Minor British Institutions: The hanging basket

Few institutions featured here are such sensitive social indicators as the hanging basket.

Perennially the mark of the house-proud with spare income and placid pastimes, its sway also gives reassurance to the nervous about the neighbourhood (although a woman in Norfolk was recently given a conditional discharge for assaulting her former husband with one).

Municipally, the HB is a key hard-times detection tool: the first cuts are floral (watch out for the ultimate HB sin: false flowers, much cheaper, no watering).

Then there's the unrelenting threat from a Major British Institution, Health & Safety; recently, they were taken down in Bury St Edmunds in case the downdraft from the helicopter of the visiting Prince of Wales "turned them into missiles".

I can also tell you that in Somerset, the minimum hanging height (2.1 metres) is based on the size of the average policeman, in helmet, running.

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