Watch out for the paint, dear...

The world must be a dangerous place when paint pots are considered a clear and present danger...

It has been one of those weeks when I have been spoilt for choice of news stories that evoke a Victor Meldrew-ish: 'I don't believe it!'

Top of the pile, though, is the story of the man who was turned away by a bus driver because he was carrying a tin of paint.

Retired painter and decorator Brian Heale was doing an errand for a friend when he was told by a bus driver that carrying a pot of paint onto the bus was against regulations.

A Cardiff Bus spokesman said the safety of passengers was a number one priority, explaining that "volatile products [need] to be properly packaged and bagged" before being brought onto one of their vehicles.


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Presumably, there was a risk that other passengers would be overcome with emulsion . . . In an ironic twist to the story, Mr Heale is a 'decorated' WW2 veteran.

But East Anglians don't have to go as far as Wales to find examples of Health and Safety rules gone mad.

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At Easter, Devil's Ditch near Newmarket was apparently closed to the public because exposed tree roots constituted a 'trip hazard'.

A man who wrote to the local paper to complain about the closure of a national monument over the Bank Holiday weekend, pointed out that: 'Looking where you're going seems a prerequisite of going for a walk [in the country]. There are an awful lot of things to bump into out there.'

Nature, green in root and branch, seems to be regarded as an imminent threat by many local authorities, with trees a particular target for pre-emptive strikes.

Where I live, there has been a shock and awe attack on municipal greenery going on for several months.

Trees have been pollarded until they look like misshapen telegraph poles.

Hedgerows have been hacked down to half their height - or in one case, grubbed up completely and replaced with a wooden fence. Flourishing ivy has been stripped from ancient flint walls.

Blank expanses of empty sky have replaced the sheltering foliage that comforted humans, birds and small animals alike.

Even the dead are under threat of being regulated. Cemeteries have been visited by officials trying to find out if gravestones can be pushed over, using sufficient force.

In the St Edmundsbury district, an estimated £700,000 graveyard repair bill has been run up on gravestones which failed the test.

Of course it is the living - the grieving relatives - who will have to foot the bill.

Apparently, over a five year period three people have been killed and 18 injured by falling gravestones.

Every death is a tragedy, but fewer than one a year represents very small risk in a country with a population of around 60 million where thousands of people are killed in road accidents every year.

We can't guard against every risk and, in many ways, it is more useful to teach people to avoid danger than to try and sanitise every aspect of daily living.

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