Look At It This Way - February 13, 2015

Produce manager Malcolm Downes with onions at King Cross Tesco.
Produce manager Malcolm Downes with onions at King Cross Tesco.
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Friday the 13th folks. And if you thought it was a jungle out there try visiting a supermarket.

Have a care around the fruit and vegetable displays today, paraskevidekatriaphobics.

Every now and then a story comes along which leaves you slack jawed in “whaaat??” mode.

I double checked for April 1 references on reading that public health chiefs wanted daffodil bulbs (and cut flowers) moved away from near fruit and veg displays for fear some might confuse daffodil bulbs with onions.

Britain’s a melting pot but surely shoppers would have a light bulb moment upon slicing into a bulb and thinking that doesn’t chop, look or smell like an onion – before they shoved it in the stew?

Or are they too busy screwing 60 watt pearl light bulbs into a plant container in the back garden in the hope of growing – daffodils?

“Well, it said bulb on the box. Then it broke and cut my hand. I think health and safety should ban ‘em.”

We live in a litigious age and there’s no legislating against stupidity. Well, actually there is. Some US states propose laws to ban texting while walking. It’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut – like the latest daffy proposal.

I checked the date when I read the story because my mum fell for an April Fool spoof years ago which involved sticking daffodil bulbs in the middle of beetroot – in raw beet form rather than soused in vinegar - in order to get a … red daffodil.

I hadn’t twigged that mum had jotted this daffy little garden tip down from April 1 so spent a morning hacking into beetroot, painstakingly placing the bulb within and then planting the whole thing.

The beet went on... but our front garden remained bare through Spring because the daffodils never emerged – bar one little toughie which must have taken that beetroot on and struggled forth towards the sun. Call it yellow at your peril. That daffodil was no coward. Have you seen the size of beetroot? Imagine feeling the first warming rays of sunshine on your soil bed and realising you’re clasped in the firm embrace of an ugly root vegetable. Take it from me, mon petit chou, that I’ve woken to mornings like that in France.

So what’s prompted this rant? Public Health England has warned daffodils could be mistaken for onions or Chinese vegetables and urged supermarkets to “avoid daffodil poisonings this spring” by ensuring daffodils, in bulb and flowering form, are kept well away from produce, fruit and veg displays.

For those of narcissistic tendencies – on their dinner plate – there’s a risk of severe vomiting caused by the toxic alkaloids in daffodil or narcissi.

This must be happening on an epic scale, surely, to justify such a reaction?

Actually, no. There were 27 cases of poisoning linked to daffodils and narcissi last year. On a sliding scale of public health priorities I’d place that well below the deaths of 20 trades people a week as a result of asbestos-related illness – and marginally above the risk of me dying of shock upon seeing a red daffodil finally growing in my front garden. (You can get a very nice Narcissus ‘Decoy Red’ from Thompson and Morgan. Just don’t cook it.)

Onions and daffodils have yet to make it to the table of the The Health and Safety Executive, a regulator so maligned for ‘elf and safety nonsense it now has a Myth Busters Challenge Panel to refute crazier allegations – half of which arise from over protective measures in shops, cafes and leisure centres.

The panel’s already debunked claims that kids must wear goggles to play conkers, candy floss must be sold in bags to prevent people choking on sticks, trapeze artists have been ordered to wear hard hats – and hanging baskets have been banned to prevent head bumps.

This year marks the HSE’s 40th anniversary and it’s calling for a halt to the “lazy and unhelpful” culture of “blaming anything and everything on non-existent health and safety rules.”

I reckon they know their onions. That’s shallot…

Why I’m daffy about Dippy the dinosaur

Call me a dinosaur – and many have – but you can’t have a whale of a time without Dippy in pride of place at the Natural History Museum.

I’m daffy about Dippy, the dinosaur’s skeleton in the central hall, even if it isn’t the real thing but a cast replica of Diplodocus.

It’s anything but diplomatic to replace Dippy with a Blue Whale skeleton diving into the depths of what’s to become known as the Hintze Hall.

A £5m donation is not to be taken lightly but there’s a heavy hint for the new look Hintze Hall in the dismay sparked by Dippy’s dismembering for pastures new.

The blue whale is awesome but as iconic as Carnegie’s donated-dinosaur? I doubt it.

It was the first truly jaw dropping exhibit on display that visitors saw since moving to the central hall in the 1970s.

Dippy arrived in bits back in May, 1905, cast from the bones of a fossil skeleton.

He’s 110 in May. He lived in the basement during the Blitz to avoid the bombing.

Kids love the bones of him, grown ups adore him. Nothing is likely to displace dinosaurs in a child’s imagination.

Dippy made paleontology fun. He’s a tar.

Remember Night at the Museum, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing? He’s in the latest Paddington movie. And the advert about the power of TV advertising as Harvey the dog dumps his bunny squeeze in favour of romance with a French fifi – and presents her with the ultimate takeout, a bone from Dippy.

Is it any wonder the move is proving such a bone of contention… 356 bones of contention, to be precise?