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Safety webs

Not for the first time on this blog, I must report that once again health and safety has raised its ugly head and tried to meddle with our lives. It saddens me to think about just how many of the changes occurring in our world today derive from the efforts of those in authority to make the things we do safer, freer from risk. Driving this along, as ever, is the insurance industry which thrives on making us feel less safe so that they can charge us for their protection. This gives rise to requirements and regulations galore and deepens the mystery of how we ever managed to get through the bulk of our lives without them.

Living without a car of our own as we do, transporting shop-bought goods often gives rise to some novel or imaginative solutions; necessity is, after all, the mother of inventiveness. On this occasion we were purchasing some bits and pieces in our favourite DIY store, amongst which was a two and a half metre length of wooden beading (quadrant) intended to grace one edge of our kitchen worktop. Now as it happens we didn’t need anything like this length – something less than one metre would have sufficed – but in this particular shop if you want wooden quadrant, this is how it comes. To a handyman this is no penalty as a little spare piece tucked away in the shed always stands a good chance of becoming useful for something else. No, the problem for us was that we had travelled to the store by bus and with three heavy boxes of tiles to take home in our shopping trolley we had every intention of going home the same way. We knew full well that we would not be Mr & Mrs Popular on the No.2 bus with a long, thin piece of bendy wood threatening to poke out the eyes of anyone foolish enough to venture into the aisle so it seemed logical to us to ask the store if they would please cut the wood into two manageable pieces of equal length. Now if this had been a sheet of hardboard or a pine plank this would not have been a problem as there are machines and staff fully trained to use them on hand. Our thin piece of quadrant, however, would not fit into the powerful wall-mounted saw benches so the request was refused. OK then, I helpfully suggested, how about you use a small hand saw or better still, lend me one so I can do it myself. I came close to exploding when the store manager came out with the sentence:
   ”Sorry Sir,
our staff are not insured to use such a tool and we cannot allow you to do so because you might injure yourself and our insurance would not cover you either”
So it was that after having spent most of the previous day sawing up great chunks of kitchen worktop I am now being told that I wasn’t a fit person to be allowed near such a dangerous weapon and that everyone else in the store was similarly incompetent. And what really gets to me about this health and safety ‘overkill’ is the fact that one simply cannot argue against it. What is not to like about someone else looking after our safety? Why would we not want this?

It was only that I sensed some sympathy from the manager, despite the hard-line attitude, that I was able to contain the bulk of my inner conflagration until I was outside the store. Here I swiftly pulled out the offending piece of wood and as neatly as I could, broke it over my knee into two roughly equal parts. Under sink pipeworkThis, I might add, I managed to accomplish without injuring either myself or anyone else, a fact of which I am rightfully quite proud.

In the mean time we still have work to do. The Italian sink pipework has coalesced into a compact entanglement somewhere beneath and finally our last kitchen cabinet has been assembled and screwed into position. It feels like we are on the home run now. What seems to have taken forever in reality has so far taken less than two weeks from first beginnings. What remains now are the details, the door knobs and the trimmings, things that we know will take a lot more time to finish off. But with the weather remaining so cold outside we are happy to keep ourselves closeted away, gradually changing our internal vista.

The spidery-beasts who live outside in our back yard must have been mortified Spider web on the fenceto see what the overnight frost had done to their home. Just imagine all the hard work that this chap had put in on the construction – the design, the build and the final fix – and, rather like the pipework under our kitchen sink, this masterpiece was never intended to be seen; a spider’s very livelihood depends on the invisibility of his web for bringing unwary titbits to its dinner table. I also have a suspicion that these frost-dappled strands draped across our fence might be quite embarrassing in a spider’s world, rather like displaying naughty underwear on a washing line, all the foibles and fetishes being revealed, all the mistakes and the shortcuts visible for any other spider to laugh at. To us this may be a thing of beauty but down in arachnid-land this may be an example of a what not to do with your spinnerets, something only a very immature spiderling would produce. But what do we know.

Coming soon to this blog: Kitchen – The Movie!

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