‘Hacked off!’


by Peter Thompson

Having been stuck in the house for ever by the snow – it seems, unable to golf and forced to do the list of jobs around the house my wife has wanted me to attend to for months (and I have successfully avoided) it was with a sense of relief that I took a phone call this ‘a.m.’ asking me if I wanted to go curling tomorrow night. Yes, I said with a gladdening heart and a sudden surge of excitement.

I know curling, a fairly sedentary sport with brushes and big lumps of granite, is not something most folk would get a lift to their heart rate from but it is the sense of freedom that tomorrow night now offers that is exciting. Even better I am now also playing on Friday in a competition at Lockerbie – it never rains but it pours (to keep with the weather metaphor).

Last year us curlers were looking forward to a once in a life time event – the Grand Bonspeil on the Lake of Monteith – working how we could get there from the SW (train to Stirling seemed the best option and hire a local minibus) when those agents of doom and gloom, the Health and Safety spokesmen, persuaded the local police that it would be ‘too dangerous’ to actually allow folk to enjoy themselves for a change, do something truly historic -prove the Health and Safety wonks for the bunch of asinine Grannies many are – and a truly definitive event for this generation of curlers.

The risk assessments said that people would slip on the ice, some might get hurt and that would never do in this blame ‘a’body but me’ world. Now here’s something; folk ‘slip’ on the ice every time they send a stone down, it is part of the skill of delivering the stone from the hack, and that is why we need ice to be ‘slippy’.

We also need the ice to be ‘slippy’ or the ruddy great lump of granite we have sent on its way will just grind to a halt, in fact we use our brushes to make the ice even ‘slippier’ to control the pace, handle and swing on the stone. ‘Slippiness’, that dangerous Health and Safety risk, is exactly what we curlers want and seek from ice yet that very freedom was denied us on the Lake of Monteith by those who claim to know: ‘What is best for us!’.

The problem with ‘assessing risk’ is most folk do not understand it is just like betting on the horses, dogs, cockroaches or what ever your vice to throw hard earned cash at, is. If the odds are 1000 to 1 against it does not mean that after 999 times it will happen but that statistical evidence says the risk is 0.001% that the adverse event will happen.

As an ex-medical person (I got all better) I used to have to deal with patients who had read that the chance of them getting say the ‘runs’ from a public toilet seat was 100,000 to 1 (a risk of 0.00001%) and the ‘Daily Retard’ said this was appalling, the SNP were to blame and could I give them antibiotics because they had used the local car park loo that day.

Now the risk of antibiotics giving you the runs, just because they antibiotics, are around 10% – the punters amongst you will realise that this is an odds on bet you will get the runs – so you can understand why I would tell this patient to take a hike, a very expensive private prescription common sense pill and get a life.

The problem with ‘freedom’ is it is a very risky business, things will go wrong, folk will get hurt and it will not turn out as you dreamed it should and that is a dead cert, large odds on, bet but the alternative is the bland, boring ‘its everyone else’s fault but me’ world that was highlighted in the stupid ‘stooshy’ about the ‘Snow that was not supposed to fall on the Central Belt but did’ affair.

Bland and boring is where Scotland, as a nation, currently is. We run in fear of the ‘Health and Safety spokesmen’ at Westminster, in our media and the quislings that inhabit the shells of the Scottish Unionist parties (surely an oxymoron) at Holyrood. We run scared of taking our lives back under our own control. We exert a lot of effort touching our fore lock to Westminster in case they stop our pocket money. We know of rank corruption amongst our political ‘elites’ but shrug our shoulders, mutter ‘Whit can we dae, it aw ways been like it. Ye’ll na shift them. It’s who ye ken, na whit ye knaw.’ and turn ourselves more and more into ‘Elmer Fudd’ clones every day.

If the thought of a nation of 6.8 million ‘Elmer Fudds’ does not scare the pants off you and you still do not want something better for Scotland then there is no hope, the Health and Safety wonks have won and like the people on the planet ‘Miranda’ (in the Sci-Fi movie ‘Serenity’) we may as well just lay down and die – but not until after Friday’s curling match, pretty please?