Can you resist the poisoned apple of bureaucracy?

This will tell you the basic laws governing the tricky process of throwing apples away
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The Independent Culture
EVERY DAY I get press releases and government leaflets and publicity blurbs landing on my desk and every day I let them drift gently into my waste paper basket like sodden autumn leaves, but yesterday was an exception; my eye was caught by a most unusual government hand-out. This turned out to be such an extraordinary document that I have not only kept it, I have decided to print it in full today, in order to give you some idea of the way this government really is looking after us properly...

Windfall Apples - All You

Need To Know

A Message from New Labour

Hello! This is autumn, the time when we go blackberrying and mushroom picking, and when we traditionally put our excess apples in baskets outside our houses, marked "Windfalls - Please Take!".

It's a nice custom.

For a start, it's not cruel like fox-hunting. And it shows a touch of generosity perhaps needed in this modern world.

But before you put your windfall apples out to be taken, it's as well that you are acquainted with the law concerning such fruit.

Did you know, for instance, that it is illegal to put out windfall apples in baskets on public property and that it should be restricted to your own land?

Did you know that it is illegal to accept any money in return for your windfalls unless the figures are included on your tax returns and you are duly registered as a "licensed fruit-seller"? (Why not send up for our booklet, How to Register as a Bona Fide Greengrocer?) Do you know that it is illegal to give away windfall apples even on your own property unless you are registered as a charity?

(Why not send up for our booklet, Tip-toeing Your Way Through The Minefield We Call Charity...?)

Either way, you ought to know the pitfalls of the health and safety regulations governing the transfer of fruit from private ownership to the public domain.

For instance, if someone falls ill after eating one of your windfall apples and can prove it was your liability, did you know that you can be prosecuted under the Fruit Insurance Act? With liabilities of up to pounds 50,000? Did you know that any windfall apple charity area (and this means your front gate ) should be provided with adequate toilet and hand-washing facilities? Did you know that your windfall apple charity area should be provided with adequate disabled access facilities? (You can always send up for our leaflet, Windfall Apples and Adequate Parking: The Facts)

All that is fairly simple and straightforward. But remember, too, that the apples you give away must be on the list of approved fruit circulated by the European Union, and that it is a crime to give away species not recognised by Brussels.

The shape and dimension of the apples must be within the prescribed limits laid down by Brussels. (It might be of some assistance if you sent up for our companion volume, Towards a European Apple: Some Notes)

This means that the measurements of each apple should be logged and the shapes sketched on the appropriate forms.

It also means that all apples must be carefully wiped and washed, labelled and described.

Do not forget, too, that we have to be very careful about the basket in which your apples are displayed.

Is it made in the European Union? From approved ingredients? Has it been checked for contagious diseases recently?

(To be on the safe side, why not send up for our compendious booklet, The Top Hundred Contagious Diseases Approved of by the European Union? )

Is there adequate protection for your apples from the rain?

And from passing insect life?

Do you know how you stand legally if a passing walker should reach out for one of your apples and be stung by a bee sitting on it, then die horribly? Did you know that grubs and insects in apples are, technically, livestock and should be looked after as such?

Perhaps you ought to send up for our helpful leaflet, Blimey, If I'd Known It was Going to Be This Kind of Bureaucratic Nightmare, I'd Have Thrown The Bloody Apples Away In The First Place!

This will tell you the basic laws governing the tricky process of throwing apples away.

But please never forget one thing. We are here to help and to make things easier for you.

Thank you.

CORRECTION: Yesterday I wrote `Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the great cultural herpes of our time'. This should, of course, have read: ` of the great cultural heroes of our time'. Sorry.