Funny how quickly perspectives change: I’m a mere three hours travel time from home, and it’s a different universe, made the stranger by being one entirely familiar to a past me.
I’m sitting in a funk-of-the-moment railway arch bar in Sarf Peckham, surrounded by more people than I could see or wish to see in a week in Balquhidder, breathing in a not unpleasant blast of Patchouli from the adjacent table – that’l be the SOH (Sad Old Hippy) in me, and suffering – with incredulity – some drifting cigarette smoke, as though I’d been transported through a timewarp into some old tobacco-hued movie.
What does make it easier to deal with is the knowledge that, in three weeks time, England too will be smoke-free – a small measure of civilisation encroaches on the English at last. Notice how easily the exclusive mantra of “the English” trips to fingertip: in six months I’ve gone from being a thoroughly Anglicised Scottish exile lamenting the state of his home country, to a Highlander patronising the state of the poor benighted English. That’s when I’m not eulogising the culture and lifestyle of the French and Germans over anything that the Anglo-Saxons have to offer. Which means I’m pretty much stock-in-trade for the transcultural millennial zeitgeist, whatever the hell that means. That or I’m a chameleon git with no sense of root and identity. Your call. But I’m glad about the smoking ban – that makes a real difference.