Just enjoyed a rollicking couple of hours with Sunday Times columnist and Spectator blogger Rod Liddle. The hair may be a little greyer than in this photo but Rod has lost none of his sharpness or charm.
He is currently filming a weekly video for the new Sunday Times website (paywall and all) and this week - prompted by Brian Binley's EDM - he has decided to cover the smoking ban.
At 11.30 this morning Brian and I duly reported for duty on College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament, where Rod wanted to interview the pair of us and a representative of ASH.
In the event - and after a lot of waiting - an ASH spokesman failed to show. Instead they put forward Stephen Williams, a youthful-looking Lib Dem MP, who declared that the reason he couldn't support the use of extraction fans (and therefore an amendment to the smoking ban) is because - wait for it - they are too noisy and drown out conversation!!!
Well, that's what Rod said he said. I was out of earshot at the time but it reminded me of what a BBC presenter once said on a Five Live discussion programme. Why would we want better ventilation in pubs, she asked. Surely that would encourage people to smoke more?
After Brian and Stephen had left and it was my turn to be interviewed we decided it would be more interesting to do it outside a pub with a drink in my hand and a fag in Rod's. So off we staggered - Rod, the cameraman and me - to the Marquis of Granby, a pub familiar to those who attended the Voices of Freedom debates in June.
A couple of pints later (Rod was drinking dry white wine) we finished filming and continued chatting. Here's a little of what I can remember:
- Rod smokes 30 cigarettes a day
- He plays five-a-side football for the Smoking Monkeys at Millwall Football Club
- Several members of the team smoke, but not as much as Rod
- Last time out Rod was top scorer
- The Smoking Monkeys are better than most 19-year-olds
Confidentially, Rod also told me that his wife Alicia bought him a running machine for Christmas because, in her words, he was "fat as fuck".
After she caught him smoking - while running - on the machine she declared the whole thing to be "pointless".
PS. Rod's video will appear on the Sunday Times website from Sunday. For the benefit of those who don't want to subscribe I am hoping that the ST will allow me to post it on this blog later next week. Watch this space.