Wednesday, 17 February 2010

For whom the bell tolls

According to several sources the traditional pancake day race originated after a woman in Olney, Buckinghamshire forgot the time and upon hearing the shriving bell dashed out of her house, still wearing her apron and carrying her frying pan. This was back in 1445 and ever since then this particular village hosts one of the most famous pancake races in this country.

Pancake races are held annually throughout the UK, and there are celebrations of various different degrees throughout the world, for this particular notable date in the religious calendar.

It seems though that 2010 could be ringing the funereal toll of the church bells as well as the shriving bell. It appears that yesterday St. Albans City Council Health & Safety deemed it too dangerous to run the annual race and contestants would have to walk it instead. If anyone ran, their team would be disqualified – as indeed some were as they had missed the announcement of the ‘new rule’. Why? Because it had rained. So you cannot run after it has rained now. Does this mean for Health & Safety reasons you can no longer run for the bus if it has been raining? Does this mean you can no longer train for the 400 metres if it has been raining? What a load of bureaucratic poppycock.

One of the contestants in St. Albans summed it up perfectly: Hertfordshire NHS Community Partnership team captain David Emery, 34, whose team was disqualified in the final, said: "This is health and safety gone mad. I have been disqualified from a running race for running."

Are all this country’s traditions that have spanned for centuries going to be gradually faded out due to Health & Safety? Are the fun traditions of our past going to fade into history and be replaced by virtual games of them to be played in the safety of our own homes instead? Are children of the future going to think that the pancake race, for example, was first run by Mario and a few furry weird squeaky creatures?

One does wonder also, whether the annual Parliamentary pancake race contested by parliamentarians and journalists at Westminster – which was held last week - would have been under the same rules if it had rained. But then I suppose they would have cancelled it on their own volition – they wouldn’t want to get their expensive suits grubby now would they?

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