Taking risks is life itself

IN a world where health and safety and parental mollycoddling smother any get up and go, the words of a grieving mother mourning her mountaineer son were poignant.

IN a world where health and safety and parental mollycoddling smother any get up and go, the words of a grieving mother mourning her mountaineer son were poignant.

'He died doing something he loved,' she said.

His friend added: 'It was only because he was such a driven person that the accident happened. But those were the qualities that made him so incredible. He really pushed himself.'

Taking risks, tackling tough personal challenges, facing danger when the stakes are high, used to be what youth was invented for - adventure, living life to the full, pushing boundaries and limits.


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Risks didn't have to mean skydiving. Climbing trees, scaling walls and learning to ride a bike across a bumpy field with no hands were daring and thrill enough.

Now parents are so wracked by worry about lurking threats to their children's safety outside the front door, they invisibly chain them to computers and game consoles, safe indoors to hover over and protect, abiding by all the laws restricting us from what we mustn't do.

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No wonder children are turning into dull unambitious puddings.

Parents dissuade - and even ban - their children from high risk activities to keep them from harm.

Shinning up trees is a no-go zone for most children I know, even riding bikes on the road before they're teenagers. Skateboarding, meeting friends for adventures and even make believe play outside the home is banned. All too risky and dangerous - for the parents.

Stay in and watch TV, they say, or pretend you're racing a go-kart on the Xbox. Virtual risks have replaced real risks.

But some children are born adventurers, fearless and driven. They have to be given a free rein to follow their natures. They're made of the stuff of true heroes.

If everyone made excuses to avoid danger, followed other people's rules and lived in fear of what might happen we'd be a boring nation indeed with not a hero to our name.

British climbers Rob Gauntlett, 21, and James Atkinson were go-getters. They were competitive and pushed themselves to the limits and paid the ultimate price when they fell to their deaths on Mont Blanc at the weekend.

Rob was the youngest Briton to conquer Everest in 2006 with James Hooper, who was with Rob and James at the weekend.

Rob's mum Nicola found consolation that he died doing something he loved.

Their death is a tragedy. They'd still be alive today if their parents had discouraged them from following their passion.

But the boys would have been unfulfilled and resentful.

Stepping back and letting children and young adults make their own decisions is the hardest part of parenting. Accepting that young adults can make their own judgements and decisions - and have every right to - is hard for many.

Like Rob and James, surfer Bethany Hamilton was aware of the risks when she took up surfing.

She was just 13 when a 15-foot Tiger shark mauled her while she was surfing in Hawaii in 2003.

She lost her arm but insisted she got back on a surfboard. Last week she was runner-up in the ASP World Junior Women's Surfing Championships.

The spirit and passion that drove Rob and James drove Bethany, now 18. 'It never crossed my mind that I might never get on a surfboard again.'

I bet it crossed her parents' minds though.

'I had to work on my fear of sharks,' she said, like someone with a slight aversion to spiders. ' Still to this day I get scared. But I thought 'This is not going to defeat me'.'

It's 'this is not going to defeat me' spirit that is on the wane, not so much by young people but imposed because of parental fears.

It's a parent's job to allow their children to flourish and be themselves, not wrap them in cotton wool for preservation's sake.

Happy and fulfilled is always the preferred outcome - and hopefully safe. But not all happy fulfilled lives have happy endings.

When Prince Harry looks in the mirror in his army quarters who does he see?

One of the boys serving his country or a privileged prince playing at being a 'pleb' until he goes back to his real life of wealth, protection and cosseting?

My guess it's a jumbled mixture of them all. He hasn't got a clue who he really is and how he should behave.

His excessive partying, drunkenness, fag in mouth, and general joshing imply he is playing at being a yob because he can. He wants to fit in, be liked, like a schoolboy copying the 'lowest common denominator' in the class, for effect.

The film that's caused all the furore about his insulting 'racist' language showed him thinking he was being one of the boys - but the language used wasn't language of the boys, it was of a certain class who hides behind privilege or the yobs who hunt down ethnic minorities and attack them for fun. Is it these he's trying so hard to emulate?

What his filming did imply though was that he was using his privilege of 'I'm a prince I'll do as I please.' Who, after all, would any of the assembled stand up and challenge the third in line to the throne for alleged racism? Of course they wouldn't because he is who is his, whoever he might want to be.

Whatever Prince Harry wants to be, or thinks he is, is irrelevant if he wants the privilege being a Prince brings.

Then he must be is an example. He is a member of the Royal family and has a duty to his grandmother, at least, to behave impeccably at all times. It comes with the territory and privilege. He can't have it both ways.

His terminology was wholly unacceptable and disgusting. The term is an insult. Period. There is no excuse, no softening of the blow. He has messed up big time now and no one can get him out of it.

As army bosses fear, his comments will do nothing to encourage ethnic recruits, which does nothing for multi-cultural Briton his father insists he's all for.

This film was shot three years ago. He might have come a long way since then but an apology is not enough for a man, and he must remember he is a man now, who laps up and revels in the privileges without taking the responsibility.

He must grow up now. Grow up and be a prince and abide by all it stands for.

If he doesn't want that then he should sling his hook abroad, stand on his own feet and live the life he wants. At least he has a choice.

At last. A rare moment of joined-up thinking by bureaucrats.

It's amazing that in a world of instant communication the weakest links of most organisations is communication, internally or with the outside world.

So it was a joy to read that Waveney District Council had thought out of the box and passed on stereo equipment seized from noisy nuisance neighbours to schools to be put to good use with children rather than letting them rot away in storage.

Local authorities don't often get praise but Waveney's environmental health team deserves credit for inspired thought and action - and saving cash-strapped schools yet more expense.

When is too fat too fat?

Maternity units across the country have had to widen delivery-room doors by up to four inches because of the increasing numbers of obese mothers.

If this story had appeared on April 1 I'd have spotted it instantly as a Fool's joke. But no, straight up, door frames have had to be made bigger and stronger beds have been installed at one London hospital to cope with weight up to 47 stones, although others are coping with those that can hold a mere 40 stone.

Hospitals have spent �50million on equipment to deal with overweight patients, including �21million on stronger beds. All that funding that could have provided more beds and care for the truly sick, not just those who can't control their eating.

So, with that backdrop of gargantuan new mothers, we might have certain amount of sympathy with Damien and Charlotte Hall who have been turned down for adopting a child because, at 24.5 stones, Mr Hall was declared too fat.

He is too fat. He had a Body Mass Index of more than 42 making him morbidly obese and at risk of serious illness or death.

It's hard to lose weight under pressure, he wife said.

Err no. If you want something enough - and presumably to go through the rigorous adoption procedure they're desperate for a baby - enrolling at his local slimming classes should be his first priority.

Yes, it might seem unfair that he had been denied the opportunity to be a father when his weight would be irrelevant if he became one naturally - but weight is never irrelevant.

And adoption services have to place children with parents offering the best lifelong care.

Obesity is a phenomenal health risk. If smoking, drug use of alcohol abuse is to be taken into account before health treatment or adoption, then so should size because excessive fat carries risks just as serious.

Is Kate Winslet really only 33? It feels like she's been around forever.

Considering her experience and longevity in the spotlight and the industry, the spectacle she made of herself accepting her two Golden Globes was bizarre.

All that panting, gasping and whimpering. Get a grip girl.

Funny how actresses, who can take on roles, convince people they're someone else and demonstrate the utmost control on set, can, allegedly, do nothing to avoid emotional meltdown in front of an assembled audience of luvvies.

One thing Jonathan Ross wouldn't have bargained for when he began his three-month suspension from the BBC was rejection by potential guests when he returned.

He's become a pariah of hosts with hotshot guests - Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig, Leonardo di Caprio among them - turning down his invitations after his puerile performance with Russell Brand.

If - and it could be a big if - his show gets back on air, he'll just have to cope with guests more on his level and league. Are the Krankies still doing the rounds?

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