The Times, 13 July 2010

Index on Censorship Blog

Hello there, Indexers. Are you thinking it's a bit of a while since I was writing about tits on a seemingly respectable forum? You are? Well, put that mildly peeved look to one side, because I'm about to do it again. Only this time, they're real human tits, and not evil doll ones. So that's a relief.

Are you regular visitors to Spain? I am not. I have skin so fair it's almost blue and a mild allergy to sunblock, I'm vegetarian and I think bull-running is a Very Bad Thing indeed. So I've always given Spain a miss, even though I fancy the art and the patatas bravas. Can't have everything.

But now, I'm thinking I might go to Salou, on the Costa Daurada. It has, according to today's Telegraph, become the first place in Spain to ban shirtless and bikini-wearing persons from milling around away from the beach. Wearing bikinis on the beach: fine. Wearing bikinis away from the beach, as though they were an acceptable outfit for shopping, dining and wandering about: fined. And fined €300 at that.

I suppose a better blogger would be concerning herself with the impact on freedom of expression. But I am not. I am all for freedom of expression in the form of words. I am not remotely in favour of freedom of expression in the form of dress. Clothes I would not hesitate to ban include: vests on men who don't look like Bruce Willis; those weird harem pants which make everyone look like they have parsnip-shaped legs; and especially cloven shoes (usually trainers), which have a stomach-turning gap between the big toes and the other toes, as though the wearer were part-goat. I have heard tell of shoes with ten individual toes, but I assume they are just an urban myth.

The councillor for tourism in Salou, Alberto del Hierro, has summarised things admirably. 'It is not normal,' he points out, 'to go to the market with your packet on show or round tourist sites in a thong. One shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets or enter public buildings in unseemly apparel. It gives the city a low-class look'. I would suggest it is not normal to do anything in a thong, let alone go and look at some ruins. Yet that's what tourists have apparently been doing. Poor people of Salou - no wonder they've had to legislate.

So, if you are going off on your holidays soon - and I believe you non-blue-skinned types do, this time of year - remember the basics. Women: try to recall that bikinis are, in essence, bras and pants. Often smaller pants than one would hope. Wearing them in public anywhere is weird. Wearing them in public, not near sand, is weirder still. Men: you do not look like Brad Pitt when you take off your shirt. You look like you, but more so. That is not a bargain. It is a trauma.

I think the Spanish are trying to save us from skin cancer, from humiliation, from ourselves. Thank you, Spain. Now could you come and ban shirtless running in Regent's Park, before I burst into tears? Summer isn't accompanied by collective blindness (except in Day of the Triffids), so could we please stop dressing like it is?