One of the things I love about living in Portugal is that the Health & Safety Police have not yet made inroads on the territory. Swimming in the Atlantic, walking along sea cliffs in Alentejo, bathing in the mountain streams of Burgo are all at your own risk.

There’s none of the infantilising fences and alarmist signposting that has become a staple of urban and even natural environments elsewhere (there are also far fewer surveillance cameras “for your personal safety and security”). This may have everything to do with the privatisation of public space in cities like London.

Tin Tin in the Street - Ernest Zacharevic

It’s interesting nevertheless to consider what the rules and ring-fencing tell us about our attitudes to risk. A healthy dose of reality involves a healthy dose of risk.

There has been a lot written about the over-protective parent: let kids play with fire, fend for themselves, deal with life’s difficulties first hand. The caricature of the obsessive parent is something that I wrote about in my last post, Parenting by Default vs Parenting by Design. But what about the rules themselves? Here’s an interesting twist: Breaking the Rules. Teaching our kids to do the right thing may not always be the same as doing what the rules proscribe. Consistent rule-breaking is not a pre-condition for living a good life, of course. I’m fairly certain, however, that slavish obedience to convention can be recipe for moral degradation. A key skill in life is the ability to take calculated risks. A key test of character is the ability to take a stand on principle. Take responsibility, understand the true risks, then choose to live life at your own risk.

Photo Christopher Jobson