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Tv Chefs - Nigella

As a comedian I was all in favour of the recent smoking ban. I perform in a lot of little rooms above pubs and used to hate having to breath in the polluting smog that invariably filled the space. I used to regularly get ill or lose my voice, but now those days are gone. It�s great.

But the ban has had some unexpected and less positive consequences. The most well documented is that now we don�t have a cloud of tobacco smoke fugging up our bars we are suddenly able to smell all the unpleasant odours and emissions that were masked before.

Less noted, from what I can tell, has been the romantic advantage that smokers now have over us non-smokers. Love is blossoming for the shunned as they huddle in doorways, meeting other smokers with whom they have at least one thing in common, sharing paraphernalia and getting into conversation as they pass the time. It can get cold out there, so sharing body warmth is the natural next step.

What has been good for my lungs has not been so fortunate for another essential organ further south, as this recent true tale of romantic failure shall illustrate.

I was on a first date with a friend of a friend. She had come to see me doing a charity gig which was to help the poor children. Surely she could not help but be wowed by me being both funny and magnanimous.

Although I had communicated with the young lady by email we had never met and I was gratified to discover that she resembled a young Nigella Lawson (so let�s call her Nigella, though that is not her actual name).

Who could ask for more?

I bought her a drink and we chatted away happily as we waited for the gig to begin. We seemed to be discovering common ground and all the signs indicated that things were moving in the right direction.

I bought her another drink � she had come out without any money, but I don�t mind being old-fashioned � and she commented that she really needed a cigarette, though she had none on her.

We went upstairs to watch the gig (I was closing the night) and everything seemed to be ticking along OK. Towards the end of the first half Nigella could wait no longer for nicotine and went downstairs to see if she could cadge a fag off a stranger.

At the interval, I went down to look for her and found her in the beer garden, sitting with a couple of trendy looking men, who were cooler and better looking than me and who had cigarettes, but who were not doing anything for charity, so I though alarm bells were ringing I thought I would be OK. In any case the girl was out with me tonight, so surely I had nothing to fear. Of course not.

The better looking and cooler guy turned out to be a TV producer who was currently working with one of the biggest and trendiest names in comedy. "I�m a big fan of yours," he told me, "In fact, I was wanting to talk to you about whether you�d be interested in working on a couple of projects with me�"

Just by knowing a smoker I had ended up doing more networking than I managed at the entire Montreal Festival. Imagine if I was actually doing the smoking. I�d probably be in the movies by now.

I bought another round of drinks and then went upstairs for the second half of the show. My date stood behind me at the bar as we waited for my turn. In the packed room we were pressed together and she was squeezing my arm. My fears had been unfounded. She obviously liked me, even though I didn�t smoke or look that cool or work with BAFTA award-winning artists.

I went up to do my bit and it went pretty well, but most importantly I helped the poor children and got nothing in return, except the kind of cachet that might hopefully lead to me getting a snog. I am very shallow and nothing I do is for anyone other than myself.

The gig over, I could now relax and was keen to see how the night might develop from here. As I went to get another drink for my now slightly tipsy friend, she went outside again to get another cigarette.

I thought nothing of it and got chatting to some of the punters at the bar. Some time passed and as I chatted I was conscious that Nigella didn�t have her drink and so went to look for her.

The beer garden was closed, so I went back to the front of the pub, opened the door and, inevitably (from your point of view, I had no idea that this was going to happen) discovered her in a passionate embrace with the producer who had so admired my work.

�Oh!� I exclaimed quietly to myself, before slipping back into the pub unnoticed by the new friends who were too busy trying to eat each other�s faces.

I felt a bit betrayed, though I am not sure who I was more upset with. Clearly my romantic hopes (and to call them romantic raises them to a higher level than is perhaps entirely accurate � again it was an organ further south than my heart that was mainly motivating me) had been dashed, but also the duplicitous producer had also ruined any chance of me ever working with him.

He had tried to ingratiate himself with me and used his superior coolness and attractiveness to steal Nigella off me. What a cad! But really it was the smoking ban that had made their stolen kisses possible. How many other connections have been made on pub doorsteps? How many other healthy non-smoker hearts broken by cupid cosseting the cigarette-sucker, fate favouring the fag-fondler?

After a few moments consideration I decided the best course of action was to leave, without making too much of a fuss and I passed the naughty twosome as they entered and I left the smoke-free establishment. I am not the kind of man to pick a fight. Especially with someone younger and (lungs aside) fitter than me.

I wished them both a curt good night and walked out into the cold night, with their smoke still hanging in the air, entering my mouth. It was the only thing I would share with Nigella tonight and it was a second-hand intimacy, tainted with the cancerous exhalations of my usurper. He never got in touch about those jobs by the way!

Though bristling with humiliation and disappointment in the short term, I soon got the incident into perspective, found it amusing and typically realised there was a routine and a New Statesman article in it.

Though it�s a little bit rude to snog someone else when you�re on a date with someone else, we had only just met and whilst I would have preferred them to wait til another day to share saliva, it at least let me know where I stood.

Nigella was very apologetic once she realised that she had been rumbled and blamed the drink (that I had paid for, thanks very much Mr Producer!) and asked for a chance to see me again and make amends.

Untypically for me I retained some dignity and politely declined. There are plenty more fish in the sea, though so few of them resemble saucy, posh, dirty-looking TV chefs.

Without the smoking ban none of this tragic tale would have unfolded and perhaps things might have gone very differently for me.

The children we might have had will now never be born (though maybe she and the producer will go on to reproduce, so don�t mourn my unborn infants).

The point I am making is that smokers are much more likely to get some. But before you head out to buy some Malborough, non-smoking men, do consider that the more cancer-sticks you suck the more you damage the spongy tissue in that organ down south and the more prone to erectile dysfunction you will be.

So maybe you ladies should be looking inside the pub for your lovers (which would work as an argument were it not for alcohol�s terrible effects on the little general�s ability to stand to attention
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+ChefsWorld Tim Capper

Tags: Caterer , Celeb Chef , Nigella , Tv Chef

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