Last night a storm raged over the Malvern Hills upon whose steep slopes our hotel stood and rain thundered upon the roof of the old stables, now a line of shops. It was dark but relaxed voices rose from below and it made me realise this was the first time I had smelt cigarette smoke in ages.
The other day we had walked though crowds cramming a small fishing port. These were city folk in casual city clothes designed for the beach, not locals in rough wear fit for the beach. They were relaxed, enjoying the sunshine and balmy evening, some were pumped up, others dolled-up to the ninepins, but in two hours amongst these thousands of people we only saw one smoker and he was 'vaping'.
That's quite something. Twenty years ago smoke was everywhere and it turned us off pubs but now they are easy territory for non smokers. Back in France smoke was everywhere, as you walked down the streets, as you moved in and out of hospitals, OK, that happens here too, but over there if you sat near a restaurant's door, usually open to let in fresh air, your meal was spoilt by smoke in-pouring from smokers standing outside, leaning causally against the door frame.
My first memory is of looking up at my mother's hand, smoke curling from the fag between her fingers. It joined smoke swirling around the room form other cigarettes held in other adult hands. I sucked that in wherever I went, as did many people now over thirty years old. All that nicotine entered our lungs, who knows how many of us caught cancer from our loving parents? At least today most of England's young won't have that to be concerned about. We dislike the EU for most of its containing laws, but this, like its environmental laws, was a good one.