Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Worst

Do you want to know the worst thing about being trapped inside the flat all day like some petty criminal with an electronic leg tag? I have nothing else to do but listen to the radio, and what I hear on the radio is often so incredibly insane it makes my head hurt.

For example:

During this crisis, I have been quite critical of the clean-up methods, and of a group of local people who are taking the council to task for not doing a better job. Four days after the snowfall, the sidewalks (excuse me, pavements) are still a dangerous morass of snow, ice and slush. The locals thought the council should have cleaned everything up and I was more of the opinion that people should have done more themselves.

In New York, if you have a sidewalk (in New York, they are ‘sidewalks’) running in front of your home or business, you go out and clean it off as soon as you can. This allows pedestrian traffic move freely and safely and it greatly assists in the general clean up.

In Britain, however, the law is, if you have a pavement running in front of your home or business, and if you clean it off, and someone then slips, you are liable, and you can be sued. On the other hand, if you just leave the snow, ice and slush lying there to trip up pedestrians and send them to the hospital with fractured wrists, broken legs or very sore bums, you are not responsible at all.

Can someone, anyone, explain to me how that makes any sense at all? Who is responsible for thinking up this tosh!

It’s the sort of thing that, for me, doesn’t so much address the mystery of how the British lost the Empire, but rather begs the question “How did they acquire it in the first place?”

Here’s an impromptu quiz based on some other tidbits from my reading and media viewing during my “house arrest”:

Question 1:

If you were faced with a formidable army, and all you had were 18,000 well trained, experienced soldiers (this would be the British Expeditionary Force at the start of WWI) would you:

A. Have these 18,000 soldiers train recruits in order to quickly build up an army of tens of thousands of well-trained soldiers?


B. Send your 18,000 well-trained, experienced soldiers headlong into machine gun fire to see what happened?

Question 2:

If you were engaged in the hunt for the fearsome German battleship, Bismarck, at the critical, early stages of WWII, and your battleship and the Air Force had it cornered, would you:

A. Provide supporting fire for the airplanes so they could get in close enough to deliver the coup de grace?


B. Try to shoot down your own aircraft so your ship could take credit for the kill?

If you gave the blatantly sane answer to either of those questions, then you have no future in British politics. On any level.

Now, granted, my two previous examples are a bit extreme, and the government no longer enjoys the opportunity to visit mayhem on the populace on that gargantuan a scale but, bless them, they clearly remain dedicated to taking out the population, one slipped disc at a time.


  1. This lack of sidewalk clearing is driving me crazy too Mike. I feel just like you, and wrote about it on my blog yesterday, completely housebound as it's too dangerous to walk anywhere. I'm dreading grocery day now, and the walk of death there and back.

    I laughed out loud about your British Empire comment and read it to my husband. He directed me here: to hear how Eddie Izzard explained Britain conquering other nations.

  2. Jenny, Eddie hit the nail on the head and his comments are one of the reasons I love him so much.

    Mike, I couldn't agree more. That silly rule about doing nothing in order to keep from getting sued was also a popular one back in Arkansas and you see how far that has advanced that state! Maybe that is why life in Lincolnshire seems so much like home...

  3. Jenny: Thanks for the link - very funny, but true ;) And good luck on the 'walk of death'

    Pixie: I didn't know that about Arkansas. Explains a lot, though ;)

  4. Anonymous3:56 PM

    The thing that is annoying me is that all the newspapers are frightening people from clearing the snow by describing that they "could" be sued but none of them has quoted a single example of it happening.

    This article seems to show a different side to the argument:

    Still I suppose the snow will be gone soon and then the whole thing will be forgotten for the next ten years!

    Peter Bond

  5. Peter: the British press seems to enjoy pointing out the worst. I like to think common sense would prevail and if anyone did slip on a cleaned off section of pavement, that they would just chalk it up to icy conditions and not look for anyone to sue, council or homeowner. Suing people is so American; I would hate to see it take hold here.

  6. I agree, Mike: the possibility of (a) anyone sueing anyone as a consequence of snow-clearing, (b) of winning such an action at law, is remote. There's a good article about it all in the BBC Magazine here:
    Actually, I think the main reason why people don't bother overmuch with snow-shovelling here is that long-lying snow is unusual in this country. People quite often find that they spend a good couple of hours doing it, only to have the snow thaw naturally shortly after they have finished! Also, in previous years the local authorities *have* gritted the sidewalks -- this time they have chosen not to, in order, I assume, to conserve their supplies knowing that the snow-bound period was to be a long and intense one. The arterial routes have to be the priority.

    About the Empire: if we are to believe Sir John Seeley, it was acquired in a fit of absent-mindedness; and if we are to believe me, if it hadn't been for the Empire, we'd see a very different state of affairs on the North American continent now: you'd probably be writing your blog in French or Spanish, for a start.

    Your comments about WW1 are interesting, but alas the British Army has never had the gift of prophecy. In 1914 they could not see that it would lead to four years of muddy trenches and stalemate. They thought the war would be over by Christmas. The main thing in 1914 was to protect Paris from falling to the Germans as it had in the Franco-Prussian War. At this, the BEF was successful -- it is said that the Germans were so impressed by the 'Tommie's' rate of fire that they thought they were up against machine-gun battalions.

    The Bismark? I am not aware of any orders given for the shooting down of planes of our own side (I thought it was Americans who were the specialists in 'friendly fire' incidents :-) ). As far as I can recall, the German battleship *was* disabled by the Fleet Air Arm. Where did you get your story from?

    Well perhaps my answers are too sane to allow me a career in politics, but then I was never interested in such a career. But I am interested in the truth!

  7. Howard: I think you're right about the snow clearing. I've been saying all along that the unusual thing about this storm is that the snow didn’t melted by lunch time. So, yeah, ignoring it until it goes away is a perfectly adequate snow-clearing strategy here (current situation notwithstanding). Accordingly, not many people own snow shovels.

    I think it goes without saying that my two facetious questions are mitigated by the fact that Britain went on to win both wars ;)

    I saw the bit about the ships trying to shoot down the plans on one of the countless documentaries about WWII. Sorry, I can’t recall the title.

    And, Howard, you are way too sane for a career in politics.

  8. I studied law back in the 80's and we did indeed look at tort cases where people had cleared the snow and caused huge personal injury. (Can't cite you the actual cases any more, but believ me, they exist.) The problem was that the idiots had simply done things like pour hot water over the path, which then set like a sheet of ice.
    It does seem rather ridiculous though.
    Here in Chicago, you are required to shovel the sidewalk although I don't think anyone's actually been ticketed for not doing so.

  9. > And, Howard, you are way too sane for a career in politics.

    LOL, Mike, and thank you! But I'm sure I could be considerably more clever and subtle than our present lot in the way I cooked-up my "expenses" claims!

  10. Anonymous4:31 PM

    Well I think things are slowly changing as we all get cabin fever.
    1.two of us at work cleared a space for the bus to stop out side the day centre so we could safely get our old folks in for the day.

    2. Opposite my work place volunteers turned up to the primary school to clear the car park and paths so the school can be open tomorrow. We have heard that this is happening all over the county.

    3. The paths in the town centre have well and
    truely been gritted.

    So may be we should just ignore the press a little.

  11. And I've just read this:

  12. I could go on and on about this, as to my mind the whole way this "crisis" has been handled is just plain crazy.

    A lot of the problems from what I can gather stems from "Health and Safety." Those seem to be the be all and end all of everyone's conversations!!

    God forbid anyone actually do anything for themselves any more!

    Gill who was originally from that third world country called Britian, who now lives in Canada, where they know how to clean a sidewalk!!

  13. Gill and Expatmum: What Anonymous says is true; people are just getting sick of the snow and the H&S nonsense that they are cleaning up themselves. I did see a new clip about residents cleaning their own street and the guy who organized it said, "You have Health and Safety, or you have common sense."

    Maybe this "crisis" was good in that it pointed out the sheer lunacy these H&S wonks spoon feed us on a daily basis.

  14. Dear old Daily Mail! It does love to shriek like an outraged matron aunt, doesn't it?

    If you are interested in getting a more balanced view of what local councils feel about people clearing snow, and whether there is any threat of them getting sued, try this link:

    Would the Mail sell as many copies as it does without attacking straw men and perpetuating urban myths?

    (Howard, who is very pleased not to be living in a cultural backwater like Canada :-) )