Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Going Places

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have noticed that I've been doing some travelling of late.

This weekend me and my 16 year old boy flew to Rome for the England 6 Nations rugby match at the Stadio Olimpico. It was a whistle stop affair, arriving late Saturday and leaving early Monday, and considering my son had never been there before it was an effort fitting sightseeing in before the 4pm kick off on the Sunday. A fantastic weekend but incredibly draining.

Now, the reason I'm writing about this is that, yet again, being in another country was very revealing as to the amount of freedom we have lost in the UK. I have spoken about it before with regards to Prague, but the state-imposed shackles fell away with every minute spent in Rome too.

For example, on the Saturday night we arrived at the hotel and went to the bar. It was a pretty sparse affair (booking hotels for a 6 Nations matchday is a nightmare, so I took what I could get) and so we decided to get some snacks and drinks and enjoy them in the room where I could vape without a care. Looking at the bar prices I could see my Euros would not last long except for the price of wine. It was just £11 a bottle! So I ordered one and, with the boy next to me, the barmaid asked "with two glasses?". Just like that. No suspicious look at him, nothing. I said no just the one and off we went.

What's more, there was a similar experience next day at the match. The Stadio Olimpico has a chaotic queuing system for drinks. You have to queue in long lines to buy beer vouchers, then join another long queue to exchange the vouchers for drinks. I couldn't be arsed with that so we decided just to go in and find our seats. As we reached our section, there was a bar with almost no-one at it, but it was clear that wouldn't last long so I ordered two beers expecting some kind of comment about age or ID for the boy. Nope, not a word. Just served them up with a smile. Now, on more than one occasion at sports venues here I have had to explain to the person serving me that the boy has his own Powerade in his bag when they tell me they can't serve him because he's too young. None of that in Italy. None of it in the Carrefour supermarket later on either when we'd bussed it back from the match. Buying crisps and a bottle of wine, the cashier didn't even raise an eyebrow when I put them in the boy's backpack.

Oh yeah, and the (very palatable) wine was €1.55 because - as The Nanny State Index points out - there is no duty on wine in Italy.

The experience at the stadium was a revelation too. You see - as I've written before - thanks to the loathsome cheesedicks at Healthy Stadia feeding scaremongering bullshit to sports organisations, you are not allowed to smoke or vape in any ground in the Aviva Premiership and football Premiership either. And that includes outside, on the concourse, in the open air. Not so at the Stadio Olimpico.

There I was, stealth vaping in my seat but it wasn't till half time that I noticed there were smoking areas. Not outside, but within view of the pitch. Complete with comfy chairs and tables. It was such a lovely sight I took a picture of it, but as I did - stood at the top of a staircase - I also noticed that people were smoking there too. Not clandestinely either, they were smoking while talking to the stewards! And you know what? No-one cared.

No-one cared in Brussels either when Chris Snowdon and I visited a pub in the city centre in 2016 which boasted a smoking room. A fully enclosed smoking room so smokers could drink their beer and enjoy their tobacco in the warm.

Now, contrast all that with the barked orders that greet you as you walk outside the terminal building at Glasgow airport, where I went the previous weekend for the Glasgow School of Vape.

Click to enlarge
Yep, no smoking or vaping outdoors anywhere except a shed in the central reservation where the buses pick up. You know, buses that spew out diesel fumes. It was strictly enforced too, with a large guy in a hi-viz jacket booming "Hey! You cannae do that here!" in a thick Scottish accent to anyone who trangressed their stupid and pointless rule.

It's not just Czech Republic, Belgium and Italy, most other countries are far more liberal than the UK where we have now developed into a nasty officious society where one just assumes things are not allowed - because they mostly aren't - and vile jobsworths have been encouraged to wag their finger at you in every place the public gathers, as sadly happened to me at an event in London on the Monday night when I was spotted using an e-cig which gives off almost no vapour whatsoever. Apparently, he said, it would set off the smoke alarm ... which he pointed to on the ceiling about 10 metres above our heads. The idea that a modicum of common sense might be employed is an alien one these days, the whole country has become vindictive, petty and indoctrinated.

We are constantly ripped off in this country by government taxes - on the premise that our behaviour must be controlled - but at the same time we are herded, prodded, cajoled and badgered for just wanting to enjoy the products we pay over the odds to consume. The British are now in a new age of intolerance. Now, I'm sure the anti-fun brigade abroad will be lobbying their own governments for the same kind of panopticon conditions we are fated to suffer over here, but even if they get their rules in place I expect they will be either enforced lightly or ignored (like in Greece).

The UK has experienced, as Brenda O'Neill observed last year:
A shift from a politics concerned with improving people’s living conditions to a politics obsessed with policing people’s behaviour. ‘The politics of behaviour’, as New Labour scarily but aptly called it. It speaks most strikingly to a redefinition of what it means to be left or progressive. Once, that meant ensuring the less well-off had more opportunities, more comfort, more pleasure. Now, as made clear by the mad leftist cheering of the [smoking] ban and other nanny-state initiatives, it means saving people from themselves. It means depriving people of pleasure for their own good. It means using the law to socially re-engineer the masses so that they’re more like ‘us’: fitter, slimmer, smokefree.
It's vile. And the people who have moulded a country which fought so hard for freedom into one of the most restrictive in the world when it comes to lifestyle choices should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. 

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