IT’S just over a decade now since the smoking ban came into force. That first weekend saw me walk on to the stage at The Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow and nearly take a panic attack.
This being the city that made Woodbines a fashion accessory, we usually had a table of four at the front puffing in unison. It was like performing in front of a particularly lively Icelandic volcano mischievously gearing up to ground the world’s airline fleet.
Now fags were banned and for the first time I could see not just see the back wall of the club, I could see the audience. That was a shocker.
It was a bizarre idea that people took it as their right to walk into any enclosed area and light up a noxious combination of carcinogenic gases and boaky stink to blow into other people’s faces. I hold my own hand up and plead guilty here.
There are young people today who have never walked into a bar where you could chew the air.
Even finding the bar was like walking through the blackout. You pretty much knew where it was, so you just kept walking in the hope that you’d bump into it. Some times you’d wander out of one bar by accident and find yourself in a completely different pub. It didn’t matter that you had lost your pals. The smoke was so thick you could basically talk to anyone under the impression that you knew them and they knew you.
Cinemas had an accidental light show of beams dancing through smoke – terribly pretty, but terribly deadly. At one point the cinemas I worked in had a policy of smokers sitting on the left-hand side of the auditorium.
Quite what that was supposed to achieve I have no idea, since one of the salient features of smoke is its uncanny ability to drift about.
The ice-cream sales girl in ABC Liverpool used to stand with her tray of King Cones at the side of Screen One nonchalantly puffing away on her Benson & Hedges, affectionately known as “Cleaners Fags”, since there was hardly a set of blue overalls that didn’t have the gold packet in the pocket.
No-one complained. In fact, I once saw a punter spark up her fag for her when she forgot her lighter.
The times they are a-changin’... for the better
Things change, and attitudes change, and sometimes for the better. The other night The Maltese Falcon popped up on the telly. The Yorkshire Husband and me are suckers for a good old black and white film.
Everyone in the film smokes, all the time. Bogart, pictured, exists on booze and fags. Peter Lorre constantly gets ciggies out of a fancy little box – when he’s not being hit over the head and slapped about by everyone else in the cast, that is.
The magnificent Mr Lorre plays a strange little outsider to society. He is scented, his hair is curled and sly comments are made about him.
He is, it is hinted, gay and thus suspect and a bit weird.
Last week, Scotland discovered that the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, has a female partner. Did Scotland reel in shock and horror? Nope. Eyebrows from Duns to Thurso remained resolutely unraised. Times really have changed, and to the good.
Stupidity hits new heights
People puffed away, because it was their right. Which just goes to prove that just because you are allowed to do a thing, you shouldn’t always do the thing. Looking at you, Sara Albone, 28, from Brighton, who decided to take a stroll on Ben Nevis in trainers and shorts without telling anyone where she was going.
She was fortunate to be spotted by two massively helpful mountaineers (hint Sara, these guys are mountaineers. The clue is in the name. This is not a ramble in the Lake District. This is a mountain) who had kit and gear to save our hapless day-tripper, pictured.
Everyone has the right to be stupid, but not at the expense of others.
Some you win, some you booze
Similarly, everyone has the right to drink too much. And I know, sometimes, heck, you can just lose track of your consumed units and unexpectedly find yourself in a revolving room whilst you stare down the loo trying to work out how many words you can make out of the name Armitage Shanks. 43 is my record . . .
Here’s a clue, though, that might indicate that you may have overindulged on something like a holiday flight to Malta.
Should you lower that Campari and soda you’ve been delicately sipping from and realise that the aircraft is being stormed by the Maltese police, complete with dogs, riot gear and a bad attitude, and they are heading straight for you, it’s fairly safe to say, amigo, that you’ve probably not been as much in-flight fun as you thought you were.