Alexei Sayle: Health and safety? don't get me started...

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Indy Lifestyle Online

There are two orthodoxies that dominate our modern society. The first is the almost religious belief that recycling can save us from further environmental catastrophe. I had been hoping to take advantage of this by converting my sandwich bar into a restaurant called Leftovers.

At Leftovers, we were planning to specialise in serving the food left on the plates by people dining at top restaurants such as Petrus, Le Caprice or Aubergine. After all, people are happy to take uneaten food home to be consumed the next day – so why, if they don't want it, shouldn't it be passed on to other people?

Thus a slightly nibbled crab, langoustine and brown shrimp avocado purée, extra virgin olive oil and smoked paprika crouton from Petrus might cost, say, £2 at Leftovers. Or a half-eaten honey roasted breast of duck from Le Caprice could go for £1.50. It would be fine dining at café prices, and who could argue with the recycling ethos?

Unfortunately, we've fallen foul of that other modern orthodoxy, which is health and safety. I don't think there's anything wrong in eating other people's food off their plates – I do it all the time – but apparently it's not considered to be "safe" or "healthy". To my mind, this is just political correctness gone mad!

I guess this is the world we live in now. Another health and safety thing that has arisen in the time since I did my last major TV series 10 years ago is the rise of the high-visibility jacket. I have been working on a new documentary series and time after time I've been forced to don an ugly fluorescent tabard, supposedly to keep me free from harm when I'm filming on a building site or in some other dangerous environment.

According to BBC guidelines, if we're in the street the crew are supposed to wear these things – presumably so they won't be run over. There is even a proposal that if you are filming a costume drama the cast and crew should also wear this safety gear: so, in future, Catherine Earnshaw would have to wear a hard hat and high-vis jacket when she's wandering around Wuthering Heights.

One ridiculous occasion occurred when we were filming the Orange Lodge, who were marching through the centre of Liverpool. The men leading the march were forced to wear orange jackets even though there was no traffic – and anyway their regalia was much brighter than the jackets.

Another aspect of this push to wear lurid fluorescent doublets that I find depressing is that truck drivers are now forced to wear them all the time. This completely constrains their fashionable instincts. If a cement-mixer driver wants to wear Pierre Cardin, there's no point now that the whole outfit would be ruined by the horrible safety jacket.

I also wonder whether, once everybody is wearing vibrant colours to make them more noticeable, the effect will quickly wear off and we'll have to ramp up the visibility level until every truck driver and building worker is kitted out in flashing lights, light-up signs and bleeping alarms to try to ensure that they won't get run over.

More than this, though; another feature of our modern world is that, despite all the efforts to make us safer, according to a lot of research we are less happy than in earlier times. I wonder whether it is, to some extent, this health and safety that is making us unhappy. After all, aren't those people with obsessive compulsive disorders simply trying to make themselves safe? All the rituals, the obsessive counting and the repeated hand-washing, are attempts to protect themselves from danger. Recovery is only achieved when they realise they have to accept that the world is a dangerous and unjust place, and that you can never completely protect yourself from it. You can't even ensure that a column in a car supplement had stuff about cars in it, never mind achieving perfect safety!

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