Travels with a smoker

Sunset from Manchester Airport As I sit here, at Manchester Airport, waiting for my inevitably delayed flight to convey me back to Germany, with depressed people sitting all around in that manner that only an airport full of people can effectively convey, I feel I should convey to you, my possibly non-smoking audience, the mysteries of the world as a travelling smoker.

I am not, I should mention, a smoker, but my dear girlfriend is, and the spin that this addiction puts onto any journey is quite interesting. If you are a smoker, you will notice that the smoking world appears to be getting smaller. Places where you can smoke freely are shrinking. In Japan, when I was there last, smoking appeared to be restricted to pubs, lighting up on the street except in specially designated areas was definitely a no-no. In the UK, smoking in pubs is entirely out of bounds, as is smoking in pretty much every other covered place. In the Northern Territory of Australia, one of the last bastions of smokers freedom in the country, smoking is, as of writing, still legal, but one can no longer light up in hospitals as of July 2009. In Germany, smoking is usually not allowed in any kind of pub or bar, unless they have registered as a smoking club. The number of registered smoking clubs has somewhat increased of late.

Clearly, transportation mechanisms and hubs are a bit of a tricky one for your average smoker to navigate, as pretty much all of these are smoke free environments. As soon as one enters an airport terminal building, or boards a train or bus, there is the fear and serious likelihood that one may not be able to get a nicotine hit for perhaps hours, or in the case of a long haul flight to the other side of the world, days to come. A lonely huddle of people, frantically sucking on their burning tobacco leaves, can usually be spotted just outside these buildings, or inspecting fire doors furtively, hoping for a bit of freedom and a last reprieve.

If you are particularly lucky, the airport management will have set aside a spot for you. Chinese airports are particularly good at this, largely I suspect, as smoking is a national pastime. And so it is at Manchester. It is not, I hasten to add, an easy venue to find. Some questioning of airport staff and travels down abandoned feeling corridors is required But amazingly, after the hard work, you are rewarded with a rather wonderful little spot, and somewhere I would never have experienced had I not been travelling with a smoker.

I had feared that some sort of underground basement room, thick with the fug of years of past smokers offerings, would be our fate, and the maze of corridors we headed down had not given me any hope for anything else. However, we emerged into a pleasantly breezy area near the top of the terminal, with lovely views of the.. well.. airport. Yes, it still had that wonderful smokey aroma, and hints of dribbled ash around the place. But the view was lovely as the sun set magnificently across aircraft tails and runway lights blinked excitingly in the distance. It wasn’t somewhere I would have visited had I not been travelling with a smoker, and it was almost worth the passive smoking risks to discover.

I was given my standard issue boiled sweet to suck upon as compensation for not lighting up and started to ponder, as I gazed out to the setting sun, what other wonderful little hideaways I am going to be discovering as I continue to travel with my chimney like other half.

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