Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A Tragic Day

Ireland has banned smoking in pubs.

Now, understand, I don't drink. I don't smoke. Since the baby, I'm fairly sensitive even to second-hand smoke. I've only been in a pub twice in my life (once in one frequented by Lewis and Tolkien, once in one frequented by Chesterton), and then all I had was lunch. But there has always been a small corner of my soul happy in the image of men in tweed caps smoking and drinking and singing folk songs and plotting political revolutions. I fear if one takes out one piece of the arch, the whole arch may fall. If you smoke with your drink, then you will take your drinks home with you, and then where will the folk songs and revolutions go?

If only Chesterton were here to celebrate the camaraderie of the public which is the purpose of a public house. Let the Irish have their pubs as the Baptists have their potlucks, though neither are very good for our health, because people must and should gather together. Smoking is not improved by driving it out of human fellowship any more than drinking is, as Chesterton did have occasion to write about:

God made the wicked Grocer
For a mystery and a sign,
That men might shun the awful shops
And go to inns to dine;
Where the bacon's on the rafter
And the wine is in the wood,
And God that made good laughter
Has seen that they are good.

. . . .

The wicked Grocer groces
In spirits and in wine
Not frankly and in fellowship
As men in inns do dine;
But packed with soap and sardines
And carried off by grooms,
For to be snatched by Duchesses
And drunk in dressing rooms.

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