Monday 25 October 2004

so that's why they call london the big smoke

I am a smoke magnet. No matter where I go, no matter how many people are around me, the person closest to me will light up a cigarette. Take, for example, our evening in London yesterday. We went out for dinner to a bar/restaurant we'd been to before we saw The Fast Show Live, as we had remembered it as being a funky, quieter place with pretty decent food. They had shut the bottom level off for "staff training", which I assume must normally be the smoking section - I honestly don't remember anyone smoking on the ground floor level last time we were there. Almost every single table was full of smokers. We had smokers sitting on either side of us and as an added bonus, we were sitting next to the bar where standing smokers surrounded us. Surprisingly, it didn't bother me that much and we managed to eat despite the fact that we inhaled the equivalent to 1/2 pack of cigs each. So on we went to see Billy Connolly at the Hammersmith Appollo, where we had to push our way through not one, but two lobbies full of wall-to-wall smokers to get to our seats. After the show, we had to walk down several sets of stairs to get to the ground floor. It was absolutely packed and the crowd was moving extremely slowly down the stuffy, enclosed stairwell - what better situation than to light up a cigarette, right? Three people directly in front of us lit up at the same time, because apparently it was too much to wait ten minutes until they got outside. The final straw came as we stood in a queue waiting to pay for our parking, and both the guy in front of us and the guy behind us lit their cigs in unison. Does everyone in London smoke?!

Now don't get me wrong; I am not one of those militant ex-smokers who'll show you pictures of diseased lungs and throw coffin nails at you whenever you light up. I used to really enjoy smoking and there are some days when I would still sell my own mother for a cigarette. If you want to smoke, grand. I won't stop you. Just please, I'm begging you, try to be a courteous smoker. When I used to smoke, I never smoked in queues simply because it was rude to blow smoke over people who may not go for that sort of thing. I never smoked in cars, around children, when people were eating, or in people's houses who were non-smokers (even if they insisted that it was okay). See? Courteous. Smoking and blowing your smoke in the direction of a table of people eating, particularly if that table happens to contain a visibly pregnant woman, is not courteous. Ditto for smoking within 2 feet of someone who is not smoking themselves. Move away, or wait 5 minutes until you can smoke elsewhere. Trust me, going 5 minutes without a cig won't kill you. Going three days without a cig when you're visiting your parents, now that's another story. 5 minutes, sorry, I have no sympathy.

My biggest beef is with restaurants that don't have designated smoking sections (or divide the non-smoking from the smoking tables with a small potted plant). Pubs and bars, fair enough - I expect to come home smelling like an old ashtray - but when I go out to eat, I don't want to taste someone's Marlboroughs in between bites.

So please, if you smoke, be polite about it. If you do, I promise to return the favour by not talking about pregnancy symptoms and midwife visits in great detail while you're trying to eat your dinner. Okay? Okay.

Oh and Billy Connolly was a hoot - excellent show.

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