No sooner had I read a report about the decline of thrill seeking in men, then my plane touched down in London.
Within 20 minutes of being in London – having struggled through customs and onto a train – the whole thrill seeking thing was explained.
So here’s what the report apparently says:
Young men are less adventurous than they were a generation ago, primarily because they are less motivated and in worse physical condition than their fathers, researchers from the University of St. Andrews claim in a new study.
According to Nick Collins, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph, research conducted in 1978 reported men were 48 percent more likely than women to express interest in “thrill and adventure seeking” activities.
Now, it could be that there’s better stuff on telly than there was back in the 1970s, and more things to read on the Internet. Or it could be this tick box health and safety culture that wraps everything in its snuggly embrace in Britain, which is squeezing all the spontaneity out of life.
For a start, there’s the heavy-handed security at the airport, which is way more police-like than in Europe. There are the posters explaining that abusing staff will not be tolerated, which I’m cynical enough to believe means you’ll be arrested on the slightest pretext.
There are posters everywhere explaining how many management goals British Rail has reached this past year, including how many times the trains have arrived on time. Then a pleasant voice tells you to mind the gap when you get on the train, and not to forget your luggage. Once in town, you go into Sainsburys and a voice tells you to hold onto the hand rail when you go on the escalator.
The food chains are full of salads, which is great, except they’re not selling them as tasty, but as superfoods that will turn you into a better human being and stop you getting heart disease or something. Actually, maybe it’s wise not to sell them as tasty, because they’re not. There’s something about mass produced wraps and salads that have sat under glass all day that strips them of the fun.
And then there are the CCTV cameras everywhere, tracking your every move, all in the name of safety. The only unsafe thing you can do here is go to the pub and drink, which is what plenty of people do.
It all reminded me that one of the biggest culture shocks I had when I moved to Germany was seeing how many people were limping round on crutches, or with arms in slings. It was like an epidemic of broken bones – a sight I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. It took me a while to realise that it was snow season, the time of year when ordinary people go and take their chances on the ski slopes, or icy forest walks. Falling down and breaking bones is just part of life.
So I guess that’s the trade off we’ve made. We’re safe and whole, but the fun’s been leached out of everything else – either it comes with a voice telling you to keep your fingers out of the mechanism, or it’s roped off. What’s left besides booze and video games?