It happened at the World Fair


It’s been a strange week.
Most of it I’ve spent at the NEC in Birmingham at the health and safety expo. That’s been an interesting experience for another year. I do not appear to be myself today. The large quantities of alcohol (well, large for me who has a feeble threshold – years of neglect) at last night’s RoSPA awards dinner had nothing to do with it. I didn’t win anything (I think you at least have to enter the competition to do that).

There’s a whole argument surrounding whether such awards make any difference (especially when large multi-site companies can both win a safety award and be facing a prosecution). But I have no particularly strong view on that. I’m sure they do make a difference to some, but like any incentive, some may do it for the wrong reasons. But that doesn’t detract from those who do it for the right reasons. But it must still be nice to get an award – the last I can remember was my cycling proficiency badge. But I was just grateful to be there – our table was rather jolly after a couple of glasses of wine each. Yes, safety people do enjoy themselves – but, come to think of it, probably only with other safety people.

During the expo itself, alongside talks on well-ness (isn’t that about digging holes?), I, along with others, subsisted on a diet of quality street, miniature heroes and coffee. Yes, the irony wasn’t lost on me and I took comfort in that knowledge. Yes, I lost sleep over it (well, the caffeine you know). Starbucks, that bastion of civilisation, was under siege and even the humus salad was sold out (we all know it’s made from dead people or something like that – probably extracted from just under a festering toenail). At the very least it is on the same axis of evil as wasabi paste.
In an environment where some things are given away free and some things are just lying around as samples (but not intended to be taken), I suppose it is not always easy to tell the difference (I am being charitable). Just like the politics of MPs expenses you are then left with the reality that if it isn’t screwed down, some well-meaning soul will assume it’s a free gift (given enough time, anything can yield to the strategy that is plausible denial). This goes for plasma screens too.

Bizarrely, I thought I was at the motorcycle show at one point. At that event, it is not unusual for ladies in leotards (or whatever they are called – well, this at least gets a little alliteration) and sashes to walk by. Instead we had a few in what seemed like football strip. Nice touch.

On the other hand, I engaged in a more erudite conversation with one visitor discussing the merits of Hieronymus Bosch’s (1450-1516) surrealist art. Curiously, this was not with someone in a leotard or football strip. I must admit I like HB’s art (reminds me of Salvador Daly – though he was much later). You don’t have to be a sadist to enjoy the show though. The inventive tortures of the inquisition (many of which are depicted in HB’s art) are a mirror into the world of safety accidents, though you have to squint a little. I’m sure at least some of the tortures originated from bizarre near misses, a keen mind and too little to do – many of the same ingredients operating in accidents today and also in taxation. You only have to look at the variety of ‘accidents in the home’ that get recorded to any hospital A&E to realise what people get up to.

To add to the strangeness, my youngest son has named a blister on his toe after one of his teachers. I think this might be to help focus the pain but I am not sure. I’m not sure that naming blisters after people is entirely healthy but I do know that it amuses me greatly. I think there is a lesson in there somewhere but I haven’t figured it out yet.