Alex Massie

Wanted: A Revolution

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Astonishingly, this story seems to be true:

THE railway station bar, once a classic venue for romantic encounters, has fallen victim to the health and safety police.

When Michael Leventhal, a London publisher, wanted to impress his date on her birthday, the longest champagne bar in Europe seemed to be the perfect setting.

So Leventhal, 35, made a booking at the new St Pancras station, whose 96-metre bar has been promoted as a perfect meeting point for lovers. He also e-mailed a request for help in arranging a birthday surprise.

Leventhal asked whether he could bring a candle and have it surreptitiously placed on a cake, brought to the bar and presented to his companion when she was least expecting it.

In its 140-year history, St Pancras has survived steam trains, bombing raids and a massive electrification programme - but a candle was too much. Leventhal was baffled to be told that a full risk assessment of the 4in children’s candle would have to be made before it could be allowed on the premises.

Senior officials would have to give their approval and safety measures put in place.

An e-mail from Raymond Lay, the bar’s events manager, explained: “I have asked the station operations if we would be allowed to have a lit candle at the champagne bar for a birthday cake and they have said that we will have to submit a risk assessment form stating what the risk will be to the bar and the station, and what we will put in place to combat any possible risks.

“The risk assessment form will then be put to Mike Page (head of station operations).” There was just one snag, as the e-mail noted: “Unfortunately Mike Page will not be back from holiday . . . so the champagne bar would not be able to let you light the candle for your friend’s birthday cake.”

There's more!

The station, which was opened as the Eurostar terminus last year, said the champagne bar was right to have demanded a risk assessment because of the potential danger from a naked flame. If permission had been granted, a spokesman said, a fire extinguisher would have had to be on stand-by in case the candle burnt out of control.

As they say, you couldn't make it up...

Relatedly, I was told recently that "health and safety" regulations at my old school now prevent the cricket nets from being used unless an adult is present. More madness. It's all enough to make anyone feel like they're a Daily Mail columnist...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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