THERE'S no smoke without fire, or so they say. Well there was no fire as such in the Beggars' Arms this week - except for the old apple logs smouldering in the inglenook, that is - but there was a massive letting off of steam.

And, looking at it now, it was inevitable. National No Smoking Day is bad enough for the Dale's nicotine junkies but when Teacher Tess decided it was time to crack the whip, rebellion was sure to follow.

Tess, Local Commandant of the Politically Correct Thought Police (LoCoPoCoThoPo) is a great lass for telling people what's good for them. And in telling people that smoking is bad for them, she is undoubtedly right.

But it's the way she tells 'em, to coin some comic's phrase.

For weeks, she had been campaigning to make the Beggars' Arms a smoke free zone. The Innkeeper, who enjoys the odd cigar, was reluctant but his Good Lady was very much on Tess's team.

With this formidable backing, Tess might have won the day had she not harked on about her victory for weeks on end. And perhaps she did not know that her case had been fatally weakened by none other than her husband, Tim.

One night a couple of weeks ago, when Tess was away at some PTA meeting, Tim had come to the pub alone and, as is his wont on these occasions, he treated himself to more than his normally permitted ration of three gills of Ram's Blood (abv 5.5.%).

Taunted by Owd Tom about his spouse's anti-smoking drive - and choking as usual on the foul cloud from Tom's pipe - Tim let a secret slip. At college, he revealed, Tess had smoked rather a lot. Marijuana, that is, not tobacco.

Now this went round the village like wildfire for there is nothing like hypocrisy to get we locals going - and this was hypocrisy big time even by Tess's world-class standards.

So came Wednesday, the scene was set. Her National No Smoking Day banner was in place over the inglenook and when she came in with Tim at about 8.30, the place was, apart from wood smoke, fairly fume free.

We gave them time to order their drinks and then it started. Owd Tom distributed two pipes to his son and grandson, Mid Tom and Yun' Tom (who don't smoke); Jetset pulled out some strange Russian ciggies; Cousin Kate the postmistress had a long cheroot, and even dapper John Bull, who has never smoked in his life, produced a tin of snuff.

Even the Innkeeper began to pull the wrapping off a fine Havana - but quickly put it on the back on the cash till after a glare from his lady.

Tom stuffed his pipe full of his acrid black shag and, at the signal of his first struck match, most of the bar lit up simultaneously. Within minutes, you couldn't even smell the wood smoke - or taste your beer, for that matter.

"Oh really," snapped Tess and staged one of her now famous walkouts. For once, Tim shrugged her hand off his elbow and stayed behind. Later, he even cadged one of Jetset's Russian fags.

The strange thing is that most of us locals are indeed trying to give up the dreaded weed. Tonight, which is not National No Smoking night, we have all vowed to go smokeless. But to repeat myself, it's the way you tell 'em, you see.

* The Curmudgeon is a satirical column based on a fictitious character in a mythical village.