Wednesday, March 21, 2007


They guy at the Fedex office had been turfed out to have a last fag of the day, even though it was freezing, so I says to him, sympathetically of course, "after July you'll be stuck out here permanently". It was a joke, obviously, carrying the message that unless he gives up smoking, like all right thinking people such as me, he will be stuck outside when England catches up with the rest of the UK and bans smoking in a variety of places from pubs and restaurants to offices and school nurseries. You'll only be able to smoke inside, in prison, ha ha. How he laughed.

In New York, when Bloomberg started his campaign to make the city completely smoke free (that's his legacy - no smoking anywhere if he can manage it in time) a local midtown bar/ restaurant went through the following transformation. Since it's only girls who smoke nowadays, they would all pile out at half time (after three drinks or in between courses) for a cigarette (no, I'm not going to say fag). The management eventually put a strip of astroturf outside for their comfort and the girls - who had tottered in earlier in heels, makeup, glamorous coats and bags etc, were to be found a little later in the cold with no shoes, outerwear gone, smoking and laughing like blokes used to do (without the shoe removal, obviously). It was an unintentional side effect and led one out of towner to bemoan the decline of New York "with all these girls on the street".

Glasgow has gone a step further. European cafe culture has finally arrived. Every bar, pub and restaurant has it's own roped-off astroturf strip, complete with Parisian style metallic chairs and tables, where the denizens of the Dear Green Place can be found elegantly drawing on a Sobranie Continental, swapping humorous anecdotes with the demi monde. Only last November, in subzero temperatures, I witnessed this gay repartee outside several bars, where some of the jokers had gone one step further and decided to have a wee lie down as well. My ungracious hosts, smokers all, describe their Friday nights as "hell" where they now have to leave the pub by 9pm for fear of arrest, and regard the smoking areas as a Hogarthian nightmare populated by the worst imaginable drunks and tosspots. Obviously, when I told them to give up smoking they nodded, open mouthed, in appreciation of my insight into the matter.

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