Saturday 30 April 2011

Pop goes the loony.

I've never seen a mad woman's brain explode live on air before, but here's a still in Technicolor.

Apparently there are those who have spent the day searching for black guests at a white wedding. What were the couple expected to do? Ship over the population of Harlem for the day? Raid Africa? We did that over 200 years ago and it wasn't well received at all. Some people are still a bit miffed about it. Mostly white people with only the guilt cells working in their otherwise untouched brains. The rest of us realise we weren't actually alive at the time.

If a Muslim man marries a Muslim woman, I would expect the majority of the wedding guests to be Muslim. If a black man marries a black woman, I would expect the majority of the guests to be black. Because most of the guests are related and related people have this persistent way of being similar. No matter how hard you push 'diversity', those pesky genes and those irritating social ties just refuse to listen. Of course, to the drones, this is only a problem where a white man marries a white woman. I'm surprised that's still legal.

Weddings are not subject to the Tiny Blur's insane employment quotas. You don't have to invite me to every wedding just to fill the cripple quota and to be honest, I'm just going to get absolutely plastered and be an embarrasment to everyone except me anyway, so count yourselves lucky on that one.

I wonder if ASH were counting smokers, the Shenkerites were counting drinkers and the salty people were counting chips? Perhaps there was a group checking the distribution of waist sizes and another counting sticks and wheelchairs? How many non-swimmers were there? How many train spotters? Did the Cameroid have happiness-indexers roaming the crowds? How many single mums, how many unemployed, how many three-legged Lithuanian lesbian dwarf ex-convict drug users? I don't think we should be told but I suspect we might be.

It was a wedding. The brood and grime get to choose who turns up and they clearly made their choice with much thought and discretion.

They didn't invite the Tiny Blur and Slotgob, nor did they cast the necessary spells to invoke the presence of the Brown Gorgon and Beard. That shows a great deal of sense and taste.

If I'm still alive when this guy becomes Mr. King, I think I'm going to like him. Even though he didn't invite me to make up the pissed smoking immigrant cripple quota.

Maybe Harry will.

I am Toxic Man!

I have just read through 97,000 words in one session. It's the only way to catch blunders in a book, and there was a big one. Worse, it must be done sober. So I'm knackered and dry. I'll have to run through it again tomorrow and then it's ready to send.

There was nothing in the news today except some wedding or other so there's not much to say tonight. I'm going to have to brush up on my French though, so I can read what this says. I tried the online translation thingies but they come up with something that reads like an Ikea manual.

I remember enough to get the gist of it. The 'Leg-iron' moniker has been misunderstood again. Oh well. I should have put more thought into it.

No, I do not have a problem with smoking any more than I have a problem with eating, which I also do every day. These days it seems that if you do something once, decide you like it and then do it again, you must be addicted to it. Oddly enough, this always comes from someone who doesn't like doing it, whatever it is. If you like salt, someone who doesn't like salt will brand you a salt addict. Pick your pleasure, whatever it is, and someone out there will call you an addict.

Refuse to stop doing something you enjoy and that immediately becomes an inability to stop. There's no point arguing. If you don't stop, it's because you can't and not because you don't want to. The concept of 'Yes, I know it's not good for me but I like it anyway' is simply never considered.

What do you want from life? Do you want a fancy car or a private plane or a yacht or a swimming pool? Want to travel the world? Want to be one of the first space tourists? Fine, work towards getting those things. I will do nothing at all to stop you. I don't want any of them but I will not interfere in your life.

What I want from life is a quiet drink and a smoke. Too many people have decided that those things are bad for me and have decided that I must stop doing what I like doing. This (they say) will make my life longer but (they never admit) also miserable. Unfortunately, 'living longer' is more important than 'living happy' these days.

Look. I know smoking is not good for me. I know that there are risks that would be less (but not zero) if I didn't smoke. I know about these risks just as a racing driver, mountaineer or bungee jumper know the risks they take. Just because my preferred relaxation method doesn't fit the James Bond lifestyle does not mean it's not enjoyable. Spending most evenings in front of the TV has risks. Balance the risk against the enjoyment and make your choice. Your own choice. Not someone else's.

Put this in perspective. After my first degree, my first job involved fractionating carcinogenic materials from oil spillages in the radioactive lab. Nobody ever visited me in there. In those days we could still smoke in the coffee room and my bet is that those visits to the coffee room involved far less risk of cancer than when I was in the lab and not smoking. Would anyone claim I was addicted to fractionating oils in a radioactive room? Why not? It was dangerous and I did it every day. Why does it not fit the definition?

I have worked with large farm animals. The chance of being squashed by a cow or savaged by a boar is rather more immediate than the risk of maybe getting ill from smoking one day. And if you think sheep are harmless, go out into the fields when they have lambs. Again, it was dangerous and I did it every day, so was I addicted to cows?

Now I work with deadly bacteria. Am I addicted to deadly bacteria? I write stories. Am I some kind of weird fiction addict?

I know, the argument will be 'you do those things because you get paid, so it's different'. Yes, it is. They are not time off, not relaxing hobbies (the writing used to be) but I don't have to work with dangerous things. I could work with diatoms or lichens and take no risk at all. So it comes back to - am I addicted to whatever dangerous job I'm doing at the moment?

Why is it that what I choose to do for relaxation must be an addiction? Why is it that what I do for enjoyment is a 'problem' when I do far more dangerous things at work and that's not a problem? Why, if I am a smoking addict, have I chosen a profession where any hand-to-mouth action (smoking, drinking, eating, even picking your teeth) at work or even immediately after work carries such grave risks of infection?

My problem is not with smoking. It's with other people trying to run my life for me.

I have a simple outlook on life. All I really want is to be left alone.

Why is that such a problem for so many?

Friday 29 April 2011

Tormenting simpletons for fun and profit.

Put the drink down and back away. It's one of those rants and I'm not paying for any more keyboards.

There was once a rumour that every banknote in circulation carried detectable amounts of cocaine. I have no idea whether it's true but since the illegal drug industry is unlikely to make use of cheques or credit cards, I suspect that most of the folding currency out there passes through their hands at some point. Maybe it is true. Maybe not. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that the story can be made credible.

Nobody is scared by that story, at least, when I was at school (where I first heard it) nobody was scared. It was just an interesting thing. These days you could probably induce spontaneous bowel evacuation in a suitably gullible target just by mentioning it while they have cash in their hands. Worth a try.

Some time back, someone mentioned writing 'Handled by Smokers' on banknotes, and I have been. In the comments, Dick Puddlecote suggested getting a stamp made up. Well, an Email correspondent has now done this, and the results are as shown above.

I think it was a Rockefeller who said something along the lines of 'Give me control of a country's money supply and I care not who makes its laws.' It was some total banker, anyway.

The handwritten notes might be disregarded. An official-looking stamp in red ink looks like a real warning. It's no longer a rumour that the note you hold might be contaminated by an evil druggie. There it is, in red ink, an official stamp warning you that this note, this particular one you're holding, is saturated with third hand smoke and you now have mere hours to live. Oh, and your dog will die too. No need to worry about cats. They hang around my back garden smoking and drinking all night long. Well where did you think they went at night?

We can effectively take control of the money supply. Antismokers and the terrified simpletons won't touch it. Legal tender will be refused all over the place. Smokophobes will discover one of these in their cash and will try desperately to give it to someone else, but the only ones who will touch it will be smokers. Businesses who only employ fundamentalist antismokers will not be able to function.

All the money? Really? Surely only the stamped notes are contaminated? Ah, but what if we only stamp every other note? The stamped notes put the idea into the mass of gullible heads. They don't know which of the unstamped notes we might also have handled. Hey, antismoker. Fancy a game of smoker's roulette? Take a note, any note, might be marked, might not, might be saturated with smoke, might not. Take your chances.

They could be in your wallet right now. Sniff them carefully - oops! If there's smoke on them and you sniff them, it's already too late. Best to just burn the lot but do it outdoors because it's illegal to smoke indoors, you know.

So, are the population at large really stupid enough to fall for this? Yes. They are. At every level. A world of stupid. Give someone a peaked cap and their brain burns out and they believe anything that begins 'Studies have shown...' Actually, most don't even need the peaked cap. If ever there is a need for a brain transplant, we have an entire population of barely-used ones, some still in their wrapping, all ready for donation.

People believe that being fat and inactive will kill them and now they believe that being thin and active will kill them. Look, it's really simple. Are you alive? Yes? Then you're going to die. That's really all there is to it, so stop fretting about it because you will only make it happen sooner.

We live in a country where police feel justified in arresting you in case you do something, even if the thing you plan to do is not illegal. Where the Government actually believe they can measure happiness despite doing their best to reduce it to undetectable levels, and where the Archbeard of Canterbury thinks we're all concerned about some mysterious thing called GDP. Are we? Really? Easter holidays, Royal Wedding and then the May bank holiday mean nobody has done a damn thing for a fortnight, and we're all concerned about 'the economy?' Why would we worry about the economy? We don't have one any more. Labour spent it and Cameron is still giving it away to countries that are richer than us.

While we are at war with Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya, what is our government's great concern? Whether the Tiny Blur and the Brown Gorgon should be allowed to blight the Royal wedding and Cameron's casual remark to some pig-faced bint who thinks it was an insult. She really should get out more.

So, can we convince the entire country that every note they hold has passed through the hands of a smoker? Could we extend it to 'packed by smokers' on egg boxes and frozen pizza and so on? Can we scare seven shades of shit out of every antismoker who spends a twenty and has to accept change?

Frankly, it would be a doddle.

They might arrest us for it but then, think of the publicity that would generate. One arrest on a charge of stamping on a banknote and every Mail reader will react in a way that will create a tsunami at the sewage works.

They can come at 3 am if they like. I'll still be up.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Other people's thoughts.

Last night the bird bath froze. Not just a thin veneer either, but a solid slab of ice. It'll be a while before I'll put out any plants. Heatwave? Only in the Daily Mail.

Well, I have completed my procrastination for the day and now have to do some work. I'm also thinking I should maybe post earlier in future. At least once before the sun goes down because lots of you will be wondering if I'm one of the Undead. I don't think I am. It's hard to tell here because there isn't a lot of sun even in the daytime. Usually the sky is a relaxing and uniform slate grey from horizon to horizon. There are children here who run indoors screaming when part of the sky mysteriously turns blue. It's not a good place to be a sunblock salesman.

Here, vampires can come out in the daytime and run for public office. Most of them win.

Anyway, I'm composing a smoking post for Orphans of Liberty. I'll link to it when it goes live to save cross-posting. There is so much source material today, coming at such a pace, that it's surprising smokers have not yet been declared a threat to something or other and each received a Cruise missile right up the jacksi. I am ready. Tinfoil underpants.

So today I'll just link to the thoughts of others.

There used to be a saying which, like so many, was common just a few years ago but which has fallen out of use. The saying is 'The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing' and there is a stunning example of what this means here.

We now live in a land where singers are arrested for singing non-racist songs because some passing loon decides to pretend 'offence', while someone who receives death threats has their weapons confiscated. Presumably in case the threateners decide to take the matter further, thus allowing them to carry out their threats without personal risk. Can't have people stopping murderers. That would put the police out of a job.

Via Prodicus, I see Big Norm is on the warpath. Hardly worth his while really, it's like watching a lion play with a mouse.

I have no pets. The winter before last killed all the fish in my pond and I didn't restock it. Just as well because last winter would have killed the new ones anyway. Yet of the charity shops around here, I used to frequent PDSA because their aims were noble and they weren't trying to tell me how to live. A while back they came out with 'passive smoking kills pets' and I haven't been in their shop since. They are at it again. So, they still won't be benefiting from the produce of my clearouts. I'd rather burn it. And blow the smoke in their direction.

Well, better get some work done. Lots to do before sunrise.

Ready Brek Kids.

Some of the (well most of the) readers won't remember the Ready Brek adverts. Most of those who watched the ads are as dead as those who watched the Chernobyl display and said "Ooo, pretty lights" but for mostly different reasons. It was a kind of breakfast porridge that was made with hot milk and the adverts claimed you'd glow after eating it. Well I didn't. I just felt as if I'd eaten cement and it had set halfway down. These days I get a similar effect with Guinness.

Ready Brek might have been the reason there were so few obese kids about as I grew up. One bowl of that and you could not physically ingest anything else until teatime.

Still, there are many groups now offering that healthy glow and you don't even have to eat a bowl of hot concrete every day to achieve it.

The mad Mullahs claim they have a nuclear bomb in Europe and they'll set it off if we mess with Mr. Bin Liner. Ha ha ha. If they had one they'd have fired it by now. The leadership might have a plan but the footsoldiers are suicide bombers, derived from the ranks of losers with no future and recruited via the suicide hotline. They have nothing in their lives to look forward to but the end of it. If they had a banger they'd stick it up their backsides and aim it at a fan. They think they will get 72 virgins when they die, and they will, all of whom are huge and hairy and called Vinny, and all of whom are keen for their first go. They are waiting for yoooo...

The mad Mullahs also claim they will disrupt the Royal Hitchings this week. No they won't. Mad yes, stupid no. Blow up the plebs and we'll all say 'tut'. Mess with the Royals and there will be a silence over the land for a short while.

I am not a Royalist. I actually like Mrs Queen but I don't see any reason to feel protective about someone who has an army around her house. They don't cost us anything compared to the cretinous Clegg, the simpering Cameron, Special Ed and their EU-controlled drones and let's be honest, Phil's occasional non-PC outbursts are worth far more than we pay him. Damn, we should scrap the BBC and let Phil run the broadcasting. That would be value for money.

Jug-ears is a plonker. There are scientific words such as 'anencephalic' but let's not get technical, it will just confuse him. His sons are not quite so bad and neither are his brothers. I think the reason there is so much of a push to skip his Kinginess is that those in power remember something they don't teach kids in school any more. As in, what happened when Charles I and II were around. The way things are going it could well happen again.

Then again, what they teach in schools now is the products of minds of a level of derangement I can only aspire to. I write fiction and I'm telling you, I could not make this shit up. I've actually been trying and they are one step ahead all the way.

Anyway, what about little shiny-topped Edward, young Brasso-bonce, brother of Jug-ears and so terribly ignored and disparaged? He's starting to look like his father and that alone should get him a spot on prime time TV. If he's anywhere near as un-PC as Phil, make him King. Now.

But I digress, as usual. I will ignore the Royal Wedding and my only feeling on that day will be one of rage because I won't get a Higgs boson of sense out of anyone. So Goofy Wingnutson is marrying some rather pleasant wench. So what? I am not invited as I am not invited to any weddings since the unfortunate incident at my brother's. Sure, I wish them every happiness but it's none of my business. It will, however, get in my way all day.

I am not English. I am a Welsh/Italian/random mongrel living in Scotland. Here there will be few who will even notice the wedding unless the nookie night is on You Tube. There are many English who despise the Monarchy even though it can actually affect policy less than the guy who sweeps the steps at Plymouth town hall. But there will be massive crowds at that wedding.

So. I am not a Royalist. I am not English. I am looking in from outside. What I see is this - if the mad Mullahs manage to wreck this wedding, by next week there will not be a Muslim alive in the UK. No, this is not a threat. I don't care about Teeth-boy's wedding and I care nothing for religion. It is an observation. The English have form on this one. Slow to anger but once you have, you're fucked.

The mullahs will not disrupt this wedding. Mad but not stupid. Unfortunately they have recruited the mad and stupid to their cause so disruption might well happen.

Then they might set off their little firework.

I hope it's in Brussels. Under the EU regime, nowhere else matters.

If it's anywhere else it will not even make the news.

Controlling madness.

I have to start taking this writing stuff seriously. Well, there's no option now that the tax man is involved. It's just another business now, with receipts and incomings and outgoings and spreadsheets and so on. I might not make much money but I'll sure as hell be taxed.

It was my hobby and I'm not really sure how I feel about 'succeeding'. It's great to hear of people actually enjoying my tales of madness and despair even if the Kindle edition is slightly messed up.

(Chief Sceptic, I have Emailed your comment to the publisher and I hope they can fix it. Although if Kindle books can be updated after purchase, I'd actually be a bit concerned about that. It would make Winston Smith's job far too easy. More and more people now get newspapers delivered to mobile devices. Changing a story would instantly change everyone's copy. Oh wait... idea)

On the other hand, writing was my escape from the day-job of logic and precision. Just let the brain freewheel and unravel for a while. A sort of mental workout and a use for those crazy drunken dreams. The zombie story was one of the best - I dreamed the entire tale in Cinemascope! Am I the only one who looks forward to nightmares, I wonder?

But now I think about it, it's something to take seriously. Microbiology earns good money but I can only do that when someone wants some microbiology done. I can't just do some experiments and then try to sell the results. For one thing, I would have to reveal the results before anyone could determine their worth and then they have the results so don't have to pay for them. Such ideas are easily replicated by companies with bigger labs than mine. Worse, I am likely to be the only person on the planet interested in one of my random ideas. So yes, the day job pays well but it's not under my control.

I can write at any time, day or night, drunk or sober, and now that a publisher has taken up a book I know that there is a realistic chance of being able to sell the product of my deranged mind. It's a potential income source that is almost entirely under my control. Sure, I'll still give away short stories on the blog because I can turn one out in an evening with the right stimulus (usually whisky) so it's not like I'm handing over the product of months of toil. Every so often I can collect a bunch of them together and sell an e-book of them for 99p or something. The short stories are the mental equivalent of clearing your sinuses. There's an idea, it won't go away, write it down and get it out of the system. Then get on with something serious.

The novels though... there's another one now complete and another as a complete first draft and two more part-done and more as outlines. I know, the author only makes pennies per sale but enough books out there making enough sales and in a few years I could be experimenting on quorum sensing whether anyone else is interested or not. The big house in the country with the lab in the tower, huge wild white hair and a maniacal cackle - these things could still be mine. One of them already is, and it's not the hair although that is showing definite tendecies towards whiteness and has always been unruly.

So yes, it has to become a business now. That evil Blackthorn family have many tales to tell. Therefore I have taking the eminently sensible and logical step of buying a load of their cider.

I bet that's not tax deductible.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Writerly things.

Head is clearing now, but you know when you get that feeling of 'can't be arsed'? Well I have that now.

So instead, in response to the wonderful review left by J. D. McCoy, the answer is yes. There is a sequel, completed, but it's first-draft and not nearly ready to send. Bearing in mind the first-draftiness of it, here's a clip from the tunnel beneath the house...

They continued in silence, lighting candles as they passed. Once Elaine looked back; the flickering illumination gave the narrow tunnel an ethereal appearance, a straight tube of light through utter darkness. Ahead, everything was black beyond the range of Rhian's lantern.

"How much further?" Angie's bitter voice snapped the silence.

"We're over halfway, I'd guess." Stan said, glancing over his shoulder at the row of candles behind them.

"How would you know, smartass?" Angie's nose wrinkled as she scowled. "You don't even know where we're going."

"We're heading for the statue. Stan and I have been down here before." Norman's eyes were fixed ahead, his voice hushed. "It's where we found you. Rescued you." The look on his face hinted he half-wished they hadn't bothered. "Just keep quiet, and keep moving. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can all get out of here."

Get out of here.

The whisper sounded like an echo of Norman's words. Elaine put her hand to her chest, afraid her heart may have stopped. She took a deep breath, stepped forward and nearly collided with Rhian. Everyone stood motionless, listening.

No way out of here.

The echo again, but this time nobody had spoken. Elaine wished she'd brought a flashlight so she could see ahead, but Romulus had taken the only working one when he'd gone into the garden. Concern furrowed her brow for a moment. What had he found out there?

Go back.

Norman leaned close to her. "What is it?" he whispered. Elaine shook her head. She could see nothing, not even movement.

"Lost souls." Rhian's voice was low. She turned her face to Elaine. "Can you see them? Do you have the Sight?"

"No. Romulus could, if he were here, but I've never been able to."

Rhian sighed, long and slow. "Then it's up to me. There are nine or ten of them. They can't harm us but they will try to drive us back. We must stay calm, show no emotion. They feed on fear, it makes them stronger."

You cannot pass.

Eliane jumped. The whisper had come from somewhere very close. Her hand shook, sending drips of hot wax onto her wrist. Rhian was still speaking.

"They will try to scare you, they want you to fear them. If you do, they will gain enough force to stop us. Walk through them, unafraid, and they can do nothing."

"Walk through ghosts?" Angie's shrill exclamation filled the tunnel. "No way. No bloody way. I'm going back." She started moving, pulling at Stan. "I'm getting out of here, now, and Stan's coming with me." Hysteria broke her voice.

She fears. So should you all.

Stan resisted Angie's tugging. "There's no other way. We have to go forward."

Fear us. Turn back, while you can.

Elaine bit into her lip, fighting terrors of her own. Angie was shrieking now, the sound amplified by the walls, biting into Elaine's mind. She barely heard Norman's muttered curse as he rushed to help Stan.

You cannot pass. Those who try, die.

The whisper was stronger, deeper, louder.

"Calm her down." Rhian pushed Elaine's shoulder, causing her to stagger a few steps before she froze, fear rising despite her attempts to quell it. Elaine gasped, her eyes now fixed on Angie and the two men trying to hold her as she fought them in panic.

"Shut her up. She's feeding them." The voice came from the darkness ahead. Angie stopped struggling, Elaine turned to peer into the gloom. That hadn't sounded like a ghostly voice. Elaine's breath left her, she sagged against the wall and gaped as a huge spider scuttled into Rhian's lamplight. Except it wasn't a spider, it was a human-like head on spider legs. Elaine knew at once what it was, she'd read its description enough times. The hideous face was puckered in fury, the little arms that sprouted beneath its ears ended in clenched fists. Angie screamed once, then fainted.

"That's better." Bifrons winked at Elaine. "She's a noisy one, isn't she? I bet she wakes the neighbours."

The UAF are in my head.

I have been gloss painting so my head feels like something's rioting in there. I hate gloss paint. I'll have to experiment with acrylic spray paint in future. Somewhere there's a can of chrome spray.

Concentration mode is off for the night. Instead, I leave you with Australia's rapid descent into Nazi witchhunting. I wonder which country will be first to produce their own Malleus Tobbacifarum?

Until tomorrow,


Sunday 24 April 2011

Chips with everything.

Well, here it comes and with mass approval too. Naturally, the breeders of fighting pit-bulls will ignore it and councils will pretend they can link dog-crap on the street to your dog through the microchip. The fact that this is impossible will not deter them.

What can I say that hasn't already been said on the subject?

Gardening tips.

Thanks to Junican for the link to this -

There are several parts. I can't wait to see the full grown plants and still find it hard to believe that something that big can grow from a seed the size of an ant dropping.

The first part I already knew. I just planted the seeds as I have for other plants. Miracle-Gro is great stuff. Never buy the cheap potting compost, it looks like a money saver but that stuff repels water. It's dreadful.

With tiny seeds, watering from below is important because watering from above will wash those seeds around and drown them. I'll soon be at the thinning stage. I hate that part. Killing something I've grown is a terrible wrench but the reality is, if I leave them all in they'll strangle each other. I'll try moving some into other pots to give away but if they're going to get over six feet high, I just won't have room in my garden for them all.

Growing the plants looks to be no problem at all. Curing and fermenting look to be more of an issue. That has the potential to go very wrong indeed so I intend to grow enough to try a few different methods. The 'fermenting' looks more like 'composting' to me. It seems to need to be aerobic.

As for slugs, well we've been at war for a long time but lay one eyestalk on my baccy and it's nuke time. The greenhouse floor is lined with copper-coated fabric. They don't like that, it seems, because not one has found its way in yet.

Every slug on the planet is an antismoker. You can tell just by looking at them.

They all look like Deborah Arnott.

(Update: I have decided that if anyone asks what they are, I'll say 'Triffids'. Less scary than tobacco.)

Saturday 23 April 2011

Pointy hats and rollups.

I'm currently reading a little book called 'Witchcraft, a brief history of demons, folklore and superstition' by Lois Martin. I read a lot of such books, it's where I get a lot of my nasty-story ideas.

It's not some New Age book of spells and potions (I do have some of those, but the curses contained in them don't work on politicians), it's a serious look at how the whole witch craze developed. A scientific look, with no woo-woo support and no derision either. Because whatever your views on witchcraft, magic, Pagans, etc, in human terms the witchhunts were no joke. Things happened that make the 'Saw' films look like children's tales.

Some of it I already knew. The flying on brooms, sailing in sieves, turning into bats and so on were the product of the deranged torturer's minds. Witches, even those few who really were witches, never claimed any such thing. When your legs are in a wooden box and someone is hammering wedges in to the point where your bones are crushed, you would confess to being solely responsible for the atom bomb, the Plague, the bank crash, Scientology and Nick Clegg. If the torturer says "Did you fellate a weasel on the night of the full moon?" you will say "Yes, and he enjoyed it" because any other answer is going to hurt. A lot.

Most of those accused and tortured had no witchy connections at all. Those who actually were practising witches couldn't really turn people into frogs, nor could they really place curses. People believed they could and sure, some would take advantage of that belief and torment the gullible idiots for a twisted bit of fun. Such people exist today. I'm not the only one.

The whole witch-craze was just an excuse to torture people and kill people and get rid of inconvenient people, all on the basis of claims that any sane person would have to dismiss as ludicrous. Seriously, if those who were burned really had the power to change shape, to fly, to cast spells, how come not one of them used these powers to escape the torturers? How come they were all tortured and killed when all they had to do was turn into a bat and fly away or call up Satan and set him on their accusers? There is not one instance of this in the whole of history. Not one. Yet the people of the time believed these to be common events.

It was all made up. Not by the witches but by their accusers. No claim was too nonsensical, no accusation too idiotic, to allow them to drag you to the torturer and then to court. Pacts with the devil, blasting crops, making the neighbour ill, devastating livestock... oh, wait a minute.

Pacts with Big Tobacco/the alcohol industry/the fast food demons.

Second hand smoke that passes through walls, passive drinking, obesity as an epidemic.

Now cigarettes kill fish, even though there are only around a quarter as many smokers as there used to be and it didn't kill anything at all back then. We're devastating livestock now. It's all the same technique all over again. No claim is too nonsensical for the gullible to accept, they soak it all up and spout it on command. These are the same Middle Ages peasants reborn. They'll have us flying on cigars and sailing in pipes next. At least they can't burn us this time. Think of the nicotine in us!

I think it's time to get a broom, a sieve, a black cat and a pointy hat.

And practice those curses. Maybe I can get one to work.

What the hell, I'm going to get the blame for it anyway.

Friday 22 April 2011

Big Risk Time.

This ageing computer is in desperate need of defragmentation. Desperate. I also have to clean up the Emails and compact the folders, and delete a load of stuff I never use any more, tidy up the photo collection...

I'm told I should do such things regularly. Well, every five years is regular. It is time.

This is risky because of the age of the machine. It's like taking a rusty old Cortina to a race track. It might come out the other side looking good or it might not come out the other side at all.

So first, there has to be a total backup onto an external hard disk, then it's fingers crossed and press 'Kill or cure' in the menu.

If things go quiet for a while, you'll know this rusty old Cortina didn't get through the track and I'm having to fire up the cobwebbed spare and load all the backup into it.

Oh, and I have print copies of Jessica's Trap at last. To those I owe, they'll be posted soon, although I'll probably wait until after the Bank Holiday.

Well, here goes. Nothing ventured, nothing broken.

Baby photos.

Aren't they sweet? As is normal with babies, I'll wait until they grow big, rip off their limbs, dry and cure them and then burn them and inhale the smoke. For now, they are just adorable, aren't they? Just imagine, by the time they've grown, the whole world will be absolutely terrified of them.

This must be how Dr. Frankenstein felt.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Entertainment time again.

One of my jobs is freelance microbiologist/rogue scientist and the other, the one that was a hobby until someone took me seriously, is as a writer of fiction.

Writers make up stories. It's what we do. We are not journalists, we do not chase tales of fact, we typically get drunk and wait for the weird dreams. Sure, we research things - the times and dates in historical settings have to be a close match to the story, for example. You cannot have a revolver in a 15th-century sea battle. There was no way of recording a TV programme at home in 1970. Dishwashers and mobile phones were undreamed of in those days too. Tell me of an 1800's infection treated with a mouldy bread poultice and I'll read on. Tell me it was treated with penicillin and your book goes on the fire. Even though they were very likely the same thing.

I once watched an interview with a writer of Westerns who had received angry letters from fans. One of his characters had a pistol with cartridge bullets, not powder and ball, and those weren't invented until two years after the date of the story. Readers check the fine details too, so authors really need to get them right.

Clint Eastwood's Navy Colt should have been loaded with powder, ball and caps, one cylinder at a time. I have a (non-firing) replica here. Oh, and nobody filled all six cylinders because the thing had a habit of firing as you pulled it from your belt. Leaving the pin on an empty cylinder meant you'd be able to walk faster than others and you'd still be in with a chance of fatherhood.

Still, fictional stories must be made-up and while unlikely, must be at least plausible. They do not have to be based in reality, they can be based far in the future or even in another dimension, but there must be enough underlying logic to make them credible.

No fiction writer with a sane brain cell remaining in his head would have made up a story about passive-smoking fish (thanks to anonymous and to and Angry Ranting Man for the links). Nobody but the extraordinarily simple-minded would give such a tale a second glance. Looking at the comments those tales attract it seems the extraordinarily simple-minded are numerous indeed.

So now it's time to play with the sushi eaters and the prawn salad munchers. Okay. Next time I meet one I'll pass on the references that prove their healthy diet is laced with nicotine, since that is what they want. I'll explain that they can expect to feel a tightening in their chest and a cold sweat across their temples, that they might experience a little breathlessness at times and an ache in their joints, just a dull ache at first but building slowly into pins and needles when they move. That they might notice they are blinking a little faster than usual, a sure sign of imminent heart failure, and that they should attempt to make it as far as the nearest doctor's surgery as quickly as possible.

Oh, and best warn them that many doctors are in the pay of Big Tobacco and will therefore pretend there's nothing wrong with them to keep the numbers of nicotine deaths down. Hey, I don't make the rules. I just play the game. I don't even enjoy it.

Well... maybe just a little bit.

All this is making it difficult for those of us who make up stories (and admit to it). These days, Kafka would have real trouble persuading anyone that his work should be considered 'absurdist' because by modern standards, he's mainstream. He'd be turned down by most national newspapers for being too logical.

So let's see if I can push the envelope far enough to stay in the obviously-fiction range. I haven't put up a new short story in a long time and I'm fairly sure this one hasn't appeared here before. It's all new, not a prior publication, and it must surely be right out in the realms of impossibility.

At least , I hope so. It's early draft so not, as yet, perfect. Here goes...


The sins of past lives.

If Jeremiah Blackthorn had never found proof of the afterlife, he would be a free man and the world would be a safer place for everyone.

Today, as every day, Jerry stared at the stone walls of his cell. There were no tears. Those had dried long ago, and he had none left to cry. The scars on his fists told of his first weeks here, when he had pounded the walls until his knuckles bled. Now he sat and stared. When it was time to eat, he ate. When it was time for exercise, he stood in his isolated section of the yard and stared at the outside wall. Over and over, the same images played in his head, It was futile to dwell on the past, but he had nothing better to do. The past was painful. The future was worse.

Jerry closed his eyes and let those times come back to him. The euphoria, the medium who had helped, the accolades and the pursed lips of sceptics who could find no flaw in his results. Nobody could deny the image of Tobias Blackthorn, Jerry’s grandfather, on the photographs. When old Toby showed up in person beside Jerry on national TV, that was that. Proof. Final and absolute.

It should have set the world free. It should have given everyone hope. It should have swelled the congregations of churches all over the world. Yet no church could compete with such proof, and so religion faded. When nobody really dies, nobody needs salvation.

Nobody really dies.

Jerry snorted. The guard who accompanied him looked up from the novel in his hands.

“You okay, Jerry?”

“Okay?” Jerry balled his fists, then let them relax. “Not really.”

“Want to talk about it?” The guard placed a slip of paper into his book and closed it.

“Not really.” Jerry stared at his shoes. Every time he was assigned a new guard, they wanted to hear his story. They knew it, the whole world knew it, but everyone wanted to hear it from him. Jerry sighed. “But I might as well.”

The guard checked his watch. “Got ten more minutes before I have to put you back. Long enough?”

“Plenty.” Jerry stretched his arms. Without facing the guard, he started talking.

“I set out to show the world Paradise, but instead I showed it Hell. Fourteen years ago, I was imprisoned for a crime I knew nothing about. A crime that happened before I was born. Six years before that, I proved that we don’t die when we die. I proved the existence of ghosts.”

“I remember that.” The guard slid his book into his pocket. “I was just a kid, but that ghost on the TV was amazing.”

“I had help. A medium, a great one, who helped my grandfather materialise in that studio. His name was Adam. Adam Crowe, and I wish to God I’d never heard that name.” Jerry paused to calm his breathing. “What happened next, well, you know most of it. The death penalty came back into use all over the world. Governments reasoned that since nobody actually dies, the penalty was only a removal of physical existence. The same held for wars. They could kill civilians in what they like to call ‘collateral damage’ without a qualm. Those people live on, so bigger, deadlier bombs are now used on any target anywhere.”

In the silence of Jerry’s pause, the guard’s teeth rubbed together. Jerry smiled a tight smile at the man’s impatience before continuing.

“Science had largely ignored all paranormal study. Hocus-pocus, superstition, the sort of thing that can kill a scientific career in an instant. All that changed overnight. Oh, science took a hold of this new world and wrung it by the throat. Reincarnation was a proven and documented fact within two years. From there, it was a matter of months before they started tracking people’s previous incarnations. I was one of the first. They did mine for free.” Jerry’s voice choked off. He swallowed a few times and cleared his throat.

“Mine was free, because I was famous. Rich, too. You don’t have to guess what they found.”

The guard’s feet shuffled. “You were Tom Barratt, the Subway Slasher.”

“So they say. I can’t recall any of it. Nobody remembers previous lives. The thing was, Tom Barratt was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences. Consecutive. What idiot thought up that rule?”

“Nobody really expected…” The guard sniffed.

“No, but here it is.” Jerry nodded at the fence separating him from the other inmates. “Look at them. There are at least fifty in that crowd who have done nothing wrong, nothing but get themselves reborn. Consecutive life sentences. If you took that fence away, they’d tear me apart.” Jerry pursed his lips. “Many times I’ve hoped they would.”

“It’s my job to see nothing like that happens to you.”

“Yes it is.” Jerry turned his gaze back to the wall. “I’m on 24-hour suicide watch, too. Suicide is still illegal. It makes no sense at all.”

“Oh, it does. They explained all that to us in training. You could go out and kill a lot of people, get sentenced to life imprisonment and then kill yourself and get reborn as someone else. It’s cheating the law.”

“You believe that?” Jerry faced the guard and was, for a moment, taken aback by his youth. He must be straight out of guard school, or whatever it’s called. “So what if a convicted criminal kills himself? If he effectively opts for the death penalty himself? Wouldn’t it save the taxpayers a lot of money?”

The guard shook his head. “It’s cheating. Life imprisonment is a harsher sentence than the death penalty. We can’t have people taking the easy way out.”

Jerry’s shoulders shook. A forgotten feeling took hold of him and he laughed, loud and long. The death penalty was now the easy way out. Jerry laughed until his sides hurt. Teary-eyed, he looked into the blue sky.

“Dear God, what have I done?”

The guard checked his watch. “Only a couple of minutes left. We’d best head towards the door. They don’t like it if you’re late.”

Jerry lowered his head and followed the guard. “You know, you’ll come and go, you’ll retire one day and live somewhere quiet and restful. You’ll tend flowers in your garden and take your dog for walks.”

“I hope so. It’s something to look forward to.”

“You know what I’m looking forward to?” Jerry spat the words. “One day I’ll die. Then I’ll be reborn. They’ll test me when I’m four years old. They test everyone now. On my fourth birthday I’ll be back in here.” Jerry stepped from the warmth of the yard into the cold granite corridor. “Four years old. I won’t remember this life, or the one before. I’ll have no idea what’s going on. Imagine that.”

The guard closed and locked the door. His back was turned to his prisoner, something guard school must surely have told him was wrong. All the same, he took his time turning around. When he did, his face had lost most of its youth.

Jerry shrugged and led the way back to his cell. Guards didn’t last long in here, but the wall he stared at was permanent.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Banquo at the Feast.

There is a wedding sometime this month. Somebody important (I hope that was the word) is to marry a cracking bit of stuff and bankrupt her father at the same time. He's a Prince (I'm sure I heard that right) and his wedding march is to be a dry run for Mrs. Queen's funeral.

That gave me pause. If I was trying to think of the very best way to put a total damper on what should be someone's happiest day, it would probably be this: 'Hey, this is the route we'll take when we drag Granny's coffin to her final dumping ground. Ooo, look. Blackbirds. They are supposed to rip the souls of the dead to shreds, you know. Isn't that interesting? '

Once more, the Government trumps my attempts at being heartless and cruel. At this rate I might as well give up and start being nice to people [shudder].

I'm not invited to the wedding but the Cameroid is. If I was invited I'd hire some seriously fancy duds for the day. I mean, the wedding of a future Mr. King who isn't as bonkers as his father? Heck, that is worth making an effort for.

The Cameroid apparently plans to turn up in his gardening clothes to 'show solidarity wiv da kids, innit?'.

I hope the newshounds are recording every word Prince Philip says on that day. He is going to come out with some absolute corkers and the Cameroid will never, ever live it down.

Serves him right, the Tefal-headed twat. Although he'll probably U-turn on this. He has on everything else.

Now if only he can persuade Nick Clegg to dress up as Nick O'Teen, it would be worth my while to watch the show.

Achtung! Rauchen!

That fire on the M1 motorway has been shown to be the result of arson. However, this does not stop the Daily ZeigHeil and (via ManWiddicombe), The Hitlergraph, suggesting that it was ze eeevil Zionist smokers vot done it. No surprises there. Nazis always seek to blame every unpleasant event on their scapegoat of choice, and the simpletons they use as drones turn hysterical right on cue. Sod Godwin. The Nazi parallel is now so blatant it's not worth even trying to work around it any more.

I suppose Zionist doesn't work as a collective group for smokers. Ze eevil Rollists? Aha, I have it, we are all part of the Tobbaconist Conspiracy.

So, a cigarette end with a tiny amount of combustible material left in it is thrown from a car. These few milligrams of remaining leaf enter a slipstream which should pull them behind the vehicle and accelerate the rate of burning until the little bit that's left is consumed in seconds. Instead, a smoker is now able to eject a cigarette end with such force that it escapes the vehicle's slipstream and crosses the hard shoulder, climbs the barriers and abseils into a scrapyard. Magically, it still hasn't burned its last few milligrams of material yet, and it can now burn so intensely that it penetrates the steel casing of a gas cylinder.

Wow. We smokers could teach Merlin a thing or two about magic. All the antismokers will believe it absolutely, naturally, because they have the collective IQ of a bleached coral reef and an utter inability to see beyond their own nasty little prejudices.

Those old witchdoctors who put curses on people made use of much the same level of gullibility. They could actually convince someone of their powers to the point where the victim would fall ill and even die as directed. The antismoking agenda has given smokers the same shamanic power. Why not use it? It's not as if we'd be harming anyone pleasant and in fact, we won't be harming anyone at all. They'll harm themselves, all we do is make suggestions.

That's not their plan, of course. Their plan is to ban smoking in cars and this little bit of indoctrination is too good to pass up. Remember, if you're voting next month, all the main parties will support the ban on smoking in cars. All of them will hand me even stronger powers to convince passing antismokers that they won't last the week. The first death from psychosomatic lung disease is only a matter of time. Me? CCTV will show I didn't lay a finger on them. No fingerprints and no DNA. Just words, and those are lost in the wind.

You don't think people are stupid enough to die from psychosomatic emphysema? Look here and here for a start. There are plenty more. See how the groundwork is done for you? All you need now is a convincing manner and you can hear the creak as their chests tighten. No wooden mask or rattling stick required. You don't even need to be smoking at the time, you don't even need to be identified as a smoker. They will believe it because they want to believe it.

Look at those comments under the Mail article. They've only read the headline and already, the word is spreading that an eeevil smoker did this terrible thing. No matter that it has now been determined to be deliberate arson. No matter who is caught and convicted of this, no matter how high-profile the case, this is going to be cited time and time again as a Sin of Smoking. It's a new King's Cross, a new Roy Castle. On the basis of this non-smoking-related event, smoking will be banned in cars. The drones will be delighted to call the snitchline from their mobile phones while driving. And then they'll get fined too.

And then they'll move on to smokers' homes.

It's not about protecting nonsmokers' health. It never was, because there was never any risk to nonsmokers' health. All the antismoking Nazis did was play on a dislike of the smell. There is nothing else. They worked up the guillible into a frenzy last seen in 1930's Germany and not one of these morons can see that. Now they will seize on any excuse to bash a smoker.

When the badges come in (already mooted as 'smoking licences'), the indoctrinated mindless will be right up there cheering it on. They'll cheer the trucks taking smokers to the camps, they'll elbow each other out of the way to be first to turn on the gas chambers and the furnaces, and still they will not see the parallel. Smokers scare them because they believe smokers are the cause of all evil in the world.

Okay, they want to be scared, let's scare them. To death.

I'm not kidding here. These people genuinely want us dead and they are getting closer and closer to the day when it will happen. It's not a game any more.

It's us or them now.

Fortunately, they are not very bright.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

King of the World.

Do I believe there are currently a group of people attempting to take over the world? That's at the centre of most conspiracy theories, so do I believe it or not?

Well, of course there are people trying to take over the world. Look at any point in human history you care to think of. There have always been people trying to take over the world. Hitler, Stalin, Marx, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, the Roman empire, the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Ottoman empires, even today there are countries with colonies and bases everywhere 'for the benefit of the local people'... there hasn't been a time in history when there wasn't someone trying to take over the world.

So is someone attempting it now? I'd be very surprised indeed if there weren't a dozen or more groups trying.

What's seriously unclear to me is what they plan to do if they ever succeed. What then? Mars conquest? Dominion over the ants? Control of the badgers? Flower Power? Algae Dictatorships? Cat-herding?

I really cannot see why anyone would want the hassle of being in charge of a local council, never mind the entire planet. Why would you want to be what is certain to be the single most hated person on the planet? Imagine living in a world where Gordon Brown is more popular than you. Where you rank lower than Blair, Mandelson or even Ant and Dec in the popularity stakes.

Oh sure, you can call yourself King of the World right up until the day you're assassinated by the next King. Because once you succeed, that isn't the end of the game. Oh no, there have always been and always will be people trying to be King of the World and all you'd do by succeeding would be to make it easier for the next one. They'd only have one target to aim at.

If you were King of the World, you would spend the rest of your life in the cross-hairs. It is the worst conceivable lifestyle choice, as far as I can see.

Sure, you'd have total control of the herd of cats that is humanity. Ha ha ha. They'll do exactly as you say until you turn your back and then they'd pop the cork and strike the lighter and pour the salt on chips they'd made out of parsnips because you've banned potatoes. You can force them to live entirely on turnips and they'll make wine out of them and smoke the leaves.

You can send your black-clad and heavily armed mindless drones to beat them into submission but that will just make them fade into the crowd. You can watch them with CCTV and they'll wave at you while the camera is on them, then put on the fake beard when they're out of its view. You can implant microchips and they'll hack them to make themselves millionaires or dig them out and implant them in a pigeon.

It doesn't even work on a country level. Iran has a total ban on alcohol but people get plastered at weddings anyway. In the UK, handguns are banned and shootings happen every week. On a city level, Aberdeen has a byelaw that states 'no booze in public' but I can take you to main street locations where I guarantee we'll find a few Red Stripe connoisseurs completely blasted on a bench at the roundabout.

The UK has tried, at various times, to eradicate Jews, Catholics and witches. Germany once tried to eradicate Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses and the disabled and homosexuals and gypsies and well, pretty much anyone they could find. The Spanish Inquisition tried to eradicate Jews and Protestants and Muslims. They're all still here, in all those countries. Their populations might be reduced for a time but eradication is always going to be about as successful as curing the common cold.

People are not controllable entities. Well, apart from plastic ones. We tell lies on forms and to official faces, we mess around with the machinery of control and we delight in finding ways around those controls. In fact, if there were no controls at all, it would take a lot of the fun out of life for many.

Really, anyone who wants to be in charge of this lot really needs therapy. You'd have to be completely insane to want to be King of the World.

Which is why only the completely insane ever try.

Gardening with Intent.

There has been an outbreak of non-rain here, which feels, well, wrong. Nothing is dropping out of the sky. There are dry bits on the ground. It's not even properly cold. I recall another day like this, I think, although the memory is hazy.

So I have been making the most of it and harvesting the bumper weed and slug crops to make room for the greenhouse seeds, when they are ready. Seasons run a little later here, except winter, which is often early. Summers are warm and wet so the annual Slug War is about to begin and this time I intend to not lose quite so badly as usual.

Slugs are little slimy Satans who will eat a little bit off each plant rather than get together and obliterate just one. They used to take a bite out of every single strawberry until I gave up trying to grow them. Their evil doesn't stop there, oh no. The bit they most like to eat is normally the bit that joins the stem to the roots. You can often hear them singing in the night 'Oh I'm a lumberslug and I'm okay...'

I've tried various slug pellets, but the only ones I found to have any effect at all were .177 lead ones fired from a Gat. That does involve staying up late but at least a Gat is much quieter than an air rifle.

These days, of course, I'd expect to see black helicopters overhead and bulky men with guns abseiling down the side of my house shouting "Hut-hut-hut" as soon as the first slug died. Outraged protestors from Slugwall demonstrating outside my house and staging slime-ins in my shed. Little placards saying 'Slug-free gardens go to Hell' and 'Behead the Desluginator'.

(Pause while I picture a black-clad slug with the eyes poking out through a slot... Yes, well, Hell already has a whole suite booked in my name anyway).

That would set the snails off, naturally, and there'd be petitions about the fag-ends I routinely put out before dropping them among the plants. They'd want them lit. The sparrows would complain about the insecticidal properties of ninety-second hand smoke and how their food now tastes like Woodbines. Think of the cheeeecks.

I'll fill their bird bath with something that dissolves feathers if they don't watch it.

All these things would happen because a neighbour would see me in my garden with something that looks vaguely gun-shaped. Then they would be Offended, Horrified and Appalled and the whole ridiculous circus would begin.

Would the Mollusc League of Britain really be enraged? Would a neighbour really call the police to report a weapon of slug destruction? Well, we now live in a society that actually believes that in the game of cat and mouse, the mouse is having a good time.

The comments below that article can make you despair for the future of the human race. They are weak-minded enough to make the Eloi look like an inner-city drug gang.

So would that neighbour call? Yes, he would. So I won't kill the slugs.

I'll throw them over the fence instead.

Or maybe I'll try beer traps, then all the slugs will get done for drink-driving on the way home.

Sunday 17 April 2011

The pub with no beer.

I visited a pub today. The first in a very long time.

It was a pub I used to be a regular in, but that was twelve years ago before I moved from there. For a long time I have intended revisiting this old haunt because it was one of my all-time favourites. It's a country pub but not isolated. There is a small village around it, population in the hundreds, so not vast but not tiny either. It is the only pub within a three mile radius.

The village is a little difficult to reach by bus but it can be done. I couldn't stay late, the last bus out is 8 pm but it turned out not to be a problem. I left long before then.

I remember it as an active and vibrant pub, rarely packed like a city-centre pub but never empty. There were bar-proppers who would be there if you went in for a lunchtime pint and they'd still be there if you went back in the evening. It didn't do a roaring trade but it ticked over very nicely. There was always a decent selection of beers and malt whiskies, including the Glenfarclas 105 which isn't too common in pubs because it's, well, deadly. The interior was redecorated frequently and sometimes completely remodelled. The pool table was perfectly level and in frequent use, there was a pool team and a darts team and both did well.

Today's visit was not the trip down memory lane I had expected.

There were no draught beers of any kind. None. All beer was in bottles or cans. The taps were there but the landlord had stopped ordering draught beers and ciders because he couldn't shift them before they went out of date. Whiskies consisted of Bells, Famous Grouse, Whyte and MacKay and only one malt - the Macallan. A decent malt but not my favourite. I'd pay £3 a glass for Ardbeg, but not for Macallan. So Whyte and MacKay it was.

The lounge bar is now a restaurant and empty. The public bar doesn't even have the lights on other than around the bar, there aren't enough customers to make use of the space. The dartboard was closed and had seating under it, the pool table cloth was dirty and torn. There are no pool or darts teams any more. Not enough people to form either.

Taking glasses outside is not allowed and smoking inside is, of course, not allowed. Twelve years ago, around 90% of this pub's customers were smokers. ASH will say there is no connection between the sorry state of the place and the ban they placed on 90% of the pub's clientele.

There are a few hundred people in the village but almost none use the pub now. There is nothing else. No club, no disco, not even a tea room. Just the pub. Well, when I lived there, the bulk of the village never visited anyway. Smokers were the main customer base. Visiting pool and darts teams provided a regular boost, so much so that the landlord would lay on free food for the evening.

Then the smokers were banned. Not by the pub, but by the Righteous who have never visited this pub. The nonsmokers in the village never visited before and still don't. Darts and pool teams from other pubs have no reason to come here. There has never been any passing trade. This place is not on the way to anywhere.

Now you not only can't smoke in this pub, you also can't play pool or darts, you can't sample unusual or unknown malt whiskies and unless you like lager, you can't have a draught pint. Why? Because the customers stopped coming and without income, none of these things can be maintained. Now there is little to nothing to entice the customers to come back. The landlord reckons he'll be closed within a year unless something dramatic happens. "People are having get-togethers at home," he said.

I have a name for that sort of thing. And when the pubs only offer the same canned beers you can buy for considerably less money in the supermarket, there is no point in visiting the pub any more. There is nothing to do in the bar except watch TV, which those who like to watch TV can do at home and decide which channel to watch. They can do it while drinking a canned beer that is now exactly the same as drinking in the pub and they don't have to go outside to smoke.

Pool and darts - well, most of us can accomodate a dartboard but a pool table needs a lot of space and unlike a dartboard, it needs that space permanently. Using the one in the pub was unquestionably the best option. Now it's no option at all.

This pub is nearly dead. The one in the next village died a couple of years ago. Smoky-Drinkies are on the rise although they go by many different names or by no name at all.

I wonder, are we returning to the original concept of a 'public house'? As the war on booze proceeds along the same lines as the war on smoking, soon we'll have to brew our own anyway. So Smoky-Drinkies will be 'public houses' with their own little brewery round the back. They won't be open to the public, of course. There'll be no signs and no welcoming landlord. They will be set up among small groups, they cannot be open to everyone because as soon as they are, the smoking ban will shut them. So if you don't already have one you'll just have to form your own.

In May, most smokers and drinkers in Scotland will vote for the continuation of their own persecution and the acceleration of the destruction of their pubs by voting for the parties that have openly stated this as their intention. They will vote for people who hate them and who make no secret of it.

The overweight will vote for their own persecution too, as will everyone who likes salt on their chips and who drives a car. All of them will place their 'X' in one of the 'denormalise me' boxes.

There is a UKIP candidate here. That's where my vote will go.

Independence for Scotland is the rallying cry of the SNP, but what use is independence without freedom? North Korea is an independent country, remember.

Free benefits for all, is the Labour cry, but what is the benefit of oppression?

Um... right, yeah, is the Lib Dem cry. Why do people vote for them anyway? More to the point, why do any of the denormalised groups vote for them? If there is one thing the Lib Dems are certain of, it's that they hate us all, just as the other parties do.

The Tories' cry in this part of the country is likely to be 'Please, somebody, anybody, vote for me' but few will. Here, the Tories can be dismissed as the irrelevance Cameron has made them.

All those parties hate smokers, drinkers, the overweight, drivers, anyone who likes a bit of salty food... the list now includes pretty much everyone. Yet they still get votes. Lots of votes.

I doubt they'll get that pub landlord's vote this May. The thing about dead-slow pub business on a Saturday evening is that it gave him plenty of time for a chat, and put him a receptive mood for a few new thoughts.

If only he had some customers to pass it on to.

Friday 15 April 2011

Bye bye Grandad.

Schools are showing kids a film on assisted suicide. There is much gnashing of hair and rending of teeth over this because there are those who believe this will encourage their children to stick their heads into gas ovens and send their gas bill through the roof.

No, no, no, silly parents. They are not training your kids to kill themselves. They are training them to kill you.

When you are old and infirm, unreasonably insisting that a fraction of all those pension contributions you paid in is now paid out, costing the taxpayer and the NHS money and being a burden on your family, your children will know that it is perfectly okay to 'help' you die. How can you possibly be enjoying life with unlubricated joints and unironed skin? They have pitied you as you wheeze your way up six flights of stairs and shaken their heads at your non-Cosmo face and figure.

"It's okay Grandad, this will help you sleep. Don't worry, I learned all about it in school".

I told you children were inherently scary, didn't I?

I wondered why the Cameroid promised higher pensions for future pensioners. It's because he's not expecting there to be any.

Could such a thing ever be accepted by the public? Well, from the comments...

Good we need some population control. - Rick, Coventry, 15/4/2011 22:57

Why are pupils being shown this film, especially aged 14 - a vulnerable age? I feel it is ok for a teacher to talk about this and discuss with a class - but to show a video? - Claire, London, 15/4/2011 22:59

Claire doesn't like the video but the subject is just fine. The next one has fallen for the old distraction trick -

"church leaders" Do we honestly care what they think and have to say? It's the equivilant of asking someone from Pixar to give us life guidence. - Voice of Reason and Sanity, A euro country, as Britain should be., 15/4/2011 23:14

This loony calling himself 'the voice of reason and sanity' has knee-jerked into 'Well if the Church is against it, I'm all for it'. The depth of his lunacy is evident in his signature, so we'll excuse his auto-response because he's an indoctrinated drone and to be pitied even as the guillotine falls.

Only one of these three openly supports assisted suicide but none are against it.

I'm not against it in principle either. However, I certainly don't want the State in control of it and I am very much against having it portrayed as the normal way to end life. There are cases where people are in such pain and distress from an incurable illness that they might just want the same dignity we afford dogs - a swift end. But they are few. Yes, they should have that right, but when the State is involved in anything it doesn't take long for the voluntary to become compulsory.

Looks like our government have finished reading '1984' and have moved on to 'Logan's Run'.


Something just occurred to me. Bear in mind that I write horror fiction so I think along these lines most of the time.

There is only one way out of the National Insurance PONZI scheme without causing a civil war. Here it is.

Raise the retirement age to say 70, where most people start to get a bit ill and it's also 'three score years and ten', something familiar to most people.

Starting now, train the children that it's okay to 'off' the elderly if they are infirm. It's for their own good.

As this progresses, the bar for the definition of 'infirm' becomes lower as the really seriously infirm have already been eradicated. Eventually everyone of 70 and older has at least something that would class them as infirm. The few who are still sprightly at this age don't matter at this stage, they are a tiny minority.

As these children reach old age themselves, they are already well used to the idea that getting old is something terrible and to be feared and that the sleep clinics are the far better option. People are scared witless of all kinds of ailments now. This next step will be really easy.

Within one generation, two at most, it will be perfectly normal to regard 'retirement' as something closer to the Mafia/CIA definition than the one we're used to.

So when you get to 70, three generations from now, you will enter the sleep clinic without protest. It's the normal way to die.

Then there's no payout for pensions at all. The PONZI scheme ends. Naturally, the NI contributions continue because they've already been absorbed into income tax so nobody notices them any more.

Can't happen? Go back ten years or so and imagine how you'd have responded if you were told that smoking would be banned in every pub in the land, smokers would not be allowed a shelter from the elements, and that 'obese' will mean that your waist is an inch bigger than your inside leg measurement. Honestly, how would you have reacted?

You'd have said 'Tinfoil hat', wouldn't you?

Next on Parliament's reading list: Soylent Green.

Scary monsters.

I have the first episodes of Dr. Who on DVD. William Hartnell was the original and best, a grumpy curmudgeon who didn't so much have 'assistants' as 'people in the way'. It began with the Doctor's granddaughter at school. Something's wrong, and two teachers decide to visit her home that evening.

They turn up at the address and it's a scrapyard. Inside is a grumpy, scruffy and obviously mad old man who lives in a police box in the middle of the yard.

If that had been released today, it would have been a short show. By the end of the first episode there would have been police helicopters overhead, Social Services hitmen surrounding the yard, the Doctor in handcuffs, the daughter in care and the Tardis confiscated and handed over to immigrant lizard-people in the name of equality. The end.

Fortunately the show was made in a time before everyone was scared of their own shadows, so we did get to meet the Daleks. I didn't notice it all those years ago but there were only around four actual Daleks. The massed ranks were just painted on the background scenery. It was well done because it wasn't until I turned into a cynical old swine that I noticed it.

Doctor Who was always done on a small budget. The Dalek lights were car indicator housings and they were armed with a sink plunger and a bit of spare water pipe, like some kind of intergalactic race of warlike drain clearance units. Sewer machines that one day just decided they weren't going to take any more of this shit.

The Cybermen had hosepipes along their arms and legs, connected at the joints with those skeletal plastic practice golf balls. So far, the special effects were easy. Neither Daleks nor Cybermen had any moveable facial features so rigid masks worked. Cybermen were meant to be enhanced humanoids so would be expected to look human-shaped. Daleks were not even remotely related to anything human at all. They were proper aliens.

Most of the rest of the monsters were obviously people in suits with fake heads on top. The Daleks didn't scare me, nor did the Cybermen, so the rest of them had no chance. There was only one really scary monster in the whole set.

The Autons. They scared the living daylights out of me. In appearance, they were merely shop-window dummies. No magical powers, no mighty space vessels, no time travelling, nothing. Animated dummies. Part of their hand would flip open to reveal a gun. A plain gun, no bullets that can turn corners nor rays that could kill ten at once.

Why were they so scary? Because they were there, in the real world, in every high street. Staring out of the shop windows. Watching you as you passed. Daleks and cybermen were toys in those windows but the Autons were real.

Not really real. The shop dummies were just hollow plastic but having seen them animate on the TV and then seeing the exact same dummies in the street, my fledgeling imagination went into overdrive. They could be real. There'd be no way to tell. That was what was scary.

It was many years before I realised that the really scary things are the things you can find parallels to in reality. Anyone can make up a monster, but you know, when you're reading it, the monsters aren't real. That's why I use phones, dishwashers, beer cans and computers in my scary stories. Sometimes I use monsters too but in most cases I'll use ones you can look up. They aren't real but they are recorded. Sometimes I do just make them up. That's fun.

Of the more recent Doctor Who ones, I'd say the best were the 'weeping angels' of the 'Blink' episode although in their reappearance with Matt Smith, they spoiled the game. These things turn into stone if you look at them but get you as soon as you blink. They keep their faces covered so as to avoid looking at each other because if they did they'd freeze each other permanently into stone. Yet in that story, they were in groups, eyes open, and there were no locked-in ones at all. The original premise was really good, all the same.

They were good because like the Autons they are real. Stone angels with their hands or arms over their eyes are to be found in many churchyards and older graveyards (they wouldn't be allowed these days in case they fell over and gave someone a bit of a fright). Do they move when you're not looking at them? Are you sure?

Then there was the small boy in the gas mask. If he touched you, your face morphed into a gas mask and you spread the contagion. I was impressed by that one. But then, children are inherently frightening things.

The widely-touted new monsters for the next series are called The Silence. An excellent premise. They are everywhere and you can see them, but when you look away you instantly forget them. You can only know about them while you're looking directly at them. You could use that premise to explain all those panic attacks and psychotic episodes that appear to have no physical cause. So it links into the real world, it becomes plausible and that makes it scary.

The design of them, though, is not scary. They are obviously a human dressed up and wearing a false head. For me, the part that totally ruins the whole image is that the alien, the powerful non-human paranormal monster, is pictured wearing a suit and tie.

No. Just... no. I know the BBC is a hotbed of the loony Left but seriously, making the next Dr. Who monster dress like a bank manager? What's next? Daleks with bowler hats and briefcases? Pinstripe Cybermen? Davros with a monocle and top hat?

Or maybe these new monsters are the real face of politics. That would work for me.

As for Dusty Bin, now he is seriously scary. The offspring of a drunken liasion between Bella Emberg and a Cyberman (she was on Bombay Sapphire gin, he was on Cask Strength Castrol, so the outcome was inevitable). Lately he's been hanging around street corners inviting the homeless to sleep in him, then putting them in the crusher. Even the Daleks are scared of him.

The Autons aren't. They work for him. They run the councils now. That's why there are reduced collections - Dusty's on a diet.

Didn't you know?

Equally useless.

I was passed this link in Email a few days ago. I can't embed the video.

By the way, if I don't reply to Emails or take days or weeks to do so, it's not just because I'm about as sociable as a Siamese fighting fish. I'm running two businesses and as the tax year has now passed, work is cranking up again. This year I hope to earn enough for my modest needs earlier than I did last year, so I won't have to go out in the snow at all next winter.

The video is a book advert, but it's also an interesting observation. People - everyone, in that video - don't believe they need to even look at the information before forming an opinion. This is a big part of what leaves them so wide open to suggestion, especially if delivered confidently and with an air of authority, and most especially if you have 'Doctor' in front of your name, as I have. Yes, I abuse it, but what the hell. I abuse it less than most others. And I only do it for a laugh, not for any devious plan. The only blogger who's met me is Kynon and I'm sure he'll tell you I don't look like someone who has any kind of plan.

I have a PhD. It means something. It means I did stints of analyses over three or four days at a time, often sleeping in the lab. We didn't have auto-loaders for samples in those days. I had to put them in at twenty minute intervals. There was an autoanalyser and I used that too but it was only for certain tests and it was an unreliable swine. The scheme of work was mine, I was given a problem and told 'You have a BSc, you know the basics, sort it out'. The supervisor was very good, he would guide but not direct and he left me alone most of the time. It wasn't easy but a lot of it was fun. These days the actual analysis is easier but students are expected to produce a lot more of it because of that. For me, it was hard to do the analysis but I at least ended up with a manageable quantity of numbers. Today it's the other way around. Swings and roundabouts.

If I had just been handed a PhD after idling away three years, what would it mean? If everyone was handed a PhD at 25, what would it mean? Nothing. Equality, if you like, but in that instance (as in every instance) equality makes the equalised thing pointless. If everyone had a PhD then there would be no point in anyone having one. A waste of paper.

I have no plumbing qualifications. I am not CORGI registered, never even seen an application form, so I would make no attempt to fix a faulty gas appliance. I'd phone someone qualified and have some confidence that they had been trained in the work. Yes, I'd have to pay them, but I'm not likely to pay anywhere near what it costs for current CORGI registration. The plumber who did my last gas boiler service told me what it costs and it's in the 'Bloody hell' range.

What if those qualifications were handed out like Christmas cards? What if you only had to say 'I want to be a CORGI-registered plumber' and some suited drone said 'Okay', ticked the box and gave you a spanner?

Sure, you might say 'it's unfair that some people get degrees and higher degrees and others don't' but apply it across the board. You want to just give away that qualification to anyone? Fine. Then anyone can be qualified to meddle with your gas and electricity supplies, anyone can be qualified to attach new brakes to your car using only a pair of pliers and a four-pound hammer, anyone can be qualified to drive a train and anyone can be qualified to operate on your brain.

Agree with one and you have to agree with them all. Happy to take that flight knowing that aircraft maintenance qualifications are available to anyone who asks, in the name of equality? Happy to get on that bus driven by the guy who came last in the Special Olympics events for the blind and utterly deranged? Go on, get on the train. The driver is an alkie drug addict who likes to sit backwards so he can ogle the passengers, shouts 'Warp Factor Seven' and cackles but hey, equality, remember? Then, when they crash, you have to go to hospital where your consultant is Benny from Crossroads (aged reference, sorry).

The new President of the Union of Students is perfectly happy with all those scenarios. There is a reason he's so happy. He is an idiot. Idiots are always happy. Look into any bar in Parliament and you'll see how happy they are.

He is also a student of physics. Not mince-pie-hurling, tofu-weaving or socialism. Physics. A serious and complex subject requiring intelligence and application. Hey, I have a PhD and most of that physics stuff just goes right over my head. Not so Liam Burns. Education does not go over his head. It goes straight through, unopposed, like a neutrino through Swiss cheese.

He wants universities who have a reputation for producing well-trained students to accept Johnny Gibber and his drooling crew, so they can come from a good university too. He cannot grasp that by the time they come out of there it won't be a good university any more. It'll be another drone factory.

Why would a student of physics want this? Well, one can only assume that somewhere in that pristine, unused brain of his, he has reached the conclusion that he is thicker than a really thick slab of thick stuff, soaked in thickener, given three thick coats of thick paint and then had 'Thick' stencilled onto it. It must be assumed from his statements that he believes the only way he will get a degree is if they are free in Cornflakes packets. So he has to push for 'equality' which in his case, will mean that I will be the world authority on quantum physics within five years, and all I can do on the subject is spell it.

The President of the Student's Union does not believe you have to bother with the facts to be an expert on any subject. Fortunately, most students will ignore him.

I think Frey's book is unneccesarily insulting to Christians. It's stirring up trouble just to make a buck. However, he has, incidentally, made a very good point.

These days, independent thought is unfashionable. People who read stuff and look stuff up are to be despised almost as if they were smokers.

Pol Pot had a similar idea. The results were unpleasant.

Thursday 14 April 2011

You want to have a child, do it outside.

I'm talking about children a lot lately. I'd better watch my step, those Righteous are a bit free with the 'paedo' accusations. I am, in fact, a paedophobe. I don't like them. They are fast and unpredictable and have more energy than a ton of plutonium. It's like being among rabid wolverines. They make too much noise and they ask too many questions. So, a career working with children was never going to be for me and never will. I don't want to suffer from second-hand children.

Subrosa harks back to the days of 'quiet time' in schools and how it's now coming back, relabelled as 'Yoga diversity outreach noise cessation education' or some such crap. When I was at school, quiet time cost nothing. It was the politically correct version of 'Shut up you little sods, give me ten minutes to breathe' and it required no non-jobs at vast expense, just a teacher at the end of their tether who knew how to keep a class quiet for a while without getting stabbed.

Personally I'd go for the lead pipe approach but I'm betting they don't cover that in teacher training these days. I don't think lead pipe is easy to come by any more either. I could dust off that 1.5-inch ring spanner, I suppose.

So I am not child-friendly and neither is my house (the 'no children' signs are a bit of a giveaway there) but even so, the story JuliaM reports has me going in several directions at once.

A tearoom bans little children at certain times of day. They have to go into a special room, out of the way.

Well, I don't like them running about while I'm trying to have a coffee and a smoke but I can't have that any more anyway. So I no longer visit tearooms, so the kids can have them as far as I'm concerned. As with pubs, I'm banned from every one in the country so it is hard to muster any sympathy for these parent/children noise and vomit combos when they've really only experienced in one place what smokers experience everywhere, every day.

After all, we smokers are banned from everywhere, soon to include private cars and homes, and these children are the excuse used to force that on us. Even if we don't have any and don't allow any in. So the children and their parents get banned from somewhere. Makes a nice change. Even though they aren't actually ejected from the premises as smokers are, at least they are getting a little taste of how it feels.

On the other hand, as a smoker I know how they feel. It's not nice being told that everyone else finds you offensive even when nobody's complained... well, nobody's complained ever, in your whole life, before. All of a sudden, you're vile and disgusting and decent people don't want to even see you around. Even so, it is really difficult to muster up any kind of sympathy here. These children, I say again, are the perennial reason used to hammer smokers into subhuman status. Their parents include those who say things like 'I don't want a filthy smoker anywhere near my child'. Of all the groups that could have had the experience, these are pretty high up the list.

It wasn't that big a deal for them, really. This was not a country-wide ban enforced with fines and snitchlines and NHS-approved violence against perpetrators of child-rearing. Nobody is forced to go outside to have a child, nobody has moved the maternity unit to a less-than-50%-enclosed box outside the hospital grounds. This was one single venue which restricted child access for a few hours a day, and provided another room for them. If it bothers them that much they can just go to another tea room. There are still some that allow children.

To hear them rant and wail you'd think they had been banned from every venue in the land unless they stub out that child and swear to never have another one, ever again. You'd think they had been in court accused of child-rearing in their works vehicle, on business premises or in an enclosed public place. No. All they face is a restriction in hours at one place, and just hear them howl their indignation.

These are the people who call smokers 'selfish' for wanting some places to go. They are the ones who believe that second hand smoke causes everything from acne to septicaemia and that even looking at a smoker will turn their child's skin purple and make their eyes pop out. They are the ones happy to pour guilt on smoking parents if their child dies of SIDS even though there is not one shred of evidence to link the two. Oh yes, there is no spite too low for a Righteous parent to pour on a smoker. For the cheeldren.

Restrict their choice a little bit and now see what you get. They squeal like a pig that was watching the wrong hillbilly. 'It's outrageous. How dare they? We demand all places admit us at all times. We have Rights'.

Sectioning off a particular group and making them non-persons is now standard procedure. It doesn't feel very nice when it's you, does it? Did you really think it would stop at smoking? Did you think it would stop at obesity? Drinking? Salt? Oh, then where did you think it might stop?

The answer is simple. It never stops.

Get used to it. Smokers have.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Dinner party with a snort.

I live between two extremes. Plastic Man on one side and Drinking Neighbour on the other. Both are married with two children each, but there the similarity ends.

Plastic Man washes his car with a sponge and a hose with some kind of brush attachment. His car is black and shiny and immaculate. He also vaccuums the inside.

Drinking Neighbour washes down his works van with a power washer when it reaches the point where it's hard to see out of the windows. His van is silver with Irish number plates. I have never seen his vacuum cleaner leave the house.

Plastic Man's garden is a neat square of grass, now encased in matt black (see previous post). Drinking Neighbour's garden has fascinating multi-level decking, solar lights, strange ornaments and flower beds. Mine is similar but he's more restrained with the colours and his pergola never has runner beans growing up it. His wife prefers to grow flowers. Well, each to their own I suppose but I can't eat flowers. Except hibiscus, and I have one of those in the house.

The thing about Drinking Neighbour is that I think he overdoes it sometimes. I know, I know, I can hardly criticise anyone's drinking patterns since mine are not exactly NHS approved and I am a big contributor to the whisky industry's profits. There is a difference between us.

I drink because I like the actual drink. I drink far more than is approved but I take it in slowly and I have very, very rarely been so plastered I can't see. Drinking Neighbour begins the drinking session with the stated intention of getting wasted, and will then drink until his eyes melt. For me, it's about enjoying a good evening with lots of good whisky. For him, the booze is merely a means to an end. For me, it's the taste and the buzz. For him, it's just a road to oblivion.

I have no problem with that. It's not my liver he's training to take George Best's place and he's never been a violent drunk. He just talks a load of shite. He's a harmless drunk unless you count boring people to death as an actual act of murder. So I say, let him tank himself up all he wants. He likes it, he does no harm, no problem.

Yes, it is likely to harm him but it harms nobody else and nobody forces him to do it. No crime is committed, so no action is required by anyone. Sure, you could say 'think of his wife and children' but his wife can fairly put it away too and his children are good kids, capable of looking after themselves and him too. Even when he gets to the point where he has to carry his liver around in a wheelbarrow. I cannot interfere or advise anyone on drink, certainly not when I'm three-quarters of the way through a bottle of whisky myself. It's not my business and I can hardly claim to be a role model.

He doesn't smoke but he does most of his drinking at home these days. The removal of a large part of the pub-going clientele has had knock-on effects: some non-smokers don't bother going to the Puritan gatherings either. But that's not what this is about.

It's about drugs. Alcohol is a drug in that it does have effects on the brain. When I want a new idea for a horror story I'll generally drink a good belt of whisky and wait for the dreams. I dreamed the zombie story I'm working on in one night, in Technicolor and Cinemascope, right through to the wonderfully evil ending. This is not a recommended method especially if nasty dreams scare you. It won't work for everyone. I wake up writing from dreams that make most people wake up screaming. Besides, alcohol, like all drugs, will affect different people in different ways. Drinking Neighbour remembers no dreams the next day and in fact remembers nothing for several hours before he passed out. Sometimes, cruel people make up things he didn't do and tell him he did them. Heh heh heh.

I am not interested in the harm any drug does because it only harms the user, and legal or illegal, it's the user's choice to take it. Oh, you might say 'But druggies rob people' and yes, they do. The robbing is the crime. What they do to their own bodies is nobody else's concern. You might say 'But what about their husband/wife?' What about them? If someone were to do something every day that pissed me off, they would find that I'd be notably absent from their circle of acquaintances very quickly. I sure as hell wouldn't marry them, nor would I stay married to them if I already was.

Then, naturally, 'What about the cheeeldren?' What about them? If they are being abused, we have a Social Services that could deal with that if it hadn't been ripped to bits by self-important cretins with more regard for their own importance than for the job they are supposed to be doing. There are good social workers out there. They spotted this guy and tried to get shot of him before he killed but were overruled from on high. There are bad ones too, but they are not all bad. They used to do a pretty good job before the idiotic Common Purpose drones popped out of Julia Middleton's schools for the insane, believing they could do more than their remit when they actually couldn't be trusted with cleaning a toilet. Common Purpose does not train people to be great leaders. It trains them to believe they are. None of them have yet managed to grasp the difference.

But again, if a druggie is abusing his or her children, take them into care. If not, leave them alone. Like Drinking Neighbour, who is a good dad to his kids, druggies are not automatically bad parents.

Nor are they necessarily beating up old ladies, stabbing pregnant women and desecrating churches to get their drugs. Cocaine is apparently in common use among the middle class, who can afford it even at illegal prices.

I've never tried it. Not interested. But if you like it and can get it without resorting to street muggings or MP-style expenses fiddles, why shouldn't you have it? I see no reason. It has no effect on me if you are out of your face on powder and have one wide nostril. No effect at all. If you can afford it then I don't have to worry about you popping out of an alley and demanding all my cash while brandishing a claymore with half your face painted blue. I hear the more southerly muggers have a different approach.

Like Drinking Neighbour, who is likely to end up with a liver you could strain vegetables in, the middle-class cocaine snorters might end up like Tara Palmer Mononostril. Or they might not.

See, the thing about booze and tobacco, and most other drugs, is that the advertised damage depends on high, sustained use over a long period of time. Drinking Neighbour is absolutely sober when he's working. As am I. Those dreams take one night, sometimes two, of eye-melting booze but to type them up I have to be sober for a long period afterwards. I like smoking but there's no tobacco on me when I visit the town or the supermarket. Why take it where you can't smoke it? I don't chain-smoke. I savour the experience.

Those middle-class partakers of nosecandy are likely working to the same pattern. I sometimes drink like Dylan Thomas without the poetry but when I go to the lab I am stone cold sober and not even slightly hung over. I also never smoke in there because any hand-to-mouth movement in there would be a bad idea. Likewise, the dinner-party dust sessions are likely to be occasions, rather than the central point of their lives as is the case with some druggies.

Is cocaine safe at that level? I don't care, I don't use it. It's not really what they're talking about though. The article looks like it's building up to something. Remember 'no safe level' of smoking? Remember 'no safe level' of drinking?

That's where it's going. They are now trying to ban something that's already banned.

This one could be interesting.