Saturday 31 July 2010

Man with a Van's next venture?

Electrofag isn't smoking, but then again it is. It's nicotine and something that looks and feels like smoking. Yet it's not smoking. It's not an easy thing to articulate but here goes anyway.

I don't see Electrofag as a 'smoking cessation device' although if you wanted to kick the smoking but feel lost without the habit, it's the only alternative that stands any chance of working. Patches will only work if you stick one over each eye so you can't find your tobacco. Gum will only work if you use it to stuff the end of your lighter so you can't light your cigarettes. As smoking cessation mechanisms they are useless. They will never work. They were never meant to.

Electrofag wasn't intended as a smoking cessation device. It came about as a result of the smoking ban, a way to 'smoke' indoors legally. Nothing is burning in Electrofag, there is no smoke at all, only steam. No combustion products for the terminally terrified to worry about. No smell to shred the delicate nostrils of the professionally offended. Nobody's hair or clothes ever need to be dipped in disinfectant as a result of Electrofag.

If anyone wants to claim harm from nicotine, go and talk to those who sell it in gum and patches. Are they really allowed to deliberately poison people like that? If anyone wants to claim harm from second-hand steam, I'm afraid I'm just going to laugh at you. There is nothing even remotely harmful in Electrofag.

That might be why it's not 'smoking'. As Frank Davis has mentioned in the past, there could well be an element of the same 'risk' that makes mountain climbing and car racing so attractive to some. I hadn't thought of it that way. I know it's not good for me but the risks are overblown. Look at the responses any smoking post gets.

'Smoking causes cancer' is not true. Smoking might increase the risk of some types of cancer but it's not automatic. Few smokers get it. I will accept that more smokers than non-smokers, proportionally, get lung problems but as I said, I know it's not good for me. Neither is crossing the street. I am aware of the increased risk and I accept it.

'All smokers get some level of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder'. Patently untrue. I have no respiratory problems. I know nobody with COPD. Never have. And I've met a lot of smokers.

These often come from health professionals who have not realised something important. The nature of their profession is that the only smokers they see are the sick ones. The only non-smokers they see are the sick ones too. They never see the non-sick smokers so on their limited sample set, the statement 'all smokers are sick' appears to be true. It is far from true. The medical profession has also been suckered in to the patches-and-gum story. It's surprising how many of them have never even heard of Electrofag.

I have two Electrofags here and if you haven't tried them, it's not the same but it's a pretty good approximation of smoking. Some pubs allow them indoors, some don't. I don't know what the current situation is since I don't visit pubs now. Not even when the weather is nice. There's no point trying to enjoy a smoke and a pint in a beer garden when some raddled harridan is pretending to cough, twenty yards away upwind. I've had enough of that.

I see Electrofag as another form of smoking. The main reason for smoking is to get that nicotine buzz, which is pretty much the same as a caffeine high and works in much the same way, in fact. There is more to it though. It's not just the nicotine. It's the smoke rings and the action of smoking too. Just as you would never accept a caffeine pill instead of a nice hot espresso, you can't sit back and relax with a pint and a patch. That is never going to work. It was never intended to, it was always a money-making scam.

There are many forms of tobacco. I once spent a fortnight in Yugoslavia before the trouble started there. It was a long time before the trouble, so it wasn't anything I said, before anyone gets any ideas. The local tobacco was very different to anything I'd had in the UK but I'd grown accustomed to it by the time I left. I was much more accustomed to the price, which was wonderfully low at that time. I brought some back with me but when it ran out I couldn't find anything similar on the UK market. I settled for another flavour.

Tastes change. I've been on readymades in the past but decided I preferred the taste of rollups. I prefer Amber Leaf to Drum and find Golden Virginia pretty good too. Once in a while I'll smoke a cigar, usually at Christmas and on National No Smoking Day, and sometimes in between. Not just any old cigar, I particularly like the Henri Winterman's brand. Tobaccos are all different and smokers have different preferences. Some like Capstan, some like Silk Cut, and neither of those smokers would be happy with the other brand.

Smoking is not a generic thing. It's a wide range of tastes. I once smoked a pipe and enjoyed it but found it too much trouble to keep it up. Some people smoke pipes exclusively and have no interest in cigarettes at all.

Electrofag isn't a replacement for smoking. It's another form of smoking. For me, it's 'as well as'. For others, it's 'instead of'. I'm guessing here, but it seems to me that for those who really like to smoke but are sick to death of ashtrays and mess and topping up lighters and nagging spouses, Electrofag was just what they were waiting for.

Even Electrofag is not a generic description. Take a look at the variety available from UK sellers. Here's a US site with a range of different Electrofags too. They come with different amounts of nicotine, like real cigarettes, and unlike real cigarettes they also come with no nicotine at all. They come in a massive range of flavours, from tobacco and cigar to coffee and strawberry. Some Electrosmokers will be smoking apple-flavoured steam with no nicotine in it at all. Others will be smoking high strength Virginia flavour. Just like smokers, Electrosmokers are not one homogenous group. Just like tobacco smokers, they each prefer a different blend with a particular flavour. At the moment I prefer high strength tobacco with menthol in Electrofag and menthol tips in my roll-ups. My menthol fad comes and goes and I'll switch to non-menthol and back again as the mood takes me. Once in a while, I'll load up Electrofag with coffee or absinthe or roast chicken flavour for a laugh but those are not going to be regulars. They are a bit of fun.

This is why the pharmaceutical products will never work. They are aimed at some nebulous homogenate that the antismokers call 'nicotine addicts'. A condition that does not exist. Every ex-smoker I know who wanted to stop smoking has just stopped. No cold turkey. No withdrawal symptoms. They just decided they weren't enjoying it any more and stopped.

I know several who tried the patches and all of them are smoking again. Why did they 'fail'? They didn't fail. They tried to stop because they were ordered to, not because they wanted to. The 'successes' are those who stopped because they just didn't want to do it any more. No other reason will ever work. When you try to force someone to stop doing something they enjoy, they want to do it all the more. That approach will always fail. The few who gave up 'with the help of NRT' would have done so without the NRT.

Consider - if we are addicted to nicotine, how can the provision of nicotine through another medium wean us off an addiction to nicotine? The nicotine, the supposed addictive substance, is still there. So how can a 'nicotine addict' find that they can discard the patches easily when they couldn't do that with tobacco? When you apply logic to any antismoking propaganda, it always falls apart.

Naturally, the pharmers don't want us to stop smoking and they don't want us switching to a completely safe form of nicotine either. They want us to use their patches and gum, then take up smoking again so they can sell us more patches and gum. That is all they want. It's all ASH wants too. If we all stopped, or all switched to Electrofag, ASH would be out of work. They need us to keep smoking so they can continue to whine and bleat and lie about us.

Does the government know? I think so. They want that tobacco duty and they'd be worried about their cash flow if the pharmers' patches and gum worked. The government get the taxes from the pharmers when they sell the patches, and at the same time they know the patches will make barely a dent in their tobacco revenue. The pharmers make money, the tobacco companies make money, ASH gets free money and the government rakes in its cut. It's a very merry money-go-round.

Elecrofag is a spanner in the cogs of this money generating machine. It's not made of tobacco so it doesn't pay duty. It cannot claim to be a smoking cessation device, wasn't intended to be one, and yet paradoxically it is the single most successful smoking-reduction and smoking-cessation device ever invented.

Electrofag is not under pharmer control. They make no money from it. It does not attract duty. The government makes no money from it other than business taxes and VAT. Nothing like the duty they rake in from smokers who haven't met a Man with a Van yet. ASH make no money from it and the idea that second-hand steam could be harmful is beyond laughable. Even the prim and proper cannot complain because there is no smoke, therefore no smoke residue and no smell at all. This device, invented in response to the forcing of smokers outdoors, is the single most effective way for those who want to smoke, but who want to leave tobacco behind, to do so. For those of us who want to stay with tobacco, Electrofag is merely another way to smoke, one that can be enjoyed inside when it's raining.

The thing is, this little gadget risks derailing the money-go-round. Reduced tobacco company profits and reduced pharmer income means less tax going to the Coagulation. It means less duty going there too. If it catches on it will do a lot of harm to the cosy little money generator that these people have built around smokers - but it will do no harm to anyone's health.

But then it is not about health and never was.

There is nothing harmful in Electrofag, it isn't the same as smoking but some people prefer it. Some don't like it at all and some, like me, have added it to the smoking arsenal without shedding the real thing.

So what can the pharmers, the tobacco barons and the grasping mitts of the Cleggeron Coagulation do to save their money-go-round? What can ASH do to preserve their control-by-denormalisation superiority complex?

Why, ban it, of course.

We can still have real tobacco. We can still suffer the jibes and taunts from those vile putrescences that consider themselves Righteous and Superior. We can still shiver in the cold outside the pubs. We can still be treated like dirt. Oh, we can have real tobacco even though the 'harm' claims have long since made it out to be more dangerous than keeping plutonium in your fridge. That's fine. We can have that.

We can still have the patches and gum even though ASH's claim that nicotine is deadly means that any doctor prescribing such things, and any shop selling them, should be arrested for attempted murder. The gum is fine even though it presents a far bigger risk to the cheeeldren than any pack of cigarettes. You'd spot a five year old smoking from a long way off. Would you look twice at a five year old chewing gum? We can still have the expensive therapy that works just as well as it was designed to - ie, no better than the rate at which smokers just stop anyway. We can still have those.

The one thing with the real potential to eventually replace tobacco consumption altogether? The one thing that lets smokers smoke without any risk at all, real or imagined, to themselves or others?

No. We can't have that.

Well, not until Man with a Van starts stocking it. Which will happen 21 days after the ban is announced. Besides, it's not hard to grow tobacco. It's not hard to extract nicotine from the leaves because it's water soluble. Purifying it is another matter but a coarse extract should work. Scary? Well, if we can't have the professionally produced stuff we'll just have to make our own.

I bet that Electrofag supplier who cosied up to ASH is feeling pretty bloody stupid about now. Although I'm sure I'll still hear some Electrosmokers doing a CAMRA and calling 'Don't ban us, ban them filthy real-smokers instead'. Don't be silly. The real-smokers produce far too much revenue for tobacco ever to be banned, and they can be milked by the pharmers while being spat on by ASH at the same time. The real-smokers provide all sorts of excuses for the mess of the NHS and can be blamed for just about anything that ever goes wrong in the world. They won't ban tobacco. They'll ban anything that interferes with the money they make from selling it and then demonising it. Especially something as successful as Electrofag.

Real-smokers are not your enemy, Electrosmokers. We aren't doing the banning here.

They ultimately want to ban us all. Smokers of anything. Drinkers too. The overweight. Drivers. The list gets bigger by the day.

If we fight amongst ourselves it just makes their job easier. I am both smoker and Electrosmoker. I like both means of smoking. Fundamentalist smokers will call me a sell-out, fundamentalist Electrosmokers will call me a filthy smoker. I'm in the middle, not through some Prince Jugears-like messianic delusion but because I do what the hell I like with my life and at the moment, I like both smoking and Electrosmoking and can, and will, do both. They are not the same. If they were I'd choose one or the other. I choose both, just as I choose to like both tea and coffee, beer and lager, whisky and brandy. Liking one does not preclude liking the other.

We don't have to be enemies just because the Righteous find it advantageous to make it so. Divide and conquer has always been at the heart of their methods. Smokers and Electrosmokers are not natural enemies because banning one does not help the other in any way. Banning one group, in fact, weakens the case for the existence of the other. We are not different species.

We're just different kinds of smokers.

The Righteous hate us all.

Smoky-Drinky aftermath.

Late back from Smoky-Drinky tonight.

Here's something antismokers will consider perverse. It has been a still and gentle night, not too warm, low humidity, not even a breeze. We sat in the garden for our Smoky-Drinky. We all have seats and tables in the garden, you know.

Antismokers, especially the mindless of CAMRA, will be incensed. Why did we not simply go to the pub? After all, if it's nice outside, what can we object to? Should we not, in fine weather, be supporting those businesses that regard us as filth when it suits them?

The problem , antismokers, is that it is indeed very nice outside and you vicious swines want to have that to yourselves. You were happy to let us shiver in the rain and the snow and the wind but now, well, you want those spaces we earned and we have to just piss off to suit you. The publican support of their smoking customers? Zero. So on pleasant evenings we smoke outside at Smoky-Drinky and let the pubs revel in their Puritan customer base. Stand or fall, pubs, it makes no difference to the smokers you have discarded. We have our own places now. Increasingly, we don't need you any more. If you plan to whine, remember who chose this path. We didn't. You, pubs, still deny that banning us has had any effect. Feel free to continue with that. We no longer care. We are smoking and drinking and socialising without your help and we have gardens to smoke in when it's nice without your preferred customers nagging at us. You have become irrelevant to us and you, pubs, made that happen. So don't bleat when we brew and grow our own. You didn't want our custom anyway.

If there is no smoky-drinky near you, start one. Rules? Not open to the public, no money changes hands (strictly BYOB) and no advertising. Word will get around anyway and you'll be surprised how many non-smoking former pub customers are interested. Non-smoking is allowed at Smoky-Drinky. Antismoking is not. Non-smoking and non-drinking is allowed. Anti-either is not. We don't care what your preferences are as long as you don't try to impose them on us. Note that, pubs. Let one group impose their personal preferences on your business if you want. Accept the consequences. Or pretend they aren't happening. We smokers are out of your hair either way so you won't have to wash it any more. I realise how much of an inconvenience that was for you horrible scummy anti-soap people, but that inconvenience is no more. If you would like to stop whining about it three years after it became illegal for us to trouble you in this way, you might find yourself regarded as adult. Possibly for the first time in your life.

In other news. Stolen Child has been booked into a dog's home because his foster parents are on holiday. I have no experience at all of foster parenting and never will. Are these children really treated as pets by foster parents? Do you really put them in kennels when you go on holiday?

It's very late and I am very disgusted. There are Emails awaiting responses but I won't attempt them tonight.

Too much rage.

Friday 30 July 2010

Units, units everywhere and far too much to drink.

I wish.

I am still in the throes of setting up for a massive sample load and none of the scientific suppliers put prices on their websites. Except Sigma-Aldrich. Thanks, folks, that saves me a lot of phoning. For all the rest I have to hunt down the components, record the catalogue numbers and phone their sales desk in the morning to get prices. I won't order tomorrow, I don't yet know when the samples are likely to come and most of the stuff has a short shelf life. Ah, the joys.

There is a bottle of Laphroaig prostituting itself here (as in, I paid for it) and one of my good crystal glasses, so imbibing is restricted this evening but not zero. I have to get my recommended ten units per day, or I might turn into Don Shenker in the night. A horrible prospect, almost as horrible as waking up as the Dreadful Arnott. I couldn't write a story that scary.

On the back of the bottle is an interesting thing. A drawing of a bottle with '28 UK units' written in it. Whether this refers to the bottle in hand, or bottles in general, is not declared.

A drawing of a glass which looks like a pound-shop cheapie, not suitable for this particular beverage, labelled '1 UK unit per 25 ml serving'.

Unfortunately all my volumetric measuring gear is at the lab and I wouldn't want to drink from any of it anyway. 40% alcohol is not enough to be sure of killing Clostridium difficile. I have no idea of, nor interest in, the volume of serving, only of the state of the bottle at bedtime. I don't want to drink my whisky like you do, Righteous, with carefully decanted aliquots measured to the last drop. I have a glass and a bottle (bottle-glass, glass-bottle, aha ha ha) and I'll stop when I've had enough.

Next to these pictures telling us what a bottle and a glass look like (bottle-glass, glass-bottle, aha ha ha - damn, I'm still being haunted by Tommy Cooper) , is a little box headed 'UK Government's Sensible Drinking Limits'.

Read that again. It's straight out of Monty Python, or Spike Milligan's Q series. 'UK Government' and 'Sensible' in the same sentence constitutes an oxymoron anyway and since I have paid for this bottle, including their filthy levels of duty, I will not be told how to drink it. If I wanted to put the neck of the bottle in my mouth and down the lot in one go, I would. I'm not going to because that will make me feel a lot of pain and I'd be incomprehensible on the phone tomorrow, even if I woke up before the suppliers closed. The point is though, this bottle of lovely smoky drink is mine now. It's not my first. I don't need an instruction leaflet. Really. I've done this before and I'll do it again.

I am experienced at drinking far more than is recommended by 'sensible' drinking guidelines and I'm not dead. I have never been arrested for anything ever. I have never smashed a phone box. I have not peed on your dog nor have I tried to borrow money from your cat. I have not chatted up your pet pig (well, on that one I'm not so sure). I have spent an evening on the Glenfarclas 105 and woken up at home. I was younger then, it might not be an easy feat to repeat. But it's my life, nobody else's and if I choose to be continually surprised when it all flashes before my eyes at the end (That really happened? I thought I dreamt it) then that is nobody else's problem.

As for costing the NHS money, well you can sit on that argument and enjoy the thorns. The NHS has so far cost me enormous amounts of money and I have rarely even popped in to say hello. Yes, I expect them to fix me if I break. I've already paid for it. If you want to exclude me from NHS treatment then in all fairness, you must exclude me from paying for it. Otherwise, you have no argument at all.

The little text box continues...

Men - 3 to 4 units, Women - 2 to 3 units per day.

Leaving aside the blatant gender discrimination (yes it is, I know women who can drink more than me, and yes, they are scary), that only allows me 100 ml of this bottle of organic goodness for the entire night. I estimate that this crystal glass, even only a quarter filled, holds more than that and I've just reloaded it. Pour it down the sink and go to bed? Take a look at the price of this stuff and then dare to make such a suggestion! I'd wring out the bottle if I could. Wasting a glass of Clan Macgregor would be only mildly annoying. Wasting a glass of this would be heartbreaking.

It would be like telling smokers to leave a long stub when they're paying £5+ for a pack and therefore 25p+ per cigarette. Waste half of it? Not likely, is it?

So. My recommendation, which is only for me, is no more than 3-4 units per glass. More than that and I risk nodding off and wasting it. Note that my recommendation only applies to me. If you want a recommendation, invent your own. The alcohol control Righteous invented theirs, after all. It's all just made-up numbers so we might as well make up our own. They are just as valid.

Next up on the Text Box of Righteousness...

'Don't drink and drive.'

No problem. I don't drive. Those who don't drink are free to drive as much and as often as they like. Therefore, logically, those who don't drive...

Finally there is a website.

'For more information see'

I won't bother. I am drink-aware. I'm looking at a bottle of it right now. I am well aware of what would happen if I drank the whole bottle tonight. I would spend all day tomorrow feeling as if I had lost an intellectual discussion with fifteen skinheads, I'd say 'argh' and not much else and I'd crap like a power-washer filled with nitric acid. I would also have wasted £22 (special offer, Morrison's) because I could have done that with a blend at half the price. The pain would be the same.

If Don Shenker is around, I've just reloaded the glass again. There are no more than three units in there, so don't be alarmed. I won't be calling on the services of that NHS I've been paying for all these years just yet. I'll leave that to those who enjoy hospital-acquired infections.

I mean, why put all that simpleton-level instruction on the Laphroaig? Binge drinkers and alkies won't touch it. There is an ex-alcoholic who visits, and I'm sure he'd agree that an alcoholic wants as much alcohol as possible at the lowest price available. Alkies do not peruse the shelves deciding which to buy. They do not agonise between the Tormore and the Laphroaig when both are reduced to much the same price. They do not wonder whether a Singleton might be a better choice this time even if it is a few pounds more. Alkies go straight for the own-brand stuff and buy as many bottles as they have money for. Not the own-brand malts either.

An alcoholic will not pay £22 for a bottle of whisky when he/she can get two bottles of own-brand firewater for that price.

I won't finish this bottle tonight but I will make a dent in it that would have Don Shenker outraged. Nobody buys single malts for guzzling purposes. They are too expensive for that. These are sipping whiskies, not gulping whiskies. They are to be savoured and enjoyed.

I like to enjoy a tad more than the average at one sitting. I do not get into a state where I am incapable the next day. Well, unless it's a particularly excellent Smoky-Drinky and I have nothing important to do the next day but being a generally unsociable swine and one who considers holidays as an inconvenience, that's rare. I have never been drunk in the lab - to hell with the Elfin Safety rules, this is my safety I'm concerned with here and to me, that matters.

We don't need these silly little boxes of text. Not on the malts and not on the cheap stuff the alkies like. They are irrelevant when you're paying over £20 a bottle because irresponsible drinkers don't buy those bottles. They buy cheaper ones and they don't care what's on them because they don't read the labels. It is a complete and utter waste of time and money.

But hey, it's their time and our money.

The concept of 'individual people are different' is lost on the Righteous. They can't see it. There is no point trying to explain it to them because they will never see it. They are not capable of seeing it.

To them I am a problem drinker. Not because I cause problems - I don't - but because I ignore the guidelines. The problem is that I am not under control. The Righteous must bring me under control. They must make me fit the standard format.

All I can say, as I recharge my glass again, is good luck with that, Righteous.

2-3 units per day. Bottle-glass, glass-bottle, aha ha ha. Make it 2-3 per hour and we'll get somewhere.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Own goal.

A brand new, hot off the Standard Moron Press, Labour drone MP thought it would be a good idea to highlight how many ambassadors and such-like send their kids to private school at taxpayer's expense.

It's been costing us a lot, apparently.

What the idiot drone has failed to realise is that the Tories she's trying to blame for this have been in power for about two months. The declared costs are not about the last two months. They are either annual or tax-year costs. They either date to January or April. That, for any Labour readers, is before May.

Either way, every penny of the scandalous costs she has uncovered were spent by Labour. Not one penny can yet be attributed to the Cleggeron Coagulation.

The Grauniad, naturally, avoids any mention of dates.

Because we all know no Labour socialist would be so class-traitorous as to send their kids to private school...

...isn't that right, Diane?

Diane, meet Gloria. She's just dropped you right in it.

Electrosmoky gadgetry.

As I've said before, the two Electrofags I have (Titan and Njoy Pro Duo) are not compatible in terms of parts. You can't use the battery for one to drive the smoky parts of the other. You also need separate chargers for each, they don't work with each others' chargers.

However, all is not incompatible. The Titan portable charger thing, which is about the size of a ten-pack of Superkings, will charge Njoy batteries too. This works by pressure so the thread size is irrelevant.

Unfortunately you can't fit Njoy cartridges into the holes provided in the box. Not unless you remove the caps and that would hasten evaporation.

It made me wonder though. There is a market for such a device, charged from USB like the Titan one, with a range of inserts to suit any Electrofag. If someone came up with something like that, they wouldn't be selling any nicotine products at all so the Righteous couldn't touch them. They'd be selling a specialised battery charger.

How about a solar powered one? That's nearly-free electrosmoking, at least in the summer.


Tonight's ramblings are supported by the Glenfiddich 12-year-old, currently £7.50 off in Tesco here. If there's one thing better than a good whisky, it's paying below the asking price for a good whisky. Once minimum pricing and stupid levels of duty kick in, I expect Man with a Van to stock only the really good stuff and have told him this. There is no point in smuggling crap.

Some time back, someone left a comment asking about Grant's whisky. The comments appear in my inbox in chronological order and so do Emails. I have it set up to sort all blog-related stuff into a separate folder and the Smoky-Drinky Emails go in there too. So sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between Email and comment and sometimes it's not easy to find the comment on the blog. Depends how distracted I am.

Grant's whisky is a decent blend. I prefer the ale cask or sherry cask reserves to the 'standard' Grant's. I find them smoother. They tend to be priced a couple of quid higher but then they are often the subject of special offers so it's worth keeping an eye out. I also find, in general, Morrison's whisky prices are better than Tesco, unless Tesco is running a promotion. Tesco sell Ledaig, for example, at almost twice the price of Morrison's. That might only apply in this one town though. If you have multiple supermarkets nearby it's worth comparing prices. They can be massively different.

Whisky isn't just whisky. There are huge differences between different brands. One of the Smoky-Drinkers is very put off by peaty whiskies like Ardbeg or Bruaichladdich. I love them, but not all the time. I find the distinctive taste is dulled if you drink them too often so I space them out.

On blends, I really don't like Bells or Famous Grouse but the really cheap Clan MacGregor is not bad at all. It's not just a matter of price. It's all about personal preference. Bells is, to me, horrible but it sells very well so obviously a lot of people like it. They aren't buying it because it's cheap - it's not - so their tastes must lean that way.

Even among malts, there are massive differences. I'd pay £30 for Laphroaig cask strength but I wouldn't pay that much for Glen Grant. Both very nice but when you're talking malts, price vs taste is a major factor. You don't want to spend thirty quid on a bottle of something that's not absolutely great. Glen Grant is currently below £20 here and at that price it's a good buy. At £30 it wouldn't be. At that price I'd expect to be among the Ardbeg and the Laphroaig at the very least.

In the old days, miniatures were easy to come by. Now I only see them in special packages that cost a tenner - which is more than halfway to an entire bottle of Glen Grant or Ledaig and actually more than a whole bottle of Clan MacGregor. I'm not going to buy miniatures at that price. Sampling isn't so easy.

If you don't smoke, you can go to the pub and try a few. Not too many at once or you risk finding one you really like and forgetting the name of it in the morning. If you smoke and you go to the pub, well, be aware that they don't like you. I haven't set foot inside a pub this year and I don't feel the urge to bother. It now feels like entering a door that says 'You are filth and don't you forget it'. I certainly will never patronise those pubs that refuse Electrofag, ever again. But that's not for this post.

Perhaps I have an unfair advantage in the north of Scotland. There are pubs here that have optics full of whisky with one gin, one vodka and one rum gathering dust at the end. The selection available is enormous. Maybe prices further south are higher because maybe the turnover of good whisky is slower. Even when I've visited Wales, I have never seen the Penderyn in the shops. It might only be available online, I don't know. Certainly the range available is more limited there but then, if the customers are buying Welsh Bitter (gas in a glass) then that's what they'll sell.

But enough rambling. I've spent the day pricing some work and had an interesting phone call. One of the companies is concerned that I might be overloaded. I like that. If they think I'm in pain, they'll pay more. Okay, sixty samples at once will be difficult and will probably be last-bus-home stuff but it can be done and I'm very happy to do it for the right price.

It's how I buy the good whisky, after all.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Death's day off.

You wait around for the big contracts and then three come along at once. Literally. Three seriously big ones.

So here's a little entertainment while I set up three entirely different courses of work. It's one for the next book.

Death's day off

Seventy-four years I’ve lived in this town and in all those years, nothing has happened.

Oh, I don’t mean to imply the place is frozen in time, like some static museum exhibit. It’s not like that although on some hot summer days you might think it. People come and go, they marry, have children, die, paint their houses, mow their lawns, go to work. Everyone goes to Church on Sunday. The sun comes up and the sun goes down. That’s about as much excitement as I ever saw before today and I liked it that way.

We’re off the beaten track, so to speak. Forested mountain at the back of the village, Lake Petri at the front. No main roads within twenty miles and the one narrow road that comes here goes nowhere else. Once in a while a car shows up and we all stop to gawp at it. Nobody has a car here. Never felt the need for one. Horses go where cars can’t and there’s no petrol or oil around here anyway. It’s interesting to see the cars, to watch the styles change as the years pass.

Their occupants never change. Loud mouthed and indignant as if it’s our fault the road stops here. Like we’re in the way or something. They ask for directions and we laugh at them. There’s only one road in and out, so there’s only one direction they can go. After that, few know and none care to say. They want to think us yokels, we’ll act like yokels for them.

Ah, but I’m rambling. The prerogative of age, and the consequence of a life spent telling tales. I’ll try to stick to the point.

This morning, just like on many previous mornings, I sat on my porch and watched ripples on the lake. The sun rises over the mountain so it doesn’t strike the water near town before mid-morning. On a calm day with just a hint of a breeze, it’s something to see. Light banishes shadow, pushes it back over the town and into the mountain, and I can sit here and watch it happen. The fish rise when the flies get active and they can jump pretty high when they see a juicy one. Everything was peaceful and as close to silent as the world can get. That was when the man popped out of the air.

He landed in a heap, stood, dusted himself off, stared around and started in my direction before my mind came to terms with the fact of his existence. Thoughts moved faster through my head than they had in a long while. Was he real? Was I hallucinating? Had I fallen asleep and started dreaming? Was he Death, finally catching up with me in this little backwater I hoped he had forgotten about?

Whoever he was, he was having a bad hair day. A faded brown streaked with grey, it rampaged in lunatic strands on top of his skull and stuck out in tufts on either side. Whenever he looked around I had the impression the back of his head was in the process of exploding. The face attached to this wild growth was pale and round, centred on a snub nose on which sat little round glasses. These darkened as he approached. I had heard of such things but never seen it before.

His mouth worked as though speaking, a narrow opening above a chin so loaded with flesh it gave the impression of a man looking over a stack of pancakes.

Below the chins was a body so round it must surely look the same from every direction. Tapered trunks for legs and arms completed the man, and the whole was clad in what looked like a long white coat. He strode straight up to me, showing no concern at disturbing my morning, and flat out said “Who are you?”

“Huh?” I took a deep breath and waited until I was sure I could be civil. “Who am I? I live here. Who are you to ask who am I?”

He blinked. His mouth opened and closed a few times. “Oh. Right. Sorry, I don’t spend a lot of time around people. I’m Professor Wyndham Blackthorn. Now, who are you?”

“That’s better.” I considered rising from my seat to shake his hand, but the manner of his arrival made me cautious about touching him. If he vanished while I was in contact, I might go too. “I’m Zachary Tilson, that’s who I am.” I jerked my thumb over my shoulder. “That’s my house.” I jabbed my forefinger at his feet. “And that’s my land you’re standing on.”

Blackthorn looked at the ground. He lifted one foot, then the other, as if he was inspecting the ground beneath them, although I doubted he could see either foot.

“Ah,” he said. “Land, yes. Where is this land, I wonder? It’s something I should have asked you first, I suppose. Where am I?”

“On my land.” I leaned forward in my chair. “And making a sizeable dent in it too, I think.”

“No, I mean what place? What town, what grid reference. Oh, wait, I forgot.” He took a little black box from his pocket and pressed a few buttons. His face crumpled into what might have been a frown. “Oh, dear, no. There’s nothing here. According to this I’m way off any road and standing on the edge of Lake Petri.”

“Sounds right to me. What’s that gadget anyway?”

“GPS.” Blackthorn held the thing up. It was a little box with a screen on it, showing a map that was too small to be of any use to anyone. All it had was the lake and shore. He sighed, shook it a few times and finally put it back in his pocket. “So, is that lake Petri there or not?”

“That’s the lake, sure enough. It’s been there since before I was born. As has this town, Gemella. You, on the other hand, are new and surprising. We don’t like new and surprising here.” I thought of asking about that GPS thing but decided against it. Blackthorn said he was a professor. Professors like to know about things ordinary folk neither know nor care about. It makes them feel important, and who was I to spoil it for him? Yet my interest, long dormant, was waking. “How did you get here?”

“Ah, that’s an interesting story,” he said. I had no doubt of it, so I made no objection when he took the seat next to mine. Instead, I took out my pipe and sat back to listen.

Blackthorn stared across the lake. It seemed he regarded his statement as an end in itself, rather than the opening to the story I expected to hear. I coughed and raised one eyebrow. He shook himself and gave me a quizzical look.

“Well?” I tapped tobacco into my pipe. “You said it was an interesting story. Interest me or go away. Your choice.”

“Oh. Yes.” Blackthorn shifted in his seat. “Well, I can’t stay long. I have to keep moving, you see?”

It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. As it was, I raised both. “What? You’re on the run? I doubt you could run anywhere. Anyway, you don’t look much like a hardened criminal to me.”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that.” Laughter made Blackthorn ripple like jelly in the hands of Shaky Jim, the town drunk. “I have to keep going because, well, I made a deal with someone powerful. Someone you can’t break a deal with.”

“What, you mean you’re involved with the Mafia or something?” The idea made me uneasy. This quiet little town could do without James Cagney types visiting us. The films Bill Thorpe showed in his little front-room cinema made clear what to expect from organised crime.

“No, certainly not. I’m an academic. I would never get involved in anything illegal.”

“You’re making no sense.” I struck a match and fired up my pipe. “First you say you’re on the run, now you say you haven’t broken any laws. This story of yours isn’t really very well thought out, now is it?” A few puffs brought a glow to my pipe’s bowl. The tobacco was well alight. “Start at the beginning, skip the dull parts and finish when you dropped out of the air onto my land.”

“Right.” Blackthorn took a few deep breaths, closed his eyes for a moment, then nodded. “It started when I first claimed to have invented a teleport. That’s it. That’s when it started.”

“A what? You mean a ‘beam-me-up-Scotty machine’? Is that how you got here?” I held up my hand. “Sorry, I’m getting ahead of the story. Please, continue.”

“Well, yes, I suppose you could call it that. The thing is, I hadn’t actually invented one at the time. You know how it goes. A few drinks, other scientists bragging about their successes, the conversation gets out of hand…”

I chuckled. The town’s one bar hosted conversations like that all the time. Not wishing to distract Blackthorn from his tale, I kept silent.

“Well, the trouble with scientists is that they never let you forget claims you’ve made. I really was working on a teleport but it had never worked. Not at all. I had to demonstrate it, having made the claim, but it was a failure. I was about to look like a complete idiot.” Blackthorn ran his tongue across his lips. “So I accepted a little help from someone I shouldn’t.”

“Oh?” A chill ran through me. Dark, heavy clouds covered the sun. I hoped Blackthorn’s story was short because something told me I should not invite this man inside my house. I should send him on his way immediately but I wanted to hear his story first.

Blackthorn stared out over the lake. “I had been visited several times over the past months by a man who said he could make my machine work. There was a price, he said, but he never made clear what that price was to be. Naturally, I refused his help every time. It’s not the same, you know, having someone else help you with an invention. It wouldn’t have been entirely mine. I was close, I could feel it, but the answer seemed just out of reach.” He sighed and made a futile attempt to smooth his hair. “Then I made the boast. I had to deliver. When he came that last time I agreed to let him help. I wasn’t paying anything until I’d seen it work, though. He might have been some crooked sleight-of-hand conman for all I knew.”

“He wasn’t.” I realised I had stopped breathing and forced myself to start again. “You made a pact with the Devil himself, and now you’re brought him here.” If I had been a younger man I would have surged from my seat and flattened this devil-worshipping blob of a man myself. As it was, my arthritic joints gradually lifted me from my seat. I intended to go inside and call the minister. He would know what to do.

“No.” Blackthorn stared at me with sad eyes. “It wasn’t the Devil.”

The sky had become dark. A stiff breeze blew in across the lake, bringing chill air straight into my face. “Who, then?” I could think of no other explanation for Blackthorn’s success.

“I made a deal with Death.” Blackthorn rose from his seat with an ease that belied his bulk. His white coat had become a dark grey, and now sported a hood. “My machine worked, I was the talk of the scientific establishment for a long time. Of course, you won’t have heard about it here. The military took over the project as soon as they heard about it. It’s been hushed.” His bulk stretched. He grew taller and a little slimmer. In his hand, a shadow formed. A long staff with a curved blade.

I fell back onto the porch, my heart pounding.

“Death wanted some time off.” Blackthorn’s eyes showed desperation. “I hate to do this, but really I have no choice. I’m told it doesn’t hurt, if that’s any consolation.”

The tip of the blade touched my chest.

Monday 26 July 2010

Real life intrudes

Exceptionally busy due to one of those phone calls that say 'can you do this really quick?' I like those. They don't haggle over the price.

So no time to get high blood pressure over the news. Back tomorrow.


Jeremy Taylor thought he was singing a comic song. Nowadays there are more jobsworths than ever before and they all think they have the power of judge and jury over everyone else. If he had known what was coming, this song might have had a darker edge. If it was written today it would probably be by Slipknot or Rammstein and would end with the jobsworth's head on a spike.

There was a short story, long ago (1957), written by Brian Aldiss, called 'All the World's Tears'. In it, the wild man foxes a platoon of robotic guards, and one gardener robot, by using their inherent jobsworth attitudes. Approached by the guard robots, he pulls two branches off a bush and stands still, holding them out. The exchange goes something like this (from memory, I can't hunt out the book now):

Robots: Identify yourself.

Man: I am a rose tree.

Robot: Rose trees cannot speak.

Gardener robot: This is not a rose tree. This is a breaking buckthorn.

Man. I am a breaking buckthorn. I cannot speak.

The robots are thrown into confusion. The guards want to destroy the man/bush but the gardener cannot allow it. Plants are his job, not the guards'. Yet it is not a plant he recognises so it must be an intruder and he can't deal with intruders. Yet it has leaves and has stated that it cannot speak... None of the possible scenarios presented by the wild man fit into robot logic. It's a much longer exchange than above and if you ever find a copy of the story, well worth reading.

The author notes that if the man had been faced with one robot he would have died. Faced with robots of different jobsworthiness, he set one against the other. The robots had to retire to ask their owner what to do. The wild man went on his way.

It is rare to encounter multiple jobsworths. On trains, there are these. There are pseudoplods in the street and the old pompous parkie can now arrest you for having a bottle of wine with your picnic (but he'll leave you alone if there are ten of you in Burberry with a case of Stella each). Multiple jobsworths could be fun and it is inevitably going to happen. An off-duty C3PO is bound to fall foul of Train Jobsworth sooner or later. Train Jobsworth is bound to meet Park Jobsworth eventually.

The most likely place to meet multiple Jobsworths is currently just outside a railway station. If you take a photo, are you under the jurisdiction of Train Jobsworth or Street Jobsworth? If you can take a photo of a station from within a shopping mall, that also brings Mall Jobsworth into the game.

None of them have actual powers of arrest, any more than the straight 'citizen's arrest' which would now see the rest of us in court, charged with 'interfering with a criminal in the course of his duties'. See, the police need criminals in order to make targets. They can't have the rest of us taking their ticked boxes off the streets. If you want human rights, break a law. You don't get them otherwise.

So far, the opportunity to play the rigid logic of one jobsworth against the different, but equally rigid, logic of another has not yet arisen. It is bound to arise, as they continue to proliferate, and when it does I hope to be there.

They certainly do not have the power to delete photographs. The police do not have that power either. If they believe a crime has been committed then they are demanding the destruction of evidence and for that, they should face prison.

They never do. They don't even face a telling off. That is why the jobsworths proliferate. They are never accountable for their brainless actions. None are fired. None are prosecuted. None are even publically named. They can continue to be utter wastes of space with impunity.

If a Train Jobsworth claims he is making demands based on Section 44, is he a police officer? Has his chief constable authorised the application of Section 44 in that area at that time? If not, then he is impersonating a police officer, is he not? He is making a false arrest, is he not? Demanding the destruction of evidence when he suspects criminal activity is a serious crime, is it not? If I did the same thing, what would happen to me - and why will it never happen to him?

As long as the jobsworths are protected, they will only get worse. One, at least, must be prosecuted for his actions in order to send the message to the others that they are not police. They have no authority. They cannot get away with picking on the innocent while ignoring the problems they are allegedly paid to deal with.

Until it happens, they will continue to get worse. This new government has done nothing to stop them. The Cleggeron Coagulation is already on track to be just as despised as the Brown Gorgon and the Tiny Blur.

It seems they want it that way.

Sunday 25 July 2010

A little light relief.

Not about smoking. I've been getting a bit one-track on that lately.

Unfortunately the Amazing Horse does not allow embedding so here's the link. It is the one and only time I have heard the phrase 'custom styling' in that context and I doubt the incongruity will ever be matched. Don't be drinking anything. Especially not lemonade.

Oh, and via Pat Nurse, here's something highly amusing about smoking. For those who need a fix.

Saturday 24 July 2010

The decline and fall of the Pubco Empire.

No visit to Smoky-Drinky tonight. I spent much of the day battling the weeds, and am knackered. Battle will have to resume tomorrow because the warm and wet weather means they're winning. I don't want to use Chemical Death Spray in places where I'm growing edibles so it's up close and personal, this war. Somehow that feels more satisfying. A pile of weed corpses and a clear patch of brutally depopulated soil brings out the Genghis in me. Tomorrow I might go for the Vlad approach and impale all the thistles on sharpened bamboo. Well, if I have to do it, I might as well enjoy it.

On the lawn I use Verdone Chemical Death because I don't eat grass. Great stuff. It kills them slowly so the grass has time to fill in the holes. I can watch the swines shrivel and die over days while cackling like Torquemada. But enough of these ramblings from a herbicidal maniac.

Smoky-Drinky has spread further and faster than I'd imagined. The Telegraph even has a Pub Shed category in its gardening section (tipped by Lilith). The antismokers will say 'that doesn't prove it has anything to do with the smoking ban' to which I must respond - why else would anyone do it? My non-smoking neighbour has a bar in his house but not in his shed. I have considered one in the shed but not in the house. Why? Because smokers know what's coming next. No point building a bar you soon won't be allowed to smoke in.

As Mr. A points out in the comments, the downside of Smoky-Drinky is that it can't be open to the public. The only new people you'll meet are friends of friends. No random conversations with tipsy strangers. That will change in time but for now, we have to be careful. If a malicious and spite-driven ASH homunculus manages to just walk in and isn't challenged and ejected, they will argue that we are 'open to the public' and wham - no smoking. Don't expect any court in the land to take the smokers' side, no matter how ludicrous and trumped-up the charge.

The pubs are dying. Some apparently welcome the bitter embrace of a plain and monochrome Puritan future which doesn't include them but others are trying their best to keep the customers the Government has banned. If I lived near this pub I'd visit often. Until the first antismoker whine about smoking outside. In the absence of any support from the pub - in the form of telling the hideous harridan to stop harassing their customers, or at least a sign to that effect - it would be my last visit.

It's not just the smoking outside all winter that gets to me. It's that in summer, when it's actually nice to go outside, those of us who supported the pubs through the cold and the wet have no reciprocal support at all when the antismokers come outside and harass us out there too.

We're not going to get the pubs back from the Righteous until they are totally broken. Until pubs whose customers drive there close down because those customers can't drink anything at all, so they stop bothering. Until the minimum pricing makes that one-visit-a-week into one-a-month.

In fact, nothing will ever change as long as one-man operations are closing. The only way to get the pubs to sit up and take notice would be to bring down a big chain like Weatherspoons or Harvester. I don't need to boycott them. I've never visited their pubs anyway. They don't look like any pub I'd want to visit. Pubs with swings and slides in the garden are not for the likes of me.

The pubcos tend to be town-centre operations. Few of their customers drive, and they can afford to set up smoking areas. They are happy to see the competition wiped out by these controls and bans. As long as they are profiting, the controls will continue.

Yet it will take the total collapse of the pub, restaurant and possibly hotel trade too before anyone in the Coagulation takes the slightest notice of what the smokers (and increasing numbers of non-smokers) are saying. Forget Labour. They will continue to follow the ASH line that there is no effect on pubs even when there isn't a single pub left in the country.

Increasingly, it looks as though the Coagulation are just as entranced by the Dreadful Arnott and her sultry linen bloomers. No, they are not blue with 'Sunday' written on them. They are brown, with 'February' written on them. This woman has control over the thoughts of the Cleggeron to an extent that makes me suspect witchcraft. We can't burn her unless we do it outside. Personally I'd like to coat her entirely in nicotine patches. Then we'd see just how addictive it really is. But that will have to wait.

If we want the pubs back, we have to bring them down. Not the local pub, owned and run by Angus McFlatulent and the only pub in the land selling Jock McSquirty's Bowel Purger, but the big ones. The ones run by suited money-counters. The ones who see their customers not as people, not as friends and regulars, but as monetary units. If their monetary units start to decline then, and only then, will the lobbying change and the Dreadful Arnott be toppled from her broomstick.

Those are the ones who have the ear of the Cleggeron and they are delighted to see small rivals pushed out of the market. CAMRA are fools, the pubs and breweries they want to see survive are the very ones the pubcos want destroyed. CAMRA have played along with all the controls, thinking it won't affect them. 'Can't drive after one pint now that the limit is reduced? Take public transport,' they say, ignoring the detail that public transport to rural areas doesn't generally run much after 7 or 8 pm, and doesn't always stop near the pub anyway. Just as they declare the smoking ban irrelevant, they will declare the tighter blood-alcohol limits irrelevant. Until the small breweries start closing and then they'll shout and scream - but they still won't blame the smoking ban or the drink-drive limits.

Outside smoking areas provided by pubs are all well and good but they should not be necessary. They certainly should not be subject to the 50% rule that demands the smokers are exposed to the elements. there is no logical reason to demand that. It is pure spite.

Outside smoking areas are not even outside smoking areas all year round. When the weather is terrible, then those antismokers are happy to see us shivering out there. When it's fine, they want the outside areas as well as the inside ones and we are expected to just get out of their way.


If a pub wants smoker business then smokers must demand year-round support. If the pub is happy to let its fine-weather customers abuse its year-round regulars then smokers should simply stop going.

We are not going to get the pubs back until the entire industry is broken. The sooner it is broken, the sooner we get it back and can start fixing it. There will be losses to small pubs but that is going to happen even if we sit back and accept all the bans. We won't save the pubs by being meek and subservient. We have Smoky-Drinky, the antismokers have the pubs. All of them.

We cannot have it back whole but we can have it broken.

So let's break it.

Smoky Drinky - the next generation.

I have a small and somewhat decayed 8'x6' shed with one little window. It's full of junk including a petrol mower I have decided to sell because I only have a small amount of grass left. A cheapo electric can deal with it. Once the petrol mower - and petrol - is gone, I'd be happy to smoke in there. The roof is re-felted so it is at least waterproof. It would be nice to make it a smoky-drinky venue but it would only accommodate small gatherings.

Smoky-drinky in the house is fine but for whoever is hosting it, it's not the same. It's not 'going to a pub night', it's 'hosting a pub night'. With a separate venue we could all enjoy the feeling of not-at-home.

It can't be open to the public but it would at least give the feel of something that isn't 'home' and where nobody has to worry about being the host. In my shed I am not the host, just another smoky-drinker.

It is the next stage in Smoky-Drinky evolution and when these places appear they are likely to resemble the photo here.

Yes, it looks like a frontier saloon or a Middle Ages ale house but that's where the original pub started. The ones we could smoke in. It has character and most importantly, it represents real, free choice. Local solutions by local people, eh, Cameroid? Not quite so keen on this one, are you? You Tefal-headed totalitarian. As for the Clog who is as wooden as his namesake, look up 'liberal' and then delete it from your party's name because you, you suited weasel, are nothing of the kind.

ASH won't like it. CAMRA won't like it. The pubcos won't like it. The Cleggeron Coagulation won't like it. All the more reason to do it. Screw them all. In Smoky Drinky you can smoke, Electrosmoke or not smoke. You can drink booze or tea or water or nothing at all. The one thing you cannot do is demand that anyone else does what you want to do. If you want to make such demands, see that bit of wood with hinges? It's called a door and it's what you use to leave. We smoke inside and outside and if you object, the solution is simple. Go to a 'proper' pub. If there are any left.

Smoky-drinky has rules. We cannot be open to the public and we cannot advertise our places. if we do, we are deemed a public place and we can't smoke in there. We have no membership, no fees, or any kind of formal register of members because if we do, we become a private club and we can't smoke in there. We have no central supply of drink or food, each smoky-drinker brings their own and we pool it all. No money changes hands in Smoky-drinky because if it does, we are a place of business and we can't smoke in there.

These things make Smoky-drinky small and isolated. There are Smoky-drinkies everywhere but we can't find or talk to each other because we are always wary of strangers. That wariness is what makes Leafar's site so difficult to maintain. A great idea but we're paranoid about ASH infiltrators. Smoky-drinky is not illegal as long as we stick to the rules, but there are many who would like to make us illegal and these days they need only the flimsiest of pretexts.

What we need is a flag flying over that shack. One we can recognise and approach, knowing that we are kindred spirits.

The actual flag is in flux but credit must go to the original determinedly anonymous one (a non-smoker) who started the ball rolling. One day, Anon, your name will be carved into the wall of every New Pub. Saint Whassname, the one who showed how to unite the Smoky-drinkers.

Okay, that's enough embarrassment for Anonymous. ASH are probably already hunting for him and they won't get the name from me.

Let's face it, the Old Pub signed their own death warrant when they threw us out. It's a slow and lingering death but they are dying by their own hand. The days of the Old Pub are now numbered by the lowering of drink-drive limits and the hysteria over shandies. Old Pub, your time is up. To paraphrase Videodrome, 'Long Live the New Pub'.

Those frontier shacks are the way forward for smokers and drinkers. The only ones who can't get in are antismokers.

But then, they won't want to. Will they?

Put the drink down first.

The town of Shitterton have decided that losing their town sign to thieving tourists is such a pain in the arse that they have a huge pile at the entrance now.

The town sign is now a ton and a half of rock with 'Shitterton' carved into it. A thousand years from now, archaeologists are going to get a surprise.

"It says what?"

"Shitty town, I think."

"Can't be right. Must be some kind of signpost for Glasgow."

Captain Ranty thinks they should just change the name of the town. I disagree. I think they should capitalise on it. Toilet humour is great unless you're French and have one of those big plates with a hole in. Those are not funny at all, especially if someone gets explosive diarrhoea. Likewise the Rochdale Squit-Squats. How are you supposed to smoke and read while holding your underwear out of the line of fire? Some of us find squatting a very difficult position to hold so the aim is likely to be wobbly too.

British toilet humour even extends to crediting the first flush toilets to Thomas Crapper. It's probably true, it's that kind of country.

Instead of changing the name, I'd have a little shop in town selling replica signs, including little replicas of the stone sign. Models of the public toilets. Joke signs and stickers -

'Shitterton, Proud to be Number Two!'

'Welcome to Shitterton. Drop your load and relax.'

Keyrings. 'I dropped my keys in Shitterton'.

Postcards of the locals sewage works. 'Up to our necks in Shitterton and loving every minute'.

Tourist information - 'Shitterton, warm and damp all year round'.

With the British sense of humour they'd make a fortune. Even if there's nothing for tourists there, they'd get day-trippers all summer just to buy the trinkets. A website selling that sort of thing would bring in money too.

There is a serious side to the story. The great slab of rock was organised and paid for by local people. The council chipped in but only after it was all arranged privately. It was done entirely voluntarily and entirely locally. Then they said this:

Mr Ventham said he felt the project was a good example of David Cameron's Big Society - local communities taking action in their own interest.

"I am not sure if he is expressly thinking about Shitterton signposts, but I think he is talking about people getting off their backsides and doing things," he added.

It is a perfect example of what the Cameroid's Big Society should have been. However, I have a feeling he won't like it all that much. His version of 'voluntary' is national service. I don't think any of those in power want people to do things for themselves, only to do as they are told.

No, the Cameroid won't like it. Because he didn't control it.

I, however, think it's excellent. Local problem solved by local people with no official in sight. If only we all had councils who would just let something like this happen.

Friday 23 July 2010

Oh, they'll never ban drinking in pubs.

I have noticed for some time now that I get sneers and dirty looks from certain till operators whenever I buy a bottle of whisky. Okay, I do buy more than the average shopper, but I have never shopped drunk, nor even with whisky breath. I like to be able to see what I'm buying.

These superior looks have been steadily increasing until they are now approaching the look of disgust worn by many staff who have to sell cigarettes. They don't have to, of course. They could ask to be transferred to the car park where they could push trolleys around all day. The guy who does that job could have theirs. He won't like that. He smokes. Being outside suits him.

The denormalisation of alcohol is gathering pace. Just as the very mention of tobacco makes antismoker's blood pressure rise to unsustainable levels (tobacco tobacco tobacco tobacco - must get that on a T-shirt. Front and back), now it seems the slightest trace of alcohol gets the hysterical feeble-minded in all of a tizzy.

It has now come to pass that a child was excluded from school for drinking a can of shandy. Not pub shandy, not half-and-half beer and lemonade. The soft drink shandy. You know, the one with less alcohol than a spoonful of cough medicine. Not only is it legal to give this to children, it is perfectly legal for a child to buy it themselves. They can't get drunk on it. Nobody could contain enough volume to get drunk on it.

Yet the sight of this drink sent the teachers into apoplexy. They didn't just confiscate it (which would in itself be theft, because there was nothing illegal in this child having it), they excluded him from his primary school and put a note on his file that he was 'found with alcohol'.

That sounds like defamation to me. The child has been punished for doing something that is perfectly legal. He has also been branded as a drinker, for drinking a perfectly legal drink sold to him perfectly legally by Local Shop.

Teachers at Edenbridge Primary School, Kent, believed it was alcoholic but the drink, a traditional children's favourite, contains just a tiny fraction of alcohol and was sold to the youngster legally.

These are not just adults, who presumably had access to this same drink as children. These are teachers! These are the ones who are teaching the next generation and they don't even know what shandy is! They should be embarrassed to show their faces but we just know they're going to brazen it out. Pomposity is more important than intelligence where the Righteous are concerned.

What have Local Shop to say in all this? They have done nothing wrong at all here.

A staff member at the shop said they didn't realise it contained any alcohol until they heard what had happened to Asa. They have now stopped selling the drink to children.

What happened to the child had nothing to do with the drink. It was entirely due to the hysterical response of a group of morons who are too stupid to realise they are stupid. Local Shop has caved in and a legally available soft drink will no longer be available to children even though they are perfectly entitled to buy it. Local Shop are idiots too.

Surely though, once the school realised that it was a legal soft drink and not a bottle of Smirnoff, they would apologise and set things right? Not a bit of it.

But the school's headteacher, Dr Rosemary Addison, defended the three-day exclusion, saying: 'We are keen to have Asa returning to school. However, we have a responsibility to take the issue of alcohol on the school premises, regardless of the percentage, very seriously.

Then you cannot permit alcohol-based hand washes, cough syrups, perfumes, or anything else that contains alcohol on the premises. This woman is a grade A addled harridan and should not be allowed anywhere near children nor in any position of authority until she grows a brain.

It sounds insane and I'm sure many readers are becoming enraged. I'm also sure that almost every smoker out there is just thinking 'here we go again'.

It's the same thing. You antismokers, you know how you assume that smoking is the only cause of lung cancer, that all smokers get it and that even by looking too hard at a distant smoker you can get it too? That hysterical response was instilled in you by these same people. Now you are going to shit yourselves when you take a dose of medicine and then read the label. It's stronger than shandy. You won't be able to drive for a month. Children will be rushed into hospital when their parents find out what's in the handwash. Exposed to alcohol? Certain death sentence. A ban in public places (including pubs) is a matter of months away now.

Here it comes. CAMRA won't do anything because they'll think it doesn't apply to them. They'll call for stricter controls on non-real-ale drinks and actually believe they'll get away with it.

The child's parents should sue for defamation on behalf of their son. His school record shows that he was caught with alcohol and that will now follow him forever. It does not state' legally available children's shandy', it states 'alcohol'. The school will not change it and I don't think they should. I think they should delete it altogether.

These people are getting away with more and more ridiculous controls over our lives and they must be stopped. Exposing them in the papers does not work, they genuinely believe that reality is what they say it is and they cannot accept they are wrong. Hound them out of their jobs. Sue them. Boycott any organisation that does this. Keep children out of school - if that's the quality of the teachers at that school then there's no point sending them there anyway.

Big Society, eh, Cameron? So far it's looking rather more Fourth Reich than New Freedom.

All those shopkeepers who cave in to these thugs, all those lunatics who scream 'But it had alcohol'... get a grip.

Preferably on a Righteous throat.

Soon you won't be allowed to buy chips in a chip shop if you have a child with you. You might put salt on those things!

Money and smoke.

One of the great things about being on the line between Electrofag and real tobacco is nights like this. Nights when you thought you had enough tobacco to last until tomorrow but can't sleep. Too tired to go out looking for an all-night tobacco source but not tired enough to go to bed and with only a paltry wad in the tobacco pouch. I'll want a real one in the morning with my after-shower coffee and I really don't want an Albert Steptoe re-rolled dog-ends one. I had quite enough of those in my utterly penniless days. They are desperation personified.

I have loads of Electrofag juice and a good supply of charged batteries. I can't run out of at least some sort of smoking.

The Titan is great for experimentation but for general 'realistic' smoking with no messing about, the Njoy Pro Duo wins. I have one cartridge that is on its third recharged battery. The menthol part has long since expired but it's still smoking.

For the Titan, if you smoke rollups, I recommend the 'Virginia' flavour. That's closest (to my tastes anyway, everyone is different). For the Njoy there are a limited range of flavours. It is a basic smoking machine for those who just want to smoke. The Titan is for those who want more than just the 'normal' smoking experience, those who want to get into Twilight Zone smoking. Really, the makers of the Titan have much more to fear from ASH than the makers of the Njoy. With the Njoy, you get the taste of tobacco. With the Titan, you can get the smoking equivalent of alcopops. Strawberry flavour, nicotine free, ideal for cheeeldren. Don't give it to your children, Antisocial Services will go ballistic and have you forcibly sterilised and your lips sewn up.

The Titan makers were extraordinarily stupid to cosy up to ASH. They are ASH's worst nightmare come true and there they are saying 'Go on, slap us one'. Prats. The Njoy style Electrofag is less of a threat to ASH and yet they will have nothing to do with the Dreadful Arnott and her collective. You figure it out.

There is much talk of saving money by refilling cartridges. Really, if you are a smoker who uses Electrofag wholly or partially, there is no need to ever refill cartridges. You are already saving a lot of money.

I bought empty Titan cartridges and a range of flavoured juices because I wanted to try the weird stuff. Yes, it's cheaper than buying filled cartridges but then if you buy filled cartridges, it still costs you a load less than tobacco. Especially if you don't have a handy Man with a Van and have to pay UK prices.

With the Njoy, I've looked at the options for refilling cartridges but have come to the conclusion 'Why bother?' The odd flavours aren't available and if I want odd flavours I have the Titan.

Would buying both be extravagant? It would cost just shy of £100 to have both and while that sounds a hell of a lot, it's much less than twenty packs of readymades at UK prices. On a smoking budget, if you're paying UK prices, Electrofag is a drop in the ocean.

The cartridge I currently have on the Njoy is on its third rechargeable battery and still smoking. The menthol flavour is gone but it still smokes. I'm not desperate about the menthol, I just like it. I could try refilling it but why? It would save money but if I was so desperate to save money I wouldn't be smoking at all and I wouldn't be drinking good whisky either (actually, tonight, I'm not. I'm drinking Courvoisier and I'm past caring about the spelling). Fact is, even if I bought prefilled cartridges for both the Electrofags and never refilled at all, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than UK-price smoking and even rivals Man with a Van's prices.

Critics will say it's not the same as real smoking. It's not. It's something different. It's a new and interesting (to me) relaxation thing that is like, but not the same as, smoking. It's not for everyone. Smoking is not for everyone either. Some like it, some hate it. We could call it the Marmite Effect. Some people love it, some people hate it. Should we ban Marmite?

Both the Electrofags I have weigh about 15 grams. Far heavier than a normal cigarette and they feel wrong - but you do get used to that. Probably easier for a readymade smoker because they are the same size as readymades.

You can get used to them. Even when mixing them with real tobacco, as I do. Neither of those I have is the same as real smoking but I don't see it as a replacement. I see it as an optional extra, a new thing altogether, a different way to smoke. Yes, Electrofag has saved me money and on nights like tonight, it has saved me from the depressing 'I'm on short rations' feeling but saving money is not high on a smoker's agenda. If it was, they would all make more effort to find a Man with a Van and nobody would give a damn about the moves to hide tobacco displays because nobody would be buying it here anyway.

Note to the Righteous: There is an all-night garage two miles from here and an all-night Tesco even closer. If I was a true addict, wouldn't I rather drag myself there by my fingernails than 'make do' with smoker methadone?

Electrofag is not smoking. It's something new. Something different. Electrosmoking. I like it, others might or might not. I like it as well as, not instead of, tobacco smoking. Some prefer it. Some prefer tobacco. To me, that is not a problem. Do what you prefer should be the whole of the law (someone is going to spot that link) as long as it harms nobody else.

Smoking harms nobody else. The harm it does to the smoker is being increasingly questioned thanks to the Dreadful Arnott banging on about her monsters from the Id (now come on, you have to spot the link there. We are talking about a Shakespearean play developed for modern times).

Electrosmoking can't harm anyone at all. It just can't. Just accept it and call me Debbie if the drone mind insists. Seriously though, there really is nothing in Electrosmoke but flavour, nicotine (not always) and food grade thickener. it cannot hurt anyone and as for 'nicotine is poison', there is more nicotine in NHS-prescribed patches and gum than in Electrofag. Are doctors deliberately trying to kill us? Or are they, perhaps, lying? One or the other. Time to choose.

Money is an artificial construct. It does not actually matter at all. Going from full-smoker expense to save-money-by-refilling insistence is merely an artefact of the money illusion. The purpose of government is to collect as much of the illusory substance known as 'money' as they can. Have you heard lately how we all have to save the economy? When did the economy last save you? The politicians need us to believe that money is important and that 'saving' and 'lending' matter.

No, what matters to them are the numbers in their bank account. Nothing else.

Smokers must not add to those numbers. Nor should drinkers.

Find a Man with a Van. There is bound to be one nearby.

Soon he'll be selling Electrofag juice too.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Yo ho ho and a herd of cats.

'Jolly Roger' is taken. Perhaps we could call it 'The Debbie'.

Thanks to the anonymous commenter, who wishes to remain so, who has produced the first design for the Smoky-Drinky flag. A death's head, naturally, with stained teeth and crossed cigarette/Electrofag, and between a bottle and a glass. Every time I hear or use the words 'bottle' and 'glass' in the same sentence, in my head that Tommy Cooper routine always plays. It's going to happen until I die, I just know it. On my deathbed, someone will say 'Sit up, I have a bottle of medicine and a glass' and the last thought to go through my expiring mind will be 'Aha ha ha, bottle - glass, glass - bottle'. That last medication had better be a single malt one, too. Give me Bells and expect a poltergeist.

Another thing I'm sure of is that there will be smokers out there who will object to the appearance of Electrofag, Electrosmokers who won't want to be associated with tobacco smokers, drinkers who don't smoke who will object to being on the same flag, smokers who don't drink who would rather replace the bottle with a cup of tea and people with yellow teeth who neither smoke nor drink but are addicted to turmeric and black coffee. There might even be a comment from Death himself, regarding his access to dentistry.

Those pompous, humourless buffoons who smugly declare that the smoking ban is nothing like Nazi control are partly right, you know. The Nazis picked on separate groups. Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, disabled, homosexual and so on. While there could well be disabled gypsies and homosexual Jews in the mix, by and large there was little overlap between the groups they picked on. So they could start with one group and each time they expanded, they could isolate and demonise the next group very easily. The problem with this approach was that people soon found the pattern and could work out who was likely to be next, and of course picking on a specific group causes that group to become more tightly knit and harder to control.

They have learned from this. If they had stopped with their attack on smokers, we smokers would by now have formed strongly resistive groups. They didn't stop there and they didn't stick to isolated groups. In fact, the greater the overlap between one target and the next, the better.

Now, we have thin smokers hating fat smokers, non-smoking drinkers hating smoking drinkers, non-smoking, thin, gay people hating smoking, fat, gay people, and so on. Within each group are nested several other groups and they have all been conditioned to hate each other. We can't form a coherent resistance because every target group is fragmented into a dozen target subgroups. Each target has its own hate-stirrers too. ASH drive smoker-hate, the Shenkerites drive drinker-hate, another lot drive fat-hate, Stonewall do their best to keep homophobia going, faceless council drones pronounce Christmas an abomination which keeps religious tension going, and any number of racial equality diversity outreach community action coordinators keep ramming racial issues in everyone's face so we can't just all forget about it and get along. The Nazis did it all centrally. This time, the Righteous have outsourced each individual bit of hatred so we don't see a common enemy.

It was so much easier a few years ago, when everyone hated the French. That's probably illegal now despite being one of the oldest British traditions of all.

So if you set up a smoker's resistance and membership grows, you are going to get to the point where one of the existing members objects to a new member because he's gay, or an immigrant, or is obese, or drinks, or doesn't drink. or is in the wrong religion, or has googly eyes or some stupid thing like that. Then the group will split into those who want a 'white smokers club' and those who want a 'black smokers club' and those who want a 'fat smokers club' and the gay smokers, the Muslim smokers, the Christian smokers, the atheist smokers, the fundamentalist smokers (black balaclavas with little burn-holes all over them, and cries of 'Take this plane to Cuba or I light the cigarette. I get the cigars, nobody gets passivated'.) will all want their own exclusive groups and it will all fall apart. You would end up with groups like 'fat black lesbian atheist single-parent ex-convict non-drinking cigar smokers action group' with five members pretending they can take on an organisation like ASH all on their own.

You'd even get Marlboro smokers scoffing at Silk Cut smokers and Consulate smokers nagging Capstan smokers about how it's bad for them.

Organising a coherent smoker's resistance group, or a drinker's resistance group, or a fat people's resistance group, would be worse than herding cats. It would be like herding cats by using dogs while spraying them with water. They aren't just going to not listen. They are going to explode.

It has to be grudgingly admitted that the division, this time, was very cleverly done. By ensuring huge overlaps between the demonised groups they have ensured that we are all members of multiple groups and that we will reject those who don't fit our own tiny region within the overall map. 'You can't join this smoker's group because you're too fat and that presents a negative image'. 'This is a Christian smoking group. Muslims can't join'. And on and on it goes, the divisions becoming ever deeper and ever finer until each and every one of us is in a group of our own, so narrowly defined that nobody else fits it. When everyone hates everyone else, the Righteous will finally have won.

What to do? First, we have to make people realise what is being done to them. Convincing people of that is not easy. It will take time and it will be difficult but we have to start now. It's no good saying 'It'll take too long and it's too hard to do' because the longer we put it off, the nearer we get to the day when it's no longer possible.

Second, it is becoming clear that no single issue group will ever get anywhere against the State-sponsored ones. FOREST can't win against ASH because ASH can mobilise obese non-smokers, drinking non-smokers, gay non-smokers, Muslim non-smokers and many others through their own single-issue groups.

Look at the turncoats of CAMRA. Their preferred real-ale pubs are under threat and yet they still regard smokers as subhuman. If they campaigned for smokers to be allowed in pubs, CAMRA's support would mushroom but no, they have that one single issue and nobody else can play. They won't win either. The drinker's groups are already subdivided into beer/whisky/wine and more. Ripe for picking off, one by one.

We can only win as a unified group. Not a smoker's group, not a drinker's group, not an obese group, not a religious or race group, not a gender group, not a sexuality group, nothing. One group to rule them all (whoops, careful now!) against the enemy which is breaking us into sixty million groups of one person each.

All those differences are ones which, not so long ago, didn't matter at all. Sure, some people didn't like smoking, some didn't like drinking, some objected to fat people and gay people and ginger people and those who had a different skin colour or religion. It has always been that way and always will be. The difference was that these divisions were not enforced by law, and what pressure groups existed had little influence. In the main, we all just got on with our lives without concerning ourselves with other people's personal beliefs or habits.

If you employed someone back then, their religion or sexuality was no concern of yours. Now it has to be. By law, you must have the right spectrum of skin tones in your workforce, you must have a few disabled people, a few gay people, a few of this religion and that religion, the right number of women, the boxes must be ticked and whether any of them can do the job is of no consequence whatsoever to the law.

If you employ someone now, you have to ask them which way the wind blows for them and other intrusive questions that are none of your business. You don't want to ask. Faced with the perfect applicant for the job, you don't care if they go home at night and impale toads on sharpened bamboo canes while dancing naked in the moonlight singing 'I've got a loverly bunch of coconuts' and then have sex with a sofa. As long as they turn up on time and earn that wage, what happens when the shift is over is no concern of yours.

It has to be, now. It's all division. The single white English straight male knows all about this. We used to have one country with one government. Then Scotland, Wales and Norn Iron all got their own governments. Well, not completely, but enough to make differences. The differences were what mattered, not the governments.

England didn't get one. They just get Wastemonster. Why? Well, the excuse was that Wastemonster is the English government but it's not. I'd like to say it's the UK government but there's not much left of the UK and if there's anyone in Wastemonster who knows how to govern, they're keeping very quiet about it. The Union Flag (a sore point in Wales anyway since Wales isn't on it) is all set to break into its Scottish, Irish and English bits. The English part has already been declared racist. Why are the English getting all this crap? To make them hate everyone else on the basis of one difference.

So, take one smoking, white, English, straight, male, single, obese, drinking, driving (not simultaneously) Christian.

Compare him to one smoking, white, Scottish, straight, male, single, obese, drinking, driving (not simultaneously) Christian.

What's the difference? On the basis of that one difference, they have been conditioned to hate each other. Try it by replacing any of the words in that list with its counterpart. Every time, you get two people who hate each other on the basis of one difference among nine points at which they are identical. That's all it takes. One difference. You don't even see the similarities, only the difference.

Scotland gets better healthcare because the Righteous want the English to hate the Scots. The Scots are easy, they already hate everyone anyway. The English see this and blame the Scots. They cannot demand the same of their own parliament because they don't have one. There's nobody for them to blame for this, other than the Scots.

So the Union is fragmented and all the way down, no matter how closely you look at it, the fractal image remains the same. The same method on smaller and smaller scales, effective every time it is applied. One group gets preferential treatment while their counterparts are demonised. The same thing, all the way down.

We won't win as smokers. We won't win as drinkers. We won't win as salt-eaters or drivers or fat people or Christians or gay people or gingers. We will continue to be subdivided and we will direct our hate at the other groups and insist they are dealt with as harshly as whatever group we are in is dealt with.

What we need is a united group that covers all the target groups with no prejudice, and no preference shown to one group over another. Not a smoker's group that also lets in drinkers. Not a Muslim group that also lets in Christians. An overall group for everyone who has been a target of the Righteous.

Some time ago, I suggested forming a group called 'The Denormalised'. Perhaps its time has come.

First though, we need a flag. All united people have to have a flag. Something to rally round.

Something with a skull on it. Skulls show that you're not just playing around. Does having a skull on the symbol make us the bad guys?

No. The Righteous have already declared us the bad guys. All of us, not just the smokers.

It's time we started acting like it.

I am Spasticus.

I was a big fan of Ian Dury for no particular reason other than he was bloody brilliant. I wondered why he faded away. The beats and the music and the imaginative lyrics had so much further to go.

It never occurred to me that the Righteous did it. One Tim Yeo, a pompous extrusion of foetid self-importance in a suit, a man who has no idea what any disability means but who pronounces what is best for the disabled anyway, destroyed Ian Dury for his Spasticus Autisticus song. He regarded it as insulting to the disabled but he did not realise that Ian Dury was disabled. His fans did. We'd seen him topple over at concerts when it all got too much. We knew his limits better than he did, perhaps, and we admired him for ignoring them.

Why did Righteous Tim not realise this? Because to him and his collective, the disabled sit at home feeling sorry for themselves and living as pets of the Righteous. No disabled person could possibly manage for themselves, ever. Successful band frontman? Impossible.

Now, Tim Yeo realises he was wrong. Too late, you arrogant waste of pinstripe. Ian Dury was not poking fun at the disabled with that song. He was poking fun at the Righteous who think the disabled are their property, to be looked after and controlled as if they were poodles.

Disabled is a relative term. If you have no legs then you are disabled as far as long-distance running is concerned (although amputees below the knee can get some cool spring-steel ones which look brilliant) but you are not disabled in terms of thinking and typing and slapping and punching. The fuckers never expect it, you know. Never mind punching above my weight, my first punch is going below your waist. The second goes straight in your throat as you double over. Middle knuckle out. It will take but a second. I don't fight fair. That's no way to win.

Perfectly able-bodied politicians include people I would consider seriously mentally challenged. In non-PC terms, thicker than a pile of shit sandwiched between two very thick planks and covered with thickness tape, thicko filler and a layer of Chavvo Thickener Cement which does exactly what it says on the tin if anyone on the estate can read it. Yes, Cleggeron, I'm looking at you, admittedly from lower than normal and through a haze of smoke. Oh, you can cycle and dance around being oh-so-important but think? You pay people to do that for you. I pay buses to move me around and do my thinking myself. My way is cheaper. And more efficient. I pay buses that know what they are doing. You pay people who don't. I get where I need to be. You have no idea where you are going. One of us is stupid. Go on, guess.

Ian Dury says he was not moaning in that song. He was yelling.

Tim Yeo, Righteous Inquisitor, was not listening. All he heard was 'Spastic' and drew all his conclusions from that. Disabled. Smoker. Drinker. I am not a monster. I am a human being. Try to keep that line in mind, Righteous drones, and see the person, not the clinical definition. Then you might actually turn out to be some damn use. As for me, nothing - and I mean nothing - gets me angrier than patronisation. Do it to me and I will rub chillies in your eyes and then when you're on the ground, I'll drop some crushed ones into your pants. And then massage them in with a two-pound sledgehammer. You are not dealing with a pet. You are dealing with a 168 IQ and an Italian temper. Piss me off and you will feel pain. It won't be over quickly.

An end to patronisation, to being treated as pets, won't happen any time soon. If you don't fit the BMA Standard Human format, you are 'wrong' and must be corrected. Just as those with a bit more waist than necessary are now 'obese', just as those who have never been totally drunk are now 'binge drinkers', disability is coming to a diagnosis near you very soon.

Anyway, here is Ian Dury and the Righteous Tim in the same video.

And the full song.


Tough. Get over it.