DOES NANNY KNOW BEST?
ISN'T IT AMAZING HOW EVERYONE BANGS ON about how great it was to be a kid, yet nobody wants to be treated like a child? The nanny state is, apparently, on the rise, and tutting loudly about naughty, dangerous and anti-social behaviours. And the naughty and danger-loving among us are sulking in the corner, stamping our foot and declaring loudly that it's not fair.
Being scolded and judged by a higher authority is hardly a new experience for many divers. Learning to dive at my local club was a bit like being back in the first form, with a whole host of teachers and bigger kids vying to boss me about.
"Don't put that cylinder there! "... "You have exactly five minutes to get changed."... "No, you can't go diving until I've signed off your qualification..."
There has to be a good reason why an adult would submit to this. And no, I don't think we're all acting out some weird S&M fantasy - despite the restrictive bodysuits and gimp-like headgear.
A non-diving friend recently suggested buying a pony cylinder and walking in off the beach for a dive. After all, it's not illegal. "But... no... it's... really not a good idea," I found myself stammering pathetically.
The trouble with non-divers is that they have no idea how much trouble you can get into on a dive, especially if you have no idea what you're doing. Is it fairer to let them burst both eardrums first and then yell "I TOLD YOU SO!" from close proximity?
The only reason we voluntarily give other adults the power to make decisions about how, when and where we can dive is because they have taken a big measure of responsibility for our safety. That's the deal.
That isn't to say that we can act like helpless little babies and have the dive marshal or dive guide do everything for us - though some fairly unsavoury memories involving fat US tourists being kitted up and hefted off Mexican dive boats do spring to mind.
But then, those lardies were paying for that service. Try suggesting to the dive marshal that she helps you on with your fins, or makes sure there's a nice hot cup of soup waiting for you when you return, and you're likely to find yourself hefted off the club RIB - for free!
So what does a diving nanny look like? Well, she's serious, dedicated, involved and a bit stern if you're in the SAA or BSAC. She's more of a limited engagement, hourly-contract, professionally detached nanny if you're PADI. The clipboard has superseded the starched pinny.
Once you're a qualified diver, why would you remain tied to the apron strings? Many of us don't. We run off laughing and ready for mischief - taking the risks and responsibility on our own shoulders.
Others prefer some rules, structure and organisation to enhance their diving and help keep them safe.
What about those people who are in a position to tell divers how they can and can't dive, but who then refuse to accept any responsibility when people are injured or killed while diving under their authority?
Take the tragic case of Jemma Stevens, reported recently in DIVER's news pages. How many 19-year-olds have to die on club dives that flout safety procedures before the people in charge are regarded as a risk?
Who needs a nanny who won't protect the kids? Shameful!
When it comes to my own diving, I don't think I need a nanny. After all, I've shown that I'm quite capable of changing my own nappy.
Ultimately, if it all goes horribly tits-up, the nanny state has kindly provided a Coastguard service to rescue me, and an NHS to piece me back together. Marvellous!