I was really pleased to see the National Trust's recent debate about kids playing outside rather than turning into living sofa's, playing computer games and calling for cans for Coke. It saddens me to see how many kids are indoor spuds who never get to lick cow salt-licks or put sticks in the eye-holes of dead sheep, let alone trick their younger sisters into jumping into cow pats.
I therefore looked with interest at the NT's "Fifty things to do before you're 11 3/4". There were some obvious things - climbing trees, rolling down hills or going on a night nature walk. Yeah, I thought, these are things that kids should do - as long as they do the cow-shit thing too of course.
There were others that suggested that the team were beginning to consider cutting it to "45 things to do before you're 11 3/4" - such as Balance on a fallen tree or Throw some snow. Although I did think it sad that people need lists telling them that they might get something out of throwing snow, when their instincts surely tell them to ram piles of it down their mate's neck, but I did appreciate the effort behind it.
But then it all went wrong: attached to each suggestion was a list of health and safety rules. Rolling down a hill? check for recent evidence of livestock first. Wanting to eat an apple straight off the tree? Check it for maggot holes and wash it.
Surely the point of getting the kids to do more exciting things is to give them a bit more excitement in their sofa-lives - even if that includes scoffing the occasional maggot or rolling through the occasional cow-pat - and let's face it, what are brothers for if they're not to steer you into shite? It simply turns all the effort into more sterile bland activities that your mum might organise.
I instead offer suggestions based on my own experience: try and add health and safety rules to these... 1. Strap a dead hedgehog to your bike rack for a week.
2. Throw sheep shit at your friend.
3. Light a fire and cook a swede.
4. Be the first to try a death-slide set up by stupid people.
5. Get humped by the local Labrador.
6.Play any version of Chicken.