Wednesday, January 07, 2009

To Grit Or Not To Grit?

Back in the good old days when men wore cloth caps, drank real ale by the cartload and went to bed in hobnailed slippers icy roads and footpaths were rarely the source of major moral dilemmas. They were certainly not problematic enough to put you off your woodbines.

I mean the solution is simple, in’t it? Yer just sling a bit o’grit or salt down and tell people to walk proper careful like... It’s bloody winter what do you expect?

And should passersby still go arse over tit in the slippy conditions well... it’s only a laugh in’t it? That’s just the way life is. And if you end up in th’ospital wi’ a broken ankle or two we’ll drink ter yer good ‘ealth in pub later... no ‘arm done, like.

All sounds very sensible and civilized to me.

But alas, the good old days are no more and instead we find ourselves mired neck-deep in the modern age of political correctness and litigious opportunism.

You see gritting the pathways these days is a can of worms or a hot potato that few are brave enough to handle and in dear old Leam (from which I hail) such moral dilemmas cause many a frilly knicker to be entwisted.

In the modern age it seems one (and by one I mean an individual or a corporation) can be successfully sued if one decides to grit an icy pavement but a passer-by still falls over upon it and splinters a rib or three on a frozen dog poo... whereas if you do nothing at all and they fall headlong into a storm drain and break their neck they can’t touch you for a single penny. You are not responsible.

Crazy but true.

And I have it on good authority that this bizarre state of affairs is just as applicable to home gritting / salting. If you grit your pathway and your friendly neighbourhood postman cracks open his knackers in a spectacular pratfall that sees a recorded delivery parcel inserted somewhere tight and moist he can sue your ass to kingdom come. But if you leave the pathway as nature intended and he still anally ingests your brown paper wrapped package from Holland well it’s just tough titty cos he can’t touch you for a rusty farthing.

As true as I’m sitting here at the foot of our stairs.

Now, am I the only person in this country to think that such a selfish, mealy mouthed, spiritually impoverished outlook is a national disgrace? Indeed, is it a national disgrace or is such jobsworthy (mis)conduct just a local (in)delicacy confined to the ice-covered streets of Leamington Spa?

Surely as a nation we are better than this? Surely to do something is always better than doing nothing? Don’t we have a responsibility to each other as well as to ourselves? Isn’t there such a thing as a communal duty of care?

Do we really want to see Mrs Scoggins from number 73 cracking her spine in half performing an ice skating move worthy of Torvill and Dean in their heyday as she takes a walk to the local post office to buy a second class stamp?

Ladies and gentlemen, your thoughts please.

14 comments:

Daisy said...

steve...i think this type of thing has been going on a while...people suing when being helped in accidents for other damages done to them...we are getting a world of people who are afraid to help their fellow man/woman because of fear of financial retribution...how sad is that...is this what was intended years ago when legal systems were set?
what really bothers me is a good majority of people doing such things still consider themselves "good christians (jews...whatever the religion) yet they go against all of the tenets of that said religion...i'm not sure where it all ends either...i think it will take a judge to make a ruling that this is bollocks and we need to stop but that is not popular...so i'm not holding my breath...

Steve said...

Daisy, you're on the button as always and it is indeed deeply sad to be living in a world where people tie themselves up in knots trying to do the right thing as opposed to the good thing...

Reluctant Blogger said...

I had no idea about this. Not that I ever bother to grit my path - my boys get a lot of fun from sliding up and down it. In Germany it was a legal requirement to ensure the path around your house was clear - leaves, ice, snow whatever, so my poor father would be out there shovelling like crazy just to be sure not to get fined.

But yes, Daisy is right. People are too scared to help these days - well, if they stop and think then they don't help.

Oh and Happy New Year. Bit late I know!

Steve said...

Gina, it's bizarre that you mention the German thing as somebody quoted the very same to me yesterday... on the face of it I guess it's better than the UK reaction (at least something gets done) but I'm not sure I hold with being so harsh as to fine people for not clearing their paths...! The moral dilemma continues!

And, by the way, a very, very happy New Year to you too!

EmmaK said...

I do grit my path if it's icy because otherwise the mailman refuses to deliver my mail and I need my daily dose of mail spam!

Steve said...

Emma, I was going to make a joke about getting a daily dose of mail spam but it's much too cold here for that kind of thing...

Brother Tobias said...

As someone with professional insight into the 'elfnsafety' issue, you've confirmed what I believed, but hoped was an urban myth. I do clear our steps and paths, just to save our own necks. I've always hoped that if I wasn't actually proveably negligent it would be okay. (Incidentally, after nearly killing a tree in the yard by putting salt down, I now buy urea granules. How attractive is that? Although I seem to remember being made to taste it in first year chemistry, so perhaps it's not made in the obvious way?)

Steve said...

You know Brother T, you've given me a fabulous idea for clearing the front path in icy weather... I may even get a sign made up especially: "Please walk carefully on the yellow snow"... I wonder if I could even write my own name?

The Sagittarian said...

In some parts of Christchurch when it snows and is icy the mail just doesn't get delivered. We also have a world class accident compensation system (so we're told) in which for us giving away the right to sue there is a no-fault scheme for accidents/injury (home and workplace) and workplace illnesses - basically the theory is that everyone gets free medical care (altho' we now have "surcharges" to cover the extra bits that it now seems to cost which the Govmint funding doesn't quite stretch to, and if you're an earner you get 80% of your pre-injury earnings while you're unable to work - not quite sure what is no-blame about penalising someone 20% of their income)...anyway, luckily we can email and save everyone the bother of going out in incleamant weather!

Steve said...

Interesting points, Amanda, if only one could receive enticing packages from Holland via email too the problem on the home front would be solved...! ;-)

Sweet Cheeks said...

I think if a sign is posted, it relieves us of our responisbility. Beware of dog, Rabid children at play etc.
It may be ideal to post a sign...You WILL Fall On Your Arse If You Walk Here! Then only illiterate folks could say they didn't know, unless you included a second sign with stick people pictures on it - then you should be covered...yes?

Steve said...

Sweet Cheeks, a sign is a great idea. I'd love to design a sign that features stick men with snapped limbs... worryigly it's been my lifelong ambition to design such a thing. I need to get out more. But not on icy paths obviously.

meva said...

If I salted a footpath, road, byway, highway, court, circle, street, square, freeway, or any thoroughfare frequented by an occupant of the shires of Erinsborough or Summer Bay...

I'd just attract a seagull or two.

You Britons are weird.

Steve said...

Meva, if you never have to salt or grit your path you Australians are lucky. Although you're seriously missing out on a good snowball fight.