An Ornament of One

When is a borderline on the other side?

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At this time of year (late spring, early summer), there are some garden cypresses visible along the street in peoples’ front-yards which produce juicy cones of such an attractive flavour to birds of the parrot kind (such as corellas, and sulphur-crested cockatoos) that flocks of them divert especially to have an early-morning breakfast feast.

The trees are dark green and and shaped like a picture-drawing Christmas-tree, and a flock of snowy-white birds perched on the sides of the tree look like ornaments.

I hereby propose a new collective noun: `an ornament of corellas’, or `an ornament of cockatoos’.

Even one perching cockatoo gives that effect.

Which raises the idea: can one bird be a flock?

Certainly there is an implication. Cockatoos and corellas and rainbow lorikeets and so on are gregarious and move about in family groups and larger, chattering and gossiping all the while, so the presence of one necessarily implies the presence of others somewhere nearby (within coo-ee, in fact, since they keep in touch by sound, and, for the larger birds like the cockatoos, that sound carries a long way).

A Flock of One

A membership of one constitutes the category (mathematicians would go one step further with their null set: a membership of none constitutes the category).

One person doing manual work makes it a factory: Griffith v Ferrier 1952 SC(J) 56.

The question then moves to: what is manual work?

Language

Language is vague, by its nature.

“what really is a chair”

— Janny Leung,
“On the edge of reason: Law at the borderline”,
in Marco Wan (ed),
Reading the Legal Case: Cross-Currents between Law and the Humanities, (2012)
[Routledge, 2012], pp 128-141, p 138.
ISBN 9780415673549

Or red, or bilingual, or a machine, or a chicken-coop?

(This last is in reference to “whether a chicken-coop may be considered a vehicle” — Leung, p 128. A hen-house, on iron bogies, was being towed along a road by a tractor: for the purposes of the relevant motor vehicle statute (whose purpose was to help with road maintenance), the hen-house was deemed to be a vehicle.)

“The nature of language also presents its own challenges. A V Crabbe wrote in Understanding Statutes, Cavendish Publishing Ltd, London, 1994, p 8:

… it is … the very nature of language that presents the greatest problem to successful communication. Language is considered

‘perhaps the greatest human invention’,

 

yet it is a most imperfect instrument for the expression of human thought. It has tremendous potential for vagueness, ambiguity, nonsense, imprecision, inaccuracy … [footnotes omitted]

— Kath Hall and Claire Macken,
Legislation and Statutory Interpretation, 3rd edition, (2012)
[LexisNexis Butterworths, 2012], [3.34] (p 66).
ISBN 9780409330656

In Haygarth v J & F Stone Lighting & Radio Ltd, [1968] AC 157, the question was: what is manual labour, and how is that different to the work that `ordinary brain workers’ do? More specifically, Was a radio and television repairman working in a back room in a television sales shop in Upper Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, in May 1964, when a factory inspector visited, doing manual labour? If yes, then that place is a factory, and occupational health and safety applies, such as the provision of a first-aid box or cupboard.

Here we are only concerned with the words “employed in manual labour.” The word ” employed ” is clear. The words ” employed in ” denote employed to do. The word ” manual ” denotes something done with the hands. (As long ago as in 1884 Bowen L.J. said in Morgan v. London General Omnibus Co. (1884) 13 QBD 832, 834 (CA) that manual labour could only mean ” labour performed by hand.”) In one sense every person is employed in manual labour who is employed to do work with his hands. But nearly everyone who is employed must do some work with his hands. How then is a decision to be made as to whether an employed person is or is not employed in manual labour?

Per Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, at 175

Although the case ‘raises no question of general importance’ (Lord Reid, at 174), in the sense of legal principle, the various courts and judges held different opinions about where the dividing line (never hard and fast) should be drawn about what constitutes manual labour.

Prior cases looked to for guidance dealt with:

  • dispensing pharmaceuticals at a chemists’
  • being a tugboat captain
  •  doing lithography and engraving
  •  modellers moulding clay into ornaments and other things using photographs supplied by the employer
  •  being a grocer’s assistant
  •  making bouquets in a florist’s shop
  •  making decorative hampers from an assortment of bonbons and sweetmeats
  •  being a bus conductor
  •  being a tram driver

Terms like ‘borderline’ and ‘very borderline’ were used.

Where would you draw the line?

Or would it be more of a fuzzy smudge, like an artist’s thumb rubbing of a charcoal mark on the canvas?