This week I covered basic recycling and vermin prevention. I spoke about the uselessness of our traps and I swear down I think the rats have moved the blue poison from the trays. It’s like they’re immune to the stuff.
Being a Health & Safety Officer and listening to the news I was concerned about the developments of a case involving a Policewoman and the manager of a Petrol Station. Britain is peering over the edge of a large Health & Safety iceberg; it’s drop is vertical and it’s one way to illogical and expensive court cases. The term Health and Safety is taking yet again another dive in its connotation – the image of a man in a suit, with a clipboard, wearing a hi-visibility vest and a white safety hat is conjured up. I’ve never worn that combination of clothing. I don’t carry a clipboard – because it freaks out the people who work here. H&S is a label for something we do all the time. We’ve always done it. An instruction manual or a maintenance manual is all about doing something in the correct way – when I say correct, I mean so that you don’t hurt yourself or others. You put one foot out and are in effect falling, but your foot stops you and you vault on that foot to the next foot ‘fall’. Enough of this… The policewoman… She was taking him to court after tripping over a curb on his Petrol Station while reacting to a suspected burglary. Two things to bear in mind with this case – if she wins there are two people who are going to profit. She is and the person dealing with her case. Everyone else will lose and that includes the confidence in the police and the police force themselves. A Police Officer reacting to the scene of a suspect burglary should be fully aware of the dangers that come with a burglary. The burglar might be armed with a weapon, the burglar might be violent… the approach to the scene might have a curb that partitions the road from the path…? There are inherent risks to reacting to a call such as this as I’ve already outlined, but the curb shouldn’t be one of them. If the policewoman wins this case, it will inevitably open up a can of illogical worms. In a Britain that is in the middle of ‘austere’ measures to control costs lighting will be one of those cuts to costs. For a Police Officer to complain that the area was insufficiently lit that is a little pathetic.
What is it the Police are meant to do? A bit like the US term – ‘Protect and serve’. In this case it looks like we’ve got to protect them before they protect us? There’s always the term reasonableness and a curb is reasonably safe and obvious for any ‘normal’ person. I’d expect broke drunk people who trip on curb stones at 3am on a Saturday morning to do this sort of thing, but not a member of the Police ‘Force’.
A senior Police Officer for the area she works in said he was disappointed that this has gone ahead and this does not represent the working practises of the Police force as a whole. He sounded so calm and polite on the radio when mentioning his disappointment, but I bet there are harsh words going around, just out of ear shot. I think it’s very important that this case should be refused to go any further as the trust in police force will fall.
Imagine you hear a noise outside your shop at 4 in the morning. You call the police when you hear a window break. But then you hesitate and think…. Did I light up the front area of the premises sufficiently? Have I put up warning signs to indicate that there is a curb? Is it worth me calling the police and risk being sued? Or should I let the burglar carry on and claim on the insurance. The insurance that will have in the small print something about adequate protection and that this case will be null and void.
Police Chief: Left. Not a happy bunny.
Imagine all the historical cases of people being injured and all the premises that will have to draft up Risk Assessments on the entrance to their premises. Will this bleed onto the streets of Britain – It’s like an epidemic… 28 Days Later, except the virus of lawsuits and compensation claims came from the USA. It will take a firm judge, one with a set of balls to fuck this case off. The Police Officer in question needs to have a look at herself in the mirror and ask herself whether that line of work is really for her.
Here’s an update… She wants to drop the case against the Petrol Shop Owner. She says she feels like the victim… What she doesn’t realise is the role she was playing when she injured herself. The damage to confidence in the Police Force would have repercussions. It’s a lesson learnt I think – even though I know it’s easy for me to judge. I’m not the single mum of 2 here, but nevertheless – single mum has nothing to do with the case. It’s being a Police Officer who’s duty is to Protect and Serve. Like mine was to be sent off to places like the Upper Sangin Valley in Afghanistan for 6 months – had I been injured in my line of work – suing the MOD would not enter my mind. I did try to file for compensation on a groin strain and got fucked off. Fair one. If you don’t ask, you don’t get and I thought I had a pretty good case, but there are more deserving cases of compensation.
There is a solution to all of this. Why don’t we make people sign a waiver of sueing if we choose to live in the real world. If we don’t we face life in a pod. Pods of liquid where we are suspended much like in the Matrix.
Quantification of risk is such a big fucking deal. We like to see things out of a range of 100. It sort of puts things into perspective rather than Very Unlikely and Unlikely, despite the ratio of 1 chance in a Million of the event happening. 1:1,000,000. Working in Health and Safety is like being a philosopher in that you are questioning the moral, everyday normal practices. Why did I wait at the traffic lights? Why does the car stop when the driver sees a red light. Why does the car stop? Because the brakes work? Because the driver put his foot on the brake. Because the car’s brakes are tested annually in an MOT. etc etc etc etc… Someone asked me if a Rat could chew through a plastic bin.
I said it probably could if could be bothered too, but the likelihood was that it would expend too much energy in such an endeavour and then it couldn’t guarantee food at the end of the job. I said too much time and energy and there are other sources of food much easier to get – like our neighbours who have open bins with food in them. The voice of reason, that’s how I find my line of work. Some things can’t quantified though. What’s the liklihood of me tripping over that curb and breaking my wrist? Is there a 60% chance of it happening? Will that be reduced if I run or answer the walkie talkie? Should I roll a ten sided die and work out what happens. Might make a game out of this.
We’ve had cases of women suing the Ministry Of Defence after their husbands were killed in a conflict. What’s the end result of that? More money. It’s not going to bring back the dead husband. It’s money. And I’m sure they all knew what the Army was all about when they joined up. This isn’t a rant it’s a blog post voicing my concern over the way things are headed much to the delight of solicitors and courtroom lawyers.
Here is the second part of ‘The Imperial Gardener’.
The Imperial Gardener : Part Two
The flight from Birmingham to Dubai and then finally onto Nagasaki took George 20 hours to complete. He spent most of his time catching up on the effects of the Fat Boy. How it all happened, how bad weather prompted the pilot to avert their original mission and target Nagasaki instead. In the morning of August 9th 1945, he made his last prayer to God.
He dreamt of his Imperial Garden and Shika.
She passes by as he cuts the leaves from the tree, like his master taught him. He freezes as her hand brushes his. He looks up to her. She submits to his gaze for a second before leaving, a trace of a smile on her face.
In time, Shika and George’s friendship takes form, it seeks sustenance and like the flower, perpetuates in its need for growth. They talk in secret when her father is out. A place they venture is beneath the willow tree, by the rockery. She speaks English, but George corrects her. In turn he learns Japanese. She looks around before closing her eyes and traces the contours of his face with her fingertips. They are soothing and silky, he takes a hand and takes in her scent. Like Ivy they entwine by the tree and passion takes its natural course.
In the early months of 1945 American planes fly overhead and begin their bombing. Shika must leave for the hills, her father insists, she will help her grandmother and carry on her studies once the war was over. Their final moments together are difficult. She gives him a photograph then puts his hand on her stomach. ‘Remember us,’ she whispers. She leaves quickly. George cannot speak – had there been movement beneath his hand?
* * *
George awoke and felt the shoes with his feet, nudging them with his toes. He opened one eye, the high drone of the engines seemed to go right through his feet.
‘Would you like to eat now?’ The air stewardess gave him a smile and placed the tray on the empty seat next to him. ‘If you want anything. Just push the button. Ok?’
‘I could murder a cuppah Pee Gee.’
She smiled. ‘We’ll be coming round with tea and coffee afterwards.’
The flight landed at Nagasaki International Airport where a Royal British Legion coach awaited him outside the arrivals terminal. There were more Commonwealth here than George suspected, most of whom had shared the flight with him, humbled men by their experience their last chance to exorcize the demons that had tormented them for sixty years.
The coach edged its way by the pacific towns leading to Nagasaki. He had time to think while the towns of Japan flew by in a flurry of colours, though he didn’t want to think too much just now.
George stretched and pushed his feet into the shoes, curling his toes to get the feeling back. Apartment blocks and dirty street shops lined the street where they’d stopped. They were ushered to the lobby where humble and for George, servile, Japanese made a fuss over the newly arrived guests.
The next day they were given a tour of the peace park. At the place directly below the explosion the throng of visitors crowded around the Hypocenter monument. Japanese school children lined up in front of the monolith and prayed. A declaration was made in both Japanese and in English, and with a final bow they left.
Former allied survivors, the few that could muster any hint of absolution, placed wreaths. Many wreaths were to the POWs who died, one George noted had died recently to the cancer.
George walked up to the jet black obelisk. Light reflected perfectly from its polished surface. Within it and through it he could see the stacks of buildings from another time, their ruined fingers of brick, defiant, pointing, as if in accusation to the sky.
He doesn’t see the flash, if he did, he would be blind for the rest of his life, unable to look upon the willow trees and her beautiful face again. The south facing wall of the Pagoda is aglow in strange bright orange hues.
He searches the rubble, looking for clues. Where did you go? The question torments him. Then he sees the survivors. A hideous unending stream of humanity, they work their way to the dressing station like some crazy tapeworm. His body consumes the stink of rotting human flesh, his nails, hair and breath are like death.
The bomb has made him equal, it has burnt all magnanimity from the Japanese. They are survivors.
He reached into his pocket and felt the picture under his fingers. There was only one place she could be now.
* * *
It took George an hour to reach the graveyard. She was there, the owner said, on the hilltop. The summit was in perfect black, silhouetted by the sun.
A queue had formed at a small pagoda temple. It was a queue of elderly people, placing stones by the monument, survivors he suspected by their visible scars. At the foot of the marble stone a man began to light the candles.
The summit commanded a view of the city and he could see the Valley beyond its crown, the sea drew back and pushed away in its endless cycle. The pacific winds picked up and whispered in the shaking tree.
Once the man had lit the candles he stood and glanced at George. He was Japanese, or George thought, he looked different from the others. There was something strange about his face. ‘She led the blind to the hospitals during the days after the bomb.’
His eyes seemed to wander as if seeking a focus, then he looked at George, ‘She died in 1948. I would have liked to have known my mother, or my father.’ He gave George a smile unable to conceal an old sorrow in his eyes and walked away.
George knelt by the pagoda. He rubbed at the photograph as if to wash away the decades and placed it in the temple. She smiled back at him from her garden by the gentle stream sixty years ago. When the photograph had been taken her hand it seemed, part habit, strayed to her stomach.
He looked to where the man had stood. Could that be their son?
The wind picked up and blew a scattering of leaves through the stones and George felt as if they were blowing through his heart.
Salmon hues infused the temple in a fiery glow. On the edge of the pacific a ball of fire began to sink, but it would rise again. George sat by the temple, watching it go down and remembered.