'What first springs to mind when you think of the Women’s Institute, better known as the WI? For me it’s the word ‘cheering’, along with the image of a smiling, wholesome woman, her apron sprinkled lightly with flour, pulling a batch of fresh scones from the oven.
Perhaps you think of the Queen, a member since 1943; or do you picture a dusty church hall full of ladies of a certain age, lustily singing Jerusalem while jars of newly made jam cool on the kitchen windowsills?
Whatever this most traditional of institutions conjures up in your mind's eye, I'm sure that the connotations will be entirely nourishing.
Now, imagine that your health has failed you and, sadly, you have reached the end of your life. You're spending your last days in a hospice, your loved ones at your bedside. I think it's fair to say you'll be feeling pretty rotten.
If anyone could do with a bit of cheering up, then surely, in those circumstances, you do. So, should some kindly lady from the WI happen to drop by with a Tupperware box containing a slice of delicious cake, who would think to deny you the simple pleasure of eating it?
Unfortunately, I can tell you exactly who: some officious health and safety officer, wearing a white coat and a pair of blue plastic gloves, who's decided that a hermetically sealed, mass-produced version of cake is going to be a far safer bet.
Yes, the world really has gone that mad.
It emerged yesterday that the Leicestershire and Rutland branch of the WI has been banned — that's right, banned — from baking cakes for a local hospice following a ruling by the local council's health and safety bosses.
WI members were informed via the 'environmental health' department that the hospice can accept cakes only from kitchens that have been visited by health inspectors and issued with a hygiene certificate. That's despite the fact that these selfless women have spent 40 years providing the 2,500 annual patients of the hospice Loros (Leicestershire and Rutland Organisation for the Relief Of Suffering) with baked treats.'
Read more: As council busybodies ban the WI's cakes from a local hospice, top food writer Joanna Blythman asks: Is this the silliest slice of elf 'n' safety madness ever?
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