Saturday, 27 October 2007

The Last Place We Can Put David Hockney.

by Edwin Hesselthwite

"Out in the sun they slave away,
While we devotin'
Full time to floatin'
Under the sea"

The air is foetid at the best of times, but you don't even notice. Your days are spent trapped in a tin can, with refrigerated food, and where there can be no communication with the outside world. The birth of a senior officer's son is accompanied by a short message "Victor born", anything more is inappropriate. The first atmospheric air you breathe upon the end of a tour is so sharp it drives home like chlorine to your lungs, for a second you prefer the recycled air breathed by the lungs (and rank with the feet) of 132 men. Such is the life on board Britain's nuclear deterrent.

Thank God you can have a fag down there.

The Royal Navy's submarine fleet (well, 4 Vanguard class subs based in Scotland, and it made my skin itch to use the word Royal) are among the few places to have an exemption from the smoking ban, which means their already ripe air is by far the worst left in any British work environment... Research published in 2002: Norris, W. Attitudes to smoking on submarines: Results of a questionnaire study indicates that 32% of crews are smokers, and 31% ex-smokers, and that it is an almost perfect 50-50 split between those in favour and opposed to a smoking ban.

I, for one, am rather glad that a third of the crew of the most dangerous vehicle on Earth are not suffering from violent chemical withdrawal. But as policy inflation leads us to photographs of tumorous lungs on cigarette packets, and an 18-year age-threshold for purchasing tobacco products, I remain suspicious. Even after they have managed to win the war on smokers, I am sure some health wonk has their eye on this final exemption. Still, for the present, this is the last vestige of Britain's smoking culture. Deep beneath the ocean, next to enough warheads to turn Australia to black glass (please God, one day), they are living it up like a jazz club circa '56.

More Das Boot than Starship Enterprise... Which raises the question: are the Russians allowed a crafty fag on the ISS?

After sating one urge with a dashing Slavic beauty, Bond lit up... The guys with harpoons could wait.

1 comment:

Blognor Regis said...

I work in RN central and riding home one day last summer caught up with a gaggle of fellow cyclists in RN jerseys. They were just back from the Nice Triathlon and the one I was talking to, whilst riding along at a reasonable lick mind, was a submariner, Vanguard & Trafalgars, with, apparently, fine lungs.