I didn't mean to have a go at smokers. I mean, it's easy these days, isn't it? They're getting marginalised by the law, by public opinion, and their lungs aren't too happy with them either. They're easy prey and I didn't want to be that obvious.

That said this was always going to read as an anti-smoker rant. If you're going to give someone a kicking you might as well use the hob nailed boots.

I tell you, the sooner we ban smokers the better. Those of a pedantic bent might suggest we ban smoking rather than smokers but I'm taking the hard line here. Frankly I am less concerned about the risks of second-hand smoke and the burden on the health service than I am about the mindless inconsiderate nature of some of the people who smoke.

But perhaps it's not their fault. Maybe they're not inconsiderate - they may just be retarded. You've got to be a few IQ points below par to willingly suck down that chemical-laden, tar-ridden smoke many times a day. When their own filthy habits start intruding into my life it may not be because they don't care, it's because they don't realise. Smoking clogs the arteries and the lungs - the reduction of blood flow to the brain is manifesting itself, that's all.

I have recently started working in central London. The thought process behind moving to our capital was nothing more complicated than "I have no idea what I want to do. I may as well move to London where there's plenty of stuff going on to keep me distracted." City life pulls me in two directions - I enjoy the sheer quantity of diversions and 24 hour services but I also miss the lush, verdant outdoors. Another pertinent side of me is that I treasure my lunch hours. I will take a full hour to sit down, eat, do the crossword, and read the paper. It is one of the anchor points of my day - possibly the only one. These seemingly unrelated factors combine to give me my lunchtime pursuit - sitting in one of London's many parks and eating.

Many other people have the same idea. On overcast days the parks are speckled with people, but when it's busy the places are rammed. That's OK - other people are allowed to like the outdoors as well. We can all sit in the park together and enjoy the trees and the grass, the slightly fresher air, and pretend for a brief slice of time that we're not surrounded by pollution and filth.

Only we can't pretend that, can we? The grass is covered in cigarette butts. London's cleaners do a sterling job keeping the pavement detritus at bay, but you can't brush grass clean. Even if we ignore your discarded dog-ends and settle on the grass we are faced with a larger problem. You see, there is a reason there are butts everywhere. There are smokers in the park too.

Like the lumberjack who works outside because he loves the outdoors, the smokers in the park think nothing of sparking up when they are a few short feet from you. They'll sit there happily puffing away while we try to eat our lunch. I came outside to enjoy what little fresh air I can find, not have it removed by some blonde bint in advertising who talks loudly about when she should text the man she danced with last weekend. This also puts me off my lunch but, admittedly, it may not be relevant.

I'm not bothered about the health issues. I'm not entirely convinced about banning smoking in pubs - it seems a mite hypocritical to protect someone's lungs while encouraging them to poison their livers. You go to a bar, you expect the smoke. The stinking hair and clothes along with the dry throat are the cost you pay for socialising in such locations. I don't expect that from my lunch break.

And how about the degenerate swines who smoke while walking along the street? Double points for having a mobile phone clamped to your ear and the cigarette in that hand so it's not even like you're feeding your nicotine habit. As you walk along and belch out clouds of smoke the poor sods behind you get it in the face every single time. You may think you're clever but one day I'm going to have your ankles. Then we'll see who's the smart one.

Australia has a campaign about cigarette butts. It's based around the slogans "Bin yer butts" and "Don't be a tosser". We need more of that type of wordplay in this country. Quality puns and insults for transgressors. The closest we come to this right now is the pleasure of telling people without seatbelts to belt up.

I don't think there's a solution beyond ghettoising smokers even further. Don't send them outside, where they congregate around doorways like mini smokestacks in their own cliquey industrial revolutions. Stick them in a sealed room in the basement with an air vent. No matter how good the filter is the air will be stale and the walls will yellow and peel. Better yet, put them in a vacuum. They're used to breathing problems and (thanks to the fire triangle) they won't be able to light up at all.

I went to an Aussie Rules match once

I saw Adelaide vs. Port Adelaide at the AFL semi-final last year. It was a bit of a last-minute thing. This weird German girl came up to me on the street, and asked if I was busy that night, as she had a spare ticket. "Try something new!" I thought. I don't get asked out on the street that often and one of the things I'd been trying on my jaunt around Australia was to do new things, things I don't do at home like go to sports matches with people off the street.

God, I wish I'd listened to my inner voice and run for the hills.

So, Crazy German Chick goes home to change and we agree to meet later. We meet, and warning sign #2 (#1 was her asking people on the street to go to a sports match) appears: it's the evening, and we're strictly non-participatory, and she's wearing lycra sports gear. Cycling shorts and a top, along with some ridiculous fingerless gloves. It's Adelaide in September so it's not the warmest of evenings - I was chilly. I look past this and we go to get the bus. Adelaide do this thing where you buy a day travelpass and that lets you use all public transport. I have one and so does she - we board the bus without incident. We make small talk for a while, until she notices some other people going to the game. CGC starts talking to them and asks for some of their alcohol. They laugh but she persists; eventually they give her the dregs of one of their cans. (Asking for alcohol from complete strangers: #3).

We get to the grounds and she chooses this moment to ask for money for the ticket. I point out she invited me because she had a ticket going to waste; she could have sold it to someone at the ground if she'd just wanted to get the cover price back. We haggle and settle for a few bucks off the cover price and I'd buy her a beer. CGC says OK, but tries to sell it to some random bystanders anyway.

We get into the game and find our seats. Although she said she was a fan of the AFL she doesn't know the rules. This doesn't bother her but it bothers me - I like to know what I'm watching. I start talking to the people next to me and get them to explain the rules. Then the game starts. CGC's true nutbar quality starts to shine.

"Go the Crows!" she bellows. Completely at random, throughout the game. People around her were giving her that "Is this person dangerous or merely weird?" look. When people at a football match are looking at you for making too much noise... oh my (#4). At one point she started shouting for a team that wasn't even playing. I pointed this out to CGC. "Well, they must play sometime," she replied (#5). Then she starts cheering for animal rights (#6... I'm not going to keep track any more, we're beyond warning signs now). I'm all for them but I don't see where they enter into a sports match.

But that wasn't the worst part. At least during those moments she was watching the game. See, CGC has decided that I'm a hottie, and she wants a piece. Oh, how she wants a piece. She keeps playing with my hair and telling me "You look cute." At one point she even climbs onto my lap. No thank you! Eventually her pestilent advances get far too much and I fabricate a girlfriend for myself.

"You're very cute."
"Yeah, my girlfriend thinks so too."
"Aww, You have a girlfriend?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Are you... committed?"
"Oh, very much so."

This does not deter her, and I must fend off advances for the entire match. I figure "In for a penny in for a pound," and start fabricating an entire backstory for myself. I'm a 26 year old Scorpio from Birmingham with a job, and so on. I made damn sure she didn't get my surname.

CGC wanders off intermittently, presumably to harrass other members of the crowd, and I breathe a sigh of relief and apologise to the people around me. "She's not with you?" "God no. I'm an unwilling bystander." It's a cold night and I'm chilly. I have a jumper, but it's not doing a vast amount of good. She tries to borrow it occasionally and I explain that no, sorry, it's mine and I'm cold. "Not very gentlemanly," she says. "Well, I'm no gentleman, and you're the one who went to change and came back in tiny lycra."

Eventually the match ends. Port Adelaide got crushed - the game had some entertaining moments but they were very much outclassed. The Adelaide fans are ecstatic; the Port Adelaide fans downcast. We leave the stadium and go to queue up for the bus back to the town centre. CGC starts talking to random people in the queue again; she talks to a morose-looking man with a painted face and head to toe in blue about how much she enjoyed the game and what a good match it was. Similar foot-in-mouth incidents go on for the whole queue but for the most part everything goes fine. Nobody punches her and most people are taking her inane comments in good humour. She panics about not getting a bus and I explain that it's a football match - people will have thought of this. This bus is full but there will be another along in 3 minutes that will be empty, and so on until the stadium is deserted.

We get towards the head of the queue and it's obvious we're going to get onto the next bus. It draws up and people start getting on. It's about 80% full and there are 3 people in front of us. Despite having queued quite patiently up until this point CGC walks past them all, up to the end of the bus without sticking her ticket in the machine, and sits down. A situation is brewing. In the UK if you did this a couple of bag ladies would tut; Australians are not reserved. Why would she ever do this, anyway? She has a valid ticket! She would have got on! The entire bus is now pissed off at her. I wait like a good little Brit and get on, validate my ticket, and explain to the bus driver that she's kind of with me and I'll sort it out.

I go up to the back of the bus where an angry Aussie is in her face. I explain that she does have a valid ticket, and she should go and validate it. Yes, you're on the bus, but there are a lot of people on the bus who hate you and think you're not paying, so for God's sake go and put your ticket in the machine. No buts, go and do it now. She acquiesces and does so; the hostility reduces a little.

She starts to walk back up the bus towards me. In front of her is a heavy-set, middle-aged woman. She's another Port Adelaide fan. Not only is she in blue, but she's got some of those chunky radio headphones on and a big furry jester hat. CGC thinks it would be a good idea to steal the hat - she reaches out and grabs the hat, but gets the headphones too. The woman's just got on the bus so has no idea that CGC is a live one, and she was grabbed from behind so she's got no idea what's going on. The hostility on the bus is back.

"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing!" she bellows at her. CGC looks clueless - what, you're angry? Why? I roll my eyes and jump in again to defuse things, telling myself I only have 30 minutes more of this at most. I tell her to give the hat back, and she does. I apologise for her behaviour but the lady is much smarter than she looks - she refuses to spread her anger around. "It's not you I'm bothered about, it's her!" She tells CGC that she shouldn't be allowed out, and I tell Mrs PA that I agree.

The rest of the bus ride back is uneventful apart from the entire bus staring at her. She's still going on about my girlfriend, and trying to coax me off with her. There's one more incident that sticks in my mind, when she makes a sudden inocuous move and I flinch bigtime. I was that paranoid about what she could do. I lie: two more incidents. She starts eating her bus ticket. God knows why, as she needs it to get home. I try to dissuade her, but it's not my problem so I don't intervene when she carries on.

We get off the bus at the central station and I take the picture I linked to above. I took it for "Yes officer, that's the woman," purposes, as well as to prove to people that she really existed. She tries once more to talk me into coming home with her and to hug me, I rebuff her, and dash off into the station before she can gather her wits to follow me.

Originally published on Kuro5hin.

Camomile tea

I have never liked your standard tea. I don't even know what it should be called; I am not a tea aficionado. My mother drinks it a lot - as a middle-aged British housewife she drank it a lot as I was growing up. I found it a very bland drink and that offended me.

When I was around 14 I discovered the wonders of coffee. That was an adult, a metropolitan drink! The caffeine hit and the social cachet appealed to my adolescent mind and with typical pretentiousness I would bring a flask of it to school with me. These days I no longer drink it.

No, these days I like my tea. Not your PG tips and your Tetley's - these are still a bore. Consider it my own rebellion against the British side of myself. I like the herbal teas and the fruit teas. My word, they're wonderful. This summer I went travelling around Australia and ended up staying for two weeks with a young lady and her father. They got fresh camomile and brewed it up in a clear teapot, straining the flowers out when a cup is poured. I loved it. There's no teabag that comes close to it that I have found. Fortunately, mediocre camomile is still pretty good.

There are other teas I like. My love affair with fruit teas goes back a couple of years to when I was heavily involved with the student union. The University catering service would leave their individually wrapped fruit teabags lying around in meeting rooms after their meetings and I would have meetings afterwards. Well there was no point letting it go to waste, was there? A broad range of fruit teas were there for the taking. The other day I happened across a similar abandoned meeting refreshments table, and my box of fruit tea is now nicely augmented. I particularly recommend anything with a citrus fruit, though they're all good.

A new favourite of mine is jasmine tea. I had a cup of this in a pub recently (I know, I know. What kind of prat drinks tea in a pub? Pleased to meet you) and it was amazing. I went to my local Chinese grocery store and bought a cheap box. It's not up to the standard of the pub stuff, so more experimentation is needed and possible cross-examination of barmaids. Its deficiencies in taste are made up for somewhat through the aesthetic of this particular brand - that peculiar exoticism of something predominantly foreign. What's on the packet in English is translated with typical Chinese aplomb. It's declared as a product of the Fujian Tea Import & Export Co., Ltd. and each individual bag describes itself as Aromatic Flavour Clear Infusion Homely Refresher Ideal Gift.

At present I am not buying any new tea. I have boxes and boxes of the stuff - well over a hundred teabags in my cupboard right now. I'm moving out in a little under a month, and am trying to get through at least 3 cups a day (I am failing) as it feels faintly ridiculous to move teabags with me. My cache was not helped thanks to an overly-helpful supermarket. I had ordered 40 organic camomile teabags, as they had a far better taste than the non-organic kind. Of course they were out of stock and I got 40 non-organic ones. So now I've got at least 2 months of mediocre camomile to drink before I can get back to the nice stuff. Drat.

Originally published on Kuro5hin.