Monday, November 10, 2003

The secret government of Britain .…

Conspiracy theorists need to stop ranting on about the Royal Family’s alliances with demonic sects or alien invaders; or plain nutty ideas that the government of Britain is run from a couple of gentlemen’s clubs in the Strand by men last seen in public in 1923 at a small café off Threadneedle Street dining with Prussian aristocrats later associated with the collapse of the Weimar Republic – a moment captured in a rare photograph hanging in a disused cupboard in a boarded up room behind the Marchioness of Salisbury’s Wiltshire estates’ third bedroom’s ensuite.

The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is far more prosaic.

England is run by the Fire Department.

Every door in this country, down to the cupboard under our staircase that houses the fuse box, bears a neat blue circle on a white background with the legend “Fire Door Keep Closed”.

Taken literally, I would have trouble leaving my house. It would almost certainly involve shimmying down the drainpipe.

But this insidious influence reaches much further. For example, patrons at the Globe Theatre in London – even £5 groundlings – are prohibited from sitting in the aisles.

“Sorry, they’d close us down. Fire regulations.”

And the funny spikes, piercing the Globe’s thatched roof, are they part of the authentic reconstruction?

“Ah, no. Those are fire extinguishers. Only way we were allowed to have the thatch. That type of thatching was banned after The Fire.”

Which fire?


Oh. That fire.

“But it’s OK, they passed special rules to let us have thatch in the original style, so long as we put the sprinklers in.”

It’s also the same at any Cambridge venue:

“Sorry, sir. Can’t let you in ‘till someone leaves. Fire regulations.”

They’d close you down?

“Yes, sir. Her comes someone now. Alright, in you go. Remember, we have to clear the place by 12.15 because of the –”

Yeah, yeah. I get it.

I’ve met people who live in college properties that have more fire extinguishers than people. Our own kitchen has a hefty dry powder fire-extinguisher and a “Cromwell brand” fire blanket.

I do not think it is possible to be indoors in the UK and more than ten steps from a fire retardant device.

The stranglehold on power held by the Fire Department in this country therefore suggests a far more plausible conspiracy theory.

I’d like to know if anyone saw a future fire chief loitering around bakeries in Pudding Lane on the night of 2 September 1666.

After all, the fire did start in the premises of King Charles II’s own baker.

Makes you think.

I’d write more, but I there’s this fire extinguisher in the corner of the computer room and those little blue circles are beginning to stare at me …

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