Trading In On Traditions

It is a well known fact that British fire-fighters slide down special greasy poles when the emergency call comes through. They've been doing it ever since fire engines were invented. It's the quickest way of getting crews from their quarters upstairs to their vehicles down below.

But they won't be doing it in England's South West city of Plymouth anymore. Because the brand new fire station is entirely pole free. City planners banned them and installed a staircase instead. They cited 'health and safety' reasons. Plymouth's fire-fighters regard that as an insult.

In Scotland, a strange, damp country several hundred miles to the north of here, soldiers still wear tartan skirts called kilts and play peculiar musical instruments known as bagpipes. Imagine putting a cat under your arm and then biting its tail - the noise of the bagpipe is ear-piercingly similar.

Bagpipes have led Scottish armies to many famous victories. The enemy usually hears the racket and runs. Not for much longer, I think. The Army Medical Directorate has now forbidden soldiers to play bagpipes for more than 24 minutes each day. This pathetic act of political correctness is all in the name of 'health and safety', though stopping the troops wearing tartan skirts might be far more effective.

On Dartmoor - a bleak expanse of countryside in the West of England - stands Hay Tor. It's a very tall rock - much climbed and much feared. In the past, you could only get to the top with muscle and guts. But soon there'll be a solar-powered stair lift to whisk you up and safety rails to stop you falling off. Much safer for everyone.

And in the city of Worcester, in the heart of England, Mr. Robert Probert is very quiet indeed these days. There is nothing wrong with his voice. It used to be audible six blocks away. But the PC spooks stepped in to shut him up. Bob is now the latest victim of our imported American obsession with, yes, you've guessed it, 'health and safety'. He is being forced to conduct his business in a whisper.

Quite crazy. Who ever heard of a whispering auctioneer?
by Ed Boyle