Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pneumonia, a nine-letter word

I WELL remember the first newspaper office I ever worked in.

Everyone smoked, incessantly – even the company doctor. Overflowing ashtrays littered every desk, you had to wade through knee-deep drifts of ash if you ventured off the beaten track and the corridors echoed to the hacking coughs of grey cardigan-wearing sub editors.

We even smoked in the bath. Many’s the time I’ve come home from a hard day at the coal face to light up a Capstan Number One while Mrs Beelzebub scrubbed off the Quink stains and pencil dust while I sat in an old tin bath in front of the fire. Rumour has it that W.D.& H.O.Wills were even working on a secret waterproof cigarette that could be smoked in the shower before the health Nazis banned the idea.

And we didn’t smoke these poncy modern fags. We smoked real gaspers: Park Drive Plain, Woodbines and Senior Service. Give an old-fashioned newspaperman a Marlboro Lite and he’d faint in the street. Our fags had flavour and nicotine and tar and chemicals and cancer.

Look around the modern office these days and it’s inconceivable to imagine that just a few years ago, a nimbus strata of cigarette smoke would have been hanging above the desks. You can’t even pull out a tin of snuff now without the health and safety rep evacuating the building.

I have always tried to be a considerate smoker. I don’t smoke in church or in primary school classrooms. If a pregnant woman is present, I give her a ten-second start before reaching for the lighter. And I never smoke between courses in restaurants … unless I’m having more than one course.

But despite this mannerly approach by myself and most other smokers, we continue to be persecuted by the rest of society and by the government. Smoking in the office has long gone, and now the ban has spread to shopping malls, cinemas, theatres and football grounds. Soon pubs serving food, office block doorways and even bus queues will become no-go areas.

And if this blatant victimisation isn’t enough, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt intends to turn the entire nation into police informants by sticking notices everywhere smoking is verboten urging people to ring a hotline number if someone is brave or daft enough to light up. Crack teams from the Fag Inspectorate will then descend upon the hapless nicotine addict and fine him or her £50.

What next? Grassing up the diner on the next table for failing to eat his greens? Calling in the Alcoholic Unit Enforcement Officer when someone orders that second bottle of port? Compulsory weigh-ins in market squares on Saturday mornings, where the general populace can gather to ridicule any lard-arses who haven’t lost the government-approved amount of weight? I tell you, the world is going mad.

The irony of the situation is that the potential flashpoint for confrontations between smokers and the Fag Inspectorate will be licensed premises like pubs and clubs, whose purpose in life is to supply the hoi polloi with vast quantities of alcohol, thus endangering their health and leading to outbreaks of rowdiness and violence.

Tell me, when did you last see a gang of unruly youths rampaging through the streets after overdoing the Lambert & Butlers? When has a teenage girl ever collapsed vomiting in the gutter after a night of binge smoking? When have our hospital wards ever been clogged up by the victims of Friday night cheap cigarette promotions … oh, hang on.

By the way, coming next from the control freaks is enforced recycling. In future you’re going to have to separate glass, tins and paper from the rest of your household rubbish or face a visit from the local council “recycling assistant”, who will lecture you po-faced on the damage you’re doing to the environment and then drive off belching fumes from his council-funded diesel van.

Persistent backsliders will face a court summons and a fine of £1,000. No, really. Let’s just hope that they don’t start counting the cigarette ends.

I SEARCHED in vain on the 48-inch plasma telly to find any live coverage of the climax of the Trafalgar 200 celebrations on Tuesday night. The Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation, which had shown some bits earlier in the day, stuck with a drama-soap about a hairdressers and a repeat of some middle aged women moaning (they can’t do it half as well as we men) followed by “highlights” of a tennis tournament.

BBC3 had a repeat of Little Britain and BBC4 was showing a horribly right-on programme about African music. So nowhere on our public service broadcaster’s network was there room to televise a major state occasion featuring Her Majesty The Queen and what’s left of our once-mighty Royal Navy.

That, I’m afraid, is an utter disgrace. The PC mob had already denigrated Nelson’s memory by avoiding mentioning that he gave the French and the Spanish a right good shoeing at Trafalgar; now the Lefties at Broadcasting House stick their muddled heads in the sand and pretend that nothing of consequence was happening. And they wonder why I don’t pay my licence fee.

Incidentally, and while we’re on the Royals, can I ask all those traitors whining about Prince Andrew’s extravagant use of chartered helicopters one question? Where were you when he was using a helicopter as an Exocet decoy during the Falklands War?

ALONG WITH most of the nation’s pensioners and students, I was saddened by the death of Richard Whiteley. He seemed a decent cove, even for a Yorkshireman.

And there seemed to be a certain synergy in the manner of his unfortunate death: Pneumonia, which is, of course, a nine-letter word. It’s what he would have wanted.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before a weeping Carol Vorderman was wheeled out in front of the TV cameras to pay tribute to her Countdown partner. She seemed truly upset, or so I thought …

Barely ten minutes later, and on a different channel, there she was all smiles and reassuring nods offering to arrange for me a quick and easy, low-cost loan with flexible repayment options. Has the woman no shame?

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who failed to smile at the sight of all those hippies’ tents floating away at Glastonbury, of anyone who doesn’t think that Kev’s new Bev lacks the emotional power, range and insight brought to the role by the previous incumbent, or of anyone who doesn’t want to see the hateful Saskia and Maxwell dragged from the Big Brother house and promptly burned at the stake.


Anonymous dock3r said...

"... Incidentally, and while we’re on the Royals, can I ask all those traitors whining about Prince Andrew’s extravagant use of chartered helicopters one question? Where were you when he was using a helicopter as an Exocet decoy during the Falklands War?"

I was actually watching the telly waiting for said Exocet missile to score a direct hit. Top class entertainment PLUS a community service all in one go!

9:34 PM  

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