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What happens when you ban things.

At the Smoky Drinky place last night, we put away rather more than the government's made-up guidelines for consumption. Let's just say there were two bottles of whisky per three people, and none was left. I managed to find my way home around 3 am, was overcome with the munchies, dealt with that by means of a couple of these heated up with butter on them, and then slept until 2 pm. I am fully recovered now, and I put that down to all the whisky being of good quality. None of that own-brand toilet cleaner rubbish at the Smoky Drinky place, oh no.

Imagine how much we'd have spent in the pub if we were allowed in there. We're all smokers so we have been banned. Not by the pub. By non-smokers who have never visited these pubs and who still don't. So we've set up our own socialising method. It can't be licenced premises because if we do that, it immediately becomes subject to the smoking ban. We cannot allow people to come in uninvited because then it becomes 'open to the public' and again, here comes the ban. We can't even call it a club. It's the Smoky Drinky place and that's it. No staff. No sign outside. No membership.

A public house, once upon a time, was just a house. Someone brewed their own beer, let anyone into a room or two and sold it. That didn't require a licence at first. The licencing was originally applied only to spirits. Anyone could open a beer-house, any time, no licence required unless you were selling gin or whisky.

That seems to be happening again. This time it's not beer or whisky or anything that's being sold. No money can change hands within a Smoky Drinky place because that would make it business premises and as we all know, smoking is not allowed on any business premises. The principle, however, is the same - people gather to socialise, drink and smoke within a private premises. It's a smoker's speakeasy.

It was bound to happen, and it's bound to continue. When booze is priced into the rich-only bracket, the Smoky Drinky place will invest in homebrew facilities. We'll buy a little bit each. Illegal stills will pop up and I, for one, will have no idea where, nor will I remember where that old copper tubing went that I used to have in the shed. Soon, the little old lady next door will be cooking up those butteries for us, once the health nazis have managed to take them from the baker's shelves.

Many of the Smoky Drinkies buy their tobacco from non-tobacconist sources. The health warnings can't scare us if we can't understand them and the prices are much better than the legit stuff. This sort of thing has become far more common since the smoking ban and the socialist ban-brigade will howl about the lost revenue. Tough. You banners are demanding that people pay you to persecute them so it's no surprise smokers no longer care about the legitimacy or otherwise of their source. It's not the money as such. It's the use it's put to. All that tobacco revenue goes into schemes to tell the people paying the revenue that they are scum. Why the hell would you pay someone to treat you with utter contempt? We don't all aspire to be gimps, you know.

Pubs need customers. The customers don't need the pubs. It's a convenient place to socialise, it's a place to have a couple of beers someone else has gone to the trouble of brewing, a good place to try out one glass of a new whisky before committing to the expense of buying a bottle. Someone goes to the trouble of seting up a place where all are welcome to relax, so we use that. Smokers are no longer welcome - again, not the decison of the landliord, but of the Righteous who demand he runs his business their way. Therefore Smoky Drinky places are appearing that do the same job as pubs used to. Cheaper - a bottle of good malt costs less than a night out. Friendlier - nobody is demanding the places are run a particular way, indeed they are not 'run' at all. Above all, nobody is forced to go outside in the cold.

Beer is easy to make. As the pubs die, new informal ones appear in which no cash changes hands, no licences are required and there is, at first, no public access. Technically there is no public access to a pub at the moment anyway. It's private property. If the landlord doesn't want you in there for whatever reason, he's not legally obliged to let you in. So it's not that different anyway, other than the smoking part. Yes, it's easier if someone else makes the beer for you, better if someone else takes the risk of a bad batch and simpler if someone else stores it. However, it's not hard to do it yourself and as drink controls tighten, more will do so.

Whisky is not so easy. Aside from the fact it's illegal to make your own, the risk of introducing dodgy contaminants is much greater than with beer, and tyhose contaminants are concentrated by distilling. Then there's getting hold of the oak casks and waiting at least eight years until you can drink the stuff. It'll take longer, but as long as those controls keep tightening, the illegal stills are inevitable.

As it stands, the Smoky Drinky place has no dedicated fixtures and fittings. No bar. No optics. No pumps. The entire group can move to another Smoky Drinky place at the drop of a hat. It cannot be formally banned because it doesn't formally exist. Last night it was in one house, another night it might be elsewhere. Even when the beer-brewing starts, that won't hold it down. The equipment can be in one house for one batch, another house for another and made-up batches will be small and mobile. Next summer, we are considering designating one of the local stone circles as a Smoky Drinky place but that will require tents. Nobody is going to agree to drive home afterwards.

There will be attempts to put a stop to this. Not for any real reason at all, but because we are smoking indoors. Even though we are in a place no non-smoker is going to visit and indeed is unlikely to be allowed to visit, the fact that we are smoking in comfort is enough to set Righteous eyes a-swivel. There is no reason to stop the Smoky Drinky places other than pure spite. As has become evident, pure spite is what drives the entire anti-everything brigade so they are bound to try. They will fail.

It's what happens when you ban things. People do the banned thing anyway. Ban smoking in public places and private businesses and we'll find somewhere you can't control us. Ban smoking in private homes and we'll buy big sheds. Ban smoking in those and we'll chip in to buy an old minibus or a camper van, SORN it and leave it in the garden. There is always a way.

The smoking ban is killing pubs. I can't do anything about that. Non-smokers who claimed they'd go to the pub if we smokers were ejected were, it turns out, lying. I can do nothing to save the pubs because when I visit I have to stand out in the cold to smoke, and the last couple of nights have been extremely cold. Electrofag is handy in that respect but some pubs are so scared by the ban they won't allow even that. If I have to go outside anyway, I might as well smoke a real one. The Righteous are moving to ban Electrofag too, even though it produces no smoke at all.

So I'd be surprised if these informal smoking clubs don't start popping up everywhere. Perhaps they already have. Naturally they don't advertise their existence. They don't need new members because they aren't run for profit and the last thing they need is the anti-smokers tracking them down, although even if they do, the Smoky Drinky place will just move.

The Righteous can't win this one. Ban tobacco from sale if you like. There wasn't much around last night that was bought in this country anyway. If we have to get it under-the-counter in shops and be made to feel like we're buying something dirty and dodgy, why not simply buy the dodgy stuff in the first place? It's cheaper, it doesn't include a donation to people who want to beat us up, and the seller doesn't look at you as if you have a dildo sticking out of your ear.

Ban beer and we'll make our own. There are recipes that need no hops. Bread yeast can be used as a starting point if beer yeast is banned and successive brewings will yield a fair to middling beer yeast in no time. No, Righteous, you can't win that one either.

Destroy the pubs and we'll gather in our homes. You can't stop it, Righteous, and you can't sit at a nearby table and listen in because you're not invited. You have no idea what we're talking about now, no idea how many of us are gathering and no sense of the mood of the gathering. Although if there were such a thing as an intelligent Righteous, they could guess.

Finally, for all those socialist utopians who are waiting for the likes of me to die, to be replaced with the drones they've created and nurtured through school, take a look at this. Schools ban snacks, kids buy snacks, take them to school and sell them at a profit. Even when one is thrown out for selling this evil contraband, the trade continues and always will.

It's what always happens when you ban things.
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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
13th Dec, 2009 00:41 (UTC)
Good Luck to You
I was buying tobacco smuggled in from France 12 years ago, a friend of mine made a good living bringing it over. I left England years ago (and no longer smoke) but they're starting to attack drinkers over here as well. I am going to learn how to use a still.
13th Dec, 2009 01:52 (UTC)
Re: Good Luck to You
If you freeze a mixture of alcohol and water, then break it into a slush as it thaws, the alcohol will melt first. If you then skim off the ice, you're left with more concentrated alcohol than you started with. It can never reach still strength but it can greatly improve a terrible home-made wine.

Just a snippet of science as a sort of random education service... ;)
13th Dec, 2009 12:21 (UTC)
Re: Good Luck to You
Thanks for the tip. Now I've only got to persuade my wife to let me try it out...
13th Dec, 2009 10:29 (UTC)
Re: Good Luck to You
Great post, Mr. L. The usual combination of clarity of thinking and horse-sense. Keep it up, please.
13th Dec, 2009 12:07 (UTC)
What happens when you ban things
Look at fox hunting. Thats been banned and so it no longer exists. Except that more people are going fox hunting tan ever before. Rather inconvenient for the Righteous that is.
13th Dec, 2009 14:17 (UTC)
Never had much luck with the freeze method so I resorted to fractional distillation. This means I occasionally suffer from a intestinal complaint which might be called 'Raschid Ring'. I'm actually slightly tempted to have a go at mouthwash, there being nothing else volatile on the ingredients list in mine. Probably I ought to seek professional help for considering this.

It occurs to me that as a 'bug man' might you have the ideal background for some serious brewing. Come to that, you might even have a stash of malt extract somewhere. You almost certainly don't need telling that, if you're going to distil your resultant lunatic soup, you can ferment at a much higher temp than is optimal for beer and consequently speed the process up considerably.

To get back to the rather more serious point of your post, it's hard to come to any other conclusion than that the people currently running this country have a visceral hatred for everything about it. Any distinctively British characteristic: pubs (with warm beer), freedom of speech, jokes which some are bound to find offensive, mostly fair elections, good manners, generally reliable Bobbies etc. (even democracy) are now under continual assault. It's year zero, every year. Unfortunately, you can't design societies from scratch, any more than you can design personalities; it always goes horribly wrong, as we may now be on the brink of finding out.

Back to being O/T even more: I can't get over is the fact that the word 'alcohol' comes from Arabic. Rather ironic that the original experts at isolating the stuff were Muslims.

Dave H.
13th Dec, 2009 14:24 (UTC)
"I can't get over is the fact that the word 'alcohol' comes from Arabic. Rather ironic that the original experts at isolating the stuff were Muslims."

Used as a perfume and cosmetic base IIRC. The old school Arabs knew their practical chemistry.
13th Dec, 2009 17:00 (UTC)
According to the Daily Record this week it's the recession and cheap supermarket booze that's putting the pubs out of business. No mention of the smoking ban at all.

I worked for a brewery for a little while a couple of years back and it clearly was the smoking ban affecting business. The landlords knew it, the reps knew it, the managers knew. But apparently the public aren't aloud to know it.
13th Dec, 2009 22:17 (UTC)
This week in East Anglia the Elizabeth chain of hotels and pubs (27 outlets) went in to administration. The receivers are still operating the business, but they need to find a buyer. About 400 people could lose their jobs, suppliers will also be affected if they lose the client.

Commentators put the decline down to 3 things

1) General recession
2) The hotels and several of the pubs were in the low-end business and are being out-competed particularly where local pubs produce very good food.
3) Because of the smoking ban a core of people who used to go out for a smoke and a pint now pick up their beer at Megalomart and stay home or go to a mate's house for a smoke. Whilst not going to the pub they are also not buying crisps and peanuts at pub prices. What they might be doing instead is picking up bumper bag of crisps and a giant bag of nuts, thus contributing to national obesity as people begin to drink and eat in boredom and isolation where they used to socialize and be more moderate.

Greene King also announced up to 6% less beer being sold through the pubs. In case the health zealots are getting excited, that may not mean people are drinking less. It might just mean they are brewing their own or switching to cheaper supermarket brands.

Woman on a Raft
13th Dec, 2009 23:55 (UTC)
Daily Mail Comments Editor
oops ! "priceless crisp dealing lol. My brother and sister are 14 n they are such a great at cooking deserts so when they do cock at school, they sell it to mates.
- Salma, London, 12/12/2009 17:"

14th Dec, 2009 15:16 (UTC)
Re: Daily Mail Comments Editor
"...when they do cock at school, they sell it to mates."

Honestly. They grow up so fast these days.

Dave H.
15th Dec, 2009 02:51 (UTC)
So it seems that, according to an article in the DT today, that the 'government' are intending to do something about parents smoking in front of their children and, for some reason or other which is not clearly defined, especially in cars. Note that there is no specific attribution of this statement to anyone or any department. However, nutty professor X is quoted as saying, words the effect, "Why should people not be allowed to smoke in public places but still be allowed to smoke in the presence of their children?" I find it hard to believe that prof X cannot see that the false logic of that statement is precisely what condemns the (passive) smoking ban. IE.That people have the responsibility and, indeed, the right, to look after themselves and their families. It is not for the state (or prof X) to usurp the rights and responsibilities of individual parents. For example, in particular, if a person feels at risk from passive smoking in a pub, he has the PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY not to go to that pub. It is his decision. Don't cause the pub to be closed down just because you may possibly want to go there and expect no one to be smoking. There is the false logic. The false logic is that it would be better for the pub to close than it would be for one to go there and have to put up with someone smoking.
I am sure that you will appreciate this line of logic:
If A (no smoking = no customers) equals B (pub closed), then there is no further B = C, C = D, etc, since B (pub closed) terminates the matter.

As regards your 'smoky-drinky' den, well, it is clear that many people are already doing it. Not a lot of people are 'letting on', but it is obvious to me that many young people (in their twenties/thirties) are no longer going to the pub as an 'aperitif' before going clubbing. Young people are not as stupid as they are portrayed. From snippets of info, I understand that they are meeting at each others houses (bypassing the pub bit), getting a bit pissed, getting taxis to clubs, having a couple of hours of minimal drinking but lots of dancing, making their 'social contacts', taxi home and re-assemble at the house they started at until the small hours. Result? Total annihilation of nanny's program.

Unfortunately, I personally am too old and set in my ways to engage in that scenario, although I have been invited to tag along.

I am beginning to think that there is no point in bothering about pubs as we currently know them. As you say, eventually they will be replaced by other places which will function in the same way, but will be places which the older end will not be privy to. Even so, older people will eventually find a way to socialise, but no thanks to these old farts who are 80 years old and saying that passive smoking is killing them. No........they will be excluded from the scenario.

I have a little plan in place in my mind.

At the moment, I go to Spain to buy my cigs and have a nice holiday. The costs, at worst, cancel out. If either the cost of cigs in Spain come to equal to cost in the UK, or cigs are banned in the UK, I intend to grow my own tobacco. I have a big garden. I will not be intimidated.

In the end, that may be what it will come down to. That is what we may have to do. In the meantime, the government, and prof X, cannot expect my co-operation in anything that they propose. I will not give to charities unless it is a purely local thing for a specific purpose. If they put VAT up to 20%, well, there are a lot of things that I buy which I do not really need, and so I will spend less. It is not a problem. I might even start to DELAY MY COUNCIL TAX PAYMENTS. I may start to prevaricate and argue and delay. If thousands of others of a like mind start to do the same thing, I'll bet a pound to a penny that the gov would rapidly change its mind about things. But, of course, it is very difficult to organise such civil disobedience.

Sorry to go on, but I hope that what I say makes sense.

One final thing. If the gov are intent upon using communist tactics to turn children against their parents, I hope that they will be prepared for the enviable backlash. Fuck you, professor X.

15th Dec, 2009 18:22 (UTC)
Is possible to grow your on own tobacco in Britain? Just wondering in case the bansturbators do finally get their own way one day.
16th Dec, 2009 00:34 (UTC)
To Anon.

Yes, it is indeed perfectly possible to grow your own tobacco plants - and it is not illegal.
Tobacco plants thrive best in shade or partial shade, which ought not to be difficult in this country! If you want to know more, simply google 'the tobacco seed company'.

The problem is that there is a considerable lag time between growing the stuff and it being ready for use. That is why one must be constantly aware of what is happening politically.

However, having said that there is a long lead time, as regards cigarette quality tobacco, there are short cuts.

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )