January 21, 2010

Return To Abnormality












I found an old friend on Tuesday night.

OK, maybe "an old friend" is going too far. Non-smokers may not get this, and anti-smokers will be enveloped in righteous fury.

It was an inanimate object. An ashtray. "So what?", I hear them shriek. Well, this one (with many of its friends), was in a bar. And it warmed the old cockles to see them. In March, it will be four years since I saw one of these rarities in a Scottish pub. It was an emotional moment for me: here I was, in Europe, my brand new homeland since December 1st 2009, in a bar, where I could smoke to my hearts content. And I can confirm that ye olde pump was never more contented.

I arrived in Hamburg around 5:30 pm and jumped in a taxi for the short ride to my hotel. The driver was a German (most taxi drivers-the world over- are not nationals) and we chatted about the changes since I was last there in the early eighties. I was thoroughly enjoying the chit-chat when we arrived at my hotel. I checked in and the guy on the desk (another German! At every hotel I have stayed at in the UK for the last four or five years I have never been checked in by a British national) was polite, friendly and courteous. He welcomed me, got me into a smoking room, and wished me a pleasant stay.

After working for a couple of hours on my presentation to my customer the following morning, I bimbled down to the bar for some scoff. It was here that I spotted my old pal. I sat down at the bar, ordered a beer and, with a furtive look around the half-full bar, lit a smoke. I needn't have bothered with the furtivity (if that isn't a word, it should be), as no-one in the bar gave a damn. Within a couple of minutes, I had relaxed fully, and I felt right with the world. It has been quite some time since I felt this way. It was, I have to say, bloody fantastic. How, I wondered, can such an innocent act have become so divisive in our country? How can such a small thing have created so much noise? I watched my fellow drinkers and eaters carefully. There was no outrage. There was none of that bizarre hand-waving and false-coughing so prevalent in my own country. There was no tut-tutting swiftly followed by those judgemental sneers. The demographics in the bar mirrored real life. Around twenty people in the place and six of us were smoking.

Still people watching, I was stunned when no-one died. I was amazed that no-one keeled over. There was no real coughing (not even from us smokers) let alone the fake kind. The bar, I noted, was using some sort of wizadry to clear the smoke. On investigation, this witchcraft turned out to be something called ven tee lay shun. Incredible stuff. I don't think we can get ven tee lay shun here. If we could, we would be able to smoke in our bars too. Maybe they only allow ven tee lay shun in Europe proper. It isn't for us late-comers. Perhaps if we behave ourselves this magic will be shared with us.

I confess that I smoked more than I should have, and I drank more than I should have (for a man negotiating a $4M deal the next morning), and I could not resist ordering the Giant Hamburger from the menu. It was cheesy (as was the hamburger) since I was in Hamburg, but it had to be done. The last time I saw a hamburger this big was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and it was labelled "The Heart-Stopper". I had to have one of those too.

My night, which I thought could simply not get any better, did exactly that. I took a drag on my smoke and as I exhaled I spotted another old friend not 18 inches from my head. In the shelf above the bar I saw a bottle of 12 year old Cardhu! It has been far too long since I enjoyed a nip of Cardhu. All the "purists" refused to stock it when the makers decided to use it in a blended whisky. It also happens to be my favourite malt. Long story short, a terrific night was had by yours truly.

My presentation went extremely well too. So much so, that they hung on to me for 2 hours after the meeting ended. With a bit of luck I will be returning often to their offices as we thrash out the global deal. I will be staying in the same hotel, smoking, and finishing off their bottle of Cardhu, smiling all the while, and being normal.

I returned to the airport (another German taxi driver!) to head home. The conversation in the taxi was odd, but enjoyable. The driver spoke to me in German and I answered in English. We both understood the chat from beginning to end.

Hamburg airport is smoker friendly. They have these little fish-tanks dotted about the place (although I didn't use them) and a superb Dunhill smokers lounge. You can de-stress in comfort before getting into that aluminium tube hurtling through the sky at 500mph.

The hotel (though friendly) was a bland Best Western. The best bit about this one was the bar, of course. It is located in Mexicoring to the north of the city, should you ever need to use it.

So, I am back. I have returned to abnormality. I will continue to avoid pubs, bars and clubs here until they see sense. I will continue to use pubs, bars and clubs abroad because they are not terrified of a little harmless smoke. For their bravery, I will reward them with whacking great slabs of their national currency. It's one of those win-win deals.

Time to go blog-trotting to see what has been going on in our funny little fucked up country.

CR.

22 comments:

Constantly Furious said...

Odd, innit? I was in Vienna just before Christmas, and every last bar, restuarant and even cafe was crammed with happy smokers. Not a single huddled 'criminal' outside on the pavement.

Even as a non-smoker, I heartily approved.

Why can't we do this?

Uncle Marvo said...

That is exactly why I spend every possible moment in Spain.

This year I will try Germany. Is it nationwide, this no-ban thing? Or just in some parts?

Captain Ranty said...

CF,

You are a rare beast. I thank all the gods that people like you exist.

CR.

Captain Ranty said...

Not sure, Unk.

I think so though. The Germans got a bit uppity when their ban arrived, heralded by the terminally terrified as the best thing since sliced sausage.

The righteous took a pounding and the result is good for bars.

Over 50 bars a week close down here. With a stroke of a pen it can all end.

But that would make Labour look like cunts.

And they can't have that, can they?

CR.

Cold Steel Rain said...

Oh how I miss the German bars.. I spent my youth in them. Smoking away like the Trooper I was.

Come to think of it.. I actually miss the Cold War - I Shall blog on it tonight I think!

Captain Ranty said...

Ich auch, CSR, ich auch!

Them was the days. As I defended the free world (along with some friends) I had a blast. Some of my happiest memories were created in West Germany.

Blog on! I'll pop along for a peruse.

CR.

Barry said...

People were smoking quite freely in bars in Barcelona last time I was there. Decent ventilation, and smokers and non-smokers (I'm an ex-smoker) were all happy alongside each other, no one had to stand outside, and there wasn't much smoke in the air although almost everyone was smoking.

Besides, I've never thought of bars and pubs as somewhere I go to get healthy...

It was bloody obvious that as the ban came in, they'd be after drinkers next.

Barry

Captain Ranty said...

Barry,

You are living proof that ex-smokers are tolerant and I thank you for that.

In truth though, is any activity safe from the Righteous? Smokers, drinkers, eaters, drivers, sportsmen/women, all appear to be lined up for draconian legislation.

It's all they know. It's what they do best.

The bastards.

A day of reckoning cometh, and I will not shy away from giving evidence against these pathetic puritans.

CR.

I am Stan said...

You lucky man....a civilised smoke with a drink in a smokey bar....bliss!


How did it ever come to this?

Barry said...

I've got kids so don't spend much time in the pub now anyway!


We plan to home educate, so we know all about the current push for ever-more draconian legislation...

Captain Ranty said...

Stan,

It happened for the same reason shit like this always happens: good men and women stood by and did nothing.

They thought that by not opposing the ban they would gain. But we all lost. Every single one of us.

The smoking ban was merely an experiment and they knew that once they said "Bollocks" to 12 million people, they could ban any group doing anything they didn't approve of.

It wasn't a slippery slope. It was the North face of the fucking Eiger.

CR.

Captain Ranty said...

Good to hear that Barry.

Your children will grow up with some real knowledge. I hope that your example spreads fast. Don't expect the establishment to like or condone what you are doing. They will try to trip you up every step of the way. I have two words of advice for you: Stand Fast!

My kids are now seriously under-equipped to face the world. They were taught nothing of any practical use at school.

Their education starts now.

CR.

John Pickworth said...

Bali last October, smoking allowed pretty much everywhere. Malaysia, some restrictions (mostly public places rather than private businesses).

As for the ventilation of pubs and restaurants? Many of the larger premises in the UK had been spending small fortunes installing such systems before the ban. Bet they don't install so many now? All those poor non-smoking clientèle that frequent those pubs are probably all going to catch nasty germs off each other now instead of the much healthier whiff of smoke. Serves them right if they do! Poetic justice.

Captain Ranty said...

John,

My local landlord was smiling from ear to ear on March 26, 2006. He believed all the hype that his pub would be full morning noon and night now that the nasty smokers had to go outside. I walked past his pub for months afterwards (while walking my dogs, I'm no stalker) and his clientele rapidly dwindled.

I was in for a last smoke and a pint, and he pointed up at his new air management system. "Want to buy that?", he asks me, "I have no use for it now". I asked him whether his soon-to-be full pub would appreciate the stench of piss, vomit and B.O. He vehemently denied that this would be the case.

I went in once since the ban started, and the smell was atrocious. The cheapskate will not even attempt to clean the air for the two regulars he has left. He is lucky in that ours is a holiday village so he makes all his money in the summer and this is enough to get him through every bleak winter. But only just. I hear that he is giving up and the place is being quietly touted for sale.

He needs to pray for a buyer with no sense of smell. The place reeks.

CR.

Barry said...

Yes, seems to have been a bit of an oversight that. I don't smoke anymore, but I prefer the smell of fresh smoke, to stale beer, sweat and 40-year-old carpets.

Tell you what else makes me happy, is seeing someone smoking a pipe, not a crack pipe, just a regular old style pipe. Always think it looks a relaxing habit, and a 'fuck you' to the rush and stress we're all supposed to be toiling under.

Weren't we supposed to have a summer of rage about this sort of thing?

Captain Ranty said...

"Weren't we supposed to have a summer of rage about this sort of thing?"

I think that people (sensibly) ignored the gubmints advice to riot. Summer 2010 looks favourite. Food prices rise 10% per season and there is a predicted shortfall that should reveal itself in six months or so. Food Riots. Who'da thunk it? (You might want to stock up on rice, pasta, and canned goods).

Pipe smokers have been shown to outlive most of us, by a good margin. I cannot ever recall meeting and chatting to a boring pipe-smoker. They seem (to me, at any rate) to be the most relaxed people on earth, and they are always interesting buggers.

CR.

Anonymous said...

Grandpap smoked a pipe and cigars every day of his life, cigs when he was younger - lived to be 100 years and 6 months, to please my aunt who said you have to live to be 100, once he reached 90. Never had a sick day at work, never was in the hospital, never sick at home - and died from normal old age peacefully and happy, in his sleep. When he died, 2,800 miles away, me being far away, woke up in the middle of the night to the fresh smell of his cherry pipe-tobacco, his message to me that he had passed, which when the telephone call came in the morning, it was me who told them I already knew he had died. True story and yes, pipe smokers often live a very long life indeed.

On the other note, being forced into non-smoking by hate-mongerers and indoctrinated children, gone to a hypnotist where I paid good money to be told whom I never was, I am - resulted in so much personal confusion and turmoil, for well over 3 years now, that unable to hardly drive a car, hardly able to hold onto a job or to even think straight - my one and only best friend of 31 years died only 50 miles away and my intuition, which had always been strong while a smoker, was nonfunctioning as was my desire to drive - and went down to find the friend's body dead and rotted by 2 weeks - after which the real nightmare began.

So non-smoking leads to some bad results too, only the majority don't know this yet - until it happens to them personally - after which they will find out there is something magic in that little puff of smoke and those little wisps clouding the air were actually an insurance policy that liberties will still in effect in the land.

Once that smoke cleared, then so did the liberties, love and truth all disappear right along with it.

People haven't learned yet the full impact and are still believing whatever propaganda government likes to dole out to keep them enslaved - to the devil.

Hard to explain, but if it happens to you, then you'll know what I mean. The personal stories of course run deeper and involve more than I can ennunciate in just a few short lines but God's message has come through loud and clear to myself at least, about the lies, hate and distortion used to pull the wool down over everyones' eyes in regard to this smoking-ban thing.

Barking Spider said...

The bes chance for common sense and change is soon after the Tories take over from the commies - unless Cameron is pressed very quickly to grow a pair and repeal the ban, nothing will change.

Captain Ranty said...

Anon,

Thank you for a lovely comment. There is much for discussion in there, both the good and the bad parts.

What is clear is that you are aware. This will keep you safe.

Stay well,

CR.

Captain Ranty said...

BS,

I agree. If he has any sense he will reform the ban quickly. That would breathe new life into our decimated pub industry.

If he doesn't, if he refuses to stop the carnage, then he is no better than Moron Brown and his collection of delusional control freaks.

CR.

Sue said...

That (believe it or not) is one of the main reasons I live in Spain. I'm f**ked if the UK government is getting my taxes to tell me that I can't have a fag!

The UK really has nothing left to offer decent people. Crap weather, too many bloody foreigners, high taxes, 3000+ statutes, all that sodding nannying, loss of freedom of speech etc... most of the UK doesn't even resemble the UK anymore. My roots are in East London (near the docks).. can you imagine what that looks like now?

Captain Ranty said...

It will all end in tears Sue. The trouble is that it will be our tears, not theirs...

BTW, the numbers have been revised. It is now 4,300 new pieces of legislation since 1997.

Blair averaged 27 a month.

Gorgon (you have to admire his dedication) averages 33 new statutes a month.

Twat.

CR.