Belfast Telegraph

When common sense becomes a suspicious quality

By Billy Simpson

There is a great deal of lip service paid to initiative, but it is something the State appears to be doing its best to eliminate.

Initiative smacks of common sense, and common sense is a highly suspect quality to have in these politically correct times.

There is an initiative-killing mindset that seems to be paralysing us.

The kind of mindset that allowed two members of a semi-civilian police unit in England to stand by rather than jump into a pool to save a drowning child.

Putting rules above common sense and common humanity.

It was the good fortune of my generation to grow up in an era where common sense was not regarded as an aberration.

If you kept broadly within the Ten Commandments you could usually stay out of trouble.

Today nobody knows or can comprehend the millions of rules that govern our every move. Most of them designed to kill anything resembling initiative in case it turns out to be infectious.

A while ago, supermarket staff in West Kirby, near Liverpool, refused to sell two bottles of cabernet sauvignon to a 72-year-old man who refused to confirm that he was over 21. Company rules required the customer to confirm he was an adult and the employees were not permitted to believe the evidence of their own eyes. Admittedly the old guy could have gone along with this nonsense, but some days old guys get more nonsense thrown at them than they can take.

In Minehead, Somerset, a gentleman called Richard Ferris was 'caught' brushing up litter outside his guest house.

An official of Somerset County Council tersely informed him: "It is illegal to sweep the street if you are not qualified."

Sweeping the pavement in the front of your shop used to be a morning ritual for small businessmen. A matter of pride.

A dangerous act, we now understand.

My first job as an apprentice on a building site was to sweep out houses after the carpenters and plasters had left and prepare them for the housepainters who were the next crew in.

My training involved being thrown a broom and told "Brush out those houses ".

Looking back, I can see that I should have demanded a training course on which end of a broom to hold. Maybe even a seminar?

Today it appears to require a university degree.

Probably in media studies.


A little Titanic titbit I hadn't heard before. Apparently, as soon as the news of the liner's sinking reached the White Star Line, the ship's owners stopped the wages of the crew.

A piece of financial prudence on a par with the decision that all those expensive lifeboats weren't really necessary on a big boat like the Titanic (above).

Sad but truism

"The really frightening thing about middle age is the knowledge that you'll grow out of it." Doris Day

Men of conviction

Anyone who has been following the murder trial in California of the billionaire music mogul, Phil Spector, will not be laying any bets on a conviction.

Convicting wealthy celebrities in California is like getting a conviction against a British Prime Minister for selling Honours.

Controversial idea?

Why not kill two controversies with one blarney stone?

Since they can't get agreement on the building of a national sports stadium outside Belfast, why not forget the stadium and build the Causeway centre at the Maze? (See how many property developers offer to build us a free one there?)

Within the municipal boundaries of the City of Lisburn, it will not be getting in the way of anybody's view of the ocean.

The silent one

The report that fellow mime artistes have held a silent vigil for the late Marcel Marceau, might have appeared as a little bit of black humour.

But with the French, you're never sure.

Belfast Telegraph


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