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Why Spain Is Great #3: Fun Not Banned Yet (Mostly)

You know what this is all about. There is a country not far from here, where I come from, where things have gone a little bit mad.

Children in my good old UK are not allowed to have much fun anymore, lest they should hurt themselves while someone else is looking after them and courts of law get involved… they are often not allowed to run in playgrounds, and should they wish to use Blu Tack at school, they may be required to wear goggles.

In the good old days, I was allowed to take a penknife to school (the teachers only took it away from me once, to engrave my initials on it for me so I wouldn’t lose it, then they gave it back).

We played conkers (without safety glasses!), and in winter the sloping playground was sprayed with water at night to make an impromtu ice-run for the purpose of doing fun, long skidding slides down.

All banned now. No one ever got hurt when I was at school, but you know, just in case…

Adults have less fun these days where I come from too, as far as I can tell. They aren’t allowed to indulge wildly in public in many of the great pagan festivities that used to make life, well, more fun…

They have to STAND WELL BACK at exciting things like fireworks displays, once again, JUST IN CASE. They used to be allowed to get really close to the action, but now they mostly stand at A SAFE DISTANCE behind big barriers erected for their own good.

In fact the entire country where I come from is pretty much a ‘don’t do that, just in case’ culture these days as far as most of the old fun things are concerned, and much of this ‘just in case-ness’ has been enforced by silly but very strict laws.

(It seems the only thing that people are allowed to do with wild abandon and without restriction is to drink lots of alcohol… often until they are very very ill, and often while moaning a lot about all the things they can’t do anymore… This is also very very dangerous, to life, limb, and morale, but ironically it IS allowed and often encouraged as a way to RELAX… But is isn’t very relaxing when someone else that has been doing a lot of wild-abandon-drinking decides he doesn’t like the look of you and wants to kill you, and you don’t have time to retreat to A SAFE DISTANCE. This happens a lot on Friday and Saturday nights, even in nice towns, like Oxford.)

Spain isn’t like this… whereas people from the UK are advised to stand well back all the time, Spanish people like to stand very, very close to the action. Without barriers or hard hats, or security cordons, or silly laws banning fun things they’ve been doing for ever anyway.

For example, if they want to burn down very very flammable wooden statues in very tight streets, while standing very close, despite the risk that the whole city might catch fire and be destroyed forever, then that’s just fine. It happens in Valencia and is called Las Fallas.

If Spanish people (OK, OK, in this case Catalan people who are often unjustly lumped into the geographical notion of Spain for the sake of articles like this, but anyway…) want to stand on top of each other making improbably tall human pyramids, and send small children scrambling to the top of these pyramids at the risk of life and limb, then that’s fine too. They do that in Tarragona alot.

And I can’t say I approve of it anymore, but if Spanish people want to run around in front of half-tonne bulls which could easily trample them to death, then go for it! You can literally grab the poor bloody bull by the horns if you want.

Why is all the above allowed in Spain when you wouldn’t have a chance in hell of getting any of those fun plans past a UK town council these days?

Because people in Spain still believe in letting each other decide how to get their kicks. They still believe in doing crazy things that have been going on for generations, just because, well, that’s what’s been going on for generations, and history is more interesting than health and safety.

Mostly though, I think they just like to feel alive, and their government is often OK with that.

But let’s face it, all this irresponsible free-will-to-act-as-they-please may not last forever.

Far more speed traps on the roads in Spain these days. British people have been moaning about that for years, and I’m sure they are right… it’s a sign, one of those nanny-state things…

Few years back the citizens of a small town in Aragon were told that they couldn’t drop a live goat out of their church tower once a year anymore. Great news for goats, I’m delighted, but again, it could be a sign… Things might start getting BANNED a lot…

But for now, Spanish people seem to have quite a bit more freedom when it comes down to doing mad-crazy-dangerous things just for the fun of it, and that is to be commended (as good ideas go, that one’s dying out). It is just one more of the things that Makes Spain Great.