The Fire Service was sent this shocker (above) from a council officer in the Wellington region (please note that the posts protruding from the fire are alight). Russell Dickson of the Auckland City Fire Service says the stupidity here is having no spark guard and keeping firewood too close to the fireplace. "Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in the corridor outside the lounge," he says. "With an open fire the alarm in the lounge is likely to activate even when the fire is operating normally. Some people just remove the battery, but it's better to have it just outside the room in your escape path."

Weighty request denied

A reader writes: "A group of us went to Fortuna Restaurant at SkyCity on Sunday for a birthday breakfast. I'd miscalculated the number coming and our table wasn't big enough. I asked if we could add another table on the end and thought it would be a reasonable request. Not quite. I was told it was against their health and safety policy as the tables weighed 25kg. So while we could use the neighbouring tables, they couldn't be moved. What is the world coming to?"

On your marks, get set, duck!


Very old school sports day: Dick from Henderson says the story about the non-use of a starting gun reminded him of an incident in less PC times and in a much less PC country. "Forty-five years ago I worked in a boys' agricultural college in the Kingdom of Tonga. It was time for the annual athletic sports and the college had no starting gun. The principal, an expat New Zealander, solved the problem in simple fashion by using an old .22 rifle owned by the college. Each few minutes there would be a loud bang. A heat of excited boys would dash madly for the finishing line and another bullet would whizz off into the ether to presumably land somewhere in the surrounding plantations. Nobody was even slightly concerned."

1957 and the testing is easy

A reader writes: "In 1957 the Ministry of Transport's traffic cop came to my work and, getting aboard the NZ Post Office 6-tonne truck, he said 'show me what you can do'. I drove 1km up the state highway where he got me to do a three-point turn in front of the local petrol station. I bumped into a petrol pump and we got out and noted a slight dent in its metal housing. Turning back on to the busy highway, he said I had not put my arm out of the window to signal a right-hand turn. Back at work he wrote out my new heavy traffic and car licence."