That's a relief - it's safe to use my tea cosy

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The Independent Culture
A COUPLE of summers ago we went on a Wordsworthian expedition to Kylesku in Sutherland, to see Britain's highest waterfall. Returning to our hotel elated and pleasantly full of the intimations of immortality, we repaired, as they say, to the dining-room and ordered two plates of langoustines and a bottle of white wine. The wine was warm. Was there any chance, we wondered, of putting it in an ice bucket for 10 minutes? No, said the head waiter, it was too dangerous. There had been several incidents involving ice buckets that season.

I was about to ask what sort of incidents an ice bucket might provoke but was stopped, mid-sentence, by the sudden, terrifying arrival of the prawns, hanging drunkenly from a pair of 2ft-tall iron scaffolds. A sketch would be useful here, but if you've ever played hangman you will get the picture except that instead of a rope there was a cruel iron hook. Suspended from this hook was an even crueller metal skewer some 18in long on to which the live langoustines had been threaded, we were told, before being dunked in boiling water and then transferred to the gibbet. Rigor mortis had frozen their desperate death agonies into fantastic patterns of intertwined pincers and claws. It was the sort of dish Vlad the Impaler would have relished if he had been into shellfish.

Mistaking our stupefied silence for spellbound wonder - you know how theatre audiences gasp when the curtains part on the set of Sunset Boulevard - the head waiter said, yes, they were ingenious, weren't they? He had got the idea after working in his brother's fish bar in Mombasa where the speciality of the house was barbecued marlin served on sizzling skewers. Stifling the scream that had been rising in my gorge ever since this grim tableau of violent death had been set before me, I asked weakly whether my skewer were sizzling. Certainly, he said, but I was not to worry. The waitress would assist me. She had special tools. And indeed she had, using them as deftly as a blacksmith handling molten metal in his forge.

I tell you all this only because the latest Home Accident and Leisure Accident Surveillance Report issued by the Department of Trade and Industry nowhere mentions either ice buckets or prawn scaffolds in its litany of potential hazards. Last year, according to the report, trousers, carelessly or too hastily pulled up, accounted for 4,400 accidents. If this surprises you, consider the hidden perils of hosiery. Apparently socks and tights caused 6,585 accidents over the same period.

Dressing-gowns are comparatively safe - only 690 people reported serious injury from dressing-gown-related encounters, whereas pyjamas forced 770 victims to seek urgent medical assistance.

In the kitchen and catering sections the report listed 680 cake- and scone-related hospital cases, 550 ice-cream incidents and 635 mixed vegetable injuries, caused either by choking or by careless insertion into various parts of the body.

Reluctant as I am to recommend the Home Accident and Leisure Accident Surveillance Report to people of a nervous disposition - the damage wrought to life and limb by chamber pots, toothbrushes and cotton buds is truly awesome - there are one or two encouraging conclusions to be drawn from this weighty compilation of domestic hazards. Tea cosies are safe. There were only two confirmed cases of personal injury relating directly to tea cosies, neither of them fatal or even necessitating an overnight stay in hospital. That's a relief. I bought an attractive two-tone lilac-and- lavender hand-knitted tea cosy at the Moorfields Hospital Christmas fair last year and have been using it regularly ever since. It certainly doesn't look dangerous - no sharp edges, no lead paint. If in a sudden fit of depression one morning I attempted to pull it over my head to suffocate myself, the small hole for the spout and the somewhat larger hole for the handle would prevent total asphyxiation until help arrived, in the shape of my husband emerging from the bathroom. That is assuming that he has not inadvertently topped himself with his toothbrush, of course.

An elegant friend who prides himself on sophisticated home entertaining bought an Echo Hostess the other day, one of those fancy trolleys that keep food and plates warm. This way, he told me, he could enjoy a cocktail with guests without worrying whether his daube is getting cold. He worries about things like that. Sometimes he worries himself into a state of such suicidal depression that I worry that I'll go round one afternoon and find him with his head in the oven. "Don't be so silly, of course I wouldn't. I'd put it in my Echo Hostess," he said. Nothing, you see, is 100 per cent safe.

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