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Acrobats walk a fine line on new helmet laws

Trapeze artists, acrobats, and jugglers with one of the world’s most famous circuses have been told to start wearing hard hats to comply with new European Union safety rules. The Moscow State Circus’s insurers have warned the performers that they risk losing their cover if they are injured while not wearing the hats. “It is bureaucracy gone mad, with a lot of help from the current compensation culture”, said Paul Archer, general manager of the circus, which is touring Britain. “Our insurance premiums have rocketed in recent years and our insurers are always looking at ways to limit liability. This is just another barmy step in that process”.

However, the acrobats decided that they would perform without the headgear in coming shows. “We have informed the insurers that we will wear hats when erecting the circus or during rehearsals, but it is ridiculous to suggest that the performers actually wear them during shows”, said John Haze, a spokesman for the 86 year old circus.

Goussein Khamdouleav, 48, who performs somersaults—without a safety net—as part of the highest indoor tightrope act in Europe, scoffed at the idea that a safety hat would be much use to him if he fell 15 metres to the ring below. He once fell 8 metres during a performance in Rio de Janeiro, breaking both arms and three of his ribs. “A hard hat wouldn’t have helped me then, and it won’t help me now”, he said. “Working in the circus, you get injured all the time. But you just have to get over it” (contributed by Ian Scott; from an article by David Sapsted, Daily Telegraph (London), July 2003).

Speed and human ingenuity

A driver reports approaching a speed camera on a Sydney motorway and being passed by a motorcyclist doing at least 30 km/h over the limit. “I smugly waited for the expected flash, comfortable in the thought that when this rapid rat receives the infringement, it will make him think again”. But, as the bike zoomed by the camera, he saw the rider’s left hand reach back to shield the number plate from the lens. “Surely one must acknowledge this ingenuity?”

Stitched up

Sitting in a bus going down Fulham Palace Road in London, Fiona Hewish saw a board sign outside an Italian restaurant “that made the usual evening traffic more bearable”. It said: Discounts for senior citizens, students, and any patients with over 30 stitches. The restaurant is across the road from Charing Cross Hospital (contributed by Ian Scott; from the Sydney Morning Herald, July 2003).