Watch out! It's the Irish Smoke Police

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The Independent Online

When the Irish brought in their ban on smoking in the workplace, I wonder if they tackled the problem of people who work all alone in their own workplace and who don't object to themselves smoking ...

Take the example of a lighthouse keeper.

At the top of an 180-step spiral staircase he sits, all by himself. His name is Tim Loughran, and he has been looking out to sea for hours, and there are no ships, and there is no wind, and no speedboats taking illegal immigrants in and out of the Republic at night, and God, it's so boring, and he's fed up with reading, because he's been trying the new Louis de Bernieres and not getting far with it, so as a last resort he furtively gets out a packet of Sweet Afton, and lights up one of these delicious cylinders, when suddenly ...!

The door bursts open.

There stands Captain Pat Docherty of the Irish Smoke Police, with a squad of his trusty men (and trusty women too, for smoke-policing is an equal opportunities game, even if the steps of a lighthouse are terrible rough on the high heels of a lady smoke police operative).


Docherty: Caught you, Loughran! Caught you barehanded! Do you not know the rules about smoking in the workplace?

Loughran: Smoking in the workplace? That's a new one on me. News takes a long time to reach a place like this. Has anyone heard how the Falklands War is getting on, by any chance?

Docherty: Don't come the smart one with me, Loughran! The new rules are in every Irish workplace, including yours, for I see a copy on the wall yonder.

Loughran: Ah, that notice! I was meaning to have a look at it just as soon as I had finished the new Louis de Bernieres. 'Tis a fascinating book, captain. Have you read any of her stuff? For a French lady, she writes very decent English.

Docherty: There's no squirming out of this, Loughran! You've been caught red-handed, smoking!

Loughran: Brown-handed is closer to the mark. These nicotine stains are hell to remove. I suppose the sale of pumice stones has shot up in Ireland ever since smoking became a sin?

Docherty: That's an interesting point ... No, it's not, Loughran! You're squirming again! For God's sake, man, why don't you just step outside for a smoke, like everyone else?

Loughran: Because, captain, when that involves going down 180 steps, and you know it's going to be hard to push the door open in the face of a Force 8 gale, and that if you ever do get outside, your cigarette is going to be whipped away by a wind as strong as the breath of a dinosaur (There follow five minutes of purple poetic description which we shall omit), well, then, you might as well stay inside for a quick drag. Besides, who would object to my smoking? There can be no passive smoking when a man is by himself smoking.

Docherty: He has a point.We might well overlook this one transgression.

But Smoke Constable Deirdre O'Brien steps forward to interrupt.

O'Brien: Sir, I don't think he is alone, sir. Is there not another keeper in the lighthouse? By the name of Murphy? Might he not be affected by passive smoking?

Docherty: Good point, O'Brien. Well, Loughran?

Loughran: No danger of that, captain. Murphy and I quarrelled three weeks ago, and, in the ensuing fight, I brought about his death. You might have seen the freshly dug grave by the landing place. He'll be proof against smoke for a long while yet.

Docherty: Fair enough. We'll leave you in peace.

O'Brien: But, sir! He's just confessed to murder!

Docherty: Nothing to do with us. We only deal with smoke-related offences. You weren't arguing about smoking when you killed him, were you, Loughran?

Loughran: No, captain. About the merits of early and later James Joyce.

Docherty: Fair enough. Sorry to have disturbed you.

More yarns of the Irish Smoke Police some other time, I hope.