To paraphrase Alan Ford in his tour de force performance in the seminal cockney-thriller “Snatch”, I may be about to step on some “very thin ice, my pedigree chums”.
I’m about to use a few words that cause nothing but trouble in 21st century Britain. More divisive than Protestant and Catholic, rich and poor, or even Xbox and PS3 (the last one’s hard to believe, I know). Are you ready? Here goes.
Health. And. Safety…
Half of you will probably now have started either grumbling in annoyance and saying everything’s “gone mad”, like a backbench M.P. with a chest infection. The other half won’t be able to read what I’m now writing due to the fist in their computer screen.
Before you go off half cocked and start talking about “lunatics taking over” this, and “go and read the Daily Mail” that. I just want to point out I only mention it because of one specific news story from today. It appears that a school in Essex has banned cafeteria staff from selling triangular flapjacks because a child was hurt by being on the receiving end of one launched by another child.
Normally I stay away from speculation on issues of health and safety in the news. In fact I have a lot of sympathy for the Health and Safety Executive. They’re frequently on the receiving end of buckets of bile for banning things they never even considered an issue, let alone worthy of banning. Often these phoney news stories are made up by tabloid hacks (and if you read this often, you already know how I feel about them) in order to propagate a culture of indignation against the supposed “nanny-state”.
However I read about “Flapjack-gate”, as I’m sure the aforementioned hacks will dub it, on the Independent and the BBC websites. Two organisations that are, at least as far as large media outlets go, relatively trustworthy. Well unless you’re the sort of person who believes that the Loch Ness Monster was behind 9/11 and the Government is spraying us like crops with mind control chemicals. (One day I might write a post about the 937 reasons I know why that second one definitely isn’t happening.) So you can believe it without feeling too naive.
You may, if you’re familiar with my usual take on the world, be expecting me to react to this story with the same anger as the harumphing, well not to put too fine a point on it, UKIPers. To be honest I found myself casting my eye over it with a sense of cynical amusement. There’s so many odd little facets of it. For a start, they haven’t banned flapjacks, just triangular ones. But don’t flapjacks usually come in squares or rectangles? Surely they have to cut trays of them into triangles. So why make a point of banning triangular ones, rather than just changing the way they’re cut without a fuss.
I’m no geomatrician (is that a word?) but I would have thought it was harder to get triangular flapjacks out of a rectangular tin than squares anyway. You’d have to start with a right-angle triangle at the edge and work your way across or you’d end up wasting half of it. I do apologise, that’s probably the most boring sentence I’ve ever written. Moving on…
Maybe triangular flapjacks are more dangerous than square or rectangular ones when they a granted flight? It demonstrates the sort of mind I have that one of the first things I thought when I read the story was “but… triangles have 3 corners, squares have four. Surely that’s just exacerbating the problem”. Unless there’s some sort of complex oat-based aerodynamic issue that means triangular flapjacks lend themselves better to airborne assault. Maybe that’s why people don’t make square aeroplanes? Although personally I see a huge international market for the “Squaroplane”. (Don’t ask me how it would work, I’m just the ideas man.)
Of course, the most fundamental issue at hand here is the fact these clowns really are treating the symptoms rather than the badly-behaved disease. Surely the problem is that the school kids are throwing their food at each other. In fact, that’s three seperate problems in itself. Firstly, why are the kids throwing food at each other, is it just “hi-jinks, (love that word) or are they doing it to hurt each other. Secondly, they’re wasting food. Kids starving in the third world etc, etc. Finally, if the shape of the flapjack is part of the issue then it means that they’re throwing whole food items around. Did the kid buy a whole flapjack just to hurl it at someone? That doesn’t make financial sense, especially in a recession. Whether or not given the chance, I would cheerfully drop an Tesco Extra (Extra, mind you) on George Osborne’s head is beside the point.
Actually, I say that’s the most fundamental issue at hand. That’s a complete lie, the most fundamental issue at hand is that huge news corporations deem this newsworthy. That’s really not ideal on a day we find out the 30 Syrian medics are trying to help 500,000 casualties. In fact, I think the needing to put rules in place regarding the safe shape for flapjacks might actually be the definition of the phrase “first world problem”.