The pot calling the kettle black

An item caught my eye the other day.

Authorities fume: 25% of cigarettes smuggled into Republic

Now I can't understand why the "authorities" are fuming over this.  Dame Enda is constantly telling us that the backbone of the country's economy is the indigenous small business so surely he must be delighted?  Here we have an example of entrepreneurs seeing a huge demand for a product and they are merely supplying that product at a price that people can afford.  I say fair play to those entrepreneurs, they're doing a brilliant job.

The gubmint, far from congratulating them are calling them "organised criminals".  I find that rich in the extreme.

Let's look at this so called "crime".  Is there anyone being harmed by this smuggling?  No.  Obviously it's an enterprise that people condone, else it wouldn't exist, so where is the "crime"?  Well, the only thing the gubmint loses is their excise duty, so basically they are just furious that they can't rip us off because they have been sidelined.

The gubmint considers it is justified in stealing from the customer an exorbitant and disproportionate tax on a product simply because that gubmint disapproves of that product.  They add a massive tax onto that product with no apology and have bragged that they are going to further increase that tax disproportionately.  Furthermore that same gubmint adds more and more taxes to their little revenue stream and if we disapprove and refuse to pay, they have given themselves the ability to dip into our pay packets and pensions and take whatever they feel like.  They take from me whatever they like and I have no chance to protest?  Is that not theft?  Is this not mugging under another name?  Is this not organised crime on a gargantuan scale?

There are those that will claim that the smugglers provide substandard goods.  Maybe so, but that is a matter of quality control and a case of caveat emptor, and has fuck all to do with the gubmint's complaint.  They are worried only about their revenue stream and frankly couldn't give a flying fuck about quality except as a bit of propaganda to try to dissuade people from using their competitors.

So here we have a gubmint condemning private enterprise, employing unfair trading practices and libeling their competitors, while at the same time ripping their own customers off left right and centre.

Who are the organised criminals here?

The lighter side of business

A few months ago I mentioned my quest for a decent pipe lighter.

My Peterson and I have been very happy together, but as with all things that cross my path, things started to go wrong.  I decided to contact James Fox, which is the company where I bought it.

Dear Sirs,

Last December I bought a Peterson Pipe Lighter from your good selves [I’m actually recycling the old receipt here to save paper].

To say that I was delighted with my purchase is an understatement. Having worked my way through many lighters, none of which was quite up to standard I was glad at last to have a pipe lighter that worked consistently, didn't require endless clicking and lasted more than five minutes without a refill. I noticed at the time that the top assembly was slightly loose [it sort of rocks, but not in the way that modern youth uses the term], but I assumed then that it was just a "feature". Maybe it is? Maybe the fact is irrelevant to this letter?

Anyhows, my new lighter and I have been very happy together over the months, but unfortunately it started to act up a short while ago.

The first symptom was that the jet decided not to shoot out the side as it used to. It started swiveling and at one stage it blasted straight at the flint wheel, which made it sort of hot to touch. Somehow that seemed to rectify itself and it worked normally for a few days. It started getting fancy then and would shoot flames out in different directions, sometimes even in opposite directions. While the pyrotechnics were quite impressive it wasn't quite so successful at lighting my pipe. Then a few days ago it just seemed to give up the ghost.

I had an old Vector pipe-lighter which I managed to resurrect. It's a clunky somewhat unreliable yoke and burns gas faster than a Shuttle Launch but at least I could light my pipe [with regular trips to the local shop for gas]. I was messing around with the two lighters [as one does] and noticed something a tad alarming – if I went near the Peterson with a naked flame it sprang to life with a pretty blue flame dancing around the business end, even though the cap [or whatever you call it] was in the closed position. It looks lovely but isn't big enough to light my pipe. I would hazard a wild guess that there's a leak somewhere?

I was wondering if there was a quick fix for this? Is this a common problem? Is there a spot on it that I can hit with a lump hammer to jar it back into submission? I know all the spots to hit on my car, television and wife to thump to get them to work and was wondering if there was a lighter equivalent? I tried removing the base but there is nothing there of interest, and I would be scared to meddle with anything around the top.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time,


I didn't really expect a reply.  Irish companies tend to be a bit forgetful once they have made the initial sale, but then the following popped into my mailbox.

Dear Grandad,

We would like to thank you for your kind letter, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

From the symptoms you describe and judging by my long experience of turning half broken lighters in totally useless pieces of hollow metal, I would think that the valve of your lighter is blocked.

While a hammer may not be a useful tool for it – just yet – , an old toothbrush would. When I say “old”, I mean the ones that have the softness of a paint stripping wire brush and make your gums bleed just by looking at it. If you wet the brush and give the valve a good scrub it may clean off the blockage and the lighter will spring back to life.

In regards to the rocking lid, this is something that happens after a while, as there is only a small screw holding the whole lid assembly together. It reminds me of my poor grandmother, God bless her soul, when her replacement hips became a little lose. Her doctor at the time said “She will be fine, we must have to tighten the screws”. I was not sure which screws he meant, but I guess this solution may work in the case of your lighter too for a while.

If any of these doesn’t work and your lighter keeps acting like a hormonal teenager, please return the lighter back to us for a replacement. It will not go to waste as I am sure Dublin City council would be more than happy to use it for the new year’s firework display on college green.

Our address is as follows:

James Fox

119 Grafton Street

Dublin 2

D02 E620

The only problem in the case of an exchange is that the Chrome Stripe finish has become as hard to find as a hen’s tooth. The only ones that we have available at present are in Satin, Green, Blue and Red, so please let us know which colour you would be interested in.

Yours Truly,

Yiorgos Manesis

Being the adventurous sort, I thought I would give it a try.  I had nothing to loose and if I royally fucked it up I could always return it and blame the damage on the postal system?

Dear Mr Manesis,

Thank you for your very helpful reply.

I took your advice and attacked the lighter with a suitable toothbrush [I’m sure my wife won’t mind?] and in the process unearthed the little screw you mentioned.  Maybe you shouldn't have mentioned it as I then felt compelled to unscrew it?

To cut a long story short, I discovered that the bolt that the screw goes into wasn't quite as tight as it should be.  Also I managed to straighten the main cap which for some strange reason has always been bent.  I cleaned out the whole lot and reassembled it.  The cap no longer rocks!  Problem #1 is fixed!

With some trepidation I lit it and it works!  What's more, when I hold a flame near it nothing happens so the leaky thing seems to be history.

It seems to work perfectly now with just one small proviso – it shoots the flame sideways as it should, but it also shoots vertically, so it's now a dual purpose lighter in that I can light a pipe and a cigarette simultaneously.  While this might be a nice party trick I am still a tad nervous that the whole caboodle is about to explode.  I have attached a little snapshot of it in action, so you can see the quite impressive effect for yourself.

Dual flame lighter

If you can assure me that the device isn't likely to spontaneously explode then I am quite happy with it as it stands.

Thank you for all your help.


Dear Grandad,

You have done a damn good job with the lighter; this brings the term “Double Flame Lighter” to a whole new level. I would have asked to buy it off you, but I am afraid mingling it with my facial hair may not go down well.

I showed the photo to David McGrane, our resident lighter surgeon, who spoke some words that I would be too embarrassed to transcribe in this email. He said, though, that if you look closely (meaning with a magnifying glass that is as strong as NASA’s Kepler telescope) you will see there are two little holes in the valve, where the gas is jetted out. He reckons one of the two holes has some dirt stuck in it, which results in the gas escaping in all different directions. If you take a small pin and scrape it out, then the gas will go the way it is supposed to. He went on then for another two hours waffling about the anatomy of the lighter while drawing some sketches that looked like a combination of Chinese and Linear B.

Try that and see if you have any better luck with it. I doubt that there would be an explosion, just refrain from repairing it while cooking on the BBQ. If it still doesn’t work, please send it back to us and David will attempt to repair it, or we will send you a replacement of one in a beautiful colour that it is so bright that it could be seen from outer space.

Best Regards

Yiorgos Manesis

Dear Mr Manesis,

I hope Mr McGrane was criticising my photographic efforts rather than my attempts to fix the lighter?

I can guarantee that my dual flame is fully beard proof [which reminds me that mine needs a trim].  I know about the double hole gizmo as my eyesight is remarkably good when I'm not wearing my spectacles.  I cleaned out both with a pin but still have the dual flame effect.  My theory is that the gas is escaping around the side of the valve seating which is a little annoying but not life threatening.  I think I'll hold onto it and if it decides to misbehave again in a life threatening fashion I shall get back in touch.  I may actually buy a second one as I have a strange habit of losing things.

Thanks for everything, and regards to Mr McGrane.


So that's that.

Since then my lighter has reverted to behaving itself and now works as it did in the beginning with a single flame shooting out the side.  I don't know what happened to the second flame but it's gone.  Paradoxically, I miss it.

Herself never complained about her toothbrush being black.  I don't know how I got away with that one.  Maybe she has a second brush I didn't know about?

As for James Fox, what more can I say?  Excellent?  Brilliant?  Leastwise they have deserved a little place of honour on my sidebar, so if you're into pipes, cigars, whiskey or any of that stuff, nip over and take a look.

And I'm still contemplating buying a spare Petersons.

Hitler is alive and well

Coincidentally, I was sent two different articles both on the same subject.

The first was "Antrim man fined for smoking in tractor" [thanks, Ian].

The second was "Tractor cigarette could cost farmer £1k" [thanks, Ipse Cogita!]

So here we have a bloke sitting in his tractor minding his own business and enjoying a fag when along comes a Brownshirt and slaps a fine on him for smoking.

We will ignore the fact that [as far as I am aware] most if not all tractors are single person vehicles.  We will ignore the fact that if he was parked at the side of the road and therefore technically he wasn't using it for business purposes.  We will ignore the fact that £1,000 is grossly disproportionate as a fine.  We will ignore the fact that this "crime" was harming precisely no one.

What we can't ignore is the depths to which this whole Anti-Smoker purge has sunk.

A cash strapped council which can't afford to cut back roadside hedges is able to afford a "tobacco control officer" [or more than one?] who is presumably being paid at least the minimum wage.  The whole concept of a "tobacco control officer" is wrong – a person employed on a full time basis to go around snooping on people to see if they are enjoying a surreptitious fag?

Can anyone give me one good reason why I shouldn't compare the Anti-Smoker campaign with the early days of Hitler's campaign against the Jews? 

In each case, a political ideology achieved almost religious like fervour and hatred.  In each case there is no basis for this hatred.  In each case the public are actively encouraged to vilify and demonise the minority.  In each case the public are encouraged to spy on their neighbour and report them to the "authorities" in the event of some imaginary transgression.  In each case the government passes tighter and tighter restrictions in order to eradicate this imagined evil and employs spies to ensure that the minority group toes the line, and applies disproportionate punishment in the event of a transgression.  Children are being indoctrinated into an ideology before they are mature enough to make their own judgements.

Just one good reason?


Sweet memories

I needed a couple of things from the village last week.

Herself said she'd come along for a cuppa coffee so I dropped her off at the coffee shop and parked the car.  Penny and I then did the rounds of the shops.

Doing the rounds with Penny can be a lengthy business as everyone for some strange reason wants to stop us to say hello to the dog.  ["Isn't she sweeeet", "What a lovely dog!"].  Secretly I am convinced they just want an excuse to chat to me but that's neither here nor there.  Eventually I finished my rounds and headed for my mug of coffee.

It was a sunny day and the place was fairly full.  Penny, as per usual, became a focal point.  I'm used to that so I let the people have their chat, pet and stroke [of the dog, not me] while Herself and I enjoyed our coffees.

As it happened, a couple of neighbours saw us and came in for a chat.  As they had a dog each, the place became somewhat chaotic, especially when a strange dog on the road saw this collection of canines and started yapping loud enough to hurt my ears.  I hate yappy dogs.

Eventually it was time to go, so I went to pay the bill [I’m quite honest really].  I came out and there was a couple at the table chatting to Herself.  Another pair of Penny Fans, thinks I.

I was wrong.

It was an old woman [she must have been in her eighties] and her daughter and what had attracted them was my pipe.  They were intrigued by its design and I told them it was handmade for me by an expert in France.  They wanted to know what I smoked and I told them it was Condor.  At this stage the old woman was becoming quite choked.  "Plug, flake or ready rubbed" she asked gently.  I told her it was the ready rubbed variety. 

The daughter took me to one side and explained that her father used to smoke Condor and had passed away recently.  I took the hint and lit up. 

As the smoke wafted gently in the still air a tear trickled down the old woman's face.  "Thank you" said she.  "It's a wonderful smell but it's so rare these days.  It brings back lots of memories."

I couldn't help but think of the Puritans who would berate me for "exposing" this old woman to my lethal toxic fumes.  They would have fumed at the fact that I was giving this woman a moment of good memories.  The happiness on the woman's face would be the very antithesis of everything they stand for in their joyless little world.

It made that little moment of happiness all the sweeter.

Lifetime conundrum

I don't often read the warning text on my packs of baccy.

To be honest, I prefer the images – they add a bit of colour and are worth a chuckle.

I noticed a particular text based one recently and I don't remember seeing it before.  Maybe it has been around for ages and I just haven't noticed it?

"Lifetime smokers lose an average of 14 years of life"

This bothers me.

Assuming a lifetime is around 78 years, then presumably they mean a smoker will only live to 64?  Therefore a smoker's life expectancy is a mere 64 years, but then that implies he has to lose a further 14 years off that?  Or to look at it in another way, if a smoker is expected to die at 64, then he can never reach a lifetime [of 78], which sort of negates the whole thing.

It's one of those little paradoxes that doesn't quite compute.  It's a bit like crossing a room where you halve the distance you walk each time, and it turns out you can never reach the far wall.  Or like my saying that everything I say is a lie [which means that statement is a lie]. 

The only way that statement can possibly work is for someone to smoke their entire life, reach 78 and then have to somehow travel back in time to die at 64.  I haven't heard of anyone doing that so I think it's unlikely to happen.

This is only an idle bit of whimsical thought though. 

I'm not worried.

You see, I'm not a lifetime smoker.

I didn't start until I was around 16.