never question it. They are guidelines and nothing more!

l've been buying my cigarettes and alcohol abroad for over 10 years and have never lost anything to UK Customs despite being stopped by them on quite a few occassions.

l have the experience and knowledge of how to deal with UK Customs. l also know the law, which many UK Customs Officers don't, l've found.

So, my consultancy is going to teach people how to bring back what they are legally entitled to. l'll also provide documentation to back them up and how to deal with interviews if stopped by Customs. lt won't be anything like a seminar ... l'll accompany them on their trip.

lt's not cross-channel shopping either, it's a trip to Bulgaria as it's the cheapest place l've found.

You'll have a one or two night stay in a city that has no smoking bans, cheap and very relaxed. Then you'll bring your goods home. The last couple (friends) brought over 100 cartons back of L&B at a cost of £2190 plus some alcohol (Jack Daniels litre bottles at approx £18).

They've saved literally thousands of pounds seeing that the same amount of cigarettes would've cost them £5,600 (Asda) in the UK.

Yes it's not a trivial amount to spend but if you could buy petrol at 48p a litre, how much would you buy? Answer is, as much as you could possibly afford. You'd be crazy not to.

l'll let you know when website is up in the next few days.

Furor Teutonicus said...


All very good. But which countries are you going to be passing through on the way?

If one of them is Germany, our customs WILL take everything over 200 off you.

That goes as much for by road as it does if you transfer flights here. And there ARE people, not just getting done by customs, but actualy being sent to court and being done by the courts for smuggling. Even from Poland.

So check out the laws of those countries along your route as well.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Ahh. And as well as having to pay the duty AND a fine, which is double the duty, you will NOT get your ciggarettes back wither.

Spartan said...

Furor Teutonicus .... direct flights from UK to Sofia. Let me make this very clear ... this is not smuggling but personal shopping. My own criteria involving future customers is that if they buy a year or 6 months supply they will not travel with me again till that period is over.

We're in EU and that means free trade. lf the laws are applied correctly you can do it. As l said, l've been stopped by UK Customs with way over the 16 cartons limit ... not once have l lost my goods. That also goes for my friends and family.

You must do your homework and preparation though. Go unprepared and you will be mugged if stopped.

Furor Teutonicus said...

The offence is "smuggling" regardless what you choose to call it. (IF it gets taken to court that is).

However, I am slightly confussed about all this. I HAVE asked customs officers here, whom I meet regularly as part of my own work, how the whole damn thing works.

I thought, that the rules should be the same all over the E.U.

THAT was, after all the theory. However it seems not, and many countries seem to go on their merry way without ever apparantly refering to the E.U "law" at all.

That is why the generalisations about "E.U law" made in the British press are just SO away from the actuality, that the two are most times, unreccognisable as refering to the same thing.

Good luck with your idea any way. I hope it works out.

Leg-iron said...

FB - inside out? I have this image of a greenhouse full of snow and all the plants growing merrily around it.

Shug Niggurath said...

I remember my dad coming home from the pub with a holdall full of books every Sunday, read them all week then he took them back to the pub the following Sunday. That's how the book club worked, constant readers all happily contributing their paperbacks to the pub for everyone to get a chance to read.

Because of that book club I was reading Tom Sharpe at 9 and 10 years old.

Or helping make the tray of sandwiches when it was his turn on the domino night (tuesday).

That same pub is still open and close enough to where I live for me to make the odd visit and maybe see some old faces.

Unless I go on a match day (I grew up living next door to my local football club's home ground) there are likely to be three men and a dog in there. When the smoking ban first came out they allowed the smokers to smoke at the top of the fire escape stairs, which meant they didn't have to go down two flights of stairs to the street.

Council turned up and said they were blocking the fire escape and so now everyone has to go down to the street. Or, as you say, buy a carry out and just stay at home.

There are no non-smokers working there.

Anonymous said...

It isn't yet illegal to grow tobacco (for personal use), is it?
George Speller

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Leg-iron

Ambulance drivers can’t find their patients because they rely on tekkernology instead of living there (like taxi drivers). This is down to the beloved EU which has decreed that everything must be regionalised to fit their beautiful agenda. So ambulance services are now formed into 12 regions for the UK (soon to be slimmed down to 9 to fit the EU regions perfectly). See and contrast with the South East Coast Ambulance Service...

Fire services were also to be fully regionalised with a single ‘command centre’ for the entire South East EU ‘region’. This has yet to be implemented. The police were set to go the same way. If the EU ever gets it way, we have ‘South East Regional’ police, ambulance and fire services who will all be following their Sat Navs to the wrong address. And probably won’t speak English either.

Chalcedon has it banged to rights. Duty is payable on final preparation (shredding or rolling into cigars after drying and curing, which takes 1-3 years). However there is no procedure to collect the tax due so by and large HMRC do not bother. Get your seeds here:

Almost everyone has a still in their home – it’s called a freezer. If you live in the Far North, outside works just as well in winter. You end up with (very) fortified wine or beer, rather than whisky or brandy.

“If this new government really want to decrease lawlessness, they cannot depend on the police - because the police depend on the public.”

“The police are the public and the public are the police” – the 7th Peelian Principle of Policing

Get your principles here:

Repeat after me: The Peelian Principles of Policing are the proper policy for police personnel to pursue.

And again, but a little faster ...


Leg-iron said...

Shredding could be the hard part. I wonder if a crosscut shredder would do it? Might make a mess of the blades but then they only cost about £15. Not much more than the current price of 50g of baccy. So if you only get 100g out of a shredder before breaking it you'd still be in profit.

In practice it could be more. Or maybe I'll just get me a dusky maiden's thigh to roll some cigars on.

I can probably get one of those mail-order.

Freeze-distilling - yup, learned that one a long time ago. Used it to turn a terrible tea wine into a passable tea brandy. The advantages are - no distillery fumes and no still equipment. Just a freezer and some plastic trays.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

I know I'm splitting hairs, but the Righteous have not brought us to the highly desirable state of no government or "anarchy". They have brought us chaos.

opinions powered by