Nicholas Rossi from Marysborough has been briefly catapulted to fame as one of the luckiest youngsters in Australia, when after a life threatening head injury resulting from a cycling accident, a local GP improvised an operation on his skull using a Black and Decker drill from the hospital maintenance unit.
Apart from being good product placement for Black and Decker, the national news outlets have picked up on the story. It was run as a "good news" item, in so far as the outcome was without doubt a positive one. It seems to have been decided that one lesson that we should all take away from this story is the "benefit of wearing helmets". A message which the electronic and print media have taken and amplified considerably.
Original Eighties' Helmet
The young boy's mother, a nurse, also added to the chorus of bicycle safety messages, by declaring that if he had been wearing a helmet he may not have required the operation. And like a giant echo chamber, the media repeated the message. And so it reverberated across Australia for most of May the 19th and 20th.
However your blogger must humbly beg to differ. You see dear reader, your blogger has been cycling to work for more then three decades, and for the last two decades has worn a helmet. Mainly because it has been mandatory to do so since all Australian states enacted legislation regarding the wearing of bicycle helmets.
When your humble blogger purchased a helmet twenty years ago it looked like the image to the left (but much newer and not covered with road grime, grit and a few dents). It was manufactured in a time when bicycle helmets had to adhere to fairly rigorous standards of strength and durability and manufacturers were required to offer a considerable amount of real protection to the wearer. Your humble blogger has continued to wear this helmet even though it is well past its recommended replace-by date, because it is made of a rigid impact resistant polymer and has an inner plastic liner similar to that found in industrial hard-hats. The helmet is painted bright yellow and has a reflective red strip painted along the centre.
Overall it offers a considerable degree more protection then the current range of bicycle helmets. Occasionally other cyclists will strike up a conversation with your humble blogger who eye the headgear enviously and ask and ask where can one purchase such sturdy looking headgear?. Sadly, dear reader,the reply must be You can't ... Or at least, not any more.
Such is the parlous state of protective headgear for cyclists in Australia, that these days they are compelled to buy a stylish item of cycling apparel more like what is pictured at the right. It is quite decorative but useless as a safety helmet.
Despite Karen Rossi's impassioned plea (courtesy of the mainstream media) to cyclist everywhere, had her son been wearing one of the worthless polystyrene fashionable accessories currently worn by cyclists, he would not have been afforded protection against anything more severe then a very slight blow administered to the very top of his head with a limp cabbage leaf.
In your bloggers very humble opinion this situation could be remedied by repealing the well-intentioned but foolish laws that mandate the wearing of safety helmets. The only reason there is market for the useless adornments sold at most outlets is the market distortion caused by the legal requirement to wear them. If helmets do really help prevent injuries to cyclists, and there is some controversy about this, they would have to more robust then the silly ornaments sold at almost all cycling outlets.
And if bureaucrats feel left out perhaps authorities could bring back safety standards for cycling headgear. These could apply to manufacturers selling helmets to consumers who aren't professional or sporting cyclists. Athletes have their own particular requirements for headgear.
Another story that appears to have legs in the Oz media at present was the fate of Australian tourist Annice Smoel, accused of the heinous crime of bar mat theft. She was apprehended in Phuket at the scene of the crime and for a while Thai authorities seem adamant that the full force of the law would be brought to bear on the miscreant. She would suffer the tradition punishment of being flogged and beheaded and that would teach her a lesson. And what lesson would that teach her?, you might wonder dear reader. Well the lesson that she should not steal a bar mat! No dear reader, she should have stolen at least a billion bar mats. Then of course governments all around the world would have chipped in with stimulus packages and bailed her out ...
Thankfully Ms. Smoel is very photogenic, and she has four frightened young daughters back in Australia, all of them weeping at the prospect of their unfortunate mother spending much of the remainder of her life in an infernal Thai gaol. As the media began to feast on the story, the bad publicity reached the ears of Thai Governor, who after contemplating the economic ruin that this publicity would bring down upon the local tourism industry, decided to intervene. It seems that common sense would prevail after all. Ms. Smoel was released after paying a $30 fine.
However, your humble blogger predicts that tourist packages to Thailand might be discounted heavily for the next month or so.
The last story that seems to be pre-occupying us is swine flu. Your humble blogger was very alarmed when this story broke. About a month ago on a Sunday morning the news that there had been many deaths in Mexico from a new strain of swine flu awoke your humble blogger with a start.
The story of the dreadful Killer Flu of 1917 has been imbedded in our collective memory. And every time a new strain of flu breaks out, there is speculation that this could be another outbreak like the Killer Flu.
The response so far could be regarded as a good training excercise for what steps we might take if there was another Killer Flu. However it is difficult to maintain a condition red priority zero level of general panic in the face of what appears to be nothing more threatening then the usual winter flu that we get every year.
Nevertheless state governments in Australia are offering to close schools in a rather lame attempt to contain the swine flu virus.
Still your humble blogger supposes it is good for La Roche to get rid of those stockpiles of Tamiflu. It makes a really good stimulus package for the pharmaceutical industry, and keeps the populace occupied.