Thursday, 30 May 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Health & Safety Gone Mad

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

Ever fancied throwing yourself down an extremely steep hill in a frantic and pointless attempt to catch a runaway cheese?

Well, despite my addiction to cheese, neither have I.

My addiction is near legendary in our house and Herself lives in constant fear that I will notice there is no cheese in the house and, in a state of panic, either strip naked and run down the street yelling that the end is nigh or else turn to a slightly less addictive substance - such as crack cocaine

Fortunately neither of these things has happened so far, but for those of you who do enjoy the prospect of endangering life and limb there is the annual Cheese rolling event in Gloucestershire

Every year since time immemorial (which was, apparently, the very precise date of 6 July 1189 - although in reality the cheese rolling hasn't been going on THAT long) someone throws a truckle of cheese down Cooper's Hill and hundreds of people throw themselves down afterwards - often resulting in flying head over heels and broken limbs.

Like many traditions in England it's hard to say exactly why they started doing this in the first place, but like so many daft things we now do it because (drum roll please) IT'S TRADITIONAL

That is until 2013 when, after 25 years of supplying the cheese to the event, local Police turned up to cheesemaker Diana Smart's house and warned her that should anyone be injured, maimed or killed in the event then she could be liable for any claims of compensation.

Now the first thing you need to know about Diana Smart is that she is an elderly lady, in her mid to late 80s - so I guess you can imagine how she must have felt when the Police turned up unannounced and issued dire warnings.  The second thing you need to know is that the Smart family do not organize the event - they merely supply the cheese.

As it happens the Smarts were so worried about the warning that they withdrew their involvement, forcing event organizers to supply a fake cheese (not actually the first time that this has been done, as during the rationing of WW2 a wooden replacement was used)

But two things occur to me.

Firstly - if I were a judge in a case for compensation and I heard that injuries were sustained "running headlong down a steep hill after a rolling cheese" I think my response would be "Well, you brought it on yourself then, didn't you"

Secondly - I recently put myself in for a charity run and had to sign forms in triplicate saying that if I died mid-route then I couldn't hold the organizers responsible (from what I understood from the form this extended to "even if we happen to run you over in a support truck" - which I guess gives them something to do if they get bored with marshalling) - so why can't the cheese rolling event get the contestants to do the same?

But what saddens me the most is that we now seem to live in a society where we are constantly told that we are entitled to compensation for everything that could possibly happen - every time I turn on the TV I see an advert for AmbulanceChasers4U telling me that if I fall over at work, drop boiling hot soup on my shirt, get hit by another driver or am involved in a freak yodeling accident (more common than you might think) than I can sue, sue, sue until my name is changed, by deed poll, to Sue.

I'm sure that there are instances where someone is injured through neglect and due compensation so that they can continue to live to a good standard, but I am concerned that what it leaves us with is a society where everyone is looking to assign blame and far too many companies are looking to make a nice profit into the bargain

And as for the cheese rolling - well, even though it seems like insanity to me I hope it continues without litigation and that a real truckle can be found for future events.

Oh...and when you're finished with it - just clean it up and post it to me would you?  Cheers.

(NB: For anyone wondering about the image - it's the Don't Sue People Panda)


The Bug said...

Oh that's hilarious! I might roll down a hill for chocolate, but never just a cheese. Maybe if I got to put the cheese on a pizza afterward...

We really are far to litigious - everyone wants to make money without working. Which is why I buy a lottery ticket :)

Stephen Hayes said...

Bug said it right: yes, run down a hill for chocolate but never cheese.

Helena said...

Ridiculously funny, but what a dampener for tradition!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

bug - money for nothing eh, there could be a song in that...

Stephen - i guess it would have to be one of those Wagon Wheel chocolate biscuits? a snickers wouldn't roll very far

Helena - yes indeed - more and more things are under threat under the umbrella of health and safety

Anonymous said...

Well, first, I wondered why, in the hypothetical case that you ran out of cheese, why would you have to be naked to announce to the people that the end is nigh?

Second - "or else turn to a slightly less addictive substance - such as crack cocaine" -- Hilarious!!

Finally, I'm afraid we've been that kind of society for quite some time now. A couple of years back, a woman sued McDonald's for spilling coffee on herself because the cup didn't warn her that the beverage was hot.

Ironically, I don't see too many cases with people suing the cigarette companies with getting them addicted to tobacco. Of course, corporations have more power to protect their money than anything.