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April 2011
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An Inspector calls
By Leslie Robins

The other day, when I was busy sticking pins into an effigy of Philip Hammond, there was a knock at the front door. I ignored it at first, because it sounded like a double-glazing salesman’s knock, but when it persisted I took a peep through the curtains. Youngish chap, long hair, ear studs, anorak and scruffy jeans. Could be a Jehovah’s Witness, I suppose, although they usually hunt in pairs.

I opened the door.
“Good morning, Sir! Your health and safety –”

“How jolly nice of you to enquire. Well yes, I’m pretty healthy I’m glad to say, and (with a quick glance at the burglar alarm) on the whole I feel pretty safe.”

“No, no, Sir, I was just introducing myself as your Health and Safety Inspector, Jed Arkwright.”

“Oh I see. And is your name really Jed? It is? Well you know best, I suppose. Anyway, what can I do for you, Jed?”

“I’m afraid we’ve had a complaint Sir.”

“Who from?”

“A Mr Hargreaves, Sir.”

“I might have guessed it. Charlie Hargreaves, the Complainer-in-Chief of the village. What’s he on about now?”

“It’s your front door step, Sir. It exceeds the regulation height.”

“What regulation height is that?”

“It’s all set out in EC Health & Safety Directive No 4869 of 1996. The threshold of any dwelling accessible to and frequented by the general public is not to exceed 9.72cm in height. I’ve measured yours and it’s 9.8cm high, at both ends.”

“Yes, I daresay it is, but look at the bit in the middle that gets all the tread – it’s a good centimetre lower there, I bet.”

“That’s as may be Sir, but nominally your doorstep is 9.8cm high. That’s how high it was when it was built.”

“Now look Jed, I grant you that some uneducated Elizabethan stone mason was a bit lax in not complying with EC Directive No 4869 of 1996, but since then some thousands of visitors have rectified the error, so it’s all right now. If I have to I shall argue the point right up to the European Court of Human Rights, where I shall certainly win, because everybody does.”
This didn’t seem to please Jed at all and he set off grim-faced down the garden path. But at the gate he missed his footing on the step, which is only 4.8cm high, and went sprawling in the mud.

Well satisfied, I returned to the house to stick pins into an effigy of Charlie Hargreaves.

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