No one’s allowed to flush their toilet after 10pm,” says my colleague who’s driving me through the back streets of Zug, Switzerland, towards the train station.
I glance down at the pavements and notice the lack the discarded crisp packets, chicken bones and occasional rat so familiar in London.
I’m knackered after two days of work meetings and a 4.45am start for a flight out of City Airport the day before. This perks me up. “Even if it’s a number two?” I ask. “Yes,” he nods. My colleague’s from Peru, and he’s surprised by the many rules and laws issued by his temporary home of Switzerland.
This is a country where you’re prohibited from putting washing out, mowing your lawn or washing your car on a Sunday, or keeping a hamster on its own.
I ask around. “Yep,” says a workmate in London who worked out of the Swiss offices for a while. “It’s fine. Everyone obeys the rules and it all works well.”
Can you imagine the good people of South London bowing to such rules? We’ve had the 20-mile per hour speed limit here for some years, and it makes sense – speed kills.
But I do sometimes wonder about it on stretches of road like the one between Beckenham Hill and the left turn towards Catford where potentially no one has ever crossed the road, let alone a child. Or where the other drivers either fail to see the 20 mph speed restriction or know there’s no speed camera and honk at you from behind as if you’re a bumper car that’s found its way onto the M1.
In the UK, we have the tabard-clad antisocial wardens who fine people for dropping litter or doing anything small they can find a rule about.
Seems that they’re there to catch you out and coin some cash for the council rather than to create a band of law-abiding citizens united against disturbance to the common good.
And, I suspect they’re more prevalent on high streets than on housing estates. My friend’s elderly mum got fined £70 by one of these wardens for disposing of a fag end down a drain, contested it in court, still got fined and learned that on the same day someone else had received a £60 fine for common assault.
Yet, however many rules we set, barely anyone adheres to them unless someone is leaning over us or they make utter sense. While enforcing dog pooper scooping has changed our hallway carpets for the better, too many rules can ruin the laid back atmosphere that makes London London.
My parents remember a woman crossing the zebra outside their house on Norwood Road. She was naked but seemed safe, secure and rather happy, so they just watched her and returned from the window to the TV.
Lesser beings would have called the police or snapped her on their iPhones and sent her fine figure viral across the globe – just as they did when the naked bike ride stopped outside of Brixton station last month.
The video of those men and women bikers sending a global message to car drivers to be more careful around them also sent the howl of women laughing outside the Tube ricocheting across the internet.
The sight of men with protective helmets on their heads yet their crown jewels hanging loose on their saddles brought smiles to many facebook users. Nudity becomes an offence in the UK if it can be proved the person stripped off with the intention to cause distress, alarm or outrage.
Still, it’s legal to be naked in Switzerland too.
The lesson I take from this is that we should live and let live unless it causes a real problem. The sound of a flush at 10pm? I can live with that. Someone blasting their speakers at 2am – bring on the wardens.