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Someone in Clovenfords.....

(Note: This, in its original form, was written in 2006 during the football World Cup of that year. It relates to a stay in non-smoking Scotland – England didn’t go non-smoking till 2007. It may offend some who take their religion seriously. I prefer to believe that HE will have a sense of humour!)

 Someone in Clovenfords must have been rather bad. In fact, it may have been a group of people. Perhaps the salmon poaching on the Tweed had got a little over ambitious, but then, HE had never been that bothered before. More likely, God was a little pissed-off at the communal Celtic delight regarding the predictable exit of England from the World Cup. Whatever the reason, HE had verily decided that HE was going to concentrate HIS efforts on Clovenfords for a few minutes.

So it rained. It rained verily, verily, hard. There were stair-rods of rain. Then it rained even harder. The roads turned to rivers and even 20 mph was impossible. HE viewed the scene, from above, and decided HE was still pissed-off. After all, HE was entitled to the occasional hour off, and HE could hardly be blamed for the fact that HE was having a pint, in the Golden Harp, with Gabriel and Peter, when Lampard and Gerrard had stepped-up the previous Saturday. HE would sort out Portugal, don’t you worry, but in the meantime, HE would put a ‘dampener’ on Clovenfords. HE fine- tuned his aim, so that it was centred on Clovenfords, and hit the ‘deluge’ button. HE was nearly satisfied. HE scanned the weather control panel, and a wry smile wreathed HIS all-knowing countenance as he also flipped the ‘with thunderbolts & lightning’ switch. Within seconds, Clovenfords was now satisfyingly without mains power. It was semi-finals night, and the population of Clovenfords were now to be denied the chance of watching HIM settle Portugal’s hash. HE was satisfied. HE was just scanning HIS almanac, to discover the location of the France – Portugal game, when Gabriel whispered in HIS ear that the Clovenfords Hotel had a huge back-up diesel generator. HE checked that HIS omnipresence in the Scottish Borders was fully functional, reached down, and jammed the ‘Stop’ switch on the Clovenfords Hotel generator into the ‘Emergency Stop’ position.

There was an English traveller booked into the Clovenfords Hotel that night. The English traveller had stayed there previously, before the legislation, and had decided that the Clovenfords Hotel was a very pleasant, reasonable, and comfortable hotel.

The English traveller had forgotten about the legislation. The legislation decreed that it is illegal to smoke in any enclosed public area, anywhere in Scotland. The law givers, in Edinburgh, were hugging their hairy knees in delight at having been able to enact such legislation. The definition of ‘enclosed’ had caused particular delight. This stipulated that, unless three sides of any structure are completely open to the elements, it shall be regarded as ‘enclosed’. The ultimate defining delight had been obtained from legislating in relation to ‘services in the home’. This enables the washing machine repair man, or the carpet fitter, to withdraw their services if they can ‘detect cigarette smoke’ while working within a customers home. Thus, while Jock McTavish chokes to death on a cherry stone in his front room, the emergency paramedic will be waiting outside for the statutory two hours, to enable the cigarette smoke to clear, before attempting to render assistance.

The Clovenfords Hotel has a very nice outdoor seating area to the front. There will be, maybe, a dozen tables – all completely exposed, on all four sides, to the elements. However, on both fine days, in the course of a Scottish summer, they also serve food at these tables. Therefore, all but one of these tables are designated ‘non-smoking’. The single smoking table is semi fenced off from the others, but not so much that it could be called ‘enclosed’ by any passing zealot. This is the only place within the entire premises where it is permitted to smoke.

Did I mention that it was pissing down with rain? Have you tried smoking a cigarette while fully exposed to a tempest? Did I mention that there was an area wide power cut? Did I mention that the Clovenfords Hotel proudly boasts to its regulars that it has a generator that can cope with power cuts? Did I mention that it was World Cup semi final night? Did I mention that virtually the whole population of Clovenfords turned up expecting to be able to watch the match, courtesy of the generator? Did I mention that the kitchens had all but ceased to function? Did I mention that the phones didn’t work, the lightning had disabled the cell phone system, and that the Guinness was getting warm? Did I mention that no-one could get the sodding generator to work? Did I mention that we are so computer obsessed that no-one was capable of checking-in a traveller by means of ‘pen’ and ‘paper’?

Slight salvation was delivered when HE got so carried away with engineering a penalty for France that HE forgot to keep HIS finger on the stop button of the generator. It came to life at about 8.45 pm. What a wonderous diesel driven machine it turned out to be. It was more than capable of providing electric for the whole hotel, notwithstanding that all non-essential staff had been sent home. HE even allowed the deluge to slacken off to a mere downpour.

The English traveller had dined on cheese and biscuits, and had drunk a couple of pints of warm beer. Meanwhile, HE was obviously concentrating on ensuring that a chorus of boos greeted Mr C Ronaldo every time he touched the ball. HE had decided that Mr C Ronaldo would be ‘Man of the Match’ but that the cheating little bastard would be on the losing side, and would cry. The only downside of this arrangement, as far as HE could see, was that France would be through to the final, but HE would worry about that at the week-end.

The English traveller, ever a risk taker, decided to have a final attempt at smoking a cigarette outside. HE looked down indulgently, pleased with the result HE had engineered in Germany. HE even allowed the rain to slacken off again, this time to a persistent drizzle. HE consulted HIS actuarial tables. The Englishman was shortening his lifespan by 5 minutes by smoking the cigarette. HE decided that the Englishman would not catch pneumonia on this occasion, for HE had an ace up his sleeve. The diesel particulates from the generator would be far more deadly than any cigarette the Englishman could smoke. It is more dangerous to spend four hours at Glasgow central bus station than it is to spend a week in an English bar, smoke laden though it might be. HE knows that.