A.J. Walker


The Dawn of the Cheese Police

When I was younger my dad smoked plenty as most people did back in the day. He’d smoked from when he was in his middle teens and working at the shipyard through to his later years. He managed to give up surprisingly easily in the end after our GP told him that she quite enjoyed seeing him, but wouldn’t see him the following year if he carried on smoking. That seemed to get to him rather than all the school literature on how passive smoking was killing everyone around smokers. Roy Castle wasn’t quite enough to tip him over the edge.

Mum had been a social smoker with just a couple on a Friday night, but was never addicted. Back in my sixth form days and first year or so at Uni I partook of the odd cigarette when out, but despite the school taught ‘one smoke and you’ll be addicted’ it never took hold of me in that way, thankfully.

When the smoking ban came to public places including pubs and bars I thought it would be ignored by many, but it was surprisingly effective—ironically in getting the iller people to stand outside in the cold. The biggest effect in bars was that we could now smell people, which perhaps wasn’t a brilliant byproduct of the ban. An unintended consequence like the noise outside suburban pubs with all the people stood outside chatting and having up rather being sat around a table.

Anyone young enough to be out now who hasn’t spent evenings in smoke laden pub atmospheres wont know the simple joy we have now of not having clothes that stink of smoke in the morning after a night out. You never really noticed it whilst out, but the next day—oh boy. Roy Castle nights indeed.

I’m certainly glad I never found myself addicted to the weed. But I remember when I was younger telling myself that I would take it up if the government ever banned it. Never thought it would happen. Never hoped it would. I mean I’m quite against the government banning things unless they’re quite patently dangerous to everybody—guns, knives, bombs and things like that. But cigarettes? Plenty of people live quite happily well beyond the average expectancy whilst puffing away on twenty or more a day.

This thing they’ve come up with now is a bizarre mishmash of an idea. I mean it’ll be legal for people to smoke but not legal for them to buy (or be sold) them? WTF? The older people puffing away happily on the little white sticks whilst their younger counterparts look on in envy (well probably not). And once they’ve done that what’s next for the banning? Do I need to source a still or a home brewery now for when all the pubs are closed (by law, not just a financial crisis). And then they’ll come for my Pringles, fried chicken, and chocolate hobnobs. Or maybe cheese! Lord, imagine the parties we’ll have to go to so that we can eat below the counter cheddar and Stilton.

One of favourite short stories I’ve ever read is called, ‘
End of the Trail’ by Garrison Keillor (he of Lake Wobegon Days) which is the story of the last smokers in America being hunted down as criminals as they hide in the forest and caves smoking their last packets of fags in fear and desperation. It is brilliant. Perhaps we’ll have a British equivalent in years to come when we’re running around Snowdonia trying to grab our last taste of Stilton on oatcakes with some pickles—and puffing on a of pipe of imported weeds of dubious origin—and drinking a glass of warm bitter whilst the cheese police send in the drones to finish us off. Many a true word spoken in jest. Maybe I need to dig a cellar to hide my illicit cheeses and sacks of KFC coating.

In the meantime I am not going to take up smoking in reaction to the government’s zeal in protecting us from ourselves, as they haven’t banned it for me. Yet.

Link: ‘
End of the Trail’, Garrison Keillor
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