George Orwell wrote a series of articles, during the 1940s under the heading of ‘As I Please’ for the newspaper Tribune. He gave himself free reign to write about anything and everything, and the subjects were as diverse as ‘the killing of civilians in war’ to ‘making a nice cup of tea’. This page is in his memory.
ACCIDENTS CAN’T BE PREVENTED!
I realise that the word accident is usually applied to any kind of unwanted and unpleasant incident but accident has a very clear and well defined meaning. According to my dictionary an accident is an unforeseen or unexpected event; a chance.
The distinction between an accident and, what is better called an incident, was drawn to my attention by road safety activists who object to a car crash resulting from drunken driving being routinely described as an accident. The activists argue that driving, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, makes a car crash seem less like an accident and more like an easily foreseeable certainty. Their view makes a very good point, as it’s up to the courts to decide if a crash is an accident or not. Most police forces have taken this idea on-board and prior to any court decision, a crash is usually described as a road traffic collision (RTC) or road traffic incident (RTI).
As a vocationalist, I wish to extend this reasoning into the sphere of workplace activities.
The Health & Safety at Work Act (HSAWA) requires that a risk assessment is carried out before carrying out any work based activity. One way of describing a risk assessment is to say that all reasonable measures must be taken to identify hazards and to minimise injury and damage to property. Contrary to widespread false belief, no reasonable activities are prohibited. It is quite usual for extremely hazardous activities to be carried out (building tunnels and bridges as examples) as long as every reasonable precaution is taken and the costs are out outweighed by the benefits. The word reasonable suggests that in the real world everything is not possible to predict. Following an unfortunate incident, as long as it could not be reasonably foreseen, it will be deemed an accident and while lessons must be learned it is not usual to apportion blame.
I’m sure there may be some among you who will think I’m splitting hairs and that it’s ‘elf and safety gone mad! Yet by using words accurately, we can both help to prevent over-cautiousness as well as promoting proper consideration for the likely outcomes of our actions.
So, when preventable harm is incurred as a result of thoughtless actions it must not be thought of as an accident. If I were to hurt myself by deliberately jumping off a cliff, would this be an accident or the predictable outcome of something that I did?
Let’s Go Shopping!
As a rule, I do not like generalising but there are times when things seem more often to be true than not and although people rarely conform to stereotypes, it is sometimes fun to paint with a broad brush and see what emerges.
Everyone agrees there are differences between the genders, and in the battle of the sexes nowhere is the front line more apparent than when shopping. So the supermarket could be a useful metaphor in exploring the differences between the male and female approach to life in general. However not all women will have the female attitude and not all men will take the male point of view, people were not made to fit moulds.
Arriving at the supermarket the male is a tiger in the smoke. Shopping is not a pleasure for him and the supermarket is full of pitfalls. His attitude is smash and grab, his hurried parking reveals his unease. A group of charity workers, wearing the armour of humility and armed with the weapons of guilt and embarrassment, are the first obstacles barring his way to the entrance.
The female, in her four by four, ranges the car park with the sedate arrogance of a steamroller. The oversized pram that is her chariot carries her tiny charges. Two miniature versions of herself seated, luxuriously in their tiny thrones. They share the confidence of their mother; for they too are at home in their environment.
The female eyes the charity workers kindly, she will be giving something for her offspring to put into their collection boxes.
Having drawn on generations of learning in evading the enemy, the male is now in enemy territory. He is in the shop. The charity workers were avoided by simply ignoring their presence and the same technique will ensure survival while gathering his goods. The elderly using their trolleys as Zimmer frames and blocking the way, screaming brats and their hassled mothers, those on mobile telephones unable to make a purchase without phoning home and the lady with the free samples will all be avoided. The obsequious male behind the counter had better not invite this male to try before you buy! The background noise of Muzak, like the jungle noises of old, serves to sharpen male aggressiveness. Nothing will get in the way of the hunter-gatherer and having caught his prey, he’ll be at the checkout in no time.
Female attitudes have evolved in a way that is intended to make things easy and pleasant. The supermarket is a different place for her. She appreciates the clear signs the logical layout of the aisles and the attractive presentations. The background music, the smell of baking bread and the pleasant helpful assistants all come together to make shopping a real pleasure. The female is patient with the elderly and smiles understandingly at mothers having difficulties with their children. There’s a lot to do and with no reason to hurry, the female begins to graze.
Catastrophe! The charity workers, deceptively easy to dodge on the way in, have sprung their trap. They’re at the tills waiting to help fill your bags and cannot be avoided. The male looks desperately for an alternative way out. There is none – barring dumping his catch and that can never be contemplated, for that would necessitate a visit to another store. Shopping is a high-risk activity and must never be undertaken any more times than is absolutely necessary. The embarrassment must be endured.
With her shopping trolley full to overflowing the female is at the checkout proudly displaying her catch. Unlike the male, she doesn’t look for the shortest queue, she goes to the nearest and greets the charity workers with a smile. Her children tug at her clothes. They’ve seen the craftily placed sweets, “mummy can we have some?”
“Yes okay, you’ve been good,” she’s purring with pleasure now. The cat that got the cream, caught the mouse, and found the catnip.
The male is half way home. His meagre haul rattling in the boot. In his haste he has forgotten half the things he meant to purchase and would need to return. But not today he thought, the wife can go tomorrow – she’ll enjoy it!
We Don’t Need No Education!
The use of slogans has been around for many years. The first slogan I became aware of was ‘Votes for Women’ closely followed, in my memory, by ‘Guinness is good for you’ and of course there are many more.
Slogans are a simple, sometimes arrogant, way of getting your message across while deterring disagreement and the slogan ‘Just do it’ amply makes my point.
For me one slogan stands out, ‘If you can read this, thank a teacher’ because I have a very different slogan to thank for helping me to read, ‘Hacks for throat and chest’ and here’s how it came to be.
Like most children, as a young lad before starting primary school, I loved to look at comics. The Dandy was among my favourites and one day there was Korky the Kat reading a comic. The idea of a cat reading a comic and a comic inside a comic was intriguing enough but what really fascinated me was that although I had not yet learnt how to read, I could tell that the printing was readable.
I rushed to ask my much older brother what was written in the tiny comic but he scoffed and said it was not print it was just a blur. I knew he was wrong as I could clearly see the print, so the only way to prove my point was to learn how to read it for myself.
I searched for a way to do this and my eyes fell on an old tin of cough sweets bearing the slogan ‘Hacks for throat and chest’.
“What do those words say?” I asked, pointing at the tin.
My brother, wondering what his pesky brother was up to now, replied,
“Hacks for throat and chest.”
At first the words meant nothing to me, so the next day I enquired again,
“What do those words say?” I asked for the second time.
“Hacks for throat and chest.” I was told for the second time.
I slept on it and the next day I asked yet again,
“What do those words say?”
“Hacks for throat and chest.” I was wearily told yet again.
I dreamed about those words and after a few more nights I awoke one morning and eagerly gazed at that can of cough sweets. There I read the words ‘Hacks for throat and chest’ suddenly, as if by magic, I could read. The penny had dropped!
I proudly boasted to my big brother,
“I can read those words now!” I pointed excitedly at the tin.
“Go on then, what are they?”
“Hacks for throat and chest.” I proudly exclaimed.
He didn’t seem too impressed and I still had to prove my point to him.
“Let me read you the print in that tiny comic I showed you the other day.”
But in the meantime the comic had been thrown away, which was probably just as well, as there was a lot more for me to know and it’s best to learn how to walk before you learn how to run. It’s beyond me how those words changed from my knowing them to my reading and understanding them but on my first day in school, I could already read. With the help of the teacher I would soon be able to read a lot more things, yet the slogan ‘If you can read this, thank a teacher’ is not how it happened for me.
So perhaps a different less arrogant slogan might be appropriate: ‘You’re my teacher and I’m your learner.’ Although you may ‘teach’ me, you cannot ‘learn’ me. The learning is down to me because teaching and learning are shared activities.
|Is it my friend and I or my friend and me? Both can be right. The rule is that if you are referring only to yourself, it’s the same as when you’re with someone else.
1) I went to the cinema = my friend and I went to the cinema.
2) Come to the cinema with me = come to the cinema with my friend and me.
|Apostrophes are not used for any word ending in ‘S’ they indicate ownership or that a letter is missing.
1) Ownership: Kate owns a pen, so it is Kate’s pen.
Where the person’s name ends in S the apostrophe follows the S:
2) Charles owns a pen, so it is Charles’ pen
3) Missing letter: I do not wish to know that, I don’t wish to know that.
|Meet the ‘Grammar Vigilante’ of Bristol!|
|While we’re at it the letter H is spelt aitch, so it should not be pronounced as haitch.|
|Weightlessness in space
It’s commonly believed that astronauts on the space station are weightless because of the absence of gravity, yet the pull of gravity on the space station is virtually the same as here on Earth.
In this YouTube clip, Dr Derek Muller gives a very clear and entertaining explanation of the real reasons why astronauts float in space.
|Steamed up mirrors!
To stop your bathroom mirror misting up after a bath or a shower here’s what to do: Clean your mirror with spray bleach and rub it off with cleaning paper. This is effective for up to one week (depending on the time of year) and in-between a quick wipe with a towel will remove the mist.
|Massage Your Inner Geek!
It’s well known that you shouldn’t over-fill your kettle before boiling for obvious reasons. Not so obvious is to top-up with cold water, while your kettle is still hot, ready for the next time. Why? Because by cooling down the hot water you help retain the heat held by the water. Remember the physics you learned at school, don’t confuse heat with temperature, at lower temperatures the heat is slower to move from your kettle into the ambient temperature of your kitchen.
Okay, you won’t save the planet or significantly reduce your electric bill, as the savings depend on how soon you need to re-boil your kettle, but every little helps!
|Here’s a handy guide to champagne bottle sizes:
Magnum 2 Standard Bottles
|You may have wondered how egg sizes are determined:
Very Large 73g and over
Large 63 – 73g
Medium 53 – 63g
Small 53g or less
Making Your Mind Up!
In the forthcoming general election you may be finding the constant repetition of campaign slogans is making it difficult to decide which side to chose. The nuts and bolts approach is stick to basics and so your first reaction to the following scenario may reveal where your unconscious sympathies lie.
Cast your mind back to the days of sailing ships and you learn that a mutiny has taken place at sea. Following news of the mutiny, before you know any of the facts, who is it your first instinct to blame:
1. The captain?
2. The crew?
Having had a few moments to think ⇒
1. If your first insinct is to blame the captain.
The captain is is the leader and is responsible for the actions of the crew. Any disatisfaction must be addressed either by obtaining cooperation through discussion or by enforcing discipline. This point of view indicates the crew must be managed which possibly is on the left of political opinion.
2. If your first instict is to blame the crew.
Everyone needs to accept personal responsibility for their actions. There is no need to depend on a leader to tell you what to do and all must be capable of making their own decisions. The captain is a figure head who shares a common view of the way ahead and a mutiny shows a lack of sharing in this common view. This could be a view taken by the political right.
I believe it is a delusion that our decisions are base on the evaluation of evidence. In reality we know what we think and simply look for evidence that supports that point of view. What seems to emerge from this scenario is that the political right requires less commitment from the captain, while the political left requires less commitment from the crew. In my experience, paradoxes offer a fresh way ot seeing things and so I hope my question has helped in your reaching a decision.
A Word of Caution
Here in the UK, the wording of the police caution makes perfect sense to me:
“I am arresting you on suspicion of (the crime)… you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
However when watching police crime dramas, their police caution seems illogical:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
So if I say I’m innocent, how could that be used against me?
At first I put this apparent paradox down to inaccurate script writing but it is said so often, I decided to ‘check it out’ and carry our my own investigation. By the power invested in me by Google, I came to a website where the situation is explained in a very clear way. Here it is in shortened form:
Five Reasons to Remain Silent
1. The slightest variation in your story can hurt you.
2. The police cannot grant you leniency for sharing information.
3. Even if you are guilty, there may be factors that may lessen the charge.
4. Accidental white lies may seem a sign of guilt.
5. Talking will not help you. The fact that you are being questioned means the police are searching for any information that will help their case.
So it seems to me that the American way of justice is not about arriving at the truth but is a point scoring system of tricking the unwary into losing the court case. Guilt or innocence is only of academic interest. I hope I’m wrong but in any case, this knowledge makes watching police dramas a hell of a lot more interesting!
For the full low-down visit the following website: