Health and Safety

The elf and safety racket has knocked the stuffing out of us

If you have four young children and you sometimes find it difficult to keep order, let me recommend a television programme that seems to have an almost incredible narcotic effect. As soon as it comes on, they go into a semi-religious trance.

The programme seems to be far more thrilling, to the younger generation, than Men and Motors, or the Playboy Channel. It is called Takeshi’s Castle. It comes from Japan, and there is nothing like it, believe me, on British TV.

Takeshi’s Castle is a dystopic world in which the competitors are subjected to a series of tests involving medieval cruelty. They are endlessly bopped on the head, dunked in slurry, or attacked by horrible Japanese djinns and hurled into hot geysers.

In one of the competitions, they are forced – men and women – to curl themselves up into a human bagatelle ball, and amid tremendous banzais and shouts of excitement from the commentators they are rolled down a gigantic board, bonking and bashing themselves fearfully as they go.

At the bottom of the bagatelle course they are so shook up that they are offered a million yen if they can walk for 60 paces in a straight line.


Or they are made to dress up as human skittles, and then they stand cowering as a one-and-a-half ton rock ball is rolled down the hill towards them and – nyeee-hah! – they are knocked silly by the impact, and the commentators scream with pleasure.

Or they are made to leap from rock to rock as they try to cross some foul-looking mire, almost always falling headlong and clonking themselves in the face.

My children watch it with complete rapture, because it is so alien to our culture. There are real teeth being knocked out here, surely; there are ligaments being torn, ankles sprained, ribs bruised, and still the sons and daughters of Nippon queue up for more.

I do not think my children are being more than normally sadistic; it is just that Takeshi’s Castle responds to a deep and unmet need in modern British life.

It is the need to see real risk, real danger, real humiliation, and of course real failure: all the things that are so expensively and so ingeniously airbrushed out of our mollycoddled and over-regulated lives.

Only this very day my office has been engaged in a surreal debate with the elf and safety about whether or not we could have a new printer installed. Such is the volume of correspondence that the old printer packed up the other day, and some of my letters have been piling up (for which apologies to anyone out there expecting an answer).

So we got on to the works department, located a new Hewlett Packard, but were amazed to be told that the device could not be transported 200 yards by anyone in the IT department.

Nah, they said; we can’t do that. You need someone specially trained to do that, they said. It’s the elf and safety innit. You’ll have to wait two days, they said. So in the end we had to carry it ourselves and now it is of course chuntering out great quires of correspondence.

But what kind of madness is it, I ask, that prevents a couple of grown men from transporting a Hewlett Packard gizmo not much bigger than a milkmaid’s footstool?

How is it that the Japanese are willing to be kicked around like human footballs, on prime time TV, and yet we are so terrified of injury that we forbid adults from lifting a piffling little printer? How has it come to this, my friends?

I will tell you.

Our modern pathetic airbagged society is the product of the lust of politicians to regulate and above all to be seen to be regulating, even when the law they are proposing is wholly unnecessary.

Why is there a law against picking up a computer without proper training? Because at some time in the past someone was so foolish as to do this without making sure his lumbar vertebrae were all in a neat column, and the miserable swine then sued his company; and some idiotic judge made an award; and the company claimed it out of insurance; and the insurance people decided to insist that companies would have to follow elf and safety guidelines if they were to provide cover; and the companies decided they needed a “level playing field” in which everyone faced the same elf and safety regulations; and so some industry lobby group got hold of some dopy politicians and the result is that strapping British IT men may not pick up a printer, while in Japan you can be turned into virtual spagbol or hurled in a trebuchet before an audience of millions.

The elf and safety racket is a great conspiracy against the taxpayer, and the public, and at every stage you will find collaborators. There are the media, who love to whip up a good scare (see MMR, BSE, avian flu, cellulite, you name it). There are the lawyers, who are always hungry for new grounds on which to litigate.

But the most cowardly and reprehensible are the politicians, who never stop to think whether a piece of legislation is necessary, or whether the problem cited is already covered by statute.

All they think about is whether they will appear to be “doing something”, whether they look strong, whether they look in control; and of course it is always easiest to look strong and in control if you are passing some coercive piece of legislation.

Look at Patricia Hewitt, and her magnificently invertebrate performance in the smoking ban debate. She began the day wanting to preserve the right of clubs to have smoking sections; she ended on the side of a total ban – not, as she later claimed, because she had “listened to the arguments”, but because she had succumbed to the politician’s overwhelming lust to be seen to “act”.

And it is this endless “action” that means we are slipping down the competitiveness tables, and it is the profusion of new laws, and the legions of elf and safety monitors and clipboard toters that go with those laws, that have pushed our taxes above German levels, and if you want to understand why Japanese productivity growth, after years in the doldrums, is now surpassing ours again, it is because elf and safety has so completely suppressed our spirit that we don’t even dare pick up a printer without training.

Banzai!

139 thoughts on “Health and Safety”

  1. I think la Hewitt should be banned from speaking on the radio on elf and safety grounds. When I hear her sanctimonise about smoking I firstly feel this urgent desire to rush out and buy a 200 pack of Marlborough and smoke the lot. Then I feel my blood pressure rising. Finally I remind myself to see if there is such a crime as justifiable femicide.

  2. Boris,

    It is worse than this: not only do we get lunacy instead of light legislation, but such lunacy brings an inevitable ratchet effect.

    One this sort of law hits the statute book it is impossible – politically, in the prevailing climate – to repeal. Imagine it:

    “We want to relax Health and Safety legislation to expose more of us to greater risk”.

    Hardly a vote winner is it….

    Toodle Pip!
    PG

  3. I just looked at “boris4rector.com” and it seems he’s going for Rector of Edinburgh University and the vote is today! I’ve been out of the country for a while and I’m out of touch. Is this the same Boris who in 1999 was overheard discussing beating up a journalist with fellow Etonian Darius Guppy?

  4. I’m off to vote and that’s a clincher Hedgehog! Anyone who can resist the temptation to beat up a tabloid journalist clearly has no soul.

  5. I would be careful about campaigning in favour of recklessness, Boris. Some people may be so blind to the consequences of their actions as to vote Conservative.

    By the way, any response to my oft repeated question about legislation and the environment? You would not want me to paxmanise would you?

  6. Well said, Boris. Having encountered many examples of H&S lunacy, I sometimes wonder how this country functions at all.

    Can things get any dafter than a scene I witnessed at Christmas where a group of carol-singing nurses were moved on by an H&S zealot for blocking a fire exit? The “fire exit” was in fact one of several tracks in the middle of an open-air car park!

    A thought occurs on the question of smokers. Since we are now forbidden by law to criticise anyone of a different nationality, race or religion, there are only two legitimate hate-figures left: Chavs and smokers. They are now taking the full force of the nation’s pent-up wrath.

  7. Couldn’t agree with you more. The current trend in ‘swaddling clothes statute’ simply underlines the inescapable fact that the present government doesn’t want the electorate to think for themselves any more. Heaven forefend! They might look at what Labour is doing as opposed to what they allege they’re doing (‘in real terms’ to quote Mr. B).

    Hewitt assisting in wrecking Rover MG (or, at best, failing to do anything positive) and now she’s trying to clean up the few remaining privately owned pubs with a blanket ban on smoking. I don’t smoke and frankly think anyone who does is brain dead but I am in complete support of their rights to get cancer whilst having a drink with their mates providing its in private.

    When legislation replaces common sense it’s usually time for a war. Maybe that’s where the attraction of Takeshi’s Castle originates.

  8. I was going to go on about the law of unintended consequences. They pass legislation about H&S. Some company misses out a bit and someone stubs their toe. A new ‘service’ industry emerges offering to sue the company you work for on a no win no fee basis. Lots of work for lawyers.

    But hold on! The Labour party is full of lawyers and led by one! Maybe the adjective ‘unintended’ is wrong!

    More seriously there are people on the public sector payroll who are looking to government to provide work by legislation. As well as this there are the extra people that have to be taken on directly or indirectly in the private sector to deal with this. And there are those who are looking to the government for their future employment in this area. I don’t suggest a conspiracy but more an acceptance of this being OK. Going on from the lefty thread there is an attitude that working in the public sector is somehow more noble than working in the private sector. In fact it’s probably more to do with being able to carve out your own little niches and empires more easily.

  9. Few subjects get people I know wound up more than batty elf & safety rules and the implementation thereof (to which you could also add speed cameras, but that’s for another day).

    These two illustrate well the vast gap between what people want from government and what they’re actually getting.

    My son went on a week’s work experience and learnt nothing more than fire drill, his rights as a non-salaried worker, how to lift something off the floor, company policy on bullying and so on.

    We’ve all got tales of H&E lunacy but the big question is, what can we do about it? As Pedant-General says, there is a ratchet effect where the whole rotten system becomes so large, inflexible and well funded that it’s eventually accepted as the norm by a weary public. It becomes almost impossible to crack.

    So where do you start? Relaxing H&S laws is not a great vote-winner, as P-G points out – even though so many people hate them.

    Is one answer a crackdown on compensation payments, with “stupidity factor” playing a much larger part in the equation? And how about a ban on no-win-no-fee ambulance chasers? (probably impractical, I know, but there must be some way of curtailing the parasites).

  10. Statute Emissions

    After having spent much of my lunch break inching around my favourite Right Honourable blogger’s blog, a few questions sprung to mind; When was the last time Parliament asked itself whether the people of this sceptred isle would be better…

  11. Boris (Again)

    Ok, so its an excuse for another rant about the Government – but, thats right, Boris Johnson mentions Takeshi’s Castle – an event I would have never thought could happen, just happened.

  12. I rarely disagree with Boris, but I take exception to his blaming the lawyers – even partly – for this phenomenon. Respectable professionals are not out chasing ambulances in this country. If a client seeks redress, it is a lawyer’s duty to try to obtain it. The politicians are the villains here, aided and abetted by all parents and teachers who raise children with the ludicrous expectation that life can be fair. I always told my children “You are right. Life is unfair – in your favour. You could so easily have been born in ignorance and poverty, but you were not. So get on with it.” That’s not exactly the party line these days in Britain.

  13. Tom Paine

    It is with some regret that I have to disagree with one of East Anglia’s most famous sons.

    I see shops advertising no win, no fee, I see adverts on the TV when I (rarely) watch it) for the same. Presumably there are lawyers advising these people at the very least. Furthermore there are a whole host of programs epitomised by You and Yours, which take it as their bounden duty to get people grumpy about the smallest possible infringement of their rights. The politicians are to blame for not thinking it through. Part of that thinking through is to realise that the media have to justify their existence by apparently being on the side of the ‘small person’ and that lawyers – perhaps the non-respectable professionals – don’t want a drying up of briefs or whatever it is that Rumpole gets.

  14. Just out of interest, does the prohibition on the manual transportation of Hewlett-Packard(TM) printers extend to other brands? I mean Hewlett-Packard(TM) is an American brand and, let’s be honest, they like BIG!

    Perhaps more modest implementations of printing technology, Canon(TM) for example, are not similarly encumbered by the S&M sorry, E&S legislation.

    I’ve just done a simple test in my office and I find that both volumes of the Shorter Oxford dictionary weigh significantly more than my Epson(TM) printer. Would I, therefore, be delinquent if I fail to call a technician to use the dictionary to find out what dystopia means? (or which junction you take off the M4 to get there)

    I suppose changing a flat tyre’s out of the question.

  15. I propose a new game to be played in the commons by newly inducted MPs.

    The game:
    On their first day in the house, they are blindfolded and have headphones (playing some Ramone’s music) taped to their heads whilst a new bill is proposed. When the debate is concluded (without having heard the arguments) they are asked to defend the bill (regardless of whether the party they represent is aye or nay)

    SOMETIMES the bill with which they are presented will be a legitimate proposal and SOMETIMES it will be made up for the amusement and edification for all (for example something like a proposal for free underwear for home office secretaries).

    BUT, if they think that the bill is truly rubbish they are allowed to play the ‘bobbins’ card and have it vetoed and rejected from the house FOREVER.

    Call it ‘Spinal Challenge’. A reality show for the new millennium

  16. It has long been an unwritten rule, quoted to budding New Labour MPs, (that forced and picked variety, a little like rhubarb, it looks reasonably all right, but has no real substance), when applying for a place on the candidacy lists. “Thou shalt have no backbone”. If I might just misquote the fat Controllers remarks about good schools:
    “if just one person were allowed to have one, they’d all want one”.

    I was once stupid enough to believe that the person elected, (of whichever Party), to serve on behalf of the electorate for a particular constituency, actually did what they promised in their local manifesto. That was however prior the introduction of,” The Cruelty to Invertebrates (1997),Act”, which guarantees total immunity from prosecution for the non-keeping of election promises. This has now killed off any illusions I may once have had; that it, Democracy, was the rule of the people, for the people, and by the people.

    Elf and Safety ! From flying pigs?

  17. The elf and safety guidelines don’t specify a maximum weight for safe lifting. It is all on based on good judgement. If you had of told them to get off their ergonomically shaped black leather chairs and do some work, and then one of them suffered a back injury you would be liable. Where as taking the responsibility yourself means that if you suffered an injury from lifting the object in question they would be liable for allowing you to carry such a weight (not that Hewlett Packard printer are typically heavy).

    The problem isn’t with the legislation, but instead with people who will use the legislation to worm a situation to their advantage. Either for profit or getting time off work, it is them who should be shunned, not the legislation.

    Anyway in regard to the total smoking ban, I believe in five years time we will all look back and agree that a complete ban was the right decision. Having gray areas or exceptions just makes things awkward, as in the case of the printer.

  18. I stand corrected, Jack Ramsey. There were no ambulance chasers in my profession’s ranks when I left England in the early 90’s. Still, any non-respectable learned friends are only responding to client demand stimulated by dumb legislation. The pols are to blame.

    PS: A British business person of my acquaintance tells me he is closing his firm down because he can’t afford the bribes demanded by the local Elf & Safety inspectorate in return for not disrupting his activities on spurious grounds. Another example of the law of unintended consequences?

  19. there are only two legitimate hate-figures left: Chavs and smokers. They are now taking the full force of the nation’s pent-up wrath. (PaulD)

    Not yet a chav, but certainly a smoker, I never encounter this wrath. It’s something you only encounter on TV. My local pub is not filled with righteous do-gooders chanting anti-smoking mantras, and braying about how wonderful the new law is – but instead the usual crowd of smokers and non-smokers, getting along together just as well as they ever did, never a bad word said.

    There seems to be an increasing disconnect between life as it is portrayed on TV, and life as it is actually lived.

    I don’t smoke and frankly think anyone who does is brain dead (Paul Waudby)

    That would include Albert Einstein, who declared that smoking was conducive to a calm and relaxed view of the world, and who, when banned from smoking by his interfering doctor, took to picking up cigarette butts from the street to use to fill his pipe.

  20. That is the most shocking thing I have read today.

    A housebuilder friend told me recently the one thing that sustains his fragile faith in local government is that he has never, in 30 years of dealing with Town Hall staff, been asked for a bribe, nor felt that anyone would accept one if offered.

    Are we now to believe that our public servants are being driven to Third World methods of “doing business”? Is this story true, Tom?

  21. The other day my wife and I had an glibbery, hazardous jungle walk from Juara to Tekek on the Malaysian island Tioman. We amused ourselves by thinking of all the Health and Safety warnings a similar path in the UK would have!

  22. I must concede that I feel somewhat nonplussed by idlex’s (speciously didactic) critique.

    Suffice to say that “does” is in the present tense and consequently excludes Professor Einstein and (probably) 100% of all great sages born more than 50-70 years ago who were similarly chronic smokers.

    ’nuff said.

  23. Agreed, Idlex. As a smoker too, I rarely get an ear-bashing from anyone in the pub. But non-smokers are there out of choice; they expect some of us to be smoking.

    What I meant is better illustrated by this little exchange. We were in a bar with a no-smoking zone at one end where people ate. I was standing chatting to an acquaintance at one of the tables, cigarette in hand. A woman stormed over and yelled: “Take that damn thing away, will you! It’s ruining my food and giving me cancer.”

    The cig was unlit; my lighter had packed up.

  24. Before any of you get on my case again, let me say that I fully support any smoker’s God-given right to commit suicide any way they want (as it clearly states my original post). I simply think that there should be provisions under this new legislation for both smoking and non-smoking establishments in the hospitality trade.

    I fully concede that no one obliges me to go into a smoking establishment and it’s up to me to decide if if the benefits therein compensate for coming out stinking and feeling like I’ve been subjected to a CS gas attack. But, on the other hand, surely if a proprietor of a pub/restaurant decides that the majority of his habitués are non-smokers and chooses to cater to their preferences who can argue? I simply think both options should be available whereon it becomes a commercial decision for the publican. I don’t think this is the appropriate forum to discuss the administrative difficulties of the latter strategy because I am aware that this subject is, strictly speaking, off topic and has probably been meticulously analysed in other debates.

    It is, however, my contention that legislation of the H&S and prohibition varieties both stem from an evident belief by the current government that residents of the UK are incapable of making rational decisions about their own, and their children’s, well-being. I’ve just heard that there are draft proposals to preclude kissing scenes in plays such as Romeo and Juliet when performed by schools. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts is probably a bit stuffed then. How much (ineffective) cotton wool does our illustrious leader think he can wrap us in before we suffocate?

    The unflinching and sanctimonious arrogation of our judgement by the current regime has got to stop at some point or it won’t be long before we are disenfranchised because voting is potentially too stressful.

  25. Is Tony Blair a Chav?

    Lives in a council (well, government) house and is demonstrably violent (exhibit A: invasion of Iraq).

  26. The Labour manifesto called for a partial ban on smoking. A total ban, without the public being aloud to vote on this, must surely be illegal?

    Oh what am i talking about. As if this government has ever done ANYTHING for the people, or paid any attention to any laws or rights that anyone may have. We elect representative so arrogant they consider themselves delegates.

    It’s not often i wish ill upon people, but Nu Liebore? A pox upon them!

    :o(

  27. To Paul Waudby,
    No-one’s on your case you’re just touchy because you’re a typically smug, unctuous non-smoker.

    What the hell makes you think anyone is interested in the slightest in your proposals about how smokers and non-smokers can live together in perfect harmony? Who died and made you the arbiter of respiratory parity?

    Don’t care, not interested. Crawl back into your smoke free lounge and pontificate to someone who cares.

    Have a fag and calm down!

  28. My, they’re twitchy when they’re having a nic fit, eh?

    Smokers and chavs aren’t two separate categories of marginalized people; the second is a subset of the first. Have you ever met a chav (North American equivalent: white trash) over the age of nine who didn’t smoke? No, of course not. Where I live, smelling of cigarettes is sort of a class marker, in that it marks you as someone who does not have a job and not because Daddy left you a trust fund. It’s so nice not to have to actually chat with people to find this stuff out; saves loads of time.

    Getting back to the nominal topic of the thread, there’s a marvelous line in the Clinton documentary The War Room. There’s a protester standing outside the Democratic Convention, shouting into a bullhorn, “The reason we’re here is that we’re afraid we might get another lawyer as President.”

  29. The cig was unlit; my lighter had packed up. (PaulD)

    Good to know that there’s another smoker here.

    Reminds me that I’ve been toying with the idea of protesting by going everywhere holding an unlit cigarette.

    This could get a bit trying, so maybe wiring the cigarette to a finger might be easier. And maybe not a cigarette, but something that looks like one (e.g. a white biro), which I suck on every now and then. So when they come storming over screaming about giving them cancer, I show them what it really is.

  30. idlex

    You used to be able to get pseudo-ciggies from joke shops. Perhaps all those who object to this bill, smokers and non-smokers, should go around with these.

  31. Is Tony Blair a Chav? [Paul Waudby]

    Hs trng n2 1, innit.

    What grieves me about this wretched smoking debate (except it’s not a debate any longer; Big Bro has spoken) is that no-one has grasped the potential of a simple four syllable word. VENTILATION.

  32. Nic fit! it’s the blog equivalent of happy slapping.

    Matt, did you have your cellphone camera on when you pressed post? Perhaps our beloved leader should also legislate against mental overexertion too.

    I’m sorry if I pressed any wrong buttons. Are you a chav?

    (I liked “unctuous”, good show!)

  33. I can only speak for myself but I would be honoured to carry a fake fag in support of any Darwinistic rights to smoking.

  34. Christ!

    I’ve been out of the UK for a considerable period. (I served my country and I am for, whatever resone exiled from the united kingdom for financial reasons)

    What is wrong with strainght forward, common or garden, common sense in these matters?

    Mr Johnson, it is with reluctance that I must hodl YOU responsible for the stupidity which is, according to your amusing editorials, sweeping common sense from Britain.

    You are an effective man. you can put any point across hwereby the alternative sounds foolish! It’s all very well making fun of the stupidity of these acts but you are respeonsible for them too!!!!!!

    The things you talk about ARE stupid! so why don’t we hear anyone telling the prime minister this at prime minister’s question timw in a way that other voters can understand?>?!

  35. Ds ne1 fnk dis

    Sorry, start again

    Does anything think this smoking ban could be Labour’s downfall? The evidence suggests that smokers are now concentrated at the Labour-voting end of the populus (“..people from those lower socio-economic categories have very few pleasures in life and one of them they regard as smoking.” – Health Sec John Reid)

    Could this ban finally bring home to them the interfering, liberty-sapping nature of the party they’ve been voting for?

    (Not off-topic I hope. All part of the helf & sayftee nonsense)

  36. …Labour’s downfall?

    Oops! Wouldn’t those ill considered electronic comments be controlled, and potentially prosecuted, under the provisions of the glorification of terrorism ammendment? (Mr Paine, any comments?)

    Nah! Fear and greed or panem et circenses will determine the political future of Britain.

    Unverifiable and misleading statistics have become the currency of British political …er currency.

  37. Well said Jazz Inspector: I must say that in this Government the people certainly have the circus portion of that essential duo which they desire ,and Marie A. herself said of the bread starved masses, ” let them eat cake “.

  38. What a cynical lot!

    Sad to say, cynicism and sarcasm are sometimes all that’s left when we feel powerless. So, Boris, would you please listen to what our friend Jake Guest said earlier.

    YOU ARE THE ONE WHO CAN STOP THE ROT. GET OUT FROM BEHIND YOUR LAPTOP AND GIVE ‘EM HELL IN PARLIAMENT.

    (from someone who hates using all capitals.)

    Do it well and you’ll be PM one day. Hear me, old son?

    Paul

    PS Don’t abandon the laptop altogether – we love it.

  39. What, fundamentally, is the difference between cynicism and pragmatism from a carbon based lifeform perspective?

    Surely it’s not cynical to think that even the most benign government is comprised of a bunch of self-serving, opportunist mummers?

    That’s just pragmatism isn’t it?

  40. I’m pleased that a couple of people have picked up on the fake cigarette idea. It would be amusing if it caught on, and millions of people started using them. Imagine the sputtering rage of the Fat Controller!

    The basic model I’m toying with is of a finger ring to which a fake cigarette is attached, thus saving the effort of actually holding it between two fingers. One would be able to do almost everything one normally does – including reading a book, typing at a keyboard, and perhaps even using knife and fork.

    More advanced models might include a red light in the tip, which would glow when the filter end was compressed. The possibilities are limitless.

    I imagine that the manufacturing costs of the basic model would be very low, since it would simply consist of a tube attached to a ring, and might sell for less than the price of, well, a cigarette. A whole cottage industry might spring up to produce them.

    Anyone with entrepreneurial, engineering, manufacturing, and marketing skills here?

  41. Sorry to ask, Jazz Inspector: Are you a nutter, or a sane person on drugs, or Hedgehog / Geek-pie (previous troublemakers) in disguise? Or am I just naive?

  42. ?

    Nope, sorry if ‘m causing any offence. I’m just one of those anachronistic people who believe in truth, justice and a pie and a pint. Protection of the weak on Sundays, weather permitting.

    If it’s any help, I was

  43. Sorry, if I could slur that again:

    If it’s any help, I was classically educated which, from my recollection, meant getting a swipe across the hand for ending a sentence on a preposition. Something which I never do. (anymore)

  44. This is a good wheeze, Idlex.

    Only problem is, would ex-smokers, of which there are many, want to participate in a stunt that might re-light the craving?

  45. Oh do put a sock in it, JI. We’re trying to have a serious conversation here.

    Yer, I did Latin too. Smell the lamp. Leave no stone unturned. Hope the drink wears off.

  46. This is a good wheeze, Idlex. Only problem is…

    The more I think about it, the more I like it.

    And, no, I don’t see that it would re-light the craving. Nobody would actually be smoking, after all. They would simply be wearing a rather unusual ring.

    It’s symbolic. It’s passive resistance. I dimly recall that in Denmark, when the Nazis demanded all Jews wear yellow stars, the whole country – including the Danish royal family – started wearing them as well.

  47. no-one has grasped the potential of a simple four syllable word. VENTILATION. (PaulD)

    The anti-smoking brigade have managed to stifle this one, by claiming that ventilation doesn’t remove awful toxic nano-particles in air. And this is nonsense.

    What they really mean is that air filtration systems don’t remove everything. I’m sure this is true, but it only matters if you are recirculating stale air back into a room – which you don’t have to do. But, anyway, as ever, they’ve managed to fudge things to make it seem like ventilation is no answer. I posted about this on Lefty Thinking February 14, 2006 09:28 PM.

    Yet it remains no answer to a non-problem. Yesterday in the Independent Dominic Lawson carved up the case against passive smoking.

      The British people like being lied to. That, at least, is the lesson I draw from the overwhelming popular support for the decision by the House of Commons to ban smoking in all public places – and in private clubs.

      That decision, taken by an overwhelming majority of our elected representative was justified by one simple, stark claim: that non-smokers are at significant risk of contracting lung cancer from the effects of what scientists call “Environmental Tobacco Smoke” and what everyone else calls passive smoking. That claim is simply untrue.

      The largest and most detailed epidemiological study on ETS and tobacco-related mortality ever to appear in a medical journal was published in March 2003 by the British Medical Journal, whose editorial board was sufficiently impressed by the paper to flag it on the front cover under the headline “Passive Smoking May Not Kill”. The study by Professor James Enstrom of the School of Public Health at California University, and Assistant Professor Geoffrey Kabat of the Department of Preventive Health at the State University of New York was based on a 39-year survey of 118,000 Californians originally recruited by the American Cancer Society in 1959.

      Enstrom and Kabat’s conclusion, in a nutshell, was: “The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco-related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect.”

    If you want more, I’ll post it up.

  48. Great stuff, Idlex. I agree, air recirculation may not remove every particle so let me tell you a story (yes, another one).

    Back in the early Nineties when you weren’t hanged for smoking, I worked on the top floor of an eight-storey office block. A few of us smoked; we were all considerate towards those who didn’t.

    The open-plan office, occupying the whole top floor, had huge windows that opened wide (now banned under helf & sayftee of course). One summer’s day, with a stiff wind blowing and the windows fully open, a couple of us went downwind, hung out of the window behind a cabinet and lit up. The force of air through the room was so strong that I swear not a single molecule of smoke could get back into the building – it was visibly whipped out over surrounding countryside as if drawn by a vacuum cleaner.

    Within seconds came the cry from the office health freak: Oh my god, is someone smoking round there? You’re making me choke with your filthy.. etc, etc.

    There is no way she could have smelt or suffered anything, other than Caesar’s last breath ( http://www.vendian.org/envelope/dir2/breath.html ).

    So how much of this is fact and how much hysteria? It reminds me of Boris’s climate change posting…

    No-one, not even smokers, wants to emerge from an evening out stinking like a kipper. I don’t know about you, Idlex, but I can’t stand smokey rooms either.

    And so once again we have the answer… ventilation. Alernative spelling H-Y-S-T-E-R-I-A.

  49. Actually, nonsmokers have an incredibly acute sense of smell and can generally tell when someone is smoking, even in a hurricaine. I speak from experience. I mean, was the girl telepathic? She must have known somehow.

    I agree that ventilation is the answer, and we’ve instituted it here in BC, to wide acclaim. Even the waitstaff like it, because they don’t smell like the bar at the dog track on the way home. It is expensive to install (and yes, it vents outdoors rather than filters the air) so there’s the issue of financing: perhaps the government could arrange loans? For the well-being of its people?

    idlex, alas the fake ciggies and cigars and pipes of our youth (remember the licorice pipes, with red hundreds and thousands on the end?) are no more. They have been banned, because they encourage the idea of smoking. I had to investigate it when I was hosting a “Hemingway night” and wanted to give away cigars that wouldn’t cause cancer, not even in the winner.

  50. On a purely writerly level, I have to voice appreciation of the expression, “strapping British IT men” on grounds of creativity and humour. If your IT men are really THAT different from ours, I’ll book a flight ASAP.

  51. The sock’s just fallen out.

    What I was trying to say, I felt lucidly and concisely, was that that you’re simply wasting your time, but keep trying.

    You see, your little homily about the Danish royal family (and the yellow stars) doesn’t apply here. Jewish persecution in Hitler’s Germany attracted a great deal of support and sympathy. Smokers, by comparison, are outcasts and social lepers in these early years of the 21st century.

    Taking the path you propose, fake ‘ring-fags’ as a badge of protest and solidarity, would be like wearing a nice sable hat to the annual animal rights convention.

    Violence might be provoked!

    The problem, as I see it, is that you are addressing an isolated symptom of the ‘right-on’, elf and safety disease. You need to direct your efforts more powerfully at the core of the problem which is, in my view, the current legislative trend in “we know what’s best for you” governance.

    So, my simple advice is: go on the campaign trail and give your every waking hour to extracting the current crew of martinets from number 10 ASAP

    Having restored normal service you’ll be contentedly up to your bronchioles in aggravating gaseous chemicals before you can go through a pack of Silk Cut.

    Sorry about the jokes earlier. ‘Fraid I couldn’t take you seriously.

  52. I don’t know about you, Idlex, but I can’t stand smokey rooms either. (PaulD)

    No, I like smoke. I’ve always liked tobacco smoke. But there is some critical smoke density at which I begin to find myself gasping for fresh air. But it’s a very high density, which I have seldom encountered, except in extremely crowded pubs or parties.

    It’s just a matter of different preferences. I was in Japan last year, and was wandering the streets sans my Japanese phrase book, looking for some place that I could get a drink and a snack. I found myself outside a small restaurant, a din of voices coming from it. Impulsively, I entered. Behind the bar, a very large open grill belched smoke up into a chimney in the ceiling above. All around the bar were seats filled with Japanese men and women, eating with chopsticks, drinking, talking and smoking. There were an additional half dozen tables. It seemed every seat was taken, but after the cheerful manager had ascertained by sign language that it was just me looking for a seat, he led me to a single chair invisible at the end of the bar. There I uttered the only magic word that I could remember. “Birru!” I cried. The spell worked, because within seconds a large and most welcome beer materialised in front of me. I surveyed the scene around me. The din of talk was immense, with shouted orders behind the bar, clattering dishes. Salary men in dark grey suits were hunched over their noodles, chopsticks in one hand, cigarette in the other (this is the virtue of chopsticks, I realised), intently reading newspapers or talking, entirely oblivious of me. The whole place was somehow vibrantly alive, and unlike anything I’d ever encountered. The staff were wonderfully cheerful and helpful. Indeed they almost radiated happiness. I emerged an hour or so later, after paying what seemed a minute bill, fed, watered, and delighted.

    Contrast this to my experience a day or two later in an expensive American hotel a few hundred yards away. Silent uniformed flunkies stood in enormous marbled hallways. The restaurant was empty but for our party, and was non-smoking, naturally. When I asked for a beer, I was given a glass thimbleful of it by a sergeant at arms. When I protested, I was given a slightly larger thimble. The food, when it arrived, was near cold. The uniformed staff were grim and unhelpful. Only the conversation lifted the occasion. When I left, after paying the exorbitant bill, in the company of one of the party, I reached immediately for a cigarette. I was astonished when she did exactly the same.

    Guess which place I preferred, and where I went night after night, and even got flirting with pretty young Japanese women dressed in torn denim jeans (oh, that was such fun!).

    But other people must have preferred the other place, I guess. Half way between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was probably a good place to hold conferences, and devise plans to nuke the world.

    ‘Fraid I couldn’t take you seriously (TJI)

    Don’t! Don’t! After all, I don’t take myself very seriously at all.

  53. Perfectly acceptable!

    I shall ignore, as I hope everyone else does, all further comments you make.

    I upsets me that you aren’t more responsible and active.

    Sad.

  54. idlex, alas the fake ciggies and cigars and pipes of our youth (remember the licorice pipes, with red hundreds and thousands on the end?) are no more. They have been banned, because they encourage the idea of smoking. (raincoaster)

    I haven’t checked, but I’m sure you’re right. After all, I saw one of our prison guards on the box a night or two back, complaining about the amount of smoking in films and documentaries. Fairly soon films like Casablanca will be banned, or the cigarettes airbrushed out.

    But I rather think that the resistance is deliberately adding cigarettes when none are really needed. The cigarette, it seems, is becoming a symbol of defiance.

    So, my simple advice is: go on the campaign trail and give your every waking hour to extracting the current crew of martinets from number 10 ASAP (TJI)

    Would that it were as simple as that. A once-solid Liberal – because Liberal means ‘liberal’, dunnit? -, I was dismayed to see Lib-Dem Lord Somebody last week announce both his Liberality and his support for the anti-smoking legislation in the same sentence. No wonder thay got rid of Charlie Kennedy. And my Tory MP voted for the anti-smoking law as well. And Dave Cameron is simply understudying Bliar. Or, have I got it all wrong, and George W Bush is a commie?

    It’s far deeper than mere party politics. It is the spirit of the age, if anything. And that spirit is one of the hysteria that PaulD mentioned. It’s not just cigarettes: it’s global warming, impending ice ages, ozone holes, bird ‘flu, hurricanes, earthquakes, supervolcanoes, asteroids, comets, the list is endless.

    The absurd “War on Terror” that our political masters are not fighting, but whose flames they are instead fanning, is the very symbol of a modern hysterical fear of the unknown and the unseen. It’s pandemonium, the devil himself riding everywhere.

    Scared people are easy to herd. I fully expect that within a couple of years an Earth-intercept comet will be discovered and announced by grim-faced lab-coated scientists, and in the ensuing wave of crazed fear the government response will be to ban alcohol, reduce the speed limit on all roads to 20 mph, and attack Iran.

  55. I upsets me that you aren’t more responsible and active. Sad. (TJI)

    I would hate to take myself as seriously as the grim killjoys among us so clearly take themselves.

    People don’t take Boris seriously either. He has, after all, a sense of humour. Tut tut.

  56. Banzai indeed.

    One is tempted to point out all the silly exuberances which political hooligans have been apt to fling about like legislative shillelaghs – but I fear doing so will bring down your ‘blog, the internet, and the economies of at least 5 countries. As you say, it is nothing short of a scandal – but I will proffer my opinion on the cause.

    Basically, your common-all-garden politician is apt to throw legislation on the compost-heap of statute blissfully unaware that previous acts have not decomposed. Judges, therefore, equally blissful in their ignorance of digital watches, Kamikaze contestants and, it would seem, common sense, direct juries in odd ways, guided perhaps by a lodestone set to what was a legal magnetic north some time before God was an embryo.

    But what is the answer? One would be to stop this legislative Laurel and Hardy slapstick by kicking either or both where it hurts – but then cynics would argue that either or both are lost causes anyway.

    But are they? I would argue not, because whilst it seems, judging by Phony Liar, Lord wotsisface and another person who can’t be named for legal reasons, that law school seems to suck common sense out of the poor QCs heads – then again that’s countered by the venerable Ancram and Michael Howard for our side. I cannot, therefore, see why M’Luds have to be so, well, daft.

    As for MPs, one is reminded of the old feminist joke: “of course I don’t look busy – I did it right the first time”. It’s time MPs were paid on results rather than the high-viz faffing about that gets nowhere. It’s that flapping-so-much-they’ll-take-off which makes the public cynical – that and Phony’s vacillatory habits, gorgon George’s BB shame and Mark Oaten’s hypocrisy.

    Have you ever noticed, though, that you’re far more likely to have a crash with a seatbelt on than without one?

  57. Booker on Johnson

    File this one under the ouch category. Following this column from Boris Johnson, Christopher Booker’s response: Boris Johnson MP plaintively described in The Daily Telegraph how, when his office needed a new computer printer, the Commons staff told h…

  58. Delicious stories, Idlex. But you have missed the point. The American hotel was clean and hygienic. You didn’t get an upset tummy, did you, so what are you complaining about?

    My kids have a game called “what’s the worst meal you’ve even had, Dad?” It’s a toss-up, but the winner usually ends up as a hotel near Kansas Airport. How I found myself in this place I can’t remember but I’m glad I did because this meal set the standard against which all others can be judged.

    It started off badly enough when I arrived early one weekday evening. The first question I asked on check-in was: Could you point me to the bar? Outside it was nudging 100deg; I was flushed, dripping, flustered, and gasping for a cold beer.

    “Bar?” said the woman quizzically. “Oh no, we don’t have a bar here, sir”.

    “So could you get me a cold beer then?”

    “On no, we don’t sell beer here, sir”

    “Well when does the reataurant open?”

    “We don’t have a reataurant, sir. This is a breakfast hotel. But you can get a meal at the Mariott Hotel over the way.”

    “Over the way” turned out to be a half-mile slog across barren wasteland, the unbearable temperature rising with each step as millions of locusts mocked me with their deafening chirrup along the way. It was pure MGM, a hell and damnation scene of Biblical proportions.

    At the Mariott I found the bar populated by a dozen or so random Yanks glued to a large TV screen. Beaming from it was The Weakest Link, hosted by Anne Robinson. Could things get any worse?

    After a mediocre tourist meal I returned to the bar where we discussed “your wonderful English schoolma’am”, then trudged back to the other so-called hotel for a night of so-called sleep, which was more a matter of trying to blot out six hours of painfully loud police sirens.

    I digress. The real treat was to come.

    The best thing about staying in even a half-decent English hotel is the help-yourself cooked breakfast. Unlimited quantities of bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash brown (if crisp), toast & marmalade, followed by coffee, a ciggy and the morning paper. It is the finest experience known to man.

    The Kansas breakfast was different. Scattered about the featureless room were tables clad in paper tablecloths, flanked by a long trestle bearing the hotel’s breakfast fare.

    Everything, and I mean everything, was hermetically sealed. First I picked up a cellophane-wrapped styrene cup which I unwrapped and placed on the coffee machine. This dispensed a pre-weighed slug of brown granules followed by hot water. Milk – or “cream” as they call it – came in two varieties of sealed pod; sterilized or UHT with added vitamins. Sugar and sweetener (three varieties) was in individual sachets, of course.

    “English muffins” (?) came in a sealed wrapper accompanied by “spread” in a capsule described as Buttermilk Product.

    Cereal (two types) was dispensed onto plastic plates marked “sterile” from airtight hoppers arked “sterilized”. They also offered two health drinks – Orange and Fruit Juice (unspecified), portion-controlled from a sealed urn into a plastic cup marked sterile.

    The real fun bit was the toast. This came as a “Toastie”, a cellophane-clad slice of “Aerated Wheat Product”. Diners were instructed to place the Toastie in the Toastie griller with the wrapper still on. It looked like some kind of x-ray machine, although the process inside remains a mystery. I placed Toastie in slot, watched the gadget hum for about 30 seconds, whereupon it spat the Toastie into the out-tray. Somehow this clever machine turned the slab of Aerated Wheat Product into a slightly browner, hotter and sweatier slab of Aerated Wheat Product, wrapper still intact. (Presumably the wrapper is to stop crumbs entering the machine, although I’m not convinced AWP sheds crumbs as we know them).

    After collecting my plastic cutlery (knife, fork, spoon and “stirrer”) all wrapped in more plastic, I repaired to a table. The main problem here was finding a flat space large enough to accommodate the plastic plates, for it was by now a mountain of discarded wrappings.

    First attempt at spreading Spread on English Muffin was a failure. The plastic knife snapped in two, the blade catching my eye as it pinged from the handle. The next attempt involved collecting another full set of plastic knife, fork, spoon and stirrer as they were not available separately.

    While still trying to master the art of eating without showering myself in shards of plastic, a scowling woman turned up at the table. “You finished?” she barked. I hadn’t – but, as I couldn’t wait to abandon this hell-hole, told her to carry on.

    It was sheer artistry. On cue, she siezed the paper tablecloth at all four corners, gathering up all the detritus in one swoop, and stuffed the whole dismal meal and its wrappings into a black plastic dustpin liner, leaving a virgin plastic-veneered table needing nothing but a new paper tablecloth for the next unfortunate diner.

    And what did she bellow as I walked out? “TIP!”

    With uncharacteristic speed and great satisfaction I replied “Left it on the tablecoth”

    But let’s not complain, Idlex. I didn’t get food poisoning either.

  59. For theraputic reasons alone I encourage you to visit the Pig & Pancake in Astoria, Oregon. I’ve never seen so many Weeble-shaped people in my entire life, and the waitress came back three times to ask, “is that all you want?” I’d ordered three 12″-diameter pancakes and three sausages with a side of hash browns. The four-year-old in the table across from me ordered six pancakes, bacon and sausages, and her mother said, “now, you eat all that!” I was 30, and my mother would have slapped me if I’d eaten all that!

    Ain’t nuthin like a good American diner breakfast. The trouble is, you won’t find them in American hotels.

  60. Ye Japanophiles of Turkish origin, jest not! Japan is thick with elves.

    For example, as an educator at a Japanese national university, I am not allowed to purchase anything, since that would be deeply unsafe. It might result in a waste of government funds, spefically embezzlement.

    Instead I must apply in triplicate to a financial mandarin who, will pass my application and subsequent attached elfen tractatus to be stamped with secret seals, nefariously and lovinging and long.

    Somewhere in the middle of the process a company chosen on what merit I know not, will be awarded the ardous taks of purchasing the item which I could have purchased myself, and in so doing earn a mark up of 30%.

    So all in all the elves and safety run rife here in Japan.

    Takeshi is popular for the same reasons that he is popular with your evlen-to-be, he is yet un-bound.

    Productivity is up here because we work till midnight.

    Tim

  61. The Japanese diner sound lovely… It reminds me of a place I used to go during my salad days of archaeology. Somewhere above Rome there was a restaurant kept by a terrifying old woman, a matriarch of the tiny village. She cooked local stuff, especially wild boar (probably hunted and killed with her own hands). The hygienic standards of the trattoria were low, but the food was good, if you did not look too closely at what you were eating. We would have supper, stay late smoking and drinking, singing that she encouraged, since she could not stand her up stairs neighbours, that would inevitably call the local carabinieri that the matriarch would corrupt with vin santo and tozzetti. Happy days, I returned recently, but the old trattoria has closed, her son has opened an other one, but it is not the same, trying to be smart and characteristic, no smoking allowed (Italian law), certainly no singing. Sigh, but the years spent at the original place have been useful, since I am the only person among my new friends that can digest anything and I do not suffer from allergies, nether do any of my old companions of the archaeological salad days. But we did joke that a meal at M. did inoculate you from all problems for a year. Happy times, now no more…

  62. Delicious stories, Idlex. But you have missed the point. The American hotel was clean and hygienic. (PaulD)

    Clean and hygienic is what I would like our hospitals to be, not our restaurants. Yet increasingly restaurants are beginning to look like hospitals.

    Cleanliness is another modern fetish. Do people really have to shower three or four times a day? There was a time, not so long ago, when showers were almost completely unknown in England. And there was a time, not long before that, when running water was completely unknown. How on earth did we survive?

    The modern obsession with cleanliness is one of the principal forces behind the banning of smoking. The smoke may not kill you, but it covers everything with a film of tar, and this is no longer acceptable in our preened and polished world.

    I take comfort in my garden, which has not yet been banned. There is dirt everywhere in it, many feet thick. And there are strange green things growing out of the dirt, some of them thirty feet high. I won’t be too surprised if some brigade of public health officials invades one day, removes the unhygienic green growth, and seals the filthy earth beneath a layer of concrete. And then they will move on to remove the surrounding hills, which are, after all, simply enormous piles of dirt.

    It’s no wonder that we have regular droughts and hosepipe bans, given all this compulsive washing. But we will eventually come to our senses. I imagine that at some point, in the depths of some drought, the government will start to advise people to (gasp!) wash less. And we will have national Dirty Weekends, when washing is forbidden, and we will be permitted to learn what our forebears knew: that people are naturally and interestingly smelly.

  63. This is brilliant. This is just stunning. Every now and again one comes across a memo that impels one to lie down on the cold tile floor and laugh till the tears come. And this is one such:

    From: Ken Meyn
    To: bizstaff@nytimes.com
    Sent: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 13:28:30 -0500

    Ladies and Gentlemen:
    Just a reminder that Monday is the Presidents’ Day holiday and we should all stay home and think about presidents. Don’t work unless you’ve been assigned to work or have cleared it with your editor in advance.

    If you do work (but don’t work – see paragraph one) please download a holiday form from the link on our homepage and give it to me.

    Cheers.
    Ken

    Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the New York Times.

  64. Okay, obviously in this case the repressive factor is the desire to save statutory holiday pay, rather than safety, but the result is the same. Don’t work unless you have our permission; don’t ask for permission. Don’t do your job.

  65. I am the only person among my new friends that can digest anything and I do not suffer from allergies, nether do any of my old companions…

    Same here. I can eat anything, and I’m not allergic to anything. And I don’t remember any of my school chums ever being allergic to anything either.

  66. Idlex writes: And there are strange green things growing out of the dirt, some of them thirty feet high. I won’t be too surprised if some brigade of public health officials invades one day, removes the unhygienic green growth…

    Keep up, old son! It’s already happening:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1387961.stm

  67. Think up something really crazy, and you find out ten minutes later that it’s already happening.

    A lot of trees are quite simply litter louts. Every year they just dump all their leaves on the ground underneath them. Wouldn’t an ASBO be in order here?

    No, don’t tell me….

  68. I agree with all you say about our mollycoddled society. Years ago I worked at a place for people with cerebral palsy and cheerfully humped residents around on my own (up to about 8 stone in weight). Straight back, knees bend & you’re OK with heavy weights, why do these people need a training course? Hardly rocket science is it. And if you want something risky for the kids, why not try volcanoes? My father took me to within 300 yards of a huge, erupting lake of molten rock on Surtsey, near Iceland. I am therefore waiting to see the first primary school to take its year 6’s to Etna etc. Well, year 6 is about 10 years old which is what I was on Surtsey.

  69. What a very salutary article. Ridicule, surely, is an even more potent weapon in the hands of David Cameron, William Hague, yourself and others in the Party (Michael Gove?)than rational argument against Blair and Brown, who are becoming more and more risible by the day – but who are still there. I know that you are no longer editor of the Spectator but did it not state, in one of its earliest editions, that its aims were “to reprehend those vices that are too fantastical for the cognisance of the pulpit or too trivial for the chastisement of the law”? Elf and Safety is definitely such a vice “too fantastical”.

  70. Who is most culpable with this sort of namby pamby, cover-your-arse legislation?

    The politicians who pass it (metaphorically and literally) or the people who vote in the politicians who pass it?

    The bucket stops here.

  71. What about the insurance companies, whose lobbying efforts have so effectively manipulated both the politicians and the electorate?

    Take that money you’d pay towards insurance and stick it in a government-protected, interest-bearing account instead. Every insurance person I know does that. If you just spend it on cigs, don’t come crying to me. We assume no liability.

  72. Ah, the blessed insurance companies.

    I assume it was their idea to get the government to insist that ALL cars are insured, even ones not on the road or even capable of running?

  73. Considering the disturbing trend in the British enactment of Junk Law surely it won’t be long before we are encumbered by provisions similar to Austria’s whereby a historian, David Irving in this case, can be banged up for historical heresy. I’m surprised they haven’t burned him.

    Before the anti-defamation league jump on me for being anti-Semitic, let me say that I’m not a historian; have no reason to doubt that the holocaust took place and have no idea what Mr. Irving has said to result in his conviction and imprisonment. From my perspective the holocaust comes under the same heading as WWII, Napoleon and the great fire of London i.e. comprehensively documented; before my time; not in my field and largely irrelevant to my everyday activities. Although, that being said, I would have to contend that the most compelling reason I’ve heard for disputing the current historical evidence for the holocaust would be the existence of this legislation.

    What I do find worrying is that similar legislation in Britain may be irresistibly attractive to Blair’s Let’s-look-as-though-we-are-doing-the-right-thing celebrity politicians.

    If I were to say something along the lines of: “I don’t believe the Falklands war took place”, surely I’d just be ridiculed and derided, not nicked? What about, God forbid: “Jesus and Muhammad never existed!” (by the way, there’s a web site dedicated to the former, Jesus Never Existed, well worth a visit). When legislation takes away my right to hold an opinion, especially if it’s stupid and/or unfounded, its time to head for the tall timber.

    What we are talking about here is a system whereby certain historical subjects are, effectively, taboo. I’m not talking about the merits of Irving’s views on the matter, it is a subject devoid of all interest to me, but I believe he should be allowed to pursue this field and further, to publish statements with the appropriate evidence to back up his claims.

    The whole principle of freedom of speech is that it allows people to voice unpopular opinions and consequently allows others to debate them and, presumably, prove they are specious and baseless.

    This legislation is an affront to any modern democracy and smacks of the policies of the government responsible for the holocaust in the first place. (well it is Austria I suppose)

    Unfortunately it also sounds (distressingly) ideal for our current government. I suspect they believe to be the custodians of our mental and philosophical health as well as preventing back problems.

  74. Erratum:
    Re previous comment, February 22, 2006 12:09 PM
    for “Falklands war” read “Falklands Conflict”

    I have just been informed war was never declared and that this was a “police action”. Funny, I could have sworn the Army, Navy and Air forces were involved. So which cop sunk the Belgrano, was it John Stalker?

    Doesn’t seem to stop people talking about the Falklands war though; good job there isn’t a law about it.

  75. There is a way round this H&S claptrap. When you need to retrieve a book or whatever from a high shelf, do not do so until you have found a swivel chair on casters; it would also help if there is a ‘big brother’ cctv camera looking at you as well. Wheel the chair up to the shelves and climb on it to reach said book. Don’t let anyone interfere and attempt to hold onto you. Be careful and don’t fall off; this will show these mindless bureaucrats that we are not as stupid and unco-ordinated as they would like us to be and we can, in fact, survive without their hugely expensive, generally tedious and boring, and mostly ineffectual interference.

    OK, it doesn’t solve the problem but it will make you feel better (provided you don’t fall off, of course); that’s about the best we can expect, as the whole thing has probably gone irredeemably too far now.

    I suppose I ought to add a disclaimer to the above – a 2000 word document which says – if you fall off don’t blame me. If you think it is stupid (and some people will), just don’t do it; I’m not forcing you.

  76. Junk law

    That’s a good name for it.

    I increasingly think that the Highway Code is becoming junk law as well.

    Many years ago, there were very few road signs, and mostly they were discreet and helpful. e.g. signposts to towns.

    Now they are numerous, indiscreet, and unhelpful. They blare out orders. “30 mph!” “No right turn!” “One way street!” “No parking!” The government appears to have decided that motorists don’t know how to drive, and require step by step instruction along their journeys, telling them when to slow, to what speed, in what lane. They would, I think, like to replace human drivers with robots.

    As road signs and road markings multiply, and one is obliged to read more and more road signs, the inevitable result is that one spends less and less time with one’s eyes on the road ahead. I wonder how many accidents are caused by an excess of road signs diverting drivers’ attention from the road ahead, and causing them to notice, too late, a vehicle turning in the road ahead, a child running.

    The road signs anyway, in my view, frequently give the wrong advice. 30 mph might be fine on a dry road on a clear day, but not on an icy road on a wet day. The more the government tries to wrest control of the vehicle from its driver, overriding his judgement, the more likely it is that drivers, their own judgment suspended, will make mistakes.

    Perversely, it seems to me that the more road signs there are, and the more slavishly motorists observe them, overriding their own judgment, the more irresponsible drivers are likely to become – because responsibility has been taken away from them.

    And what applies for motorists applies elsewhere: more law = less personal responsibility.

  77. I toyed with toxic law but it doesn’t convey the same sense of superficial gratification with undertones of harmfulness.

    Suffice to say that I hold that our lives have been circumscribed by the legislative equivalent of a nine year diet of Big Macs.

    Perhaps toxic would be better.

  78. Joe

    I feel there is a deeply disturbing aspect about denial laws. How do you legislate for truth? It’s not what legislation is for. Legislation’s job is to say that there are some things we are forbidden from doing or some things we must do because, rightly or wrongly, it is thought the world will be a better place if we obey it (legislation).

    The truth (or otherwise) of the holocaust is a matter for survivors and historians to convey to us.

    I am reminded of the (possibly apocryphal) about the state leigislature that voted to make Pi = 3 because it would make maths easier.

    Imagine what could happen in the hands of real PC pros. It becomes illegal to suggest that Britain or the US fought the slave trade (and not just brushed under the carpet as now).

    It does seem that maybe we should look at responsibility. If I believe something controversial that upsets a lot of people maybe I should examine how I come to have that belief.

    In this connection is there any chance of affirmation of holocausts that took place in Stalinist Russia, Maoist China etc.?

    Incidentally, although it has no bearing on the above I’m pretty well convinced that the holocaust took place along the lines suggested with millions of dead. This is at variance with the three most popular theories in some areas of the Middle East.

    (a) There was no holocaust
    (b) There was a holocaust but not many Jews were killed
    (c) There was a holocaust but not enough Jews were killed

  79. It’s all very well having dumb legislation that already exists but isn’t as headline grabbing as the recent deluge of ‘looks-good’ law, but what about legislation that is clear, concise and useful but is completely ignored (even in court it would appear)?

    I draw your attention to HRH Prince Charlie’s diaries. Private or otherwise, in the public interest or not, it is my understanding that they are covered by copyright (his) and consequently unauthorised copying and publication is prohibited. Or is all that rubbish on DVDs just a bluff? If so I’ll nip out to the video shop and start whacking a few gross out. I think it is in the public interest that every home should have a copy of “The Matrix” and “Blade Runner”.

    So, I must infer from these deliberations that, if HRH (P.B.U.H.) had knocked up a quick three volume novel about some heroic chap (called Charles) and his rip-roaring adventures across Britain and Hong Kong with a bunch of sizzling Gypsies thrown in, presumably the Daily Mail could publish that in instalments too? Public interest and all that.

    So on the one hand we’ve got (according to Boris) about 700 acts which would be better used in the Commons lavatories and, on the other, we have perfectly good laws (with which we are threatened every time we pop a DVD into the home theatre system) which are, it seems, only applicable when members of the royal family are not involved.

    Well knock me down and call me a kipper! Those zany legal boys eh!?

    (Does my copyright look big in this?)

  80. Sorry Jack, I’m not sure I understand you.

    It will take me a long time to properly analyse your comment: “Legislation’s job is to say that there are some things we are forbidden from doing or some things we must do because, rightly or wrongly, it is thought the world will be a better place if we obey it” because this conveys an extremely subtle and complex concept. I’m not sure (yet) if I agree with it.

    All I was suggesting in the earlier post is that this European prohibition on denying or diminishing the holocaust (and I presume holocaust applies to everyone who died in concentration camps and pogroms during WWII) is simply incongruous compared with the progressive nature of most European democracies and another example of a government (Austrian in this case) deciding they can think for us.

    I fully agree with Louise Christian on her point (although this was about the cartoon debacle) that, if a debate cannot take place publicly, it will take place in private where it won’t be possible for an authority in the field to gainsay it.

    I simply object to authoritarian, prohibitions about reasonable topics for discussion such as the holocaust and, in the light of the Government’s recent propensity toward this sort of legislation, am (justifiably) concerned they might bring this one about in Britain too.

  81. “Legislation’s job is to say that there are some things we are forbidden from doing or some things we must do because, rightly or wrongly, it is thought the world will be a better place if we obey it”

    I would say that legislation’s job is to make life easier for everybody, in exactly the same way that cars and washing machines make life easier. Good laws -like a simple Highway Code – enable us to conduct our everyday business as expediently as possible. Bad laws hamper and obstruct us. Your definition introduces the notion of a ‘better place’. But what is one person’s better place is not another’s. I have no doubt that anti-smoker’s think that the world will be a better place once smoking in pubs is banned. I think it will be a far worse place.

  82. this European prohibition on denying or diminishing the holocaust (and I presume holocaust applies to everyone who died in concentration camps and pogroms during WWII) is simply incongruous compared with the progressive nature of most European democracies and another example of a government (Austrian in this case) deciding they can think for us. (Joe Mental)

    Is it a European law? I know it’s a German law, and has been in place for many years.

    And I agree with all you say about it: as far as I am concerned, the Shoah is a historical fact. But I can’t see what crime has been committed by denying it, any more than I can see that there it is a crime to deny that passive smoking kills, or that humans are (or are not) the product of evolution rather than designed by a creator.

    We all of us want people to agree with us. But making it illegal to disagree opens up the possibility of any number of similar laws.

  83. How we got from smoking to holocaust is a mystery.
    Taken at its most literal meaning; Holocaust ,if capitalised,. apparently takes on a slightly different meaning from that which it has when not capitalised, and as such , therein appears to be the legal argument involving Irving D. a rather choosy historian.

    Capitalised , the word means the mass slaughter of people, especially as in genocide. The fact that such an act or series of acts did occur, involving precisely such mass slaughter of human beings, cannot be denied , even by Irving.

    What might be argued is the exclusivity factor. There were not only Jews in those KZs, (Konzentrationslagern), and therefore an argument , for whatever perverse reason, could be mounted , that the Holocaust was not committed exclusively on Jews.

    It is mere semantics , but nonetheless Irving was wrong to deny what has been frequently proven. i.e. barbarous acts of mass murder , followed by the wholesale burning of unimaginable mountains of bodies, whether they were Jew ; Gypsy; mental deficient; sexual deviant, or merely someone who would not play the Nazi political game.

    Denying the facts of such inhumanity,in my opinion, as did Irving, is however ,hardly the same as categorical statement that Israel should be obliterated from the face of the Earth, as per the foremost citizen of Iran.

  84. Yes Idlex,
    you echo one of my own concerns with the statement in that “…better place” implies perspective and, realistically, two are rarely (if ever) the same. So “…better place” in this context must imply the government’s perspective which is the very reason I find this sort of legislation intrusive and unnecessary. We should, therefore, replace “…better place” with “…more convenient place for the current government” in order for it to make proper sense (perhaps).

    But as I said, taken holistically, Jack’s assertion is an extremely complex postulate, worthy of serious and extended examination.

    New legislation is the principle method of regulating behaviour in line with a government’s policies during the currency of a set of socio-economic circumstances and to create a level playing field for anyone/thing who’s actions should be controlled under the provisions of such legislation. But often, circumstances change and these laws persist. For example, The 3:00PM closing time in pubs (revoked about sixty years after its introduction) was, allegedly, introduced to make sure people got back to the munitions factories after a lunchtime drink (although this is possibly an urban legend). My point being that, after the war had ended, there was no sudden rush to change things back to the way they were any more than, when the present regime has been turfed out on its ear, the incoming government will bother to repeal the bunch of spurious, vexatious acts they have inherited.

    What I am suggesting here is that useful legislation has it’s purpose defined in time as well as by viewpoint.

    The Romans killed about 25% of the Jewish population in 70 AD, there doesn’t seem to be a law about denying that? Or what about Saddam( the monster) Hussein? I recall a speech by Tony Blair where he alleged our boy Mr. H had killed more than 250,000 people. …Yet Saddam’s only on trial for killing 143. Wouldn’t that constitute denying a/the (pick an article) holocaust if Austrian anti-denial type legislation were applied to his crimes too?

    If someone can give me a good reason for this legislation or explain who it protects (rather than humours) and why, I will withdraw my criticisms. I just think, like the elf & safety crap discussed herein, it’s a sort of trophy law instituted to placate some pressure group in the electorate. An excrescence the type of which should be expunged from the statute books and replaced with proper, reasonable public debate.

    Everyone got on their high horse about freedom of speech when certain cartoons were published so why is this issue such a sacred cow? Cows which, incidentally, are sacred in India but I don’t see too many Hindu’s with placards marching up and down outside the Jenning’s Bros Butchery in Henley high street)

  85. But that Marcarnie is the point, He didn’t say any of that.

    When I heard Irving interviewed on Sky News this afternoon (and what a compelling, dispassionate and lucid speaker he is) I was incensed by the apparent unfairness of his position and frankly worried that, given Blair’s disposition toward ‘sending clear messages’ by means of legislation I thought: “Oops, we’ll be next!”

    Here is the transcript Sky News – David Irving from gaol

    What he alleges, fundamentally, is that he doesn’t deny a/the h/Holocaust took place just that he doesn’t agree with certain historical facts which have become dogma.

    If he has a specific, undisclosed political agenda for promoting another Jewish genocide or promoting Neo-Nazi policies he should be tried for the real and legitimate crimes not potentially embarrassing historical interpretations.

  86. Idlex is quite correct. In my enthusiasm I stated “European” rather than (more accurately) “certain European countries”.

    I understand this, or predominantly similar, legislation has been passed in Germany, France, and Austria.

    As Macarnie said, it’s a tortuous line from Elf & Safety to smoking and now the holocaust and freedom of speech. The common thread, it seems to me, is that all the issues contemplated are the manifestations of discontent with the cavalier attitude governments take with our rights and historic perquisites for a few extra votes at the next election.

    Law should be simple, solid and designed for the benefit of all not multi-faceted, over-complex, redundant and partisan.

    Just my view though.

  87. The common thread, it seems to me, is that all the issues contemplated are the manifestations of discontent with the cavalier attitude governments take with our rights and historic perquisites for a few extra votes at the next election.
    (Joe Mental)

    I agree, except that I don’t think it gets them extra votes. How many people around the country have banning smoking in pubs as one of their highest priorities? How many people are dying to buy themselves ID cards? Comparatively few, I imagine. Fewer still, if they actually thought about it.

    These are not laws that grow from public demand for something to be done. Nobody has been demonstrating in Hyde Park against smoking in pubs. Nobody has been marching with placards demanding ID cards. These are laws demanded by powerful lobby groups. On the one hand the medical establishment. On the other, the police and, probably, the EU.

    It is a corruption of our political process that instead of parliament representing the British people, it simply acts as a rubber stamp for decisions made by the Prime Minister – the Iraq war being the most egregious example.

    Would that some party would promise to undo it all, as you suggest. But they never do. As in the case of the licencing laws, once government (of any hue) has gained control of some activity, it is disinclined to relinquish it.

    At present, I can’t see what is to stop the government enacting absolutely any stupid and destructive law it likes. And so I expect they will continue to rain down from above, the edicts of a crazed dictatorship.

  88. One aspect of the smoking ban which hasn’t received much attention is the loss of civil rights which will be fully exploited by the ‘Elf and Saftee’ racket. We are already seeing the dominoe effects in employers banning smoking on premises and company vehicles (BT), a few weeks ago a woman was sacked after revealing she smoked in her own time off the premises and there’s also pressure building to stop people smoking in their own homes for an hour before a public employee visits them. There are a whole raft of laws in place to prevent discrimination on grounds of sex/race/religion but not one of them protects smokers. In fact Government funded advertisments go out of their way to portray this group as unhygienic, unhealthy, disease spreading misfits, thus conveying the message you can say/do what you like to this section of the population, they deserve everything dished out to them.

  89. One aspect of the smoking ban which hasn’t received much attention is the loss of civil rights which will be fully exploited by the ‘Elf and Saftee’ racket. We are already seeing the dominoe effects in employers banning smoking on premises and company vehicles (BT), a few weeks ago a woman was sacked after revealing she smoked in her own time off the premises and there’s also pressure building to stop people smoking in their own homes for an hour before a public employee visits them. There are a whole raft of laws in place to prevent discrimination on grounds of sex/race/religion but not one of them protects smokers. In fact Government funded advertisments go out of their way to portray this group as unhygienic, unhealthy, disease spreading misfits, thus conveying the message you can say/do what you like to this section of the population, they deserve everything dished out to them.

  90. Joe M:
    I was aware that Irving has now ,to quote his latest public utterances, admitted to have refined his earlier published words to the contrary, stating that his view of the matter differs from popular belief in the post war additions to Auschwitz, rather than to the sum total of the Holocaust.

    I admire his honesty , even it it came much later; after the horse had fled the stable. He expected to be freed on the evidence of mitigating circumstances,perhaps on a plea of freedom of speech, and was mightily disappointed when his change of heart wasn’t reciprocated by that of the the Austrian court.

    What he neglected to take into the equation was their differences in administering the law. If found quilty of whatever crime or misdemeanour, a more or less ironclad sentence is prescribed. He got the medicine. I don’t agree with the dosage, but I don’t sit in judgement of the law of another country.

    Ignorance of the law , there, just as it is everywhere else, is no defence, but had he bothered to research the differences in the systems of jurisprudence , he may have been rewarded by being less disappointed with the outcome.

    Regardless, we must still fight for our right to speak, without let or hindrance, on matters in which we truly believe , in particular if we harm no one on making these utterances.

  91. I agree, except that I don’t think it gets them extra votes [Idlex].

    As always, it’s not that simple. Of course there are powerful lobbying forces at work but I lean towards the notion that most government ‘inishatives’ are designed to win votes.

    Indeed, Idlex, we have not seen demonstrations against smoking in pubs, but you can bet that some NewLab analyst has spotted that the majority of people don’t smoke, therefore a smoking ban will win widespread support. Good inishative = more votes. Easy peasy. Never mind that the “problem” can be tackled in other ways or that there might be the more fundmental issue of liberty at stake. Smoking, like housebreaking, is bad, so a majority will support you if you offer to stamp it out.

    ID cards? Dress it up as an essential part of the war on terrorism and you’ll have them queueing up.

    Hunting? Disgraceful, cruel, should be banned. In fact, after seeing Tony Banks confirm the awful truth that hunting is nothing more than a bunch of toffs out to rip a fox to shreds, I just had to reach for another portion of Tesco chicken to comfort myself.

    Unfortunately there are plenty of people who don’t see beyond the jerk of the knee. They fall for these superficially attractive messages, all devised by political harlots whose principal concern is regaining power next time around. This is not to “underestimate the intelligence of the people”; it’s a fact that many do not look beyond the headline.

    In this me-first society, an awful lot of folk are interested only in what benefits them individually. When did you last hear of a dole scrounger voting Tory or a huntsman voting Labour? That is understandable and, to an extent, ’twas ever thus.

    What grieves me so deeply about today’s politics is the thought that no-one is prepared to risk unpopularity by saying and doing the right thing. There is no vision beyond the next vote.

    With possibly one exception. Step forward BJ, your country needs you.

  92. Afterthought: No-one has the skill to remain popular after saying and doing the right thing. Step forward, etc.

  93. a few weeks ago a woman was sacked after revealing she smoked in her own time off the premises (roughshod)

    A couple of months ago I heard of a case in Wells of new employee who was fired shortly after being hired, simply because she was discovered to be a smoker out of office hours. Increasingly, it seems, companies not only ban smoking, but won’t hire smokers. A lawyer I know thought it probably breached EU human rights law.

    In fact Government funded advertisments go out of their way to portray this group as unhygienic, unhealthy, disease spreading misfits, thus conveying the message you can say/do what you like to this section of the population, they deserve everything dished out to them.

    But they are 25% of the population, for heaven’s sake. That is a very large minority. And in Scotland it’s 30% of the population.

  94. Good inishative = more votes. Easy peasy. (PaulD)

    I really don’t think that it’s like that. But we’ll see in a month or two in the local elections. From what I’ve heard, Labour expect to take a beating.

    As I said, the driving force behind this legislation are lobby groups. I suspect this government looks for legislation to which only a minority of people will object, not which a majority actively want.

    And we live in interesting political times, furthermore. All three major parties are in process of transformation. I have no idea what the next General Election will bring, but it could be very interesting.

  95. Incidentally, while we’re on smoking, I recommend reading In Defence of Smoking by Lauren Colby, a US attorney. It’s only available online, as he couldn’t get it published. It’s about smoking rather than passive smoking. A brief excerpt from Chapter 1, The Hysteria:

      In this book, I will show that the case against smoking based on bogus statistics and downright lies. I will show that the case for a link between smoking and disease has not been proven and that, indeed, the international statistics suggest that there’s no link at all. Furthermore, I will show that the government estimates of “smoking-related deaths” are simply fraudulent and that the recent EPA report, purporting to show a risk to non-smokers from second hand smoke was predicated on manufactured “evidence” which some of the EPA’s own scientists found appalling.
  96. My name’s Joe Mental and I’m an ex smoker.

    I ‘m not a paragon of virtue when it comes to smoking. When I gave up (nearly six years ago now) it was like getting over a serious illness; my wife tore up the divorce papers! (although that, I must admit, was an unexpected side effect)

    I smoked about 60 Camels a day so these admissions are, perhaps, not entirely unsurprising. People used to walk into my office and complain their eyeballs had been permanently etched.

    But, regardless of the fact that my lungs generally felt like someone had given them a nice coat of varnish, I didn’t give up for health reasons; the wife’s nagging or because I couldn’t make it up two flights of stairs without sounding like a steam calliope. I gave up because I couldn’t laugh any more!

    Literally! If I attempted slightly more than a giggle I descended into a coughing fit for ten minutes. A good guffaw was out of the question. I nearly rubbed myself out whilst drinking a cup of (very hot) coffee in the car (I had a cup rest so don’t panic about the tort implications) and on seeing a blue rinsed granny with a blue rinsed poodle, went apoplectic and spilled the bloody cup all over myself.

    I can assure anyone reading this, that sub-fusion temperature coffee over your knackers is something of a distraction to driving and the old lady and her dog nearly had a hard time of it. So I had my epiphany and gave my remaining fags to a kid on a bike at the next set of lights.

    I still let people smoke in my home (as long as they exhale toward me) but I’m no longer allowed to make the same reasonable concession in my office. I’ve never been particularly compelled by passive smoking rhetoric and it irritates me that I cannot be magnanimous and and allow someone who’s obviously gagging for a fag to have a few drags in my office without the prospect of being hauled up before a disciplinary tribunal. Strangely though, if I offer the same person a bottle of scotch and they subsequently wobble off and take themselves out along with a brace of school kids on a zebra crossing, I’m not culpable in the least.

    The punch line to this homily is that, when I recently went for my annual company medical checkup, I was informed that, because of all the weight I’ve put on since giving up fags (about six stone), it’s put such a strain on my heart that, on balance, it may have been better if I’d carried on smoking!

    Go figure.

  97. Before anyone suggests my weight gain is due to a sedentary lifestyle and comfort eating I would advise the following:

    1) I eat less now then when I smoked (I have to or I’d have the only pin stripe suit visible from space)

    2) I exercise every day now (there was no chance of this when I smoked, I would have exploded)

    3) The ball & chain only allows me salads (with chicken if I’m particularly despondant) in the evenings and pencil sharpenings (euphemistically meuesli) in the morning as opposed to my previous diet of half a pig, toast and tomatoes for breakfast and, at the very least, a quintuplet of lamb chops & mash for dinner. I am no longer allowed lunch (some vacuum packed fruit presently serves as an inadequate substitute)

    I could get quite cross about anti-smoking advice sometimes.

  98. The punch line to this homily is that, when I recently went for my annual company medical checkup, I was informed that, because of all the weight I’ve put on since giving up fags (about six stone), it’s put such a strain on my heart that, on balance, it may have been better if I’d carried on smoking!

    Not the first time I’ve heard this. Smoking suppresses appetite, and is probably one reason why I’m as thin as a rake. I needed a minor op a couple of years back, and the consultant who saw me before it exclaimed: “Why, you’re a young man! We’ll have no trouble operating on you.” And they didn’t.

    Never heard of an inability to laugh before, though. I can laugh all too easily. I suffer no ill effects from 35 years of smoking, apart from an occasional cough in the morning when I’ve overdone it a bit. But I’ve noticed that even older non-smokers also sometimes cough a bit on rising.

    Yours is an example of how useful facts are suppressed. It’s well known that giving up smoking often results in weight gain, but do guvmint health warnings ever mention that? No, of course they don’t.

    I did a BBC online lifetime expectancy test a month or two back, and was awarded an (un)expected lifetime of 82. Only one question out of about twenty was about smoking. The rest were about BMI (Body Mass Indicator?), diet, and family histories of various diseases like diabetes.

    My father (also a smoker, who lived to 79) used to refer to his doctor as “the quack”. I increasingly think he was onto something.

  99. My father is 89 this year, he’s smoked 40 a day since he was 14 (unfiltered Woodbines) and apart from cataracts allegedly caused by smoking (tuh!) is healthier than me! Not that that’s a particularly Herculean feat unfortunately.

    Some people will get lung/throat/tongue/nose(?) cancer from smoking, but these are the same people who would probably get it as a result of living too near Heathrow airport or the motorway. On the other hand, many people could spend their entire lives plugged in like laboratory beagles (anyone remember those?) and not even suffer a sore throat.

    What, as Idlex quite rightly says, one isn’t readily informed is the potentially catastrophic effect of pulling the pin on fags after an extended period of heavy smoking. I’d probably put weight on now if I ate half a slice of toast a day! Apparently nicotine isn’t just an appetite suppressor it also (allegedly) inhibits fat absorbtion.

    I am constantly reminded by the handbrake that, by stopping smoking, I’ve saved +/- 26,000 quid in fags over the last six years. Alas, this has all been spent on gym equipment (and contracts), personal trainers and bleedin’ health food because I certainly don’t see more in the bank account at the end of the month than I did when I was smoking!

    A cautionary tale by an evil (but reformed in society’s eyes) ex-smoker.

    If only I’d know.

  100. gym equipment (and contracts), personal trainers and bleedin’ health food

    This is another strange modern phenomenon: keeping fit.

    I hardly ever exercise myself. From time to time, if I’m going to travel, lug suitcases, and the like, I do a little light exercise just tone myself up slightly.

    The modern fitness craze began at around about the time that the anti-smoking crusade started. Suddenly there were joggers everywhere – and I note that Boris is one -, and gyms filled with very strange contraptions started opening. Exercise, we are told, is good for you. And the more of it, the better.

    But some 5 years ago, I was listening to the radio, and heard former Sheffield (or was it Newcastle?) striker Malcolm MacDonald say that nearly 50% of professional footballers retire with premature arthritis, and that he himself was unable to play golf.

    It made sense to me. Intense exercise stresses muscles and bones. One would expect that performing intense physical work over a long period of time would result in various forms of damage, in exactly the same way that driving a car fast results in worn bearings, cylinders, gears.

    I tried to contact MacDonald a while back, unsuccessfully. But I suspect that he was telling the plain truth, and a truth that is being concealed from us by the devotees of the cult of physical fitness.

  101. Professional athletes do have incredible rates of debilitation as a result of the stresses placed on their bodies. Repetitive stress of any kind builds strength at the proper dosage, but too much and you have strain, not stress, when the body can’t compensate by growing muscles, bone, etc.

    Pros overdo it, for as long as they possibly can before retiring. At the other end of the scale you have weekend warriors who overexert their bodies once in a great while, and the body hasn’t built up the support systems to be able to cope at all. They also have huge rates of injury. And there are those who don’t know enough to work out efficiently: a friend of mine lifted weights every single day because her doctor told her it would help her recover from a car crash injury. She didn’t realize that if you don’t let the muscle rest 48 hours between workouts you destroy it, rather than build it up.

    Moderate exercise is associated with longer life, and will longer mobility and higher quality of life as well.

    There was a study in the US two years ago that reached the conclusion that if you were a pack-a-day smoker and quit, you would have to gain 150 pounds for the weight to have as much negative impact on your health as the smoking. So if I do the math right, you’re still ahead of the game.

  102. Oh, unless you become one of those recurring features on fark where someone realizes you’ve not shown up at church for three years and goes looking for you, only to find your mummified corpse.

    So, how do you want to get famous?

    I adore the story of how they chose the Canadian Olympic luge team; they placed an ad for all interested parties to show up at a certain ski run outside Montreal. They gave the volunteers a luge and sent them on a run to the bottom. Anyone who wasn’t scared to do it twice made the team!

  103. Joe

    My rather clumsy construction there was meant to say that in an imperfect world there are certain things that must be prohibited by legislation and this prohibition enforced by the state. However we should always be trying to get the minimal amount of legislation possible consistent with folk being able to go about their individual business. I am not a libertarian.

    That as I see it is the legitimate extent of legisaltion and I trhink we have an awful lot of illegitimate legislation.

    When it tips over into saying in effect what is true and denying people the opportunity to say the contrary then it is getting silly as well. As it happens I do not believe the Earth is flat or in intelligent design, and I do believe that about 6 million people, mostly Jewish, were murdered by the Nazis. I will happily discuss the first two matters with people who believe otherwise, and indeed the third but rather less happily. I just don’t think views should be outlawed. The search for truth is the province of the sciences and humanities and should always be regarded as incomplete.

  104. No criticism intended Jack. It was simply that there were a number of concepts expressed the nuances of which need to be examined collectively which made the statement very interesting (but complex).

    And (that said) I agree with you!

  105. So, how do you want to get famous?

    Who wants to be famous?

    When I was aged about 17, I suddenly, right out of the blue, asked myself very seriously: “Do you want power and wealth and fame?” I was quite taken aback by this blunt question, which nobody had ever asked me before, and which I was now asking myself. And so I pondered upon it.

    Fame was the first one out the window. What is the merit of fame, but to have won the applause of others, yet not perhaps one’s own? What is the point of being recognized wherever you go, so that you can’t even sit in a pub quietly having a drink and smoke without burly bodyguards standing over you? Who wants bright lights? I mean, really, what is the point? What sort of fool wants to be famous?

    Wealth was the next one heaved bodily out of the window. I have some small experience of it. When you have lived in a select district of Rio de Janeiro with a chauffeur, a maid, a cook, and a gardener, and when you have lunched at the Copacabana Palace hotel, and when you have lain sunning yourself by the pool at the Paisandu Atletico Clube in Ipanema, I think you have known a tiny little bit of what it is like to be wealthy. But I hated it. I was always deeply uncomfortable with it. I hated that we were so rich, and that the inhabitants of the shacks on the other side of the valley beneath the Dois Irmaos were so poor. No, I don’t want servants and chauffeurs. I don’t want swimming pools and squash courts. I don’t want pink tablecloths and prawn cocktails with 1000 island dressing. In the end, wealth is all show, just like fame. It’s all about looking well in the eyes of others, gaining their approval. But who cares what other people think?

    That just left power. Did I want power over people? Did I want to order people around? Did I want to be a big boss, a general, a prime minister? Not really. If I didn’t want maids and servants, then I didn’t want subordinates and underlings either. In the end, power is – just like fame and wealth – all about appearing well in the eyes of others, earning their fear if not their admiration. And so, finally, after long thought, I heaved power out of the window as well.

    And with that went all ambition, I suppose. But I have never regretted my choice. I remain an lowly and impecunious nobody, and long may I continue in that exalted estate. It’s a magic life to live.

    And if, in the end, I am to be found mummified along with my last cigarette, so what? I will become one of those faintest of stars: a smoking statistic.

  106. I meant the article Boris wrote about Prince Charles and the diary theft. I’d get the link but A) my linking abilities are not what they used to be and B) I’m just too lazy.

  107. Boris – have you got a real understanding of ‘elf and safety’ – do you want some training, or some more information?
    Alternatively could I join the Conseratives and be your spokesperson?

  108. When you say ‘in the end we had to carry it ourselves’ Boris does that mean you actually got off your backside and rolled your sleeves up?

    How many were in this team described as ‘we’ which you assembled to move what you describe as a ‘piffling little printer’, ‘not much bigger than a milkmaid’s footstool’?

    Could not a lumbering giant of a chap such as yourself not have carried the small item on your own or were you afraid that you might injure yourself If you did?

    Congratulations Boris. You have actually just done a risk assessment, as required under ‘elf and safety’ legislation.

    Your not as much a rebel as you think old chap.

  109. Correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I recall the Conservatives were in goverment in 1974,
    The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA), prepared by the Robens Commission was appointed by Ted Heath, so the question is – are the tories doing a ‘u’ turn?

  110. I notice that no-one from H&S was actually involved in this situation or indeed consulted – It was IT as usual refusing to do anything which involves physical hard work

  111. Makes you feel old ..but it also brings back loads of good memories.

    If you were born after 1980, this does not apply to you… Kids of today are
    wrapped in cotton wool……… Read on.

    If you lived as a child in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, looking back, it’s
    hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have…

    As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
    Our cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paint.
    We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cupboards, when we
    rode our bikes we had no helmets.

    We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.
    We would spend hours building go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the
    hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.
    After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

    We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were
    back when the streetlights came on.
    No one was able to reach us all day.

    No mobile phones.
    We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth, and there were no law suits from
    these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame, but us. Remember
    accidents?

    We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned
    to get over it.
    We ate cakes, bread and butter, and drank cordial, but we were never
    overweight…we were always outside playing.
    We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from
    this.

    We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, video games, 65 channels
    on pay TV, video tape movies, surround sound, personal mobile phones,
    Personal Computers, Internet chat rooms … we had friends.

    We went outside and found them.
    We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or rung
    the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.
    Imagine such a thing. Without asking a parent! By ourselves!

    Out there in the cold cruel world!
    Without a guardian – how did we do it?

    We made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and ate worms, and although
    we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the
    worms live inside us forever.
    Footy and netball had tryouts and not everyone made the team.
    Those who didn’t, had to learn to deal with disappointment…..

    Some pupils weren’t as smart as others so they failed an exam and were
    held back to repeat the same year.
    Tests were not adjusted for any reason.

    Our actions were our own.
    Consequences were expected.
    No one to hide behind.
    The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They
    actually sided with the law – imagine that!

    This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem
    solvers and inventors, ever.
    The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We
    had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal
    with it all.

    And you’re one of them. Congratulations!

    Please pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow up as kids
    before lawyers and government regulated our lives……. for our own
    good……
    If you’re not smiling by the end of this, then what were you doing when
    you were young?

    Close your eyes and go back in time…Before the Internet…Before
    semi-automatics, joyriders and crack…. Before X-Box, SEGA or Super
    Nintendo… Way back……..I’m talking about Hide and Seek in the park.

    The corner shop.
    Hopscotch.
    Butterscotch.
    Skipping.
    Handstands.
    Football with an old can.
    Fingerbob.
    Beano, Dandy, Buster, Twinkle and Dennis the Menace.
    Roly Poly.
    Hula Hoops, jumping the stream, building dams.
    The smell of the sun and fresh cut grass.
    Bazooka Joe bubble gum.
    An ice cream cone on a warm summer night from the van that plays a tune
    Chocolate or vanilla or strawberry or maybe Neapolitan or perhaps a
    screwball.

    Wait……Watching Saturday morning cartoons, short commercials or the
    flicks.
    Childrens Film Foundation, The Double Deckers, Red Hand Gang, The Tomorrow
    People, Tiswas or Swapshop?, and ‘Why Don’t You’? – or staying up for Doctor
    Who.
    When around the corner seemed far away and going into town seemed like
    going somewhere.
    Earwigs, wasps, stinging nettles and bee stings, white dog poo.
    Sticky fingers.
    Playing Marbles.
    Ball bearings.
    Big ‘uns and Little ‘uns.
    Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, and Zorro.
    Climbing trees.
    Building igloos out of snow banks.
    Walking to school, no matter what the weather.
    Running till you were out of breath, laughing so hard that your stomach
    hurt.
    Jumping on the bed.
    Pillow fights.
    Spinning around, getting dizzy and falling down was cause for giggles. Being
    tired from playing….remember that?
    The worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team.
    Water balloons were the ultimate weapon.
    Football cards in the spokes transformed any bike into a motorcycle.
    Choppers and Grifters.
    Eating raw jelly.
    Orange squash ice pops.

    Remember when…There were two types of trainers – girls and boys, and
    Dunlop Green flash – and the only time you wore them at school was for P.E.

    You knew everyone in your street – and so did your parents.
    It wasn’t odd to have two or three “best” friends.
    You didn’t sleep a wink on Christmas eve.

    When nobody owned a pure-bred dog, 25p was decent pocket money, Curly
    Whirlys. Space Dust. Toffo’s. Top Trumps.
    You’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny.

    Nearly everyone’s mum was at home when the kids got there.

    Any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry
    groceries and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it.

    When being sent to the head’s office was nothing compared to the fate
    that awaited a misbehaving student at home. Basically, we were in fear for
    our lives but it wasn’t because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs etc.

    Parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! and some of us are
    still afraid of them. Didn’t that feel good?

    Just to go back and say, Yeah, I remember that!

    Remember when…. Decisions were made by going ” Ip Dip Dog sh!t “.

    “Race issue” meant arguing about who ran the fastest.
    Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in “Monopoly”.
    The worst thing you could catch from your opposite (boys/girls) was germs.
    And the worst thing in your day was having to sit next to one. It was
    unbelievable that ‘British Bulldog’ wasn’t an Olympic event.

    Having a weapon in school, meant being caught with a catapult.
    Nobody was prettier than Mum.
    Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better.
    Taking drugs meant orange-flavoured chewable aspirin.
    Ice cream was considered a basic food group.
    Getting a foot of snow was a dream come true.
    Older siblings were the worst tormentors, but also the fiercest protectors.

    If you can remember most or all of these, then you have LIVED. Pass this on
    to anyone who may need a break from their “grown up” life…

    “I DOUBLE-DARE YOU” !!!!

  112. Beautiful.

    Absolutely beautiful.

    But you didn’t mention the gobstoppers that we used to buy back then.

  113. Good grief, no. I have no idea what Pop Rocks are. Nor, for that matter, root beer.

    The most dangerous things we had were roller-skates. We could get up to 20 or 30 mph on those, downhill. And come off them at the bottom, slide along the tarmac, and rip our knees to shreds. But the bloody injuries healed after a week or two. It’s probably illegal now.

    It reminds me that I had a school chum who was an expert at drawing bruises. Some of his creations were vast, lovingly drawn in pencil and biro, with purple welts in the middle. They used to get him off games (compulsory games, that is – bot proper games) regularly. This is probably illegal as well now,

  114. what’s 25p?

    Five bob to you and me. And that was a fortune, back then. You could buy a Mars bar for sixpence, and a farthing would buy an individual sweet.

    A farthing is, or rather was, 0.1041666 new pence, by my estimate. Shops still sell individual sweets for 1p, which I suppose means prices are ten times higher than back then.

  115. You are correct idlex, a farthing was 1/960th of a pound.

    Farthings had, as I recall, a relief picture of a robin on one side. I remember this because my brother used to use a fret saw to cut the robin out to make earings, tie pins and cufflinks. That’s probably illegal now too (although I suspect it probably was back then as well)

    I think you’ll find the inflation rate a little higher than ten though. I recall the house we lived in, at the time, was sold for 960 quid; try buying a semi for 10,000 quid today (unless it’s on Mars or similar). Sweets have evidently enjoyed some sort of peculiar immunity.

  116. I STILL don’t understand why ‘British Bulldogs’ isn’t an olympic sport. Maybe they should consider it for the 2012 games; Doesn’t the host nation get to introduce an event?

    Apologies for the lack of gobstoppers. I was always fondest of the ones that changed colour several times whilst being sucked, enabling me to develop sticky fingers whilst simultaneously ingesting the detritus previously adhered to said digits. They tell me that dirt will kill the current generation of children. I wouldn’t be surprised!

    :o)

    Psi

  117. I’m sorry about this, but , as you all know, if you have a black cat, there is always someone who claims to have one which is even blacker. I claim a blacker one in matters sweets and pocket money.

    My pocket money was 6d per week, and with this largesse, I could buy a Halls Lucky Bag, (1d), which not only had a miscellany of sweets inside; there was always some little gimcrack gewgaw included, for example, a miniature scales, stamped out of the thinnest tin plate imaginable.

    I could then visit to the Odeon cinema (earlier called the Astoria), to the Saturday morning Mickey Mouse Club matinee, (2d), and would still have money left. There was always 1d for the Sunday school collection, and the rest was wasted during the week.

    I would be sent, by my mother, (now, today, that would not only be illegal, it would be tantamount to child abuse), across the road to the cigarette machine on the church annexe wall to put in a shilling and pull 20 Players Medium out of the drawer, complete with a penny piece stuck down the cellophane covering.

    Later, after the war started, with the “abundant” sweet coupons available, I used to waste my ration in one go: 2 ounces of the cheapest boiled sweets were 1 1/2 d. As the war progressed, I used to sell my sweet coupons, and doubled my pocket money. Gobstoppers were out of the question, you couldn’t trade with them , they were too big,

    Cigarettes became at best scarce, and at worst non-existent to non-regulars. Even to their regulars, some shops would only sell 5 cigarettes per person at one time: 2 Pasha (some Turkish, oval, evil smelling things), and 3 Virginia cigarettes. They
    , the tobacconists, would decide what cigarettes you would receive, dependent entirely on what they had left. Notvthat I smoked, but you can’t help noticing things.

    Under-counter along with other black market dealings flourished, and some people never went without.

    One thing was however certain; Britons have never been so healthy as they were at that time.

    I will not say how old I am, but Jack R: you are a mere youth.

  118. Gobstoppers were out of the question, you couldn’t trade with them , they were too big, (Mac)

    Quite so. They were enormous things, and fully lived up to their name: you could hardly speak a word for an hour with one of those things in your mouth. And they’re probably illegal now.

    It was long before my time (and perhaps beyond yours), but I used to know an old gentleman who told me that in 1914 you could catch a tram from the outskirts to Bristol city centre, have a pint of beer, see a show, catch the tram back, and still have change from sixpence.

    I recall the house we lived in, at the time, was sold for 960 quid (Joe M)

    The same old gent once pointed out a large five-storey house in Bristol, and told me that it had been sold, shortly after the war (the second one, not the first) for 100 pounds. I think the last time it changed hands, some 10 years ago, it was for something more like 300,000 pounds.

    No wonder nobody saves these days, given money depreciates at such a rate.

    Speaking of money, it used to be an occasional prank of my school chums to put a penny on a railway line, wait for a steam train to go over it, and collect the warm flattened disc afterwards. That would probably fall under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, these days.

  119. Idlex: can’t compete with your old gentleman, but I remember my father telling me , and not tongue in cheek at that , that he got 1d pocket money, and was always told , ” En divent spend it aal in one shop maind”. My parents were exiled geordies , and even I was born in Newcastle, ( I won’t say when ).

  120. And I won’t ask.

    But I’m a bit puzzled. If your father got one penny of pocket money, that was four farthings. And a farthing must have gone a long way. Was there once a still smaller unit of currency than the farthing? A groat? (Unlikely, as that seems to have been four pennies.)

  121. Yes, answering my own question, there were smaller coins: the half-farthing, the third-farthing, and the quarter-farthing. Although they stopped being minted in the mid and late 19th century.

  122. Idlex: I don’t think there were any 1/3 farthings. but 1/2 farthings were certainly in use until the introduction of the ” Godless florin ” which appeared in 1849.( I was NOT there , contrary to the opinions of my various offspring)

  123. idlex, some friends of mine actually derailed a train with the penny trick; the track ran right by the school, and people were always putting pennies there. It became a sport to see how many you could pile up. Unfortunately, unlucky thirteen is how many it took to derail a train. Didn’t do that again for awhile.

    I can be your gobstopper connection. There’s a store on Granville Island that sells them in all sizes from 1/2″ diameter to something an ostrich would have trouble with. And they do change colours and they have gum in the middle.

    Pop rocks (you might have had Bottle Caps, which were much the same) were a kind of candy that fizzled and sort of exploded in your mouth. I think it was some kind of acid/base reaction like baking soda and vinegar. They tasted like different kinds of fruit, and the Bottle Caps tasted like different flavours of pop. Root beer is like ginger beer, only darker. So when you put the two together in your mouth your face sort of exploded in artificially-flavoured foam. It was cool.

  124. I have to take issue over this “Root beer is like ginger beer, only darker”.

    Ginger beer tastes like ginger, whereas root beer tastes like fizzy sweetened TCP.

    And i recall pop rocks were called Space Dust…until the elf and safety decided kids might choke on it, blah, blah, usual story.

    How long until anything small enough to be put in a mouth has the legend “Warning! Possible choking hazard!” inscribed upon it?

    Is there any truth in the rumour that the shape of Earth’s continents spells out “Contains Nuts” in Galactispeak?

  125. Root beer tastes like Sarsaparilla roots. And it IS darker than ginger beer; they also have a similar bite, at least when made well. Try Barq’s.

    I used to work at Starbucks, and long ago when the nutty old woman sued McDonald’s for the fact she spilled hot coffee all over her ladyparts, an edict came down from the corporate lawyers. From that point on, every time we handed out a beverage (of ANY sort, even the bottled ones) we were required to say, “be careful, that’s hot.” Even, if you can believe this, for the frappucchinos, which are frozen. People were honestly disciplined for NOT saying it when handing out cold drinks. It was a perfect moment of lawyer-driven corporate idiocy. We used to get around it by handing out the cold drinks and saying, “Be careful. That’s really cold. Don’t … freeze yourself.”

  126. Here’s something a friend sent me. So, so true. I got a huge sense of satisfaction when I proved to my mother that I walked farther to school every day than she did. And half the time, she got to ride in a sleigh! Softie.

    ————————-

    When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning .. uphill BOTH ways through year ’round blizzards. Carrying their younger siblings on their backs … to their one-room schoolhouse, where they maintained a Straight-A average, despite their full-time, after-school job at the local textile mill …. where they worked for 35 cents an hour just to help keep their family from starving to death!

    And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no wayin hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on kids about how hard I had it and how easy they’ve got it!

    But now that I’m over the ripe old age of thirty, I can’t help but look around and notice the youth of today. You’ve got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia! And I hate to say it but you kids today you don’t know how good you’ve got it!

    I mean, when I was a kid we didn’t have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

    There was no email! We had to actually write somebody a letter .. with a Pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there! There were no MP3’s or Napsters! You wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day! to tape it off the radio and the DJ’d usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up! And talk of about hardship?

    You couldn’t just download porn! You had to steal it from your brother or bribe some homeless dude to buy you a copy of “Hustler” at the 7-11! Those were your options!

    We didn’t have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that’s it! And we didn’t have fancy Caller ID Boxes either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn’t know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

    We didn’t have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like “Space Invaders” and “Asteroids” and the graphics sucked! Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and fast er and faster until you died! … Just like LIFE!

    When you went to the movie theater there no such thing as stadium seating! All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old broad with a hat sat in front of you and you couldn’t see, you were just screwed!

    Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels and there was no onscreen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your butt and walk over to the TV to change the channel and there was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I’m saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little brats!

    And we didn’t have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up .. we had to use the stove or go build a frigging fire . imagine that! If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that stupid JiffyPop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.

    That’s exactly what I’m talking about! You kids today have got it too easy.

    You’re spoiled!

    You guys wouldn’t have lasted five minutes back in 1980.

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